Revelation 22 – Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

3. Constable, pg. 253.

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

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid., pg. 283.

7. Ibid., pg. 284.

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

9. Alcorn, pg. 284.

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

11. Alcorn, pg. 286.

12. Ibid., pg. 287.

Revelation 21 – Part 5

“And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the city, the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” Revelation 21:10

The night before Jesus’ crucifixion when Satan entered Judas and Judas went out to betray Christ (John 13:27-30), Jesus then said to His eleven remaining disciples, 31 Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him…  33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.” (John 13:31, 33-34).

While the other disciples remain silent, Peter ignores Jesus’ command to love one another and focuses on Christ’s phrase, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” Peter does not like to be told what he cannot do, so he asks Jesus, “Lord, where are You going?” (John 13:36a).

Instead of answering Peter’s question directly, Jesus stares at Peter and says, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” (John 13:36b).

Peter is not willing to accept what Jesus is saying, so he quickly retorts, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” (John 13:37).

Without hesitation, Jesus says to Peter, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.” (John 13:38).

Peter probably looks down at the table when he hears Jesus’ rebuke. The awkward silence that follows is suddenly interrupted by Jesus’ words:

1 Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:1-4).

No doubt the imaginations of the eleven disciples began to soar wondering what Jesus meant when He promised to “prepare a place for” them and then “come again and receive” them to Himself (14:2-3). The apostle John was among those remaining disciples that night, reclining next to Jesus listening to His every word.

Years later when John was on the island of Patmos, the Lord Jesus reveals details about the place He has been preparing for His church on the new earth in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-22:5). 1

Beginning in Revelation 17, John began to contrast two cities, both of which were portrayed as women. “The great harlot” representing the city of Rome was wicked and temporary (Revelation 17-18). The “New Jerusalem,” also called “the Lamb’s bride,” is perfect and eternal (Revelation 21:9-22:5). 2

John is about to begin a guided tour of the New Jerusalem from one of the angels from the seven bowl judgments. “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the woman, the Lamb’s bride.’” (Revelation 21:9). Just as one of the seven bowl angels invited John to come see “the great harlot” (17:1), now another “one of the seven angels” who poured the “bowl” judgments invited John to “come” see “the Lamb’s bride” (21:9). Clearly John is making a connection between “the Lamb’s bride,” the Church (cf. 19:7, 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27), and the New Jerusalem (21:10). For nearly two thousand years the Lord Jesus Christ has been preparing this special place for those who comprise His bride, the Church (John 14:1-3), where they will enjoy uninterrupted perfect fellowship with one another. 3

Hence, every believer in Jesus during this Church Age will live in the New Jerusalem and all other believers before and after the Church Age will live outside the City on the new earth. But these other believers will also have access to the New Jerusalem (22:27b).

Next John writes, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the city, the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” (Revelation 21:10). In his vision of the harlot the bowl angel transported John into the wilderness (17:3), but this bowl angel “carried” John “away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain.” Observe this is “a… mountain,” not “the… mountain.” This tells us that there will be more than one mountain on the new earth. 4

Alcorn writes, “Just as our resurrection bodies will be better than our current ones, the New Earth’s natural wonders will presumably be more spectacular than those we now know. We can expect more magnificent mountains and more beautiful lakes and flowers than those on this earth. If we imagine the New Earth to have fewer and less beautiful features than the old, we picture the earth’s regression. The least we should expect is retention. But in fact, I believe there’s every reason to anticipate progression. The depiction of the precious metals and stones and vast architecture is lavish beyond imagination, as are the descriptions of trees on both sides of the great river, bearing fruit each month. Everything God tells us suggests we will look back at the present Earth and conclude, creatively speaking, that God was just ‘warming up’ and getting started.

“Look at God’s track record in creating natural wonders in the universe. On Mars, the volcano Olympus Mons rises 79,000 feet, nearly three times higher than Mount Everest. The base of Olympus Mons is 370 miles across and would cover the entire state of Nebraska. The Valles Marineris is a vast canyon that stretches one-sixth of the way around Mars. It’s 2,800 miles long, 370 miles wide, and 4.5 miles deep. Hundreds of our Grand Canyons could fit inside it.

“The New Earth may have far more spectacular features than these. Imagine what we might find on the new Mars or the new Saturn and Jupiter and their magnificent moons. I remember vividly the thrill of first seeing Saturn’s rings through my new telescope when I was eleven years old. It exhilarated me and stirred my heart. Five years later, I heard the gospel for the first time and came to know Jesus, but the wonders of the heavens helped lead me to God. How many times in the new universe will we be stunned by the awesomeness of God’s creation?

“Remember, God will make the new heavens, which will correspond to the old and which will therefore include renewed versions of the planets, stars, nebulae, and galaxies God created in the first heavens.

“The New Earth’s waterfalls may dwarf Niagara – or the New Niagara Falls may dwarf the one we know now. We will find rock formations more spectacular than Yosemite’s, peaks higher than the Himalayas, forests deeper and richer than anything we see in the Pacific Northwest.” 5

On this magnificent mountain, John was shown “the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God” (21:10b). 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. 6 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). Since we know that Jesus currently dwells in the third heaven at the right hand of God the Father (2 Corinthians 12:1-4; cf. Acts 7:55-56; Mark 16:19; Hebrews 12:2), we can assume He is preparing this city in the third heaven (John 14:1-3). 7 John then watches the New Jerusalem complete its descent to the new earth “out of” the third “heaven from God.”

John describes the appearance of this city as having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.” (Revelation 21:11). John uses two words to describe the stunning appearance of the New Jerusalem: “glory” (doxan) which refers to “the state of being magnificent, greatness, and splendor” 8 and “light” (phōstēr) which expresses “the state of brightness or shining, splendor or radiance.” 9 Together these two words describe the brilliant, glowing presence of the Lord Jesus Christ Who will illuminate the entire city (cf. 21:23; 22:5). 10 Christ’s glorious presence will make the New Jerusalem look like “a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.”

