“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:18
As I have shared the gospel with others one of the disturbing questions among non-Christians is how can a loving God send anyone to hell? To many people this seems like a major contradiction. One minute, preachers will talk about God’s love and forgiveness. Then they turn around and talk about hell – a terrible place of torment and unending fire where people want to die but they are unable to. How can God claim to be such a pro at love and forgiveness and then turn around and send someone to such a terrible place of agony and suffering?
How do you respond to this question? Let’s turn in our Bibles to John 3:16-21 where Jesus is having a conversation with a religious leader named Nicodemus. We have been doing a verse-by-verse study of the gospel of John. This book helps us see the major emphasis of Jesus’ ministry. While Christ was on earth, He was not scaring people out of going to hell with bad news; instead, He was inviting people to heaven with good news. Jesus spoke more about hell more than anyone else in the Bible, but that was not the major emphasis of His ministry. He did not earn His reputation as a “friend of sinners” by being harsh. He earned it by being loving and kind and extending His love and forgiveness to people like all of us. Jesus’ message and ministry were not trying to scare people out of hell; but inviting them to receive the gift of eternal life so they could live with Him in heaven.
GOD’S LOVE WANTS ALL PEOPLE TO LIVE WITH HIM IN HEAVEN (3:16-17). 3:16: We looked at this verse in the last chapter. God loves the entire world – over 8 billion people! How do we know this? Because He “gave” His only perfect Son to die on a cross. Why did Jesus have to die? Because God is holy and perfect. The fact that God is holy and perfect demands that He must punish sin (Ps. 5:4-5; 11:5; 45:7; Prov. 6:16-19; 8:13; Isa. 6:1-5; Rom. 6:23b; Heb. 1:9). A “slap on the wrist” is not enough. Due to its awful nature, sin is punishable by death. Not physical death – but eternal death or separation from God (Mark 9:43-48; Rev. 20:15).
Fortunately for us, God let His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, who never knew any sin – no wrong thoughts, bad words, unkind attitudes, or evil actions – die on a cross where you and I should have been punished (2 Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 3:18). Christ took our place on a cross. The nails that should have been driven through our hands and feet, were, instead, driven through His. Keep in mind, Christ didn’t have to suffer for your sin – He loved you enough to do it. When God brought His Son up from the grave on the third day, He was providing proof that He could now extend forgiveness and eternal life to “whoever believes in” Jesus. There is no sin that Christ cannot forgive and no person that He will not accept if he or she comes to Him on His terms.
The word “should” communicates the fact that the verbs “perish” (apolētai) and “have” (echē) are in the subjunctive mood, which expresses a condition.  Christ is guaranteeing that “whoever believes in Him” will “not perish” in hell but “have everlasting life” both now and forever.
3:17: This is the heart of God. God the Father’s purpose in sending “His Son into the world” was not to “condemn,” but that the world might “be saved” through Jesus. Condemnation and salvation in this verse are parallel to perishing and everlasting life in 3:16. The salvation and condemnation Jesus speaks of here are eternal. 
Some people confuse Christianity with religion. They think God sent Jesus to earth to make us miserable. They think Christianity is a bunch of dos and don’ts. “Don’t drink… don’t cuss… don’t smoke… don’t chew… and don’t run around with girls who do.” They perceive God to be sitting up in heaven just waiting to hit them with His holy hammer when they mess up. But this verse tells us the very opposite. God did not send His Son into the world to “condemn” us, but to cleanse us. He did not come to rub our sin in, He came to rub it out.
Imagine for a moment one of your children when they were small, playing in the road. You see a fast-moving car approaching. You know you can’t reach them in time. Running toward them you yell, “Get out of the road and come here!” It is important at that moment that your child trusts you and responds. Are you trying to ruin their fun? No, you are trying to save their life. God knows that we are all in danger. We are in danger of spending eternity separated from Him. The Bible calls it the second death and it is racing toward all of humanity (Rev. 20:6, 11-15). For that reason, God sent His Son to die on a cross, as a sacrifice for our sins. He has paid our penalty if full (John 19:30). All He asks in return is that we believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of eternal life.
God doesn’t want any human being to spend eternity in hell. In fact, Jesus tells us that hell was intended for the devil and his fallen angels: “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”(Matt. 25:41). Since God did not want us to spend eternity in hell, He sent His Son to die in our place so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
I like how author Max Lucado describes God’s love: “One of the sweetest reasons God saved you is because He is fond of you. He likes having you around. He thinks you are the best thing to come down the pike in quite a while… If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He’ll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and He chose your heart. And the Christmas gift He sent you in Bethlehem? Face it, friend. He’s crazy about you!”
If God is so crazy about us, then why would He send anyone to such a horrible place as hell? Please hear this – God doesn’t send anyone to hell. People send themselves there.
GOD’S LOVE ALLOWS PEOPLE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL (3:18).3:18: “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (emphasis added). Three times Jesus uses the word “believe” in this verse to indicate that believing in Him is all that is necessary to escape eternal “condemnation.” No other condition is required to be rescued from this everlasting condition. Why then do Christians so often teach that more is required? Do they know better than the Lord Jesus Christ about what it takes to escape such a horrendous fate!?! Of course not. But Satan knows his fate and he wants to deceive as many as possible to join him in the lake of fire forever.
A person “who believes in Him is not condemned” now or in eternity because Jesus took his or her condemnation when He hung on a cross. The believer “shall not come into judgment” because Christ already took the judgment of God on Himself when our sins were placed upon Him (John 5:24; cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 3:18).
When a person refuses to believe in Jesus Christ, they are rejecting God’s offer. They are condemning themselves. When a person refuses to believe in Christ alone for the free gift of eternal life, they are in essence saying to God, “I reject what Jesus Christ did in my place as my Substitute.” Therefore, God has no choice but to let us pay for our own sin through eternal separation from Him in what the Bible calls hell or the lake of fire (Mark 9:43-48; Rev. 20:15). Those who go to hell are going there of their own choosing because they have rejected Christ and His free offer. God has not rejected them; instead, they have rejected God.
Suppose God blessed you and your spouse with a little boy. You love that little boy so much that you would do anything for him. Forbid the thought, but suppose that when your little boy is twenty-one, he begins a wayward life and eventually murders someone. Your state sentences him to die by lethal injection. Suppose that you could walk into his cell the morning he is to be executed and offer to take his place. That’s how great your love is for him. In so doing, you explain that he can be a free and forgiven man. Much to your surprise, he pushes you aside, walks to the table, and receives the punishment for his horrible crime himself. Did you not love him enough? Would you accept the accusation, “If you really loved your son, you wouldn’t have allowed that to happen”? Hardly! You did not reject him; he rejected you.
This is why the Bible puts the responsibility where it belongs when it says, “He who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (3:18b).
“Salvation from sin and judgment is free for the taking. But if you reject the miracle cure that the doctor offers you, don’t blame him when you succumb to your fatal illness.” 
Why would someone reject Christ’s free offer of everlasting life? Why would someone choose hell instead of heaven? The answer is in verses 19-20:
PEOPLE LOVE THEIR SIN MORE THAN THE SAVIOR (3:19-21). Jesus explains. 3:19:“This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” The presence of God’s light – His truth- forces people to make a choice – to either believe in Christ or reject Him. The reason people reject Christ’s offer of a free gift is because they love their sin more, and they want to stay in the darkness because it hides their sinfulness.
Let’s be honest – sin is fun. Sin feels good. Sin initially appears attractive. But sin is like a black widow spider. The bite of the female black widow spider can be deadly to humans. But the black widow gets its name because after the male has mated with the female, she kills and eats him. Sin has somewhat of the same effect on us. It is attractive and pleasurable, but in the end, it can devour us forever.
For example, suppose a person is unwilling to come to Christ because he is afraid of what God might do with the sins he enjoys? If that man so enjoys his immorality or drug abuse or overeating and, in fear of what God might do, is unwilling to come to Christ, he needs to examine Jesus’ words: “29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”(Matt. 5:29-30).What does Jesus mean here?
Let me explain where I’m at in my understanding of this passage. Alcoholism, drug abuse, pornography, and sexual addiction are examples of sins which dominate the lives and thinking of millions upon millions today. People turn to such things because of inner pain. The sinful addiction provides a temporary distraction. However, it does not eliminate the pain. In fact, it takes more and more of the addictive behavior to keep masking the pain.
People can also turn to things like sports, work, home decorating, shopping, recreational activities, and hobbies to distract them from inner pain. These things, although morally neutral in moderation, can so dominate a person’s time and attention as to become idolatrous and sinful. Evangelist Larry Moyer writes: “Have you ever met a man whose hand was so involved in business that there was no time to think about spiritual things? Or a woman whose eyes were so focused on a neat or new home that she neglected spiritual matters? Christ’s warning to a person in that position was: None of those are worth eternal separation from God. Such a person would be wise to cut off the hand with which he works or to pluck out the eye with which she focuses on a new home.”
No one can come to faith in Christ unless they see their need for Him. People with sinful addictions often cannot see that need unless they hit bottom and give up the addiction. Turning from sins is not a condition of salvation. However, for some it may be a practical necessity – not to clean up their lives, but to be able to see their need and come to faith in Christ. Jesus is telling us in Matthew 5:29-30, that nothing is worth going to hell over. What your “hand” touches and what our “eye” sees – does it keep us from believing or trusting in Christ alone for eternal life? We would be wise to cut off the “hand” or pluck out the “eye.” It is far better to be here with “one… hand” or “eye” than separated from God in hell with two hands or eyes.
Some people won’t let God love them because they will be exposed for what they really are – sinners in need of God’s love and forgiveness. This is especially true with religious people like Nicodemus. They live their lives being basically good, but if an invitation to trust Christ alone for salvation is given, they won’t respond because they are afraid their image will be shattered. They will be exposed and that is just too much to risk. But friends, love is risky. We take a risk receiving God’s love through Jesus Christ and we take a risk expressing our love back to Him.
3:20: The words “everyone practicing evil,” can apply to Christians and non-Christians.  The phrase “come to the light” “is a flexible expression that refers to association with the light. Even unbelievers can associate with the light. John 6:60-64 states that some of His disciples did not believe in Him. They came to Him and followed Him, but they did not believe in Him.”
Non-Christians who refuse to come to the light offer many excuses for not believing in Christ. “Some cite the presence of hypocrites in the church. Others claim inability to believe some of the truths about Christ or the gospel. [Many say that they cannot accept the fact that God permits so much suffering in the world.] These are merely attempts to conceal a heart in rebellion against God. The ultimate reason people do not come to Christ is that they do not want to.” 
Both Christians and non-Christians “will only come to the light ifthey are willing to allow the light to expose their evil deeds. This happened often as Jesus preached to crowds. He revealed wrong attitudes and wrong actions. People would not come to hear Him if they were unwilling to have their evil exposed.”
We all dislike being shown that we are wrong. I feel that way myself. I don’t like to admit I am wrong. This verse is saying that this normal human reaction is part of our sinful nature. That is why nobody wants to change. Nobody wants to admit he is wrong. When the Republicans are in power, they try to convince the Democrats they have been wrong, but they won’t admit it. When the Democrats are in power, they try to convince the Republicans they have made the wrong choices, but they won’t admit it either. Nobody wants to admit they are wrong. That is why it is so hard to change.
If you are a Christian and you have drifted away from God, you don’t like to be around believers who are walking with the Lord because it exposes your sinfulness, and you start to feel uncomfortable. That is the Holy Spirit convicting you. It is not the committed Christian doing that. It is God inside of you nudging you to come back into the light. So, what do we do? We withdraw from committed believers and hang out with those who have no commitment to Christ. One of the ways we can tell that we are walking in darkness is by our lack of time with committed Christians. At first, we miss a Sunday. And then another and another. We don’t want to be exposed to the light of God’s Word because then we will have to face our sinfulness.
One night, after he had gotten ready for bed, Beverly Dillard’s husband went out to the driveway to retrieve some work papers from his car. Since it was dark, he figured no one would see him make the quick run in his underwear. And he probably would have made it, too—if not for the motion-sensor light, which illuminated him, just as he reached the car door. Christian, you may try to live in the dark for a time, but eventually the light of God’s Word will detect your sinful activity and expose it. Don’t get caught without the covering of God’s forgiveness. Be honest with the Lord and confess your sin so you can resume walking in the light with Jesus without being afraid of exposure (cf. I John 1:9).
The next verse is not distinguishing believers from non-believers as many mistakenly assume.It is distinguishing believers who confess Christ openly, like John the Baptist (3:22-36), and secret believers, like Nicodemus (3:1-20).  3:21: The phrase “comes to the light” refers to the person “who does the truth.” He comes to the light “that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God,”meaning that they have “been produced by God.” This verse is referring to Christians.  Verse 20 referred to both Christians and non-Christians. But this verse refers specifically to believers. And it is saying that if we will do (not just say the right words but start doing) the right things, despite our dislike of being shown to be wrong – if we are willing, in other words, to begin to obey the truth even though it means we have to admit we have been wrong – then we will find ourselves being drawn to Jesus, for He is the Light. And if we are doers of the truth of God’s Word, then we will openly identify with the light of Jesus Christ so that our works can be seen as being produced by God’s grace working in our lives.
When we are living the way God wants us to live, we will have more boldness to openly confess Jesus Christ before others whether they know the Lord or not; whether they are receptive to Christ or not. But when we are not living in a way that pleases the Lord, we are less likely to openly identify with Him because we are feeling guilty and ashamed.
John the Baptist is a believer who “does the truth and comesto the light” by boldly expressing his convictions about the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:15-18, 29-34; 3:22-36). Jesus is warning Nicodemus, who came “by night” (3:2), to come to Him “by day” now  by boldly confessing Christ which would be contrary to many of the other believing Pharisees (cf. 12:42-43).
TO SUMMARIZE: How can a loving God send anyone to hell? He doesn’t. People send themselves to hell by rejecting God’s free offer of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Why? Because they love their sin more than the Savior.
Some of you reading this may be afraid to come to Jesus Christ because of mistakes in your past that still haunt you. You are afraid He will condemn you instead of cleanse you. There is no wrong too great for Jesus Christ to forgive. When I came to Christ as a filthy sinner back in 1979, I was met with compassion, not condemnation. Christ forgave me and accepted me as His own when I believed in Him for His gifts of eternal life and forgiveness. And He helped me to put all my wrongdoings behind me. For the last forty-four years, I’ve been living in forgiveness. If He forgave me, He will forgive you, too. One of the most exciting things about the Christian life is not simply knowing I have been forgiven and I am going to heaven, although that is enough. But since I have come to Christ, I know He is with me all day every day. Disappointments don’t seem nearly as big, and bad days don’t seem nearly as bad with Him there.
Years ago, a young man had a verbal argument with his father and left home. He continued to keep in touch with his mother, and wanted very badly to come home for Christmas, but he was afraid his father would not allow him. His mother wrote to him and urged him to come home, but he didn’t feel he could until he knew his father had forgiven him. Finally, there was no time for any more letters. His mother wrote and said she would talk with the father, and if he had forgiven him, she would tie a white rag on the tree which grew right alongside the railroad tracks near their home, which he could see before the train reached the station. If there was no rag, it would be better if he went on.
So, the young man started home. As the train drew near his home; he was so nervous he said to his friend who was traveling with him, “I can’t bear to look. Sit in my place and look out the window. I’ll tell you what the tree looks like and you tell me whether there is a rag on it or not.” So, his friend changed places with him and looked out the window. After a bit the friend said, “Oh yes, I see the tree.” The son asked, “Is there a white rag tied to it?” For a moment, the friend did not say anything. Then he turned, and in a very gentle voice said, “There is a white rag tied to every limb of that tree!”
