HOW DO I DEFEAT MY WORST FEARS? (Video)

This is the sixth video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible several transforming principles to defeat your worst fears.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from BiblePathwayAdventures.com, Goodsalt.com, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, Wycliffe BibleTranslators of Russia, or they are creative common licenses.

Overcoming the Fear of Death

14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2:14-15

We are living in a world that is becoming more fragile due to COVID, the war between Russia and Ukraine, terrorism, and cancer to name a few reasons. These factors (and others) are causing more people to think about death.

Often death takes place much sooner than most people anticipate whether it is due to an accident, a mass murderer, or a terminal illness. As tragic as these things are, death and dying are not God’s idea. The Bible tells us that “the devil… had the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14b) because he tempts people to sin, and sin brings forth death (Genesis 3:1-19; Romans 5:12; James 1:15). 1

For many people the greatest fear they have is the “fear of death.” Satan uses this fear to reduce people to slaves (“subject to bondage”). Because of the fear of death, some people exercise vigorously every day while others do not exercise at all. Because of the fear of death some people will never get on an airplane. Because of the fear of death some people never want to see a doctor. But for others, a doctor is the first person they do want to visit. Some people are so afraid of death they must make light of it to avoid crying about it. Many people spend a fortune trying to make themselves look younger because they are terrified of dying. The fear of death reduces us to slaves. 2

The good news is that Jesus Christ became like us (“inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same”) so He could conquer death with His own death on the cross. Christ took the punishment we deserved for our sins (death) and died in our place. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead victorious over death so “He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” “Through” His “death,” Jesus conquered death to “release” people who believe in Him from the “fear of death.”

Christ promised, “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26). Jesus guarantees a person who believes in Him that “though he may die” physically, “he shall live” eternally with Him. Yes, our breath stops, and our bodies become cold. But the Bible promises that “to be absent from the body” is “to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Therefore, all who believe in Christ never need to be afraid of death because He promises “never” ending life to them. The moment we die we are in the presence of the Lord.

Evangelist Larry Moyer writes, “I found out that the pilot of the plane that was flown into the second tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, was a believer in Jesus Christ. I am here to tell you; the terrorists did not defeat him. He defeated the terrorists. Because he did not go down, he went up.” 3

If you had died in that plane crash, would you have gone down or up? You can know for sure you will go up by believing in Christ alone to take you to heaven when you die. Jesus is not asking you to be baptized, go to church, live a good life, keep the Ten Commandments, take all the sacraments, or pray everyday. He is simply asking you to believe in Him for His gift of everlasting life. The moment you do, you can see death as a new adventure rather than your greatest fear.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for becoming human like us so You could defeat the devil and his power of death through Your own death so those who believe in You can be released from the fear of death. Please lead us to those who are afraid to die so we can share the good news of Your never-ending life to all who believe in You and You alone. Thank You for the simplicity of the gospel that delivers people from their greatest fear. In Your matchless name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Dr. Larry Moyer’s sermon, “Four Things A Loving God Wants Us To Know About Death and Dying,” contributed on August 5, 2009, at sermoncentral.com.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

Revelation 22 – Part 11

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Revelation 22:21

Pastor and author J. Vernon McGee observed that the Old Testament concluded with a curse (Malachi 4:4-6), but the New Testament ends with an extension of God’s grace to “all” who read the book of Revelation (Revelation 22:21). 1 This blessing of grace is in high demand today in a world that is spiraling downward into the darkness of sin and shame.

People desperately need to hear this message of grace today. As the brokenness of the world dips deeper into the degradation of sin, the need for God’s grace to rescue and restore people has increased exponentially. However, many people do not know about God’s grace because churches are not clearly communicating it to them. Instead of hearing that God offers eternal life and complete forgiveness freely to those who believe in Christ, people are being told they must clean up their lives first or turn from their sin before they can become eligible for this grace. Or they may hear about God’s grace from the pulpit on Sunday mornings, but they do not experience that grace in their relationships with those who espouse it.

The apostle John has written twenty-two chapters of Revelation given to him by the ascended and glorified Lord Jesus Christ through His angel (1:1). This may come as a surprise to many of us, but I will risk saying it any way: Christ entrusted John with this disclosure of future events so people who read this book may experience God’s grace. This may seem strange to us when we consider the many dire predictions of judgment recorded in the book of Revelation, but the Lord wants His grace to have the last word! 2

The final verse of the Bible says, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Revelation 22:21). The Greek word translated “grace” (charis) in this context refers to “Christ, who gives undeserved gifts to people.” 3 Grace means getting what we do not deserve. We do not deserve eternal life nor forgiveness from God. We do not deserve to be rescued from the coming wrath of God during the Tribulation period (Revelation 6:1-19:21) nor from the eternal wrath of God in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Yet “our Lord Jesus Christ” offers it “freely” to anyone who believes in Him (22:17; cf. John 3:15-18, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-26; 20:31; Romans 3:23-4:5; 6:23b; 11:6; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:8-9; I Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-5:11; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:1, 13; Revelation 21:6; et al.).

This “grace” can only be found in “our Lord Jesus Christ.” You cannot obtain this “grace” from your church, your parents, your peers, your pastor, your priest, your imam, your religion, or your own performance. This grace can only be found in the Person of Jesus Christ. The apostle John tells us in his gospel, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). The “glory” that John and the other apostles “beheld” in Christ was “full of grace and truth.”

Christ was full of grace and truth. He has the perfect ability to tell us the awful truth about ourselves, while holding us up by His grace. Because He is full of truth, He was the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). Because He is full of grace, you can come to Him just as you are, without having to clean up your life first. And because He is full of truth, you can come in complete confidence knowing that He will keep His promise to forgive you and grant you eternal life the moment you believe in Him. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

Please notice, however, that John does not mention Jesus’ truth at the end of Revelation. Instead, He focuses on “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God knew that as the world races toward the future events recorded in the book of Revelation that what “all” of us would need the most is His grace. He knew about the global pandemic and the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. He knew about the increase in political, racial, and religious tensions. He knew our society would become more sexualized and temptations would abound. He foresaw the devaluation of human life and the Satanic assault on His design for marriage and family. He understood the world would turn away from Him and spiral downward into the consequences of sin. Yet God still extends His grace to “all” of us.

For the nonbeliever, this grace invites them to come to Christ in “faith” to be forever saved from the penalty of his or her sins. The Bible says, 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Being “saved” from hell is “by grace … through faith… not of works.” “Grace” precedes “faith.” God’s undeserved favor (grace) draws the non-Christian to place his or her faith in Christ alone. This salvation is “not of yourselves.” It is not based on your determination or dedication because it is “the gift of God.”

When you receive a Christmas or birthday gift, do you have to pay for it? No, of course not. Why? Because it is a gift. It has already been paid for so there is nothing left for you to pay. If you offered a gift to someone and they insisted on paying for it, how would you feel? If you are like me, you would probably feel hurt or offended because they are telling you that you did not finish paying for that gift.

Think about how God feels when we refuse to receive His gift of salvation on His terms (faith alone in Christ alone). God can offer salvation from hell freely because Jesus Christ paid for it all when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6). God the Father accepted Jesus’ perfect sacrifice as the full payment for the sins of the world. Since God was forever satisfied with Jesus’ payment for all our sins (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:1-2), we must also be satisfied with what satisfies God. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s payment for all our sins when He died in our place on the cross.

But when people trust their works or faith plus their works to receive Christ’s gift of salvation, they are insulting God by telling Him that His Son, Jesus Christ, did not get the job done, so they must help Jesus finish paying all their sin debt back to God. God says to those who are not satisfied with what satisfied Him, “I never knew you, depart from Me you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23). Jesus will reject those who confess Him as “Lord” while relying on their own good works (“prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name” (Matthew 7:21-23) because they failed to do “the will of” His “Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21) which is to believe in Jesus alone for everlasting life (John 6:40; cf. John 3:5-16; Matthew 18:3, 6; 21:32; 27:42). God is telling us if people will not believe Jesus paid their sin debt in full, then He will let them pay their entire sin debt to Him in the lake of fire forever because they have rejected God’s terms for receiving salvation from hell (John 3:18, 36; Revelation 20:15).

This blessing of grace at the end of Revelation is also intended for Christians. God’s grace invites them to continually come to His heavenly throne in prayer to receive mercy and grace in their time of need no matter how much they have struggled with failure because Christ understands and sympathizes with them: 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

This grace also teaches believers how to persevere in godliness until Christ returns for them: 11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14).

