Revelation 19 – Part 6

“And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.” Revelation 19:19

After the beast or Man of Sin rules over the earth the last three and a half years of the Tribulation period (Revelation 13:5), the King of kings and Lord of lords will bring his reign to an abrupt end when He returns to earth 1 (19:17-21; cf. Daniel 11:45b; 2 Thessalonians 2:8) with His heavenly armies consisting of faithful church age believers (Revelation 19:7-8; cf. 2:10, 17, 25-27; 3:5, 10-11; 17:14) and God’s angels (cf. Matthew 16:27; 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Following the description of Jesus Christ and those who will follow Him back to earth at His Second Coming (19:11-16), the apostle John writes, 17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather together for the great supper of God, 18 that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, both free and slave, both small and great.” (Revelation 19:17-18). With the beast and the armies of the world gathered at Armageddon (19:19; cf. 16:14-16) and with Jesus Christ and His armies assembled in the sky (19:11-16), John sees “an angel standing in the sun” to command the attention of the world. But instead of calling out to people on the earth, this angel “cried with a loud voice… to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven” or the sky between Christ and His armies, and the beast and his armies.

The angel invites these scavenger birds to “the great supper of God” in anticipation of the vast slaughter of Jesus’ enemies at the battle of Armageddon (19:19-21; 14:18-20; 16:13-16). Jesus predicted this when He said, 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” (Matthew 24:27-28). The Greek word translated “eagles” (aetoi) means “vultures” in this context. 2

“The great supper of God” is not the same as “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (19:7-9). The marriage supper of the Lamb will be a time of great rejoicing and celebration for Jesus and His bride, the church (19:7-9; cf. 3:14, 20; 21:2, 9; 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-32) and will take place following “the great supper of God.” This marriage celebration will last one thousand years on the earth during the Millennial Kingdom following the battle of Armageddon (20:1-6; cf. Isaiah 25:6-9; 35:1-10; 55:12). 3

“The great supper of God,” however, will be a time of great sorrow and judgment. At this supper, instead of eating the food, people will be the food. Five times John uses the word “flesh” (sarkas) when describing this supper (19:18) to emphasize the immense slaughter of humanity when Jesus Christ defeats His enemies at the Battle of Armageddon. Those of “all” classes and statuses – “kings… captains… free and slave… small and great” – will die instantly along with their “horses” from the sharp sword proceeding from King Jesus’ mouth (19:18; cf. 19:15).

Swindoll writes that “one commentator notes that the angel’s pronouncement ‘is gruesome and powerful, guaranteeing before the battle has been joined that the end result is certain. The angel commands all the birds… [using] ironically the same verb in 16:15, 16 for the false trinity “gathering together” the nations for the final battle. At the same time as the evil forces gather for Armageddon, the carrion birds are called to gather for the aftermath of the inevitable slaughter.’” 4

Most interpreters take the term “horses” figuratively instead of literally. But I prefer to take these “horses” literally. It is quite possible that modern modes of transportation and modern weapons technology had been destroyed by the many divine judgments and/or nuclear wars throughout the Tribulation so that at the end of the Tribulation the primary mode of transportation was on horseback and weapons included chariots, swords, spears, bows and arrows. This preserves a literal understanding of Bible prophecies which predicted such things for end time battles (Revelation 19:18; cf. 9:7-19; 18:13; Ezekiel 38:1-39:29; Zechariah 12:1-14; et al.).

Faithful believers in Jesus who have not died or been martyred during the Tribulation (cf. 12:13-17; Matthew 24:13) will enter the Millennial Kingdom with mortal bodies and repopulate the earth (cf. Genesis 9:1; Isaiah 65:17-23). 5

Some Bible interpreters believe all nonbelievers will die when King Jesus returns to earth. But Vancendak disagrees: “But in light of the information given by the Lord regarding the Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31-46, it is obvious that there are some unbelievers (who have apparently survived by hiding in elaborate and costly underground bunkers or even caves) that will be brought before Christ for judgment (cf. Matthew 25:32) after He takes His throne. They will be sent, not to Hades, but to the lake of fire: ‘Depart from Me… into the everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41). Of course, they will appear at the Great White Throne. The text simply means that they will have the same fate for the next one thousand years as the Beast and the False Prophet (cf. 19:20). The ‘holding tank’ of this corrupt bunch will be the lake of fire. Though one cannot be dogmatic on this, it seems likely that infants and children still alive after Armageddon who have not reached the age of accountability will enter Christ’s kingdom and eventually repopulate the earth. Some will grow up and believe in Christ and others will not. This accounts for the huge army Satan gathers at the end of the thousand years to war against Christ (see 20:7-9).” 6

As the birds of prey gathered, John saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.” (Revelation 19:19). King Jesus will not return to earth to bring unpredictable judgment against unsuspecting innocent parties. The “beast” or Man of Sin and his allies have deliberately waged “war against” King Jesus “and against His army” (cf. Psalm 2:1-3), and Christ will strike down these wicked foes. 7

Next John records the results of this final battle: “Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” (Revelation 19:20). We are not told how or by whom “the beast” and “the false prophet” were “captured.” John simply focuses on the accomplishment of this feat. Their time in power is over because Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1; I John 5:20), not the beast who claimed to be God (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4). 8

The false prophet had “deceived” people on earth to receive “the mark of the beast” and worship “his image” during the last half of the Tribulation period (19:20; cf. 13:11-18).No doubt he appeared to the world to be a very spiritual spokesman with amazing supernatural powers (“worked signs by which he deceived”). Those who were deceived by him will not only face God’s temporal judgment when King Jesus kills them in battle, but they will also face God’s eternal judgment in the lake of fire (cf. 14:9-11). 9

So heinous and wicked was their blasphemy against God that the “beast” and “false prophet” will be the first human beings to be “cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” This verse is clear that there is no annihilation in store for those who reject Jesus Christ. Some have wrongly taught that because God is love, nonbelievers are punished in hell for a time before simply ceasing to exist. It is clear from 19:20 and other verses 10 (cf. Matthew 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43-48; Jude 1:7; Revelation 14:10-11; 20:10, 15; 21:7-8) however, that their punishment is without end.  