That, in a sense, is what God is saying to us in John 3:16-21. God has removed the condemnation and made it possible to come freely and openly home to Him. Will you come home to the Lord now? God does not want any human being to spend eternity in hell. He loves us too much to send us there. We send ourselves to hell by refusing to believe in Christ to get us to heaven. We can run every stop sign, ignore all the warnings, discount all the pleas to change our minds about whatever is keeping us from trusting Christ, and we can choose the path toward destruction. Sunday School teachers can tell us, TV evangelists can preach to us, pastors can warn us, Christians on social media can share with us, the Bible on a hotel nightstand can inform us, but it is our choice to ignore every warning, or we can take them to heart.
My friend, it is still not too late. You can settle this issue right now. Simply take God at His Word when He says, “He who believes in the Son is not condemned” (John 3:18). If you are persuaded that Jesus was speaking the truth in this verse and is therefore worthy of your trust, you can tell God this through prayer. But remember, praying this prayer is not what gets you to heaven. Only believing in Christ alone for eternal life gets you to heaven. This prayer is simply a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son.
Prayer: Dear God, thank You for showing me that my sin created a barrier between You and me. Thank You for loving me so much by sending Your only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer the penalty of my sin by dying in my place on a cross and rising from the dead so that barrier could be permanently removed. As best as I know how, I am now believing or trusting in Jesus alone (not my good life, my religion, or my prayers), to forgive all my sins and rescue me forever from eternal condemnation. Thank You for the forgiveness and freedom from eternal condemnation I now have. In Jesus’ mighty name, I pray. Amen.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 186.
This exercise is adapted from Michael Dye’s The Genesis Process. 
All of us have been hurt and wounded by others, especially those we trusted. From beginning to end, the Bible emphasizes the importance of forgiveness. God even commands us to forgive (Ephes. 4:32). Therefore, Jesus taught us to pray, “12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors… 14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:12, 14-15). Forgiveness is so important because it is connected to God’s forgiveness of us. I cannot enjoy fellowship or closeness with God the Father if I am not willing to forgive those who have hurt me. Being unforgiving connects us to our past hurts and makes it difficult to fully enjoy the blessings of our relationship with God and with other people.
One of the ways we can know we have not forgiven someone is we keep rehearsing bitter and defensive thoughts toward those who have hurt us. We keep going “back to court” in our minds with all the things we wish we had said or want to say to them.  God invites us to release the hurt others have caused to us. Forgiveness requires the cancelling of a debt (cf. Matt. 18:21-35). Perhaps the person who has hurt us owes us an apology, justice, money, repentance, restoration, suffering, understanding, etc. God wants us to cancel the debt they owe us.
There are three things that can hinder us from forgiving others: judgments, vows, and false beliefs. When someone hurts us, we can hold on to judgments about them out of fear. We don’t realize it, but our judgments are an attempt to protect ourselves from painful memories associated with our abusers. We may judge their motives and try to read their minds. We tell ourselves, “He or she is evil, selfish, and does not care about me or love me.” Christ warns us about making such judgments (Matt. 7:1-2). These judgments can cause heart wounds that keep us from healing and growing. When we refuse to forgive that person, we can bind ourselves to the person we are judging and become more like that person.It is important to repent or change our minds about our judgments and ask God to release the person and ourselves from the consequences. 
Not only do judgments about our offenders hinder us from forgiving them, but so do the vows we make. Jesus opposed the practice of distorting vows so they could convey or conceal a lie (Matt. 5:33-35). We can make inner vows to survive the hurts we have suffered. For example, when a person I trusted hurts me, I may make an inner vow that says, “I will never trust anyone again!” Or “If I need others, they will take advantage of me!” These types of vows can become self-curses that result in isolation and loneliness, which cause us even more pain. These inner vows can often become subconscious and do not disappear with time. They are like a contract that must be renounced or broken. It is important to ask God to forgive us and break these vows we have made. 
False beliefs or lies can also prevent us from forgiving others. We may tell ourselves, “If I forgive them, they will get off the hook and there will never be any justice.” But the truth is, only God knows what is just (Rom. 12:19). Or “If I forgive, I will become vulnerable to them again.” The truth is that just because you forgive them does not mean that they are safe, and you must trust them again. They must earn your trust. For reconciliation on a horizontal level to take place, the perpetrator must apologize, repent or change his mind and behavior, and ask for forgiveness (Matt. 18:15-18; Luke 17:3-4). 
Forgiveness is so important because it gives us the ability to move on in life. Being unforgiving connects us to our past hurts and makes it difficult to receive the blessings of new relationships. Forgiveness occurs when the one who was wounded cancels the debt owed to him or her. When we forgive, we are free from those who hurt us. 
If you are struggling to forgive your perpetrator(s), take some time today to do this exercise: 
1. Ask God to reveal to you the people who have hurt you. Make a list. Start with those closest to you (e.g., your parents, siblings, spouse, children, or a close friend; etc.). Do the exercise with them one at a time. Think about the people whom you still “go back to court with” in your mind:
2. Wounds: What he or she did to you that hurt you: abandoned, abused, betrayed, criticized, lied, misrepresented, neglected, rejected, etc. What was the wound(s)?
3. Judgments (Matt. 7:1-2): The things you believe about them: e.g., they are evil, lazy, selfish, stupid, weak, didn’t love me, didn’t care for me, etc.). What are your judgments?
Repent of these judgments and ask God to release the person and yourself from the consequences (Matt. 7:1-2).
4. Vows (Matt. 5:33-35): Vows can be like self-cures, promises you told yourself to survive the wound(s), e.g.,“I don’t need or trust anyone,” or “whatever I do, it won’t be enough,” or “all men/women are ______,” etc.
Renounce and repent of these vows, asking God to forgive you and to break them.
5. Effect on You: What effect did the wound have on you (How did you cope)? Addiction, anger, anxiety, codependency, depression, food, isolation, stress, workaholism, etc.?
6. Their Debt: What debt do they owe you? What would they have to do for you to trust them again? Apologize, change their behavior, experience humiliation, justice, make restitution, money, repent, seek your forgiveness, suffer, etc.
Talk to the Lord, asking Him to make you both willing and able to cancel their debt as He has already cancelled yours to Him through Christ (Matt. 18:23-33; Ephes. 4:32).
7. False Beliefs. What false belief or lie is keeping you from forgiving them? Say the following false beliefs below to yourself to see if they feel true. If they do, then meditate on the true beliefs until the false beliefs no longer feel true. There are blank spaces at the end where you can write in the false belief(s) and true belief(s) that are not on the list.
False belief: If I forgive them, they will get off the hook and there will never be any justice.
True belief: Only God knows what is just (Rom. 12:19).
False belief: Forgiveness means I must pretend that nothing ever happened.
True belief: Forgiveness is not denial. You must tell yourself the truth about what they did and how it affected you to really be able to forgive them from the heart (Matt. 18:35; John 8:32).
False belief: If I forgive, I will become vulnerable to them again.
True belief: Just because you forgive them doesn’t mean that they are safe, and you must trust them again (Matt. 18:15-18; Luke 17:3-4).
False belief: My unforgiveness punishes them and is justified because I am right; they will never see their wrong and repent if I let go.
True belief: The truth is, it is God’s mercy and kindness that leads us to repentance. Only He knows what will change them (Rom. 2:4; Ephes. 4:24-32).
8. Forgiveness Prayer (Matt. 6:12, 14-15). If you are ready, insert the name of the person you have chosen to forgive into the following prayer of forgiveness. You may want to say it in your own words but be sure to include all the elements.
Father God, Your Word says that to be forgiven, I must forgive. And so, I come to You in the name of Jesus, in obedience and love, and I bring (name) _____ before You. I cancel _____ debt to me (e.g., apology, change of behavior, humiliation, justice, restitution, money, repent, seek forgiveness, suffer, etc.). I choose to forgive this hurt against me, and I ask that You not hold these sins against _____ on my account. I release _____ from any desire on my part to see _____ punished. In fact, as You have told me to do, I bless _____ in Your Son’s name, Jesus. You know _____ desires, needs, and hurts. You know what would bless _____. And so, I ask that You pour out Your love and healing to _____ and bring _____ Your highest good, because Your name is Good and Love, and You are not willing that any should perish. Now also, Father, please heal my heart and set me free to love _____ as You do. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
9. The Truth sets you free (John 8:36): Pray and ask God to show you this person as He sees them. Ask Him to show you what is true. One of the great mysteries of God is that He loves the perpetrator as much as the victim. Write down any insights God gives to you as you pray.
10. Is there anything God wants you to do to heal this relationship? Check with your counselor or discipleship group before you take any action.
 Adapted from Michael Dye’s The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Books 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 123-133.
ARE YOU UNABLE TO RESOLVE YOUR ANGER? THESE EXERCISES CAN PROVIDE HELP.
I. CLEANSING THE TEMPLE
This exercise is based on biblical principles found in Jesus’ cleansing of the temple (John 2:13-22). 
“13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’ 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.’ ” John 2:13-17
PRINCIPLE 1 – JESUS KNEW THE TEMPLE NEEDED TO BE CLEANSED
Jesus, the Owner of the temple, took full responsibility to cleanse His own temple. He could have made the moneychangers and sellers of doves who were the perpetrators in the account clean up their own mess, but He didn’t. He cleansed the temple.
In most of the accounts of Jesus cleansing the temple, the temple refers to a physical building in Jerusalem (cf. Matt. 21:12; Mark. 11:15; Luke 19:45). But in John’s account the temple refers to Jesus’ body:
“18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?’19 Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20 Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:18-22).
This is the first insight into the fact that Jesus was changing the dwelling place of God from the physical temple to the physical body of a human being. The apostle Paul develops this thought a little later when he teaches that believers in Jesus are God’s temple: “16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” (I Cor. 3:16-17; cf. 6:19-20). God’s plan all along was to dwell inside believers in Jesus. We are His holy temple. And our temples can become defiled through many different avenues, including manipulation, abuse, and neglect from others. When we get defiled through life, our temple gets defiled also and needs to be cleansed as well.
Just as Jesus cleansed His holy temple, which was defiled by others, so we are responsible to cleanse our temples when they are defiled by the abuse of others. Even if our perpetrators are sorry, he or she cannot cleanse our temple. They cannot remove the wounds placed inside our souls. By cleansing His own temple, Jesus sends us a clear message: We are responsible to cleanse our own temple as well.
PRINCIPLE 2 – JESUS IDENTIFIED THE SIN THAT CAUSED THE DEFILEMENT
When Jesus cleansed His temple early in His ministry, He identified the sin that defiled it when He said, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (John 2:16). In Luke 19:46 when Jesus cleansed His temple near the end of His earthly ministry He said, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (cf. Matt. 21:13; Mark 11:17). Jesus makes it very clear why He was cleansing His temple. They were taking something holy and misusing it to profit themselves. Most of the people who have hurt you have no concept of your holiness or preciousness. You have felt used or abused during the incidents in which you were wounded. You will need to identify the sin or wounding that has been done to you by those who have defiled your temple.
PRINCIPLE 3 – JESUS ENGAGED HIS ANGER AT THE INJUSTICE
Christ engaged His anger both physically and verbally at the injustice. He turned over the moneychangers’ tables and drove out the sacrificial animals. This is why the Jewish leaders challenged His authority to create such a ruckus.
Jesus was not having a bad day. This was an act of His will. It was a premeditated act of obedience. This is important to understand because the cleansing of your temple will take an act of your will. As you walk through these exercises, it will become an act of your obedience as well.
How do we know this was a premeditated act on Jesus’ part? The Bible tells us, “14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.” (John 2:14-15). Jesus “found” the misuse of the temple which indicates He was looking around and witnessing the peoples’ mistreatment of His holy temple. Then He gets a bunch of cords and takes the time to make “a whip.” We don’t know how long it took Jesus to make the whip, maybe minutes or hours, but He had already decided to use that whip when He entered His temple to cleanse it.
As you proceed to do this exercise. You will need to make choices to prioritize your time to prepare for cleansing your temple. Those who go about this intentionally and purposefully will receive more benefit for their lives.
PRINCIPLE 4 – THE TEMPLE WAS RESTORED TO ITS ORIGINAL ORDER
The record of Jesus cleansing the temple offers a picture of how to heal wounds inside your temple. After Jesus engaged His righteous anger and rage, His temple was cleansed. Only Jesus had the power to cleanse His own temple. No other prophet or king had done so before Him or after Him. He alone could clean His house. In the same way, we alone can clean our own temples with Jesus’ help.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION – “CLEANSING THE TEMPLE” EXERCISE
1. WRITE AN ANGER LETTER
The first step in the cleansing of your temple is to write an anger letter to the person who has hurt you, but do not send it. Imagine this person in the room with you, but he or she is unable to talk or move. You can say whatever you need to say to him or her in this letter. This is not a letter to suppress your emotions, but rather to vent all the thoughts and feelings of hate, disgust, anguish, and resentment that have been robbing your soul. Nor is this an “I forgive you” letter. That will come later. This letter is the place to remove the anger that has infected your soul.
2. GET WARMED UP
In Jesus’ situation, He made a whip for Himself. It is recommended you do not use a whip, but a padded baseball bat or tennis racket could be helpful. When I first did this exercise, I took a golf club and hit a paper picture of my perpetrator attached to a blanket that was draped over a stuffed ball and other blankets underneath. Begin with small hits. Then use medium, large, and extra-large hits. Do this three times. Warm up your voice as well. Shout “No!” each time you hit the pillow. Use small, medium, large, and extra-large “Nos” with your voice. This may feel awkward but removing this buildup of pain from your soul and spirit provides great relief. That is why it is important to be warmed up physically.
While warming up physically, make sure you are home alone. Disconnect or turn off the phone so that you are not disturbed.
***Note: Before doing this, if you have a heart condition or other medical condition that warrants talking to your medical doctor, please do so. Also, please do not substitute this exercise for professional Christian counseling. In fact, it is recommended that you are in counseling before doing this exercise.
3. READ YOUR LETTER ALOUD.
After your physical warm-up, take the letter you wrote to your offender and read it aloud to your imaginary offender. When I first did this, I taped a paper picture of my offender to a pillow and propped it up in a chair across from me. If your offender’s name is Toby, then you would read as follows: “Toby, how could you have done this to me? I trusted you!…” Of course, Toby is nowhere around. You certainly don’t need to do this with him or her around. You are simply in a room alone just reading the letter aloud.
4. ENGAGE YOUR ANGER PHYSICALLY AND VERBALLY
After reading your letter, pick up your bat. Hit the bed or pillow and symbolically let “Toby” have it. You can yell, scream, and cry, but release the emotional infection that has been robbing you. You can symbolically tell him that his secrets are not controlling you anymore. He was to blame! You have no limits as to what you can say to your offender. For once, let go of all the emotional control that is keeping this wound infected. Let it out!
This may last fifteen minutes to an hour. Your body will let you know when you have completely put this behind you – spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
Someone has given you something toxic, and you have been unhealthy ever since. After you remove it from you, you will feel so much better. You are worth getting it all out!
– When you do this cleansing exercise, only work on one offender at a time. If three different people have offended you, then you will need to complete three different sessions. Do not try to go through this exercise just once for all the different people who have offended you. Each “bullet” (wound) needs to be taken out separately.
– If several people have caused you trauma, make a list of them. Start with the least painful trauma and work your way up to the larger offenses. In this way, you will get better skilled at the exercise and will know what to expect.
– You may have different experiences and gain helpful insight as you work through your list. You may think offender number three was the worst, and yet an offender whom you considered less significant actually is a much larger venting experience for you.
– Remember you are cleansing your temple so that you can experience the best intimacy possible in your relationships. Carrying pain inside us causes us to protect ourselves from being hurt. Releasing the pain can cause us to be more open to trusting others again.
