I John 3 – Part 5

“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” I John 3:16

God wants His born-again children to manifest their new righteous nature by living righteously (2:29-3:10a) and loving their Christian brothers and sisters (3:10b-23). This love for one another is not like Cain who took his brother’s life (3:10b-12). It is like Christ Who gave His own life: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (I John 3:16). Christ is the opposite of Cain. Cain’s behavior was life-taking; Christ’s behavior was life-giving.

Let’s look more closely at Christ’s love. The Bible says He “laid down His life.” Jesus’ love was voluntary. He willingly took the initiative and gave up His life on the cross (Rom. 5:8). Christ’s love was not a response to our love (I John 4:10, 19). He loved us even if we never loved Him. Jesus loves us when our walk of faith is weak or when it is strong. He sticks with us in the good times and the bad. Nothing about us makes Christ love us. He loves us because it is His nature to love. If Jesus waited for us to love Him first, He would still be waiting. Thank God that He loved you and me first. His love does not require that we love Him back.  

Secondly, Christ’s gave His life “for us.” His love was vicarious. 1 He sacrificed Himself on a cross as our Substitute to pay the penalty for all our sins (John 1:29; I Cor. 15:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 3:18; I John 2:1-2). He took the punishment we deserved. You may be familiar with the shooting spree on January 21, 2023, in a Monterey Park dance studio that left eleven people dead, and nine others wounded. The suspected shooter, an elderly Asian man, later shot and killed himself. 2 Suppose that man had not killed himself, but, instead, was captured, tried for his crime, and sentenced to die for it. If it were possible, would you take that man’s place and sacrifice yourself so that man could live? I doubt any of us would. But that’s exactly what Jesus did when He took the place of undeserving sinners like you and me. Who else would die for you except Someone Who loves you that much!

Hatred for a Christian brother or sister makes us like Cain. Love for a Christian brother or sister makes us like Christ. Christ’s love for us is intended to motivate us to sacrificially love our Christian brothers and sisters: “And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (3:16b). Christ laid down His life once for us (Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 26-28; 10:10), but we are to lay down our lives repeatedly for one another. 3

“It is easy to ‘lay down one’s life’: martyrdom is heroic and exhilarating; the difficulty lies in doing the little things, facing day by day the petty sacrifices and self-denials which no one notices, and no one applauds.” 4

We may not have the opportunity to express our love for another Christian by dying in his or her place, so John gives us a tangible example of how we can love another believer. “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (I Jon 3:17). The word for “goods” (bios) means “life, livelihood,” 5 or resources to maintain life.” 6  The phrase “and shuts up his heart” (kai kleisē ta splanchna autou) conveys the idea of closing or slamming shut the door of one’s sympathies or compassions toward another person in need. 7 John is saying that when a Christian has the resources to help another Christian “brother in need,” and refuses to give him assistance, God’s love does not “abide in” that believer, that is, he is out of fellowship with God.

During the first year or so in the Philippines as missionaries, my wife and I were often approached by someone asking us for money or food, simply because in their eyes we were “rich” Americans. And by their standards, we were rich. But I had closed my heart off toward those in need. I became resentful of people who would approach me as if I was a bank on two feet.

I must say, however, that my wife and I would eventually make a good team when we would go to the market to buy groceries. She would do much of the shopping while I shared the gospel with others verbally or through the distribution of gospel tracts. During one of those visits to the market, God’s Spirit pierced my heart when I watched my wife gently and graciously give beggars some fruit or vegetables along with a gospel tract. I had been telling people at the market about God’s love for them through Jesus, but my wife was showing them that love. The apostle John would have said that my wife was walking as Jesus walked (2:6), but I, on the other hand, was not. God’s love had made its home in my wife’s heart, but I did not allow any room for God’s love to dwell in mine even though I had shared the gospel with many people there.

John addresses Christians like me when he writes, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (I John 3:18). Christian love is expressed primarily with our lives, not just with our lips. Imagine where we would be if Jesus expressed His love for us verbally without any actions. We would still be dead in our sins.

We often tell others, “I love you,” without being prepared to act sacrificially for those to whom we say this. John reminds us that true love involves action (“in deed”) and conformity to the “truth” which involves a genuine concern for the person “as opposed to some self-serving motive.” 8

The apostle John is instructing us to to express our born-again nature as children of God by loving our Christian brothers and sisters (3:10b-18). This love is sacrificial.

“Two Americans were challenged to go to Russia and spend some of their time in ministry to orphanages. They weren’t professionals, and it cost them a pretty penny to leave their jobs and pay their own way. They sacrificed, but as they gave their love, they too found love in return. They came to one orphanage of about a hundred kids where the Christmas story had never been told. So they shared the story of Bethlehem, and the inn, and Mary and the manger, and you know the rest. Then they gave each kid some cut-outs to build their own little manger scene. They used brown flannel to make baby Jesus, some cardboard for the manger, and some yellow scraps of paper for straw.

“As these women went around to look at the work of each child, all went well until one of the women got to the table where little Misha sat. He was about six years old, and everything was in perfect order until she looked into the manger. There were two babies in the manger. She thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. What’s happened here?’ So she asked the translator to come over so she could find out where Misha had gotten mixed up.

“As Misha told the story, everything was accurate. He had all the details in place until he got to the very end, and then he began to ad lib. He said, ‘And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, she looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told her, ‘I have no mamma and I have no pappa, so I don’t have any place to stay.’ Then Jesus told me I could stay with Him. Then I told Him I couldn’t because I didn’t have a gift to give like everyone else did.

“’But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, I thought, what do I have that I could give as a gift? I thought maybe if I keep Him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, ‘If I keep you warm, would that be a good gift?’ And Jesus said, ‘If you keep me warm, that would be the best gift anyone gave me.’ So I got into the manger, and Jesus looked at me and told me I could stay with Him in the manger … always.’”

“As little Misha finished his story his eyes brimmed with tears and they began to splash down his little cheeks. Then he put his hand over his face, his head dropped down to the table, and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found Someone who would never abandon or abuse him, Someone who would always stay with him. The American finished her story by saying, ‘And I learned it’s not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life, that counts.’” 9

As believers in Jesus Christ, we have the most loving Person in the universe living inside us. He guarantees to never leave us nor abandon us. This amazing love of our Savior motivates us to love others sacrificially as Christ has loved us. We then discover that when we love, we live. That is, we experience Christ’s life in a deeper and more fulfilling way as we continue in fellowship with Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are eternally grateful that Jesus did not express His love merely with words, but also with actions. He voluntarily laid down His life on a cruel cross that all who believe in Him may have everlasting life. O Father, fill us with Jesus’ love so we may love our Christian brothers and sisters with compassionate hearts. Lead us, we pray, to those You want us to love with our lives and not just with our lips. Forgive us for closing off our hearts toward those in need and please renew our love for them. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2944.

2. Retrieved on January 31, 2023, from J. David Goodman, Amy Harmon, and Adeel Hassan’s January 24, 2023, New York Times article entitled, “‘Tragedy Upon Tragedy’: January Brings Dozens of Mass Shootings So Far,” at https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/24/us/mass-shootings-january.html.

3. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 John, 2022 Edition, pg. 85.

4. Ibid., cites David Smith, “The Epistles of St. John,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. 5 (1910), 4th ed., edited by W. Robertson Nicoll, 5 vols., (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1900-1912), pg. 186.

5. 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 206300.

6. 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. 177.

7. Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, Kindle Location 206346.

8. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 171.

9. Ibid., pp. 172-174.

I John 2 – Part 12

“But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” I John 2:27

One of the primary reasons the apostle John is writing his first epistle is because he is concerned that the enemies of God may jeopardize his readers’ fellowship with the Lord. We have learned there are three enemies to our fellowship with God: personal sin (1:5—2:11), the world (2:15-17), and the Devil and his false teachers (2:18-23).

John wants his readers to know that false teachers or antichrists defected from the apostolic churches of Jerusalem and Judea and sought to spread deception among John’s Gentile readers (2:18-19). John reassures his readers that they are not defenseless against these antichrists because they had the anointing of the Holy Spirit which enables them to understand and apply the truth of God’s Word and detect deception (2:20-21).

The primary deception of these false teachers denied that Jesus was the Christ Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (2:22a; cf. John 11:25-27). Denying that Jesus is the Christ is also a denial of “the Father and the Son” (2:22b) because to deny One is to deny the other and to acknowledge One is to acknowledge the other since Jesus is God and perfectly reflects God the Father (2:23; cf. John 5:24; 10:30, 38; 12:44-45; 14:9-11; et al.).