“The jasper stone known today is opaque and not clear (cf. 4:3). It is found in various colors, and John apparently was referring to the beauty of the stone rather than to its particular characteristics. Today one might describe that city as a beautifully cut diamond, a stone not known as a jewel in the first century.” 11

Another commentator writes, “Heaven’s capital city is thus pictured as a huge, flawless diamond, refracting the brilliant, blazing glory of God throughout the new heaven and the new earth.” 12

John was trying to describe what he saw in a way that would be familiar to his readers. However, it is evident that what he sees transcends anything he had experienced. Nothing on earth even begins to describe what the Lord Jesus has prepared for us because any choice of words falls short of capturing “the breathtaking intensity of His glory.” 13

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12a). When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” it’s as though He was saying, “Do you remember the pillar of fire that came between the Israelites and the Egyptians near the Red Sea, the pillar that protected them and led them on their wanderings in the wilderness? That was My presence with them. I was God with them, and I am God with you! It was I who protected them. It was I who guided them through the wilderness. I am the light of the WORLD – not just the light for the nation of Israel, but the light for the entire the world. I offer hope to every one of every country, culture, and color.” What a statement! Jesus is claiming to be God and He alone can give us eternal life!

The phrase “I Am”is how God identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-14). “I Am”is also how Jesus will continue to state His own identity to the people of Israel.

In the final stage of heaven on the new earth in the New Jerusalem, “the light of the world” will shine so brightly in His exalted and glorified condition that there will be no need for the sun or moon in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:23; 22:5). Jesus will be the source of light in the New Jerusalem, and He is the source of light for us today.

Do you want to join Jesus Christ as God’s child of light in the final stage of His heaven on the new earth? If you do, listen to what Jesus says in John 12:36: “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” As soon as possible, “while you have the light,” you need to decide what you will do with Jesus. No person is promised tomorrow on earth, so it is important for you to respond in faith to Christ while you still have time.

Notice that Jesussays you can become “sons of light” (or daughters of light) simply by believing or trusting in Him alone for His gift of salvation. This verse does not say you become “sons of light” by living a good life, praying, or being religious. The only condition is to believe in the light which is Jesus Christ. To believe in Jesus means to be convinced that He is speaking the truth here and is therefore trustworthy.

Let me ask you a question that all of us ought to consider: “If you were to die today, would your relatives know where to find you?”

John B. McFerrin, a noted preacher in the South, was dying. He was ready to die, and he was eagerly looking forward to being with the One he had loved and served so faithfully. His son, also in the ministry, spent as much time as possible at his father’s bedside. But one Saturday he found it necessary to leave him because he had to fill a preaching assignment in another city. Well aware of his father’s grave condition, he was hesitant about going. Sensing his son’s reluctance, McFerrin encouraged him to be on his way. “So, you’d better get started,” he said. “Don’t worry about me. I’m feeling some better today. But if I should slip away while you’re gone, you’ll know where to find me!” 14

Why could McFerrin say that? Was it because he had been a preacher? No, because that will not get you to heaven. Was it because he had lived a good life? No, because that does not get you to heaven. It was because he believed in Christ, the light of the world, who died in his place and rose from the dead.

What about you? Could you say something like what McFerrin said to your own relatives? If not, take a moment, and take Jesus at His Word when He said, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” The moment you believe in Jesus, you become a child of God who will live with Jesus in the New Jerusalem. Thank God for His grace which makes this possible!

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, we praise You for the incredible place You are preparing for those of us who believe in You. None of us could ever deserve to live in such a glorious place. But because of Your grace, we can live with You forever the moment we believe in You for Your gift of everlasting life. Thank You that there will be no more darkness or shadows there because Your glorious presence will illuminate the entire City. As we reflect on Your love and grace toward us, we are motivated to share the good news of eternal life with those who are perishing without You. Please give us opportunities today to share Your gospel with the lost. We pray Your Holy Spirit would prepare them to hear and believe it. Thank You for hearing our prayers. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen. 

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 384-385.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1584.

3. Ibid.; cf. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 239 cites Robert Gundry, “The New Jerusalem: People as Place, not Place for People,” Novum Testamentum 29:3 (July 1987):256.

4. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 364.

5. Ibid., pp. 364-365.

6. 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.

7. David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015 Kindle Edition), pg. 99.

8. 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. 257.

9. Ibid., pg. 1073.  

10. Vacendak, pg. 1585.

11. Walvoord, location 6560 to 6565.

12. Swindoll, pg. 387 cites John MacArthur, Revelation 12-22, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 2000), pg. 279.

13. Swindoll, pg. 387. 14. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2012), pg. 264.

Revelation 19 – Part 3

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7

Following the first three outbursts of praise toward God in heaven for the destruction of Rome (19:1-4; cf. 18:1-24), the apostle John recorded a fourth outburst of praise for the coming rule of God on the earth (19:5-6) and the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:7-10). Last time we looked at the first part of this praise involving the coming reign of God on the earth. Today we will focus on the marriage supper of the Lamb.

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7). The fourth song of praise continues with the command to “be glad and rejoice and give” God “glory for the marriage of the Lamb has come” when Christ will escort His bride, the church (Revelation 3:14, 20; 21:2, 9; 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-32), to earth for their marriage celebration which will last one thousand years on the earth during the Millennial Kingdom (19:7a; 20:1-6; cf. Isaiah 25:6-9; 35:1-10; 55:12). 1

The reference to the Lamb’s “wife” is the third metaphor in Revelation that describes women: the “woman” in Revelation 12 is Israel (12:1-6), the “harlot” in Revelation 17-18 is “Babylon,” the code name for the city of Rome (cf. I Peter 5:13), and now the “wife” or “bride” of the Lamb in Revelation 19 is the church. 2

The nation of Israel cannot be Christ’s bride because this bride comes to earth with Christ when He returns to the earth, and because Old Testament believers will not experience resurrection until after Christ returns to the earth (cf. Daniel 12:1-2). 3

We can understand the general time and place of the marriage supper of the Lamb by comparing it with marriage customs in the ancient Near East. In the Galilean culture of Jesus’ day, the first stage of wedding customs involved the groom going to the bride’s house to present a wedding contract to the bride. When he proposed marriage, he would offer her a cup of wine. If she drank it, she was accepting the betrothal.

This betrothal stage takes place during the Church Age, when the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, came to the world to offer His gift of salvation to all who believe in Him. The Church Age began at Pentecost when God the Holy Spirit indwelt those who believed in Christ and placed them in His body the church (Acts 2:1-11; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27).