This next stage of healing is to be done after you have completed the cleansing the temple exercise. Wait about five days after you have finished the anger work of cleansing the temple concerning a particular offender. Five days or more after completing the anger work you will be feeling better. It is much like after you get over a cold, you feel that the junk in your lungs is gone, and you can breathe more clearly and easily.
With the forgiveness exercise you will approach the particular offender you did the anger work with in much the same way. Instead of contacting them if they are alive, you will role play with them. This exercise is most effective when you choose to forgive or release the debt your offender owes you. As with the anger work, do only one offender at a time.
Jesus taught, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15). Forgiveness is so important because it is connected to God’s forgiveness of us. I cannot enjoy fellowship or closeness with God the Father if I am not willing to forgive those who have hurt me. Being unforgiving connects us to our past hurts and makes it difficult to fully enjoy the blessings of our relationship with God and with other people in the present.
One of the ways we can know we have not forgiven someone is we keep rehearsing bitter and defensive thoughts toward those who have hurt us. We keep going “back to court” in our minds with all the things we wish we had said or want to say to them.  God invites us to release “from the heart” the hurt others have caused to us. Forgiveness requires the cancelling of a debt (cf. Matt. 18:21-35). Perhaps the person who has hurt us owes us an apology, justice, money, repentance, restoration, suffering, understanding, etc.  God wants us to cancel the debt they owe us.
This forgiveness exercise involves three steps.  Select one offender you’ve already done the anger work with and go through this process. Do this exercise while you are home alone. You will need two chairs.
1. ASSUME THE ROLE OF THE OFFENDER
Place the two chairs facing each other. Pick a chair and sit facing the other chair. We will call the chair in which you are sitting, “Chair A.”
While you are sitting in chair A, role-play your offender. You are now this person. As you role-play this individual, have him or her apologize and ask for forgiveness for all that they have done to you. They are hypothetically confessing to you in the other chair (chair B). If I were doing this exercise about my perpetrator, I would sit in chair A as I role-played my perpetrator. I would verbally own his sin, apologize and ask for forgiveness for the things I did and didn’t do to Jeff in chair B.
As I play my perpetrator, I might say, “Jeff, I need you to forgive me of…” Now since I am playing my perpetrator, I can say what he needs to say to me in order to own and apologize for his sin against my life.
2. ROLE-PLAY YOUR RESPONSE AS THE ONE OFFENDED
Now I have played my perpetrator as he asked forgiveness for several offenses against Jeff, who was symbolically sitting in chair B. Yet as the one offended, I heard by offender own his sin and ask forgiveness for it. Now I can start step two.
I begin by physically moving to sit in chair B, now role-playing myself.
After hearing my perpetrator ask for forgiveness, I now decide how I will respond. Above all be honest. If you are not ready to forgive your offender, tell him or her. You could say, “I’m just not ready to do this yet, but I will try again in a few weeks.”
Whatever you do when you play yourself, don’t be a phony or do what you think you should do. Do what is real and authentic.
If you are able to forgive your offender, then tell him or her. In our example, Jeff is now talking to his perpetrator in the opposite chair. In my exercise, I had a paper picture of my perpetrator’s face taped to chair A.
I could say, “___, I forgive you for …” I could really release him from his abuse and neglect of my soul and the impact his actions had on my life.
If you forgave your offender, you might consider praying a prayer of forgiveness with him or her. Your prayer might read like the following:
Father God, Your Word says that to be forgiven, I must forgive. And so I come to You in the name of Jesus, in obedience and love, and I bring ___ (Offender’s name), before You. I cancel his debt to me (apology, change of behavior, confession, repentance, humiliation, suffering, etc.). I choose to forgive the hurt against me, and I ask that You would not hold these sins against ___ on my account. I release ___ from any desire on my part to see him punished. In fact, as You have told me to do, I bless ___ in Your Son’s name, Jesus. You know ___’s desires, needs, and hurts. You know what would bless him. And so, I ask that You pour out Your love and healing to ___ and bring him Your highest good, because Your name is Good and Love, and You are not willing that any should perish. Now also, Father, please heal my heart and set me free to love ___ as You do. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
If you are not yet ready to forgive your offender, work through the Hindrances to Forgiveness Exercise in Appendix 5 which is adapted from Michael Dye’s book The Genesis Process.  Get out your calendar and set up a date in about three to four weeks when you will try this forgiveness exercise again. Do this every month to measure your progress until you ready to forgive.
3. ROLE-PLAY THE OFFENDER’S RESPONSE TO FORGIVENESS
In our example, Jeff has forgiven his perpetrator. Now I physically get up and sit down in chair A again and play the role of my offender. Now it is his offender’s turn to respond to Jeff’s forgiveness.
Jeff’s perpetrator (role-played by Jeff) might say, “Thanks, Jeff, for forgiving me for…” When Jeff’s offender is done talking to Jeff the exercise is over.
1. Start in chair A as the offender asking for forgiveness.
2. Now sit in chair B as yourself, and honestly respond to your offender’s request for forgiveness.
3. If you have forgiven him or her, go back to chair A and play the offender responding to the forgiveness.
This can be a very emotional exercise for those with extremely abusive backgrounds, so have a box of tissues nearby. In addition, make sure the phone, doorbell, or anything else will not interrupt you. It will be important for you to stay focused.
Do this forgiveness exercise only after you have completed the Cleansing the Temple exercise. Many individuals attempt to forgive before they address their wounds and heal. Jesus cleansed the temple (Luke 19:45-46) before He issued the words, “Father forgive them” (Luke 23:34). Cleansing comes first, then forgiveness.
In both exercises, each offender gets his or her time in the chair with you. You must role-play each one and receive an individual apology from each. Don’t role-play more than one offender in a day.
Releasing debts your offender owes you will free you if you complete your Cleansing the Temple work first. I have personally experienced much freedom through these exercises as God met me where I was at. If my offenders were still alive, I have found much freedom to love them as God loves me.
Let’s pray together:
Lord Jesus, I invite you to help me process my woundedness and to apply these exercises to my life. Comfort me, Lord Jesus, and lead me to still waters where I can drink of the intimacy that You have for me. In Your name Lord Jesus, I pray. Amen. 
 Adapted from Doug Wiess, Intimacy: A 100-Day Guide To Lasting Relationships (Lake Mary, FL: Siloam Charisma Media/Charisma House Book Group, 2003), pp. 53-61.
“When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. ” John 2:15
Imagine you pull into the church parking lot on Sunday morning. Your heart is full of anticipation. Your cup is empty, and you are ready to fill it. You are ready to enter the place of worship and join your brothers and sisters in joyous worship. You look forward to singing the hymns of the faith. You feel the need to commune in prayer. You long to feed upon the unchanging Word of God. You are eager to share with the family of God.
But as you pull up, the parking lot is crammed full. You can’t even find a place to park. You won’t be denied. You park down the street and walk a few blocks. But as you try to enter the building there is a long line. There are tables set up at every foyer entrance. People are writing checks and putting down cash on the tables and getting tokens in return to place in the offering plates. You finally make it to the table and are told that you need the new church currency to make an offering. So, you place a $20 bill on the table and get a $10 church coin in return. You finally make it through the entrance, only to find the foyer very congested. Booths are set up all throughout the foyer. People are selling hymn books at one booth. “Get your song books here. You can’t sing without your official church song book. Rent yours for only $19.95.” Another booth has people buying and selling Bibles. The sign reads “Official Church Bible. Get yours for only $29.99.” At other booths, you notice merchants selling offering envelopes, notebooks for sermon notes, and refreshments.
There is so much commotion and commerce going on that you throw your hands up in disgust realizing you’ll never make it into the sanctuary to worship. If you can imagine an experience like this and how frustrating it would be, then you can understand what it was like inside the temple courtyard during the time of Passover when Jesus came to worship. John records this event for us in John 2:12-25. This temple cleansing was near the beginning of Jesus public ministry. The second temple cleansing was near the end of His public ministry and was one of the reasons for His death (cf. Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-16; Luke 19:45-46). 
You may recall that in John 1:14 we saw that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” He was the perfect balance of grace and truth. Last week we saw Jesus express His grace by transforming water into wine at a wedding banquet in Cana of Galilee. He replaced something old with something new. New wine replaced old water. Today we will see His truth at work replacing a dirty temple with a clean one. From this we will discover HOW WE CAN EXPERIENCING JESUS’ CLEANSING TRUTH IN OUR LIVES. The first way is seen in 2:12-17.
2:12: Jesus went “down” from Cana because of the decline in land elevation “to Capernaum” on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee,  about eighteen miles northeast of Cana  (see above map). Jesus would adopt “Capernaum” as His ministry based in Galilee (cf. Matt. 4:13; Mark 1:21; 2:1) and move there after His rejection at Nazareth (cf. Matt. 4:12-14). Jesus performed some of His greatest miracles at Capernaum (John 4:46-54; cf. Mark 2:1-12) and taught in its synagogue  (John 6:22-59; cf. Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37).
The purpose of this trip to Capernaum is not stated by the apostle John, but it seems to be for a time of rest with “His mother, His brothers, and His disciples.” The Bible tells us that Jesus had physical “brothers” (John 2:12; 7:1-10; cf. Matt. 12:46-47; 13:55; Mark 3:32; 6:3; Luke 8:19-20) and “sisters” (Matt. 13:56; Mark 6:3) which clearly indicates that Joseph and Mary had other children after Jesus’ birth.  The idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity appeared later in church history  and cannot be substantiated by Scripture.
Evidently this trip was only for a short stay in Capernaum since John wrote that “they did not stay there many days” (2:12b). As important as time with His family and friends was, Jesus did not want to miss going up to Jerusalem to worship God during the Passover.
2:13: The “Passover” was an annual Jewish festival celebrating God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, when the angel of death passed over every home where the blood of a lamb was applied to the doorposts of the home (Exod. 12-13). It also initiated the Feast of Unleavened Bread, so the entire celebration lasted over a week. Jews from all over the world came to Jerusalem to meet with God and be obedient to His commands.
This is John’s first of three explicit references to the “Passover” in his gospel (2:13; 6:4; 12:1).  This Passover was in the year A.D. 30 on Friday, April 7, at the beginning of Christ’s public ministry.  John is the only gospel writer to mention the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The Synoptic gospel writers refer to Christ’s second cleansing of the temple near the end of His public ministry during the week in which He was crucified (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46). 
When the apostle states that “Jesus went up to Jerusalem,” it reflects the ascent in elevation as one travels from the surrounding regions to reach the city at 2,424 feet elevation.  While Jesus tried to make His way into the temple, He discovered that it had become a place of peddling instead of a place of prayer.
2:14: The word translated “temple” (heiron) refers to the outer “court of the Gentiles” surrounding the temple building (naos) where the Holy of Holies was located  (see temple diagram below). In this outer court surrounding the temple, Jesus “found… those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.” Jesus “found” the misuse of the temple which indicates He was looking around and witnessing the peoples’ mistreatment of His holy temple.
Israel’s“priesthood was completely corrupt, and the temple had been polluted by the priests’ greed. The courts of the complex had become a mixture of flea market and stock market. This so-called ‘Annas Bazaar’ was named for Annas, a godfather-like figure who once held the office of high priest but had been deposed by the Roman government more than fifteen years earlier. Since that time, he ruled through a successive series of puppet priests, most of them his sons, and continued to run a well-established con game on a grand scale. Put bluntly, he was corrupt to the core.
“Throughout the year, but especially at Passover, all Jewish males were expected to visit the temple, to pay the tax required by the Law of Moses, and to sacrifice an animal. On Passover, the sacrifice was to be a lamb, and as always, it had to be without blemish or defect. Moreover, the tax had to be paid in shekels, not in foreign currency, which bore images forbidden by the Law.
“Annas and his cronies set up stations in the temple courts for the purpose of exchanging foreign currency for shekels—for an exorbitant fee, of course. Then, he supplied sacrificial animals, for which he charged top price. If someone brought his own animal, an inspector would judge it unfit and offer another in trade… for additional cash. Undoubtedly, the inferior animal would become some other man’s “superior” sacrifice later on. What a racket!”
Let’s say you come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. You bring an animal to sacrifice to the Lord, because that’s the way you worshiped God then. Your children had cared for this animal for months and he had become a cherished pet – though he was about to become the family’s sacrifice. You go into the temple courtyard and there is a “booth of approval,” manned by one of the strictest of the Pharisees. Before you could offer your family’s lamb for sacrifice it had to be approved. But this inspector finds defects in your lamb. “Hey, we can’t accept this animal as a sacrifice – it has too many things wrong with it. You need to go to the vender’s booth over there. There you can buy a lamb pre-approved for sacrifice.” Think of how your kids feel. “What about our lamb? Doesn’t God care about that? How do we get to God?” So, you go over to the vendor’s booth and pay ten times the real value for a pre-approved lamb. (Just like when you go to the theater and a 50-cent bag of popcorn costs you $4.) So, you get your money out to buy one of his animals.
And the vendor says to you, “Wait a minute. We can’t acceptthat currency. You need to exchange your coins for temple money overhere at the moneychangers’ table and that will be an extra fee.” So, you go up to the moneychangers’ table and give them a silver dollar and they only give you 25 cents of temple money. Just like if you went to a pawn shop with a $1000-dollar ring and the broker would only offer you $100. Wanting to show your love for God you pay all these fees. And by the end of the day, you didn’t know if you were pleasing God or just pleasing the religious leaders. Meeting with God seemed too far beyond your reach.
This scene is what Jesus saw when He entered the temple courts. How does our Lord respond? 2:15: Christ engaged His anger both physically and verbally at the injustice. He was not having a bad day. This was a premeditated act of His will. How do we know this? John tells us Christ gets a bunch of “cords” and takes the time to make “a whip.” We don’t know how long it took Jesus to make the whip, maybe minutes or hours, but He had already decided to use that whip when He entered His temple to cleanse it.
Christ, the Son of the Owner of the temple, took full responsibility to cleanse His Father’s temple. He could have made the moneychangers and sellers of oxen, sheep, and doves clean up their own mess, but He didn’t. Jesus cleansed the temple. He “overturned” the moneychangers’ “tables” and “drove them all out of the temple,” including animals and people. This is not the soft spoken, gentle Savior that so many of us often think Jesus was. Here we find Jesus angry and aggressive as He cleanses the temple of corruption. I mean it must have been like being in one of those villages in Spain when they let the bulls run loose in the streets. Cows and sheep are running loose. People are yelling and screaming, “Help! Out of the way! The Carpenter has gone crazy!”
“The awesome power of Jesus is evident. Surely crooked merchants must have objected to this treatment. Yet there is no hint that any of them tried to stop Him. Jesus either sovereignly hindered opposition, or He manifested such righteous indignation that all were too afraid and amazed to try to stop Him.” 
I want to take a moment to talk about the emotion of anger. So often we can skip over these verses and not address this issue. Anger in and of itself is not wrong. In the Bible, we see that God experienced anger (cf. Exod. 4:14; Num. 11:10; Deut. 7:4; Mark 3:5; John 2:13-16; 3:36; 11:33, 38; Rom. 1:18; 12:19).
I cannot remember hearing a sermon that addressed how to deal with anger in our Christian lives. Thankfully, God has revealed in the Bible how to resolve our anger. The apostle Paul quotes the phrase “Be angry and do not sin” (Ps. 4:4a) in Ephesians 4:26 when he is talking to believers about not grieving the Holy Spirit with their communications toward one another (cf. Ephes. 4:25-32). Psalm 4:4-5 teach us some important principles for dealing with our anger:
1. ADMIT AND FEEL YOUR ANGER (“Be angry and do not sin” – 4:4a). The feeling of anger is not wrong in and of itself. Even God feels anger (cf. Exod. 4:14; Num. 11:10; Deut. 7:4; Mark 3:5; John 2:13-16; 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 12:19; Col. 3:6; Heb. 3:11; 4:3; Rev. 6:16; 19:15; et. al). What we do with our anger can be sinful. When we admit our anger, we begin to take control of it. It is important to use “I feel…” statements which take responsibility for our own anger. For example: “I feel angry when you…” But spiritual perfectionism says, “I’m not angry.” Shame-based statements use the word “You.” For example: “You make me feel so angry!” The last two examples do not honor what God is saying here – “Be angry and do not sin,” because they do not acknowledge or take responsibility for one’s own anger.