While the New Testament ends with God’s grace (Revelation 22:21), we also see that it begins with this same amazing grace. Starting with “the genealogy of Jesus Christ,” we see several examples of the Lord’s grace (Matthew 1:1-17). The Lord God orchestrated the coming of His Son to earth through imperfect people such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who were deceivers and liars (1:1-2; cf. Genesis 12; 20; 26; 27; et al.); Tamar who posed as a prostitute to commit incest with her father-in-law Judah (1:3; cf. Genesis 38),  Rahab, a prostitute (1:5a; cf. Joshua 2; 6; Hebrews 11:31); Ruth, a Gentile from Moab outside the covenant of Israel whose people worshiped idols (1:5b; cf. Ruth 1:1-4); King David who committed adultery and murder (1:6b; cf. 2 Samuel 11); Solomon who had many wives and concubines, and whose life ended as an idolator (1:7a; cf. I Kings 11); and Manasseh, one of Israel’s most wicked kings (1:10a; cf. 2 Kings 21), to name a few. Would we have chosen these people to be the ancestors of the Messiah-God? Probably not.

It is humbling to realize that God’s grace still uses imperfect sinners to bring His Son to others through the preaching of the gospel. The Lord takes unlikely people and uses them greatly to accomplish His purposes regardless of their circumstances or character. Truly, God’s grace is unlike anything we could ever create.

Although the book of Revelation speaks primarily of future events, it points believers and nonbelievers to God’s grace to help them prepare for what is coming. May His amazing “grace” be with us all!!!

Prayer: Gracious Lord Jesus, thank You for extending Your amazing grace to us during this church age prior to the outpouring of Your wrath on the earth. Your grace not only saves us from Your eternal wrath in the lake of fire the moment we believe in You, but it will also save us from Your temporal wrath during the Tribulation period through the sudden removal of Your church from the earth at any moment. As the world rapidly moves toward end-time events, we desperately need Your grace to enable us to persevere in godliness and communicate Your love to the lost with our words and actions. Please lead us by Your Spirit to those You have prepared to hear and believe the gospel so they may come to faith in You alone for eternal life and enjoy eternity with You on the new earth in the New Jerusalem. Hallelujah Lord Jesus for Your Revelation! May all honor and glory and power and dominion be Yours both now and forever! Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 404 cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 5, I Corinthians – Revelation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981), 1080.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 259 cites George Raymond Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation, New Century Bible Commentary series, revised ed., (London: Morgan & Scott, 1974; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1983), pg. 350.

Revelation 22 – Part 10

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20

Chuck Swindoll writes, “The book of Revelation was written during a difficult time in Christian history. The emperor Domitian, having declared himself to be ‘lord and god,’ tried to force Rome’s traditional religious practices on everyone – especially the Christians. This involved persecuting the Christian ‘atheists,’ who worshiped a God who couldn’t be seen. How difficult it was for Christians to hang on to their faith, their hope, and their love in the midst of such persecution! How tempting it would be to succumb to fear, to deny the source of eternal life in exchange for temporal living. How encouraging the prophecies and promises of Revelation must have been to those first-century Christians whose faith was hanging by a thread!

“Today, in a world increasingly antagonistic toward biblical truth and the claims of Christ, Revelation’s vivid, striking images and dire predictions of doom offer a strangely satisfying form of comfort to us as well. In effect, the persecuted righteous still hear the righteous Judge say, ‘Don’t lost heart; remain faithful; I will vindicate your suffering soon.’” 1

Following Jesus’ previous testimony (22:12-19), Christ once again promises to come quickly: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). Jesus is the One “who testifies to these things” previously mentioned about His soon coming to reward people, both saved and unsaved (22:12-15), the divine origin of the book of Revelation (22:16), the free offer of eternal life (22:17), and the warning not to alter the book of Revelation (22:18-19).

Even though many Christians avoid the book of Revelation because of its symbolism, there are certain truths of which they can be certain. The first is Jesus is coming soon. Christ promises, “Surely I am coming quickly.” The Greek word translated “quickly” (tachy) means “soon, in a short time.” 2 The words “quickly”and “soon” both convey God’s perspective about His return for His church. His coming is always “soon” from “the standpoint of the saints’ foreview of the future, and when it occurs, it will come suddenly or quickly.” 3 This is the third time in this chapter that Christ makes this promise (22:7, 12, 20; cf. 3:11; 16:15).

Jesus’ promise to come soon (22:20) is in response to the prayers of “the Spirit,” the church (“the bride”), and anyone who “hears,” to “come” (22:17). 4 The implication of these words of Jesus for first-century Christians was that His coming could take place at any day or hour or moment in their lifetime. 5 This is also true for us today. The next event on God’s prophetic calendar is the return of Christ for His church (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. John 14:1-3; I Corinthians 15:51-58; I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11).  

We can understand that the Lord Jesus is coming soon even if the details of the Rapture, Tribulation, the Second Coming of Christ, the Millennium, and New Heaven and New Earth are not clear to us. 6 This is one reason why Christ repeats this promise three times in the last chapter of the Bible. He wants us to look for His coming at any moment.

The second truth Christians can be certain of from this verse (and the entire book of Revelation) is seen in the apostle John’s response: “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” The word “Amen” (Amēn) “comes from a Hebrew exclamation based on a verb that means ‘to confirm, support, uphold… to be certain.’” 7 Literally this word means, “So be it!” 8 John’s “Amen” expresses a worshipful affirmation of what Jesus just promised. John then prays, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” There is enough clear teaching in the book of Revelation for you and me to look forward to the soon coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. If reading this book makes you a better worshiper of Christ, then it has achieved its goal. 9

The soon return of Christ depicted in the book of Revelation is intended to motivate apathetic or indifferent people to wake up because their present choices will have eternal consequences connected to Jesus’ coming. For the Christian, they will have to stand before Jesus at His Judgment Seat to determine what, if any, eternal rewards they will receive for the way they lived their lives on earth since being saved (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). Since Christ could return at any moment or we could lose our lives today, we cannot afford to neglect our walk with Jesus for one moment. 10

For the non-Christian, the soon return of Christ at any moment is intended to encourage them to receive Jesus’ free offer of eternal life simply by believing in Him (22:17; cf. John 4:10-14; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26). God does not promise you tomorrow on the earth, so today could be your last opportunity to get right with Him. Jesus said to a religious leader who thought the way to heaven was by doing good works, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5). Entering God’s eternal kingdom on the new earth is not by your behavior, but by your births.

According to Jesus, you need two birthdays to enter His eternal kingdom. The first birthday is your physical birth (“born of water … that which is born of the flesh is flesh” – John 3:5a, 6a). Since you are reading this article, you already have this birth. But you also need a second birth which is spiritual (“born of… the Spirit… that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” – John 3:5b, 6b).

Jesus explains that the way to be born of the Spirit is to believe in Him for eternal life: “Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14b-15). Christ was “lifted up” on the cross to pay the full penalty for all our sins (John 19:30) so “whoever believes in Him should not perish” in the lake of fire “but have eternal life” both now and forever in the world to come. At the moment of faith in Christ, God’s Spirit baptizes or places us into the family of God (I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27). We are NOT born of the Spirit by being baptized with water, taking communion, speaking in tongues, casting out demons, or performing miracles. We are born of the Spirit by believing in Christ alone for His free gift of eternal life. 

If you have never understood and believed this before, but now you do, you can tell God this through prayer. But praying this prayer does not get you to heaven. Only believing in Jesus for His gift of eternal life gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now believing in His Son.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You so much for bringing to my attention that You could return for Your church today. I want to be part of that wonderful event. I am coming to You now as a sinner who cannot save him or herself from sin. I believe You died in my place for all my sins and rose from the dead, and You are alive today. As best as I know how, I am believing or trusting in You alone to give me the gift of eternal life. Thank You for the eternal life I just received and for my spiritual birth into Your family today. Thank You also for the future home I will have in Your eternal kingdom. Please help me learn how to follow You and share with others how they can enter Your eternal kingdom. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 405.

2. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 993.

3. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 6654.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 258.

5. Ibid., cites Joseph A. Seiss, The Apocalypse (Charles C. Cook, 1900; reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), pg. 523.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2425.