The second stage of marriage customs in Jesus’ day involved the groom informing his bride that he was to go to his father’s house to prepare a place for her. Likewise, this is what Jesus told His disciples He would do when He said, 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2). Since ascending to heaven after His death and resurrection nearly two thousand years ago (Acts 1:9-11), Jesus has been preparing our eternal mansions in His Father’s house in heaven.

In Jesus’ day, when the the bride accepted the groom’s wedding proposal, she would typically respond, “When are you coming back?” The prospective groom would reply by saying, “Only my father knows!” The groom then returns to his father’s house to prepare for his marriage by adding a room to his father’s house where he and his bride will live. In Galilean culture, his father determines the exact time when his son returns to his bride’s house to bring her back to his own. When the groom returns for his bride to take her to his father’s house, the wedding takes place. 4

Similarly, when Jesus said, “3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3). When God the Father determines that it is time for Jesus to return for His bride, Christ will come for His church in the air (I Thessalonians 4:16-17). This is why Jesus said only His heavenly Father knows “that day and hour” of His return for His bride, the Church, at the time of the Rapture (Matthew 24:37; Mark 13:32). Just as the bride did not know when her groom would return, so Christians do not know when the Rapture will take place. 5

It is at this stage when the marriage of the church to Jesus takes place. At this time in heaven Christ will present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). No longer will the church be tainted with conflict, division, or false teaching. 6

The third event of Galilean wedding customs in Jesus’ day involved the groom providing a feast or banquet for his bride and friends, at his home, to celebrate their wedding. Typically, this lasted several days. 7

The spiritual wedding celebration of Jesus and the church will last one thousand years on the earth after the Tribulation period. 8 This will be an incredible period of tremendous blessings and fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel (Psalm 2:6-9; 72:10-11; Isaiah 2:3-4; 11:6-9; 25:6-9; 35:1-10; 55:12; 65:20-22; Ezekiel 40-46; Zechariah 14:3-9; Matthew 19:27-28; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; et al.).

We also see in this fourth song of praise in heaven that the Lamb’s “wife has made herself ready” (19:7c). Christ’s “wife” or bride, the church, “has made herself ready” for her Bridegroom and their marriage supper by being obedient to Christ “until the end” (cf. Revelation 2:26).

“And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Revelation 19:8). “It was granted” to the Lamb’s wife, the church, “to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” The “fine linen” the bride will wear (the glory and splendor she will exhibit) “is the righteous acts of the saints.” This fine linen cannot represent salvation because it represents “the righteous acts of the saints.” Salvation from hell is “by grace through faith… not of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9; cf. Romans 4:5). Notice also this is the attire of “the saints” – people who have already believed in Jesus for eternal life (cf. I Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1). 9 So, their righteous acts follow their conversion.

Keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Himself will be clothed in dazzling white garments that will outshine all others. His glory will be supreme. 

“When at the Mount of Transfiguration, He appeared in His glory, ‘His clothes became as white as the light’ (Matthew 17:2). Special clothing is not insignificant, because it honors a person. The more glorious the garments, the more honor to the wearer.

“Like the sun, the Lord’s garments will have maximum radiance. The garments of great servants like Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Deborah, Esther, and Mary will surely glow brightly. But theirs will be reflected glory, like the glory of the moon that reflects the glory of the sun.

“Would you not want to be identified as closely as possible with the Lord Jesus and glorify Him, even in your clothing? The quality of your eternal garments will be determined by what you do in this life. Once this life is over, it will be too late to influence your worthiness to walk with Christ in white.” 10

Since the clothing of the bride is the “righteous acts of the saints,” this suggests that not all believers will have the same degree of glory or splendor exhibited in their garments because not all believers have the same quality or number of righteous acts. There will be varying degrees of rewards and responsibilities in Christ’s kingdom because there will be varying degrees of preparation made by believers during this life on earth.

“Then he said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!”’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’” (Revelation 19:9). The same angel who had guided the apostle John in writing about Babylon (17:1, 15) instructed him to “write” some encouraging words to his readers: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!”  The word “called” (keklēmenoi) means to “invite.” 11 This Greek word and its derivatives are used often in the New Testament as an invitation to participate in the rewards and glory of the kingdom of Christ (cf. Matthew 20:16; 22:1-14; Luke 19:11-27; I Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15; I Peter 5:10; et al.).

What a blessing it is to be invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb! Every person must prepare and make oneself ready. However, not all believers in Jesus will be able to participate in this great privilege. While every person who believes in Jesus for eternal life will be able to enter Christ’s kingdom (John 3:5-16; cf. Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17), only those who remain faithful to the end of their lives will be allowed to participate in the marriage celebration of the Lamb. 12 Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14; cf. Matthew 8:11-12). Many are “called” or invited to this marriage celebration, but only those who have prepared will be “chosen” to participate. 13 “Few” will be “chosen” to join Jesus in this celebration because they will have failed to remain faithful to Christ “until the end” (cf. Revelation 2:26). 14 They will lack the “righteous acts” needed to be part of the marriage banquet (Revelation 19:8). 15

“The marriage feast of the Lamb destroys the common caricature of heaven as a place where each believer simply sits on a cloud playing a harp. During this thousand-year party, believers’ rewards and responsibilities will be determined by their levels of faithfulness to Christ on earth. Jesus will ensure the complete absence of disorder and discord.” 16

The importance of the invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb is underscored when the angel said to John, “These are the true sayings of God” (19:9b). John is so overwhelmed by the four great outbursts of praise and the invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:1-9), that he falls at the angel’s feet. “And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’” (Revelation 19:10). Being so impressed with this new vision, John falls at the angel’s “feet to worship him.” Immediately the angel corrects John: “See that you do not do that!” The worship of angels is forbidden in God’s Word (cf. Exodus 34:14; Matthew 4:10; Colossians 2:18). No matter how glorious an angel is or exalted a saint is – for that matter – they are never to be worshiped.

