Revelation 21 – Part 2

“Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Revelation 21:2

After the apostle John begins to receive a new vision of what heaven will be like (21:1), he sees a specific feature of “the new heaven and new earth.” John then sees “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (21:2a). The “New Jerusalem” is called “the holy city” in contrast with the earthly Jerusalem that existed as the capital city of the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. 1 That earthly Jerusalem will be destroyed at the end of the Millennium when the old heaven and earth are destroyed by fire (21:1b; cf. 2 Peter 3:10-13).

“A holy city will be one in which no lie will be uttered in one hundred million years, no evil word will ever be spoken, no shady business deal will ever even be discussed, no unclean picture will ever be seen, no corruption of life will ever be manifested.” 2

When God creates “the new heaven and earth” (21:1) He will send the “New Jerusalem… down out of heaven from God” to the new earth (21:2a). The fact that this city is mentioned in conjunction with the new earth, and it has huge foundation stones (21:14) implies that it will rest on the new earth. 3 Just as the earthly Jerusalem was Christ’s capital city of the Millennial Kingdom, so the “New Jerusalem” will be Jesus’ capital city of the new earth. 4 Jesus has already mentioned this new city when He said, He who overcomes… I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God.” (Revelation 3:12).

“Since God had promised His people that He would give them the land of Israel forever (cf. Genesis 13:15; Joshua 14:19; I Chronicles 28:8; 2 Chronicles 20:7; Ezra 9:12; Psalm 37:29; Jeremiah 7:7; 25:5; Isaiah 60:21; Ezekiel 37:25), it is not surprising that along with the new heaven and new earth John now sees the” 5 “New Jerusalem” descending down to the new earth. John refers to this city as “coming down out of heaven from God” not because it will be suspended above the new earth forever as a satellite city, but to demonstrate the truth that this city’s “builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10; cf. 12:22). 6 This city was not constructed by human hands but by God Himself.

John describes the New Jerusalem as a city prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (21:2b). The word “prepared” (hetoimázō) is the same word Jesus used in John 14:2-3 when He said to His disciples, 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare [hetoimázō] a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare [hetoimázō] a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3). In Revelation 21:2, the word “prepared” (hētoimasmenēn)is in the perfect tense, meaning that Christ has been preparing this city for believers since He ascended to heaven after His death and resurrection, and He continues to prepare this place to the present. For centuries the Lord Jesus has been preparing this incredible place for His “bride” to be inhabited by His church consisting of Jewish and Gentile believers from the church age (21:2b; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:2: Ephesians 5:27). This magnificent city has been “adorned” (kosméō)or “made to have an attractive appearance through decoration”7 “for her husband,” King Jesus (21:2b; cf. Revelation 19:7-9).

God created the earth in six days (Genesis 1:1-31), but Jesus has been preparing our place in heaven for almost two thousand years. Remember, Jesus was the Son of a carpenter (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) – so heaven is going to be a fantastic place – a real place. We will look at the specifics of this wonderful place later in our study of the book of Revelation.

Currently the New Jerusalem is being prepared by Christ in the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2) where God dwells with the immaterial parts (soul and spirit) of all believers in Jesus who have died 8 (John 14:2-3; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23). When Jesus refers to this city as a prepared “place” (topos) in John 14:2-3, that Greek word specifically refers to a “locatable place.” 9 This assures us that heaven is a real, physical place.

But where exactly is heaven located now? We do not know the exact physical location of heaven right now, but we know that it is “up” since the Bible tells us at the ascension of Jesus that the angels of God told the watching followers of Christ, This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). Ephesians 4:10 also says, “He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens.” When Paul writes that Jesus “ascended far above all the heavens,” he is including the first heaven which includes the atmosphere surrounding the earth where we see the domain of the clouds and birds (Genesis 1:6-8, 20; Isaiah 55:9-10). This also includes the second heaven which consists of the domain of the sun, moon, stars, planets, and galaxies (Genesis 1:14-17). 10 So, we know that heaven is up above us.

The apostle Paul spoke of being “caught up to the third heaven” which he also referred to as “Paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), which is beyond the first and second heavens and is the current dwelling place of God 11 where believers in Jesus go when they die (cf. Revelation 4:1-4; Acts 7:55-56, 59; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23). So even though we don’t know the specific location of heaven, we do know that it is a real physical place that Jesus is preparing for those who believe in Him (John 14:1-3). Christ will take believers there with either an angelic escort when we die (Luke 16:22a) or while we are still alive at the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth prior to the seven-year Tribulation period (I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 4:1-4).

Are you prepared to enter Jesus’ heaven? If you don’t know for sure you will go to God’s heaven in the future, you can know for sure right now. It is important to understand our need to prepare to go to heaven. The Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Does that include you and me? Yes, it includes all people. God demands complete perfection. But as sinners we have fallen short of that standard. All of us have sinned against God and deserve to be separated from Him forever (Romans 6:23a; Revelation 20:15).

To deal with our problem, God provided a Substitute. That Substitute was Jesus Christ who was one hundred percent perfect because He is God (John 1:1; I John 5:20). He had to take our punishment because one sinner cannot die for another. God allowed His only perfect Son to die in our place. The Bible says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

Years ago, a little girl was playing near a rock in her backyard. Underneath that rock was a rattlesnake. As she was playing, the snake lurched out and bit her in the leg. She fell to the ground dying. Her brother was standing a short distance away and saw what had happened. As soon as he saw her fall, he rushed over, and he sucked the venom from her leg. He didn’t know that there was an infection inside his mouth. The venom entered the infected area and in moments he died. He died, but his sister lived. Out of love for his sister, he took what would have caused her death and took it upon himself.

Because of the even greater love Jesus Christ has for us, He entered this world and took the sins that should have caused our death and placed them upon Himself. He became our Substitute. Because Jesus died, we can live forever.

Christ paid our sin debt in full (John 19:30). There is nothing left for you to pay. God can now offer eternal life freely – as a gift. That is why we are told, “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). Gifts though, must be received and there is only one way to receive this gift. The hand that receives this gift is faith. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). To believe means to be persuaded that Jesus is speaking the truth and is therefore trustworthy. And then believing or trusting in Him alone to give us everlasting life as a gift so we can live with Him forever in His heaven.

If you have never received Christ’s free gift of eternal life, why not do so now? Simply take Jesus at His word when He says, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life,” and you will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus and all those who have believed in Him for eternal life. Here is how you can tell God in a simple prayer what you have just done.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I come to You now as a sinner. Nothing I am or do makes me deserve heaven. I now understand that You took my punishment when You died on the cross and rose again. 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. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6517.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 234 cites Wilbur M. Smith, “Revelation.” In The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Edited by Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), pg. 1522.

3. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 454.

4. Constable, pp. 234-235.

5. 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.1582.

6. Ibid., pg. 1583.

7. 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. 560.

8. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2420.

9. David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015 Kindle Edition), pg. 14; cf. Bauer, pg. 1101.

10. Jeremiah, pp. 16-17.

11. Ibid., pg. 17.

Revelation 20 – Part 4

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.” Revelation 20:11

“Abandon every hope, all you who enter here.” 1

“Those are the famous words appearing above the gates of hell in Dante’s ‘Inferno.’ According to Dante, those who pass beneath that sign will have absolutely no hope of ever getting out. Though the details of Dante’s fictional picture of heaven, hell, and purgatory range from the fantastic to the heretical, he was right about this: the final destination of the wicked is a one-way entrance. There is no hope beyond; there will be no escape from the lake of fire.” 2

For over the last two thousand years, the disturbing facts recorded in Revelation 20:11-15 describing the final judgment of all unsaved people has instilled fear, sorrow, disappointment, and even denial in believer and nonbeliever alike. No one wants to hear that eternal punishment for sin awaits those who refuse to believe in God’s only provision for sin – His perfect Son, Jesus Christ. While believers in Jesus will find themselves enjoying the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ forever (Revelation 21:1-22:21), the nonbeliever will find himself or herself forever removed from His presence (Revelation 20:11-15). The facts of eternal punishment are clearly presented without a hint of any hope – “because no hope exists apart from God.” 3 (emphasis added)

In our study of the book of Revelation, we learned that the members of the unholy trinity (Satan, the beast, and false prophet) all received their final judgment and consignment to the lake of fire forever (19:20; 20:10). Now we will see the Judge of all the earth, the Lord Jesus Christ, determine the degree of eternal punishment for every nonbeliever who has ever lived before he or she is cast into the lake of fire (20:11-15). The “rest of the dead” will “live again” (receive bodily resurrection) to receive their final judgment (20:5). 4  This is thought to be “the most serious, sobering and tragic passage in the entire Bible.” 5

The apostle John writes, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.” (Revelation 20:11). The words translated “Then I saw” (kai eidon) introduces additional information John saw in this vision (cf. 19:11, 17, 19: 20:1, 4, 12; 21:1-2). The continuation of chronological progression seems obvious from the continued use of kai often translated “And,” to introduce new information. All but one verse in this chapter begins with kai (20:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15). 6

Initially the apostle John sees “a great white throne and Him who sat on it” (20:11a). This throne is “great” because of the One Who sat on it – the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ (19:16; cf. I Timothy 6:14-16) – to Whom God the Father “has committed all judgment” (John 5:22). This throne is “white” because every verdict that proceeds from it is holy, just, pure, and righteous (cf. Psalm 97:2). 7 No one will be able dispute or reverse the final verdict and sentencing issued from this throne.

