The Book of Revelation – Introduction

“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” Revelation 1:19

The Lord is leading me to begin a verse-by-verse study through the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. Never in my lifetime has it been more important to look at God’s prophetic word in the book of Revelation. People all around the world have sobering questions about what is going to happen in the future. We need to focus on the book of Revelation because it has more graphic details about the Second Coming of Christ and the years immediately preceding it, than any other book of the Bible. 1

Yet at a time when attention to this prophetic book is most needed, its importance has lessened in churches and in the lives of Christians. During my forty-two years as a believer in Jesus Christ, I can count on one hand how many messages I have heard about this book. Why?

One major reason for this is because “the subject matter and widespread symbolism can make it hard to determine what to take literally and what to take figuratively.” This has led to many different interpretations and even division among Christians. Some fanatical teachers have misused this symbolism to set dates about future events. 3 Christians have quit their jobs or sold their homes because a well-known preacher told them Jesus was coming on a specific date. This has left many Christians reluctant to turn to the book of Revelation.

This difficulty in determining what is symbolic and what is literal in Revelation has led to four major approaches to understanding the message and meaning of this book: 4

1. THE ALLEGORICAL APPROACH. With this approach Revelation is viewed as a collection of stories about the battle between good and evil and has no reference to actual past or future events. For example, the “Beast” or “Antichrist” of Revelation, is not a real person, but the personification of evil. 5 This view interprets Revelation in a nonliteral sense.

2. THE PRETERIST APPROACH. According to this view, Revelation is perceived as a symbolic portrayal of events that took place during the first century in the Roman Empire, specifically the church’s conflicts with Judaism and paganism in John’s day. Proponents of this view would identify the “Antichrist” as a past Roman Emperor. 6 Hence, advocates of this approach believe Revelation does not pertain to actual future events. The weakness of this approach is that it contradicts the book’s claim to be mostly about future events which have not yet taken place on earth (cf. Revelation 1:3, 19; 22:7, 10, 18-19).

3. THE HISTORICAL APPROACH. According to this approach,Revelation is seen as a symbolic portrayal of church history from the Day of Pentecost until the Second Coming of Christ to earth. Many proponents identify the “Antichrist” with one of the medieval popes, but they do not agree on which one. 7 The weakness of this view is that interpreters find it difficult to agree on what part of history a given passage refers to.

4. THE FUTURIST APPROACH. Those who hold to this view of Revelation see the major portion of the book (Revelation 4–22) as prophetic events yet to happen (e.g., the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Second Coming of Christ, the Millennial kingdom, the Great White Throne judgment, and the Eternal State). This is the only approach that takes seriously Revelation’s claim to be a prophetic book. The futurist approach requires a more literal interpretation and belief in the supernatural, 8 which its critics are uncomfortable with. These approaches are listed from the least literal interpretive approach to the most literal. 9 I will be using this approach as we study the book of Revelation.

A good place to start when interpreting the book of Revelation is with Jesus’ prophetic teaching in Matthew 24-25. When talking about the seven-year Tribulation period, many Bible teachers say that the first half of the Tribulation will be a time of peace followed by judgments during the last half of the Tribulation. But Jesus said of the first three-and-a-half years that “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:7-8). This is hardly a period of peace. 10

“Revelation bears this out as well. In fact, as shall be seen in the comments on Revelation 6-11, because of the seal and trumpet judgments that will fall on the earth during the first three-and-a-half years, half of the earth’s inhabitants will have lost their lives! This can hardly be thought of as a time of peace on earth. It is important to note that the purpose of the second seal judgment is “to take peace from the earth” (6:4; emphasis added).

The truth is that all these troubles will signal that God’s judgments have begun. Then during the last three-and-a-half years—once the Man of Sin has defiled the temple in Jerusalem (cf. Matt 24:15)—the earth will endure even greater troubles. ‘For then there will be great tribulation (thlipsis megalē, ‘great travail’, or ‘intense birth pains’; cf. anguish in John 16:21), such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be’ (Matt 24:21; emphasis added). It is clear that as the last three-and-a-half years transpire, the world will reach a point of chaos and trouble that is without parallel in human history. Again, this is borne out in Revelation 12-19, and especially seen in the bowl judgments and the Battle of Armageddon.

“In Matthew 24, immediately after Jesus’ words about the Great Tribulation, He said that unless God limits that era to three-and-a-half years, life on earth would cease to exist (v 22). Far from being a time of peace followed by disaster, the seven-year Tribulation Period will begin with troubles and will conclude with even greater troubles. This is clearly seen in both the Olivet Discourse as well as the Book of Revelation.” 11

Before we begin our verse-by-verse study, let’s look at some foundational information to help us understand Revelation.

AUTHOR: The writer of Revelation identifies himself four times as “John” (Revelation 1:1, 4, 9; 22:8). From the first century to the present, orthodox Christians have almost unanimously agreed that he is the Apostle John. Dionysius was the first to dispute the Johannine authorship, and did so on the grounds that he disagreed with the book’s theology and found many inaccuracies in its grammar. These objections were disregarded in the early church by most of the important fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen… Practically all scholars today who accept the divine inspiration of the Book of Revelation also accept John the Apostle as its author. However, Erasmus, Luther, and Zwingli questioned the Johannine authorship because it teaches a literal 1,000-year reign of Christ.” 12

The many allusions to the Old Testament found in the book of Revelation, as well as the style of writing, suggest the author was a Jewish Christian from Palestine. According to early church tradition, the apostle John ministered from about AD 70–100 in Asia Minor—the location of the “seven churches in Asia” (Revelation 1:4, 11; 2:1–3:22). Thus, these believers would have been well acquainted with him. 13

DATE:  Some of the early church fathers (Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Irenaeus, and Victorinus) wrote that the Apostle John experienced exile on the island of Patmos during Domitian’s reign (Revelation 1:9). 14 They wrote that the government allowed John to return to Ephesus after Emperor Domitian’s death in A.D. 96. As a result, many conservative Bible scholars date the writing of this book near A.D. 95 or 96. 15

PURPOSE: The book of Revelation is one of the most encouraging and hope-filled books in all of the Bible because its main subject is the Person of Jesus Christ. It is a “revelation” or disclosure of Jesus Christ in His role as Judge (Revelation 1:1a) to local churches (Revelation 6:10; 11:18; 14:7; 15:4; 16:5, 7; 17:1; 18:8, 10, 20; 19:2, 11; 20:12-13; cf. Ps 96:13; Acts 10:42; 2 Tim 4:1). 16  Unlike any other book in the Bible, the book of Revelation exalts Christ as the One to whom the Father has “committed all judgment” (John 5:22). 