Those who have rejected Christ and died throughout history up to this point are in torments in hades (Luke 16:23). The lake of fire is a different place prepared for the devil and his fallen angels (Matthew 25:41). 11 After the thousand-year reign of King Jesus, the beast and false prophet will be permanently joined by the devil and all nonbelievers in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10-15).

John tells us, “And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.” (Revelation 19:21). Following the beast’s and false prophet’s capture and placement in the lake of fire, “the rest” of the beast’s allies who remained on the battlefield “were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse.”

“Then suddenly it will be all over. In fact, there will be no war at all, in the sense that we think of war. There will be just a word spoken from Him who sits astride the great white horse. Once He spoke a word to a fig tree, and it withered away. Once He spoke a word to howling winds and heaving waves, and the storm clouds vanished, and the waves fell still. Once He spoke to a legion of demons bursting at the seams of a poor man’s soul, and instantly they fled. Now He speaks a word, and the war is over. The blasphemous, loud-mouthed Beast is stricken where he stands. The false prophet, the miracle-working windbag from the pit is punctured and still… Another word, and the panic-stricken armies reel and stagger and fall down dead. Field marshals and generals, admirals and air commanders, soldiers and sailors, rank and file, one and all – they fall. And the vultures descend and cover the scene.” 12

So many people will be killed “that all the birds” will have plenty to eat. Imagine how foolish the beast and his global armies will look as they point their weapons at the all-powerful Creator God, Jesus Christ, Who spoke the entire universe into existence (Genesis 1; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:1-2)!!! Although foolish, it is like humanity to overestimate “their abilities, forever proud of their technology, yet never coming to terms with their own weakness before the all-powerful, all-knowing Lord of the universe.“ 13

May none of us make the same mistake as these people. Revelation 19 teaches us that there are two suppers in the future: the marriage supper of the Lamb which will involve great joy and celebration or the great supper of God which will involve great destruction and judgment. If you want to make a reservation for the marriage supper of the Lamb, you must meet two conditions:

1: You must have childlike faith in Christ alone to enter His coming kingdom. Why? Because all of us need a Savior because all of us have sinned against God (Romans 3:9-23) and deserve to be separated from Him forever in a terrible place of suffering and torment called the lake of fire or hell (Romans 6:23; Mark 9:43-48; Revelation 20:15). But God loves us so much He gave His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place for all our sins and rise from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6; John 19:30). Jesus Christ is alive today and He invites us to have childlike faith in Him alone to enter His coming Kingdom. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mark 10:15).

If you are ready to trust Jesus alone for entrance into His future kingdom on earth, you can tell Him through prayer. But remember, praying a prayer does not get you into Jesus’ kingdom. Only believing or trusting in Jesus alone for everlasting life will gain you entrance into His kingdom on earth (John 3:5-6, 14-16). This prayer is a way of telling Jesus you are now trusting in Him alone.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I cannot save myself from my sins. I believe You died in my place for all my sins on the cross and rose from the dead at Your first coming. And I believe You are coming back to earth to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords in the future. I am now trusting You, Jesus, alone (not my good life, my religion, or my prayers) to give me everlasting life now and a future home in Your coming kingdom. Thank You Jesus for the everlasting life I now have and the home I will have in Your future kingdom on earth. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus, He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost or taken away from you (John 10:28-29). Jesus guarantees you will enter His kingdom on earth when He returns with His church (Mark 1:15; 10:15; John 3:5-6, 16). He wants to use you now to tell others this good news of His coming kingdom so they also may trust in Him alone to be saved and enter His future kingdom on earth.

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

If you found this to be helpful, please share this with those you want to see attend the marriage supper of the Lamb in Jesus’ future kingdom on earth. Thank you and may the Lord Jesus Christ richly bless you!

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. 1576.

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), pg. 22.

3. Vacendak, pg. 1572; Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 207 cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 5 (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), pg. 1048; Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2414.

4. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 346 cites Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Moises Silva (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), pg. 687.

5. Constable, pg. 213.

6. Vacendak, pp. 1576-1577.

7. Evans, pg. 2416.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1577.

9. Ibid., pp. 1577-1578.

10. Evans, pg. 2416.

11. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6303.

12. Swindoll, pp. 346-347 cites John Phillips, Exploring Revelation, rev. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987), pg. 236.

13. Swindoll, pg. 347.

Another Reason Why Christ’s Death is Called Good Friday

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46

Today Christians refer to Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross as “Good Friday.” Why? To a watching world, there does not seem to be anything good about suffering an agonizing and humiliating death on a cross. The Bible explains this, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18). A non-Christian does not view Christ’s death in the same way as a Christian does. To the non-Christian, there is nothing good about Jesus’ humiliating and agonizing death on a cross. But to the Christian, Christ’s crucifixion is a demonstration of “the power of God” to save them from an eternity in hell and from the power of sin in their Christian lives on earth.