Erwin W. Lutzer writes, “We picture the scene: host beyond host, rank behind rank. The millions among the nations of the world, all crowded together in the presence of the One who sits upon the throne, the One who looks intently at each individual. We are accustomed to human judges; we know their partial and impartial verdicts. In the presence of the Almighty, all previous judgments are rendered useless. Many men and women acquitted on earth before a human judge will now be found guilty before God. Men who have been accustomed to perks, special privileges, and legal representation now stand as naked in the presence of God. To their horror they are judged by a standard that is light-years beyond them: The standard is God Himself… For the first time in their lives they stand in the presence of unclouded righteousness. They will be asked questions for which they know the answer. Their lives are present before them; unfortunately, they will be doomed to a painful, eternal existence.” 8

The location of this judgment is neither in heaven nor on earth, but in space as suggested by the statement “from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away” (20:11b). 9 The “earth” and “heaven” flee in terror from the Judge’s “face.” This portrays how serious and fearful it will be to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ at this final judgment. All of creation seeks to run away and hide, but “there was found no place for them” to escape (20:11c). 10 No unsaved person will be able to avoid this final judgment.

“Most adults have seen a courthouse, and some have probably been in a courtroom as a juror, witness, or part of a lawsuit. The scene is very imposing. Courtrooms often have high, vaulted ceilings with beautiful paintings and massive chandeliers. In the gallery the people sit on dark wooden benches with high, straight backs. The atmosphere is always serious and silent, except for a few muted whispers. Suddenly the door from the judge’s chambers opens and the bailiff enters, commanding all present to rise as the black-robed judge enters the courtroom. When the judge takes a seat behind the bar, court is in session. The parties are called, and the case begins.” 11

This scene will someday occur before the bar of the King of kings and Lord of lords somewhere between earth and heaven – only it will be multiplied times infinity. 12 Jesus Christ Himself will conduct the trial, and no one is more qualified than Him. He made provision for the salvation of every human being (cf. John 19:30; I Timothy 2:3-5). But those who rejected Him and His offer of salvation, must now be judged by Him. 13

“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before the throne, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” (Revelation 20:12). John “saw” the unbelieving “dead” from all ages of history “standing before the throne” in their resurrected bodies which are indestructible. The defendants at this final judgment of unsaved humankind will consist of the “small” or insignificant. No nonbeliever will be too unimportant to go unnoticed at this judgment. Unsaved people whose lives were barely a blip in history will be there. Nor will any unbeliever be too “great” or significant to escape judgment here. The unbelieving Alexander the Great’s, Julius Caesar’s, Stalin’s, and Hitler’s will be there. Unbelieving self-righteous religious leaders will be there. Atheists and terrible sinners will be there. Unbelieving procrastinators will be there. Unconverted church members will be there. No unsaved person will escape his or her day in God’s courtroom. 14

This multitude of defendants will be diverse in its religions. “We see Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Protestants, and Catholics. We see those who believed in one God and those who believed in many gods. We see those who refused to believe in any God at all. We see those who believed in meditation as a means of salvation and those who believed that doing good deeds was the path to eternal life. We see the moral and immoral, the priest as well as the minister, the nun as well as the missionary.” 15

Swindoll describes the unsaved at this final judgment as…

  • “Those who existed amidst creation but replaced the Creator with idols and false gods.
  • Those who turned their backs on the free grace of God in favor of a works-based religion.
  • Those who repeatedly heard the gospel of Christ but rejected Him until it was too late.
  • Those who concluded, based on logic, reason, and experience, that God doesn’t exist.
  • Those who lived out their depravity through selfishness, wickedness, and violence.” 16

This final judgment will involve the consultation of two heavenly records: the “books” and “the book of life” (20:12b). The first heavenly record (the “books”)will determine the degree of punishment for the nonbeliever in the lake of fire. These “books” contain the record of every unsaved human being’s deeds so they can be judged “according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (20:12c). 17  Since this judgment will be “according to their works,” there will be differing degrees of punishment among nonbelievers (cf. Matthew 11:20-24; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47), just as there will be varying degrees of rewards for believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 2:25-27; 22:12).

Millions if not billions of people have died thinking they are good enough to enter God’s heaven. Hence, Jesus Christ will examine all they have done throughout the course of their lives on earth and render His verdict the same for all nonbelievers: “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:20). 18

It is very important that we understand that the sinful deeds of the nonbeliever are not the basis on which the nonbeliever is consigned to the lake of fire. The basis of eternal condemnation is found in the second heavenly record: “another book was opened, which is the Book of Life” (20:12b),and it contains the names of all those who have been born spiritually into God’s family since the beginning of creation through faith in God’s promises(cf. Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 21:7). 19

Eternal condemnation in the lake of fire is not based on a person’s behavior, but on whether his or her name is written in “the book of life” (20:15). Those who believe in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life will be found to have their names written in the book of life (cf. John 3:16, 36; 5:24; et al.). They have been credited with God’s imputed righteousness because of their faith in Jesus, not because of their good works (Romans 4:5). No one will receive eternal life based on what is written in a book of deeds because everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect standard of righteousness (Romans 3:23; 6:23). 20 Hence, all nonbelievers, will not have their names written in the book of life because they were never saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone for His gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).

To have your name written in the book of life you must reject the idea that your own righteousness will gain acceptance before God. The apostle Paul wrote, “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” (Galatians 2:16). Believers in Jesus for His gift of salvation will have their names written in “the book of life” and therefore, will never receive eternal punishment based on their deeds. Hence, they will not be summoned to appear before the great white throne. 21

But all unsaved people from all ages of history will be summoned to appear at the great white throne. No high-priced lawyers will get the case postponed or dismissed on a legal technicality. No one will jump bail. Everyone who is summoned must appear. 22

“The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.” (Revelation 20:13). God will physically resurrect the bodies of all nonbelievers, and unite them with their spirits, even those bodies decomposed in “the sea.” “In the ancient world the sea was thought to be the most inaccessible place. No human could venture to the depths of the ocean. People believed that no one buried in the ocean could ever be disturbed. God makes it clear that even the most mysterious, difficult, out-of-the-way, forbidden places are fully accessible to God. The Day of Judgment is sure (Hebrews 9:27).” 23

The statement “Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them” refers to the physical bodies of the unsaved (“Death”) being joined with their souls and spirits which have been in “Hades.” 24 “Hades” is the temporary holding place of the souls and spirits of all nonbelievers until the great white throne judgment (Luke 16:23-24).

At the time of physical death during this church age, the soul and spirit are separated from the physical body, with the immaterial parts (spirit and soul) of believers going immediately into the presence of Christ in the third heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 12:1-4) and the immaterial parts (spirit and soul) of nonbelievers going to torments in Hades (Luke 16:23-24). At the Rapture of the church (I Thessalonians 4:15-17), believers’ souls and spirits will be united with glorified bodies appropriate to their eternal existence in heaven. Here in Revelation 20:12-13, nonbelievers’ souls and spirits are united with bodies suited for their eternal location. 25

John informs us a second time that all nonbelievers at the great white throne will be judged, each one according to his works.” (Revelation 20:13b). The punishment of each nonbeliever will be proportional to their sinful works. The more wickedly they behaved, the greater the degree of their punishment in the lake of fire. The charges against each nonbeliever will be read to them before their sentencing. One interpreter describes the seriousness of this judgment:

“The accused, all the unsaved who have ever lived, will be resurrected to experience a trial like no other that has ever been. There will be no debate over their guilt or innocence. There will be a prosecutor, but no defender; an accuser but no advocate. There will be an indictment, but no defense mounted by the accused; the convicting evidence will be presented with no rebuttal or cross-examination. There will be an utterly unsympathetic Judge and no jury, and there will be no appeal of the sentence He pronounces. The guilty will be punished eternally with no possibility of parole in a prison from which there is no escape.” 26

Next John tells us, “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14). From this point on there will be no more since God will cast “death and Hades… into the lake of fire.” Being “cast into the lake of fire” is described as “the second death.” “When a person is arrested for a crime, he is sent to a temporary place of punishment awaiting trial. But once that person has been tried and found guilty, he is sent to a long-term place of punishment. Hades can be conceived of as a prison to which men are temporarily assigned because they have been bound over for trial, but the lake of fire is God’s permanent prison for the eternally lost (cf. Matthew 13:40-42; 25:41; Mark 9:43-44; Jude 1:7; Revelation 21:8).” 27

Just as believers in Jesus have two births – physical and spiritual (John 3:5-6), so nonbelievers have two deaths. The first death involves separation of the soul and spirit from the physical body. The second death involves separation of the soul and spirit from God forever.

Finally, John writes, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). The “lake of fire” will be the final and eternal location of every human whose name is “not found written in the Book of Life.” Every person who dies without believing in Christ alone for everlasting life will not be “found written in the Book of Life.” The “lake of fire” is a horrible place of eternal, conscious torment (14:10-11; 20:10) received in proportion to one’s sinful “works” done in the body (cf. 20:12-13). Those who receive this eternal punishment have not necessarily committed worse sins than believers who dwell with God in His heaven. Nonbelievers are simply reaping the fruit of their sins instead of enjoying the benefits of having Christ’s perfect record credited to their accounts (cf. Roman 3:22, 24-26, 28; 4:5-8). 28

Although many Christians and non-Christians have tried to deny or avoid the biblical truth concerning eternal punishment, as far as God’s revelation is concerned there are only two destinies for human beings; one is to be with the Lord forever in His heaven (John 3:36a; Revelation 21:1-22:21) and the other is to be separated from God forever in the lake of fire (John 3:36b; Revelation 21:14-15). This solemn fact is intended to motivate Christians to take the gospel to the ends of the earth no matter what the cost and doing everything possible to inform and challenge the unsaved to believe in Christ for His free gift of eternal life before it is too late. 29

The sentencing of nonbelievers to the lake of fire forever may seem very harsh to us. Some of us may think it is unfair and inconsistent with God’s love and mercy. But we must remember that God is infinitely holy (Revelation 3:7; 4:8; 6:10; 15:4; cf. Isaiah 6:3) and just (Revelation 15:3; cf. Psalm 89:14; Isaiah 30:18). The penalty for sin must be paid (Romans 6:23). Jesus Christ Himself loved us so much He personally bore the wrath and punishment of God for human sin (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18), fully satisfying God’s demand to punish sin (I John 2:1-2).