Revelation begins by showing what the Judge is like (chap. 1). Then the book gives an in-depth look at the Judge in His dealings with three groups—(1) the local assemblies of believers (chaps. 2-3), (2) rebellious mankind (chaps. 4-19), and (3) the lost of all the ages (chap. 20). Once the Judge has completed His work of judgment, we observe the aftermath of His judgments—the new heaven and earth—the glorious and eternal dwelling place of Christ and His people (chaps. 21-22). This inspired book has enriched and encouraged the lives of God’s people for centuries, especially believers who are surrounded by trouble and persecution.” 17

The assurance that Christ will ultimately judge the wicked and reward the godly, motivates believers in Jesus to remain faithful to Him until the end of their lives on earth. Such faithfulness to Christ will distinguish them as “overcomers” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7), and will result in many rewards, including ruling with Christ forever (Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21; 22:5).

An outline of the book of Revelation is contained in one verse. The ascended and glorified Lord Jesus Christ instructs the apostle John to “write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” (Revelation 1:19). When He says, “the things which you have seen,” He is referring to the incredible vision John received of the ascended and glorified Lord Jesus Christ walking among the seven lampstands representing seven churches (Revelation 1:10-20). The phrase “the things which are,” describe the exalted Lord Jesus’ messages to the seven churches (Revelation 2:1-3:21). And “the things which will take place after this,” refers to the removal of the Church from the earth, the seven-year Tribulation, the return of King Jesus with His Church to earth, followed by His one thousand-year reign on the earth, the final judgment of all unbelievers, and the new heaven and new earth where King Jesus will live with all believers forever (Revelation 4-22).

Prayer: Lord God, it is with great anticipation that we approach the book of Revelation. Thank You so much for preserving this book which encourages us to remain faithful to the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, until our lives end here on earth. Please help us to be humble as we study each verse, knowing that God the Holy Spirit is our Ultimate Teacher. Open our hearts to see Your heart in every verse. You never intended for this book to cause division or doubts among Your people. You intended for this book to reveal Jesus Christ in such a powerful way that…

– we have hope for today.

– any fears we have about the future will be removed.

– we have greater motivation to live for Him in light of future rewards.

– we have a greater desire to worship Him Who will triumph over evil!

In the mighty name of the King of kings and Lord of lords, we pray. 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), pg. 164.

2. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2368.

3. An example is when Revelation 12 sign proponents claimed that the sun, moon, and stars alignment with the woman in Revelation 12 would be literally fulfilled on September 23, 2017, and that this will be the sign heralding the rapture of the church (Retrieved from a retrochristianity.org article on August 7, 2017). Another example is when Harold Camping set dates twice in 2011 for the Rapture of the Church (see 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. 197-198). William Miller, founder of the Millerites, predicted Christ’s return between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. But it did not happen. Later, another Millerite, Samuel S. Snow, predicted Christ’s return to earth on October 22, 1844. When it didn’t happen, many left Christianity (Retrieved on September 18, 2021, from Wikipedia article entitled, “William Miller (preacher).”

4. Most of this discussion is adapted from 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), pp. 1492-1493, unless otherwise noted. 

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

6. Ibid., pp. 2-3.

7. Ibid., pg. 3.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1493.

11. Ibid., pp. 1493-1494. 

12. Walvoord, pg. 164.

13. Evans, pg. 2365.

14. Constable, pg. 1 cites Isbon T. Beckwith The Apocalypse of John (New York: Macmillan, 1922), pp. 366-93; George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (1972 reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985), pg. 8; and Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (Anchor Bible series, 2 vols. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966), 1:lxxxviii-xcii.

15. Constable, pg. 1 cites Donald A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament (2nd Ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), pp 707-712; William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 1 (The Daily Study Bible series. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 17;  James Moffatt, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” In The Expositor’s Greek Testament Vol. 5 (1910):281-494 4th Ed., Edited by W. Robertson Nicoll. 5 vols. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1900-12), pg. 327; Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 6, (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), pp. 274, 343; David E. Aune, Revelation 1—5 (Word Biblical Commentary series, Dallas: Word Books, 1997), pg. lxix.

16. Vacendak, pg. 1491.  17. Ibid. pg. 1490.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 8 (Video)

This is the eighth video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the eighth and greatest miraculous sign recorded in the gospel of John involving the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead (John 19:1-20:31).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from www.GoodSalt.com, Brooklyn Museum / FreeBibleimages.org, www.fishnetbiblestories.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, or they are creative common licenses. The copyrights of the images of the movie belong to Jesus.net. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

What must I do to get to heaven?

30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:30-31

“What must I do to get to heaven?” This is the most important question you will ever ask. It is far more important than asking:

– “Who will I vote for in the next presidential election?”

“How much money do I make?”

“What do other people think of me?”

“How many educational degrees do I have next to my name?”

“What kind of job do I have?”

“Where do I live?”

“Am I married?”

“How many children do I have?”

“Am I successful at what I do?”

“Am I happy?”

By far the most important question you will ever ask is, “What must I do to get to heaven?” To put it another way, “What must I do to have eternal life?” If you have these questions, the most important book of the Bible for you to know and understand is the book of John. It is the fourth book of the New Testament. This book was written to non-Christians. While the rest of the Bible speaks primarily to those who know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, John’s gospel has in mind those who do not know Christ as their personal Savior.

In the gospel of John, we are told over and over again what we must do to get to heaven. Hopefully, before you finish reading this article you will at the very least know what God says you must do to get to heaven.  

Please understand that what I am going to share with you is from the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word. We are told, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The word “inspiration” (theopneustos) literally means “God-breathed.” 1

“All Scripture” includes both Old and New Testaments. Every word in the Bible is God-breathed or from the mouth of God. There are no errors in the Bible. Not on theology. Not on science. Not on history. Not on any detail. The Bible is inerrant since it is God’s Word and God does not err.” 2

So when we read the Bible we are reading the very words of God. The Scriptures did not originate from humans beings. The Bible tells us, 20 No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21). God the Holy Spirit directed these different human authors to write each word down without error.

Since all Scripture is inspired by God, then all Scripture is profitable for teaching (instructing you in the truths that you need to know), for rebuking (reproving you for what you’ve done wrong), for correcting (showing you what is right), and for training in righteousness (guiding you to approach life as God intended it to be lived)” 3 (2 Timothy 3:16). So as we look at what God says about how to receive eternal life, we need to be open to God’s Word giving us “doctrine” or truths  we need to know about how to get to heaven. His Word may give us “reproof” and show us what beliefs about salvation we have that are wrong. The Bible may also give us “correction” and show us the right way to believe. And finally, the Bible may give us “instruction in righteousness” so we may approach the way to heaven God’s way.