2. TALK TO THE LORD UNTIL YOU CAN BE STILL (“Meditate [talk] within your heart on your bed, and be still” – 4:4b; cf. 4:3). As we talk to the Lord (4:3), He can help us identify the source of our anger – Is it selfishness or perfectionism? Or is it because we have been wronged?
3. DO WHAT IS RIGHT WHICH INCLUDES FORGIVING OTHERS AND YOURSELF (“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness” – 4:5a). Sacrifices were offered in the Old Testament as a means of forgiveness (cf. Heb. 9:22). As God shows us the source of our anger, we can seek forgiveness if we were being selfish or perfectionistic (I John 1:9), or we can extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us (Ephes. 4:32).
4. TRUST THE LORD WITH THE SITUATION (“And put your trust in the Lord” – 4:5b). Many believers struggle with the first two steps the most and skip right over them to forgive and trust the Lord without acknowledging or processing their feelings. But if we do not admit our anger or hurt, and turn it over to the Lord, it is very difficult to forgive “from the heart” (cf. Matt. 18:35).
Somehow Christians are not comfortable admitting their deep hurt and anger. Perhaps it is due to the perfectionism that is taught in churches today. But if we are to be more like Jesus Christ, we can learn to admit our anger and release it to God, so He can use it the way He intended – to accomplish His righteousness (cf. Mark 3:5; John 2:13-16; Jas.1:19-20). If we refuse to address our anger God’s way, it will result in more brokenness in the body of Christ because we are giving the devil an opportunity to lead us into greater sin (cf. Ephes. 4:26-27).
For some of us, we may not be able to resolve our anger because it is attached to unresolved trauma or abuse in our past. In such cases, it may be helpful to do the exercise in Appendix 4 – Cleansing the Temple and Forgiveness Exercise based on Jesus’ cleansing of the temple in John 2:13-22. *** Note: Please do not substitute this exercise for professional Christian counseling. In fact, it is recommended that you are in counseling before doing this exercise.
2:16: When Jesus sees “those who sold doves,” He points the finger and identifies the sin that defiled His “Father’s” temple, saying, “Take these things away. Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” The command, “Take… away,” uses the imperative (arate) that is from the same verb (airō) used in John 1:29 when John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away [airō] the sin of the world.”
“By telling the sellers to ‘take these things away’ Jesus was figuratively taking away the sin of the world in an experiential sense. In the eternal kingdom Jesus will have taken it away completely. One day the zeal Jesus demonstrated will be a universal zeal that all subjects of the kingdom will have.
“When Jesus removed the sacrificial animals from the temple, Hepictured a coming day when there would be no more need for such sacrifices (1:29; Heb 10:10, 14).” 
The temple was designed by God to be a place where people could meet with God. But it had become a place where people were abused in the name of God! The tragic truth was this had become the least likely place where you could meet with the Lord. Jesus must remove the religious pretenders before He can truly minister to those who need Him.
For many people today, this is still a reality. There are people today who long to meet with God in a place of worship, but when they go, all too often they discover a system that gives them more work to do to be “close” to God. The problem with this is they never know if they are pleasing God or the religious leaders. You say to yourself, “Something feels wrong with having to follow all these rules – but it is God’s House. It says so on the sign.” And they get worn out or they leave and give up on God altogether.
Please understand, that if you came out of a church or religion where you had to pay and pay and pay some more to get close to God, you need to encounter the true God and eternal life, Jesus Christ (I John 5:20). Jesus fights for you just like He did back then. And He wants to heal your hurts and lighten your load. He wants to make it so easy for you to come (just as you are) and meet with Him. A church with Jesus Christ as the Head will not charge you to meet with God. It is free just like salvation. Christ does not want anything in His church to make it difficult for people to worship the Lord…to draw closer to Him.
Jesus warns all of us who are spiritual leaders: Woe to you if you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men. We need to ask ourselves are we door-openers or door closers? Are we making it difficult for people to come to Christ or simple? Sometimes the Lord must remove religious pretenders before true worship can take place… before Jesus can truly minister His grace to those in need. I truly believe when Jesus is free to minister His grace in a church – look out! It will explode with people who need His healing touch.
Hence, the first way to experience Jesus’ cleansing truth is to RELY ON CHRIST TO CLEANSE YOUR LIFE (2:12-16) from sin and corruption. According to the Bible, where is the temple of God located today? The apostle Paul answers this question when writing to Christians in the city of Corinth, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”(I Cor. 3:16). The temple of God is no longer located in Jerusalem. It is now located in every believer in Jesus Christ. The temple is located in our physical bodies. In the Old Testament, God’s temple was a sacred place. It was a place where God Himself resided and where people came to worship Him. Today, God’s temple is still a sacred place where God dwells.
The truth is all of us are like those religious leaders who were robbing the people of their money. All of us are thieves. But you may say, “Wait a minute pastor. I’m not perfect, but I am no thief.” We probably all agree that we are not perfect, but are we all thieves? Maybe we wouldn’t break into our neighbor’s home to steal his stereo, but we rob him of his reputation when we gossip about him. Maybe you’ve never stolen a woman’s virginity, but you rob her future husband of the gratification that God intended only him to have when you lust after her. You don’t have to steal money to be a thief. If Jesus came today and looked at the temple of God in you, would He have the same reaction as He did in Jerusalem with the corrupt priests and merchants? Would He get angry at what He saw, or would He be pleased with what He sees in your life? Friends, if we have pollution in God’s temple, then it’s time for us to allow Jesus to clean it out and stop trying to hide and cover up our sins.
One day a man purchased a white mouse to use as food for his pet snake. He dropped the mouse into the snake’s glass cage, where the snake was sleeping in a bed of sawdust. What did the terrified mouse do? He quickly set to work covering the snake with sawdust chips until it was completely buried. With that, the mouse apparently thought he had solved his problem. Listen, no matter how hard we try to hide or deny our sins, it is futile. Sin will eventually awake from its sleep and shake off its cover and eat us alive.
So how do we allow Jesus to cleanse our lives from sin and corruption? If you are not a Christian, you must first believe or trust in Christ alone to forgive your sins. The Bible says: “All the prophets say it is true that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins through Jesus’ name.” (Acts 10:43 NCV). Before we become Christians, our lives are contaminated by sin. This sin separates us from God. And since God is holy and perfect, He cannot dwell in our contaminated bodies until we believe or trust Christ alone to forgive us and cleanse us of “all” our wrongdoings (Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14). So, the moment you put your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, God removes the barriers of sin and comes to live inside you forever.
If we are already Christians, the apostle John instructs us in his epistle to “walk in the light as He is in the light” so we may “have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7). Notice John says to walk “in” (en) the light, not “according” (kata) to the light. Walking “according” to the light would refer to sinless perfection and would make fellowship with God impossible for sinful people. But the preposition “in” refers to walking in the sphere of God’s light where there is no darkness or dishonesty. In other words, to have fellowship with God we must be open and honest with Him, not sinless, as we walk in the light with Him.
When we are open and honest with God, the Bible says we will “have fellowship with one another” (I John 1:7). The word, “fellowship” (koinōnia) means a “close association involving mutual interests and sharing, … close relationship.”Being open and honest before God enables us to share the light with Him. As we live in this sphere of light, our experience is illumined by the truth of Who God is. The “one another” refers to God and Christians in the context. 
How can sinful believers enjoy fellowship with a sinless God? How can sinful Christians be close to a God Who does not allow sin in His presence? The last part of the verse explains. “And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1:7b). Right now, you and I are not aware of all the sin that is in our lives. But God knows about it. And being the gracious and merciful God that He is, He does not reveal all our sin at once. If He did, we would be so overwhelmed by all our sin it would probably kill us on the spot.
But the reason we can enjoy closeness with our holy God even though we have all this unknown sin in our lives is because the blood of Christ “cleanses us from all sin.” Notice the present tense of “cleanses.” We do not need to do acts of penance to be forgiven and cleansed of our sins after we become Christians.  We simply keep walking in the light, as God is in the light, and although we remain sinful people, the blood of Jesus Christ keeps cleansing us of all our sins. So, no matter how badly or often Christians have sinned, the blood of Jesus is sufficient to cleanse them of all their sins when they are living openly to God’s revealing truth. Christ’s death on the cross for all our sins (cf. I John 2:1-2; Col. 2:13-14) provides the basis of fellowship between a sinless God and sinful human beings.
While it is true that those who believe in Jesus for eternal life are positionally cleansed and forgiven of all their sins – past, present, and future (Acts 10:43; I Cor. 6:11; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14; Tit. 3:4-7), “they still need ongoing cleansing based on Christ’s blood that enables imperfect children to have a genuine experience of sharing with a perfectly holy heavenly Father.” Hence, the blood of Christ makes provision for both our positional forgiveness/cleansing of all our sins which enables us to enter God’s heaven (cf. Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14; Heb. 9:22-10:18) and our practical or fellowship forgiveness/cleansing of sins which enables us to enjoy fellowship with God on earth (cf. I John 1:9; Matt. 6:12, 14-15).
It is important for Christians to understand that it is not their responsibility to uncover their own sin. They may have overly sensitive consciences and are worried that they have unconfessed sin in their lives, so they spend a lot of time examining themselves instead of focusing on the Lord. The Bible makes it clear that it is God’s responsibility to reveal our sin to us through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word (cf. John 16:8-11; 2 Tim. 3:16). But it is our responsibility to be open and honest with God when He does point out the sin that is in our lives so we can confess it to Him.
The Bible promises that when we do confess our sin to the Lord, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). To “confess” means to agree with God that what you did, said, or thought was wrong (see comments on John 1:8). When God reveals unconfessed sin in our lives as we walk in the light, we are to confess or agree with His conclusions. So, when we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with His view of our sins. He hates our sins (Ps. 45:7). Our sins deeply hurt Him (Ephes. 4:30). 
“We are admitting that what the light exposes is not just a mistake, a bad habit, or a mere product of our upbringing. It’s sin.” 
It is important to note that the word “our” in the phrases “confess our sins” and “forgive us our sins” (I John 1:9), is not in the Greek text. The Greek text reads “confess the sins” (homologōmentas hamartias) and “forgive us the sins” (aphē hēmin tas hamartias). The definite article “the” (tas) in the phrase “forgive us the sins” is what grammarians call “the article of previous reference.” What this means is when we honestly confess “the” specific sin or sins God’s light reveals in our lives, “the” specific sins we confess are forgiven.
This tells us that when we become aware of sin in our Christian lives, it is this awareness that breaks our fellowship or closeness with God. So, if we confess the sins of which we are aware, then God is “faithful and just” to forgive those specific sins. The word “forgive” (aphiēmi) can mean to “cancel” a debt that is owed.  This is judicial or positional forgiveness whereby God cancels our sin debt to Him the moment we believe in Jesus for His complete forgiveness of all our sins so we can become His forever children (cf. Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14; John 1:12; 6:37). We are declared totally righteous before God in His courtroom at the moment of faith in Christ (Rom. 3:21-4:5; 8:33). John is not talking about this kind of forgiveness in I John. In I John the apostle is talking about personal or fellowship forgiveness whereby the barrier that sin creates between a Christian and God is removed so his fellowship or closeness with God is restored. 
Our heavenly Father is “faithful” to forgive us when we confess our sins to Him because we have an eternal relationship with Him (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 17:3). There may be times when we think that going to God for forgiveness of the same sin with no victory in sight presumes upon His grace and mercy. We may ask ourselves, “How can the Lord forgive me over and over for the same sin?” The simple answer is God is “faithful.” His faithfulness is not based upon ours. He has promised to forgive us when we come to Him on His terms. His forgiveness for our fellowship or closeness with Him is based on His forgiveness for our relationship with Him. 
For example, when parents decide to have children, they already know their children will commit sins. They are aware that their children will be imperfect. But this does not prevent the parents from choosing to have the children. And when the child is conceived, an eternal relationship begins. Nothing, including death, can change the fact that this child will always be the child of his or her parents. So, in a sense, since this relationship will last forever, the child has positional forgiveness for all his or her future sins. And based on this positional forgiveness, the parents are predisposed to fellowship-forgiveness whenever their child sins against them but also chooses to come back to them and seek their forgiveness. God gave us positional or relationship forgiveness when we became His forever children through belief in Jesus Christ (John 1:12; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). Based on that, He will always be “faithful” to grant us fellowship-forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him (I John 1:9; cf. Matt. 6:12, 14-15; to restore our closeness to Him. 
You may be thinking that this does not seem right to keep coming over and over again to God asking for forgiveness for the same sin. Isn’t that taking advantage of God’s grace and mercy? It seems contrary to God’s holiness. Oh, but it is right for God to forgive His children when they confess their sins to Him. This forgiveness is not contrary to God’s holiness – He is “just” (I John 1:9). The word for “just” (dikaios) is the same word used as a title to Jesus Christ in I John 2:1 where it is translated “the Righteous One.” When Jesus finished paying the penalty of all the sins of the world on the cross (John 19:30; I Cor. 15:3-6), He satisfied God’s holy and “just” demand to punish sin (I John 2:1-2). So, God is not compromising His holiness when He forgives the sinning Christian when he or she confesses their sin. This forgiveness is not based on our deservedness or performance. It is based on the atoning sacrifice of Christ.  Christ’s shed blood is sufficient for the sinning Christian (I John 1:7; 2:1-2).
The fact that God’s justice was completely satisfied when Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins can empower us to forgive others when they sin against us. We may be reluctant to forgive someone who deeply hurt us, fearing that they will not get the justice they deserve. But the truth is, none of us in Christ received the justice we deserved. Christ received God’s justice in our place even though He, being sinless, did not deserve it.
I am not suggesting that God takes sin lightly nor should we. God hates sin. He is grieved by our sins. The Lord wants His children to gain victory over that sin. But until a believer is open and honest with God about the sin God reveals to him or her, that believer will not be in fellowship with God. Nor will he or she have access to God’s power while living out of fellowship with the Lord.
There are some Christians who teach that a Christian does not need to confess his sins and ask forgiveness because a believer already has complete forgiveness of all his sins including his future sins (Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). But this conclusion confuses the believer’s positional forgiveness (Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7) with his fellowship forgiveness (I John 1:9). A Christian who does not see his need to seek his heavenly Father’s forgiveness when he disobeys the Lord will not be very sensitive to the multiple ways he grieves God. In addition, the Lord Jesus taught His believing disciples to seek forgiveness of their sins when He taught them how to pray each day (e.g., the expression “give us this day our daily bread” precedes the request “forgive us our debts” (Matt. 6:11-12). 
We have talked about confessing the specific sins in our lives of which we are aware. But what about all the unknown sin in our lives? The last part of I John 1:9 explains that when we confess the specific sins of which we are aware, God is “faithful and just” to not only forgive those specific sins we confessed, but He will also “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This “all unrighteousness” refers to all the other sins in our lives that we are not aware of. It has been estimated that 90% of the decisions we make are unconscious in nature.  There are many sinful choices we all make of which we have no conscious knowledge. We all have far more sin in our lives that we do not know about. But God sees all our sins – the sins we consciously choose (“our sins”) and the sins we unconsciously choose (“all unrighteousness”). We do not need to agonize about the sins we are not conscious of because the shed blood of Jesus Christ “cleanses us” from all of them when we confess the specific sins God’s light reveals to us (1:7, 9). Nothing in our lives is left uncleansed.