John then explains how his readers could continue to enjoy fellowship with God and experience victory over these false teachers: “Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.” (I John 2:24). John once again utilizes his favorite word for fellowship or intimacy with God – “abide” (menō). This Greek word means to “to remain, stay, dwell, continue” 1  in fellowship. John uses this word twenty-four times in I John (2:6, 10, 14, 17, 19, 24 [3], 27 [2], 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17 24 [2]; 4:12, 13, 15, 16 [3].

If John’s readers were going to continue to enjoy fellowship or closeness with God “the Son” and God “the Father,” they must “abide” or remain in the truth they “heard from the beginning” of their Christian experience about God’s Son (2:24). False teaching leads believers away from fellowship with God and other Christians. This is why John tells them to abide in the truth about Jesus. Truth is what gives us new life in Christ. And truth is what enables us to enjoy this new life of fellowship with God. 2

What had John’s readers heard about God’s Son from the beginning of their Christian experience? 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (I John 1:1-2). While John makes it clear that Jesus Christ is “the true God and eternal life” (5:20), he wants to emphasize the realities of eternal life itself 3 as it relates to “the beginning” of the gospel proclamation by Christ which John and the other disciples (“we”) witnessed (1:1-2; cf. 5:11-13; John 1:14). The phrase “Word of life” refers to the message about the life Jesus offers. This “life” is what John and the other apostles witnessed in Jesus. 4

When John writes, “If what you heard from the beginning abides in you…” (2:24b), the “if” in the Greek language means they might do what he asks of them, and they might not. 5 They might abide in the truth they heard about Jesus from the beginning of their Christian lives, and they might not. John says if they do abide in the truth about Jesus that gave them new life, namely, they believed in Jesus as the Christ to be born of God and possess eternal life (5:1, 13) – they will continue to enjoy fellowship with Him and the Father.

“John’s point here is that the Holy Spirit’s ministry always remains available to teach Christians, but the truth (‘what you have heard from the beginning’) must remain in us. Think of it like satellite TV. The satellite communicates, but your satellite dish must receive the signal. The power of the Holy Spirit is available to every believer, but many believers do not operate in a position of dependence on the Spirit because their satellite dishes only function on Sunday mornings.” 6

John’s readers were being told by the antichrists that Jesus was not the Christ Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him. But John refutes this by saying, “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.” (I John 2:25). Instead of listening to the falsehoods of the antichrists, John redirects his readers to the unchanging “promise” of God which guarantees “eternal life” to all who believe in Jesus (cf. 5:1, 13; John 3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 11:25-27; 20:31). This is the message they heard from the beginning of their Christian experience. This is how they began a personal relationship with God. Assurance of eternal life is found in God’s promises, not in the lies of false teachers which denied that eternal life is through simple faith in Jesus.

There is much confusion today about assurance of salvation. Some insist that assurance of going to heaven is based on our performance and whether we measure up to certain tests concerning the quality of our Christian experience. 7 But if we look to our performance or experience, we will never be certain we have eternal life because we always fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23; I John 1:8, 10). Whenever we take our focus off Christ and His finished work on the cross (John 19:30), we are more likely to doubt our salvation. Even on our best day, we still fall short of God’s glory.

John wants his readers to look to the unchanging promises of God for the assurance of their salvation. “God’s promises don’t change. That’s why the promises of God are the foundation for our assurance of salvation. People who want to teach that 1 John is a book of tests to determine whether you are a Christian or not have gone completely against what John himself uses as his source of assurance: the promises of God.” 8

Why does John remind his readers of their secure relationship with Jesus? “These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.” (I John 2:26). John did not want his readers to be deceived by the false teachers who tried to undermine their assurance of salvation. Knowing they have eternal life simply be believing in Jesus for it would enable them to effectively resist these antichrists who taught John’s readers they were not genuinely saved because they lacked a secret knowledge which only the false teachers could give them to have eternal life. John understood if a Christian doubts his or her salvation they are more vulnerable to losing their fellowship with God and the apostles.

John reminds his readers they were not dependent upon the antichrists or any human teachers. “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” (I John 2:27). Since John’s readers had “the anointing” of the Holy Spirit to teach them to correctly understand and apply God’s truth as long as they “will abide in Him,” they did not need the teaching of the antichrists or any human teacher. The anointing of the Holy Spirit or “Spirit of truth” (John 16:13) teaches them what “is true and is not a lie.” The Spirit’s teaching is always consistent with what “it has taught” previously. God’s Word will not contradict itself.

This suggests that John’s readers were spiritually mature since only the immature need human teachers. The writer of Hebrews states, 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:12-14). John’s readers not only had a knowledge of God’s Word, but they also had the skill to put it into practice. This enabled them “to discern both good” or truthfulteaching from “evil” or false teaching.

Am I suggesting it is possible for Christians not to have a need to be taught by other Christians? Yes and no. Keep in mind that we can always benefit from the teaching of others, but must we be dependent upon their teaching for our own spiritual maturity? First John 2:27 is just as true today as it was when John wrote it. All Christians at the beginning of their Christian life need human teachers to teach them the truths of God’s Word to help them become more like Christ. This is known as discipleship (Matt 10:24-25; 28:19-20; John 8:31-32). But as new believers learn to depend upon the Holy Spirit to teach them the Word and obey it, they can eventually learn to discern truth from deception without the assistance of human teachers.

God has given spiritual gifts to equip believers for the work of the ministry (Ephes. 4:11-12). Hence, someone with a gift of teaching will equip believers without this gift how to teach themselves. Spiritual gifts are meant to help others in areas where they are weak until they can to it independently of the gifted person.

According to I John 2:27, the ongoing teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit is always consistent with what the Holy Spirit has already taught. For example…

  • If the Spirit has taught that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully Man (and He has – Isaiah 9:6-7; 44:6; Matt. 8:24; 9:11; Mark 6:3; John 1:1, 14-18, 34, 49; 2:12; 4:6; 5:16-47; 6:69; 7:3, 5; 8:57-59; 10:30-33; 11:27, 35; 12:27; 14:7-9; 19:28; 20:28, 31; 21:12; Acts 16:31, 34; 20:28; Romans 1:3-4; 9:5; Phil. 2:6-8; I Tim. 2:5; 3:16; 4:10; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; I John 5:20; Rev. 1:17; 22:13), then He would not say centuries later that Jesus was not God nor human.
  • If the Spirit has taught that believing in Christ for eternal life apart from any works is all that is necessary to go to heaven (and He has – John 3:15-16; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 14:1-3; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Rom. 4:5; Gal. 2:16; Ephes. 1:13-14; 2:8-9; I Tim. 1:16; I John 5:1, 13), then He would not teach that one must do more than believe in Him such as turn from sins, be baptized with water, live a good life, keep the Ten Commandments, and confess Jesus is Lord.
  • If the Spirit has taught that the only way to God is through faith in Jesus Christ (and He has – John 3:15-16, 36; 6:40, 47; 14:1-6; Acts 4:10-12; 16:31; I Tim. 2:3-5), then He would not say centuries later that all religions lead to God.
  • If the Spirit has taught that the Bible is the inspired Word of God without any errors in its original manuscripts (and He has – 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21), then He would not teach centuries later that the Bible is full of errors.

The gospel promises of God never change. Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah-God, the Son of God, Who came from God the Father (John 1:18; 3:16). Jesus guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-27; I John 5:1, 13). The Antichrist and his false teachers deny that Jesus is God or the Son of God. They also deny that eternal life is through simple faith in Christ alone.

Islam denies that Jesus is the Son of God Who came from the Father. They also deny that eternal life is through simple belief in Jesus Christ. For the average Muslim, if he does more good than bad, he can hope for Allah’s merciful judgment to permit him to enter Paradise. For the outstanding Muslim, if he dies in battle against the infidels, he gains an instant entrance into Paradise. 9

The apostle Paul wrote, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8). Paul warned his readers that if he and the other apostles (“we”) or “an angel from heaven” preached a different gospel than what Paul preached to them, he is to be “accursed” or under God’s displeasure. Paul used the words “believe” and “faith” fifteen times when referring to justification before God (2:16; 3:2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26) in the book of Galatians. He used no other words as a condition for justification. He warned the Galatians not to support or join those who do not preach a “believe / faith alone” gospel (1:6- 9; 4:12, 21-30; 5:1-12; 6:17). It does not matter how kind or helpful a person is who teaches a different gospel. They are “accursed” by God if they preach a different way to heaven other than faith alone in Christ alone. This is very strong language!

With this said, the New Testament advises Christians to “correct” or “avoid” those who teach doctrine contrary to Jesus and the apostles (Matt. 15:10-14; 16:5-12; Rom. 16:17; Gal. 1:8-9; I Tim. 6:3-5, 20-21; 2 Tim. 2:23-26; Titus 1:9; 3:9-11), but we are in no way commanded to resort to violence against those who embrace other faiths. Unfortunately, Christians have not always followed God’s instructions for dealing with false teachers.