The angel reminds John, “I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!” Angels, like humans, can only bear witness to “the testimony of Jesus.” 17 They are messengers, not God. God alone is to be worshiped. Only the true God in three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – deserves our adoration and worship. 18

The angel points John (and us) back to the focal point of the book of Revelation when he says, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” All prophecy has always pointed ultimately to “Jesus.” The first ten verses of Revelation 19 are a very appropriate introduction to what is about to be revealed, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is the subject of the entire book of Revelation (1:1). 19

As I finish up this article, my stomach reminds me that it is time for supper. Revelation 19:7-10 also reminds us of the marriage supper of the Lamb to be served in the future. All people have been invited (“called”) to this celebration. But to be “chosen” to participate in this fantastic thousand-year party, we must meet two conditions:

First, we must be able to enter Christ’s kingdom by believing in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life. Why? Because all people have sinned against God (Romans 3:23) and deserve to die forever in the lake of fire (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15). But God does not want any of us to die forever in the lake of fire, so He sent His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ to die in our place for all our sins and rise from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus is alive today in heaven, and He wants you to be able to enter His future kingdom on earth by believing in Him.

Jesus said, 5 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6). To enter God’s kingdom, we must have two birthdays: our physical birth (“born of water… flesh”) and our spiritual birth (“born of … the Spirit”). To be born of the Spirit we must realize that Jesus Christ was “lifted up” on the cross to die in our place so “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14b-15). The moment we believe in Christ, He guarantees our entrance into His kingdom on earth at the end of the Tribulation period.

Second, to attend the marriage supper of the Lamb, we must live faithfully for Jesus after believing in Him for eternal life.While all believers are called or invited to prepare for the wedding supper with Jesus to share in rewards and the glory of Christ’s kingdom, only those believers who prepared by being obedient to Jesus until the end of life on earth will be able to participate (Revelation 2:25-27; 3:5; 19:7-9; cf. Matthew 8:11-12; 22:1-14). All believers will enter and live with Christ in His eternal Kingdom through faith in Him alone (Matthew 18:3; John 3:5; 16), but only faithful believers will be able to enjoy ruling with Him there (Luke 19:11-27; Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for loving us enough to share this invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb. What a fabulous thousand-year celebration this will be on the earth. Empower those of us who who believe in Jesus to remain faithful to You until the end of our lives so we may receive Your eternal rewards of ruling with You in Your coming kingdom on earth. Please use us to spread Your message of eternal life to those who are perishing without You. In Your matchless name, we pray, Lord Jesus. 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. 1572; Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 207 cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 5 (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), pg. 1048; Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2414.

2. Constable, pg. 205.

3. Ibid., pg. 206.

4. Evans, pg. 2414.

5. Constable, pg. 206.

6. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 331.

7. Constable, pg. 206; John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 6232-6237.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1572; Evans, pg. 2414.

9. Vacendak, pp. 1572-1573.

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

11. 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. 503.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1573.

13. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 796.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1573.

15. Dillow, pg. 796.

16. Evans, pg. 2414.

17. Constable, pg. 208.

18. Swindoll, pg. 331.

19. Walvoord, location 6252.

Revelation 3 – Part 1

“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelation 3:5

Jesus now addresses the fifth church in Asia Minor. “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” ‘ (Revelation 3:1). Sardis was located a little over thirty miles southeast of Thyatira and was a glorious city in the past. In the sixth century BC it was considered one of the greatest cities on earth and was ruled by the wealthy King Croesus (called Midas by the Greeks because of his golden treasures). But by the time John wrote to the church there in the first century AD, the city’s greatness lay in the distant past. Unfortunately, the church at Sardis had the same problem—a great past but dismal conditions in the present. So, the Lord gives this church the steps they need to come alive again as well as a warning if they fail to do so.” 1

When the ascended Lord Jesus refers to Himself as “He who has the seven Spirits of God,” He is telling this church that He knows their true spiritual condition because He possesses the all-knowing Spirit of God(cf. Revelation 1:4b-5a). 2 Nothing escapes the notice of our Lord. Christ also “has the seven stars” or seven angels of the seven churches (cf. 1:20) to remind them of His Lordship over the entire church.

Although they had a good reputation among other churches for being “alive,” the Lord Jesus knew their true condition. This was the kind of church about which people today might say, “They have great music, great preaching, great outreach, a great children’s ministry, and beautiful buildings.” But because Jesus knew their “works,” He could say they were “dead” inwardly without any spiritual life (3:1b). “They were merely playing church.” 3

Like the Pharisees, their outer appearance was a facade hiding their lack of life (cf. Matt. 23:27-28).” 4

“Dr. Vance Havner has frequently reminded us that spiritual ministries often go through four stages: a man, a movement, a machine, and then a monument. Sardis was at the ‘monument’ stage, but there was still hope!” 5

The remedy for this condition is given by Jesus in the next few verses. “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.” (Revelation 3:2). The city of Sardis had fallen into enemy hands more than once, due to the carelessness of sentries who had relied too much on the town’s natural fortifications. 6 The Lord now commanded the church to “be watchful [alert] and strengthen” the areas of weakness in their church “that are ready to die.” The Lord wants His people to be diligent in protecting every element of good that remained in their church. They were not to be careless about this or allow any  more of the good that was still in existence to be cast aside as it had been in the past. 7

The Lord Jesus did not find their “works perfect [complete] before God.” The believers in Sardis tended to begin things but never finish them as God desired (cf. Acts 14:26). Do our churches resemble the church at Sardis? Does our outward appearance hide our lack of spiritual life? Did we start out strong for the Lord only to weaken over time and lose the vitality that once was so contagious? Have we held fast to the gospel of grace that transformed our lives, or have we turned away from the “faith alone” gospel to a “faith plus” gospel that promotes reformation instead of transformation?

Jesus then says, “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.” (Revelation 3:3). To overcome their spiritual deadness, these believers needed to “remember” the biblical instruction they “received and heard” from their spiritual leaders. Sound doctrine is always the foundation of a church that brings honor and glory to God (cf. Titus 2:1-15).” 8

They were also to “hold fast” to this instruction and “repent” and change their attitudes that led to their spiritual deadness. If they did not arise from their spiritual deadness, the Lord would “come upon” them “as a thief,” swiftly and unexpectedly to discipline them for their carelessness and superficial spirituality.

Jesus held out eternal rewards for the faithful “few” in Sardis. “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” (Revelation 3:4). The all-knowing Judge knew of a “few names… in Sardis who” had “not defiled their garments” and “shall walk with” Christ “in white” because they are “worthy” or deserving. This cannot refer to salvation because no one deserves to be saved from hell. The Bible clearly says that salvation is a free gift apart from any works (Romans 6:23b; 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 21:6; 22:17).  Instead, walking with Christ in white is a privilege reserved for the faithful believer who is undefiled in his Christian life.