So, how can sinful Christians be close to a God Who does not allow sin in His presence? The apostle John tells us in I John 1 that we simply keep walking in the light, as God is in the light, and although we remain sinful people, the blood of Jesus Christ keeps cleansing us of all our sins. This is good news that is worth sharing with others!!!
The apostle John explains this further in John 2:17-22: 2:17: When Christ’s disciples watched Jesus cleanse the temple, they probably stood back “in stunned silence. With mouths wide open, they stared astonished as Jesus tossed furniture like toothpicks and slung coins like seeds. The lash of His whip sent livestock scurrying behind their unclean owners as the temple Owner’s voice echoed through the courts, ‘Take these things away!’ And the disciples remembered Psalm 69:9,”“Zeal for Your house will eat Me up.” 
In Psalm 69:9, King David meant that zeal for the building of the temple had dominated his thoughts and actions, and he implied that others would criticize him for it. John applies this verse to the future Messianic Davidic King of Israel, implying that Jesus is their promised Messiah. 
“The Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would have a consuming zeal for the temple and for God the Father. Jesus was consumed with doing what His Father had sent Him to do (4:34). His consuming dedication ultimately consumed Him when He gave up His life on the cross (cf. 2:19-22).”
When Christ cleansed the temple at the beginning (John 2:13- 17) and end of His public ministry (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-47), He was declaring war on the hypocritical religious leaders (Matt. 23:1-36), and this would ultimately lead to His death. 
Do we have this kind of zeal for God’s work? Are we willing to risk our lives or reputations for the Lord? This kind of enthusiasm comes from a dynamic relationship with the Lord. We cannot manufacture this kind of zeal on our own. It comes from knowing and loving Jesus!
2:18: The Jews did not question Jesus’ actions nor address Christ’s indictment of them for making His “Father’s house” into “a house of merchandise” (2:16)! Instead, they question Jesus’ authority. Who does He think He is by doing this? They demanded a miraculous “sign” to prove He has the right to take such action. By asking for a sign from Jesus, these religious leaders recognize that by cleansing the temple and speaking of His “Father’s house,” Jesus was presenting Himself as the promised Messiah-God. 
“Concerned with the issue of authority—just as they were with the Baptizer in the Judean wilderness—they said, in effect, ‘If you’re declaring Yourself to be the Messiah by this act, authenticate Yourself with a series of miracles.’”
I love Jesus’ response here. He confuses them even more. “Youwant a sign. I will give you a sign.”2:19: He used this “veiled” response to stimulate the thinking of these Jews. The word translated “temple” (naos) refers to the sanctuary or Holy Place, as distinguished from the temple courtyards (heiron), including the Court of Gentiles Jesus just cleansed.  Jesus intentionally calls His body “this temple” (naos) alluding to the reality that on the New Earth He will be the new “temple” (naos – Rev 21:22). 
“Only a perceptive hearer would comprehend it, and none of themqualified. In fact, His own disciples didn’t understand His true meaning until after His resurrection.”
“John highlights this tendency of Jesus more than the other gospelwriters. Jesus didn’t waste His words on people who didn’t want to hear. In fact, He didn’t speak in order to convince the skeptic or sway the dissenter. His words were intended to divide His audience into two groups: receptive hearts and hard hearts. He understood that hearing Him is not an intellectual process, but a crisis of the will. Several times throughout the story when Jesus says something cryptic, some people think they understand Him and turn away, while others admit their confusion and draw nearer.”
If these “Jews” genuinely want to know if Jesus is their promised Messiah, then they would seek the answer from Him. Christ is referring to the greatest and last “sign” recorded in the gospel of John that points to His identity as the Christ, the Son of God which is His death and resurrection (cf. 19:17-20:31).
The Sanhedrin later used Jesus’ words about destroying the temple as a capital charge against Him at His trial (Matt. 26:61; Mark 14:58; cf. Matt. 27:40; Mark 15:29). This was dishonest and unfair, however, because Jesus had said, ‘Destroy this temple,’ not I will destroy the temple. Furthermore, Jesus was speaking of His body, not the Jerusalem temple.”
2:20: As Christ anticipated, these “Jews” took Him literally and misunderstood Him to refer to the “temple” building which took Herod the Great “forty-six years to build.”  Such a massive and enduring temple structure was not likely to be destroyed and rebuilt “in three days.”
2:21: Thanks to John’s post-resurrection perspective, we know that Jesus is not speaking of destroying Herod’s temple building, but rather He is “speaking of the temple of His” own physical “body” which will be crucified and buried.
2:22: It was not until after Jesus “had risen from the dead” and appeared to “His disciples” that they “remembered that He had said this to them.” It was then that “they believed the Scripture” in the Old Testament concerning Christ’s resurrection (cf. Ps. 16:10; Isa. 53:12) “and the word which Jesus had” spoken to them.
It is not the Jerusalem temple but the human body of Jesus that represents the presence of God. Let me remind you of something. Christianity is not about buildings. It is not about a church building. It is not even about a philosophy of life. Christianity is about a relationship with the One Who died and rose again for our sins so “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
So, the reason a holy God can come into our contaminated lives full of sin is because of Christ’s death and resurrection. God’s holiness demands that sin be punished, but His heart desires that the sinner be pardoned. Hence, God sent His Son Jesus to take the punishment you and I deserved.
The United States was shocked in 1998 by the tragic news of two young boys who opened fire on schoolchildren as they ran from their building in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Four children and a teacher were killed, and five others were injured. The teacher died when she stepped forward to shield one of her sixth graders. She saved the girl but lost her own life. The teacher became her substitute and died in her place. 
Jesus Christ died as our Substitute. Just as the teacher took the bullets for the young girl, Christ took the punishment for our sin and died in our place. Jesus Christ did what our good works could never do. We are saved by Christ’s dying, not by our doing. Three days after His death Jesus came back to life. By rising from the grave on the third day He proved He had conquered sin and death. The second way to experience Christ’s cleansing truth is to REALIZE THAT CHRIST’S DEATH AND RESURRECTION MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR A HOLY GOD TO LIVE INSIDE US (2:17-22).
This leads to the third way to experience Christ’s cleansing truth. 2:23-24: During the week-long feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus did many miraculous “signs.” As a result, “many believed in His name” for eternal life (2:23). Some argue that these people were not truly saved because their faith was based on miraculous signs and because Jesus did not “commit Himself to them” (2:24). 
However, the reasons for understanding that these people are genuinely saved are substantial:
1. The phrase “believed in His name” is always used of people believing in Jesus to get them to heaven in John’s writings. This phrase “believed in His name” in John 2:23 is used in John 1:12-13 to refer to saving faith. Those verses prepare the reader to understand John 2:23 in the same way.  Grounds for condemnation are because one has not “believed in the name” of the Son of God (John 3:18). In John 20:31, a believer may have life “in His name.” Thus, there is nothing in John’s usage of “believe in the name”to suggest that the faith in John 2:23 is not saving faith. 
2. The “believe in”construction is a common Johannine expression for saving faith (John 1:12; 3:16, 18, 36; 4:39; 6:29, 35, 40, 47; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:30; 9:35, 36; 11:2526, 48; 12:11, 37, 42, 44, 46; cf. I John 5:13). Nothing in John 2:23 suggests a different understanding.
“The phrase pisteuō eis, “believe in,” is John’s standard expression for saving faith (cf. John 6:40; 7:39; 8:30; 10:42; 11:25-26; 12:11). One believes ‘on Him’ or ‘in His name.’” 
“When Calvin says that they did not have true faith but were only borne along by some impulse of zeal which prevented them from carefully examining their hearts, he is therefore flatly contradicting John’s consistent usage in the rest of his writings. This illustrates ‘theologicalexegesis.’” 
“Martin Lloyd-Jones falls into the same error. He feels that those who‘believed in His name’ ‘did not truly believe in Him. They gave a kind of intellectual assent, they seemed to believe in Him; but He knew that they had not believed in Him in reality, and that is why He did not commit Himself to them.” 
“He cites John 6:60-66, where Jesus says there were some disciples ‘that believe not’ and concludes that this explains the people in John 2:25. But isn’t this directly contradicting the very words of John? John tells us that in John 2, contrary to the unbelieving disciples in John 6, these people specifically did believe. On what authority does Lloyd-Jones say they did not? How else could John say it if his intent was to indicate saving faith? Nowhere in the New Testament are adverbs, such as ‘truly’ or ‘really’ ever used to modify ‘believe’ in a soteriological context. These adverbs are frequently inserted in front of the word ‘believe’ in Experimental writings in order to sustain the fiction of the final perseverance of the saints in holiness to the final hour.” 
3. Nothing in the gospel of John suggests that belief based on Christ’s miracles is not genuine. Jesus even taught unbelievers to believe in Him because of the works or miraculous signs He did (John 10:38; 14:11). John finds fault with those who fail to believe in Christ after observing His miracles (John 12:37). The apostle recorded Jesus’ miraculous signs to elicit saving faith in the Person of Christ (John 20:31). The miracles Jesus did in John 2:23 fulfilled the very purpose for which they were recorded. John would have applauded these people for believing in Jesus based on His miraculous signs! However, it is true that a saving faith based on visible miraculous signs is not as noble as a saving faith based on God’s Word (cf. John 20:28-29; cf. 4:1-53). 
2:24: Since these people are saved, then what does it mean when Jesus refused to “commit Himself” or “entrust Himself” to these new believers?
One possible meaning is referenced by Dillow: “Debbie Hunn cites several examples from the first century which suggest that ‘entrusting oneself to another,’ then, in the examples known in the Greek of John’s day, referred not to disclosure of truth, intimacy, or belief in the sayings of another, but to personal security.”  1722
“This idea nicely fits the context of John 2:24. After driving out the traders from the temple, Jesus for the first time announced His coming death (John 2:18-22).”
A view that more consistent with the gospel of John’s subtheme of discipleship is that Christ chose not to become more intimate with these believers. Jesus “wasn’t ready to reveal more of Himself to them because of their spiritual immaturity. They were not yet ready for full commitment to discipleship and public identification with Him.” 
Keep in mind that although the main theme of the gospel of John is how to get to heaven; a subtheme is discipleship or intimacy with Christ.  Jesus entrusts Himself to new believers who are ready to be His friends. For Christ to disclose more of Himself to a believer, the believer must be trustworthy and obey Him. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him”(John 14:21). Christ “manifests” or discloses more of Himself to the believer who “has… and keeps” His commandments.
Friendship with Christ is conditioned upon obeying Him. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14). This friendship refers to Jesus disclosing His thoughts to those who obey Him. Thus, Jesus’ friends are those to whom He entrusts Himself. 
Notice that the word “commit” in verse 24 is in the imperfect tense. This tense speaks only about action in the past, so it leaves open to question what Jesus might do at a later point in time. Hence, Christ could entrust Himself to these believers later should they obey Him. 
When the word “commit”is used in the passive sense (“entrust”)in the New Testament, its objects are: riches (Luke 16:11), Christ (John 2:24), oracles of God (Rom. 3:2), stewardship (I Cor. 9:17), the gospel (I Thess. 2:4; Gal. 2:7; I Tim. 1:11), and the preaching of the Word (Tit. 1:3).  None of these instances suggest a salvation context. These passages suggest that the person receiving the object is regarded as trustworthy. The object is being committed to them in confidence. It follows that Christ refused to commit Himself to those who had believed (John 2:23-24) because He had little confidence in them at this time to be His friends, that is, to obey Him even to the point of publicly confessing Him (John 15:14-17; 12:42-43).
Therefore, the issue is not whether these people are saved or not, the issue for these new believers is whether they are trustworthy. Intimate fellowship with Christ requires obedience to Him. How did Jesus know whether to entrust Himself to these new believers? Look in verse 25.
2:25: Jesus refused to have fellowship with these new believers because He supernaturally “knew” that their hearts were not ready for intimacy with Him; that is, they were not ready to obey Him yet. They were not ready for a close friendship with Christ.
“He could see into their hearts. And He can see into yours too. So don’t miss this truth: Spiritual growth is important because it expands our capacity to experience more of God. Jesus does not relate to all believers the same way.” 
Part of obeying Christ may involve publicly confessing our faith in Him before others like at work or school. It is possible to have a saving faith alongside a reluctance to express that faith publicly. Thus, these verses introduce the theme of “secret believers” who are genuinely saved, but they are afraid to express their faith openly due to the threat of persecution (cf. John 9:22; 12:42; 19:38). 
For example, many of the ruling Pharisees had saving faith but were afraid to express that faith to others: “42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43).
Hodges makes an astute observation when he writes that “later in the gospel of John Jesus ‘commits Himself’ very extensively to the men who had accompanied Him to that point in His ministry. He ‘discloses’ Himself in a very intimate way to them.
“But Nicodemus (whom we shall meet shortly) was not with Hisdisciples in the Upper Room. Why he was not there becomes graduallyobvious as the Fourth gospel unfolds. As a result, on the pages of John’s gospel, Nicodemus stands as the prototype of a believer who is hindered from intimacy with Jesus Christ by competing interests.”
“The verb ‘testify’ in v. 25 (martureō) is an inclusio back to the noun testimony in 1:19 (marturia). John the Baptist is the preeminent example in the Fourth Gospel of one who openly testified for Jesus. The new believers are a sad contrast to him. They were unwilling to tell others openly of their faith in Jesus.
“John skillfully repeats the word ‘man’ in 2:25 and 3:1. Immediately after the words, ‘He knew what was in man’ (2:25), John says, ‘Now there was a man…’ (3:1). The new believers in 2:23 were like the man who came to Jesus under the cloak of darkness (3:2).
“John the Baptist is the paradigm of the open believer (cf. 3:22-36); Nicodemus is the paradigm of the secret believer (3:1-21). Every time John mentions Nicodemus, he writes that he came to Jesus by night (3:2; 7:50; 19:39). Night is a symbol of darkness and of secrecy. There are hints in 7:45-52 and certainly in 19:38-42 that Nicodemus believed in Jesus, though without openly confessing Him.
“Even before the new believers of 2:23 had done anything, Jesus knew that they, unlike John the Baptist, but like Nicodemus, were not ready to confess Him. Because of that, He did not entrust them with the depth of truth He reserved for His friends.” 
Hence, the third way to experience Jesus’ cleansing truth is to RECOGNIZE THAT CHRIST ONLY REVEALS HIMSELF TO BELIEVERS WHO ARE READY TO OBEY HIM(2:23-25). Some of us don’t know Jesus any better today than the day we became a Christian. For some of us that may have been years ago. But Christ will not disclose Himself to us if we are not willing to go on and obey Him. He refuses fellowship with Christians who are not ready to obey Him.
For any relationship to grow deeper, there must be mutual trust. I’m not going to be transparent with you until I develop a certain level of trust with you. Likewise, you are not going to be transparent with me until you have cultivated more trust in our relationship. The same is true of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus knows our hearts. And He knows if we are ready to obey Him and grow deeper in our relationship with Him or not.
If you have been under the weight of religion (man-made rules), and you are weary – you feel like giving up on God – please know that Jesus fights for you to get you out from under that system, and He wants to heal your hurts. He wants to lighten your load.