In John 20:30-31, the apostle John summarizes the purpose of his book. 30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31). John reports that he was selective in recording miraculous “signs” that appeared in his gospel. Many “other signs” were performed by Jesus which are not recorded in this book. The word “signs” (sēmeia) refers to Jesus’ miracles and is intended to signify something about Jesus. 4  They are intended to tell us something about His Person and His character. John selected some of the most convincing words and works of Jesus which point to Who He is. Each of these miraculous signs is a picture of salvation:

1. Turning the water into wine at Cana (John 2:1-11). This miracle pictures new birth. Christ can transform the old life into a new life.

2. Healing of the nobleman’s son at Capernaum (John 4:46-54). This sign illustrates that the life-giving word of Jesus can give spiritual life no matter what the circumstance or condition of the recipient.

3. Healing the lame man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15). We learn from this miracle that Jesus has the power to cure spiritual paralysis so we can walk spiritually.

4. Feeding the five thousand near Bethsaida (John 6:1-14). This sign shows that as the Bread of Life, Jesus can permanently satisfy our spiritual hunger for eternal life.

5. Walking on the water (John 6:15-21). This miracle demonstrates that Jesus can give peace to the person devastated by life’s storms and take us where we could never go on our own.

6. Healing of the man born blind at Jerusalem (John 9:1-41). This miraculous sign demonstrates that as the Light of the world, Jesus can give spiritual sight to the spiritually blind so they can believe in Him.

7. Raising Lazarus from the dead at Bethany (John 11:1-44). This miracle shows that as the Resurrection and the Life, Jesus guarantees a future bodily resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him even though they were once spiritually dead.

8. Raising Jesus from the dead outside Jerusalem (John 20:1-29). This last and greatest miraculous sign shows that Jesus is God and He has the ability to give us life that never ends the moment we believe in Him.  

The reasons John records these eight miraculous signs are given in John 20:31. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” John recorded these miracles to arouse faith in those who have never believedthat Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”

Through these miracles John has revealed that Jesus is the long-awaited “Christ,” the promised Messiah-God of Israel (John 1:41; 4:25-26, 29, 42; 6:69; 7:26-27, 31, 41-42; 9:22; 10:24-25; 11:27; 12:34). He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29; cf. Isaiah 53:5-10). He is “the Christ, the Savior of the world” (John 4:45). Jesus is not just a messenger or prophet. The Old Testament says of this coming Messiah, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6). This Messiah is none other than the “Mighty God.” Jesus did miracles that only God could do. No other religious leader or founder predicted they would raise themselves from the dead. But Jesus did on several occasions before His crucifixion (John 2:19-21; 10:17-18; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:27-28). And no other religious leader or founder actually rose from the dead, but Jesus Christ did, proving that He was God (Romans 1:3-4).

John also showed through these miracles “that Jesus is the … Son of God.” Not only did Jesus claim to be the Son of God or God Himself (John 5:21-23; 8:58-59; 9:35-37; 10:25-36; 17:3, 5),but His followers also claimed that Jesus was the Son of God or God Himself (John 1:34, 49; 6:69; 11:27; 19:7; 20:28, 31). His miracles confirmed He had the same divine nature as God. To be “the Son of God,” does not mean Jesus was the result of God having sexual relations with the virgin Mary as some mistakenly conclude. 5  It means that Jesus has the same divine nature as God the Father. For example, when I say, “I am the son of …,” I am saying I have the same human nature as my earthly father.

Throughout the gospel of John, Jesus claimed to be God by using “I AM” statements. Jehovah or Yahweh (YHWH) is the special name given by God for Himself in the Old Testament. It is the name God gave to Moses when He said, “I AM WHO I AM… Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you…’ Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord [Jehovah] God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’” (Exodus 3:14-15). “While other titles for God may be used of men (Adonai [Lord] in Gen. 18:12) or false gods (elohim [gods] in Deut. 6:14), Jehovah is only used to refer to the one true God. No other person or thing was to be worshiped or served (Exod. 20:5), and his name and glory were not to be given to another.” 6  The prophet Isaiah wrote, “I am the Lord [Jehovah], that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.” (Isaiah 42:8).

Yet Jesus claimed to be Jehovah several times in the gospel of John. Jesus said, “Before Abraham was I AM” (John 8:58; cf. John 6:35; 8:12; 10:9, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1). But Jehovah of the Old Testament referred to Himself as “I AM” (Exodus 3:14-15). Jesus referred to Himself as Jehovah when He said this. Jesus also prayed, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:5). But Jehovah of the Old Testament said, “My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8). Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), but the Old Testament says, “The Lord [Jehovah] is my shepherd.” (Psalm 23:1).  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), but the Old Testament says, “The Lord [Jehovah] is my light” (Psalm 27:1). 7

Jesus also claimed to be equal with God in the gospel of John by claiming to have the same prerogatives as God. Jesus claimed to have the power to give life, raise the dead and judge them. Jesus said,21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will… 2Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His [the Son’s] voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. 30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” (John 5:28-30). Yet the Jehovah of the Old Testament also claimed to be the Giver of life, raise the dead and judge them: “The Lord [Jehovah] kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up” (I Samuel 2:6), and, “Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I [Jehovah – Joel 2:19, 27, 32] will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.” (Joel 3:12). Jesus also claimed that He is to be honored as God when He said,22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” (John 5:22-23).  Jesus boldly assumed for Himself powers and honor that only belong to God. 8 The apostle Thomas announced that Jesus was God near the end of John’s gospel when he said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Why does John want his readers to understand and “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”? That “believing” they “may have life in His name” (John 20:31b). Ninety-nine times John uses the word “believe” in his gospel. 9 It is interesting that God never uses the words “repent” or “repentance” in a book that was written to tell people how to obtain eternal life and get to heaven. Why?