For the Christian, it was a “Good Friday” the day Jesus died because of what Jesus accomplished on that day. While hanging on the cross, Jesus cried out to His Father in heaven, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Why did Jesus say those words? So that you and I who believe in Jesus would never have to. God rejected Jesus so He would never reject us after we come to Him in faith. God turned His back on His Son, so that He would never have to turn His back on those of us who believe in Christ.

This might surprise you, but God has endured more rejection than anyone else on the planet. Herod tried to kill Him when He was just an infant. His family refused to believe in Him initially. His disciples abandoned Him when He needed them most. One of His disciples, Peter, denied ever knowing Him. The crowd that could have influenced Pilate to let Him go chose the murderer, Barabbas, to release instead. He was crucified by the very people He created.

But that’s not the worst of it. It is one thing to be rejected by family… a spouse… a friend…a boss or your own countrymen. But nothing compares to being rejected by God. And this is what happened to Jesus when all the sin of the world was placed on Him as He hung on the cross in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). The only time God has ever turned His back on His Son was at that moment on the cross.

Our sin separates us from God because He is holy and righteous and cannot be around our sin (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:23; 6:23a). So, when the sin of the world was place on Jesus Christ as He hung on the cross, God the Father turned away from His Son causing Jesus to cry out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Christ’s death on the cross finished paying the penalty for all our sin (John 19:30). Jesus did this for us so God would never have to reject us after we come to Him on His terms.

During His earthly ministry Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37). Christ guarantees that when we come to Him in faith just as we are, He will “by no means cast” us “out” of God’s family. We are forever His and He will never reject us!

No matter… what your record or what you have done… where you have been or how proud, arrogant, and self-sufficient you have been, when you come to Christ in faith you will be welcomed. You will not be cast out. Jesus will never reject you no matter what you do after you come to Him. This is God’s amazing grace. It cannot be earned, and it cannot be undone. Once you come to Christ in simple faith, you are God’s child forever.

Some of us come from backgrounds which are filled with rejection. The main reason some of us have a hard time trusting people today is because we have experienced so much rejection while growing up. Perhaps a parent criticized us for everything we did… a teacher humiliated us… a friend betrayed us… a spouse left us… an employer terminated us.

Jesus guarantees you will never be rejected by Him. His love and acceptance of you is unconditional. Many of us need to know this because we have experienced so much rejection in our lives. Jesus is challenging us to believe in Someone Who loves and accepts us regardless. That Someone is Jesus Christ who cried out to His Father while hanging on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” He did this so we who believe in Him would never have to. This is another reason why Christ’s death is said to take place on a Friday that was very good for those of us who put our faith in the Lord Jesus.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for taking our place on the cross when You received the punishment for sin that should have been ours. We are eternally grateful You cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” so we who believe in You would never have to. Although many of us have been deeply wounded by the rejection of others, please help us learn to trust You knowing you will never reject us regardless of what we or others do, say, or think. Heal us so we are no longer driven by the fear of rejection. Help us to rest in Your total acceptance of us. No longer do we need to seek the love and approval of others because we are totally loved and accepted by You. Hallelujah Lord Jesus! We love you and seek to live for You now. In Your matchless name we pray. Amen.

Revelation 16 – Part 5

“And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.” Revelation 16:21

As the sixth bowl judgment made it possible for the armies around the world to gather at Armageddon for the final battle of the Tribulation period (16:12-16), a seventh angel arrived with the seventh bowl of God’s wrath. “Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’” (Revelation 16:17). This angel pours “out his bowl into the air” we breathe, making its impact the greatest of all.The “loud voice” coming “out of the temple of heaven” probably belonged to God and announced that with this last bowl this series of judgments “is done!” Since people would not receive the Savior’s, “It is finished!” on the cross (John 19:30), they must now receive the horrific, “It is done!” from the “Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25) 1 to finish the outpouring of His wrath on humankind and begin the final phase of His coming back to earth. 2

“And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.” (Revelation 16:18). The destruction that followed was accompanied by “noises and thunderings and lightnings” that are like the manifestation of God’s holy presence on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16-19; Psalm 68:8). What got the apostle John’s attention was not the armies of the world gathering at Armageddon, but the mighty acts of God as He begins to convulse nature in opposition to His enemies, 3 beginning with the greatest “earthquake” the world has ever experienced.

This unprecedented earthquake will bring worldwide destruction. “Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.” (Revelation 16:19). This earthquake will divide “the great city” of Jerusalem(cf. 11:8)4 “into three parts” and destroy virtually all “the cities of the nations,” with Rome, the ”great Babylon,” being given an additional judgment of the “fierceness of His wrath” because of all the suffering she had inflicted upon God’s people and other nations (16:19; cf. 18:20, 24; 19:2). 5 Details of Rome’s judgment are given in Chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation.  

Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.” (Revelation 16:20). This great earthquake will cause a supernatural shifting of the earth’s tectonic plates so that “every island” disappears and “mountains” will be leveled. “As the Flood produced global topographical changes, so will this megaquake.” 6

“And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.” (Revelation 16:21). This seventh bowl judgment will also cause “great hail” to fall “upon men” and crush them since “each hailstone” weighs about one hundred pounds (“a talent”). Hail was often an instrument of God’s judgment in biblical history (cf. Joshua 10:11; Job 38:22-23; Isaiah 28:2, 17; Ezekiel 13:11-13; 28:22-23). 7

“It is as though the creation, formed as an expression of God’s love, is being undone as an expression of His wrath. As in 6:16-17, people know the source of their judgment, yet they refuse to repent or honor God… Their response is as irrational as it is immoral.” 8

Just as Pharoah’s heart remained hard during the plague of hail in Egypt (cf. Exodus 9:24), so the hearts of earth-dwellers will remain hard and blaspheme God instead of humbly believing in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life.