Anderson writes, “During the days of the Reformation, all the parties in western Christianity were guilty of the destruction of people for false teaching. The Pope, Martin Luther, Melancthon, and Calvin—all of them sanctioned torture and killing of false teachers. The Anabaptists were killed by other Protestants because they did not believe in infant baptism. Zwingli was viewed by Luther as a heathen because he believed the elements in the Lord’s Supper were symbolic. Thousands and thousands were burned at the stake or beheaded. Though Luther and Calvin believed Christ fulfilled the Law and the New Covenant superseded the Old Covenant, they retreated to Old Covenant laws to rid themselves of anyone who did not believe as they did.” 10

Nowhere in the New Testament are we instructed to murder or kill false teachers inside or outside the church. We are to correct them or shun them if they do not repent and embrace the truths of the Bible.

According to the apostle John, false teaching about God the Father and God the Son is one of the greatest enemies to fellowship with God (2:18-27). Thankfully, the anointing of the Holy Spirit gives Christians the ability to correctly understand and apply biblical truth and detect deception. The primary lies of false teachers deny the equality of God the Father and God the Son, and the free gift of eternal life through belief in Christ alone. All Christians throughout church history need to abide in the anointing of the Holy Spirit to protect them from those who seek to distract and derail them from pursuing Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You so much for the anointing of the Holy Spirit which enables every Christian to correctly understand Your truth and apply it to our lives. This same anointing also empowers us to detect deception, especially as it relates to God the Father and God the Son, and the free offer of eternal life to all who believe in Jesus. Help us continue to abide in the internal ministry of the Holy Spirit so we may remain faithful to Your Word which You have entrusted to us. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 630-631.

2. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 126.

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. 588.

4. Ibid. pg. 589.

5. The Greek phrase Ean en hymin meinē is a third-class condition and conveys probability, not certainty, about the future. See Anderson, pg. 126.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2941.

7. Anderson, pg. 15 cites cites John MacArthur, Jr., Saved without a Doubt (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1992), pp. 67-91; Constable, pg. 46 cites James Montgomery Boice, The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979); Raymond Brown, The Epistles of John, Anchor Bible series(Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982); F.F. Bruce, The Epistles of John (London: Pickering & Inglis Ltd., 1970; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986); John Calvin, The First Epistle of John, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries series, Translated by T. H. L. Parker. Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-61); John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel according to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988); John R. W. Stott, Basic Introduction to the New Testament, 1st American ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964); Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles of St. John (1883. Reprint ed. England: Marcham Manor Press, 1966); and Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2 vols. (Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1989).

8. Anderson, pg. 128.

9. Ibid., pp. 126-127; cf. Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 30-34; Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Islam and the Rise of Radical Islam (Christian Publishing House, 2019 Kindle Edition), pp. 142, 148, 153-154, pp. 163-164. 10. Anderson, pg. 127.

Revelation 21 – Part 10

“And the nations shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor of the nations to Him.” Revelation 21:24

Last time we saw that there will be no need of the sun or moon to shine because the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ will illuminate the entire New Jerusalem on the new earth (21:22-23). This Celestial City is so bright that it will also provide light for the entire new earth. “And the nations shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor of the nations to Him.” (Revelation 21:24). Notice that there will be “nations” on the new earth, perhaps much like we have today. Since the New Jerusalem is inhabited by King Jesus and believers from the Church Age (21:2, 9-10; cf. 19:7, 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27), these “nations” consist of believers in Christ from before and after the Church Age who live outside the city on the new earth. These other believers will also have access to the New Jerusalem because of their faith in Christ (21:27b).

Vacendak writes, “God will create human beings to live on the new earth just as He created Adam and Eve – sinless people whose status and condition will be similar to Adam and Eve’s before the Fall… More likely, believers who are alive on earth at the end of the Millennium will be brought into the new heavens and earth in their unresurrected bodies to populate it. These bodies will be transformed into sinless bodies, but will not have been resurrected. They will be like Adam and Eve before they sinned, but without the ability to sin. As such, they will procreate and populate the new heavens and the new earth, and so they will form the nations.” 1

It is likely then that the nations will be comprised of resurrected and unresurrected believers from before and after the Church Age who “shall walk in” the brilliant “light” of the New Jerusalem. The “kings” (basileis) or rulers 2 are “overcomers” who remained faithful to Christ to the end of their lives (21:24b; cf. 2:10b, 25-27; 22:5; cf. 2 Timothy 2:12).

These “kings of the earth bring their glory and honor of the nations to Him” (21:24b). This suggests that there will be human government and economy on the new earth. The leaders of these nations will reenact what the wise men did over two thousand years ago when they brought their gold and other treasures to the Baby Jesus (cf. Matthew 2:1-11). 3 In eternity on the new earth, the kings of the earth are going to bring their “glory and honor” or treasures to King Jesus year after year in the New Jerusalem to worship and glorify Him. Everyone on the new earth will bring glory to God.

Next the apostle John informs us, Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).” (Revelation 21:25). In John’s day, cities closed their gates to keep their enemies out, especially at night. But on the new earth there will be no need to shut the gates of the New Jerusalem because King Jesus will have no enemies on the new earth and there “shall be no night there” because the light of His glory illuminates everything. The phrase “shall not be shut at all” (ou mē kleisthōsin) is emphatic and literally says “shall no not ever be shut.” 4 Since the gates of the New Jerusalem will never ever be shut, the rulers of the nations will have continual access into the city.

“And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations so that they may enter it.” (Revelation 21:26). The kings “shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations“ into the New Jerusalem “so that they” themselves “may enter” (21:26b) through “its gates” (21:25a). Only overcoming or faithful believers will enter through the main “gates” of the New Jerusalem. This is seen in Revelation 22:14: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” The majority of Greek manuscripts contain the phrase “do His commandments.” Only those believers whose lives are characterized by obedience to Christ to the end of their lives (cf. 2:10, 25-27) will be rewarded with this special honor. The emphasis of verse 14 is not on entering the city, but on entering by “the gates” into the city. Every believer can enter the city, but only some will come in through the gates. This is emphatic in the Greek text which literally says, “and by the gates they may enter into the city” (kai tois pylōsin eiselthōsineis tēn polin).The apostle John is emphasizing the way of entrance, that is, by the gates, and not the fact of entrance. 5

“Gates of ancient cities were for defense or honor or both. To be known ‘in the gates’ was to sit among the ‘elders of the land’ and have a position of high honor and authority (Proverbs 31:23, cf. ISBE 2:408). Since defense is not a function of these ‘gates’ into the heavenly city; they are to be regarded as places of honor and authority. The overcomer was promised ‘authority’ over the nations (Revelation 2:26). John describes them elsewhere, as memorials to the twelve tribes of Israel (21:12, 14). We are reminded of the Roman victory arches which sat astride the main thoroughfares entering into Rome. There were thousands of entry ways into Rome, but Caesar entered by these gates, by the victory arch. Through these gates, according to John, ‘the honor and glory of the nations’ will enter (Revelation 21:25-26).” 6 “As Lange has suggested, to enter by the gates means to enter ‘as conquerors in triumphal procession.’” 7

So what John probably had in mind when he speaks of the kings of the nations entering into the New Jerusalem through “its gates” (21:24-26), are “the victory arches that towered over the main thoroughfares entering into Rome. Through these gates the triumphant Roman generals and their soldiers would march.” 8

Arch of Titus

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

“Engravings on it show Roman soldiers bringing back treasures from the temple in Jerusalem. Similarly, those Christians [believers] who remain faithful to their King will enter the city in victory and will be likewise honored.” 9

Whether you are an overcoming believer who enters through one of the main gates of the New Jerusalem or a non-overcoming believer who enters the city through another entrance, everyone will have a desire to bring honor and glory to God Who reigns over the new earth from that city. Not one person will be unwilling to do this because every citizen on the new earth will be a sinless believer. The eternal state will have rules and laws, but no one there will want to disobey them. 10

After mentioning who may enter the New Jerusalem, John now tells us what cannot enter the city. “But there shall by no means enter it anything profane, nor one who causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Revelation 21:27). Nothing that is “profane” (koinon) or impure 11 can enter the New Jerusalem, “nor one who causes an abomination” (bdelugma)which refers to “something that causes revulsion or extreme disgust… in the sight of God.” 12 Nor will anyone enter the city “who causes… a lie” (pseudos) or falsehood. 13

Even though the city gates will continually be wide open, nothing that is evil or leads to evil will ever be part of the New Jerusalem. This does not mean there will be people on the new earth outside the New Jerusalem who are evil. In the context of these final chapters in the book of Revelation, unbelieving people and all their evil ways have been confined to the lake of fire forever (cf. 20:11-15; 21:8). 14 This part of the verse is saying nothing about born again believers in Jesus who were evil or led people to do evil during their lives on the old earth because their sins are now gone forever since they are forgiven, immortal, and sinless (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14; I Corinthians 15:35-57; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 5:26-27; I John 3:1-3).