One reason is because when one changes from unbelief to belief, he has changed his mind or repented in order to possess eternal life. Dr. Tom Constable states: “Repentance and faith are not two steps in salvation but one step looked at from two perspectives. Appeals to repent do not contradict the numerous promises that faith is all that is necessary for salvation (e.g., John 1:12; 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:47; 20:30-31; Rom. 4; et al.). The faith that saves includes repentance (a change of mind). One changes from unbelief to belief (Acts 11:17-18). Sometimes the New Testament writers used the two terms, repent and believe, together (e.g., Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21; Heb. 6:1). Sometimes they used repentance alone as the sole requirement for salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 26:20; 2 Pet. 3:9). Nonetheless whether one term or both occur, they are as inseparable as the two sides of a coin.” 10

A second reason repentance is not mentioned in the gospel of John is because the words “repent” and “repentance” are easily misunderstood to mean something like “turning from sins” or “penance” which involve works. If a non-Christian is told to turn from his sins, he is going to ask, “How often must I do this and from what sins must I turn?” The word “believe,” however, communicates such simplicity that it is less likely to be misconstrued to include a works-oriented response. Believe means to believe or trust. 11

When the verb “repent” (metanoeō) and its noun form “repentance” (metanoia) are used in evangelistic contexts, they refer to changing one’s mind about whatever is keeping you from believing in Christ, and then believing in Him for eternal life. For example, in Mark 1:15, Jesus said, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Jesus was speaking to Jews who believed that eternal life could be earned through good works. Christ commands them to change their minds or “repent.” In other words, Christ commands them to change their minds about doing good works and come to God on the bases of faith alone in Christ alone.  

God could have used any word He wished. He could have said it in any language. But He chose the word “believe” (pisteuō), and He used it emphatically in the gospel of John. Almost every chapter contains an invitation to believe and a reason to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. But what does it mean to “believe”? The word “believe” means to be persuaded that something is true, and then trust or depend upon. 12  Often the New Testament emphasizes this idea of trust or depend upon by adding a preposition after the word “believe”:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.’ (John 1:12)

“Whoever believes in Him…” (John 3:16).

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 16:31

What are we to believe or trust in Christ for? John tells us that the reason we are to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” isthat believing you may have life in His name.” We are to believe or trust Christ alone to possess eternal life. John defines this “life” as “eternal” throughout his gospel (John 3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; et al.). Notice that “eternal life” is a present possession for those who believe in the name of Jesus. A name in the Bible represents a person. To believe in the name of Jesus is to believe in His Person.

Jesus defines eternal life in John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” So eternal life is knowing God the Father and God the Son forever in a personal relationship. Getting to heaven does not mean trusting Christ to get you through the day or through your problems. Getting to heaven means trusting Jesus Christ alone to give you His gift of eternal life.

Not all facts about God are saving facts. For example, believing there is one God does not get you to heaven. Demons believe God is one but you will not see them in heaven (James 2:19). Many world religions believe God is one, but you will not see them in heaven. God is telling us in the gospel of John that to get to heaven, we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing we may have life in His name. These are the saving facts we must believe to get to heaven.

You may ask, “What if a person stops believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Will he or she lose eternal life?” The answer is “NO.” The results of believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life are permanent. If eternal life could be lost, it would not be eternal.

Saving faith is like a single drink of living water which never needs to be repeated. Jesus said, “But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst” (John 4:14a), and, “he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35b). Saving faith is like a single look at Jesus, the Savior, much like the Israelites who looked at the bronze serpent in the desert and lived, 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). Saving faith is a decisive moment of spiritual hearing in which the voice of God’s Son effects an irreversible spiritual resurrection, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.” (John 5:25).

People are not saved by drinking and drinking and drinking Jesus’ living water. They are saved by taking one drink of His living water (John 4:14; 6:35). People are not saved by staring at Christ. They are saved by taking one simple look at Him in faith (John 3:14-15)! People are not saved by hearing Jesus’ voice over and over and over again. They are saved by hearing His voice once (John 5:24-25). People are not saved by eating and eating and eating the bread of life. They are saved simply by eating the bread of life once (John 6:35, 51).  

What if you only had five minutes to live, what does the gospel of John say you must do to get to heaven? Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing you may have life in His name. What if you only had five years to live, what does the gospel of John say you must do to get to heaven? Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing you may have life in His name. What if you only had fifty years to live, what does the gospel of John say you must do to get to heaven? Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing you may have life in His name. What if you are an abortionist, an adulterer, a blasphemer, a false teacher, a homosexual, a murderer, a rapist, or a thief? What does the gospel of John say you must do to get to heaven? Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing you may have life in His name. The issue is believing or trusting in Christ alone to give you His gift of eternal life.

Years ago I remember reading an article on the front page of the Pratt Tribune when we lived in Medicine Lodge, Kansas. It was about a seventh grade boy named, Sam Abrams, who packed his bags and took off on an adventure that took him halfway around the world to Australia. Some people from Pratt were afraid to travel to Wichita by themselves, let alone across the state. But Sam Abrams is no ordinary thirteen year old from Pratt. He raised money for his airfare by delivering newspapers, mowing lawns, and working at Dillons. And finally on December 27, 1992, with his tickets, passport, and visa in his hands, his parents took him to the Wichita airport. From there, Sam flew to Los Angeles, then to Sydney, and on to Brisbane, Australia where he was reunited with an old friend, Dylan Cross, who used to live in Pratt.

Getting to heaven is like getting to Brisbane, Australia, from Wichita, Kansas. You cannot make it on your own. You must depend on a person, a pilot to fly your jet airplane to your destination. You cannot get there depending on your own ability. You must depend on your pilot. In the same way, you must trust or depend upon a Person, Jesus Christ, to get you to heaven. Unlike Sam, who had to work to earn the money to pay for his travel expenses, your trip to heaven is free because Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, has already paid for your trip in full by dying in your place on the cross and rising from the dead. All He asks is that you believe or trust in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life.

One morning at the breakfast table, a worried husband said to his wife, “We must think of the future. We ought to economize more. If I were to die, where would you be?” His wife replied, “Why, I would be right here. The question is, where would you be?”

If you were to die, where would you be? Are you certain you would go to heaven? If not you can be certain by hearing and believing Jesus’ promise when He said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). This is so simple that children often believe it long before adults.   

When it comes to getting to heaven, Jesus is not asking you if you keep God’s commandments, because He never said, “he who keeps God’s commandments has everlasting life.” He is not asking you if you pray every day because He never said, “he who prays every day has everlasting life.” Jesus is not asking you if you go to a place of worship every week because He never said, “he who goes to a place of worship every week has everlasting life.” Nor is Jesus asking you if you have lived a good, moral life because He never said, “he who lives a good, moral life has everlasting life.” Jesus is asking you, “Do you believe in Me?” because He said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.”

If you have never understood and believed this before, but now you do, you can tell God this through prayer. Keep in mind that praying this prayer is not what gets you to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Jesus alone gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, all my life I thought I had to work to get to heaven. Thank You for showing me today that You have already done all the work. All I must do is believe or trust in You alone for Your gift of eternal life. As best I know how, I come to You now as a sinner who is unable to save himself. I believe You died in my place on a cross for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now believing or trusting in You alone Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion), to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and for the future home I will have in heaven. In Your precious name I pray Lord Jesus. Amen.