The GOOD NEWS is you and I do not have to go through this time of horrific judgments upon the earth. The Bible says of those who believe in Jesus during this church age: 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. 15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet Him ahead of those who have died. 16 For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.” (I Thessalonians 4:14-17 NLT). The Bible assures those who believe in Jesus that they will be reunited with other believers who have died. Christ’s death, resurrection, and victorious ascension to heaven guarantees our own future resurrection and victorious ascension to heaven prior to the Tribulation wrath of God (I Thessalonians 1:9-10) if we have believed or trusted in Christ alone for His gift of salvation.

The Bible tells us, “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. 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).

The choice is yours. Will you believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, for His gift of everlasting life and escape God’s temporal wrath on earth during the Tribulation and His eternal wrath in the lake of fire for eternity? Or will you shake your fist at God and reject His gracious and loving provision for your sin and experience His wrath both now and forever? I pray you will receive God’s free offer of salvation now before it is too late.

Prayer: Father in heaven, thank You for giving us a preview of the outpouring of Your wrath through these horrific bowl judgments near the end of the future Tribulation period. One reason You have done this is to encourage us to prepare for the future by placing our trust in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life so we may live with Him forever in His heaven and escape Your coming wrath on the earth. Those who do not believe in Christ will not be able to escape Your judgment in the future, whether they be alive on the earth during the Tribulation period (Revelation 6-16) or whether they have already died without Christ and will face Him at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). As world events are rapidly moving toward the fulfillment of end times Bible prophecy, please enable us to bring glory to Your name Lord God by pointing the lost to the One who cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” Open their hearts and minds so they may believe in Christ alone to give them a future home in heaven. To You, Father God, be all the glory both now and forevermore! In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 178 cites William R. Newell, The Book of the Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1935), pg. 262.

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. 1561.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2408.

4. Vacendak, pg. 1561; Constable, pg. 179.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1562.

6. Constable, pp. 179-180.

7. Ibid., pg. 180.

8. Evans, pg. 2408.

Revelation 13 – Part 2

“And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” Revelation 13:3

Last time (see diagram below) we were introduced to the three members of the unholy Trinity: Satan, pictured as the dragon (Revelation 12:3-17); the World Ruler or Antichrist pictured as the beast from the sea (Revelation 13:1-10); and the False Prophet pictured as the beast from the earth (Revelation 13:11-18). 1 In contrast to the unholy Trinity are the three members of the holy Trinity: God the Father (Revelation 1:6; cf. Ephesians 1:2); God the Son (Revelation 2:18; cf. I John 5:20); and God the Holy Spirit (Revelation 4:5; 22:17; cf. Acts 5:3-4).

While standing on the seashore, the apostle John saw a monstrous beast come up out of the sea, having “seven heads and ten horns” (13:1). The apostle then tells us, “And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” (Revelation 13:3). John sees “one of the heads” be “mortally wounded, and… healed.” Some interpreters believe that the head wounded and restored refers to the myth that Nero had not really died, but was alive, and would return to continue his monstrous atrocities as the Antichrist. 2 Others thinks that this refers to Judas who is restored to life. 3 Some believe this event refers to an empire not a person, concluding that it refers to the fall of the Roman Empire in AD 476 and its resuscitation in the end times. 4

I believe the biblical text is referring to the literal death and resurrection of the Antichrist for the following reasons:

1. The language in Revelation 13 describes an individual, not a nation or empire. The pronouns “he,” “his,” and “him” are used repeatedly (13:1-8). The second beast builds an idol to the first beast (Revelation 13:11-18). Such an idol would be peculiar if it refers to an empire instead of a person. 5

2. The Greek phrase translated “as if it had been mortally wounded” (hōs esphagmenēn eis thanaton – lit. “as having been slain to death”) in 13:3 is the same phrase John uses to describe the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. “And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain [hōs esphagmenon].” (Revelation 5:6). Again, in Revelation 13:8 John uses this same phrase when he refers to Christ as, “the Lamb slain [tou esphagmenou] from the foundation of the world.” Christ’s death was clearly real and resulted in a literal bodily resurrection. 6

Regarding resurrection, the Greek word used of Christ’s resurrection from the dead in Revelation 2:8 (who was dead, and came to life”) is ezēsen, and this same word is also used in Revelation 13:14 where it says that the Beast “who was wounded by the sword and lived [ezēsen].” 7 So in both cases, John is describing the literal death and resurrection of the Beast.

3. Would the whole world really be awestruck by the revival of the Roman Empire? When the Beast is killed and brought back to life, “all the world marveled and followed the beast” (13:3b). John Phillips describes the importance of such an event: “With this master stroke of miracle, the devil brings the world to the feet of his messiah…. It is this miracle of resurrection that is given as the reason for the popularity of the Beast. No doubt the whole thing will be stage-managed by Satan and the false prophet to make the greatest possible impact upon men. Their propaganda machine will see to it that the miracle is magnified and elaborated to the fullest extent.” 8

Hitchcock writes, “This resurrection is the event that propels the Beast to popularity and compels the world to fall at his feet. This response would be much more likely if it refers to a man. If a great world leader were assassinated with a fatal head wound and then came back to life a few days later, this response would be understandable.” 9

4. It is more reasonable to apply the wording of Revelation 13:3 to a man rather than a kingdom. As Warren Wiersbe says, “it would be difficult to understand how a kingdom could be slain by a sword. It is best, I think, to apply this prophecy to individual persons.” 10

Many Bible interpreters do not believe the resurrection of the Beast is literal because they conclude that Satan does not have the power to give life. 11 While I agree that only God has the power to resurrect the dead, I believe that the biblical text teaches that God gives this power to Satan to raise the Beast from the dead as part of the strong delusion.