Every person must decide to either accept Christ’s full payment for his or her sins (John 19:30) or pay the infinite price himself or herself in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). The price must be paid in full. Will we pay it ourselves in the lake of fire or will we believe in Christ and His full payment in our place? The choice is ours. Either way, God is perfectly fair and just. 30

If you do not know for sure you will live with Jesus in eternity, you can make sure right now so you can avoid eternal torment in the lake of fire. Simply believe Jesus’ promise in John 3:16: “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus is not asking you if you keep His commandments or go to church every week. Because He never said whoever keeps His commandments or goes to church every week should not perish but have everlasting life. Christ is not asking you if you pray or meditate every day because He never said whoever prays or meditates every day should not perish but have everlasting life. Nor is Jesus asking you if you persevere in good works or have been baptized with water because He never said whoever perseveres in good works or is baptized with water should not perish but have everlasting life.

No. Jesus is asking you, “Do you believe in Me?” because He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The word “believe” (pisteuō) in the New Testament means to be persuaded that something is true and therefore worthy of one’s trust. 31 When Jesus says, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” are you convinced He is telling the truth and therefore is worthy of your trust? If you are, then trust Him to give you His gift of everlasting life.

The moment you believe or trust in Jesus for eternal life – you have eternal life. It is so simple a child can do it, yet, as adults, we have made it difficult. Jesus says the person “believes” and “have.” We have what we take, correct? Jesus asks us to take the eternal life that He is freely offering to us.

For example, I sometimes illustrate faith by holding up a five-dollar bill at an evangelistic gathering. I explain to the audience that the first person who comes up to me and takes this bill from my hand can keep this bill. When someone does this, I then ask them why he or she came up. If they understand the simplicity of faith, they usually say because they believed my promise to give them the money.

Jesus Christ is saying, “I love you. I died for you. Do you believe? Will you trust Me to give you the never-ending life I bought for you with My own blood that was shed for you on the cross?” This is an invitation to believe in Jesus Christ and Him alone – not ourselves or Him plus our works. Nor is He asking us to believe in the Jesus of Islam or Hinduism or Mormonism or Jehovah Witnesses or some other religion. Christ is asking us to believe in the Jesus of the Bible.

Many people don’t believe in the lake of fire or hell, but they better be sure because no one can afford to be wrong on this issue. When we believe in Jesus, Christ promises we shall not “perish” in the lake of fire (John 3:16). This is the best news ever!

If you just believed in Christ for His gift of everlasting life, you can tell God this through prayer. You can simply say to the Lord, “Dear Jesus, I come to you now as a sinner. I cannot save myself. I believe You died for me 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 rescue me forever from the lake of fire. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and for the future home I will have in Your heaven. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.”

When you believed in Jesus, He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He guarantees you will never come into judgment because He has rescued you from the lake of fire forever (John 3:16b; 5:24). God now wants to use you to tell your family and friends the good news of Jesus’ free offer of eternal life so they can be forever saved from the lake of fire the moment they believe in Jesus.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, all people have sinned against you and deserve to suffer eternal punishment and torment in the lake of fire. Yet because of Your amazing grace, we can be forever saved from the lake of fire simply by believing in Your Son who was lifted up on a cross to die in our place for our sins and then rose from the dead so whoever believes in Him should not perish in the lake of fire but have everlasting life with You in Your heaven. Because of Your great love and grace, we will not have to stand before the great white throne if we believe in Jesus. Please use us, we pray, to share this wonderful news with those who are perishing without Christ. May we be willing to do whatever it takes to share the gospel of grace with every lost person in the world today. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. 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. 366 cites Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, “Inferno,” Canto 3, retranslated by Michael J. Svigel from the Italian version of Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Inferno, vol. 1, ed. Charles Singleton, Bollingen Series 18 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970), pg. 24.

2. Ibid., pg. 367.

3. Ibid.

4. 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. 1581.

5. Swindoll, pg. 367 cites John MacArthur, Revelation 12-22, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 2000), pg. 245.

6. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 229.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1581.

8. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 436 cites Erwin W. Lutzer, Your Eternal Reward: Triumph and Tears at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Chicago: Moody, 1998), pp. 164-165.

9. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6448.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1581.

11. Hitchcock, pg. 438.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid., pg. 439 cites David Jeremiah, Escape the Coming Night (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1997), pg. 236.

14. Hitchcock, pg. 439.

15. Ibid., cites Lutzer, Your Eternal Reward, pg. 166.

16. Swindoll, pg. 368.

17. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2419.

18. Vacendak, pg. 1581.

19. Ibid.

20. Evans, pg. 2419.

21. Swindoll, pp. 368-369.

22. Hitchcock, pg. 440.

23. Ibid.

24. Walvoord, location 6482.

25. Evans, pg. 2420.

26. Swindoll, pp. 371 cites John MacArthur, pp. 245-246.

27. Vacendak, pg. 1582.

28. Evans, pg. 2420.

29. Walvoord, location 6492.

30. Hitchcock, pg. 441.

31. 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. 816.

How Can I Overcome Loneliness (Video)

This is the fourth video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible several transforming principles for overcoming loneliness.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from FreeBibleimages.org, Goodsalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org or they are creative common licenses.

Revelation 18 – Part 3

“Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.’” Revelation 18:21

The third angelic announcement of Rome’s (“Babylon”) judgment in Revelation 18 is now recorded by the apostle John (18:21-24). The first two announcements depicted the rapidity of God’s judgment of Rome (18:1-19) whereas this last announcement describes its finality. 1 “Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.’” (Revelation 18:21). The “violence” and finality of Rome’s destructionis graphically portrayed by “a mighty angel” throwing “a great millstone… into the sea.”

In John’s day, millstones often measured four to five feet in diameter, were one foot thick, and weighed thousands of pounds (cf. Mark 9:42). 2 As it would be impossible for such a huge stone to float to the surface of the ocean, so certainly the religious and economic system of Rome that had deceived and misled this world throughout human history, will sink to the bottom of the sea never to rise again. 3 The phrase and shall not be found anymore” contains two doubt negatives in the Greek text (ou mē), emphasizing the finality of Rome’s judgment.  

The mighty angel then lists all of Rome’s worldly luxuries and pleasures that will vanish with its destruction never to be found again. 22 The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore. 23 The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore.” (Revelation 18:22-23a). Not one of these material things listed here is evil in and of itself. But in the Babylonian world system, these every day things drew people away from the true God to glorify humanity. Their sudden disappearance represents the total and final destruction of every facet of society, from fine arts (“the sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters”)to night life (“the light of a lamp”), from expert craftsmanship (“craftsman of any craft”) to common labor (“the sound of a millstone”), 4 not even the sound of joyful celebration (“the voice of bridegroom and bride”)will “be heard in” her “anymore.” In a flash, all of Rome’s worldly luxuries and pleasures will be removed permanently. Where there had once been hustle and bustle, there will be silence. 5

The prophet Jeremiah announced a similar kind of judgment against Judah for her disobedience: 8 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Because you have not heard My words, 9 behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ says the Lord, ‘and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations. 10 Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp.” (Jeremiah 25:8-10).

Instead of focusing on the Giver, Rome and all its followers had focused on the gift. Instead of worshiping the Creator, they worshiped the creation. In case you think such a sudden and violent judgment is unfair or too harsh, the mighty angel gives two reasons for Rome’s judgment. 23b For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived. 24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.” (Revelation 18:23b-24). Through Rome’s businessmen (“merchants”) she will cast a materialistic spell (“sorcery”) over humankind so that “all the nations were deceived.” 6 The word “sorcery” (pharmakeia) is where the English word “pharmacy” comes from.

“If one is puzzled over the connection between medicine and sorcery as illustrated by this word (our pharmacy), he has only to recall the quackery today in medicine (patent medicines and cure-alls), witch doctors, professional faith-healers, medicine-men in Africa. True medical science has had a hard fight to shake off chicanery and charlatanry.” 7

Rome’s worldly luxuries and pleasures had deceived the nations of the world into believing that joy, security, and meaning in life come through the accumulation of material wealth instead of through their Creator God. Papal Rome has also grown wealthy with its focus on paying money for forgiveness (indulgences). For a fee, parishioners could get a deceased family member out of Purgatory and save up for their own future sins. 8 Selling forgiveness is what sparked the Protestant Reformation. 9

The second reason for Rome’s severe and final judgment is because “in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth” (18:24).