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, please go to our website at www.seeyouinheaven.life and download our Pressing On digital discipleship materials to go through with those you care about. Thank You and may Jesus Christ give You His abundant life as you learn to follow Him as His disciple.

ENDNOTES:

1. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1121. 

2. Ibid.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2217.

4. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 370 cites Merrill C. Tenney, “Topics from the Gospel of John: The Meaning of the Signs,” Bibliotheca Sacra 132 (April 1975): 145-146.

5. This is the common misunderstanding of Muslims. See Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), pg. 249 where they write, “There are two Arabic words for ‘son’ that must be distinguished. The word walad denotes a son born of sexual relations. Jesus is definitely not a son in this sense. However, there is another Arabic word for son, ibn, that can be used in a wider figurative or metaphorical sense. A traveler, for example is spoken of as a ‘son of the road’ (ibnussabil). It is in this wider sense that it make sense to speak of Jesus as the ‘Son (ibn) of God.’”  

6. Ibid., pp. 249-250.

7. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 250.

8. Ibid., pp. 251-252.

9. In the Greek Majority Text John uses the word for “believe” (pisteuō) ninety-nine times: John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 22, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36; 4:21, 39, 41, 42, 48, 50, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 46(2), 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47,  64(2), 69; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:18, 35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:15, 25, 26(2), 27, 40, 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:1(2), 10, 11(2), 12, 29; 16:9, 27, 30, 31; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29(2), 31(2).

10. Tom Constable, Expository Notes On Acts (Garland, TX.: Sonic Light, 2010), pg. 67.

11. These ideas were shared with me by Dr. Earl Radmacher during a phone conversation on June 11, 2011.

12. 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), pp. 816-817.

Lesson 1 Part 1 – Plan of Salvation Introduction (Video)

This video introduces the Pressing On discipleship training. It provides an overview of the eight lessons which include the Plan of Salvation, Prayer, Daily Time with God, the God Who Saved Us, the Church, Fighting Shame, God’s Will for Your Life, and Abiding in God’s Word. Get started today in learning to multiply followers of Jesus Christ until all hear His gospel message. Additional lessons are currently being revised and should be available in the near future. It is recommended you download the English digital Pressing On materials under the “discipleship training materials” dropdown menu to take notes as you listen to the video.

How can we pray more like Jesus prays? Part 4

“17 Sanctifythem by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” John 17:17-18 

The night before Jesus was hung on a cross, Jesus turned to His Father in prayer in John 17. In this prayer, we have one of the most intimate glimpses anywhere in Scripture of the heart and mind of the Lord Jesus. This is the longest of our Lord’s recorded prayers. We are learning from this prayer, how to pray like Christ prays. So far we have learned that like Jesus, we are to pray…

– For God to be glorified when we face trials (John 17:1-5)

– For those we disciple (John 17:6-19) which includes…

  ~ Praying fortheir receptivity to God’s Word (John 17:6-8).

  ~ Praying for their protection from the world and the evil one (John 17:9-15).

The third way to pray for those we disciple is to pray for THEIR PURIFICATION THROUGH GOD’S WORD (John 17:16-19).  Jesus prayed, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:16). Jesus repeats that the disciples “are not of this world” in their position just as He was “not of the world.” They were to become less and less influenced by the world. How?

Next Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17). The word “sanctify” (hagiázō), literally means to “set apart1  from the world or “to make holy.” This is not referring to perfection. It is referring to spiritual growth or maturity – becoming more like Christ. How? We are to be “set apart” from the world’s influence and its values “by” the Father’s “truth” which is His “word,” the Bible. We cannot grow spiritually apart from God’s Word. So the way we grow in holiness is by renewing our minds in accordance with the truth of God’s Word (cf. Romans 12:1-2). Disciples of Jesus must abide in His word if they are to know the truth of His word and be set free from the lies that enslave them to sin (cf. John 8:31-36). We must feed upon God’s word to experience the victory Jesus has already won for us (John 16:33).

Diagram 1

At a meeting, a Native American Indian said a black wolf lived in his heart, but when Christ became his Savior, a white wolf came to live in his heart, and the two wolves were then fighting all the time (see diagram 1). After the meeting, someone approached him and asked, “Which wolf wins, the white one or the black one?” The Indian replied, “The one I feed the most.” If we feed upon God’s Word and do it, we are going to experience more victory over the world and Satan in our Christian lives.  But if we feed upon the lies of Satan, we will experience more defeat in our Christian lives and be conformed to the world. I like what D.L. Moody wrote on the flyleaf of his Bible. “This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book.” That’s the truth. If I let this book become more and more a part of my life it will keep me away from sin. Or sin can keep me away from reading His word.

Tony Evans writes, “This process happens through internalizing the eternal truth of God’s Word. Think of the Word like food. You can chew it all day, but unless you swallow it, you receive no health benefits from it. You internalize God’s Word, not by merely hearing or reading it, but by trusting and obeying it. Then its work of spiritual transformation is activated in your life (see 2 Cor 3:17-18).” 3

Diagram 2

Sanctification or spiritual growth takes place as we learn and as we love and as we live God’s Word. It is a balance of those three things – learning it, loving it and living it. We learn it with our mind. But that’s not enough. We probably know a lot of people who have learned the Bible with their minds and can even quote verses, but they are not growing because they don’t love it. They don’t love it with their hearts. And they are not living it with their will. They are not deciding to do the things it says. It is like a three-legged stool (see diagram 2) – learning it, loving it, living it. You can’t leave out any of those things. We may know some people who are trying to live God’s word without loving the One who wrote it. When we do that, the Bible is just a law. There is no relationship with God. When we start to learn His word and what it says, we start to love it with our hearts, and live it with our wills. when we have all three legs of that stool together, we’ve got a solid foundation for growth (cf. Matthew 7:24-25).

Next Jesus prayed, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18). Now Jesus is setting His disciples apart through prayer to do the same work He had done. Instead of taking the disciples “out of the world” (John 17:15), Jesus was sending them “into the world.” Christ had trained them to continue what He had come to do – reveal the Father (cf. John 1:18). Notice that sanctification or spiritual growth (John 17:17) and sending (John 17:18) go together. Christ wants the world to see what He is like through disciples who are growing spiritually. If believers are not going into the world to make Christ known, they are not growing spiritually because sanctification (John 17:17) leads to reaching out to a lost world (John 17:18). If we are becoming more like Christ, we will develop the same love for the unsaved that Jesus has for them.