Only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (21:27b) will be able to enter or inhabit the New Jerusalem. It is important to observe that it is the absence of one’s name “in the Lamb’s Book of Life,” not the absence of good works, that determines one’s eternal destination. Evil works are not the issue for entrance into the New Jerusalem. Many of the earth’s greatest sinners’ names are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life because they received God’s free offer of eternal life through faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9). 15

Alcorn states that many Americans believe going to heaven is their “default destination.” 16 But this optimism is contrary to what Jesus warned when He said, 13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). Christ makes it clear that “few” people find the way that leads into eternal life. This is probably because few people are being told that faith alone in Christ alone is the only way into God’s heaven (John 10:9; 11:25-26; Act 4:12; I Timothy 2:3-5).

What would keep all of us out of heaven is failure to believe in Christ alone for His gift of eternal life. This is the one sin that cannot be forgiven. All other sins are forgivable (Colossians 2:13-14; Psalm 86:5; 103:2a, 3a; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19b; Acts 10:43). 17

Jesus said God the Holy Spirit was sent to 8 convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” (John 16:8-9). The word “sin” (hamartias) means “to miss the mark or standard.” 18 All people fall short of God’s perfect righteousness because “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) against God through their thoughts, words, actions, and motives. Our sin separates us from God because He is holy and righteous and cannot allow sin into His presence: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; You cannot tolerate wrongdoing.” (Habakkuk 1:13 NIV; cf. Isaiah 59:2). Because we are all sinners, we deserve eternal death or separation from God forever in the lake of fire (Romans 6:23a; Revelation 20:15). We are not able to enter God’s heaven as we are. Hence, heaven is not our default destination. The lake of fire is our default destination. 19

Yet the world tries to persuade people that they are not sinners. Many secular scientists and psychologists seem bent on destroying peoples’ awareness of sin. They may say that all people are inherently good. As a result, many people have a difficult time admitting they are guilty of sin. Oh, they may admit that they make mistakes or have failures and vices, but it is very difficult for them to admit that they have sinned against God. Even some churches say that people are not that bad and because God is love, He will accept everyone into heaven. Hence, many people, including Christians, believe that going to heaven is their default destination.

But the ultimate proof of the world’s sinfulness, Jesus says, is that “they do not believe in Me” (John 16:9). A court of law can convict someone of murder or theft, but only God the Holy Spirit can convict someone of unbelief toward Christ. The Holy Spirit can convict people of their individual sins they have committed, but people can clean up their own lives and still go to the lake of fire. It is the sin of unbelief toward Jesus Christ that condemns people to an eternity in the lake of fire. Jesus said, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18).That is why the Bible says that “Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). Those who refuse to believe in Jesus will not have their names written in the Book of Life.

Unbelievers are judged according to their works to determine their degree of punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-13; cf. Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40), not their eternal destination. But their condemnation and placement in the lake of fire is because of their unbelief toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:15; cf. John 3:18).

Because faith in Christ and His full payment for sin on the cross (John 19:30) is the only solution to our sin problem, the Holy Spirit wants to convict people of their sinful condition, so they can see their need to believe in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life (John 3:14-16). The Holy Spirit is the prosecuting attorney who presents God’s case against sinful humanity. He creates an awareness of sin so that it cannot be dismissed or excused or evaded by taking refuge in the fact that “everybody is doing it.” When we are convicted of our sin, we admit to God that we have been wrong in our unbelief toward Jesus and then we believe or trust in Him alone, so we can live with Christ forever in the New Jerusalem on the new earth.

Do you know for sure your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Don’t wait and see, just hoping that your name will be in the Book of Life. You can know for sure right now by taking God at His Word. The apostle John who wrote Revelation and the gospel of John, also wrote First John. He writes, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13). This one verse is written to “you who believe in the name of the Son of God.” Do you believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, Who died for all your sins and rose from the dead, proving His claims to be God are true (cf. John 20:31; Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:3-6)?

If you do, the Bible guarantees “you may know that you have eternal life.” It does not say you may “think” or “hope” you have eternal life. It says you may “know” with absolute certainty that eternal life is yours right now. Because Jesus Christ is “the truth” (John 14:6) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), we can be confident He will keep His promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him (cf. John 3:15-16). Do you now know for sure you have eternal life and a future forever home in the New Jerusalem on the new earth? If you do, you can tell God this through prayer.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for persuading me that I am a sinner whose default destination is in the lake of fire. I believe You took my place on the cross to die for all my sins and then rose from the dead, proving You are God. As best I know how, I am now believing in You for Your gift of everlasting life. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and for the future forever home I will have in the New Jerusalem on the new earth. Please use me now to tell others how they can know for sure they will live forever with You in Your heaven. Help me remain faithful to You so I may honor and worship You more with the rewards You give for faithfulness. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:  

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1586.

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. 169-170.

3. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 40.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 245.

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

6. Ibid., pg. 975.

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

8. Dillow, pg. 975.

9. Ibid.

10. Vacendak, pp. 1586-1587.

11. Bauer, pg. 552.

12. Ibid., pg. 172.

13. Ibid., pg. 1097.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1587.

15. Adapted from David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015 Kindle Edition), pg. 21 who cites William R. Newell, The Book of the Revelation, 9th ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1935), pg. 334.

16. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 54 cites K. Connie Kang, “Next Stop, the Pearly Gates… or Hell?” Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2003.

17. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32) is not unforgivable, it is unforgiven because those who commit this sin are too hard of heart to seek God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 12:33-37). See “Can a Christian commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?” at www.seeyouinheaven.life.

18. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 267.

19. Alcorn, pg. 54.

Revelation 14 – Part 1

“Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1

A couple of days ago, my wife and I went to the movie theatre to watch a film after we saw its preview the week before. That’s what previews are meant to do. They show exciting scenes from an upcoming movie to entice viewers to come see the film in its entirety. Sometimes, however, the preview of an upcoming movie leads us to expect one thing, but the producer of the film delivers something entirely different. 1 Fortunately for my wife and me, the movie lived up to the excitement the preview generated in us the week before.  

One thing we can be sure of about God’s previews of the future in the book of Revelation is they will not disappoint us. “Not only does He know the future, but He also controls it. He’s not simply the leading actor in the coming end-times drama; He’s the writer, producer, and director! So when He gives us previews of things to come, we should pay close attention. These scenes aren’t meant to satisfy our curiosity but to warn the rebellious and to encourage the righteous.” 2

After receiving revelation about Satan’s two wild beasts (the World Ruler and the False Prophet) who will triumph during the last half of the Tribulation period (13:1-18), John now receives revelation that describes both what happens to those who refuse the mark of the beast (14:1-5) and what happens to those who receive the mark of the beast (14:6-20). You may recall in Revelation 7, we learned that God would save two groups of people during the first three and a half years of the Tribulation period: He will save and seal 144,000 Israelites (7:1-8) through the preaching of the Two Witnesses (11:1-12), and He will take to heaven a multitude of people from all nations who will die during that time (7:9-17).

Beginning in Revelation 14, John now fast forwards to the end of the Tribulation period where he sees the following: “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Revelation 14:1). 3 John saw “the Lamb,” the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:29), “standing” victoriously “on Mount Zion,” the earthly Jerusalem,at the end of the Tribulation period. Many prophetic Scripture predicted that at the end of the Tribulation period Jesus the Messiah will return to Jerusalem from which He will rule His kingdom on earth (Isaiah 2:3; 24:23; Micah 4:1, 7; Zechariah 14:1-21; cf. Acts 1:9-12; Revelation 19:11-20:6). 4

Standing with Christ at the end of the Tribulation are the “one hundred and forty-four thousand” Jewish evangelists who faithfully proclaimed Jesus’ gospel message to the ends of the earth during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation when the beast ruled without mercy over the earth (14:1a; cf. 7:1-8; Matthew 24:14). Some religious groups, like the Jehovah Witnesses, teach that these 144,000 people are the sum total of all people who will be saved.  This is not true! We already saw in Revelation 7 that there are an innumerable number of people saved during the Tribulation period (7:9-17) in addition to the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (7:1-8). These evangelistic Jews will prepare the way for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth. 5

Because they refused to worship the beast and take up his mark, these 144,000 Jews will be rewarded with the Lamb’s “name” and “His Father’s name written on their foreheads” (cf. 3:12) in contrast with the mark placed on nonbelievers’ foreheads by the False Prophet (cf. 13:16). Because of their faithfulness to Christ to the end of the Great Tribulation, they will rule with King Jesus from Mount Zion in His eternal Kingdom (14:1b; cf. Romans 8:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21). 6

Notice at the end of the Tribulation that John does not see 143,800 Jewish evangelists. He sees all the 144,000 are supernaturally preserved by the Lord. Not one of them was killed. They have endured all the horrors of the seven-year Tribulation and are still standing victoriously with the Lamb on the earth because God faithfully protected them. 7

So, in this preview, we see in place of the beast from the sea, the Lamb of God. And in place of the beast’s followers with the mark of the beast on their foreheads, we see the Lamb’s followers with His and the Father’s name on their foreheads. In addition, we also observe in place of the pagan-controlled earth we see the God-controlled Mount Zion or Jerusalem. 8  This contrast in scenes is meant to encourage believers in John’s day and ours. While our journey on earth will contain trials and tribulation (John 16:33), it will end with a glorious mountaintop experience. This is intended to motivate us to remain faithful to Christ to the end of our Christian lives.