“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” (Revelation 3:5). The risen Lord Jesus promises to the “overcomer” who is “worthy” (3:4) to be honored, the following eternal rewards:

– “Clothed in white garments.”  “White garments” are symbolic of one’s works (cf. 19:8) and are pure and free of defilement (cf. 7:9, 13; 19:14; Matthew 22:11-12). “In the ancient world, white robes also connoted festivity and victory.” 9 “Sardis boasted of her trade in woolen goods and dyed stuffs.” 10 Only the believers who remained faithful to Jesus Christ until the end of their lives on earth could enjoy His intimate fellowship in His coming Kingdom (“walk with Me”; cf. 7:14; 22:14). 11

Wilkin provides a helpful insight about this reward. “Keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Himself will be clothed in dazzling white garments that will outshine all others. His glory will be supreme.

“When at the Mount of Transfiguration He appeared in His glory, ‘His clothes became as white as the light’ (Matthew 17:2). Special clothing is not insignificant, because it honors a person. The more glorious the garments, the more honor to the wearer.

“Like the sun, the Lord’s garments will have maximum radiance. The garments of great servants like Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Deborah, Esther, and Mary will surely glow brightly. But theirs will be reflected glory, like the glory of the moon that reflects the glory of the sun.

“Would you not want to be identified as closely as possible with the Lord Jesus and glorify Him, even in your clothing? The quality of your eternal garments will be determined by what you do in this life. Once this life is over, it will be too late to influence your worthiness to walk with Christ in white.” 12

– An honored name that is supremely secure. When Jesus says He will “not blot out his name from the Book of Life,” Armenians teach that Jesus is saying a non-overcoming (unfaithful) believer can lose his salvation. 13 But this would be contrary to Jesus’ teachings in John’s writings elsewhere. For example, Jesus taught, 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). Christ guarantees that those who come to Him in faith “shall never hunger” or “thirst” for eternal life again because the need He met can never reoccur. The results of believing in Christ are permanent even if we are unfaithful to Christ (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).

Christ also said, 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:38-39). Jesus came down from heaven to do His Father’s will which was that all whom the Father had given Him should lose nothing, including their salvation. If Jesus failed to keep believers from losing their salvation, He would have failed to do His Father’s will. And that presents a moral dilemma. For if Jesus failed to do His Father’s will, then He would have sinned and could no longer be God. But Jesus Christ has never lost one believer and He never will because He is God (John 1:1; Titus 2:13) and He always does the will of His Father.

Jesus said, 2And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29). Christ gives eternal life because it is a gift from Him. We do not earn it. Secondly, He also guarantees that a believer “shall never perish.” Eternal life is God’s life. You can no more perish in hell than God can perish in hell. If a believer in Jesus could lose his salvation, then Jesus just told a lie. Jesus also promises that “neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”  Because Jesus securely holds each believer in His hand and no one – not a lion, wolf, thief, bandit, false teacher, popular speaker, demon, devil, not even you yourself – are strong enough to snatch (John 10:12) them out of His hand. The word “snatch” (harpasei) means “to snatch, seize, i.e., take suddenly or vehemently.” It is impossible for even one sheep to be removed from the hand of our Good Shepherd. And no matter how strong or persuasive they are, not one of His sheep can wriggle out of His grasp.

If you are still not convinced that a believer in Jesus is secure forever, Christ adds, “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” The hand of Jesus holding the believer is secure in the hand of God the Father. And no one is strong enough to snatch a believer from the hand of God the Father. In other words, the believer is doubly secure.

If a believer ever lost his or her salvation, Christ would have failed to keep these promises and many more. To properly understand Jesus’ words, “and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life” (Revelation 3:5), it is important to answer an important question.

What is the Book of Life? There appear to be several “books” or records that God keeps in heaven (cf. Revelation 20:12). Since God is all-knowing, “He does not need to record things in books. People keep books for later recollection, so the figure of a ‘book’ is an example of contextualization: giving revelation in terms the recipients can easily understand.” 14  

There is the “Book of the Living,” namely, those who are presently alive on the earth, including the unsaved (Exodus 32:32-33; Deuteronomy 29:20; Psalm 69:28; Isaiah 4:3). 15 To have one’s name removed from this book refers to physical death. But the “Book of Life” in Revelation refers to all those who have believed in Jesus for everlasting life (Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27). 16

It is best to understand Jesus’ words, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life” (3:5), as another litotes (cf. 2:11) 17 which is an understatement in which a positive affirmation is expressed by negating the opposite. Jesus is saying, “If you remain undefiled to the end of your life, I will reward you with the opposite of having your name blotted out of the Book of Life. You will be given an honored name that is supremely secure.”

Dillow writes, John is saying that, even if we are ridiculed and ultimately killed for our faith here on earth so that our name is dishonored and forgotten, we will, if we persevere, enjoy a heavenly reputation for all eternity. Our name will never be blotted out in heaven. No Christian will ever have his person blotted out of the book of life, even carnal ones. The overcomers are being reminded that, even though others can destroy them on earth, they cannot ruin the believer’s heavenly name.” 18

Such an honored name will be forever cherished by Jesus throughout eternity, which leads to the third reward.

– Christ said, “I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (3:5 cf.Matthew 10:32-33; 25:21, 23; Luke 12:8; 19:17, 19). Only worthy or faithful believers will have their name publicly confessed or honored before God the Father and His angels.

Only those Christians who acknowledge Christ now will be acknowledged by Him then. Only those Christians who are overcomers now will have their names acknowledged before the Father and His angels (Revelation 3:5). But having one’s name ‘acknowledged’ [confessed] is not the same as being declared saved. Rather, it refers to the public testimony by the Son of God to the faithful life of the obedient Christian. Conversely, not having one’s name acknowledged is to forfeit the Master’s ‘Well done.’” 19

This confession is functionally the positive idea implied in the litotes (no erasure of his name means a magnifying of his name, i.e., magnification by Christ’s personal acknowledgement before the Father and His angels).” 20

The Bible teaches that believers in Jesus during this church age will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive rewards according to their works (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12) during the Tribulation period. Believers who lived in disobedience and failed to grow spiritually, like the believers in Sardis, “will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (I Corinthians 3:15). Although they have eternal life by believing in Jesus, they will suffer the loss of rewards and be denied the praise that Christ could have given them before His heavenly Father and the holy angels if they had been faithful to the Lord’s calling in their lives.