In support of this, is the increase in Satan’s power during the Tribulation period. Currently, the Holy Spirit is restraining the Devil from certain activities (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). But once the Restrainer, the Holy Spirit, is removed via the Rapture of the Church (2 Thessalonians 2:7; cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11), Satan’s powers will be unbridled during the Tribulation period in ways never seen before. The coming of the Beast or “lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9). The Bible tells us that God will permit this activity. 11 God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). Since Satan will have increased power and freedom during the Tribulation, it is reasonable to conclude that he will have the ability to raise the Beast from the dead to accomplish this “strong delusion.” 12

Revelation 13 also tells us that the false prophet “causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed” (13:12b),  “performs great signs” (13:13a), “deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast” (13:14), and “granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak” (13:15).If Satan has the power to give life to a dead idol, then why is it not possible for him (with God’s permission) to resurrect a man from the dead?” 13

In addition, Revelation 17:8 also speaks of the Beast’s death and resurrection. It says, “the beast that you saw was, and is not” (17:8a). This is a reference to the assassination of the Beast (cf. 13:1-3). Then we are told that the beast “will ascend out of the bottomless pit” (17:8b; cf. 11:7). This is most likely a reference to a demon that ascends out of the bottomless pit to resurrect and indwell the Beast. 14 When John says the Beast will “go to perdition” (17:8c), he is telling us that the Beast will not go back to the bottomless pit forever, but to eternal “perdition” (apōleian)or destruction in the lake of fire at the end of the Tribulation period (Revelation 19:20). 15

John adds, “And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” (17:8d). When the unsaved people of the world(“whose names are not written in the Book of Life”) see the death and resurrection of this Beast who then kills the Two Witnesses in Jerusalem near the midpoint of the Tribulation (11:7), they “will marvel,” realizing this is no ordinary human being. It is at this point that the Beast will take his place in the rebuilt Jewish temple where he will declare himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). 16

How will the unsaved people of the world respond? John tells us, 3And all the world marveled and followed the beast. 4  So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’” (Revelation 13:3b-4). The Beast imitates Christ’s death and resurrection to astound the unsaved world and gain its political and religious devotion. 17

After three and a half years of terrible judgments, the world will be easily deceived by the miracles they see and will wholeheartedly follow the beast. Much of the world will give their worship to “the beast” and to Satan (“the dragon”) “who gave authority to the beast,” making him seem invincible (13:4).

Let’s not forget that Satan is also seeking to destroy the nation of Israel knowing that he has a short amount of time before he is bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years (Revelation 12:12-13; 20:1-3). 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, making God a liar.

It is important to remember that “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). We see this exemplified at the midpoint of the future Tribulation when he will mimic Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection through the Antichrist to trick the world into giving him its economic and religious devotion. It is at this time that Satan will deceive the world with his unholy version (Satan, Antichrist, False Prophet) of the true Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit) to trick people into worshiping and following him (Revelation 12:3-13:18). Since the potential for spiritual deception will be even greater during this future Tribulation period because of the many worldwide judgments, political upheavals, and widespread suffering and death, the Beast’s death and resurrection will offer false hope to a starving world.

While Satan is not able to unleash the full force of his attacks and deception today like he will in the future Tribulation, he is still using the same deceptive strategies today to lure people away from worshiping the true Triune God of the Bible. Satan uses many false teachers and churches today to oppose God and mislead people away from the truth (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 11-15). Satan’s churches teach many false things like the Bible is not true, God is not three in one, Jesus is not God, Jesus did not die or rise from the dead, salvation is by works or faith plus works, plus many more lies.

Remember when the Bible describes the Beast in Revelation 17:8? It said, “the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” Compare Satan’s imitation Christ with the true Christ, Who said “’I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” (Revelation 1:8).  “The Alpha and Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and signify here, Jesus’ comprehensive control over all things—including time (cf. Revelation 21:6; 22:13). He is in control of the past (“who was”), the present (“who is”), and the future (“who is to come”), and He will bring history to its conclusion. Christ is yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8) because He exists eternally. 18

And because Jesus exists eternally, He wants us to exist forever with Him in His heaven. But Satan wants to trick us into thinking he is in control. He wants to instill fear in us because we give control to whatever we fear. Our greatest fear is physical death and Satan has used this fear to control people for centuries. But when Jesus Christ, the Creator God of all things (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2), came to earth in the form of a man without ceasing to be God two thousand hears ago (John 1:1, 14), He destroyed Satan’s power regarding the fear of death. The Bible tells us, 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Satan’s strategy to get humankind to sin and suffer death was to instill fear in them, especially the fear of death. But the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ removes the power of this fear, because His resurrection and victorious ascension to the right hand of the God the Father assures us of our own resurrection and victorious ascension to the Father in heaven when we believe in Jesus, so we no longer need to fear death.

Do you know for sure where you will live after you die physically? If not, would you like to know for certain you will live with Jesus in His heaven? If so, here is how. The apostle John not only wrote the book of Revelation, but he also wrote the book of I John.