Next John writes, “And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps.” (Revelation 14:2). Some Bible students think this verse means that “Mount Zion” (14:1) is the heavenly Jerusalem (cf. Hebrews 12:22) since John speaks of this scene in heaven. 9 But the text says John “heard a voice from heaven.” This does not necessitate that the Lamb and His 144,000 followers are in heaven. Since the 144,000 are the same group described in Revelation 7:1-8, they are specifically said there to be sealed and preserved safely through the Tribulation on earth. This preview of their future indicates that they will be kept safe on earth into the Millennial Kingdom without going to the third heaven (Paradise) since this is the meaning of the seal in Revelation 7:3-4. 10

The “voice” John heard “from heaven” was loud like “many waters” roaring at a waterfall or like “loud” claps of “thunder.” We are not told who this voice belongs to. It could be “the voice” of the Tribulation martyrs (7:10), an angel (cf. 6:1; Daniel 10:6), or many angels (cf. 5:8, 11: 7:11; 19:6). But it cannot refer to the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders (14:3). I believe this voice represents the inhabitants of heaven consisting of the Tribulation martyrs and God’s angels.

John also tells us he “heard the sound of harpists playing their harps” (14:2b). In the book of Revelation, we are told that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders (5:8), and the victorious believers from the Tribulation period (15:2) will all have harps along with those mentioned in Revelation 14:2. The “voice” and “harps” most likely represent the singing and music of the inhabitants of heaven (cf. 19:6). 11

“They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.” (Revelation 14:3). The “new song” this heavenly group sang “before the throne” in heaven could only be learned by “the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth” (14:3). Please understand that the biblical text does not say the 144,000 were standing before the throne in heaven. It simply says they “could learn that song” which was being sung in heaven by this heavenly choir.

It is quite possible that being able to learn this new song was in itself a reward for these 144,000 faithful evangelists. Vacendak writes, “Since the emphasis here is not on the contents of the song but on the fact that only the 144,000 could learn it, this could very well be a special reward for their dedication to God like the reward of the ‘new name’ in 2:17 that is known only to Christ and the victorious one receiving it. Because these faithful witnesses will have an utterly unique experience in their service to Christ on earth, it is fitting that they enjoy a unique experience with Christ in eternity.” 12

After all, they had earned such a reward. “These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed by Jesus from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:4). These 144,000 evangelists “were not defiled with women, for they are virgins” who avoided both sexual immorality and spiritual adultery with the Satanic world system led by the Man of Sin or the beast (14:4a; cf. James 4:4; I John 2:15-16). 13

It is likely these servants of the Lord were unmarried in view of the strenuous times the last half of the Tribulation would bring. This brings to remembrance the apostle Paul’s admonition to singles (“virgins”) who were engaged to remain single in view of the “present distress” or persecution under Nero’s rule (I Corinthians 7:25-26). 14  

The 144,000 followed Jesus “wherever He goes” being forever grateful for the incredible price He paid (“redeemed by Jesus”) for their sins (14:4b; cf. Matthew 16:24-27; Luke 9:23-26). These evangelists were willing “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). 15

They were “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” in that they were the first converts of the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11) during the first half of the Tribulation period who were saved and sealed (cf. 7:3-4). Following their conversion, they were discipled by the teaching of the Two Witnesses before fleeing Judea to begin their worldwide gospel ministry during the second half of the Tribulation (14:4c; cf. Matthew 24:13-22). 16

“And in their mouth was found no falsehood, for they are without fault.” (Revelation 14:5). Even though deception will abound under the reign of the beast, there will be “no falsehood” found in the mouths of the 144,000 evangelists because they boldly shared the truth of the gospel and “are without fault” in that their lifestyle was one of faithful obedience to the Lord, not perfection. By God’s grace, they knew the will of the Lord and faithfully pursued it without stumbling into sin (Titus 2:11-13; Jude 1:24). 17

What do we learn from these 144,000 Jewish evangelists? First, if we are to be effective witnesses for Christ, we must be pure in our relationships with others. The 144,000 Jewish evangelists “were not defiled with women, for they are virgins” (14:4a). If we love the world more than the Lord Who created the world, people will not be as likely to listen to us if we claim to be followers of the one true God. If we are impure like the world around us, we will not have a credible message for those who are confused or lost in the world’s corruption. 18 Ask yourself, “Do I keep myself pure in my relationships with others – especially those who are of the opposite sex? Or do I blur the lines between appropriate and inappropriate behavior and questionable speech? Do I pursue worldly desires and lusts, or do I make it my priority to pursue the things of God (James 4:4; I John 2:15-17)?” 19

Secondly, like the 144,000 evangelists, we must faithfully “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (14:4b). The Lord Jesus came to earth “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He promised,Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Our responsibility is to follow Jesus. Christ’s responsibility is to make us fishers of men. Do you feel inadequate to share the gospel with the lost? Do you ever think that you do not know enough to share the gospel with non-Christians? Ask the Lord Jesus to help you follow Him daily and He will teach you all you need to know about evangelism. The best way to learn to talk to unbelievers is to walk and talk with Jesus. He will lead you to the unsaved people His Holy Spirit has prepared to hear and believe the gospel (John 16:7-11). Believing this will give you boldness as you go to share Christ with a lost world. Ask yourself, “Do I practice immediate obedience to Jesus or delayed obedience? What keeps me from practicing immediate obedience?”

The more we appreciate what Christ has done for us (“redeemed by Jesus”), the more grateful we will be to represent Him as His ambassadors to a lost world (14:4c; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15-21). We will be more willing “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29).

Thirdly, like the Jewish evangelists who were discipled by the Two Witnesses after their conversion (Revelation 7:1-8; 11:1-12), we must also be trained by older believers to effectively live for Christ now (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:2). Ask yourself, “Have I been taught by an older believer how to live for Jesus? If not, am I willing to place myself under a more mature believer to learn how to follow Jesus? If I have been discipled, am I now discipling others? If not, what is keeping me from doing this?”

Fourth, like the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, we must live a life of integrity, speaking the truth with our lips (“in their mouth was found no falsehood”) and living the truth with our lives (for they are without fault”) (14:5). If our mouths and lives are full of lies, people will not believe us when we tell them the gospel is true. Ask yourself, “Do I compromise the truth to avoid rejection or disapproval? Do I speak half-truths, white lies, and deception to avoid conflict with others? Do I live with integrity in public and in private? Am I hiding any secret sins?” If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions in this paragraph, turn to the Lord, confessing these sins to Him. The Bible promises “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

When we remain faithful to Christ and preach the truth of the gospel amid an array of false gospels and deceptions in this world, we will be richly rewarded in eternity by the Lamb of God Who redeemed us (Revelation 14:1-5; cf. Matthew 16:24-27; I Corinthians 3:5-14; 4:1-5; 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; I John 2:18-3:3, 24-4:6; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21; 22:12).

Prayer: Precious Lord God, thank You for these encouraging verses that describe the victory of the Lamb and His faithful followers at the end of the Tribulation period. After reading Chapter 13 which is filled with horrific deception and destruction under the Antichrist’s and False Prophet’s regime, our hearts are filled with hope to see Jesus and the 144,000 Jewish evangelists standing triumphantly on Mount Zion in Jerusalem at the end of the Great Tribulation. By Your grace Lord God, we ask You to enable us to be faithful witnesses to the truth of the gospel with our lives and our lips. May Jesus live in and through us so those who are confused and perishing without Christ in this corrupt world, can find the healing and hope that only Jesus can give them. We ask You to remove the Satanic blinders from the hearts and minds of the unsaved so multitudes will believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life which can never be lost. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.   

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 263.

2. Ibid.

3. The majority of Greek manuscripts read “the” (τὸ) Lamb in place of “a” Lamb, and “His name and” (τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ καὶ) before “His Father’s name.”

4. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1549.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), 2402.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1549.

7. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 291.

8. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 154 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 188-189.

9. Constable, pg. 154 cites Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton: Scripture Press Foundation, Victory Book, 1986), pg. 88; J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ, Edited by J. Otis Yoder (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1971), pg. 208; Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 607.

10. Constable, pp. 154-155 cites John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), pg. 214.

11. Vacendak, pp. 1549-1550.

12. Ibid., pg. 1550.

13. Ibid.

14. Constable, pp. 156-157.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1550.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Swindoll, pg. 267.

19. Ibid., pg. 268.

Revelation 13 – Part 4

“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.” Revelation 13:11

When Jesus spoke on the Mount of Olives of the sign of His coming to earth to set up His Millennial Kingdom, He described the future seven-year Tribulation period in Matthew 24:4-26. After expounding upon the first half three and a half years of the Tribulation period containing worldwide deception and agony (24:4-8), Christ then focused on the last three and a half years which would be characterized by even more deception and pain (24:9-26). He said, 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many… 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.” (Matthew 24:11, 23-25).

Christ is warning His audience that “false christs” and those who announce them, “false prophets, will rise up and deceive many” by showing “great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” chosen people of God who are believing Jews living during the last half of the Tribulation period (24:24). Christ shares this “beforehand” to prevent His people from being deceived by satanically inspired teaching that misleads people away from the true God. In our study of Revelation today, the apostle John describes the ultimate fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words.

After seeing the vision of a beast coming up out of the sea representing the Antichrist (Revelation 13:1-10), John now sees a second beast. “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.” (Revelation 13:11). John saw “another beast” of the same kind come “up out of the earth. Both men are called beasts to emphasize their cruel and vicious natures. 1 The word “earth” (gēs) literally means “land” and is most likely a reference to the land of Israel. 2 So, in contrast with the first beast who was a Gentile (from the sea; cf. 17:15; Isaiah 60:3-5; Daniel 7:2-4, 17; Matthew 13:47-50), we see that this beast may be a Jew (cf. 1:7). In view of the endless conflict between Arabs and Jews, this is a masterful arrangement by Satan himself. The union of an Arab (first beast) and a Jew (second beast) to lead the world into political, economic, and religious harmony is an ingenious answer to the world’s problems. 3

We learn that this second beast “had two horns like a lamb,” depicting his humble and gentle conduct. No one is afraid of a harmless “lamb.” But his speech will reveal his true character (13:11b; cf. Matthew 12:33-37). He will speak “like a dragon,” promoting Satan’s teaching that the first beast is God (13:11c; cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4). He will be the Devil’s mouthpiece speaking lies to persuade the world to worship the World Ruler. No wonder God refers to this second beast three times in the book of Revelation as the “false prophet” (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10).

The deceptive and deadly approach of the second beast is summarized well by John Phillips: “The dynamic appeal of the false prophet will lie in his skill in combining political expediency with religious passion, self-interest with benevolent philanthropy, lofty sentiment with blatant sophistry, moral platitude with unbridled self-indulgence. His arguments will be subtle, convincing, and appealing. His oratory will be hypnotic, for he will be able to move the masses to tears or whip them into a frenzy…. His deadly appeal will lie in the fact that what he says will sound so right, so sensible, so exactly what unregenerated men have always wanted to hear.” 4

This second beast “is the final person in the unholy trinity of the end times (Revelation 16:13; 19:20-20:2, 10). Just as the Holy Spirit gives glory to Christ and points men to Him, the false prophet will glorify the Antichrist and lead people to trust and worship him.” 5

“As Donald Grey Barnhouse says, ‘The devil is making his last and greatest effort, a furious effort, to gain power and establish his kingdom upon the earth. He knows nothing better than to imitate God. Since God has succeeded by means of an incarnation and then by means of the work of the Holy Spirit, the devil will work by means of an incarnation in Antichrist and by the unholy spirit.’” 6

“In hell’s trinity, Satan is a counterfeit Father (antiFather), the Antichrist is a counterfeit Son (antiChrist), and the false prophet is a counterfeit of the Holy Spirit (anti-Spirit). This is the infernal trinity.” 7

Whereas the first beast will primarily be a military and political figure, the second beast will primarily be a religious figure who prepares the way for the World Ruler, much like John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, the Messiah (cf. John 1:6-9, 19-36; Acts 19:4). The apostle John writes, “And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” (Revelation 13:12). This false prophet will have worldwide “authority” to cause all unsaved people “who dwell” on the earth to “worship the first beast” who died and rose from the dead (“whose deadly wound was healed”). “Like Joseph Goebbels with Hitler, the false prophet will be inspired by the same authority and will share the same diabolical agenda as the Antichrist.” 8

Commenting on this verse, Tony Evans says, “This second beast, the false prophet, completes the unholy trinity, which imitates the work of the Holy Trinity. Within the Godhead, the Father seeks worship; the Son gives glory to the Father; and the Holy Spirit gives glory to the Son. Here, Satan seeks worship for himself; the first beast glorifies Satan; and the second beast compels the earth and those who live on it to worship the first beast. Additionally, he will heal the Antichrist’s fatal wound, imitating the Holy Spirit’s work of raising Christ from the dead (see Romans 8:11).“ 9

How exactly does the false prophet deceive the unsaved world to worship the Antichrist? The same way Jesus predicted he would (cf. Matthew 24:23-24).13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. 14 And he deceives my own people who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.” (Revelation 13:13-14). Like Pharaoh’s magicians, only with greater effectiveness, the second beast will have authority to perform supernatural miracles (cf. Exodus 7:11, 22; 8:7). These will be genuine “great signs” or supernatural wonders, not just tricks (13:13a; cf. Revelation 16:13-14; 19:20; Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 23-25; 2 Thessalonians 2:9). 10 God is not the only One who can do supernatural miracles. Satan can also perform miracles, and he uses this power to deceive people to worship his substitute for Christ, the Antichrist.

One of his great miracles will be making “fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men” (13:13b). Even the apostle John himself had at one time wanted to “command fire to come down from heaven” on some Samaritans who rejected Jesus (Luke 9:54). 11 Now John sees the false prophet calling fire down to the earth to deceive people into rejecting the true Christ in favor of Satan’s Antichrist.

As Christ predicted (cf. Matthew 24:24), even God’s own “elect” covenant people, Israel (“my own people who dwell on the earth”) will be deceived by these miraculous “signs” that the false prophet performs, the greatest of which was raising the Antichrist from the dead (“the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived”) after he had been fatally wounded (13:14; cf. 13:3; 17:8). As we mentioned in a previous lesson, by mimicking Jesus’ death and resurrection, Satan is attempting to persuade the nation of Israel to believe that the Antichrist is their long-awaited messiah so he can lead them to eternal destruction with him in the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 15), thus rendering God’s promises to Israel false and making God a liar.

Those who are deceived by the False Prophet will be instructed to build “an image to” honor “the beast” who died and supernaturally came back to life (13:14b). This fulfills Jesus prophetic teaching on the Mount of Olives when He said, Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand).” (Matthew 24:15). The “image” or statue in honor of the beast (13:14b) is the “abomination of desolation” that will be placed in the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem at the midpoint of the Tribulation period.

Like the image of Nebuchadnezzar on the plain of Dura (Daniel 3), everyone must bow to this image or die. 12 “He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” (Revelation 13:15). This image or statue will be unlike any ever created. This inanimate object will become animated. The false prophet will “give breath to the image of the beast” so that “the image of the beast” will come to life and “speak” (13:15a).

People have come up with many theories about this “image of the beast.” Some suggest that since Satan does not have the power to give life to an inanimate object, he only gives this image the “impression of breathing and speaking mechanically, like computerized robots today.” 13When the television set first came on the scene, some people thought that might be the image of the Beast. People made the same suggestion about computers connected to the Internet. Some folks, bewitched by sci-fi movies, tossed around the idea that the image might be a supercomputer that gains consciousness – or a 3-D hologram – or a subhuman clone of the Antichrist.” 14

I prefer to take the biblical text literally. The Greek word for “image” (eikona) means “an object shaped to resemble the form or appearance of something, likeness.” 15 The image of the beast will not be a robot, or a clone, or a supercomputer, it will be some type of idol that visually represents the Antichrist. 16 It is likely that Satan and his demons will indwell or possess the idol to be the direct recipients of the world’s worship. This should not surprise us. Throughout history, demons have attached themselves to idols so that when people worship an idol, the demons can receive the adoration and worship that they long for. 17

For example, the apostle Paul writes to Christians at Corinth who were not only participating in the Lord’s Supper with believers at church, but they were also eating with unbelievers who sacrificed to idols in pagan temples. Paul says to them, 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry… 19 What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? 20 Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.” (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:14, 19-20). A sacrifice that was offered to a false god, was actually being offered to a demon (cf. Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:16-17; 2 Chronicles 11:15; Psalm 106:36-38; Revelation 9:20).