Earlier in His ministry, Jesus called His first disciples, “Follow Me,  and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19). If we are not fishing for men (evangelism), then we are not following Christ. Notice, however, that it is our responsibility to follow Jesus. Christ’s responsibility is to make us fishers of men. Do you feel inadequate to evangelize the lost? Do you ever think that you do not know enough to share the gospel with non-Christians? Ask the Lord Jesus to help you follow Him daily and He will teach you all you need to know about evangelism. The best way to learn to talk to unbelievers is to walk and talk with Jesus.

Then Jesus prayed, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” (John 17:19). How did Jesus, the sinless Son of God “sanctify” Himself? Keep in mind that the word “sanctify” can mean “to set apart.” Jesus set Himself apart from the world to do the will of His Father which involved His sacrificial death on the cross “for their sakes” (cf. Hebrews 10:5-10, 14). In dying for His disciples (and all of us), He did for them what they could never do for themselves. He also died so His disciples “may be sanctified by the truth.” Christ’s death permanently set believers apart from their sin and guilt (cf. Hebrews 10:10, 14) and it also broke sin’s control over them (cf. Romans 6:5-11).

How important it is for us to understand that our spiritual growth and development is being nurtured by Christ’s prayers for us. We are also to pray for one another’s spiritual growth. Pray for God’s Word to shape us and mold us into Christlike people. Pray for one another’s commitment to holiness and godliness.

Diagram 3

The water spider is an amazing little creature (see diagram 3). Called the frogman of the spider world, it lives in rivers and streams. How does this fascinating species survive in its watery environment? It spins a tough basket-like web of silk, a kind of diving bell, and anchors it under water to plants or other objects. Then it captures a surface air bubble, which it pulls down and ejects into its underwater house, filling it with air. This combination of web building and bubble trapping allows the water spider to live in an environment that normally  would destroy it.

As Christians, we also live in an environment which could destroy us. The world’s values, attitudes, and practices threaten to drown us unless we are able to protect ourselves from them. How are we to survive spiritually in this hostile world? We are to build a “bubble” of protection around ourselves by praying for and with one another. Prayer for one another can insulate our minds and help to keep us safe and secure in the Lord. As the water spider lives in the water but is not of the water, so we are to live in the world but not of the world.

Are you building a safe bubble by praying with and for other believers? Do you have a prayer partner? Sometimes our pride keeps us from asking for prayer from others. Jesus’ prayer reminds us that we need to be in a community of people who pray. We cannot grow spiritually in isolation from one another nor apart from God and His Word. We need both to influence the world for Christ.

Prayer: Father God, we live in a world where Satan uses politics, the media, the educational system, the economy, the laws of the land, and our unsaved family and friends to draw us away from You and make us less sensitive to Your Word. But You have called us to become less and less influenced by the world’s values through the transforming truth of Your Word, the Bible. Please activate Your Word in our lives as we learn, love, andlive Your Word. Renew our minds so that our thoughts align more with Yours. And as we grow closer to You, Lord Jesus, Your love for the lost people of this world will become ours. Increase our love for those for Whom You have died. Thank You, Jesus, for sending us into the world just as the Father sent You into the world. Please teach us all we need to know to effectively share Your gospel message with those who are perishing without You. Help us to build a “bubble” of protection around ourselves by praying for and with one another to keep us safe and secure in You, Lord Jesus, as we live in this hostile world. We desperately need You, Your Word, and one another to accomplish Your mission of making disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Thank you, my Lord and my God, for giving us all we need to honor and glorify You in this process. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 307.

2. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pg. 8.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1815.

How can we overcome fear in evangelism? Part 3

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” John 16:13

After Jesus forewarned His disciples of the world’s coming hostility and persecution of them (15:18-16:4), He began to encourage them with the Holy Spirit’s ministry that would take place while He was gone (John 16:5-15). From Christ’s instruction, we are learning how to overcome fear in evangelism. We can do this when we…

– Grasp that we are not alone when we witness (John 16:5-7).

– Give unbelievers the truth of the gospel and let the Holy Spirit convince them it is true (John 16:8-11).

The third and final way to overcome fear in evangelism is when we GET GOD’S GUIDANCE THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT (John 16:12-15). Jesus now focuses on the Holy Spirit’s ministry to His disciples. He says to His disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12). Christ had more to teach them, but they were not ready to understand or apply the remaining teaching that Jesus had for them apart from the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit. Thankfully, the Lord does not reveal all His truth to us at once. He reveals things to us gradually. He knows what we can handle better than we do.

Then Jesus said, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13). Jesus would eventually tell them things through the ministry of Holy Spirit Who “will guide” them “into all truth.” The word “guide” (hodēgēsei) consists of two words, “to lead” (hēgeomai) and “way” (hodos). This word conveys the idea that “the Holy Spirit, who is a source of truth, will lead the way into truth as a guide.” His guidance is into “all truth.” There are no errors or mistakes in the truth the Spirit communicates.

This truth is without error because the Spirit “will not speak on His own authority” and teach something contrary to what Jesus taught. Instead, “whatever He hears” from the Father and Son, “He will speak.” “This points to the interdependence of the Persons in the Trinity. The Father would tell the Spirit what to teach the apostles about the Son.” 2  

Specifically, the Spirit “will tell them things to come” in the future. This future revelation from the Spirit is what the apostles would record in the New Testament canon. This is why the Bible is without error in the original manuscripts. “The Spirit would ensure that the apostles’ writings were true, guaranteeing that they wrote Scripture, the very words of God.” 3  In a similar way today, the Holy Spirit continues to enable believers to understand the meaning of the biblical text (cf. I John 2:27).

Next Jesus said, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14). The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to “glorify” Christ by “taking what is” Christ’s from the word of truth. The Holy Spirit wants the spotlight to be on Jesus Christ, not on Himself, His spiritual gifts, or other people. The Holy Spirit wants the focus to be on the Person and work of Jesus Christ and nothing else. This verse provides insight on discerning what ministries are genuinely of the Holy Spirit. If a ministry is not glorifying the Person and work of Jesus Christ, we must be cautious about supporting such a work because the Holy Spirit does not glorify someone or something other than Jesus Christ and His work on the cross.

Most people have a special item which they place on the top shelf or on a prominent wall in their house for everyone to see. It may be a picture of your family or a favorite Bible verse. It is placed on the shelf all by itself so that nothing else will challenge its prominence. In the same way, we are to put Christ on the shelf of our lives to show Him off. We are not to place anything else there, including ourselves so that all people may see any or all of Jesus’ attributes.

The reason the Holy Spirit finds Christ worthy to be glorified is seen in the next verse. “All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:15). Christ is worthy of being glorified because “all things that the Father has” are His. This would include the Father’s glory. Hence, the glory that belongs to the Father also belongs to the Son. The last part of this verse implies that “all things” of the Father and Son are also the apostles’ (and ours today) in that they will be disclosed to them through the Holy Spirit. 