Not surprisingly, worship of the wrong object (wealth) is accompanied by wrath misdirected at the improper target (Christians). In the Antichrist’s kingdom, as with other godless societies, throughout history, the blood of prophets and saints testifies to the slaughter of those who stand for God’s values in opposition to the religion of materialism.” 10

When people worship the creation instead of the Creator, they no longer value human life as God does. We see this in America as our educational institutions have taught evolution for decades now which leaves God out of the picture and worships His creation. As a result, this country has murdered an estimated 62 million unborn babies through abortion since legalizing abortion on demand in 1973. 11 Even now state legislatures are about to vote on bills sponsored by Planned Parenthood that could legalize the killing of newborn babies up to 28 days after birth. 12

Rome’s sudden and violent destruction is also due to her killing God’s people, including “prophets and saints” (18:24). For centuries, pagan and papal Rome has seduced people away from the true God with her rituals and superstitions and has persecuted those who proclaim the truth exposing her materialistic and idolatrous false religion. History shows that the Roman Catholic Church has shed the blood of many believers and victims of the Crusades and Roman Inquisition. 13But the height of Rome’s hostility toward God’s people will take place during the Tribulation period when she vehemently opposes God’s prophets and saints on the earth. Because Rome has shed the blood of God’s children, and led others to do the same, she “will receive the death penalty from God’s hand. She will not be found anymore!” 14

How can we reach materialistic people with the gospel of Jesus Christ before it is too late for them? We look to Jesus’ example. After Jesus had miraculously fed thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two sardine-sized fish (John 6:1-14), He crossed over to the other side of the lake only to encounter the same crowd again (John 6:15-25). These people were like most materialistic people today. Like the beneficiaries of Rome, they were more interested in satisfying their physical appetites than their spiritual appetites, so Jesus confronts their selfish desires. “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” (John 6:26). Christ is saying, “You came not because you understand Me to be the Messiah-God but because you wanted another free meal.” To this crowd, life was all about keeping alive, being healthy and well fed, and economically sufficient.

In an essay written by George Orwell, he describes a wasp that (as he puts it) “was sucking jam on my plate and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him.”  15

This wasp and people without Jesus have much in common. Severed from their souls, but greedy and unaware, people continue to consume life’s sweetness. Only when it is time to fly away will they grasp their dreadful condition. Jesus encourages the materialist to seek after something better. To seek after bread which lasts and produces life which never ends.

Jesus tells the materialist how to satisfy his spiritual hunger and thirst forever, and it is not through the accumulation of wealth or buying your forgiveness as Rome taught. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35). The materialist hungers and thirsts for power… possessions… and popularity! But the greatest hunger and thirst of all is for immortality. Jesus says to look to Him in faith to satisfy our hunger for immortality. Look to Him in faith to quench our thirst for eternal life.

What do you do when you are hungry? You eat. What do you do when you are thirsty? You drink. Jesus says that if we come to Him in faith, we will never hunger for eternal life again. If we believe in Him, we will never thirst for eternal life again. One bite of the bread that Jesus’ offers, one drink of the water that Jesus offers, satisfies our spiritual hunger and thirst forever. This is difficult for the materialist to do. He has always provided for his own needs, and now he is being challenged to trust Someone outside of himself for his most important need.

What if a person stops believing in Christ? Will he hunger or thirst for eternal life again? No. Because the spiritual need which Jesus meets can never reoccur. Once you receive eternal life, you have it forever. After all, how long is “never” (John 6:35)? It is forever, right? If a person could hunger or thirst for eternal life again after believing in Jesus, then Christ just told a lie. Jesus says one bite… one drink satisfies for eternity. The results of believing in Christ are permanent even if we don’t keep on believing.

Has your hunger or thirst for immortality been satisfied forever? Do you know for sure that you have eternal life? If not, why not take Jesus Christ at His word right now? Place your trust solely in Him to save you. Give up confidence in anything else: your prayers, giving of money, church attendance, baptism, obedience, commitment, or the reformation of your life. Jesus Christ guarantees eternal life to all who believe in Him alone for it.

Let us share this message gladly and often. It is glorious news! It is the greatest news! Tell people eternal life is a free gift and that the sole condition for receiving it is believing in Christ alone. Leave the results to God. After all, eternal life is the gift of God. He is the One giving the gift.

Prayer: Father God, give us a love for the self-reliant religious people of this world. Increase our burden for the materialistic people of our community. Give us the courage to confront their selfish desires, to correct their misconceptions about salvation, and to challenge them to believe in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life so that they can discover the joy of everlasting security in Him. Security that cannot be lost or taken away. Lord, I pray that those of us who know You will seek satisfaction in our relationship with You and not the things of this world. Enable us to live in light of eternity. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1.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. 1570.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pp. 200-201 cites 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. 568.

3. Constable, pg. 200.

4. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament

Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 329.

5. Constable, pg. 201.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1571.

7. Constable, pg. 201 quotes Alan Johnson, Vol. 6, pg. 445.

8. See Randy Petersen’s article entitled “Selling Forgiveness: How Money Sparked the Protestant Reformation,” at christianhistoryinstitute.org.

9. Ibid.

10. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2413.

11. See the January 22, 2021, Foxnew’s article entitled, “An Estimated 62 million abortions have occurred since Roe v. Wade decision in 1973” at www.foxnews.com.

12. Taken from an email on April 21, 2022, from American Center for Law and Justice’s Executive Director, Jordan Sekulow.

13. “Bill Salus on Mystery Babylon video on the August 26, 2018, Christ in Prophecy show.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1571.

15. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/76254-a-wasp-was-sucking-jam-on-my-plate-and-i .

Revelation 17 – Part 4

“Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’” Revelation 17:15

After the angel explained the interpretation of “the mystery” about “the beast” (17:7-14), he addressed the meaning of “the woman” riding on the beast (17:15-18). “Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’” (Revelation 17:15). The angel interprets “the waters which” John “saw, where the harlot sits” (17:1) to be “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” indicating the worldwide evil influence Rome will have during the Tribulation period. During the Tribulation “there will be one ecumenical world religious system, embracing all nations and languages.” 1

So, the woman riding on the scarlet beast represents a worldwide religious system in the Tribulation period whose headquarters is in Rome, the city on seven hills (17:1-9, 15). Rome will be the center of the Revived Roman Empire during the Tribulation period. Rome is also home to the Vatican, the Roman papal authority whose influence reaches across the world to “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” This worldwide false religion will be brought to a sudden stop around the mid-point of the Tribulation period.

“And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” (Revelation 17:16). The “ten horns” John “saw on the beast” (17:7) represent ten kings (17:12) who will assist the beast in his worldwide kingdom during the last half of the Tribulation (cf. Daniel 7:23-24). These ten kings “will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” This complete destruction of the city of Rome will most likely take place after the beast assumes his position in the rebuilt Jewish temple and claims to be God, demanding that everyone worship him or be killed (cf. Daniel 11:36-38; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 13:8, 15). 2 The Roman papacy will not agree to embrace this so it will be brought to an abrupt end.

The reason (“For…”) for Rome’s destruction is because God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.” (Revelation 17:17). God in His sovereignty uses the sinful actions of people, in this case the ten kings and the beast, “to fulfill His purpose… until the words of God” about Rome’s destruction “are fulfilled.” 3 God has used evil people before to accomplish His purposes (cf. Judges 2:14-15; 3:7-8, 12-14; Ezra 1:1ff; Jeremiah 25:9-11; Ezekiel 38:21; Daniel 2:20-21; Haggai 2:22; Zechariah 14:13). Yet, individual sinners remain responsible for his or her own actions (cf. Ezekiel 18). 4

“And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 17:18). The angel interprets “the woman” whom John saw to be “that great city which reigns [present tense] over the kings of the earth.” In the first century context when John wrote the book of Revelation, this could only refer to the city of Rome which ruled the world at that time. 5 Just as Rome relentlessly persecuted believers in Jesus when John wrote in the first century, the revived Roman Empire in the Tribulation period will also persecute believers who refuse to submit to her evil and idolatrous practices. But this persecution will be short lived because God will use the beast and his allies to bring about the swift destruction of this evil worldwide false religion.

These events in Revelation 17 could begin to take place at any time once the church of Christ is removed via the Rapture (I Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-5:11; Revelation 4:1-4). Jesus said, 32 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” (Mark 13:32-33). Christ said no one knows the “day and hour” of His coming, yet as we see conflict between Russia and Ukraine and chaos increasing around the world, the stage is being set for the beast to arise out of the chaos. Christians are to “watch and pray,” devoting their full attention, while there is still time, to God’s agenda for themselves, their families, their churches, and their communities. 6

Nonbelievers would be wise to come to Jesus Christ in faith soon before they are left behind to face a world that will experience unprecedented judgments as never before seen. If you are not sure you will go to heaven in the future, listen to what missionaries said to a prison guard who thought he only had a short amount of time to live. They told him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

The reason a person must believe or trust in the Lord Jesus alone is because we all have a problem called sin (Romans 3:23) that separates us from God (Romans 6:23). All of us have sinned against God with our thoughts, words, and actions. And we all deserve to pay the penalty for our own sins by dying forever in a terrible place of eternal suffering called the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15) or hell (Mark 9:43-48). But God does not want any of us to die forever in hell!

So, He sent His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to earth two thousand years ago. Jesus lived a perfect life on earth (Hebrews 4:15), and then He died on the cross in our place to pay the penalty for all our sins (I Corinthians 15:3; John 19:30). The proof that He died is that He was buried (I Corinthians 15:4a). We do not bury a living person; we bury a dead person. Jesus then rose from the dead three days after He died (I Corinthians 15:4b) just as He promised He would (Matthew 16:21), proving that He is God (John 3:16; Romans 1:3-4). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead is that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8). This is more than enough evidence to stand up in a court of law.

Jesus is alive today and He has the power to save us from hell forever and give us eternal life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He now invites everyone to believe in Him alone to save them from hell forever (Acts 16:31). To “believe” in Jesus means to trust or depend upon Him alone.

Trusting in Jesus is a lot like riding on an airplane. When you ride as a passenger on an airplane, do you need to push the airplane to get it off the ground? No, of course not. Do you need to flap your arms to keep the plane in the air? No. All you must do is trust a person, your pilot, to take you to your destination.

In the same way, Jesus does not need us to help Him save us from hell forever. No amount of our good works can save us from the lake of fire because they are all stained with sin before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). All Jesus asks is that we believe or trust in Him alone to save us from hell forever (Acts 16:31) and give us everlasting life (John 3:16). Only Jesus can take away our sins because He paid the penalty of our sins in full (John 19:30) and rose from the dead. Believe in Him and the Bible guarantees “you will be saved” forever from hell (Acts 16:31).