7. Swindoll, pg. 404 cites R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), Vol. 1, pg. 51.

8. Swindoll, pg. 404.

9. Evans, pg. 2425.

10. Swindoll, pg. 405.

Revelation 22 – Part 9

18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God may add to him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God may take away his part from the tree of life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19

After the Lord Jesus offered eternal life freely to those who thirst for it (22:17), the exalted Lord Jesus Christ 1 offers a stern warning to anyone who wants to add or subtract from the book of Revelation, “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God may add to him the plagues that are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18). Christ is warning “everyone,” saved or unsaved, who “hears the words of the prophecy of this book.” The word “everyone” includes the seven churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 2-3) and all churches to the present. It also includes any non-Christians who are exposed to the message of the book of Revelation since the time of its writing. This would include copyists, translators, and teachers of the book who intentionally distort or pervert the written message of the book of Revelation. 2

“He is not concerned about possible mechanical errors in transmission or mistakes of judgment in interpreting his message, but in deliberate distortions and perversions of it.” 3

God does not want anyone to alter or distort the final book of the Bible because its message is vitally important to future generations. This warning from the Lord Jesus has two parts: first He warns against adding to the book of Revelation. Anyone who does this Christ warns, “God may add to him the plagues that are written in this book.” The majority of Greek manuscripts include “God may add to him…” instead of “God will add to him…”

Second, the Lord warns against subtracting from the book of Revelation: “If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God may take away his part from the tree of life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” The majority of Greek manuscripts include “God may take away…” instead of “God will take away…”

Vacendak explains, “This is not so much a prediction as it is an imprecation (a wish of judgment and difficulty on another). This is an expression of holy desire that the seriousness of these acts be met with severe divine judgment. John is not making an exact prediction about what will happen to people who add or subtract from the Book of Revelation; the imprecations express judgments John believes such people deserve. He wants the retribution to be commensurate with the guilt. Throughout history, God has sent plagues on people who were disobedient to Him that resemble the plagues of the Tribulation (e.g., the plagues of Egypt). And as He sees fit, He can still bring similar troubles, diseases, and so forth, on those who deliberately revise Scripture today. He can ‘add to’ and ‘take away’ from them as He desires (including eternal rewards like the tree of life).” 4

For example, in the context, one of the most important truths in the book of Revelation is that eternal life (“the water of life”) is “freely” offered by Jesus Christ to whoever “thirsts” for it (22:17; cf. 21:6). Jesus is warning that anyone – saved or unsaved – who “adds” to this by saying eternal life is freely offered by Jesus and other religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, etc., may be subject to the plagues found in the book of Revelation. Nowhere does the book of Revelation (nor the rest of the Bible) say that eternal life can be freely received outside of Jesus Christ.

For the believer who adds to this truth, this could mean they will have more troubles, diseases, and other calamities mentioned in the book. For the non-believer, in addition to receiving the aforementioned temporal plagues is a far worse eternal plague – greater punishment in the lake of fire forever (20:11-15). Since they led people away from faith alone in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life, they will receive greater condemnation in the lake of fire (cf. Matthew 10:15; 23:14; Mark 12:40; 2 Peter 2:1-17; Jude 1:1-13).  

For the believer who “takes away” from Jesus’ free offer of eternal life by removing the word “freely” and then saying eternal life must be earned by good works or faith plus good works, that believer will have eternal rewards taken away from him or her such as access to the “tree of life” (22:19; cf. 2:7), the loss of special honor and privileges in the “holy city” (New Jerusalem), or the loss of other “things” (rewards) mentioned in the book of Revelation (22:19) such as wearing special white garments (3:4-5), ruling with Christ (2:26-27; 3:21), eating hidden manna (2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (22:14).

For the unbeliever who takes away from the book of Revelation, he or she will have no “part” of anything on the new earth because they will be confined forever to the lake of fire (20:11-15). His or her degree of punishment in the lake of fire will be greater than those nonbelievers who did not take away from this book.

Walvoord writes, “How great will be the judgment of those who despise this book and relegate it to the mystical experiences of an old man, thereby denying that it is the inspired Word of God. Rejecting the Word of God is rejecting God Himself. And those who deny His promises of blessing and subtract from His truths will receive His judgment.” 5

Chuck Swindoll describes some subtle ways a believer could “add” or “take away” from the prophetic words of the book of Revelation:

“Disobeying – willfully rebelling against clear commands of Scripture

“Disregarding – intentionally ignoring what is written

“Distorting – purposely twisting the true meaning of God’s Word to accommodate our opinions

“Diluting – adding other traditions, texts, or teachers as authoritative ‘truth’” 6

“Some well-meaning theologians argue that certain versions or paraphrases of the Bible violate the parameters given in Revelation 22:18-19. Still others argue that accidental errors made by well-meaning students of Scriptures constitute ‘adding to’ or ‘taking from’ God’s Word. Correctly handling Holy Scripture is vital to the health of the church, but the warning of 22:18 addresses those who would intentionally, maliciously, and deceptively disobey, disregard, distort, or dilute God’s authoritative Word. We keep the words of God by hearing them, accepting them, internalizing them, and applying them to our daily lives.” 7

All of us – Christian or non-Christian – can be guilty of adding or taking away from the book of Revelation. May God increase our sensitivity to Him and grant us humility to place ourselves under His authoritative Word. Instead of us changing His Word, may His Word change us to be more like His Son.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for preserving Your Word which is truth. When You warned us not to add or take away from the words of the book of Revelation, we are reminded that Your Word is unchangeable and unchanging. May each of us approach Your Word with humility and openness to let Your Word change us instead of us trying to change Your Word. Please enable us to know Your Word so well that we are not deceived by those who deliberately alter Your Word to mislead people away from freely receiving eternal life by believing in You. In Your precious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 257. Evidence for Jesus speaking here includes the preceding context (22:16) and especially verse 20: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.” (22:20). Those who think the apostle John is speaking here include Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1591; Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 403; Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2425.

2. Constable, pg. 257.

3. Ibid., cites George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, 1972 reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing C., 1985), pg. 295; cf. Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pg. 313.

4. Vacendak, pg. 1591.

5. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 6701.

6. Swindoll, pg. 403.

7. Ibid., pp. 403-404.

Revelation 22 – Part 8

And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17

After the ascended Lord Jesus Christ promised to give obedient believers eternal rewards (22:12-15), Christ then makes plain the divine origin and intended readership of the book of Revelation when He says, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” (Revelation 22:16). The combination, “I, Jesus” is used nowhere else in the New Testament and signifies the unique role that Jesus has in producing this book, and in this way bolsters its authority. 1

Christ “sent” His “angel to testify to” the apostle John “these things” in the book of Revelation about His soon return and rewards “in the churches” so His readers will know the message has come from God Himself and is therefore trustworthy. 2 The book of Revelation was written about the future specifically for “churches” not only in the first century (Revelation 2-3), but for all churches to the present day. 3

The message of Revelation is as reliable as its Source. Jesus is the Ancestor (“the Root”) and Descendant (“Offspring”) “of David” and therefore fulfills all the prophecies concerning David’s family. 4 Historically Christ comes from King David (Matthew 1:1; cf. Isaiah 11:11; Revelation 5:5) 5 who established the old Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel, but David’s greatest Descendant will establish the glorious New Jerusalem on the new earth forever! 6

Prophetically Christ’s coming is like “the Bright and Morning Star” heralding the dawn of a new day in history. 7 The phrase “Bright and Morning Star” is “another way of referring to the sun. In the daytime, it is the one star sufficiently luminous and powerful to light the entire earth. Spiritually speaking, Jesus is ‘the bright morning star’ because He is the most powerful source of spiritual illumination and is the sole source of eternal life.” 8

Jesus “is the brightest of all personal stars, just as the morning star is the brightest physical star in the sky. He is the ‘Star’ that, in fulfillment of Balaam’s prophecy, would ‘come forth from Jacob’ (Numbers 24:17).” 9

“The ‘Root’ is buried in the ground where no one can see it, but the ‘Star’ is in the heavens where everyone can see it.” 10

“Like a king affixing a royal seal to an official document, Jesus ties His reputation as Son of David and Son of God to the prophecies of the book.” 11

The last five verses of the last book of the Bible are very telling (22:17-21). It has been said that last words are lasting words.

“They represent the last God-breathed words we have before the return of Christ. In a few lines, the Spirit of God expresses the underlying purpose and message of the entire book of Revelation.” 12

“A person’s last words often provide a glimpse into his or her character, sometimes revealing what that individual values most. Some parting comments are thoughtful; others are spontaneous and sometimes surprising.” 13

The Lord Jesus continues to speak to John. And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17). The first thing on God’s heart at the end of the Bible is an invitation for unsaved people to receive eternal life freely. God has revealed future events in the book of Revelation to draw people to Himself.

God’s Holy “Spirit and the bride” of Christ, the church (cf. Revelation 3:14, 20; 19:7-9; 21:2, 9; 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-32), “say, ‘Come!’” When churches walk in step with God’s Spirit, they will invite people to come to Christ for His free gift because they understand the heart of Jesus Christ. Christ has sent the church to preach the gospel to the whole world and to every individual in that world (Mark 16:5; Acts 1:8). We are not to wait for lost people to come to us. We must go where the lost people are. If we wait for lost people to come to us, we may wait the rest of our Christian lives. Instead, we must go to the unsaved people of this world. Why?

Because Jesus Christ came to earth the first time to seek and to save those who were lost (Luke 19:10). Christ loves all people (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). He desires that all people be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4). He died on the cross to pay the sins of all people (I Timothy 2:5; I John 2:1-2). If we know and love Jesus Christ, we will love the lost people for whom He died and rose from the dead. Instead of avoiding them, we will love them and go to them.

Oh, if only this was on the heart of churches today! So often Christians fight over the meaning of Revelation instead of letting it motivate them to share the gospel with a lost world! Recently, my wife and I attended a church that announced they will be installing a pastor of evangelism this coming Sunday. What a joy to hear this! How many churches have evangelistic pastors on staff today? This is rarely the case because evangelism is not a priority among today’s churches. But this is the first priority of God’s Spirit in the final verses of the Bible.