Christ concludes, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:6). Not all Christians will be overcomers by remaining faithful to Jesus to the end of their lives. Only those who have “an ear” and “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” will be able toappropriate Jesus’ promises and live as “overcomers” so they may receive these glorious eternal rewards.

Imagine being on the new earth with King Jesus in the future, and He publicly honors you by acknowledging your name before God the Father and His angels throughout eternity. If you are the kind of person who likes to receive approval, praise, and recognition before others, this acknowledgement or confession of your eternally honored name in the future by the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, will greatly motivate you to persevere in faithfulness to the risen Lord Jesus now, no matter what the cost. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He understands our hearts and what will motivate us to live faithfully for Him, even when people dishonor or forget our names on earth now.

In summary, Christians who watch expectantly for Christ’s return and live undefiled Christian lives will receive a three-fold reward consisting of dazzling eternal clothes, an eternally honored name, which will be publicly praised before God the Father and His angels throughout eternity (3:1-6).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, only You are qualified to judge Your church. Thank You for warning the church in Sardis (and us) of the danger of looking good on the outside to hide the lack of spiritual life on the inside. Thank You for warning us of the loss of reward and for giving us the remedy for our spiritually immature condition. Lord Jesus, we do not want to compromise our faith and waste our Christian lives by living selfishly. Please help us to stay spiritually alert and remember what we have been taught by godly teachers in the past. Thank You for offering us eternal rewards in the future that consist of dazzling eternal clothes and an eternally honored name which will be publicly praised by You before God the Father and His angels throughout eternity to motivate us to remain faithful to You now no matter what the cost. To hear Your praise, Lord Jesus, in eternity, is far greater than any praise we could ever receive on earth. May we hear and practice what Your Spirit says to us so You will receive maximum honor and glory in eternity. In Your mighty and most honorable name we pray, Lord Jesus. 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), pp. 1509-1510.

2. Ibid., pg. 1510.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2374.

4. 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.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 46 cites, Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 577.  

6. Constable, pp. 46-47.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1510.

8. Ibid.

9. Constable, pg. 47 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 1, (The Daily Study Bible series. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 155.

10. Constable, pg. 47 cites R. H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John Vol. 1, International Critical Commentary series (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), pg.  78.

11. Constable, pg. 47.

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

13. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 684 cites J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ (Scottsdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1961), pp. 329-331.

14. Constable, pg. 48.

15. Ibid.

16. Dillow, pg. 685.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1511; Constable, pg. 49; Dillow, pg. 687 cites Martin Loyd-Jones, Romans Chapter 8:17-39: The Final Perseverance of the Saints (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), pp. 314ff.

18. Dillow, pg. 687.

19. Ibid., pp. 687-688.

20. Vacendak, pg. 1511.

Revelation 2 – Part 1

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7

John now records “the things which are” (1:19b), consisting of the exalted Lord Jesus’ messages to the seven historical churches in Asia Minor in the first century (Revelation 2-3). Jesus gives these seven local churches warnings and encouragements that are as applicable today as they were in the first century. 1

There has been substantial debate about the meaning of “overcomers” in the book of Revelation. Two major interpretations are at the core of this debate. The perseverance understanding holds that all genuine Christians are overcomers. 2 This view argues that every believer is an overcomer (I John 5:4-5) who inherits eternal bliss (Revelation 21:7) and, therefore, proves his salvation with his works (Revelation 2:26). According to this position all true Christians will persevere in good works to the end of their lives.

The second interpretation understands the “overcomer” to be an obedient Christian who receives rewards for his faithfulness to God. 3 This view understands I John 5:4-5 to be true for all Christians. There is a sense in which all Christians are overcomers when they believe in Christ for new birth. This single act of faith at the moment of salvation is “the victory that has overcome the world” which is antagonistic toward this saving act of faith (I John 5:4b) and is satanically blinded to the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). But this interpretation understands that I John’s statements about overcomers is not the same as Revelation’s statements about overcomers as we shall now observe.

The word “overcome” comes from the Greek word nikaō which means to “be victor, conquer, overcome, prevail.” 4 John uses this word in Revelation to refer to victorious Christians who persevere in a life of faith.

It is important to understand that Revelation 2-3 is addressing Christians because the term “church” refers to believers. 5 The issue is not salvation, but discipleship or Christian growth because the focus is on persevering in works (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15), and not a single act of faith for salvation from hell (cf. John 4:14; 5:24; 6:35, 37-39; 10:28-29; I John 5:1-5, 13). For example, access to the “tree of life” (Revelation 2:7) is not based on a single act of faith in Christ (I John 5:1, 4-5), but upon obedience to Christ’s commands (Revelation 22:14). Revelation is talking about Christians being overcomers through obedience to Christ until the end of their lives so they can gain eternal rewards such as eating from the tree of life or ruling with Christ (cf. Revelation 2:8, 26-27; 3:21; 22:14).

Also, in Revelation there is the call to hear (Revelation 2:7a; cf. 2:10, 17, 29: 3:6, 13, 22). Only those Christians who hear the call and appropriate the promise will be able to live a victorious life for Christ. Jesus is addressing the whole “church” consisting of believers in the letter (Revelation 2:1; cf. 2:8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14), but the call is to the one “who has an ear” and to the one “who overcomes.”

With this understanding, let’s look at the first church Jesus addresses. “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.” (Revelation 2:1). Ephesus was the ‘New York City’ of the first century. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, it was a leading center of Greek culture as well as idol worship. Being a city of wealth and commerce, it contained the amazingly ornate temple of the goddess Diana (cf. Acts 19), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was also a city that had been effectively evangelized by Paul over the course of several years (cf. Acts 19:10, 20) and had become a gathering place of believers earnestly devoted to the Lord and His work. Unfortunately, over time these dedicated believers ‘left their first love.’ Therefore, with great concern the Lord speaks lovingly yet directly to His Bride in Ephesus to woo her back to her original devotion and zeal.” 6

Jesus describes Himself as the One “who holds [authoritatively with power] the seven stars [angels of the churches] in His right hand” and “walks in the midst of the seven lampstands [churches]in that He is involved in these local churches (2:1). Jesus was active among local churches in the first century and He remains active in churches today. Christ knows what is going on in our churches and He first offers encouragement.