If you just believed or trusted in Jesus Christ alone to save you from hell forever, you may tell God this through prayer. But praying this prayer does not get you to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Christ alone gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now believing in His Son to save you.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I come to You now as a sinner. I cannot save myself from hell. I believe You died for all my sins on the cross and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You Jesus (not my good life, my religion, nor my prayers), to save me from hell forever and give me everlasting life. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for the gifts of Your salvation and everlasting life that I now have. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus…

– He saved you from hell forever (Acts 16:31).

– He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29).

– He came to live inside you through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20) and He promises never to abandon or leave you (Hebrews 13:5).

Jesus wants to be your best Friend. You can get to know Him by talking to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7) and listening to Him as you read and apply the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17) together with other Christians (Hebrews 10:24-25).

– He now wants you to follow Him so He can show you how to tell other people the good news of going to heaven through faith in Him alone (Matthew 4:19; Mark 16:15).

Because of your faith in Christ alone to save you from hell forever, I will not say good-bye to you. Instead, I will say, “See you in heaven!”

ENDNOTES:

1. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6133.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 191.

3. 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. 1568.

4. Constable, pg. 191.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1568.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pp. 2410-2411.

Revelation 12 – Part 3

“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:9

Last time in our study of the book of Revelation, we saw that the dragon, Satan (12:9), failed to destroy the Christ Child at His birth and during His life and in His death, so Jesus could ascend victoriously to heaven after His resurrection (12:3-5). Since Satan cannot get to the Christ Child who is now on His throne in heaven (12:5), he is going to go after what is dearest to the Child – His people, Israel.

The apostle John writes, “Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” (Revelation 12:6). Christ’s birth and ascension to heaven in verse 5 took place some two thousand years ago, but the events described here in verse 6will take place in the future. The nation of Israel, represented by “the woman” (cf. 12:1-2; Genesis 37:9-11), will flee “into the wilderness” immediately at the middle of the Tribulation period when the Man of Sin (the Beast or Antichrist) occupies the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and declares himself to be God (12:6a; cf. Matthew 24:15-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). 1

During the first half of the Tribulation many Jews will believe in the gospel of the kingdom proclaimed by the Two Witnesses from Jerusalem (11:1-6). This believing remnant (“our brethren” – 12:10) will need to get out of Israel as quickly as possible because Satan’s desire is to exterminate Israel so he can render God’s promises to them as false, making God a liar.

If Israel obeys Jesus’ command to flee to the mountains to the “place prepared by God” when the Man of Sin occupies the rebuilt Jewish temple (“abomination of desolation” – Matthew 24:15-16), God will “feed” or provide for her “there one thousand two hundred and sixty days” or three and a half years during the last half of the Tribulation period (12:6b). “God fed millions of Jews for forty years during their Exodus from Egypt, and He will do so again in Israel’s darkest hour.” 2

Hitchcock suggests that this place of refuge prepared by God for Israel could be the rock city of Petra in modern Jordan (cf. Micah 2:12-13; Daniel 11:41). He writes, “This place is also consistently described as being in ‘the mountains’ or ‘the wilderness’ (Matthew 24:16; Revelation 12:6, 14, NASB). Therefore, this city must be prepared by God in advance, must be in the hills and in the wilderness. The city of Petra fits all of these criteria: it is adequate to hold what may be one million Jewish people; it is both in the hills and the wilderness; and it is accessible to the fleeing remnant. Therefore, putting all these points together, it is apparent that God will provide the fleeing Jewish remnant an accessible place of refuge in the wilderness and in the hills that will be like a sheepfold and that will be outside the Antichrist’s domain. The place that best fits the clues provided in Scripture is the magnificent rock city of Petra.” 3

To protect Israel during the last half of the Tribulation, John writes, 7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.” (Revelation 12:7-8). John then sees a “war” break “out in heaven” between “Michael,” the archangel who battled with Satan over the body of Moses (cf. Jude 1:9), 4 and Satan, “the dragon.” Michael is accompanied by “his” unfallen “angels” and Satan is joined by “his” fallen “angels” or demons (12:7). The angels’ way of fighting here will be like what they do on behalf of all believers today (cf. Hebrews 1:14). The accidents we narrowly escape, and the perfect timing of various life events are not coincidences, but heaven’s divine arrangements of all things for our good. 5

As Michael fought on Daniel’s and Israel’s behalf against demons in the Old Testament era (cf. Daniel 10:13), angels fight for believers today and will fight for Israel in the last half of the future Tribulation. 6 Daniel 12:1a explains this event when it says, “Michael shall stand up,” which undeniably refers to the fact that the archangel is ready to act on behalf of Israel (cf. Daniel 10:21). This war in heaven will occur just before the time of Jacob’s “trouble” – the last half of the Tribulation (cf. Daniel 12:1b). 7

Despite all of Satan’s raging, he, and his fallen angels “did not prevail” over Michael and his angelic army (12:8a). As a result, there was no “place found for them in heaven any longer” (12:8b). Satan and his demonic cohorts are prohibited from entering heaven ever again. Since the fall of humankind, Satan used this God-given access to make relentless accusations against the people of God (cf. Revelation 12:10; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7), but near the middle of the Tribulation period, this access to God’s throne is stopped. 8 God will no longer hear Satan’s accusations against believers in His throne room. 9 In the end, Satan and his demonic armies will not be able to stop God’s plan for Israel nor His Son’s return to earth to set up His kingdom. 10

Hitchcock states,Both amillennialists and postmillennialists… view the casting of Satan from heaven in Revelation 12:7-9 as parallel with Luke 10:18-19. They point to Mark 3:27 and Matthew 12:25-29 as the fulfillment of the binding of Satan during the earthly ministry of Christ. For them, Satan’s activity and power are restricted during this present age. However, this contradicts the way Satan is pictured in the New Testament. Satan is called ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12:31; 14:30), ‘the god of this world’ (2 Corinthians 4:4), ‘an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14), ‘the commander of the powers in the unseen world’ (Ephesians 2:2), and he is ‘like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8). The devil schemes against believers (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11), hinders us (1 Thessalonians 2:18), accuses us (Revelation (Revelation 12:10), and blinds the minds of the lost (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan is anything but bound today. He is aggressively opposing the work of God. 11

“As someone once said, ‘If Satan is bound today, he must have an awfully long chain.’ Satan is characterized as the arch-deceiver in the New Testament. Yet, Revelation 20:3 says that when he is bound Satan will ‘not deceive the nations anymore.’ This does not fit the current situation. It demands a later time after the Lord’s coming.” 12

Satan’s defeat in heaven at the midpoint of the Tribulation led to his and his fallen angels’ expulsion to earth. So, the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9). God identifies “the great dragon” as “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.”

What do we learn about Satan in this verse? He is a “great dragon” who is fierce, cruel, and monstrous in nature. 13 As the “serpent of old,” he is crafty and subtle in character (cf. Genesis 3:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan is too strong and crafty for us to overcome his strategies on our own. We need God’s power and wisdom to experience victory over him in our Christian lives.

The name “Devil” (diabolos) means “Slanderer” or “Accuser.” 14 This title for “the evil one would have made a specially strong impact in the first century, for there was a well-known and well-hated figure called the delator, the paid informer. He made his living by accusing people before the authorities.” 15

In this church age the Devil focuses on accusing believers of wrongdoing. But because God has “justified” or declared believers totally righteous in His courtroom the moment we believe in Jesus apart from any works (Romans 4:5), no one can successfully accuse us of wrongdoing before God (cf. Romans 8:33), including the Devil.

The title “Satan” (Satanas) means “Adversary.” 16 Satan is not our friend. He is against us. He is our worst enemy. He hates us and wants to destroy our lives and testimony. But Jesus is our “Advocate” (I John 2:1-2) Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes before God the Father’s throne in heaven (Hebrews 7:25). Whenever Satan accuses us of wrongdoing, Christ says to the Father, “I paid for that sin, Father.”   

John writes that Satan is the one “who deceives the whole world” (12:9b). The primary strategy Satan uses to accuse and oppose us is deception. The Devil cannot win spiritual battles by exerting authority because he has been defeated on the cross (cf. Colossians 2:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-15). So, Satan must win by deception, influencing our thinking through spiritual and worldly means. We permit Satan to achieve victories in our lives when we act on that deception rather than rejecting it as a lie. 17

How can we overcome Satan’s deception? Jesus tells us in John 8. 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” (John 8:31). Christ is talking to Jewish believers who have eternal life, so He is not talking about salvation here. He is talking about the lifelong process of discipleship after we believe in Him for everlasting life.

Hence, the first way to overcome Satan’s deception is to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, so you may have eternal life in His name (John 20:31). The only condition for eternal life is simply believing in Christ for it. Obviously, then if you want to be free from the deception of the Devil, you must believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. And the moment you do, the eternal Son of God comes to live inside of you. If you don’t have Jesus Christ in your life, the only changes in your life will be superficial. You may read your Bible, pray, and go to church or counseling, but you are not going to experience lasting freedom from Satan’s lies without Christ in your life! Only Christ has the power to defeat the Devil’s deception in your life.

But overcoming deception does not stop with believing in Christ. Christ says to these believers, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (8:31b). What is the condition for being Jesus’ disciples? Abiding in His Word. To “abide” (menō) in Christ’s Word means “to continue or remain” 18 in Jesus’ teaching – literally, “to make one’s home at.”Where we make our home is where we spend our time. So, notice that you can believe in Jesus and not abide in His word. When believers “abide” or remain in Christ’s word, they “shall know the truth, and the truth shall make” them “free” (8:32).