God has given gifted leaders to prepare His people to serve. God has not only given “pastors and teachers” to equip His people for “the work of the ministry,” but He has also given the church “evangelists” (Ephesians 4:11-12). Evangelists not only make the gospel of Christ known to the unsaved, but they also build up the faith of Christians. 14 11 And He Himself gave some to be… evangelists… 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12). The responsibility of evangelists is to train and “equip” Christians to share the gospel with the unsaved. One of the reasons the church has failed to reach the world for Christ with the gospel is because it has failed to make evangelism a top priority. If more churches had evangelists on staff in addition to pastors and teachers, more churches would be equipped for doing the work of an evangelist within their spheres of influence (2 Timothy 4:5).

Jesus then says, “And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’” Those who read or hear the book of Revelation are to invite the lost to “come” to the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, for salvation. No one else in the universe can wash away our sins. Only Jesus Christ can do this because He is fully God and fully Man (John 1:1, 14) Who died in our place on the cross to pay the full penalty for all our sins (John 1:29; 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6; I Timothy 2:3-5; I John 2:1-2; Revelation 1:5; 5:6, 12; 7:10, 14 12:11; 13:8). He then rose from the dead proving His claims to be God are true (Romans 1:3-4).

God never intended for believers to keep the good news of Jesus to themselves. He has saved us so we can take the message of salvation to our unsaved family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances. God wants to use our voices to invite the lost to “come” to Jesus Christ in faith for His gift of eternal life.

During His earthy ministry Jesus explained why nonbelievers did not have eternal life. 15 He said, “You are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:40). It was not because they had never heard the truth about Jesus. It wasn’t because they had no Scripture. It wasn’t because they lacked reasonable evidence about Jesus’ identity. It wasn’t because of the pain and suffering they had endured. It wasn’t because of the hypocrisy of believers in Jesus. They lacked eternal life because they were not willing to come to Jesus in faith. God will not force a person to come to Him against his or her will. God lovingly invites all people to receive His gift of eternal life.

Next Christ invites everyone who “thirsts” and “desires… the water of life” to “come” (22:17b). The “water of life” refers to eternal life in John’s writings (John 4:10, 13-14; 7:37-39; Revelation 7:17; 21:6; 22:17). Eternal life is not something we can earn or work for because Jesus offers it “freely” (dōrean) or “without payment” 16 or cost to “him who thirsts” or “desires” (21:17; cf. John 4:10-14; Romans 3:24; 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9). Eternal life is free to us because it has already been paid for by Jesus Who “washed us from our sins in His own blood” when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (Revelation 1:5; cf. 7:14; Romans 3:24; I Corinthians 15:3-6; John 19:30). Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ alone for “the water of life” (eternal life) acquires it the moment they believe (cf. John 3:15-16, 36; 4:13-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; et al.).

No act of obedience, preceding or following faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, such as commitment to obey, sorrow for sin, turning from one’s sin, water baptism, prayer, persevering in good works, or submission to the Lordship of Christ, may be added to, or considered as a part of, faith as a condition for receiving eternal life (Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Titus 3:5). This saving transaction between God and the sinner is simply the giving and receiving of a free gift (John 3:14-18; 4:10-14; 6:47; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 22:17).

If you are not certain you have eternal life, would you like to receive this absolutely free gift from the Lord Jesus Christ right now so you can live with Jesus forever in the New Jerusalem on the new earth with other believers in Him? Simply take Jesus at His Word when He said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). To “believe in” (pisteuōn eis) Jesus means to be persuaded that He is speaking the truth and is therefore worthy of your trust. 17

If you are convinced Jesus is telling the truth in John 6:47 and is therefore worthy of your trust, then believe or trust Christ alone (not your good life, prayers, or religion) to give you His gift of everlasting life. When you believe in Christ for His free gift of eternal life, you can be just as certain of heaven as the people who are already there. Knowing we are going to heaven is not a guess; it is a guarantee from Jesus Christ (John 14:1-3). 18 If you now believe this, you can tell God in a simple prayer:

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for this last invitation in the Bible to come to You just as I am. Thank You for Your patience in giving me this opportunity to get right with You. I have tried to live life without You only to discover that the penalty of my sin is death or separation from You. Nothing I am or do makes me deserve to go to heaven. I believe You loved me so much You took my punishment when You died on the cross and rose from the dead. I am now believing or trusting in You alone Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion), to give me everlasting life and a future home in Your heaven. Thank You for the gift of eternal life I just received and for the future home I will have in Your heaven. Please use me now to tell others how they can know for sure they will live with You forever. I ask You God Almighty to renew Your church’s love for You and the lost people for whom You died. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 265.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1590.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pp. 2424-2425; Constable, pg. 256.

4. Constable, pg. 256.

5. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 6687.

6. Constable, pg. 256.

7. Walvoord, Kindle Location 6687; Constable, pg. 256.

8. Evans, pp. 2424-2425.

9. Constable, pg. 256.

10. Ibid., cites Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2. (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, (1989), pg. 625.

11. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 401.

12. Ibid., pg. 402.

13. Ibid., pg. 401.

14. EvanTell’s The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2014), pg. 1387), pg. 1299.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1590.

16. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 266.

17. Ibid., pg. 816.

18. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2012), pg. 265.

Revelation 22 – Part 7

“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14

In our verse-by-verse study of the book of Revelation, we discovered an important connection between the worship of God and eternal rewards. John explained that we can enhance our worship of God (22:10) throughout eternity by earning eternal rewards during our time on earth (22:12-14).

Right after promising to return soon and reward His people according to their work (22:12), the Lord Jesus then provides assurance that He can be trusted to fulfill those promises based on Who He is. Christ said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13). Jesus shares titles to remind us He is more than able to fulfill His promises in verse 12. “The Alpha and Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Bible teacher John MacArthur states, “An alphabet is an ingenious way to store and communicate knowledge. The 26 letters in the English alphabet, arranged in almost endless combinations, can hold and convey all knowledge. Christ is the supreme, sovereign alphabet.” 1 No one is more qualified than Jesus Christ to judge and reward people according to their work. He is the source of all truth, and He knows everything about us including our thoughts, words, actions, and motives. He knows best what rewards will motivate us to live for Him.

As “the First and the Last,” Jesus is the cause and goal of history. 2 Christ is the eternal God Who is in control of our past, present, and future. His comprehensive control over all things – including the time of His return and the giving of rewards (22:12; cf. 21:6) – makes it possible for Him to fulfill His promises in verse 12. His eternal nature guarantees He will continue to exist after the present creation is destroyed 3 by fire (cf. 22:1; 2 Peter 3:10-13) so that His promises of eternal rewards can be trusted.

The Lord Jesus is the Originator (“the Beginning”) and Terminator (“the End”) of all things, 4 and therefore He can be trusted to finish what He starts. 5

Christ then shares two eternal rewards that are reserved for overcoming believers. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14). The majority of Greek manuscripts contain the phrase “do His commandments” in place of the phrase, “wash their robes.”

Only those believers whose lives are characterized by obedience to Christ to the end of their lives (cf. 2:10, 25-27) will “have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through” one of the main “gates into the city.”

“There is a connection between the ‘tree of life’ and man’s rule over the earth. Adam in his unfallen state had access to this ‘tree,’ but when he fell, God kept him from it (Genesis 1:26-28; 3:22).” 6 The tree of life will be “in the midst of the Paradise of God” in the New Jerusalem (cf. 2:7; 22:2, 14a).

This reward is reminiscent of the original paradise in Genesis 1– 2 where Adam and Eve were allowed to eat from any tree in the Garden, including the tree of life. At the end of the Book of Revelation, the tree of life is described as bearing twelve kinds of fruit, one for each month, with leaves that bring healing to the nations (22:2). Not everyone has the right to eat from the tree of life (22:14). A person can forfeit the right to eat from the tree by adding to or taking away from the words of Revelation (22:19). Aside from this, little is known about the tree of life, but its vagueness makes this reward even more tantalizing and motivating.” 7

People love to eat! I enjoy eating food every chance I get! “From the beginning God intended people to enjoy food. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, mankind would have forever eaten from the foods God provided. While many of us don’t think of food in the life to come, we should.

“At the Last Supper the Lord Jesus indicated He wouldn’t drink of the fruit of the vine with His disciples again until He came in His kingdom. That means, of course, that He and they will enjoy drinking wine together in the kingdom.

“After the Lord rose from the dead, He ate some fish and honey in the presence of His disciples (Luke 24:41-43). He also prepared fish for them and possibly shared that meal as well (John 21:9-15). Food will not be foreign to saints with glorified bodies. Surely all will eat, but some will enjoy special delicacies reserved only for persevering saints.” 8 

The Lord Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what will motivate us to live faithfully for Him till the end of our Christian lives on earth. Christ promises the faithful believer access to “the tree of life” in the New Jerusalem in the future (22:14a; cf. 2:7). Eating the fruit from the tree of life may give faithful believers the resources to rule more effectively on the new earth (Revelation 2:7, 25-27).