“Once again we see the Trinity in action in that the Son took revelation from the Father and would declare it to His disciples through the Holy Spirit (16:15).” Clearly the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all involved in the writing of the Old and New Testaments (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 3:15-16). 5

Evans writes, “Though the Spirit provided the apostles with perfect revelation in order that they might write Scripture, this does not mean that we are excluded from His ministry. This text applies to us in two ways. First, we are recipients of the Scriptural revelation that the apostles received. Second, the Holy Spirit provides us with personal illumination, enabling us to understand Scripture and to see how it applies in the details of our lives. This work of the Spirit in the life of the believer is called “the anointing” (see 1 John 2:20, 27).” 6

These truths about the Holy Spirit in John 16:13-15 also apply to us today especially as we focus on evangelism. Knowing that we have an ever-present Teacher in the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth about the Person and work of Jesus Christ can give us boldness as we share the gospel with the unsaved. Instead of being afraid of not knowing what to say, we can be confident that God’s Spirit will guide our conversations with unbelievers.

For example, a few years ago, when my wife and I were shopping for pearls in Metro Manila, we met a Muslim vendor who showed us her pearls. During our conversation with her, the Holy Spirit led us to share Matthew 13:45-46 where Jesus said,  45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” We explained to her that Jesus Christ was the merchant who found one pearl of great price. When it says He sold everything to buy the pearl, we told her that Jesus sees her as a precious pearl. She said, “That is true.” After we explained to her the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection with her, we invited her to believe or trust in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life. She then told us she was now trusting Jesus alone for His free gift.

The Holy Spirit knew what this woman needed to hear. He will guide us as we seek His leading in our lives when we tell others the good news of Jesus Christ. Remember, however, if we are not witnessing about Christ, the Holy Spirit cannot be convicting. I believe the gospel of John is the primary source of truth that the Holy Spirit wants to use to convict people of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11) since it was written to persuade non-Christians to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing they may have life in His name (John 20:31). The Holy Spirit uses the spoken word to convict people about their need for the Savior.

Prayer: Father God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, thank You so much for bringing to the apostles’ remembrance all that Christ taught and did during His earthly ministry so we now have an accurate record of all that Jesus said and did. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for continuing to give us understanding with regard to the Bible and how it applies to our daily lives. Thank You for bringing it to life so that we are transformed from the inside out into the likeness of Christ. Thank You for the boldness and guidance You give to us in our conversations with non-Christians. You know their hearts better than anyone and You can lead us to share what they need to hear so they can be persuaded to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, so they may have everlasting life in His name. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You are truly amazing! Thank You for never abandoning us. I praise You for giving us all we need to represent You on earth. May all the glory go to You.  I pray this in Your Triune name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 291.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 668.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1810.

4. Ibid.

5. 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. 540.

6. Evans, pg. 1810.

How can I experience eternal satisfaction? Part 2

“It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” John 6:45

In his book, Desiring God, John Piper states that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” God gets the most glory when we receive the most satisfaction from our relationship with Him. But God is dishonored and hurt when we seek ultimate satisfaction outside of our relationship with Him. When we seek ultimate satisfaction in our jobs, relationships, possessions, and positions, it dishonors the Lord and it leaves us empty and unfulfilled.

Like never before, I believe there is a growing dissatisfaction among people in America. People are dissatisfied with a church, so they transfer to another one. They are dissatisfied with a marriage, so they go find another one. They are dissatisfied with a job, so they search for another. They are dissatisfied with the home they have, so they go deeper into debt and buy a bigger one. They are dissatisfied with their lives, so they try to make others miserable through rioting and intimidation.

Last time we discovered that the first way I can experience eternal satisfaction is to COMPREHEND THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD (John 6:41-42). Only God can meet our deepest needs and satisfy us eternally. But how do people come to see that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the second way I can experience eternal satisfaction… COME TO JESUS THROUGH THE WORD (John 6:43-46). 43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, ‘Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.’ ” (John 6:43-44). No one can come to faith in Christ unless God the Father first draws him. The word “draws” (helkō) means to draw or persuade by inward power and attraction. It conveys the image of a lover wooing his beloved.  

The length of drawing can vary. God may draw a person for eighty years or eight days. But this drawing is resistible. For instance, Judas resisted intense drawing for over three years with Jesus. All who die without Christ have rejected God’s drawing in their life. It is possible that God may stop drawing an unbeliever who hardens his heart. But Jesus’s point in verse 44 is that it is impossible for lost people to come to Christ without the help of God. God must work in their hearts.

God may be drawing some of you. Maybe you have started reading the Bible or going to church. The fact that you are reading this article shows that God is moving in your life. This is an indication that God is working in your heart to draw you to His Son. How does God draw a person to Jesus?

Jesus then says, “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” (John 6:45). God draws people to Himself through the Scriptures. This verse from the Old Testament (cf. Isaiah 54:13 or possibly Jeremiah 31:34) teaches universal drawing. Everyone who listens and learns from God will come to Christ in faith. But you must being willing to receive instruction from the Lord. If you close your heart off to what God is saying, His drawing in your life may stop.

God’s drawing does not eliminate human responsibility. It is still your choice to believe in Christ. This is why we want to keep God’s Word at the center of everything we do at our church or in our Christian lives. We want to keep inviting people to believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of salvation because it is their choice to believe in Him. So not only can I experience eternal satisfaction by comprehending that Jesus is the Son of God, but I can also experience eternal satisfaction by coming to Jesus through the Bible, God’s Word.

Prayer: Father God, I praise You for pursuing me when I was lost and perishing without Jesus Christ in my life. Even though I lived a life of rebellion when I was a non-Christian, You still loved me and pursued a personal relationship with me. Thank You for wooing me into a love relationship with You through the Bible. I am so grateful for the people who shared Your Word with me when I was an unbeliever. Each verse prepared my heart and mind to come to faith in Jesus, the Messiah-God, for His gift of everlasting life. Please use Your Word in my life and ministry to draw millions to Your Son, Jesus Christ, Who alone can give them everlasting life. In Jesus’s name. Amen.  

A Look into the Future – Part 7 (Video)

This is the seventh in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the New Heaven and New Earth.

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 Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing (www.FreeBibleimages.org) and GoodSalt (www.goodsalt.com). The music and video scenes in this video are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

Who are the witnesses who back up Christ’s claim to be equal with God? Part 4

“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” John 5:39

The fourth witness Jesus called upon to back up His claim to be equal with God is THE SCRIPTURES themselves (John 5:39-44). Jesus said to the Jewish religious leaders who surrounded Him, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (John 5:39). These men devoted their whole lives studying and memorizing the Old Testament because they thought the knowledge of Scripture would give them eternal life.