Jesus also wants His disciples (followers) to take sin seriously in their lives. He wants us to trust Him to cleanse our lives of all sin and corruption. He wants us to rely on His resurrection power to help us say “no” to sin and “yes” to the Savior. Once we begin a relationship with Jesus by believing in Him for eternal life, He wants to reveal more of Himself to us and get closer to us. But for Him to do this, we must be willing to obey Him. We must be willing to surrender control of our lives to Him and let Him start directing our lives. Some of us need to come out of denial and admit that we are addicted to running our own lives. Friends, things are not going to get any better until we give up on ourselves and give in to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I found myself sitting in judgment over the religious leaders of Israel who had turned the temple of God into a place of peddling instead of a place of prayer. But Your Spirit convicted me that I am no better than those religious leaders. I also have stolen from others with my words and my thoughts. Like the religious leaders, I also have made it difficult for others to approach You in worship by being less than Christlike towards them. Despite my sin, it is mind boggling to know that the holy God of the Bible indwells me through His Spirit the moment I believed in You Lord Jesus!!! Thank You, Lord Jesus, by making this possible through Your shed blood on the cross which not only paid the penalty for all my sins (John 19:30; Col. 2:13-14), but also continues to cleanse me of my daily sins so I may enjoy closeness with You (I John 1:7). Thank You for Your resurrection power which is always available to help me to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to holy living. By Your grace, Lord Jesus, please enable me to walk in obedience to You so I may enjoy intimate fellowship with You. Thank You for disclosing more of Yourself to me as I live for You. Thank You for Your cleansing truth and grace. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.
 Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 559.
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 79 cites Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. 6th ed. Translated by Patrick Lynch. Edited by James Canon Bastible (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1964) pg. 209; J. C. Macaulay, The Bibleand the Roman Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1946), pp. 71-73.
 This writer also makes an argument for a fourth though implicit reference to the Passover (“feast”) in John 5:1 (cf. William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to John. Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-54), pg. 188.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184; Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 70 cites Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), pp. 55-60, 143; Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 80.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184; Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 559.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184.
 Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 552.
 Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3504 to 3508; Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2934.
 Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 818.
 Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2206.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pp. 184-185.
 Hodges, Faith in His Name, pg. 51. See also, Keith Vande Vred, “A Contrast Between Nicodemus and John the Baptist in the Gospel of John,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 57:4 (December 2014): 715-726.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 185.
“Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” I John 3:6
In the body of his epistle the apostle John explains how we can have more confidence and less shame at the time of Christ’s coming (2:28-4:19). He begins by providing some practical teaching about our new identity in Christ (3:1-10). Since God is righteous by nature (2:29), we can now share in His righteousness through the new birth which has changed who we are at the core of our being. We are now God’s children (3:1a). The world does not understand this new nature because they have not experienced the new birth (3:1b). John goes on to explain that the time is coming when this new nature will be the only nature we manifest because our sinful nature will be taken away and we will receive a new glorified body like that of the Lord Jesus at the time of His return (3:2; cf. Phil. 3:20-21). The certainty that we will be completely conformed (both spiritually and physically) into the image of Christ in the future motivates us to live for the Lord now (3:3).
John wants his Christian readers (2:12-14; 5:13) to change the way they think about sin (3:4-6) because sin can rob Christians of the abundant life Jesus came to give them on earth (cf. John 10:10). Notice I did not say that sin can rob a Christian of heaven. 1 Entering heaven is based on believing in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross which finished paying our sin debt to God in full (I John 5:1, 13; cf. John 3:5-18, 36; 19:30). The book of I John is about how to have fellowship or intimacy with Christ (1:3-4), not about how to get to heaven. John’s concern is that the antichrists or false teachers (2:18-27) were trying to “deceive” John’s readers not to take sin seriously (3:7), 2 which would disrupt their fellowship with God. Hence, John begins this section by addressing the character of sin.
He writes, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” (I John 3:4). Sin is the very opposite of Christ’s purity and the hope believers have of becoming like Him (3:2-3). All “sin” (hamartia) is “lawlessness” (anomia) 3 or wickedness. 4 When a Christian (or non-Christian) sins, he or she becomes a lawbreaker. It does not matter if you sin once or a thousand times; sin is an act of rebellion against God. 5
The apostle wants to open our eyes to the wickedness of sin. It is revolting to God whether it is a little white lie or a violent murder. It sickens God to look at our sin because He is completely holy, and sin is the exact opposite of His holiness. It also sickens God to see Christians tolerate sin in their lives as though it were no big deal. We may justify our sin by telling ourselves, “No one is perfect.” “Everyone is doing it.”“No one will ever know, so it won’t hurt anyone.”
Look at the contrast between man’s rationalization of sin and God’s repulsion of sin:
Man calls it an accident; God calls it an abomination.
Man calls it a blunder; God calls it blindness.
Man calls it a defect; God calls it a disease.
Man calls it a chance; God calls it a choice.
Man calls it an error; God calls it enmity.
Man calls it a fascination; God calls it a fatality.
Man calls it infirmity; God calls it iniquity.
Man calls it luxury; God calls it leprosy.
Man calls it liberty; God calls it lawlessness.
Man calls it a trifle; God calls it a tragedy.
Man calls it a mistake; God calls it madness.
Man calls it a weakness; God calls it wickedness. 6
Instead of rationalizing our sin, God want us to confess and forsake it (Prov. 28:13). Again, this is not to get to heaven, but to have intimate fellowship with the Lord on earth. The consequences of not taking sin seriously can be deadly. Anderson illustrates this:
“There is a small tree which grows in SE Asia known as the Judas-tree. Long before its leaves appear, gorgeous blossoms grow on its branches. Looking like scarlet sunbeams caught among the boughs, the brilliant beauty of the crimson flowers attracts thousands of tiny insects. The wild bees also seek to draw honey from the exquisitely shaped cups.
“But every insect—bee or butterfly—that comes to rest upon the edge of its blossom is overcome by a fatal, curious sort of opiate, or drug, which the flower- juice contains, and drops dead upon the ground below! So, when walking around Judas-trees, a person sees the soft grass covered with dead and dying, bright-winged insects.
“The Judas-tree reminds us of sin. Sin may look bright, pleasant, and attractive to our eyes; it may appear harmless to indulge in it. But lurking behind the “pleasure of sin” is a fatal poison. And sin is a poison, a wickedness that acts as a drug to take away all our motivation for the Christian life, or worse. Wickedness: that’s the character of sin.” 7
Failure to take sin seriously conflicts with the purpose and purity of Jesus Christ Who came to completely remove sin from our lives. Sin is antichrist. John writes, “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.” (I John 3:5). Jesus not only came to save us from the full penalty of our sins when He died on the cross (John 19:30; Rom. 5:9a, 10a; 6:23a; I Cor. 15:3), but He rose from the dead to live inside us to save us from the power of sin in our daily Christian lives (Rom. 5:9b, 10b; James 1:21-25). The day is coming in eternity when Christ will deliver us from the presence of sin in our lives forever (I John 3:2; Rev. 21:4).
The reason Jesus is qualified to do all this for us is because “in Him there is no sin”(3:5b). There was absolutely no sin in the perfect Son of God because He is fully God (I John 5:20; cf. John 1:1, 34, 49; 5:16-47; 6:69; 8:57-59; 11:27; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; et al.) and fully Man (I John:1:1-2; 4:2-3; cf. John 1:14; 4:6; 11:35; 12:27; 19:28; I Tim. 2:5).It took a perfect sacrifice to satisfy God’s holy demand to punish the sins of the world. And Jesus was the only Person qualified for the job (I John 2:1-2; cf. John 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; I Pet. 3:18).
Although every Christian has sin in their lives (I John 1:7-8, 10), sin is abnormal and unnatural to the Christian life (Rom. 6:1-4). In fact, it is contrary to the purity of Jesus Christ (I John 3:3, 5). Therefore, it must not be condoned or tolerated in a believer’s life.
A few years ago, my family and I visited a church in North Dakota during the summer that was part of a German community. I was so impressed with how everyone seemed to be concerned about the cleanliness of their town. All the lawns were neatly mowed, and the sidewalks were swept and free of grass trimmings. Flowers were strategically planted without a weed in sight. There were no beer cans laying around nor any garbage on the side of the roads. People seemed to take a lot of pride in keeping their community looking clean and tidy.
When we left that place, I wondered what would happen if I showed more concern for the cleanliness of my heart than those people showed for their community? Inward cleanliness leads to outward cleanliness in the eyes of the apostle John. The righteous nature of God which was given to us the moment we believed in Christ (Rom. 4:5; I John 2:29; 5:1, 13), is to be manifested outwardly in our practice – not so we can get to heaven, but so God is glorified before people on earth (cf. Matt. 5:16).
Failure to take sin seriously is contrary to abiding in Christ Who is a sinless Person. “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” (I John 3:6). John has just said there is absolutely “no sin” in Jesus(3:5). It follows that a Christian who “abides in” Christ (a sinless Person), absolutely “does not sin” (3:6). John is saying that sin is never the product of having fellowship or intimacy with Christ (“abides in Him”).Remember “abides” (menō) is one of John’s favorite words for fellowship or intimacy with Jesus.
Unfortunately, many Bible interpreters fail to see this logical connection between the absolute present tenses in verses 5 and 6.They conclude that verse 6 means if a person who claims to be a Christian continues to sin, he or she is not truly saved. The NIV translation conveys this interpretation by inserting the words “keeps on” and “continues” in front of the present tense verbs: “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (I John 3:6 NIV). However, continual action is not inherent in the Greek present tense. The translators have added these additional words based on their theological point of view, not a careful study of the Greek grammar. 8
“For example, Jesus refers to His single act of coming to the earth at His incarnation in the present tense in John 6:33 when He says, ‘For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ Is there anyone who would like to tell us that the present tense here means continuous action, that is, that Jesus is continually coming down from heaven? I don’t think so. The present tense can mean continuous action, but that is only one of its ten different uses, and it’s a fairly rare usage. There need to be other indicators in the context of the verb before we conclude that the meaning is continuous action.” 9
“It cannot be shown anywhere in the New Testament that the present tense can bear this kind of meaning without the assistance of other words.”10
It is best to understand I John 3:6a in an absolute sense (“no one who abides in Him sins”) because the present tense (“no one… sins”) in the New Testament never bears the habitual meaning (“no one keeps on sinning”) without the assistance of qualifying words like diapantos (“continually”- Luke 24:53; Heb 9:6; 13:15); eis to diēnekes (“continually”- Heb 7:3; 10:1); 11or pantote (“always”). First John 3:6a has no qualifying words.
In the immediate context John affirms that “in Him (Christ) there is no sin” (3:5). Clearly this is an absolute denial of sin in God’s Son. Therefore, the present tense in 3:6a is also an absolute denial of sin in the person who abides in Christ. One cannot abide in a sinless Person (3:5) and sin at the same time.
To say that verse 6 means a genuine Christian will not continue to sin contradicts I John 1:8 which says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Since John includes himself and the other apostles with the use of the word “we” in this verse (1:8; cf. 1:1-7), he must be referring to genuine Christians who say they have no sin and are thus self-deceived. 12 Both I John 1:8 and 3:6 refer to genuine Christians.
But what does John mean when he says, “Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him” (I John 3:6b)? To properly understand John’s meaning, we need to turn to the Greek grammar like we did in I John 2:3-4. Once again, the apostle John uses the Greek perfect tense with the verbs “seen” (heōraken) and “known” (egnōken). You may recall that with “verbs describing a state of being (to know) as opposed to verbs of action (to hit), the perfect tense expresses an intensified state. In other words, ‘to know’ in the perfect tense becomes ‘to know intensively’ or intimately. ‘To see’ in the perfect tense becomes ‘to see very closely.’”13
John is telling us that “whoeversins” (a Christian or non-Christian) – whether it is once or a thousand times – means he or she “has neither seen” Christ closely “nor known Him” intimately. These verbs describe close fellowship with Christ. Sin is never the result of having intimate fellowship with Jesus. When a person “abides” in Christ, he or she has “seen” Him more closely and “known” Him more intimately. Sin is never the product of seeing and knowing Christ in a fellowship sense.
John is not saying that a person who sins has “never” seen or known God. For example, if you see a person with a starving look on his or her face, you can conclude they have not eaten recently, but you cannot conclude they have never eaten. A person sins in the “darkness” (1:6) where he or she is not seeing or knowing God more intimately. Sin is a result of blindness or ignorance toward God. But this does not mean he or she has never walked “in the light” (1:7) where God is seen or known more intimately.
Someone may argue that this absolute denial of sin in the person who abides in Christ also contradicts I John 1:8 which says a Christian who denies he has sin is self-deceived. Hodges comments, “First John 1:8 makes it clear that no Christian can ever claim to be experientially completely free from sin in this life. But at the same time the experience of ‘abiding in Him’ is a sinless experience. One area of obedience is not ‘contaminated’ by the presence of sin in other areas. If a person obeys the command to love his brother, that obedience is not tainted in God’s sight by some different sort of failure in the life, such as a lack of watchfulness in prayer (cf. Eph 6:18).
“When a believer is walking in fellowship with God, He is able to look past all his failures and sin and see the actual obedience that is there. In 1:7 John explained that even while walking in the light, there is cleansing going on by virtue of the blood of Christ. As a believer walks in the light and does what God commands, God sees him as one who is totally cleansed and is without any charge of unrighteousness.
“Thus, when a believer abides in Him, the positive obedience is what God takes account of and recognizes. The sin that still remains is not in any sense sourced in the abiding life, and that sin is cleansed in accord with 1:7. The experience of ‘abiding’ is therefore equivalent to obedience.”14
Hodges also writes, “The fact remains, however, that Christians do not experience the sinless life perfectly on this earth; hence 1:8, 10 remain true. The two ideas are not really incompatible. The Christian still experiences a genuine struggle with the flesh and overcomes its impulses only by the help of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:16-26).
“Paul’s thinking also conforms with this view. In his struggle with sin, he was able to conclude, ‘Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it’ (Rom. 7:20). In this way Paul could perceive sin as not a real part of what he was at the most inward level of his being (cf. Rom. 7:25). When he wrote, ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’ (Gal. 2:20), he implied the same thing. If Christ alone really lives, sin can be no part of that experience. Insofar as God is experienced by a believer, that experience is sinless.” 15
In summary, God wants us to take sin more seriously because…
The character of sin is repulsive to God (3:4).
Sin conflicts with the purpose and purity of Christ (3:5).
Sin is contrary to abiding in Christ (3:6).
To knowingly and willfully sin makes us a stranger to Jesus Christ because Christ is sinless. One cannot abide in a sinless Person and sin. Sin is never the product of abiding in Christ. That is, one cannot deliberately sin and be close to Christ at the same time. A believer in close fellowship with Christ wants sin out of his life. But a Christian who takes sin lightly in his life does not know Christ intimately. If he did, he would take sin more seriously.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for wanting us to take sin more seriously because it can rob us of the joy of seeing You more closely and knowing You more intimately. Too often we can take sin lightly because we are not in fellowship with You. If we were close to You, we would be sickened by our sin as You are. Please help us to see You more closely and to know You more intimately so we will want sin out of our lives. Our sin is a big deal because it caused Jesus to suffer and die in our place on a cross so we could be forgiven when we believe in Him. By Your grace, may each of us abide in Christ and have close fellowship with Him so we can live a life that is honoring to You. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 145.
2. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3795.
3. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 85.
4. Anderson notes, “This Greek word is used to translate twenty-four different Hebrew words in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT). Most frequently it is used to translate the Hebrew word ‘awon, which means “wickedness” or “iniquity” (Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 147).
5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2942.
6. Anderson, Maximum John, pp. 147-148.
7. Ibid., pg. 148.
8. Ibid., pg. 151.
9. Ibid., pp. 146-147.
10. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3805 to 3809.
11. Anderson, pg. 151.
12. Ibid., pg. 145.
13. Ibid., pg. 150; cf. K. L. McKay, “On the Perfect and Other Aspects in the New Testament Greek,” Novum Testamentum, Vol. 23, Fasc. 4 (Brill: 1981), pp. 289-329.
14. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 595.
15. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3818 to 3822.