Only those believers “who do His commandments” in this lifewill be able to “enter through the” main “gates into the city” of the New Jerusalem in the life to come (22:14b). The emphasis of verse 14 is not on entering the city, but on entering by “the gates” into the city. Every believer can enter the city (Revelation 21:27b), but only faithful believers will “have the honor and privilege of entering the New Jerusalem through the main gates (surely there will be other, possibly smaller, gates through which the others will enter).” 9

This is emphatic in the Greek text which literally says, “and by the gates they may enter into the city” (kai tois pylōsin eiselthōsineis tēn polin).The apostle John is emphasizing the way of entrance, that is, by the gates, and not the fact of entrance. 10

“Gates of ancient cities were for defense or honor or both. To be known ‘in the gates’ was to sit among the ‘elders of the land’ and have a position of high honor and authority (Proverbs 31:23, cf. ISBE 2:408). Since defense is not a function of these ‘gates’ into the heavenly city; they are to be regarded as places of honor and authority. The overcomer was promised ‘authority’ over the nations (Revelation 2:26). John describes them elsewhere, as memorials to the twelve tribes of Israel (21:12, 14). We are reminded of the Roman victory arches which sat astride the main thoroughfares entering into Rome. There were thousands of entry ways into Rome, but Caesar entered by these gates, by the victory arch. Through these gates, according to John, ‘the honor and glory of the nations’ will enter (Revelation 21:25-26).” 11 “As Lange has suggested, to enter by the gates means to enter ‘as conquerors in triumphal procession.’” 12

What Jesus may have had in mind when He spoke of faithful believers entering the New Jerusalem through “the gates” (22:14), are “the victory arches that towered over the main thoroughfares entering into Rome. Through these gates the triumphant Roman generals and their soldiers would march.” 13

For example, “the Arch of Titus near the Forum in Rome… was constructed after his victory over Jerusalem in AD 70.

“Engravings on it show Roman soldiers bringing back treasures from the temple in Jerusalem. Similarly, those Christians [believers] who remain faithful to their King will enter the city in victory and will be likewise honored.” 14

Wilkins writes, “When my friend Al visited the Middle East, an Israeli tour guide told him about a VIP entrance into a Middle Eastern city which only special dignitaries were permitted to use. The New Jerusalem will have twelve such entrances.

“It is quite probable that there will be more ways to enter the New Jerusalem than through its twelve gates of pearl. While all believers will be able to enter the city, only select believers will enter by the gates.

“In the Old Testament to be ‘in the gates’ was a privilege reserved for the elders of the city. Citizens would come there to ask the elders for their judgment in matters (see Ruth 4:9-10).

“To enter the New Jerusalem through one of its twelve gates will be a great honor reserved only for those believers who overcame in this life.” 15

If you are the kind of person who enjoys receiving recognition and appreciation, this eternal reward may appeal most to you. Each time you enter one of the main gates of the New Jerusalem, you will be given special honor perhaps before the angel at that gate (21:12). Jesus promised, “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8). It may be when an overcoming believer who faithfully “confessed” Christ “before men” especially in hostile contexts (Luke 12:1-12; cf. Matthew 10:16-42) during his Christian life on earth, enters one of the main gates into the New Jerusalem in the life to come, the Lord Jesus will give a good confession (special recognition) about that believer to the angel of God at that gate. Jesus wants us to know that if we testify of Him in the face of hostile persecution during our Christian lives on earth, He will testify about us before the angels of God and God the Father in the life to come on the new earth (Luke 12:8; Matthew 10:32).

This confession by Christ may include the declaration that this faithful believer is fit to rule with Him because he or she endured opposition when speaking up for Christ throughout their entire Christian lives (cf. 2 Timothy 2:12; Matthew 10:16-32). 16 Believers on the inside of the city at that gate will stop what they are doing to welcome this overcomer into the city. Since overcomers will rule with Christ in His eternal kingdom (Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21), they will be honored as royalty each time they enter the New Jerusalem.

Those believers who do not faithfully confess Christ before hostile people in this life will still be on the new earth because the only condition for that is to believe in Christ for His gift of eternal life apart from any works, including confessing Him before men (cf. John 3:5-16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 21:27b). However, Jesus will “deny” giving them a good confession before God the Father and the angels of God because they refused to testify of Him in the face of opposition during their Christian lives on earth (Luke 12:9; Matthew 10:33). Hence, they will still be on the new earth, but they will not have the honor and privilege of entering through one of the main gates into the New Jerusalem. Christ has informed us now of this reward to motivate us to speak up for Him even though the cost may include losing our lives for Him.

After talking about those who may enter the New Jerusalem through the main gates, the Lord Jesus then describes those who will not be able to enter the city at all. “Outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” (Revelation 22:15). All those who refused to believe in Jesus for eternal life during their time on earth will be “outside” the New Jerusalem forever, confined to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

Jesus describes these nonbelievers as “dogs” (kynes). This unusual term referred to male prostitutes in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 23:18) which were common among Canaanite religious cults. Jesus and the apostles in New Testament times used this term to refer to enemies of God’s Word (cf. Matthew 7:6; Mark 7:27; Philippians 3:2). 17 In John’s day, “dogs” were wild, aggressive scavengers and considered unclean by the Jews. 18 These human “dogs” were spiritual predators who fed off others.

Imagine being on the new earth in the New Jerusalem and not having to deal with people who take away or add to God’s Word!?! No more legalists who keep declaring that you must obey the law and believe in Jesus to enter God’s heaven. No more false teachers who say all religions lead to heaven. No more false religions that try to mislead us away from the one true God and eternal life, Jesus Christ (I John 5:20). No more false prophets who deny Jesus is God and reject His death and resurrection. All these human “dogs” will be cast into the lake of fire forever.

Christ also refers to unbelieving sinners who are “sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” All of them will be consigned to the lake of fire because of their unbelief toward Christ (cf. John 3:18; Revelation 20:15; 21:27). This verse is saying nothing about born again believers in Jesus who have committed such sins because they have been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ and are totally forgiven before God (Revelation 1:5; 7:14; cf. Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14). 19

Remember, King David was “sexually immoral” and a “murderer” (2 Samuel 11:14-27), yet the Bible refers to David as an example of those who are justified (declared totally righteous before God) by faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works (Romans 4:5-8; cf. Psalm 32:1-2). So, when a person in the Old Testament or in the New Testament believes in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, he, or she is covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that God no longer sees their sin, He sees the perfect righteousness of His Son (Genesis 15:6; Romans 3:21-4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21) and permits that person to enter His heaven.

Another example of God’s grace toward sinning believers is seen in I Corinthians. The Christians at Corinth were “sexually immoral” by having immoral relations with temple prostitutes (I Corinthians 6:12-7:5). They even tolerated sexual immorality among their church members (I Corinthians 5:1-13), yet the apostle Paul refers to these immoral believers “at Corinth” as “those who are sanctified [set apart positionally from their sin] in Christ Jesus” (I Corinthians 1:2a). He addresses them as “saints” positionally even though their practice was far from saintly (I Corinthians 1:2b).

Paul addresses them as “saints” so they will begin to live like the saints they are in Christ. The more believers see themselves as saints in Christ, the more they will live like saints. Nowhere in I Corinthians does Paul doubt or question the salvation of the Corinthian believers. What he does question is their understanding of who they are in Christ. For example, in I Corinthians 6:19, he writes, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” The more they understood and believed their new identity in Christ, the more they would live the way God created them to live in Christ.

When professing believers do not go on to grow toward Christlike maturity, it is important that church leaders do not automatically assume that they are unsaved. It is possible they are not saved, but not because they lack a changed life. What makes a person unsaved is their unbelief toward Christ (John 3:18, 36). Many believers lack spiritual growth in their Christian lives because they have not been discipled by older believers. Discipleship involves helping believers to see who they are in Christ, so they can begin to live like the person God created them in Christ Jesus to be (cf. Ephesians 2:10).

Only by God’s grace will all believers who have failed Him (and we all have) be on the new earth and/or New Jerusalem because God does not fail them (2 Timothy 2:13). He remains faithful to His promise of eternal life to all who believe in Jesus (John 3:15-16, 36; et al.). However, only those believers who faithfully endure in their obedience to Christ (overcome) to the end will have the special honor and privilege of accessing the tree of life and entering through the main gates of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 2:7, 25-27; 22:14). Such splendid eternal rewards are intended to motivate us to live faithfully for Christ now.

Prayer: Holy Lord Jesus, thank You for Your amazing love which led You to die in our place on the cross for all our sins and rise from the dead so whoever believes in You has everlasting life and a future home on the new earth no matter how much they have failed You in the past. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for disclosing to us the incredible eternal rewards that await us if we faithfully obey You till the end of our lives on earth. As the Alpha and Omega, You have complete knowledge of us, including what will motivate us to live for You during our time on earth. Thank You for giving us different persevering rewards that appeal to our different likes and preferences. Some of us love to eat food more than anything else, so we are more motivated to live for You so we can enjoy special delicacies throughout eternity such as eating the hidden manna and the fruit from the tree of life. Others of us received little recognition or attention growing up, so we especially like the prospect of receiving special honor and recognition from You by entering through the main gates of the New Jerusalem on the new earth. Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for knowing us so thoroughly and yet loving us so deeply. Such amazing love motivates us to live for You more than anyone or anything else. In Your majestic name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 400 cites John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 1993.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 255.

3. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 6675.

4. Constable, pg. 238.

5. Ibid., pg. 255 cites Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), pg. 238.

6. Ibid., pg. 33.

7. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1504.

8. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 46.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1590.

10. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 974-975. 

11. Ibid., pg. 975.

12. Ibid., cites John Peter Lange, “The Revelation of John,” in A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, ed. John Peter Lange, et al. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 12:446.

13. Dillow, pg. 975.

14. Ibid.

15. Wilkin, pg. 47.

16. Hal Haller, Jr., Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 58.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1590.

18. Constable, pg. 255 cites Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 6 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 485; and Alan Johnson, “Revelation,” in Hebrews-Revelation, Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pg. 602.

19. Walvoord, Kindle Location 6684.

Revelation 22 – Part 6

“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” Revelation 22:12

After the angel encouraged the apostle John to get the message of Revelation out to all people even though not everyone would respond positively to that message (22:10-11), the Lord Jesus Himself then said, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work.” (Revelation 22:12). When the Lord Jesus says, “Behold…” He is telling us to stop what we are doing and pay attention to what He is about to say because it is extremely important. Jesus then announces, “I am coming quickly!” The Greek word translated “quickly” (tachy) means “soon, in a short time.” 1 The words “quickly” and “soon” both convey God’s perspective about His return for His church. Christ has already stated this promise earlier in the book (3:11; 22:7; cf. 22:20).

Christ is returning soon to “reward” each believer at the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. I Corinthians 3:8-15; Romans 14:10-12) “according to his work” whether it be good or bad (22:12; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10). The word “work” (to ergon) is singular, and therefore refers to a Christian’s life on earth (22:12; cf. I Corinthians 3:12-15). 2

If you are a Christian, the day is coming when the Jesus Who saved you eternally from the lake of fire will be your Judge to determine the degree of reward you will receive in His eternal kingdom (Revelation 22:12). But those who never believed in Jesus will be judged by Him at the Great White Throne Judgment after the Millennial Kingdom of Christ to determine the degree of their punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15; cf. Matthew 10:15; 23:14; Mark 12:40).

Every born-again Christian from the Church Age will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account of how he lived or did not live his life for Christ on earth (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). This does not determine their entrance into Christ’s heaven because that was already settled the moment they received His gift of salvation through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). God has saved us to work for Him, not for salvation (Ephesians 2:10). Christ wants to know how much we appreciate His gift of salvation. The Judgment Seat of Christ determines this. We were saved to live for Christ out of gratitude for what He has done for us.

To illustrate this, think of what it would be like to pay for your child to study and learn at college. You are paying for him or her to get a degree, not to party all the time. Given the cost of a college education, you do not want your child to waste that payment you made by partying all the time and failing their classes. As a parent, you want to know that your child is grateful for the price you paid for them to get a college education.

Likewise, Jesus wants to know how much we appreciated the free gift of salvation that He paid for when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15). Did we value His gift of salvation by the way we lived on earth? Did we live for Him or ourselves? The Judgment Seat of Christ shows how grateful we are for what Jesus did for us.

On Father’s Day, let’s say you take your dad to an expensive restaurant to show him how much you appreciate him. But at this restaurant they serve you leftovers and yet they charge you the full price for them. This would be an insult to you, wouldn’t it!?! No one wants to pay full price for leftovers.

Jesus Christ paid the full price for our salvation (John 19:30), yet some Christians are simply giving Him their leftovers by the way they are living on earth. This is an insult to Jesus Christ. Believers who give Christ their leftovers will suffer the loss of reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Corinthians 3:15).

You may say to yourself, “Well, I just won’t show up for the Judgment Seat of Christ, so I don’t have to risk losing my reward.” That is not an option. The Bible says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Notice God says, “We must all appear.” There is no choice. This appearance is mandatory, not optional. My appearance is required, not requested. “Each one” must individually attend the Judgment Seat. No one else can do this for us.

The word “appear” (phanerōthēnai) means “to expose, to become visible, to show or reveal oneself.” 3 There will be no secrets at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Nothing that is hidden in our lives now will be overlooked by Jesus. He will fully expose every part of our lives, good or bad (cf. I Corinthians 4:5).

Christians from the Church Age will “receive” Jesus’ evaluation of their Christian life, whether that life is “good or bad.” The Greek word for “good” (agathos) “pertains to meeting a high standard of quality that is useful, beneficial, and worthy of merit.” 4 The Greek word for “bad” (phaulos) “pertains to being low-grade or morally substandard, base” 5 or “evil.” 6 This will be a very comprehensive analysis of our Christian lives on earth. Christ will look at our thoughts, words, actions, and motives to determine what, if any rewards, we will receive from Him (cf. I Corinthians 3:13; Romans 2:16; Luke 12:2; Matthew 12:36-37; I Corinthians 4:2; Hebrews 4:12-13).

Believers who are recompensed for the “good” in their lives will be recompensed with praise (Matthew 25:21-23), joy (Matthew 25:21-23), and authority and privilege (Matthew 8:11; 24:45-47; 25:21-23; Luke 19:17-18). But believers who are recompensed for the “bad” in their lives (Matthew 22:10) will experience the loss of authority and privilege (Matthew 25:28-29; Luke 19:24-26), pain (Matthew 24:51a; I Corinthians 3:15), rebuke (Matthew 25:26; Luke 19:22), sadness (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 24:51b; 25:30), and shame (I John 2:28) at the Judgment Seat of Christ. They will still be in heaven because of their faith in Christ, but their experience in heaven will be not as rich as faithful believers’.

Knowing that every “good or bad” thing we have done during our Christian lives on earth will be repaid at the Judgment Seat of Christ, how do we want to live the remaining days allotted to us on earth? I pray we will live faithfully for our Lord Jesus to the very end.

Recently I realized an important connection between Revelation 22:10 and 22:12-14. The angel told John to “worship God” (22:10). John then explains how we can enhance our worship of God throughout eternity. We do this by earning eternal rewards during our time on earth (22:12-14).

As we have observed worship taking place in the book of Revelation, we have seen the inhabitants of heaven (“twenty-four elders” representing the church) worshiping God by casting “crowns” before God’s throne throughout eternity (4:10). Christ had honored them with these “crowns” at the Judgment Seat of Christ for their faithful service to Him (cf. Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Corinthians 9:25; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Timothy 4:8: James 1:12; I Peter 5:4). These crowns are not meant to be worn throughout eternity, drawing attention to ourselves. “Instead, they provide us with tokens of worship, symbols of relinquishment of all personal honor, which we can lay at His feet in gratitude, submission, and reverence.” 6

It is not selfish to pursue eternal rewards because Christ approves this and even encourages it (cf. Matthew 6:19-21). “There is no ‘spiritual commercialism’ or selfishness involved in the pursuit of honor, opportunities for ministry, and the desire for maximum intimacy with Christ. These are noble and inspiring goals, fully approved by Christ and His apostles. They focus ultimately on Him, not ourselves.” 7

Throughout eternity, we can lay our crowns, these tokens of worship, at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ, expressing our extreme gratitude and appreciation for the ultimate price He paid for our salvation. Each time the rewarded believer approaches God’s throne in heaven, he will remove his or her crown, lay it at the feet of Jesus, and worship. Each time the rewarded believer casts his crown at Jesus’ feet, he is in essence saying, “Thank You, Lord Jesus, for taking my place on the cross and dying for me.” Each crown is a beautiful token of our gratefulness for the ultimate price Jesus paid for our salvation. 8 Hence, the primary motivation for obtaining eternal rewards is found in the desire to bring more honor to Jesus as we worship Him throughout eternity! 9

Prayer: Gracious Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for drawing our attention to the fact that You are coming soon to reward every Christian from the Church Age according to the work they have done on earth, whether good or bad. While our entrance into Your heaven is based on believing in You and Your finished work on the cross, our rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ are based on the works we have done during our lives on earth. Thank You for revealing to us that the primary motivation for obtaining eternal rewards is found in the desire to bring more honor to You as we worship You throughout eternity. Please keep this motivation at the front of our minds now so we will seek You and Your approval instead of the approval of people. In Your glorious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen

ENDNOTES:

1. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 993.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1589.

3. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 1048.

4. Ibid., pp. 3-4.

5. Ibid., pg. 1050.

6. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 1015-1016.

7. Ibid., pg. 1016.

8. Ibid., pp. 974, 1040.

9. Ibid., pg. 974.  

Revelation 22 – Part 5

“And he said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.’” Revelation 22:10

After the angel redirected the apostle John to “worship God” alone (22:9), he then instructed him, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 22:10). Since God wants the book of Revelation to be available for His people to read and be encouraged to prepare for future events, the angel instructs John not to “seal the words of the prophecy of this book.” God does not want His prophetic word to be concealed or hidden from His redeemed people because “the time is at hand” or near for the fulfillment of these prophetic words. God’s people need to be aware of what is going to happen in the future so they can prepare for those events.