Note two things. First, there is such a thing as truth. Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured. We live in a relativistic society that denies absolute truth, claiming, ‘What’s true for you may not be true for me.’ But truth is not based on our feelings, experiences, or desires. Truth is God’s viewpoint on every matter, and it is not subject to redefinition. Pilate would ask, ‘What is truth?’ (18:38), and the answer to that question is ‘Jesus’ (see 14:6).

“Second, knowing the truth results in genuine freedom. Don’t be confused. Truth alone doesn’t liberate; rather, the knowledge of the truth liberates. Deliverance comes when we know the truth—that is, when we hang out in what God says. When this happens, we will experience the truth setting us free from illegitimate bondage” 19 to Satan’s lies.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being a part of a discipleship relationship with other believers. We always learn from others, truths we would never learn on our own. Other people will help you see insights you would miss and help you apply God’s truth in a practical way. They can also help hold you accountable and I know I need that, don’t you? So, as we abide or remain in Christ’s word, we shall know the truth, and the truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6), shall make us free from Satan’s deception. The truth will identify the lies we have been believing that have held us in bondage to sin and will also provide the remedy to overcome those lies. It is knowing and applying the truth of God’s Word that will overcome the Devil’s deception.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for reminding us that although Satan is a powerful and aggressive foe, he will not be victorious. Your angels will defeat him at the midpoint of the Tribulation period, so he never has access to Your throne in heaven again. And while Satan accuses us before You every day and night during this current Church Age, we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ, Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes for us. Not only this, but Jesus also gives us eternal life the moment we believe in Him so we can subsequently abide in His Word and know the truth which sets us free from Satan’s lies. Please empower us, Lord, to know, believe and act on Your truth so that we may become all that You intended us to be for Your glory alone. In the mighty name of Jesus Who is the truth, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. 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. 1542.

2. Ibid.   

3. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pp. 378, 490 491.

4. Vacendak, pg. 1542.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2397.

6. Ibid.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1543; see also John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 5701 and Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 136.  

8. Vacendak, pg. 1543. cf. Hitchcock, pg. 314.

9. Constable, pg. 136.

10. Evans, pg. 2397.

11. Hitchcock, pp. 413-414.

12. Ibid., pg. 414 cites Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), pp. 702-703.

13. Contstable, pg. 136.

14. Ibid., see also 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. 226.

15. Ibid., cites Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 161; cf. William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 102.

16. Ibid., cf. Bauer, pg. 916.

17. Evans, 2397.

18. Bauer, pp. 630-631.

19. Evans, pg. 1779.

Let’s Keep the Gospel Clear!

“Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way that I ought to proclaim it.” Colossians 3:3-4

During my drive from Nebraska back to our home in Iowa recently, I noticed a billboard along the interstate that read, “Where are you going? Heaven or Hell?” with a phone number on it to call. I thought to myself, “I wonder what they are telling callers they must do to go to heaven?” Knowing I had about two hours left on my drive home, I knew this would probably be an animated conversation that would keep me wide awake. So, I decided to give them a call. I will try to convey the main ideas communicated in this call, acknowledging that my quotes are not verbatim.

When a young man answered my call, I told him I noticed their billboard sign and wanted to know what I must do to be sure I would go to heaven in the future. Immediately he told me I must repent and then quoted from Matthew 4:17 where Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I asked, “What does it mean to repent?” He said it means to turn from your sin and follow Jesus. To which I replied, “You mean I must turn from all my sins?” “Yes,” he said. “Have you done that?” I asked him. “No,” he responded, “But if I do sin, the Bible tells me I must confess it to the Lord, and He will forgive me.”

In addition, he quoted from Romans 10:9-10 which says, 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” To make sure I understood him, I tried to repeat back what I heard him to say, “So you are telling me that to be sure I will go to heaven, I must repent, believe, and confess Jesus is Lord.” He said, “That’s right.”

Next, I told him my mother taught me John 3:16 when I was a child. After quoting the verse, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” I said to him, “Jesus is saying all I must do to have everlasting life is believe in Him.” Quickly he retorted, “We do what we believe, right?” I said, “Of course. But Jesus is saying all I must do is believe in Him for eternal life. So, if I will do what I believe, I will believe in Jesus to get me to heaven, not do good works to get to heaven.”

This man, whose name ironically is John, liked the book of Matthew, so he directed me to Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus said, 21 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

I said to John, “Christ is teaching that confessing the Lordship of Jesus and doing good works in His name is not what gains entrance into the kingdom of heaven. It is doing the will of the Father. And what is the Father’s will for entering His kingdom? Jesus tells us in John 6:40, ‘And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’ According to Jesus, all we must do to enter the Father’s heaven, is see and believe in His Son to receive everlasting life. The apostle John tells us the reason he wrote his gospel is so ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.’ (20:31). Ninety-nine times the apostle John uses the word ‘believe’ in his gospel. He never uses the word ‘repent.’”

The John on the other end of the call said, “Believing is not enough. Listen to what the apostle John, the same author of the gospel of John, writes in I John 3: 4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.’”

I responded by saying, “First John 5:1 says, ‘Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.’ The apostle John makes it clear that believing Jesus is the Christ is all that is necessary to be born of God. “

John responded by turning to I John 1:3-4, 7-10, 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full… 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

I thanked John for turning to these verses because verses 3-4 explain to us that I John was written so we may have fellowship or closeness with God, not salvation. So, when John talks about walking in the light (1:7), confessing sin (1:9), keeping God’s commandments (2:3), abiding in Christ (2:6), not sinning (3:6, 9), practicing righteousness (3:7), and loving others (3:10), he is providing conditions for fellowship or closeness with God, not salvation. The gospel of John tells us that the only condition for entering the Christian life is believing in Jesus for eternal life (John 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-26; 20:31; et al.). But I John provides many conditions for having fellowship with God.

I told John on the other end of the call that I was very disappointed that he was preaching a different gospel than what the Lord Jesus and the apostles taught. I quoted from Galatians 1:8-9 which says, But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” The apostle Paul made it clear in Galatians that the only condition for being justified or declared righteous before God was to believe or have faith in Christ alone. Paul used the words “believe” and “faith” fifteen times when referring to justification before God (2:16; 3:2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26) in the book of Galatians. He used no other words as a condition for justification. He warned the Galatians not to support or join those who do not preach a “believe/faith alone” gospel (1:6- 9; 4:12, 21-30; 5:1-12; 6:17). It does not matter how kind or helpful a person is who teaches a different gospel. They are “accursed” by God if they preach a different way to heaven other than faith alone in Christ alone.  

When John on the other end of the call tried to interrupt me, I asked him to wait until I was finished explaining the clear gospel. John hung up on me before I finished talking.

Unfortunately, what John and others with that ministry are doing to the gospel of grace is not uncommon. Rarely do I hear individual Christians or churches use the words God uses the most in New Testament evangelism – the verb “believe” (pisteuō) 1 and its noun form “faith” (pistis) 2 – as the only conditions for salvation. This is devastating because it dishonors the finished work of Christ on the cross. When we start replacing God’s Word with our own cliches or verses taken out of context, we are making it more difficult for sinners to be saved from hell by our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

If John had not hung up on me, I would have told him that he is the one who needs to repent. The word “repent” (metanoeō) in the New Testament means “to change one’s mind.” 3 John and others who distort the gospel need to repent or change their minds and return to the original gospel that Jesus and the apostles taught. Jesus said, 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15; cf. Acts 10:43; 16:31; Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; I John 5:1, 13; et al.). Jesus Christ was “lifted up” on the cross to finish paying the penalty for all our sin when He died in our place (John 19:30) “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

When the apostle Paul instructed the Colossian believers to pray for his preaching of the gospel, he said, “that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:4; NASB). If the apostle Paul needed prayer to help him keep the gospel clear, then how much more do you and I need this kind of prayer support from others!?! Satan wants to deceive Christians not to use the words God uses most in evangelism (“Believe” and “Faith”) because he knows that these are God’s terms for salvation from hell (cf. Luke 8:5, 12).

God wants Christians to be clear in the way they communicate the gospel of Christ to non-Christians. If you would like to learn more about how to be more effective in evangelism by avoiding unclear evangelistic invitations, please view our training video at https://www.seeyouinheaven.life/lesson-1-part-5-avoiding-unclear-gospel-invitations-video/.

May the Lord Jesus be glorified as we seek to keep His gospel clear by using the words He uses the most in evangelism: believe and faith.

ENDNOTES:

1. Matthew 18:6; 21: 32(3); 24:23, 26; 27:42; Mark 1:15, 9:42; 15:32;16:16(2), 17; Luke 8:12, 13; 22:67; John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:39, 41, 42, 48, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 45, 46, 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64, 69; 7:5, 31, 38(2), 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:25, 26, 27(2), 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:12; 16:9, 27; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:29, 31(2); Acts 2:44; 4:4, 32; 5:14; 8:12, 13, 37(2); 9:42; 10:43, 45; 11:17, 21; 13:12, 39, 41, 48; 14:1, 23, 27; 15:5, 7; 16:1, 31, 34; 17:4, 5, 12, 34; 18:8, 27; 19:2, 4, 9, 18; 21:20, 25; 22:19; 26:27(2); 28:24(2); Romans 1:16; 3:3, 22, 4:3, 5, 11, 17, 24; 9:33; 10:4, 9, 10, 11, 14(2), 16; 13:11; 15:31; I Corinthians 1:21; 3:5; 7:12, 13; 9:5; 10:27; 14:22(2); 15:2, 11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 2:16; 3:6, 9, 22; Ephesians 1:13, 19; Philippians 1:29; I Thessalonians 1:7; 2:10; 4:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:12,13; I Timothy 1:16; 3:16; 4:3, 10; 6:2(2); 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 3:8; Hebrews 11:31; I Peter 1:21;2:6, 7; I John 3:23; 5:1, 5, 10(3), 13.

2. Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 7:50; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 6:7; 14:22, 27; 15:9; 16:5; 20:21; 24:24; 26:18; Romans 1:17; 3:3, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30(2), 31; 4:5, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16 (2); 5:1, 2; 9:30, 32; 10:6, 8, 17; 11:20; 16:26; I Corinthians 15:14, 17; Galatians 2:16 (2); 3:2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26; 5:5; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 3:9(2); Colossians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:2; 2 Timothy 3:15; Titus 1:4; Hebrews 6:1;11:31; James 2:1, 23, 24; I Peter 1:21; 2 Peter 1:5; I John 5:4.

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. 640.

Two Christmas Seasons

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

You can experience the joy and peace of Christmas every day by hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus talks about two Christmas seasons in one of the most familiar verses of the Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

This verse falls in the middle of a conversation between Jesus and a religious ruler named Nicodemus (John 3:1-21). Nicodemus thinks the way to heaven is by living a good life. But Jesus confronts him with the truth that he must be born again by believing in Christ alone for eternal life. It is not what you do that gets you to heaven, it is what Christ has already done for you on the cross, and simply believing in Him.

The first Christmas season is seen in the first part of the verse: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” No one has ever loved to the degree that God has loved. He loved the world. He did not limit His love to one country, culture, or color. God loved everyone.

Because God loves everyone, His love cannot be earned. God loves us now, not when we get better. He loves us regardless of what we have done or not done. Do you realize that nothing you do can make God love you any less? God has designed us to be loved by Him. Only His love can meet our deepest needs. Sadly, we often look in the wrong places for God’s love, don’t we? We look for love in – a cell phone, a job, money, sports, alcohol, a computer, drugs, or a brief romantic relationship. God’s love isn’t found in these things. His love is found in the Person of Jesus Christ.

How did God express His love for us? “He gave His only begotten Son.” The phrase “only begotten Son” does not mean Jesus had a beginning like a baby that is birthed by his parents. The word translated “only begotten” (monogenḗs) literally means “one of a kind.” Jesus Christ is the only One of His kind because only He is fully God (John 1:1-3) and fully Man (John 1:14).

Over two thousand years ago, God’s Son, Jesus Christ, was born in a manger on the earth even though He pre-existed as God. He loved you and me so much He was willing to become a helpless baby. Here He was, the Creator of the universe, lying in the arms of a woman that He created! God sent Jesus so you could know what He is like (John 1:18). If God wanted to communicate to birds, He would have become a bird. If God had wanted to communicate to cows, He would have become a cow. But God wanted to relate to you and to me, so He became a human being without ceasing to be God.

You may be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Mormon, or an atheist. It does not matter what your religious background is because Christ did not come to give us religion, He came to give us a relationship. Christmas is God saying, “I want to relate to you. I want you to know Me as much as I know you.”

Because all of us have sinned against God (Romans 3:23), we deserve to die forever in the lake of fire (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15). But Jesus came that first Christmas season to die in our place on a cross and rise from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Christ paid for the gift of eternal life.

When you receive a gift, do you have to pay for it? No, of course not. Why? Because it is already paid for. Eternal life is free to you and me (Romans 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9) because Jesus already paid for it when He died on the cross (John 19:30) and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus is alive today! So, the first Christmas season was when Christ came to us.

The second Christmas season is now when Christ invites us to come to Him. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16b). Does the word “whoever” include everyone? Yes. It includes the best and worst of people and everyone in between.

Christ invites everyone to believe in Him for His free gift. He did not say “whoever behaves…” Jesus simply says, “whoever believes…” Receiving Christ’s gift of eternal life is apart from any good works we might do.

Jesus is not asking you, “Do you do good in the community?” because He never said, “Whoever does good in the community should not perish but have everlasting.” Nor is Jesus asking you, “Did you live an obedient life?” because He never said, “Whoever lives an obedient life should not perish but have everlasting.” Nor is Jesus asking, “Do you have religion?” because He never said, “whoever has religion should not perish but have everlasting.”

Jesus is asking you, “Do you believe in Me?” because He said, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” What does it mean to believe? To believe simply means to trust or depend upon. It is so simple a child can do it, yet, as adults, we have made it difficult. Jesus says you “believe” and “have.” You have what you take, correct?

What do you like the most about Christmas? Most people will say, receiving gifts, right?! To enjoy a gift, what must you do? You must receive it.

Jesus Christ was born in a manger and died on a cross so we could receive eternal life as a free gift. We cannot trust our obedience to God’s commands, our good life, our religion, or our prayers to receive eternal life. Instead, we must believe or trust in Christ alone to receive His gift of eternal life and live with Him forever in heaven. The moment you trust Christ, Christmas will never end for you. What makes Christmas lasting is knowing you will live forever in God’s presence. Jesus asks us to take the eternal life that He is freely offering to us.

Christ promises that when you believe in Him you “should not perish” in hell. When you believe in Christ, He promises you will be rescued from eternal punishment. When Jesus speaks of perishing, He is not talking about physical death, He is talking about suffering forever and ever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10; 20:15). Many people don’t believe in hell today, but they better be sure about it because no one can afford to be wrong on this issue. Everyone needs to be rescued because “all have sinned…” (Romans 3:23).

The word “but” contrasts eternal death and torment (“perish”) with “eternal life” and enjoyment. Jesus is acknowledging that there is a place of eternal ruin where people will be in agony forever. “But,” He says, “You can have the opposite of death, agony and torment – you can have eternal life.” All people exist forever, the question is where will you live when you die – heaven or hell?

When you believe in Jesus, He promises that you can be sure that you “have everlasting life.” Jesus did not say, “might have” or “hope to have.” He simply says, “have,” which expresses absolute certainty. You can be one hundred percent sure that you have eternal life because Jesus promises it to all who believe in Him. If you could lose your salvation, then Jesus just lied to us in John 3:16. Our salvation is based upon a promise that cannot be broken. It comes from a God who cannot lie.

Eternal life is described in John 17:3 as knowing God the Father and God the Son personally forever. Eternal life begins when you believe in Jesus, not when you die or after you die. What could possibly be greater than that? If you have not believed or trusted in Jesus Christ alone to give you His gift of eternal life, why not do so right now? This is how you can tell God in prayer what you are doing:

“Dear God, I come to you now as a sinner. Nothing I am or do makes me deserving of heaven. I now understand that Jesus Christ, the One born in a manger, died for me on a cross and rose again. I place my trust in Christ alone for His gift of eternal life. Thank You for the gift of eternal life I have just received. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

When you believed in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life, He came to live inside you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). You can get to know Jesus better by talking to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7) and by listening to Him as you learn to read and apply the Bible to your life (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Find a church where you can worship God with other like-minded Christians (Hebrews 10:24-25). Tell others about Jesus and what He can do for them (Matthew 4:19).

To learn more about how you can experience the joy and peace of Christmas every day of your life, please go to our website at www.seeyouinheaven.life and download our free digital Pressing On discipleship materials to go through with those you care about.

Living Life Today in Light of Tomorrow (Video)

This video looks at Bible prophecy in the book of Revelation to bring stability and hope to our lives when so many things seem out of control in the world today.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site: http://www.revelationillustrated.com. Other digital images are used with permission from Digital Globe / www.FreeBibleimages.org, GoodSalt / www.goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses. The video scenes in this video are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

How does the risen Lord Jesus use us to make a difference in peoples’ lives after we fail? Part 3

“This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ ” John 21:19

When studying Peter’s life, Dr. Charlie Bing identified several different stages of discipleship. First, there is the finding stage where Peter finds Jesus the Messiah-God and puts his trust in Him for the gift of eternal life (John 1:40-2:11). This is followed by the following stage which involves submitting to Jesus’ purpose of living to reach the lost (Mark 1:16-18). Third, is the forsaking stage when Jesus taught the importance of wholehearted trust and obedience to Him, especially in evangelism (Luke 5:1-11). Fourth, is the failing stage when God uses failure to equip us to strengthen others (John 13:36-38; 18:15-17, 25-27; cf. Luke 22:31-32, 61-62). Then there is the feeding stage when Peter begins to minister to others out of his own brokenness and love for Jesus (John 21:15-19). This is followed by the focusing stage in John 20:20-22. Currently we are looking at the feeding stage.

So far, we have learned in this feeding stage that for the the risen Lord Jesus to use us to make a difference in peoples’ lives after we fail, we must…

– Make loving Jesus our first priority (John 21:15).

– Receive His forgiving grace into our hearts for our greatest sins (John 21:16-17).

Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times when standing around “a fire of coals” in a courtyard in front of Annas’ house (John 18:17-18, 25, 27). After His resurrection while standing around “a fire of coals” on the beach (John 21:1-14), Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him (John 21:15-17). Each time Peter affirmed his love for Jesus, Christ commanded him to feed or tend to His sheep to indicate that Peter was forgiven and restored to his position of leadership. Jesus was going to use Peter’s failure to help others grow in their love for Jesus. And He wants to do the same thing in our lives.

After restoring Peter to leadership, Jesus warns Peter of what his love and service for Jesus will cost him. After Peter told Jesus, “Lord, You know all things” (John 21:17b), Jesus demonstrated that as God, He truly did know all things when He said,  “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” (John 21:18).