2 I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.” (Revelation 2:2-3). Christ commends this church for their hard work, perseverance (“patience”), and discernment of false teaching and teachers (2:2-3). “They tested everything by the Scriptures and rightly found that some so-called apostles did not teach pure doctrine.” 7 “In general this church had continued in its faithful service to God for more than 40 years.” 8

Next, Christ Jesus rebukes this church. “Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4). The order of words is emphatic in the original language; the clause could be translated, “Your first love you have left” (τὴν ἀγάπην σου τὴν πρώτην ἀφῆκας). 9

While this church had excelled in their service for Christ and their orthodoxy, they had left their “first love.” This refers to their original love and devotion to Jesus. They were doing the right things now, but not with the same love and devotion they had in the beginning.

“They had correct doctrine, but not a correct heart. The key word here is first, not love. As with romantic love between a man and a woman, first love always involves passion. Yet there was not passionate pursuit of an intimate relationship with Christ in the church. They were merely following a program. Duty had replaced devotion.” 10

This can happen to any church or individual Christian. We start out passionate in our love for Jesus considering all He did for us in saving us from our sins. But as the years pass by, we can easily shift from passionate love for our Savior to more of a program mentality whereby we function out of duty instead of devotion to Christ. We go through the motions, but our heart is not connecting to the Lord like it was in the beginning of our Christian lives. We can become so familiar with the teachings of the Bible that we become less sensitive to what God is saying to us. Familiarity can produce apathy in our Christian lives.

How can we regain our first love for Jesus? How can we restore that original devotion and passion we had for our Savior? The Lord gives us three commands in this one verse: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5).

REMEMBER. We can regain our first love for Jesus if we “remember” our original love and devotion for Him. Think back to what it was like when you first became a Christian. Remember how the Bible came alive for you? It was so new and life-giving. The beauty of Jesus’ love and grace for us captured our hearts. Talking to the Lord was such a joy. It is important to remember those early days in our Christian life to rekindle that original love for Christ.

– REPENT. The word “repent” (metanoeō) means a “change of mind.” Jesus was calling the church to change their thinking about their love for Him. Jesus was not a program; He was a Person Who loved them infinitely. As their thinking about Christ changed, so would their affections. The more they could see Jesus as Someone Who loved them and enjoyed their presence, the more passion they would have about connecting with Him and serving Him. The same is true for us today.

– RETURN. Jesus was also inviting them to return to “the first works” that increased their love for Him. As a new believer in college, I remember memorizing the book of I John. I worked at the University of Iowa Hospital until 11 pm at night, so when I walked home it was very dark outside. I would recite my I John verses aloud as I walked home. Those were some of the most intimate times I ever had with the Lord Jesus. God is inviting His church to return to those works we did early in our relationship with Christ that brought us closer to Him.

Should the church at Ephesus (or any church) refuse to “repent,” the Lord would “remove” their “lampstand” or witness and close their doors which eventually happened in the fifth century. 11 In fact none of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 exist today because each one failed to maintain a repentant attitude toward the Lord. Such will be the fate of any church whose activity is about them rather than about the Lord Jesus. Failure to prioritize intimacy with God will result in the removal of one’s influence for Christ. As one commentator notes, The church that loses its love will soon lose its light, no matter how doctrinally sound it may be.” 12

Following this warning, the Lord Jesus added one more commendation. “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Revelation 2:6). The Greek word for Nicolaitans means “to conquer the people.” 13 Little is known of the Nicolaitans, but their name typifies any system that focuses on dominating people rather than serving them. 14

Jesus then says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7). Jesus is addressing the whole Ephesus church consisting of believers (Revelation 2:1), but the call is to the one “who has an ear” and to the one “who overcomes.” Only those Christians who hear the call and appropriate the promise will be able to live a victorious life for Christ till the end of their lives on earth and receive Christ’s promised reward.

Thus, the overcomers spoken of here in chaps. 2–3 are those people who not only believe in Christ for eternal life, but also walk in godliness (cf. 2 Peter 1:5-11) and remain faithful to Him until the end of their lives (cf. Matthew 25:20-21; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26).” 15

Jesus promises to reward the overcomer for his or her faithfulness by giving them the privilege “to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” “There is a connection between the ‘tree of life’ and man’s rule over the earth. Adam in his unfallen state had access to this ‘tree,’ but when he fell, God kept him from it (Genesis 1:26-28; 3:22).” 16 The tree of life will be “in the midst of the Paradise of God” in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:2, 14).

This reward is reminiscent of the original paradise in Genesis 1– 2 where Adam and Eve were allowed to eat from any tree in the Garden, including the tree of life. At the end of the Book of Revelation, the tree of life is described as bearing twelve kinds of fruit, one for each month, with leaves that bring healing to the nations (22:2). Not everyone has the right to eat from the tree of life (22:14). A person can forfeit the right to eat from the tree by adding to or taking away from the words of Revelation (22:19). Aside from this, little is known about the tree of life, but its vagueness makes this reward even more tantalizing and motivating.” 17

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

Imagine standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive your rewards from King Jesus (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). He tells you that because you were not faithful to Him till the end of your Christian life, you will forfeit certain rewards which include ruling with Him and eating from the tree of life (cf. Revelation 2:7, 25-27; 3:21; 22:2, 14). Think of the regret, sadness, or shame you will have at this time (cf. Matthew 25:18-19, 22-30; Luke 19:15, 20-26; I John 2:28). If only you had remained faithful to Christ, such rewards could have been yours.

Now fast forward to the New Jerusalem on the New Earth (Revelation 21-22). You are sitting at a table in the New Jerusalem with your friends or family, and one of them receives a call from the office of King Jesus, informing them that they have a special meeting with the King in an hour. At this meeting, fruit from the tree of life will be served for all to enjoy who are invited to this gathering. Because you were not faithful to Jesus till the end of your Christian life, you will not receive such a call nor have access to this special fruit.