All servants of God are to get the message of Revelation out to His people! They are not to conceal it or avoid it. Yet, few churches and their leaders are proclaiming the message of this book. This is a great disservice to God’s people. More than ever in my lifetime, the people of God need God’s prophetic word from the book of Revelation. They need to know what is going to happen especially when we watch the world spiraling out of control.

For example, the next event on God’s prophetic calendar is the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth (see comments on Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11). Failure to inform God’s people of this robs them of the comfort and encouragement God intended for His people (I Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11) during a time when they are being misinformed about being in the Tribulation already (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3).

The apostle Paul wrote, “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). The apostle Paul is correcting his readers’ misconception about the coming of “the day of Christ” (2:2) which refers to the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. I Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:6, 10; 2:16; cf. Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). 1 False teachers were telling them that “the day of Christ had come” (2:2), and therefore, Paul’s readers had missed the Rapture of the Church which precedes the Bema and the Tribulation wrath to come (I Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-5:10; cf. Revelation 4:1-4). Paul explains that two events will precede the “day” of Christ:

1. “The falling away” (2:3a) may refer to the false teaching that will accompany the administration of “the man of sin” (cf. Matthew 24:15-24; Revelation 13:1-7, 11-18). All the false teachings of the current church age simply foreshadow the ultimate apostasy of the man of sin.

2. The revealing of “the man of sin” (2:3b) who will exalt himself as “God in the temple of God” (2:4) will take place in the middle of the Tribulation period (cf. Matthew 24:15). The temple which was destroyed in 70 A. D., must be rebuilt in Jerusalem before the man of sin takes his place there.

3. “He who now restrains” must be removed before “the lawless one will be revealed” (2:6-8). This Restrainer is most likely the indwelling Holy Spirit in all believers that comprise the church today (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:2-3; Ephesians 1:13-14). So, for the Restrainer to be removed, the church must be removed through the Rapture which Paul discussed in detail in I Thessalonians (1:9-10; 4:13-5:11).

Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians reminds us that how we view the future directly influences how we live today. His readers thought they missed the Rapture and were living in the Tribulation which “troubled” them (2 Thessalonians 2:2) and caused some to stop working and earning a living (3:6-15). Paul corrects this error in their thinking about future events to “comfort” them (2:16-17) and encourage them to keep working (3:12-15).

Likewise, God wants the prophetic words of the book of Revelation to comfort and encourage His people to prepare for the Rapture now. How can they do that if the church neglects to teach this or misinforms the church about the Rapture, saying it has already happened and we are in the Tribulation now?

The angel just encouraged the apostle John to get the message of Revelation out to people (Revelation 22:10), but then he says to John, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” (Revelation 22:11). The angel reminds John that even though the time is near for the prophetic events described in the book of Revelation to be fulfilled, there will be people who do not want to listen or be persuaded. The angel says to let “unjust” and “filthy” people remain in their “unjust” and “filthy” condition. 2 This tells us that there will be people who are in rebellion against God who will not listen to the book of Revelation and will continue in their wickedness.

This is a very strong warning to unbelievers not to delay becoming a believer in Jesus Christ. It portrays the hopelessness of the final condition of unbelievers. When King Jesus returns to earth with His church at the end of the Tribulation, unsaved people will not be able to change their eternal destiny. What they are when Jesus returns, they will remain forever! 3 People are not given a second chance after death (Hebrews 9:27). They are only given one life on earth to come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Refusal to believe in Christ for eternal life results in eternal condemnation. Jesus said, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18). When a person refuses to believe in Jesus Christ, he or she is rejecting God’s offer. They are condemning themselves. When a person refuses to believe in Christ alone for His gift of eternal life, they are in essence saying to God, “I reject what Jesus Christ did in my place as my Substitute.” Therefore, God has no choice but to let them pay for their own sin, through eternal separation from Him in what the Bible calls hell (Matthew 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43-38) or the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Those who go to hell are going there of their own choosing because they have rejected Christ and His free offer. God has not rejected them; instead, they have rejected God.

The angel also reminds John that there will be those who respond positively to the book of Revelation: He who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” (Revelation 22:11b). There will be those who receive the message of Revelation, and they will continue to move in the direction God wants them to go (“righteous… holy”). 4 This will prepare them to be richly rewarded by the Lord Jesus when He returns (22:12). We will talk more about this next time.

Prayer: Thank You heavenly Father for making the book of Revelation available for all people to read. Forgive us for neglecting to read and heed the message of this prophetic book. Starting today, use us to share this prophetic message with Your people and with a lost world so all of us can prepare for the future. Although most of humanity will continue in the direction they are already going, lead us to those whom You have prepared to hear and obey this prophetic book. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1147-1148.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1589.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 253. 4. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2424.

Revelation 22 – Part 4

“Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” Revelation 22:9

I have known Jesus Christ as my personal Savior for over forty-three years, and yet I still have a lot to learn about what it means to worship Him. Most Christians know they will worship God in heaven, but many of us fail to grasp how thrilling this will be. We may think that worship in heaven will be boring and monotonous.

One reason we don’t look forward to worshiping God in heaven is because of the bad worship experiences we’ve had on earth. We think in heaven we are going to sing a few songs, hear a sermon, eat a snack, and go home, and repeat this monotonous routine throughout eternity. While things on earth can become less interesting over time, including worship services, in heaven focusing on God all the time will be fascinating, not boring! Those of you who know the Lord intimately understand what I am talking about.  

The book of Revelation has a lot to teach us about the worship of God. While one of the primary themes of this book is to inform us of future events, we are told at the beginning of Revelation that its main subject is Jesus Christ. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 1:1a). The apostle John immediately alerts his readers to the Source of this book’s information when he writes, “The Revelation of [about or from] Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is the Giver of this revelation, and He is its MAIN SUBJECT.

As the prophetic events have been chronologically revealed in this book, leading up to the return of Jesus Christ to earth to set up His eternal kingdom, we have learned more and more about the Lord Jesus. Our view of Christ has become clearer as He disclosed more of Himself and His redemptive plan in this book. The more we encounter Jesus in the pages of the book of Revelation, the more we want to worship Him! This is what happened to the apostle John.

After the apostle John saw the original angel who spoke to him (22:6; cf. 1:1) and then heard the voice of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ (22:7), he mistook the angel for the Lord Jesus. “Now I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.” (Revelation 22:8). John now resumes addressing his readers in the first person, directly, which he had not done since the first chapter (cf. 1:1, 4, 9). 1 John had personally “heard” and seen “these things” that he had recorded. He was an eyewitness. When John “saw” the angel (22:6) and “heard” the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ (22:7), he may have concluded he was worshipping Christ. 2 The apostle’s strong response further attests to the genuineness of the profound revelations he had received. 3

Immediately the angel corrects John: “Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” (Revelation 22:9). The angel’s words, “See that you do not do that,” remind us thatthe worship of angels is forbidden in God’s Word (cf. Exodus 34:14; Matthew 4:10; Colossians 2:18). No matter how glorious an angel is or exalted a servant of God is – for that matter – they are never to be worshiped.

The angel reminds John (and us), “I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book.” The reason the angel was not to receive worship is because he is a “fellow servant” of John’s; they both serve God. He also said he served the other “prophets” in addition to John, as well as all believers who “keep” or obey “the words of” the “book” of Revelation.

The angel emphatically says to John, “Worship God!” This is the most appropriate response to all that God has revealed in the book of Revelation. Throughout the book of Revelation, we see that God alone is to be worshiped. In God’s heavenly throne room prior to the beginning of His horrific Tribulation judgments on the earth, the angelic and human inhabitants of heaven are so overwhelmed with God’s holiness, power, and eternality (4:8-10), they fall on their faces saying, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.” (4:11).  

After the Lamb and Lion, Jesus Christ, takes the scroll containing the seal judgments from the hand of God the Father in heaven’s throne room, the four angelic creatures and redeemed people from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” worshiped Jesus Christ by singing a new song of praise for His work of redemption (5:8-10). Then an innumerable host of “angels around the throne” now join this group ascribing worth to “the Lamb who was slain” Who deserves “power… riches… wisdom… strength… honor… glory… blessing” to be given to Him at the beginning of His reign on earth (5:11-12). Then every creature, saved and unsaved, angelic, and demonic, will join in giving God the Father(“Him who sits on the throne“) and “the Lamb,” Jesus Christ, “the blessing and honor and glory and power” they deserve (5:13). Then we see the four living creatures and twenty-four elders continue their unceasing worship of God in His heavenly throne room (5:14).