John tells us, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” (I John 2:18). Although the Antichrist will appear in the future Tribulation to lure people away from the true Christ, there are many little “antichrists” or false teachers in the world today who oppose Christ and want to replace Him with an imitation Christ so people will not believe in the true Jesus of the Bible. These antichrists deny “that Jesus is the Christ,” the Messiah God (I John 2:22). For John, the belief that “Jesus is the Christ” is what saves us from hell and gives us eternal life (cf. I John 5:1; cf. John 20:31). To believe that Jesus is the Christ means we believe Him to be the One Who guarantees eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-27).

But these little “antichrists” or false teachers deny that Jesus is the Christ (I John 2:22) and deny that eternal life is available only through Jesus alone. John writes, 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life. 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.” (I John 2:25-26). Satan wants us to doubt God’s promise of eternal life to all who believe in Jesus. This is one reason why so many preachers tell us it is not enough to believe in Jesus for eternal life. People are being told to do everything but believe in Jesus for eternal life. They are taught they must confess their sins, obey the commandments of God, surrender to the Lordship of Christ, sell all your possessions, and give the proceeds to the poor, ask Jesus into their heart, give their life to Christ, or commit to follow Jesus as His disciple, and many other substitutes in place of belief in Christ alone.

Perhaps you have been told to do these things and you still lack the assurance that you will go to heaven when you die. You are still afraid of dying. Satan has tricked you into believing his lies.

Please listen carefully. John tells us in I John 5:1: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” Do you believe Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah-God, Who died for your sins and rose from the dead, proving He is God (John 20:31; Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:3-6)? If you do, the Bible says you are “born of God.” God is now your Father, and you are His child forever!

Later in the same chapter, John also tells us, 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 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 5:11-13). Eternal life is a gift that God gives to us (5:11a). We do not have to work for this gift. It is free. This eternal life is only found “in His Son,” Jesus Christ (5:11b). Do you have God’s Son through faith in Him alone? If you do, then you have eternal life (5:12). God wants us to be certain of this. “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.” If you believe in the name of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, then you can “know” (not think or hope) with absolute certainty that you “have eternal life.” Because Jesus 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.

Therefore, if we believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life, we do not need to fear death any longer because we are guaranteed a future home with Jesus in His Father’s house in heaven (John 14:1-3; Revelation 21-22). No longer do we need to give control to the Devil because Jesus has conquered him and his lies through His death and resurrection. As believers in Jesus now, we are to “abide” or continue in Christ’s word so we may know “the truth” of God which sets us free (John 8:31-32) from Satan’s lies and the fears they produce.  

Prayer: Father God, thank You for showing us Satan’s strategies of deception that he will implement in full force during the future Tribulation period on earth. As an angel of light, he will mimic Jesus’ death and resurrection through the first beast to lure people away from worshiping and following the true God. Satan is using similar tactics of deception today to mislead people away from the true Christ and the eternal salvation He freely offers. We pray that the eyes of millions, who have been tricked by Satan’s lies, can come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ Who guarantees never-ending life to all who believe in Him alone. Please enable those of us who believe in Jesus to abide in His Word so we may know the truth which sets us free from Satan’s lies and the fears they produce. In the name of the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty God, the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2399.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 143 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John, 2nd Ed., Vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pp. 115-119.

3. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 331 cites Arthur W. Pink, The Antichrist (Swengel, Pennsylvania: Bible Truth Depot, 1923), pp. 50-55.

4. 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. 322; also see Pentecost’s discussion, pp. 331-332.

5. Hitchcock, pg. 322.

6. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 248; Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1545-1546.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1546.

8. Hitchcock pp. 322-323 cites John Phillips, Exploring Revelation: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001), pp. 166-167.

9. Hitchcock, pg. 323.

10. Ibid., cites Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament, Vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1989), pg. 605.

11. Pentecost, pg. 332; Hitchcock pp. 323-324, 486-487 cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, vol. 5 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983), pg. 1000 and Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code: Find Out What the Bible Really Says about The End Times and Why It Matters Today (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), xix-xx, and Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer, The Last Disciple (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2004), pg. 394 as examples of those who hold this view.

12. Adapted from Hitchcock, pg. 324.

13. Ibid., cites Wiersbe, pg. 605.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1565. 

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.

17. Swindoll, pg. 311.  

18. Evans, pg. 2369.

Two Christmas Seasons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Cosmic Christmas (Video)

This video is about the birth of Christ from heaven’s perspective as described in the book of Revelation. The message of this video will help you learn how to experience the joy and peace you were meant to have.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site: http://www.revelationillustrated.com. Other digital images are used with permission from Arabs for Christ / FreeBibleimages.org, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, www.LumoProject.com, GoodSalt / goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.

Revelation 5 – Part 1

“But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’” Revelation 5:5

Christian author and speaker, Chuck Swindoll writes, I never cease to marvel at the advances of the modern world. The field of medicine has given us a life expectancy higher than ever. In many countries, even some people living in poverty live longer and have more comforts than kings of the past. Technology has sped up communication and transportation, essentially shrinking the globe. Within seconds, a person in Canada can chat with a friend in Thailand. Within a day, they can shake hands. At least in the Western world, humans have overcome many social and political problems, learning to face new challenges in the twenty-first century. We human beings have certainly come a long way!

“Or have we?