Jesus contrasts Peter’s youthful freedom with the restrictions he will experience in old age. As a young man (“when you were younger”), Peter dressed himself and went wherever he wanted (“you girded yourself and walked where you wished”). But a day would come when he is old (“when you are old”) and he would no longer have control over his life and activities. He would live to an old age in which he would have to depend on others to dress him and to provide an arm on which he could lean. 2

When Jesus says, “you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you,” He is using a “euphemistic reference to crucifixion in the Roman world.” 3  “This stretching took place when the Roman soldiers fastened the condemned person’s arms to the crosspiece of his cross. This often happened before they led him to the place of crucifixion and crucified him.” 4  To be carried or led “where you do not wish” is clearly a reference to death. 5

John confirms this when he explains, This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God.” (John 21:19a). Peter’s commitment to follow Jesus would ultimately mean martyrdom. Peter had formerly confessed his commitment to lay down his life for Christ (cf. 13:37). Someday he would indeed follow through on that commitment and by so doing he would glorify God.” 6

Tertullian, an early church leader (C. A.D. 212), reports that Peter was crucified in Rome under Nero (Scorpiace 15) around 64-67 A.D. Clement of Rome (ca. A.D. 96) wrote that Peter died by martyrdom (1 Clement 5:4; 6:1).” 8  Another early church leader, Origen, stated that Peter was crucified with his head down because he did not feel worthy to suffer as Jesus had. 9

Jesus refers to Peter’s death as that which “would glorify God.” Peter, who had struggled with pride and prayerlessness, was learning through his failure to depend more and more on the risen Lord Jesus. Later in life, he would be so in tune with God’s will and purposes that even in death he would magnify the character and reputation of God. 10  Instead of trying to control his future as he had tried formerly to do, he would commit his future to the risen Lord’s control.

“The long painful history of the Church is the history of people ever and again tempted to choose power over love, control over the cross, being a leader over being led.” 11  

“Peter later wrote that Christians, who follow Jesus Christ faithfully to the point of dying for Him, bring glory to God by their deaths (1 Pet. 4:14- 16). He lived with this prediction hanging over him for three decades (cf. 2 Pet. 1:14).” 12

After Jesus tells Peter how he is going to die, John writes, “And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ ” (John 21:19b). Here again Jesus is giving Peter an invitation to follow Him. He is inviting Peter to step it up in his commitment to Christ. There is always a sense in which a disciple can grow deeper in his commitment to Christ. For Peter to fulfill his love for the Lord and provide spiritual care for other Christians, he must follow Jesus. The same is true for us. So, the final way for the risen Lord Jesus to use us to make a difference in peoples’ lives after we fail, is to RENEW OUR COMMITMENT TO FOLLOW JESUS NO MATTER WHAT THE COST (John 21:18-19).

These words to follow Christ take place 2 ½ years after Jesus’ initial invitation to follow Him (Mark 1:16-18). Now these words have a lot more significance. Peter knows now that following Jesus means he is going to have to die. These words are much weightier than Jesus’ other invitations to follow Him. But this is the feeding stage, and it depends on our love for Christ.

The night before His crucifixion, we saw Christ’s loving service to others when He washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-16). He then said to them, 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35). When you see the purpose God has given us – to love other people, to serve them, to feed them – it is hard to go back to doing the old things we used to do. Before Jesus said, “feed My sheep,” the question He asked was, “Do you love Me?” (John 21:15-17). He didn’t ask, “Peter will you walk on water for Me?… Peter, will you fight for Me?… Peter, will you build monuments in My name?” No, He asks Peter, “Do you love Me?” 

What’s the most important qualification for ministering to God’s people? Loving the Lord Jesus. If you don’t have a love relationship with Christ, you are not going to have His love for His people. John writes in his first epistle, 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (I John 4:7-11). When Jesus died on the cross, He was shouting out to you and me: “I love you!” When we receive God’s love for us through Jesus Christ, we can then share His love with others.

The person who has this kind of love is “born of God and knows God.” (I John 4:7b). The phrase “born of God” refers to a Christian. Before you can ever produce this kind of love in your life, you must first be born of God. How? The Bible says you must simply believe or trust in Jesus Christ. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1). Notice that you are not born of God by following Christ, keeping God’s commandments, being baptized with water, surrendering to Christ, or living a good, moral life. No, the only condition to be born of God is believing in Jesus Christ alone, not behaving.

The moment we place our trust in Jesus for eternal life, we become God’s child and God comes to live inside us and love us always. As we get to know Him and trust Him, He pours His love into our lives so we can begin to love others (cf. Romans 5:5).

But if we are going to develop loving relationships after we become Christians, we must refill ourselves with God’s love daily. The person who loves God’s way is “born of God and knows God.” Once we have begun a relationship with God by trusting in Jesus as our Savior, the key is to stay close to Jesus. Get to know Him. Staying close to God is not complicated.

This image works for me: I picture my life as a bucket. I must have my bucket filled.  And God’s love is like a fountain. The more I refill that bucket, the more I must share with others. If you have been a Christian for a while, you can probably tell when your bucket is empty. You are easily irritated or angered. It is difficult to let go of past hurts and to trust someone who has hurt you. It is tough to expect the best of him or her. Perhaps you can’t stand being in the same room with the person. All of these are indications that you need to be refilled with God’s love.

You say, “How do you do it?” Spend time with Jesus. Hang out with Him. Read what He has written in the Bible. Talk to Him about what you are reading and feeling. You may even want to write it down in a journal. Treat Jesus like a close friend, and you will become His close friend. And when you get closer to Jesus, you will discover that you are more able to love those who matter to you.

Can you see this? Is this making sense? Can you see why you need God’s love to love others? Some of you may be saying to yourselves, “Okay, so God commands us to love one another, but what does God’s love look like?” Look in I John 4:9-10: 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

First, we see that God’s love is selfless. His love gives without expecting anything in return. Often, we give to get. That is not God’s love. If Jesus had been selfish, He would never have left heaven or if He had come to earth, He would have packed His bags and left at the first sign of rejection. But He didn’t. He endured incredible suffering because He came to give, not to get. If God’s love is controlling our lives, we will be givers, not getters.

Second, God’s love is sacrificial. He not only gives, but He gives sacrificially. He “sent His only begotten Son into the world.” If it were possible, would you sacrifice your only child so that a serial killer could live? “No way!” Nor would I. But that’s exactly what God did when He sent His perfect Son to die for undeserving sinners like you and me. Who else would die for you except someone who loves you that much!

Third, God’s love is unconditional“not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” God’s love was not a response to our love. He loved us even if we never loved Him. God loves us when our walk of faith is weak or when it is strong. He sticks with us in the good times and the bad. Nothing about us makes God love us. He loves us because it is His nature to love. If God waited for us to love Him first, He would still be waiting. Thank God that He loved you and me first. His love does not require that we love Him back. Likewise, we are to love others even if they do not love us back. Is this easy? It’s impossible without Christ. Will we trust the Lord to love those who are difficult to love through us? So, when we experience God’s love, we naturally want to share that love with the people we love. Did you follow that? To become a more loving person we need to receive God’s love and refill ourselves with God’s love.

Lastly, we must reflect God’s Love to Others. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (I John 4:11). In other words, if God loved us with this selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love when we were least deserving, then we ought to love each other in the same way. Maybe our love cannot be as perfect as Jesus’ love, but it can grow in that direction. This is to be our goal.

So, this feeding stage in John 21:15-19, involves God using broken people to feed His sheep. God uses the lessons we have learned from our past failures to strengthen others. We minister out of our brokenness to others. As a pastor once said, “Before God can use a man greatly, He must hurt him deeply.” That’s the lesson of this feeding stage.

It is one thing for Jesus to say, “Follow Me into joy and goodness when everything is going to be great!” But it is another thing for Christ to look at Peter and say, “Follow me and I will lead you to die in the same way that I died.” Jesus is not saying that every Christian is going to die by crucifixion. But He does demand more of us the longer we follow Him as His disciple.

Obedience to Jesus’ command, Follow Me, is the key issue in every Christian’s life. As Jesus followed the Father’s will, so His disciples should follow their Lord whether the path leads to a cross or to some other difficult experience.” 13

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, we want to follow You. It won’t be easy. You never promised that it would be. So, Jesus, right now we refresh our simple commitment to follow You. Not just to listen to You or be around You or even say to You, “I love You.” But to follow You and Your leading in our lives. Lord, we know that where You lead is where we will find lasting joy. Whether you lead us to a cross to be crucified or to some other difficult trial, where You lead us is where we will find significance. Where You lead us is where we will find life. So, Jesus, we just say these simple words to You, “I will follow You.” Please give us the grace to do this, for apart from You we can do nothing. In Your mighty name we pray Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Charlie Bing’s articles, “The Making of A Disciple,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Autumn 1992; “Are Disciples Born or Made?” GraceLife, November 2007; “Peter as a Model Disciple,” GraceNotes – no. 21 all retrieved on July 13, 2021, at www.gracelife.org.

2. J. Carl Laney Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 382.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 399 cites Ernst Haenchen, A Commentary on the Gospel of John Vol. 2 (Translated by Robert W. Funk. Edited by Robert W. Funk and Ulrich Busse. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), pp. 226-27; C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text (2nd ed. Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1978), pg. 585.

4. Constable, pg. 399 cites G. R. Beasley-Murray, John Second ed., Word Bible Commentary series (Waco: Word Books, 1987), pp. 408-409.

5. Laney, pg. 382.

6. 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. 569.

7. Laney, pg. 382; Constable, pg. 399 cites Brooke Foss Westcott, The Gospel According to

St. John: The Authorised Version with Introduction and Notes (1880, London: James Clarke & Co., Ltd., 1958), pg. 304.

8. Constable, pg. 399 cites Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers, 1:11.

9. Constable, pg. 399 cites The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus, 2:25; 3:1 and Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John, pg. 304; Laney, pg. 382 also cites Eusebius in Historia Ecclesiastica 3:1. 

10. Laney, pg. 382.

11. Constable, pg. 399 cites Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, pg. 60. This book deals with this episode in Peter’s life most helpfully, especially for Christian leaders.

12. Ibid.

13. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 704.