During the interlude between the sixth and seventh seal judgments, the apostle John receives a vision of God’s great mercy involving the salvation of Gentiles and Jews from every nation who are taken to heaven (7:9-17). An innumerable group of saved people from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” will be in heaven praising God, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (7:9-10). In addition, 11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (7:11-12). Imagine being in God’s throne room with an innumerable group of redeemed people from all over the world together with all of God’s angels falling on our faces because we are so overwhelmed with the goodness and greatness of God!

When the seventh trumpet sounded and the inhabitants of heaven announced the future eternal reign of Christ on earth in the past tense as if it has already taken place (11:15), “the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God.” (11:16).

During the last half of the Tribulation when the beast and false prophet blaspheme the true God and blame Him for all the calamities they are experiencing on the earth, an angel will be sent to nonbelieving earth-dwellers saying, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” (14:7). They are to“fear God and give glory to Him” because the reason for all the worldwide death and disaster during the last half of the Tribulation is that “the hour of His judgment has come” (14:7a). When people on the earth understand why all the calamities are taking place during the Tribulation, they may be more likely to believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life.These earth-dwellers are also to “worship” God because He “made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (14:7b). God is worthy of worship because He is the Creator, and He has the right to judge what He has created.

In Revelation 15, the apostle John has a vision of believers who were martyred during the last half of the Tribulation who are now in God’s throne room in heaven, singing “the song of Moses… and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the nations!’ Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.’” (15:3-4). It does not matter if the songs are old (“song of Moses”) or new (“song of the Lamb”), the purpose of worship is to “glorify” God for His awesome Person (“Lord God Almighty…You alone are holy”) and His “great and marvelous… works.”

Following the destruction of the great harlot (Rome) which caused the people of the world to grieve deeply and be distressed (18:1-24), we see a much different response to Rome’s destruction in heaven (19:1-10). All the inhabitants of heaven are praising God for what He has done to Rome, 1 saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.’” (19:1-2). The “twenty-four elders” representing the church in heaven (cf. 4:1-4) and “the four living creatures” representing angelic beings (cf. 4:6-8), “fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne,” crying out, “Amen! Alleluia!” (19:4). In saying “Amen” (lit., “so be it”), they were giving their wholehearted agreement to the praise already given to God.

This last worshipful scene in heaven (19:1-4) which is contrasted with the mourning that will take place on the earth for Rome’s (“Babylon”) destruction (Revelation 18:9-24), reminds us that God is still worthy of praise no matter what we face in life. All God’s decisions are “true and righteous” (19:2) even when a romance does not blossom as we had hoped, or a job interview does not turn out the way we thought it would. It is important to remember that God is worthy of our admiration and trust even when the effects of sin endanger our families, when pain drives us to our wits’ end, or when misfortune is about to push us over the edge. God gives and He takes away (Job 1:21). He is honored when we return to Him, when we release our worries to Him, and when we rest in Him.

From this survey of the book of Revelationwe learn that in the current heaven, everyone worships Jesus Christ, including all the angels and God’s redeemed people. No one says, “Now we’re going to sing two hymns, followed by announcements, and prayer.” The praising of God is not ritual, it is spontaneous. 4

Alcorn writes, “If someone rescued you and your family from terrible harm, especially at great cost to himself, no one need tell you, ‘Better say thank you.’ On your own, you would shower him with praise. Even more will you sing your Savior’s praises and tell of His life-saving deeds.

“In 2003 when Saddam Hussein’s statues were being torn down in Baghdad, a television commentator said something so striking that I wrote it down. He said, ‘These people are used to coming out in the streets and praising Saddam. If they didn’t, they were punished. He had a policy of compulsory adulation.

“God seeks worshipers (John 4:23). But He has no policy of compulsory adulation. His children’s response to Him is voluntary. Once we see God as He really is, no one will need to beg, threaten, or shame us into praising Him. We will overflow in gratitude and praise. We are created to worship God. There’s no higher pleasure. At times we’ll lose ourselves in praise, doing nothing but worshiping Him. At other times we’ll worship Him when we build a cabinet, paint a picture, cook a meal, talk with an old friend, take a walk, or throw a ball.” 5

People all over the world today “are always striving to celebrate – they just lack ultimate reasons to celebrate (and therefore find lesser reasons). As Christians, we have those reasons – our relationship with Jesus and the promise of heaven.” 6

In the final stage of heaven when King Jesus rules the new heaven and new earth from the New Jerusalem, we read, 3 Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3). In this final stage of heaven, believers will enjoy a new intimacy with God which is impossible in a world where sin and death are still present. God will finally “tabernacle” or dwell among His cleansed and forgiven people, and they will experience perfect fellowship with Him on the new earth.

I want to conclude with Randy Alcorn’s description of worship in this final stage of heaven on the new earth:

“Does this excite you? If it doesn’t, you’re not thinking correctly.

“I find it ironic that many people stereotype life in Heaven as an interminable church service. Apparently, church attendance has become synonymous with boredom. Yet meeting God – when it truly happens – will be far more exhilarating than a great meal, a poker game, hunting, gardening, mountain climbing, or watching the Super Bowl. Even it if were true (it isn’t) that church services must be dull, there will be no church services in Heaven. The church (Christ’s people) will be there. But there will be no temple, and as far as we know, no services (Revelation 21:22).

“Will we always be engaged in worship? Yes and no. If we have a narrow view of worship, the answer is no. But if we have a broad view of worship, the answer is yes. As Cornelius Venema explains, worship in Heaven will be all-encompassing:” 7

“No legitimate activity of life – whether in marriage, family, business, play, friendship, education, politics, etc. – escapes the claims of Christ’s kingship… Certainly those who live and reign with Christ forever will find the diversity and complexity of their worship of God not less, but richer, in the life to come. Every legitimate activity of new creaturely life will be included within the life of worship of God’s people.” 8

Alcorn then says, “Will we always be on our faces at Christ’s feet, worshiping Him? No, because the Scripture says we’ll be doing many other things – living in dwelling places, eating, and drinking, reigning with Christ, working for Him. Scripture depicts people standing, walking, traveling in and out of the city, and gathering at feasts. When doing these things, we won’t be on our faces before Christ. Nevertheless, all that we do will be an act of worship. We’ll enjoy full and unbroken fellowship with Christ. At times this will crescendo into greater heights of praise as we assemble with the multitudes who are also worshiping Him.

“Worship involves more than singing and prayer. I often worship God while reading a book, riding a bike, or taking a walk. I’m worshiping Him now as I write. Yet too often I’m distracted and fail to acknowledge God along the way. In Heaven, God will always be first in my thinking.” 9

“…Nothing is more fascinating than God. The deeper we probe into His being, the more we want to know. One song puts it this way: ‘As eternity unfolds, the thrill of knowing Him will grow.’” 10

“We’ll never lose our fascination for God as we get to know Him better. The thrill of knowing Him will never subside. The desire to know Him better will motivate everything we do. To imagine that worshiping God could be boring is to impose on Heaven our bad experiences of so-called worship. Satan is determined to make church boring, and when it is, we assume Heaven will be also. But church can be exciting, and worship exhilarating. That’s what it will be in Heaven. We will see God and understand why the angels and other living creatures delight to worship Him.”

“Have you known people who couldn’t be boring if they tried? Some people are just fascinating. It seems I could listen to them forever. But not really. Eventually, I’d feel as if I’d gotten enough. But we can never get enough of God. There’s no end to what He knows, no end to what He can do, no end to who He is. He is mesmerizing to the depths of His being, and those depths will never be exhausted. No wonder those in Heaven always redirect their eyes to Him – they don’t want to miss anything.” 11

J. I. Packer puts it this way: “Hearts on earth may say in the course of a joyful experience, ‘I don’t want this ever to end.’ But invariably it does. The hearts of those in heaven say, ‘I want this to go on forever.’ And it will. There is no better news than this.” 12

Prayer: Gracious God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, we pause right now to thank You for revealing to us future certainties in the book of Revelation which cause us to pause and worship You, our Triune God. Forgive us Lord God for sometimes getting caught up in the moment, like John did, and forgetting the One who deserves our full affection. We can so easily focus on the Gift rather than the Giver when we receive Your incredible blessings. Thank You for rebuking us, like the angel rebuked John, when we take our eyes off You, so we can redirect our focus onto You alone. Regardless of what we face on earth, You are always worthy of our admiration and praise. Your work in creation and redemption increases our sense of Your goodness and grace. Thank You for our eternal salvation. Thank You for the everlasting hope we have in the Lord Jesus Christ who died in our place and rose from the dead so whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life both now and forever. Until we see You face to face, help us to live lives that worship and exalt You for who You are and what You have done. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 252.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1589.

3. Constable, pg. 253.

4. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 285.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid., pg. 283.

7. Ibid., pg. 284.

8. Ibid., cites Cornelius P. Venema, The Promise of the Future (Trowbridge, UK: Banner of Truth, 2000), pg. 478.

9. Alcorn, pg. 284.

10. Ibid., pg. 286 cites John G. Elliot, “The Praise Goes On and On” (Grapevine, Tex.: Galestorm Music, n. d.).

11. Alcorn, pg. 286.

12. Ibid., pg. 287.