Over a century ago, liberal theologians thought we were on the verge of ridding ourselves of the barbarism, imperialism, and superstition that had led the world astray for so long. This included what they saw as the ‘mythical’ trappings of Christianity—things like the Virgin Birth, the deity of Christ, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Armed with modern science and philosophy, those enlightened intelligentsia were convinced that people could finally mold the world into what it was meant to be—an enduring kingdom of peace and prosperity on earth. In short, they believed that humanity, equipped with the latest ideologies and technologies, was worthy to forge a glorious destiny, trusting in human ability rather than trusting in God.

“As you probably know, this overconfidence in humanity evaporated like a morning fog. In 1914 an assassin’s bullet ignited the fire that exploded into World War I. Germany was armed to the hilt with the most advanced weapons produced at the time. And they had the unwavering support of Germany’s leading philosophers and even theologians! That great conflict, dubbed ‘The War to End All Wars,’ was quickly followed by the terror and atrocities of World War II. By then, mass killing had been reduced to a science at Auschwitz, and science had also been used to create the massive destruction of the atomic bomb! Then came the horrors of terrorism, which military authorities say is here to stay. The reality of human depravity has dashed the misplaced hopes of humanistic philosophy and liberal theology. Today the world is left wandering in unbelief, doubt, uncertainty, and fear. People wonder whether anyone or anything is able to truly remove the evil around us.

“Is anyone worthy to vanquish wickedness and usher in a world of true peace and prosperity? As the world continues its desperate and disappointing search for worldly answers to life’s problems, the Bible reveals the solution in clear words and vivid images. In Revelation 5 we experience the inexpressible joy that John felt when the attention of all creation finally centers on the only One who can take the reins of history and tame a world spinning out of control—Jesus, the worthy Lamb.” 1

Before God pours His wrath on rebellious humankind on earth (Revelation 6-18), He describes the Person Who is worthy to open a scroll containing God’s judgments to be unleashed on the earth during the 7-year Tribulation period. Chapter 5 continues the vision the apostle John was given of God and His throne room in Chapter 4. “And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.” (Revelation 5:1). The “scroll” that John saw “in the right hand of” God the Father is representative of the judgments God will pour out on the earth throughout the Tribulation period (cf. Revelation 6:1ff).The opening of just one seal alone, the fourth seal, will result in the death of one fourth of the world’s population (cf. Revelation 6:7-8). 2

This “scroll” was the focus of John’s attention in chapter 5, and it is what Jesus Christ opens (unseals) in chapter 6, resulting in the judgments that will be unleashed upon the earth. This rolled document was so full of words that John could see writing on the outside (“on the back”) as well as on the “inside” of the scroll (cf. Ezekiel 2:9-10). 3 Papyrus documents have been discovered that contain writing on both surfaces of the sheets, though this was unusual. 4

Someone, probably God, had “sealed” the scroll with “seven seals,” suggesting the profound nature of the revelation it contained. 5 Roman law required that people seal their wills “seven” times because they were very important documents. 6 The perfect number (i.e., seven) of seals may also hint at the absolute purity of the scroll. 7

“In John’s day, people used a seal to keep the contents of a document secret, unchangeable, and free from tampering—until some authoritative person broke the seal. In this case, after Jesus broke the first seal, the scroll unrolled until the second seal kept it from opening further. Then He had to break the second seal in order to reveal more of the contents, and so on. Probably the seals were located on the edge of the scroll.” 8

The scroll is like a title deed to the earth. It depicts God’s ownership of all creation and right to hold accountable those who misuse it and thus dishonor Him. Through judgment administered by Jesus, God once again will lay claim to His creation, which was plunged into sin by Adam in Genesis 3.” 9

Because God the Father has decreed that He will not execute His judgments on mankind personally (cf. John 5:22), 10 John hears “a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?’” (Revelation 5:2). This is the second of twenty-one times “loud voice” occurs in Revelation (cf. 1:10; 5:2, 12; 6:10; 7:2, 10; 8:13; 10:3; 11:12, 15; 12:10; 14:2, 7, 9, 15; 16:1, 17; 18:2; 19:1, 17; 21:3). His “loud voice” manifested his authority and the importance of what he said. 11 “The Greek word rendered ‘scroll’ is biblion, from which is derived the word ‘Bible.’” 12

One with sufficient authority and worthiness was necessary to “open the scroll and to loose” or break “its seals,” to unleash the judgments on the world that it contained. Next John writes, “And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.” (Revelation 5:3). After searching every level of the universe, no created being “in heaven or on the earth or under the earth” in Hades possessed the authority or ability to “open” or even “look at” the scroll.

“In fact, no one is worthy even to look at the Lord’s plan for worldwide judgment, much less administer it, prompting John to weep.” 13 “So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.” (Revelation 5:4). John “wept much because no one was found” who was qualified to “open the scroll” and execute God’s wrath and bring His enemies into submission to Him.

“John knew that if no one had been found worthy, the hopeless condition of the present world would continue indefinitely. The suffering, pain, sickness, and death that characterize everyday life would never come to an end! Yet John’s weeping may have had another dimension. For over sixty years he had placed all his hope in Jesus Christ to turn the world right side up. If heaven’s search for a worthy heir failed, so would his confidence in Jesus Christ.”  14

Spiritually minded people long for that future day when the evil cosmos will be subjugated, and God will be obeyed. Because no one is found worthy to execute God’s wrath and bring this subjugation about, John is extremely grieved.” 15

How deeply grieved are we to see the postponement of God’s wrath upon the earth which will bring all His enemies into subjection to Him? Does our heart yearn to see God’s righteousness bring to justice those who have rebelled against Him and caused much suffering and pain to His servants? For centuries, believers have prayed for God’s kingdom to come on earth (Matthew 6:10) only to be disappointed. Perhaps our generation will be the one to see this come to pass.