Anyone who refuses to “worship the image of the beast” will be “killed” by it (13:15b). Believers worship Christ because He rose from the dead (cf. Acts 17:30-31), and unbelievers will worship the beast because he will have done a similar thing (13:14-15).

Many people during the last half of the Tribulation will assume a person who can give life to a statue must be a divine person, but the Bible teaches otherwise. Just because someone can work a miracle doesn’t make him worthy to be followed or worshiped. God does miracles in a righteous way and in accordance with biblical truth. Even if someone can call down fire from heaven and raise the dead, he is working for Satan if he does not point people to the Lord Jesus Christ. 18

In view of Satanic deception (Revelation 13:11-15), believers must always test what teachers say against God’s Word no matter how godly and persuasive they may appear (cf. I Thessalonians 5:21; I John 4:1-3). For example, Jesus warned, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15). Like the False Prophet of Revelation 13, Jesus says false prophets today will look like genuine believers (“come to you in sheep’s clothing”).

They will even confess the Lordship of Christ. Christ says of them, 21 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23). They confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ by referring to Him as “Lord, Lord.” These are people who have some understanding of the greatness of the Person of Christ. They sincerely believe Jesus is “Lord,” that is, Master, Ruler, and King. Because of this belief, they look like followers of Christ outwardly and do wonderful works for His glory – prophesy in His name, cast out demons in His name, and do many wonders in His name (7:22), but inwardly they are “ravenous wolves” (7:15). Christ says they will not be in heaven (7:23).

Like the False Prophet of Revelation 13, these modern-day false prophets exhibit great power. They will claim to have “prophesied… cast out demons… and done many wonders in” in Jesus’ name (7:22b). Notice that Jesus does not deny their claim. These people wanted Jesus to get the glory by doing these incredible things in His name. They want the glory to go to the Lord, not themselves. These are all things that Jesus did. These false prophets appeal to Jesus to let them into the kingdom of heaven based on their Christ-like works. Even though they openly confessed the Lordship of Christ and did wonderful works for His glory, look at what Jesus says about them: “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (7:23). Christ refers to their religious works as “lawlessness.” All sin is lawlessness (I John 3:4). Even sin that looks good on the outside is lawless before a holy God because it is not done in the context of a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus explains that we will know these false prophets by their words, not their works: 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:16-20). The way to discern if they are false prophets is by their “fruits.” Since the Lord has just told us that these false prophets look like sheep, we can conclude that their “fruits” have nothing to do with outside appearances.

Jesus helps us understand that their “fruits” refer to their words, not their works in Matthew 12:33-37 where He uses the same imagery. 33 Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Just as “fruit” reveals the nature of a “tree,” so one’s “words” reveal the nature of one’s “heart.” What the “heart” is filled with (“abundance of the heart”) and values the most (“treasure of his heart”) cannot be concealed. The “mouth speaks” what is in a person’s “heart.” The “words” that a false prophet “speaks” are windows into his “heart.” So, the way to discern a false prophet is by listening to his message.

Jesus said if you want to “enter the kingdom of heaven,” you must do “the will” of His “Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). What is the Father’s will as it relates to entering His heaven? Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40; cf. John 3:5-16). The will of God the Father as it relates to entering the kingdom of heaven is to believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, for eternal life. Anyone who teaches a different way to heaven is a false prophet or teacher.

In the context of Matthew 7, true prophets are standing in front of the “narrow gate” that “leads to life” (Matthew 7:13-14). They are preaching that the way that “leads to life” eternal is “narrow” (John 10:9; 14:6; cf. Acts 4:10-12). Only believing in Jesus Christ alone leads to eternal life (Matthew 21:31-32; cf. John 3:16; 6:40, 47).

However, false prophets are standing in front of the “wide” gate that “leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13-14). These false prophets are preaching many ways to heaven except faith alone in Christ alone. Those who believe the false prophet’s message and never believe Christ alone for eternal life, will be surprised in the day of judgment when the Lord Jesus says to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23)!

It doesn’t matter what you have said or done, because you are still a sinner and need a Savior to take away your sins. Your words and works cannot take away your sins. This is why Jesus said these false prophets practiced “lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). They were relying on their sin-stained words and works to get them to heaven (Isaiah 64:6), instead of the finished work of Jesus Christ (John 3:14-15; 19:30). Only Jesus can take away our sins because He is God and took our place and punishment for sin when He died as our Substitute on the cross and rose from the dead (John 1:1, 14, 17; I Corinthians 15:3-6). When it comes to getting to heaven, it is not the will of God that you confess the Lordship of Christ, or surrender to the Lordship of Christ, or do good works for His glory. It is the will of God that you believe in Christ alone for His gift of eternal life (John 3:14-16; 6:40).

Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus’ warnings about false christs and prophets who will try to mislead us away from the truth about Christ with the use of their persuasive words and profound works. Thank You, Father, for giving us Your word so we may know the truth which can set us free from Satan’s lies. We need Your spiritual discernment, Father, especially in an age of deception and manipulation so we are not led away from You and Your Son, Jesus Christ. May Your Word have such deep roots in our hearts and minds that we can easily identify and avoid a false prophet who stands in front of the wide gate that leads into eternal destruction. Please enable us to clearly communicate the gospel of grace so unsaved people can know and believe that Jesus Christ alone is able to save them and give them everlasting life the moment they believe in Him. We ask Your Holy Spirit to open the spiritual eyes of those who have been blinded by Satan’s deceit so they can realize that the Jesus of the Bible is the only Savior Who can rescue them from the lake of fire and give them an eternal home in Your heaven. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 269.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1547; J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 333; Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2401.

3. Vacendak, pg. 1547.

4. Hitchcock, pg. 272 cites John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), pg. 171.

5. Hitchcock, pg. 270.

6. Ibid., cites Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), pg. 240.

7. Ibid., pp. 270-271.

8. Ibid., pg. 273.

9. Evans, pg. 2401.

10. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 148 cites Gregory H. Harris, “Satan’s Deceptive Miracles in the Tribulation,” Bibliotheca Sacra 156:623 (July September 1999): 308-324.

11. Constable, pg. 148.

12. Hitchcock, pg. 274. F

13. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 5820 to 5825.

14. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 253.

15. 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. 281.

16. Swindoll, pg. 253.

17. Ibid.

18. Evans, pg. 2401.

How can we overcome fear in evangelism? Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

4. Ibid.

5. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 540.

6. Evans, pg. 1810.

How can we overcome fear in evangelism? Part 2

“And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16:8

After Jesus forewarned His disciples of the world’s coming hostility and persecution of them (15:18-16:4), He began to encourage them with the Holy Spirit’s ministry that would take place while He was gone. Last time we learned that we can overcome fear in evangelism when we GRASP THAT WE ARE NOT ALONE WHEN WE WITNESS (John 16:5-7) because God the Holy Spirit permanently indwells every believer in Jesus.

The second way for us to overcome fear in evangelism is to GIVE UNBELIEVERS THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL AND LET THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVINCE THEM IT IS TRUE (John 16:8-11). In John 15:27, Jesus told His disciples to “bear witness” about Him. However, He also told them it would not be easy. Some would put them out of the synagogues and even kill them (John 16:2). In the midst of this distressing news, He offers them encouragement by introducing them to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says of the Holy Spirit, “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (John 16:8). What does the word “convict” (elegchei) mean? It means to “convince someone of something.” 1  John is using this word in a legal sense here. When a prosecuting attorney presents his case in such a way that demonstrates that something is true, he convicts his listeners. However, this does not mean that the Holy Spirit forces someone to believe something is true. A person can hear compelling evidence that something is true and still reject it. 2

The Holy Spirit assists people in coming to faith in Christ. It is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to convince non-Christians in three areas. What are they? “Of sin… righteousness and judgment.” Notice the implied tenses of these nouns: past “sin,” present “righteousness,” and future “judgment.” 3  When the gospel is preached, it is the Holy Spirit Who convicts people of their “sin,” and that they need God’s “righteousness” through faith in Jesus, because without it, they will face certain “judgment” without hope of anything but eternal condemnation.

Beginning in verse 9, Jesus explains why the Holy Spirit convicts the world in these three areas. “Of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” (John 16:9). The word “sin” (hamartias) means “to miss the mark or standard.” 4  All people fall short of God’s perfect righteousness because “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) against God through their thoughts, words, actions, and motives.