Even though there “shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying…” and “no more pain” on the New Earth (Revelation 21:4), you will not be able to experience as much closeness and enjoyment with King Jesus as those who were faithful to Him to the very end. Only those believers who hear the call and appropriate the promise (“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says”) will be able to live a victorious life for Christ (Revelation 2:7). All believers will be in heaven, but not all believers will experience the same degree of rewards in heaven. Specifically for the church at Ephesus and those like it, those who do not lose passion for Christ in this life will experience a special place of intimacy with the Lord” 18 in heaven. Knowing this now is intended to motivate us to live faithfully for Christ with an undying love and devotion for Him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as we listened to Your message to the church of Ephesus, our hearts have been stirred. We know that we have lost the love and devotion we once had for You. Instead of prioritizing intimacy with You, we have focused on programs and performance. We have done things for You, but not with You. Thank You for loving us enough to confront us and woo us back to our original love and devotion for You. Lord, we want to regain our first love for You. Help us to remember the beauty of Your love and grace for us at the beginning of our relationship with You. Grant us a change of attitude toward You so we are not so careless to put ourselves ahead of You. Enable us to return to those things we did when we were passionately in love with You. May our love for You in some small way reflect Your incredible love for us. Thank You for promising us access to the tree of life if we will remain faithful to You to the end of our lives on earth. In Your glorious name we pray, Lord Jesus. 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. 1501.

2. James Rosscup, “The Overcome of the Apocalypse,” Grace Theological Journal, 3:2 (1982): pp. 261-286; John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Gospel According to Jesus, Revised and Expanded Edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, 1994), pp. 123-133, 134-148, 164-172, 188-194, 252-254.

3. Harlan D. Betz, “The Nature of Rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ” (Th.M. Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1974), pp. 36-45; Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse (Dallas, TX: Redencion Viva, 1985), pp. 97-111; Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings (Miami Springs, Fla.: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992), pp. 37, 470, 474; Arlen L. Chitwood, Judgment Seat of Christ (Norman, Okla.: The Lamp Broadcast, Inc., 1986), pg. 48.

4. pg. 673.

5. Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, pg. 108.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1502.

7. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2371.

8. 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.

9. Ibid.

10. Evans, pg. 2371.

11. Walvoord, pg. 164.

12. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 31 cites Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 572.

13. Vacendak, pg. 1502.

14. Constable, pg. 31.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1504.

16. Constable, pg. 33.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1504. 18. Evans, pg. 2372.

Connecting in a Disconnected World of Covid (Video)

Although this video was prepared for a church anniversary in the Philippines, its biblical principles can apply to any culture. We will not only look at the challenges of connecting with other people during this age of COVID-19, we will also turn to the Bible to discover how we can connect with one another in more effective ways. If you are feeling all alone and without hope, this video is for you.

I am an equal in God’s family

“That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.” Ephesians 3:6

Throughout the history of the world there has been the “haves” and the “have nots,” the “greater thans” and the “lesser thans.” To be brutally honest, I have seen myself as one of the “have nots” or “lesser thans.” In large part I believe this is due to the effects of shame in my life. Much of my shame comes from believing lies about myself. Lies that say, “I am bad,” “I am worthless,” “No one would love me as I am,” or “I cannot depend on others to help me.” These lies were attached to wounds I acquired in my past, and they promote isolation and defeat.

But God wants to set us free from these lies so we may live the kind of life He created us to live. One of the ways God sets us free is by placing us in His family, the Church, where we can learn a new way of seeing ourselves and living as God intended us to live.

In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul talks about being “in Christ,” which has to do with how God sees us. We have learned that in Christ we are chosen (1:4), adopted (1:5), accepted (1:6), redeemed and forgiven (1:7), and many other wonderful truths depicting how God sees us.

Today we are going to learn that we are equals in the family of God. The apostle Paul was called by God to minister “the mystery of Christ” to Gentiles (Ephes. 3:1-4). The word “mystery” (mystḗrion) refers to a previously hidden truth that is now “revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (3:5). This mystery is explained in verse 6:

“That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (3:6).

There are three aspects to this mystery:

1. Gentile and Jewish believers are EQUAL HEIRS (“fellow heirs”) of the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (3:6a, 8). All the spiritual blessings that Paul has written about up to this point in Ephesians belong to both Jewish and Gentile believers. Our inheritance is the same. Therefore we do not need to think we are lesser than others.

2. Gentile and Jewish believers are EQUAL MEMBERS in “the same body” of Christ, the Church (3:6b). From the very beginning of the church age, the Church has consisted of all people who believe in Christ alone to save them from hell forever. One believer is not more loved or valued than another believer. We are all loved and valued the same. Therefore, there is no need to work hard to improve our status in the Church.

3. Gentile and Jewish believers are EQUAL PARTAKERS of the “promise in Christ through the gospel” (3:6c). The gospel message was not limited to Jews, but is also for all people to believe (“whoever” in John 3:16 includes everyone). Hence, we do not need to isolate or withdraw from others in the Church because we were all saved by grace through faith (Ephes. 2:8-9).

In each of the three Greek words that Paul uses to describe our equality in the church, they all begin with the same prefix “sun” – a preposition that means “with.”

“fellow heirs” = sun + kleronomos.

“same body” = sun + soma

“partakers” = sun + metochos

“Sun” however differs from “meta,” the other Greek preposition meaning “with,” in that “sun” describes a more intimate relationship.

Let me give you an illustration that distinguishes these two words… making biscuits. Take all the ingredients and put them out on a cookie sheet. Measure out the flour, the shortening, the baking powder, etc. Put each ingredient on the sheet. All of those ingredients can still be separated, but at the same time they are with each other— that is a picture of the meaning of the word “meta.”

Now take all of the ingredients and mix them together. Cut the dough and put it in a pan and bake it. After it has baked, it comes out as a biscuit. Once the ingredients are baked together, the biscuit serves as a perfect picture of the meaning of the preposition “sun.” No scientist can separate the ingredients of that biscuit because they are united together in intimate union! That’s the idea of the preposition “sun.”

All Christians are joined together in unity by our common spiritual DNA – the indwelling Holy Spirit. Every believer shares a position of equality in the body of Christ because of God’s grace, not because of their heritage or achievements. In God’s eyes we all are equal in our inheritance, our membership, and in our partaking of the promise of Christ through the gospel.

Prayer: Thank You Father God for showing me my true value in the body of Christ, the Church. I am an equal in Your family because of Your grace. Please apply this truth to my soul so I can see myself as an equal among the members of Your family and preserve the unity that Christ established through the cross. In Jesus’ name. Amen.