“And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” I John 2:28
In I John 2:28, the apostle John introduces a new theme of having “confidence” before the Lord Jesus “at His coming” to motivate his readers to continue to cultivate fellowship or intimacy with Christ despite the increase in false teachers or “antichrists” (2:18-27). 1 The Greek word translated “confidence” (parrēsia) refers “to a state of boldness and confidence, courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness, especially in the presence of persons of high rank.” 2 John will focus on how to have boldness at the prospect of Christ’s coming throughout the body of this epistle (2:29-4:19). 3
Verse 28 is known as “a Janus that looks in two directions: backward to summarize the preceding section” 4“and forward to introduce the following section. Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and endings who supposedly guarded portals. He had two faces, one on the front and the other on the back of his head. The month of January gets its name from him. It is the month in which we look backward on the past year and forward to the new year.” 5
John has looked back at his readers’ spiritual advancement (2:12-14), and he has warned them of enemies to their fellowship with God: personal sin (1:5-2:11), the enticements of the world (2:15-17), and the Devil and his false teachers (2:18-27). Now John looks forward at how to prepare to have boldness before Jesus at His imminent coming (2:28-4:19). The Greek phrase translated “that when He appears” (hina nean phanerōthē), is a third-class condition about the coming of Christ which could take place at any time. 6Itemphasizes the fact of Christ’s coming, even though the time of it is indefinite. 7
The apostle John expected the return of Christ in his lifetime when he writes, “that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (2:28). This expectation of Jesus returning at any moment in one’s life is called imminency and is common throughout the writings of the New Testament authors (Matt. 24:42-44; Luke 12:37-39; John 14:1-3; Acts 20:31; 1 Cor. 1:8; 4:5; 15:51-52; 16:22; Phil. 3:20; 4:5; 1 Thess. 1:10-12; 4:15-17; 5:2-10; James 5:7-9; I Pet. 1:13; Jude 1:21; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:2-3, 11; 16:15; 22:7, 12, 17, 20).
As we look back at the Year 2022 and prepare for the New Year tonight, those of us who believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life can also expect Him to return at any moment in our lifetime. Even though eternal life is a free gift which can never be lost (John 4:40-14; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; Rom. 6:23b; Ephes. 1:13-14; 2:8-9), the New Testament makes it clear that every believer must give an account of his or her Christian life at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10-12; I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10) which takes place after the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth.
It is important to understand that the New Testament speaks of two different judgments separated by the Millennium or one-thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ on earth. The first judgment is for believers in Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ which takes place in heaven after the Rapture of the Church (Rev. 4:1-4; cf. Rev. 22:12; John 14:1-3; I Cor. 15:51-52; 2 Cor. 5:10; I Thess.1:10; 4:13-5:11). The second judgment is for nonbelievers after the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-10), and it is called the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).
Those who appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12) and the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) are judged “according to their works,” not according to their faith or the lack thereof. Since every person is judged “according to their works” at both these judgments, there will be differing degrees of punishment for nonbelievers in the lake of fire as determined by the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15; cf. Matt. 11:20-24; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47), just as there will be varying degrees of rewards for believers as determined at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 2:25-27; 4:1-4; 22:12).
In I John 2:28, the apostle John has the Judgment Seat of Christ in mind when he writes, “that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” It will be possible for transformed Christians (3:2-3) to experience shame before the Lord Jesus when He evaluates both the “good or bad” things we have done in our Christian lives (2 Cor. 5:10). Keep in mind that Revelation 21:3-6 which speaks of their being no more more death, nor sorrow, nor pain, takes place after the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rev. 4:1-4) and the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-10). In our transformed bodies (Phil. 3:20-21; I John 3:2), we will probably be more sensitive to sin because our sin nature will be gone along with its excuses and rationalizations for sin (I John 3:2-3). We will have a greater capacity to feel holy shame over sins that we committed on earth.
How can we reduce our shame and increase our boldness (“confidence”) before the Lord Jesus at His Judgment Seat? John instructs us to “abide in Him” (2:28a). Again, John refers to fellowship with God using the Greek verb menō (“abide”) which has already occurred 10 times in 2:6-27. “(John used menō 66 of the 112 times it occurs in the New Testament: 40 in John, 23 in 1 John, and 3 in 2 John.) In accord with his basic theme about fellowship (1 John 1:3), John once more enjoined the ‘abiding’ life.”8
The believer who abides in fellowship with God, who seeks to walk in the light as God is in the light and obey His commands (1:5-9; 2:3-11; 3:24) during his or her Christian life, will “have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” But for the Christian who has not been abiding in Christ during his or her Christian life, there will be less confidence and more shame before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
“Yes, there will be shame at this time for His children who have lived their lives for the flesh and in the flesh. Does this threaten their eternal destiny? No. No more than you may be more proud of some of your children than others. Maybe one of your children has taken the gifts he has been given, worked hard to develop them, and is doing something productive with his/her life. You are proud of that child, and rightly so. Perhaps another child even more gifted has buried his gifts in the sand, has not worked hard to develop his God-given abilities, and is not doing anything productive with his life. Of that child you may be ashamed. Is he still your child? Yes, but you probably would not wish to reward him for his slothful life.” 9
The Christian who lacks the “abiding” life will still be in heaven because that was already determined the moment he or she believed in Jesus for eternal life (John 5:24). But they will have less rewards because they did not abide in Christ. That is why John says to confess your sins now. Abide now. 10
Prayer: Father God, as we close out this year (2022) and begin a new year tonight (2023), we pause to confess our many sins to You because You are faithful and just to forgive the sins we confess to You. We want to begin the new year with a clean slate and a clear conscience. We look forward to the day when You come to meet us in the clouds at any moment to be with You forever. May You find us abiding in You at that time so we may have confidence and not be ashamed before You at Your judgment Seat. Please use us to share Your gospel of grace with those who are currently alive and destined for the lake of fire due to their unbelief. May Your Holy Spirit prepare them to hear and believe the gospel so they may also enjoy an eternal life of fellowship with You and receive eternal rewards with which to honor You. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 65.
2. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 781-782.
3. Zane C. Hodges, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 593; Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3752 to 3762.
4. Constable, pg. 65 cites Henry Alford, The Greek Testament, Vol. 4, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, and Co., 1883, 1881, 1880, 1884), pg. 457.
5. Constable, pg. 65.
6. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 205608 to 205629.
7. Constable, pg. 66 cites Gerald B. Stanton, Kept from the Hour, ch. 6: “The Imminency of the Coming of Christ for the Church,” Fourth ed., (Miami Springs, Fla.: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1991), pp. 108-37.
8. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3757.
9. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 135-136.
“And He said to me, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.’” Revelation 21:6
After the apostle John begins to describe the new heaven and new earth, and the New Jerusalem (21:1-5), the apostle John designates three categories of people (21:6-8). 1 The first category is seen in verse 6: “And He said to me, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.’” (Revelation 21:6). The promise in this verse refers to all who believe in Christ. They will all enter the new earth and New Jerusalem (21:1-5).
The Lord Jesus says to John, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (21:6a). “The Alpha and Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and signify here, Jesus’ eternality. Christ is the Originator (“the Beginning”) and Terminator (“the End”) of all things, 2 and therefore He can be trusted.
Because Jesus exists eternally, He can offer eternal life freely to whoever thirsts. “I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.” (21:6b). The phrase “water of life” is like the imagery Jesus used with the Samaritan woman at the well. “10 Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water… 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:10, 14). The “water of life” is eternal life.
Jesus offers eternal life “freely” (dōrean) or “without payment”3 or cost to “him who thirsts” (21:6b). The book of Revelation offers eternal life “freely” or without cost (cf. 1:5; 7:14; 21:6; 22:17) 4 because it has already been paid for by Jesus Who “washed us from our sins in His own blood” when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (Revelation 1:5; cf. 7:14; I Corinthians 15:3-6). This is also the case throughout the New Testament where eternal life or salvation is presented as a free gift that is received through faith alone in Christ alone (John 4:10-14; Romans 3:24; 4:5; 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 22:17; et al.). Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ alone for “the water of life” (eternal life) acquires it the moment they believe (cf. John 3:15-16, 36; 4:13-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; et al.).
While eternal life is offered freely in the New Testament, the next verse informs us that the reward inheritance is costly (cf. Matthew 19:27-30; Colossians 3:23-24). It is in this verse that John addresses the second group of people: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” (Revelation 21:7). The word “overcomes” comes from the Greek word nikaō which means to “be victor, conquer, overcome, prevail.”5 The Lord Jesus is challenging those who received eternal life as a free gift by believing in Jesus (21:6), to remain faithful to Christ until the end of their lives so they may “inherit all things” (21:7a; cf. 2:10b, 25-27; Colossians 3:23-24), including wearing special white garments (3:4-5), ruling with Christ (2:26-27; 3:21; cf. 2 Timothy 2:12), eating the fruit of the tree of life (2:7), eating hidden manna (2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (21:7a; cf. 22:14).
Dillow observes that the book of Revelation repeatedly contrasts the faithful overcoming believer in Jesus with the unfaithful believer in Jesus. For example, Revelation 2:16 versus 2:7; 2:14-16 versus 2:17; 2:18-23 versus 2:24-29; 3:1-3 versus 3:4-6; 3:11 versus 3:12; 3:14-19 versus 3:21. 6
Jesus promises the overcoming believer that He “will be his God and he shall be My son” who will co-rule with the Davidic King (21:7b; cf. 2 Samuel 7; Psalm 2; Romans 8:14, 17b). 7 The phrase “I will be his God and he shall be My son” is “defined elsewhere as a statement of special honor, not regeneration. The Davidic Covenant promised to David’s Son, Solomon, ‘I will be a Father to him, and he will be a son to Me’ (2 Samuel 7:14). The intent of the phrase was to signify installation as the king.
“On His resurrection from the dead, Jesus was invested with the title ‘Son’ (Acts 13:33), and this was because His humility involved total obedience to the Father’s will (Philippians 2:5-10). Similarly, we arrive at the state of full sonship (Greek huioi, not tekna, ‘children’) by a life of obedience. Our union with Him, according to the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, means our path to glory is the same as His. Because of His obedience He was entitled to the designation ‘Son of God,’ King of Israel. ‘Thou has loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy companions’ (Hebrews 1:9).
“A similar thought regarding sonship is expressed in Hebrews 11:16, ‘Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.’ Of course, in the heavenly city God will be the God of all, both faithful and unfaithful Christians (Revelation 21:3), but it is apparently possible for us to live life in such a way that God is proud to be called our God. Evidently the writer has the title ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’ in mind. This sense fits well [with] the conditional aspect of sonship in Revelation. John’s meaning is simply, ‘Because you have lived a life of constant fellowship with Me,’ God will say, ‘I am proud to be known as your God.’
“The idea here is that God is ‘proud’ to be known as ‘our God,’ because we have persevered to the final hour in contrast to other Christians who are sons but not obedient sons, and who will draw back from Him in shame at His coming (I John 2:28) and lose what they have accomplished (Mark 4:25; Revelation 3:11).” 8
This is the only time in John’s writings where he uses the term “son” (huios) to refer to a person other than Christ (Revelation 21:7b). The normal term in John’s writings for a Christian is “children” (tekna). 9 So, this is a unique relationship inherited by overcomers in the Christian life whereby “God will dwell with him at an increased level of intimacy like a father with his son.”10
Hence, in the world to come, overcomers or “heirs” would be treated as God’s adult “sons” (Revelation 21:7). In John’s society, a child could not obtain his inheritance until he reached the age of civil responsibility as established by the law. He might be potentially wealthy through all the years of his youth, but when the “child” became a full grown “son,” his potential wealth would become actual wealth, and he could enter into legal possession of his inheritance.
The New Testament doctrine of co-heirship supports this as a distinction is made between “entering” the Kingdom of God (new earth) through childlike faith alone in Christ alone for His free gift of eternal life (Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:14-15; Luke 18:16-17; John 3:5-16; Revelation 21:6) and “inheriting” the new earth through faithful trust and obedience to Christ until the end of one’s life on earth (Matthew 5:3; 19:27-30; Romans 8:17b; 2 Timothy 2:12; James 2:5; Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21; 20:4, 6; cf. Exodus 12:48-49; Numbers 18:20-24; 36:7-9; Deuteronomy 21:15-17; I Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5-6). 11
All who freely drank of the water of life (21:6), John called “children” or “born ones” (tekna; cf. John 1:12; I John 2:12), but those who became full-grown and matured through faithful obedience he called adult “sons” (huios). 12 In the day of the new heaven and new Earth, and the New Jerusalem, only those believers who overcame through faithful obedience could say not merely “I am here,” but “these are mine.”
The first two groups of people in these verses included believers in Jesus, but the third and final group of people refers to nonbelievers. “But the cowardly, sinners, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8). This verse is simply saying that in the new heaven and earth, and New Jerusalem, there are no more “cowardly, sinners, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” because they are all confined to “the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.”
This verse is saying nothing about born again believers in Jesus who have done such things because their sins are now gone because they are forgiven, immortal, and sinless (Acts 10:43; 2:13-14; I Corinthians 15:35-57; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 5:26-27; I John 3:1-3). For instance, King Solomon ended his life as an idolator (I Kings 11:1-10), yet he will still be with God on the new earth. God used Solomon to author three books of the Bible: Proverbs (Solomon was the principal author), Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes. The Bible says that the human authors of the Bible were “holy men of God” who “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Even though Solomon was an idolater, the Bible says he was a “holy” man of God. How can this be? He is “holy” in God’s eyes because he has been set apart from his sin and shame by virtue of his faith in the coming Messiah who would die for all his sins – including the sin of idolatry (cf. Isaiah 53; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 10:10, 14).
Likewise, eventhough King David had committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11:14-27), the Bible refers to David as an example of those who are justified (declared totally righteous before God) by faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works. “5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin’” (Romans 4:5-8; cf. Psalms 32:1-2). Paul quotes David (Romans 4:7-8) who wrote in Psalm 32:1-2 of the blessedness of forgiveness as he looked ahead to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which would pay the penalty for the sin of the world (John 1:29), including David’s adultery and murder (cf. Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 2:24-36; Colossians 2:13-14).
Paul is saying that the righteousness of Jesus Christ was credited to David and all who believed in His coming death and resurrection in the Old Testament (Romans 4:5-8; cf. Genesis 15:6; Isaiah 61:10; John 8:56; Hebrews 11:26). So, when a person in the Old Testament or in the New Testament believes in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, he or she is covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that God no longer sees their sin, He sees the perfect righteousness of His Son (Genesis 15:6; Romans 3:21-4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
By God’s grace, all believers who have failed Him, will be on the new earth and/or New Jerusalem because God does not fail them (2 Timothy 2:13). However, only those believers who faithfully endure (overcome) to the end will “inherit all things” such as prominence, rulership, the joy of the Messiah’s rule, and commendation (cf. Matthew 25:20-23).
Since “the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (21:8b) still exists after the passing away of the present heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1; cf. 2 Peter 3:10-13), this reaffirms that hell is eternal, and there is no such thing as the annihilation of nonbelievers. All those who rejected Christ will suffer torment in the lake of fire forever and ever (Revelation 20:10-15). Constable understands this also to mean that the lake of fire “is probably not in the center of the present earth, nor is it connected to this earth spatially. Therefore, it will exist separately from the new heaven and new earth and the New Jerusalem.”13
Which of these three groups of people will you be among? Believers in Jesus who are unfaithful yet on the new earth (21:6), believers who are faithful and greatly rewarded (21:7), or those who did not believe in Jesus and are confined to the lake of fire forever (21:8)? We are not promised tomorrow on earth. Decide today which of these three groups you want to be among.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for revealing these three groups of people who will exist in the eternal state so we may prepare for what is coming. For those of us who believe in Jesus, please help us rely on Your Holy Spirit to remain faithful to You till the end of our lives on earth so we may be able to inherit all Your promised rewards with which to honor You for all eternity. For those who do not believe in Jesus, please remove the Satanic blinders that keep them from seeing You are the eternal God who freely offers them eternal life as a gift for them to receive by believing in You alone. Use those of us who believe in You to spread Your good news to those who are perishing without You so they can believe in You Lord Jesus and possess eternal life. Also use us to teach new believers to follow You as Your disciple so they may receive Your inheritance rewards. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.