Yet the world tries to persuade people that they are not sinners. Many secular scientists and psychologists seem bent on destroying peoples’ awareness of sin. They may say that all people are inherently good. As a result, many people have a difficult time admitting they are guilty of sin. Oh, they may admit that they make mistakes or have failures and vices, but it is very difficult for them to admit that they have sinned against God. Even some churches say that people are not that bad and because God is love, He will accept everyone into heaven. 

But the ultimate proof of the world’s sinfulness, Jesus says, is that “they do not believe in Me.” A court of law can convict someone of murder or theft, but only the Holy Spirit can convict someone of unbelief toward Christ. The Holy Spirit can convict people of their individual sins they have committed, but people can clean up their own lives and still go to hell. It is the sin of unbelief toward Jesus Christ that condemns people to an eternity in hell (John 3:18). 5  That is why the Bible says that “Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast in to the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). Those who refuse to believe in Jesus will not have their names written in the Book of Life.

Unbelievers are judged according to their works to determine their degree of punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-13; cf. Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40), not their eternal destination. But their condemnation and placement in the lake of fire is because of their unbelief toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:15; cf. John 3:18).

So we see first, that the Holy Spirit wants to convict non-Christians of their sinfulness because they refuse to believe or trust in Jesus Christ alone as their only way to heaven. Because faith in Christ and His full payment for sin on the cross (John 19:30) is the only solution to our sin problem, the Holy Spirit wants to convict people of their sinful condition, so they can see their need to believe or trust in Jesus alone. The Holy Spirit is the prosecuting attorney who presents God’s case against sinful humanity. He creates an awareness of sin so that it cannot be dismissed or excused or evaded by taking refuge in the fact that “everybody is doing it.” When we are convicted of our sin, we admit to God that we have been wrong in our unbelief toward Jesus and then we believe or trust in Him alone, so we can approach God the Father in heaven.

The reason why the Holy Spirit convicts the world in the area of “righteousness” is explained in the next verse. “Of righteousness, because I go to the Father and you see Me no more.” (John 16:10). The Holy Spirit convicts the world “of righteousness,” because Jesus would suffer and die for our sins and rise from the dead and “go to” His “Father” in heaven, proving that He was the perfect Son of God. Had Jesus not been the perfect Son of God, the Father would not have received Him in heaven. Because God has no sin, Jesus could not enter into His presence in heaven if He were not righteous. For people to be accepted by God and able to enter into His heaven, they must measure up to Christ’s righteousness. No human being can accomplish this on their own. 6

This is why the Holy Spirit wants to convict the world that their righteousness before God depends not on their good works, but upon the finished work of Christ on the cross for them. Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven prove that He was the perfect Son of God. Christ’s righteousness is what satisfied God’s holy demand to punish sin, not our own righteousness. 

When sharing the gospel with the unsaved, they may respond by saying, “I’m not as bad as him or her” or “I have not murdered anyone or committed adultery like so and so…” But God is not measuring our righteousness based on what other people have done or not done. He is measuring our righteousness based on what His Son, Jesus Christ, has done, and all of us fall short of Jesus’ perfection (Romans 3:23). Jesus never, ever told a lie. But we lie to ourselves and others daily. Christ never had one unkind thought. But we average a minimum of five a day. God’s Son never hated His enemies. But sometimes we can’t even stand the person we are married to or live with. So when it comes to behavior, in God’s eyes, we do not measure up. All of us fall short of Jesus’ perfection. Christ is the only Person Who never sinned (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Therefore, we must trust in Christ alone to be declared totally righteous before God.

“But to him who does not work, but believe on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). When you trust in Christ alone for His gift of righteousness, God looks at your sin as covered by Jesus’ shed blood on the Cross. He takes the righteousness of His Son and places it on you. Therefore, you can stand before a holy God with the perfect righteousness of Jesus.

Henry Ironside shares a helpful illustration about what it means to be justified before God. One morning on his way to a sheep ranch, he noticed a very peculiar sight. He saw an old ewe loping across the road followed by the strangest looking lamb he had ever seen. It seemed to have six legs, and the last two were hanging helplessly as though paralyzed. When one of the sheep ranchers caught the lamb and brought it over to Ironside, the rancher explained that the lamb did not really belong to that ewe. She had a lamb that was bitten by a rattlesnake and died. This lamb that Ironside saw was an orphan and needed a mother’s care. But at first the ewe refused to have anything to do with it. She sniffed at it when it was brought to her, then pushed it away, saying as plainly as a sheep could say it, “That is not my lamb!” So the ranchers skinned the lamb that had died and covered the living lamb with the dead lamb’s skin. When the covered lamb was brought again to the ewe (see above photo), she smelled it once more and accepted the lamb as her own as if to say, “That is Mine!”

Like that orphan lamb, all people are born as outcasts, separated from God because of their sin. But God’s only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead, so that when we believe or trust in Him alone, we are clothed with His righteousness. God can accept us into His family now because He sees the righteousness of His Son instead of our sin. He can say, “That is Mine!”

“Of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:11). The reason the Holy Spirit convicts the world “of judgment” is “because the ruler of this world [Satan] is judged” already in heaven by God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19), and will shortly be judged at the cross (cf. John 12:31; Colossians 2:15), and later confined to the lake of fire at the end of the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:2, 7-10). The word “judged” (kekritai)is in the perfect tense and passive voice which means Satan was judged by God in the past and remains condemned today. Like a convicted criminal, Satan awaits his execution when he will be cast into the lake of fire to “be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:7-10).  

The Holy Spirit wants to convince people that if they refuse to believe in Jesus for His gift of righteousness, then they will experience the same eternal “judgment” as the Devil. His judgment is fixed and permanent. Satan’s eternal judgment guarantees that all who are in his kingdom through unbelief will also be condemned. If a person dies without believing in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life, their condemnation cannot be lifted. It is permanent (cf. Hebrews 9:27). There are no second chances after you die.

Many people today, including Christians, do not believe in hell or eternal punishment even though Jesus and the apostles taught about its reality (cf. Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 13:40-42, 47-50; 18:9; 23:33; 25:46; Mark 3:29; 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; 16:19-31; John 3:18, 36b; James 3:6; 2 Peter 2:4, 17; Jude 1:7, 13; Revelation 14:9-11; 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; et al.). But it is not our responsibility to convince them of the reality of hell. The Holy Spirit will do this as we preach the gospel to a lost world.

It is the Holy Spirit Who can convince a typical non-Christian who has no sense of his own sinfulness, who sees no need for God’s righteousness, and who pays no attention to the warnings of coming judgment. It is not our responsibility to convince people of the truth of the gospel; that responsibility belongs to the Holy Spirit. Our job is to clearly and effectively communicate the truth of the gospel and let the Holy Spirit convince them that it is true.

In February 2017 when I was flying to Northern Samar for a mission trip in the Philippines, I sat next to a Filipino law school student who visited with me about President Trump. She made it clear to me she did not like President Trump and nor could she understand how I could like him. She was getting very angry as I shared my supporting views about the President and his policies. As our conversation progressed, I began praying for the Lord to give me wisdom on shifting the focus from politics to the gospel.

A few minutes later, I said to her, “I really would like to share with you about something far more important than politics.” “Really?!” She exclaimed. “What could that be?!” I said, “How you can know for sure from the Bible how you can go to heaven when you die.” “Oh,” she said quietly. Then I asked her, “May I share from the Bible how you can know for sure you will go to heaven when you die?” She said, “Yes.” I then shared the bad news (Romans 3:23; 6:23) good news (I Corinthians 15:1-6; John 3:16) approach with her. Afterward, she indicated she was now trusting in Christ alone as her only way to heaven. Her whole demeanor softened as the gospel was shared with her. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit convicted her of her sin and her need for the Savior, so she could escape the eternal judgment that awaits those who refuse to believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of salvation.

When we realize that the Holy Spirit is already at work in the hearts and minds of unbelievers around us to persuade them of their own sinfulness and their need for Christ’s righteousness to escape the eternal judgment of God, we will have more confidence to share the gospel with the unsaved world. Knowing of the Holy Spirit’s convicting work among the unsaved can also give us a greater sense of expectancy as we proclaim the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, inviting the unsaved to believe in Jesus alone as their only hope of heaven.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, it is with a heap of gratitude that I approach You right now. Without the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in the world, there would be no reason to expect a bountiful harvest when we share the gospel with the lost. But because the Spirit of God is already at work persuading non-Christians of their sin so they may see their need to believe in Jesus for His gift of righteousness to escape the same eternal judgment as Satan, we can boldly share Christ with them. Please enable us to clearly communicate the truth of the gospel to the lost as we rely on the Holy Spirit to convince them that it is true. In Your precious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pg. 249.

2. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 453.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 298-299.

4. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 267.

5. Constable, pg. 300.

6. The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), pg. 1187.