There are people like this today, students and scholars who search the Bible, but never find Jesus. Yet Jesus Himself declares, “They… [the Scriptures] testify of Me.” Jesus is the main subject of the Old Testament! You will find Him on every page appearing as a type or shadow of things to come. For example, the animal sacrifices pictured Jesus’ death. What an amazing claim this is, “They… testify of Me.”

What if I said to you, “I have been reading through the Old Testament and I find that the whole book is talking about me. I am the subject of the Old Testament!”? I’m sure most of you would think this guy is insane! Some of you would probably phone for the men in white coats to come and get me! We would call anybody who made that claim, crazy. Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, who studied the Old Testament, never claimed that it witnessed to him. Buddha knew some of the Old Testament, yet he never claimed it was a witness to him. Gandhi, a modern-day Buddha, never claimed that Scripture talked about him. But when Jesus makes that claim no one calls Him crazy. There is an acknowledgment of the justice of His claim, there is evidence in support of it.

It is possible to study the Bible, to even give your whole life to it, and never see Jesus. Like many people today, these religious leaders thought that knowledge is power, education is life, and if you get knowledge of what God does you will have eternal life. What is the problem? How can people hear and see the truth, study the truth all their lives, yet never come to Christ?

Jesus explains when He says to them, “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:40). The problem is the will. The reason they don’t find Christ in their study of the Bible is because they choose not to do so. He goes on to tell us why. 41 I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” (John 5:41-44).Why would someone read the truth, know it to be truth, know that it speaks of Jesus, know Him to be who He claims to be, and still refuse to come to Him in faith? Jesus says the answer is because you are looking for your own advancement. You are out to please yourself and to please other people, but you are not willing to please God.

This philosophy is a denial that you have a Father who loves you, that Someone else is ready to work on your behalf if you will trust in Him. When you are committed to such a philosophy, how can you trust in Jesus? These religious leaders were willing to receive other men, but not Christ because Jesus confronted them with their own sin. God the Son put them in their place and they were too proud to admit their need for Him.

There are two ways to study the Bible: (like the Pharisees) you can study it with your mind made up or (like Jesus’s disciples) you can study it to let it make up your mind. The choice is yours. You may know the Bible but do you know the Author of the Bible?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the testimony of the Scripture which reveals so much about You. All the Old Testament animal sacrifices point to You as the innocent Lamb of God who took our place when You died for our sins on a cross. Thank You for opening my eyes and heart to see You throughout the Bible the moment I believed in You. Yet my heart is deeply burdened by the many people who fail to see You in the testimony of the Bible because they are not willing to come to You on Your terms. They are not willing to humble themselves before You and admit their own sinfulness and need for Your saving grace. I pray the Holy Spirit will remove the blinders that keep them from seeing You as You truly are – the true God and eternal life Who longs to save those who are on the path to eternal destruction. Thank You for hearing my prayer, my Lord and my God. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Who are the witnesses who back up Christ’s claim to be equal with God? Part 2

The second witness that Jesus calls upon to back up His claim to be equal with God is JOHN THE BAPTIST. Christ said to the Jews who gathered around him, “You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.” (John 5:33).  When John the Baptist was preaching in the wilderness, the religious leaders sent a delegation to listen to Him. John the Baptist said three specific things about Jesus: First, John announced to his own disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus is the Lamb of God, the innocent Substitute who would take our place and punishment upon Himself so God could give us eternal life.

Second, John announced Jesus to be “He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:33). He is the One who will permanently quench the thirst of peoples’ hearts for eternal life. His Holy Spirit transforms lives from the inside out.

Third, John declared Jesus to be “the Son of God.” (John 1:34). He is God Himself, Lord of heaven and earth who became man. Here in 5:33, Jesus declares that all that John said about Him is true! Jesus then goes on to say something that sounds a little strange to us. “Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.” (John 5:34). Although Jesus doesn’t need human testimony to confirm what He already knows from God, He speaks of John’s witness so they could be saved.

We often see this in our own culture where men and women will not pay attention to the Bible directly, but they will often listen closely to someone who tells what his experience with God has been.

The Bible, of course, is the Word of God. It is the most widely distributed book ever – having been translated into more languages than any other book. Yet I find it strange how few people ever open the Bible to see what God has said. But they will listen instead to what some man or woman says about what God has said! That’s what Jesus is talking about here: “For your sake I call attention to the witness of John, in order that you might be saved.” Do you see how compassionate Jesus is? He is willing to use different approaches as long as people will listen to what God is saying. This is one reason why I love to incorporate testimonies or faith stories into sermons. People will remember your stories about God’s work in your life far longer than any sermon they hear.

Jesus says of John the Baptist, “He was the burning and shining lamp.” (John 5:35a). John was the lamp, Jesus is the Light. John was the container, Jesus was the Content. The Jews were attracted to John like moths to a candle. They were attracted to his brightness, not his warmth.

Would you like to be a shining lamp? Let me tell you how to do it. Burn! Let the truth of God fuel your heart until it begins to burn brightly for Christ. When you understand and experience the life-giving Word of God, your heart will begin to burn, and then you will start to shine. We often sing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” Here is how to do it: Burn! Let Jesus help you understand the Bible and apply it to your life so you can burn brightly for Him in our declining society.

Jesus continues. “And you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.” (John 5:35b).People were attracted to this light for a while but then they grew tired of John. They listened for a while and then they went on to other things – jogging, dieting, video games – whatever. John was just a passing fad. That is what truth about Christ is to many people today – something that comes and goes, and when it has gone something else takes its place. Don’t take this personally if you have people lose interest in learning about Christ. Focus on those who are receptive and want to grow in their relationship with the Lord.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for pointing me to the witness of John the Baptist concerning Your Person and Work. John knew that You were God and that You had come to pay the penalty for the sins of the world in full. He proclaimed this to a lost world even though it would cost him his life. His heart burned passionately for You, Lord Jesus, and I long for my own heart to do this. Please remove anything in my life that keeps You from lighting a fire in my heart that will burn brightly for You. Open the eyes of my heart to discover the transforming truths of Your Word. Like John, I want to be a burning lamp for You so that people will be drawn to the light of Your salvation. By Your grace, help me to keep burning for You, Jesus, even though our society is sinking to deeper levels of darkness. Please lead me to those Whom You have prepared to hear and believe in You. Thank You my Lord and my God. In Jesus’s name. Amen.