1.Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 676.
2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 238.
3. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 266.
4. Dillow, pg. 676.
5. Bauer, pg. 673.
6. Dillow, pp. 677, 1058.
7. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1584.
8. Dillow, pg. 677.
9. Vacendak, pg. 1584.
10. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2421.
11. Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse: A Study on Eternal Rewards (Grace Evangelical Society, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 99-118.
12. Dillow, pg. 729 cites William R. Newell, Romans: Verse by Verse (Chicago: Moody Press, 1938), pg. 314; Henry Alford, “Romans,” in Alford’s Greek Testament: An Exegetical and Critical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 2:391; Frederic Louis Godet and A. Cousin, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 2 Vols.(Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), pg. 311.
13. Constable, pg. 239 cites Robert A. Peterson, “Does the Bible Annihilationism?” Bibliotheca Sacra 156:621 (January – March 1999), pp. 25-26.
This is the fifth video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible several transforming principles for overcoming condemnation.
All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images areused with permission from Arabs for Christ / FreeBibleimages.org, Goodsalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, LumoProject.com, or they are creative common licenses.
“7 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.” Revelation 20:7-8
The Bible makes it clear that King Jesus’ kingdom will last forever: 1 The prophet Isaiah predicts, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.” (Isaiah 9:7). The angel Gabriel announced Isaiah’s prophecy to the Virgin Mary concerning her Son, “32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33). Loud voices in heaven declared, “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15). According to the prophet Daniel, the saints of the Most High God will possess this kingdom forever, “But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.” (Daniel 7:18).
If Christ’s Kingdom is eternal and His saints possess it forever and ever, how can Revelation 20 say it only lasts “a thousand years” (20:1-7)? Because the Millennial Kingdom of Christ is only the first thousand years of King Jesus’ eternal reign. The peace and righteousness established by King Jesus during the first thousand years will continue forever without end. King Jesus and His faithful followers will never be dethroned. Satan and his false messiah (the beast) will never regain their thrones. The world will never again be ruled by Satan and his followers. 2 But Satan does not accept defeat easily. He is so full of deceit and pride that he convinces himself he can still overcome King Jesus at the end of Christ’s first thousand-years of His eternal reign.
“7 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.” (Revelation 20:7-8). John informs us that “when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison” in the bottomless pit or Abyss. The Devil will resume his strategy of deception and “will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth” (i.e., all over the earth). 3 Satan’s plan is to “deceive” all nonbelievers represented by the words “Gog and Magog,” and “gather them together to battle” against King Jesus and His people in the city of Jerusalem (“beloved city” – 20:9; cf. Ezekiel 38:11-12). Ezekiel 38-39 informs us that “Gog” (cf. 38:2-3) will be the earthly military leader over this huge army of unbelieving people that Satan will deceive. “Magog” represents the land or nations that Gog is from (Ezekiel 38:2). 4 Here the terms are symbolic of all the enemies of God in general. 5
Even though King Jesus has been reigning perfectly in righteousness for “a thousand years,” the number of nonbelievers who rebel against Christ will “number as the sand of the sea.” 6
“These people will be like people in the first century AD who followed Jesus and applauded His miracles but then yelled, ‘Crucify Him’ before Pilate (Luke 23:21). Such people will follow Jesus outwardly but have experienced no heart transformation. When Satan is released from captivity, he will not force anyone to rebel against Christ. He simply will take advantage of what’s already inside them.” 7
Who are those who follow Satan’s rebellion against King Jesus? If Christ judges all the nonbelievers left on earth after Armageddon at the Judgment of the Sheep and Goats, consigning them to the lake of fire in Matthew 25:31-46, where do the unsaved people with non-glorified bodies come from? Most likely they will come from two different groups:
1. Some will be the infants and children of the unsaved who survived Armageddon and were not confined to the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41) along with their parents because they were below the age of accountability. They enter the Millennium in natural human bodies and eventually will marry and bear children throughout the thousand-year reign of Christ (Isaiah 65:18-25). 8
2. Some will be the offspring of believers who survived the Tribulation and will enter the Millennium in their mortal bodies, able to bear children and repopulate the earth (Isaiah 65:18-25). 9
By the end of the thousand years, the world will be filled with numerous generations of descendants from both groups of Tribulation survivors many of whom believed in King Jesus and have eternal life while many others did not believe in King Jesus and will be vulnerable to Satan’s deception.
Why is Satan permitted to lead one final worldwide rebellion against the Lord? One reason is to demonstrate the incorrigibility of Satan. After one thousand years of imprisonment, the Devil had not changed for the better nor been reformed. The second reason is to demonstrate the depravity or wickedness of humanity. 10 Wiersbe writes, “As final proof that the heart of man is desperately wicked and can be changed only by God’s grace [cf. Jeremiah 17:9]. Imagine the tragedy of this revolt: people who have been living in a perfect environment, under the perfect government of God’s Son, will finally admit the truth [that they hate Him] and rebel against the King!…
“In one sense, the millennial kingdom will ‘sum up’ all that God has said about the heart of man during the various periods of history [dispensations]. It will be a reign of law, and yet law will not change man’s sinful heart. Man will still revolt against God [cf. Genesis 2:16-17]. The Millennium will be a period of peace and perfect environment, a time when disobedience will be judged swiftly and with justice; and yet in the end the subjects of the King will follow Satan and rebel against the Lord. A perfect environment cannot produce a perfect heart.“ 11
Next the apostle John writes, “They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.” (Revelation 20:9). This massive army of unsaved people are deceived by Satan into believing that victory over King Jesus and His people is possible. During the thousand-year rule of Christ, many people will outwardly conform to Christ’s rulership, but inwardly their hearts will be hardened so that when Satan is released, they will harbor bitter feelings that will be ripe for the Devil’s message of false hope. 12 So, Satan and his massive army go “up on the breadth of the earth” (i.e., “the broad plain” of Palestine) 13 and surround “the camp of the saints and the beloved city” of Jerusalem from which King Jesus and His faithful followers ruled the earth.
The war that Satan masterfully planned never took place. Before a single shot is fired or blasphemous words are uttered, “fire” quickly “came down from God out of heaven and devoured” Satan’s huge army of rebels. 14
Following the destruction of Satan’s followers, “the devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10). The fact that “the beast and the false prophet are” still there a thousand years later (19:20) demonstrates that this is a place of conscious torment, not annihilation. 15 The lake of fire is a place of eternal punishment as indicated by the statement, “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” The “they” refers to the unholy trinity of the “devil… the beast and the false prophet.” When Satan was the heavenly angel named Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:11-15a), he could have remained loyal to God and avoided this horrific, eternal destiny. “But he chose his way over his Creator’s, which is always in every situation, a foolish and costly decision.” 16
It is important to understand that the judgment experienced by individuals in the lake of fire will not be identical. Instead, the judgment a person or demon receives will be in proportion to their sinful works (cf. 20:12-13). 17 In this case, “the devil” is “cast” straight “into” the same portion of the lake of fire as “the beast and the false prophet.” This unholy trinity will receive the worst punishment for their heinous sins which deceived multitudes of people to rebel against God and His promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Jesus taught that “the everlasting fire” was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). It was not prepared for people. The only way people can go to the lake of fire is by choosing the way of Satan. No one goes to hell by accident. 18 Those who refuse to believe in Jesus Christ for His gift of eternal life are sending themselves to the lake of fire. God does not send them there. They send themselves there. When a person refuses to trust Christ alone for the free gift of eternal life, they are in essence saying to God, “I reject what Jesus Christ did in my place as my Substitute.” Therefore, God has no choice but to let us pay for our own sin, through eternal separation from Him in what the Bible calls hell or the lake of fire. Those who go to hell are going there of their own choosing because they have rejected Christ and His free offer. God has not rejected them; instead, they have rejected God.
Suppose God blessed you and your spouse with a little boy. You love that little boy so much that you’d do anything for him. Forbid the thought, but suppose that when your little boy is 21, he begins a wayward life and eventually murders someone. Your state sentences him to die by lethal injection. Suppose that you could walk into his cell the morning he is to be executed and offer to take his place. That’s how great your love is for him. In so doing, you explain that he can be a free and forgiven man. Much to your surprise, he pushes you aside, walks to the table, and receives the punishment for his horrible crime himself. Did you not love him enough? Would you accept the accusation, “If you really loved your son, you wouldn’t have allowed that to happen”? Hardly! You did not reject him; he rejected you.
Many of us are grieving the tragic school shooting at Uvalde, Texas yesterday (May 24, 2022). This senseless killing of nineteen fourth grade students and two teachers has sent a shockwave across our nation. Amid the sadness, politicians are already using this tragic shooting to boost their views on gun control, as if governmental laws will prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.
Before people will change their behaviors, they must undergo a change of heart. Governments do not change the human heart. Revelation 20:7-10 demonstrates this. Satan was bound for a thousand years, unable to deceive the nations (20:1-3) and King Jesus provided a perfect government to guide the people (20:4-6; cf. Psalm 2:6-9). Much of the world’s temptations were removed. Yet when given the opportunity at the end of the thousand years, unsaved people still rebelled against their good and gracious King (20:7-9). Why? Because the human heart is deceived and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).
The world is not getting better. The tragic Uvalde school shooting reminds us of this. You can legislate all the laws you want, but until this country gets God back into human hearts, the brokenness of our society will worsen. It does not help to blame the devil (I Peter 5:8) or the world (I John 2:15-16) alone for all this mess. The depravity of humankind is also responsible (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:9-23).
Only Jesus Christ can cleanse a desperately wicked heart and make lasting and healthy changes within a person. Christ said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35). Jesus says to look to Him (not to government, pleasure, possessions, or power) to satisfy our hunger for immortality. Look to Him to quench our thirst for eternal life. What do you do when you are hungry? You eat. What do you do when you are thirsty? You drink. Jesus says that if we come to Him in faith, we will never hunger for eternal life again. If we believe in Him, we will never thirst for eternal life again.
The moment we come to Jesus in faith, He makes us a new person inside. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When you are “in Christ” by believing in Jesus for His gift of eternal life, He gives you a new identity, and the past is gone. You’ve got potential because Jesus now lives in you through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:10-11; Galatians 2:20)!!!!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for exposing the sinfulness of our hearts by revealing what happens at the end of the Millennium when Satan is released and leads a final worldwide rebellion against the King of kings and Lord of lords only to be crushed by the Lord. The thousand-year reign of Christ sums up the total depravity of humankind. Despite a thousand years of peace and perfect government led by a perfect King Who judges disobedience swiftly and with justice, in the end people will still follow Satan and rebel against the Lord God. This proves that apart from the transforming grace of God, people are rebels to the very end, even after living a thousand years under a perfect government and a perfect King. Oh Father God, we need You to change our wicked hearts. As the songs says, “Change my heart Oh God, make it ever true. Change my heart Oh God, may I be like You.” In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 359.
2. Ibid., pp. 359-360.
3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1580.
5. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2418.
6. Vacendak, pg. 1580.
7. Evans, pg. 2418.
8. Vacendak, pg. 1580.
9. Swindoll, pg. 360; cf. 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 6423.
10. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 226.
11. Ibid., pg. 227 cites Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 620.
12. Swindoll, pg. 361.
13. Constable, pg. 228.
14. Swindoll, pg. 360.
15. Constable, pp. 228-229 cites David E. Aune, Revelation 17-22 Word Biblical Commentary series (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), pg. 1100; cf. Walvoord, location 6444.
“Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land.” Leviticus 25:9
During my morning time with the Lord, I was impressed with God’s instructions to the nation of Israel concerning special years they were to observe in Leviticus 25. The Israelites were to give their land a Sabbath rest every seventh year as the Lord provided a Sabbath rest every seventh day (25:1-7). It may seem risky to those who are agriculturally dependent to cease from farming for a year, but God intended for this to deepen His people’s dependence upon Him to provide for them.
After seven Sabbatical years, the nation of Israel was to observe the fiftieth year called the Year of Jubilee (25:8). Interestingly, this observance began with “the Day of Atonement” (25:9). The Day of Atonement was observed once a year by the Israelites so they could get right with God through an atoning sacrifice involving the shedding of blood (cf. 16:1-34; 23:26-32). This animal sacrifice foreshadowed Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29; Hebrews 10:1-18).
What this communicated to the nation of Israel was that before they could enjoy God’s involvement with their agricultural economy, society, and politics (Leviticus 25:10-55), they must first get right with the Lord spiritually by approaching Him on His terms to be forgiven of their sins. Failure to observe the Day of Atonement, would not enable the Israelites to receive God’s blessings for their families, neighbors, communities, economy, and government leaders.
The same is true for us in America. Before we the people of America can enjoy God’s blessings in our families, economy, society, and politics, we must first get right with the Lord spiritually through the Lord Jesus Christ. We may want God to do things for us without first coming to the Lord for atonement for our sins. Sadly, some of us may not even recognize our need to address our sin. We may cry out to God for justice, or ask Him to fix this or provide this, or avenge the wrongs done to us, while omitting the very thing that inaugurated God’s Jubilee for the people of Israel – addressing our personal and corporate sins through an atoning sacrifice. 1
We cannot enjoy the supernatural favor of God individually or corporately as a nation without first addressing our problem with sin. God is a holy and righteous God who hates sin and demands that sin must be punished (cf. Leviticus 10:1-3; 24:10-23; Psalm 5:5; 11:5; 45:7; Proverbs 6:16-19; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:23; 6:23; Hebrews 1:9). God’s wrath toward sin must be dealt with first before we can experience God’s blessings. This is only possible through Jesus Christ Whose perfect sacrificial death and resurrection paid the penalty for the sins of the world (John 1:29; 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18) so “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
If we want to experience the blessings of God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ, as individuals or even as a nation, we must first be rightly related to Him by grace through faith in Him alone for His gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). If you are not in a relationship with Jesus Christ, would you like to begin that relationship right now? To do so, simply come to Jesus as you are – an underserving sinner who needs forgiveness and eternal life. Christ loved you and died in your place for you on the cross. He then rose from the dead three days later as He promised (Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19), and He is alive today so He can give you complete forgiveness and everlasting life the moment you believe in Him (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14; John 3:16).
Will you take Jesus at His word when He said, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)? If you do, Christ guarantees you will never “perish” in hell and you now “have everlasting life” which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). Jesus now lives inside you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39; Galatians 2:20) and He wants to give you the power to live for Him now, and not for yourself (Romans 8:11; 2 Corinthian 5:15). You can get to know Jesus more intimately as you spend time with Him talking to Him through prayer (Philippians 4:6-7) and listening to Him as you read and apply the Bible to your life both individually and corporately with other like-minded Christians (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 10:24-25).
God also wants us to pray for our country and its leaders so the gospel of Jesus can spread unhindered throughout our land (I Timothy 2:1-8) and bring His blessings upon us as a nation. Would you join me in praying for our country now?
Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, the only way we can approach You is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Thank You for reminding us of this in Leviticus 25 today. Before the Israelites could enjoy Your involvement in their families, economy, society, and politics, they had to address their sin problem before You by offering an atoning sacrifice. Likewise, Lord, before we can approach You to bless our individual and corporate lives, we must get right with You spiritually through Jesus Christ. Lord God, You know how broken our country is because we have turned away from You and Your ways. Please, oh please, heavenly Father, bring us back to You. Bring to our awareness our need for You and Your forgiving grace. Use those of us who believe in Jesus to spread the good news of His grace with our lives and lips so people may get right with You holy Father through faith in Your only perfect Son. We need You gracious God. Our families, our neighbors, our economy, our society, our political leaders – all of us deeply need You to restore our relationship with You through Jesus. Thank You our Lord and our God for hearing our prayers. In the atoning name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 298.