John’s grief was probably lifted when he writes, “But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’” (Revelation 5:5). One of the twenty-four “elders” representing the church in God’s throne room in heaven, told John not to weep because Jesus, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David has prevailed to open the scroll and its seven seals” to execute God’s wrath on the earth. The “Lion . . . of Judah” (Genesis 49:9) and the “Root” or Offspring “of David” (Isaiah 11:1, 10; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Matthew 22:42-43; Romans 15:12) are both titles of the Messiah-God, Who would fulfill the Old Testament promises of salvation and rule. This is the only place in the New Testament where they occur together, however. As God’s ultimate Anointed One, Jesus alone possessed the authority and qualifications necessary for this task. 16

The word “prevailed” is the Greek word enikēsen and is from the same word used in Revelation 2 and 3 to describe the victorious believers who earn the title of “overcomer” and thereby reign eternally with Christ (cf. Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21). The implication is that Christ was completely and perfectly faithful to God in His role as Messiah. He is the ultimate Overcomer, and therefore only He has earned the right “to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals” as the Executor of God’s judgments. 17

This scene reflects the fact that sinful people, even when they are redeemed, fall short of the qualifications necessary for one who could judge the earth. But Christ, by virtue of His full divinity, sinless humanity, and atoning death, is qualified. God the Father has granted judging authority to the Son (see John 5:22, 27). Jesus died to redeem humanity at His first coming. He will judge in order to redeem the entire creation at His second.” 18

Through tear-filled eyes now sparkling with renewed hope, John looked for the Lion—but instead he saw something else. 19 “And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (Revelation 5:6). John now saw the “Lamb” of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:6-7; John 1:29), “in the midst of the throne” room of God. The Lamb of God now took center stage among all the angelic creatures and the twenty-four elders gathered around the throne, as the central character and most important Personage in the entire heavenly scene (cf. 3:21; 4:6; 7:17). The Lamb “stood” ready to complete His work, bearing the marks (wounds, scars) of His death (“as if slain”). 20

“In one brilliant stroke John portrays the central theme of NT revelation—victory through sacrifice.” 21

The Lamb possessed “seven horns” representing His fullness of power and strength (Numbers 23:22; Deuteronomy 33:17; 1 Samuel 2:1, 10; 2 Samuel 22:3; 1 Kings 22:11; Psalm 75:4; 132:17; Daniel 7:20-21; 8:5) 22 and “seven eyes” representing His fullness of wisdom and discernment through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (“seven Spirits of God,” cf. 1:4; 4:5) 23  which made Him aware of all that was taking place on “the earth.” 

Because Jesus is qualified to bring judgment to earth, “Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” (Revelation 5:7). John saw the Lamb of God come and take the “scroll out of the right hand of” the Father “who sat on the throne” to signify the transfer of authority to execute judgment from the Father to the Son. The word “took” (eilēphen) is in the perfect tense to provide a vivid dramatic picture of the actual scene. 24 The transfer of authority was complete. During His earthly ministry Jesus had said, For the Father… has committed all judgment to the Son… and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” (John 5:22, 27).

In conclusion, Jesus Christ is the only One worthy to execute God the Father’s judgments on rebellious humankind during the Tribulation period (5:1-7). This serves as a motivation for believers now to live for Him Who will judge rebellion in the future.

Prayer: Holy Father in heaven, for centuries people have trusted in themselves and their own ingenuity to rid this earth of evil only to find themselves overcome by more unbelief, doubt, uncertainty, and fear.As the world continues its search for solutions to life’s problems, You remind us in Your throne room in heaven of the only One Who is qualified to tame a world that is spinning out of control – Your Son Jesus Christ, the Lamb Who was slain and the Lion Who alone is worthy to judge the earth. Since Jesus will judge rebellion in the future, we who know Him as our Savior bow before Him and commit ourselves to give Him all our love and devotion. For He alone is worthy of all glory, honor, and power both now and forever!!! 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), pp. 137-139.

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. 1519.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 74.

4. Ibid., pg. 75 cites Adolf Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East Revised ed. (Translated by Lionel R. M. Strachen. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1965), pg. 35.

5. Ibid., cites R. H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John Vol. 1 International Critical Commentary seriesa (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), pg. 138.

6. Ibid., cites Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars (London: SCM, 1965), pp. 182-183. 7. Ibid., cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol 1 The Daily Study Bible series 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 209; Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), pg. 142.

8. Ibid.

9. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2379.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1519.

11. Constable, pg. 75.

12. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

13. Evans, pg. 2379.

14. Swindoll, pg. 140. 

15. Vacendak, pg. 1519.

16. Constable, pg. 76.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1519.  

18. Evans, pg. 2379.

19. Swindoll, pg. 140.

20. Constable, pg. 77.

21. Ibid., cites Mounce, pg. 144.

22. Swindoll, pg. 140; Constable, pg. 77; Vacendak, pg. 1520; Walvoord, pg. 164.

23. Vacendak, pg. 1520; Walvoord, pg. 164.  

24. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!), 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2017 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 216335-216339.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 8 (Video)

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

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

How can I overcome my fears? Part 5

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:23

Since coming to faith in Jesus in 1979, the Lord has enabled me to share the gospel of Christ with many people. For the past ten years, God has also given me the opportunity to train believers in evangelism and discipleship. I have found that it is very normal to experience fear when sharing the gospel with non-Christians. The goal is not to not have fear in evangelism, but to overcome that fear with God’s boldness.

The Lord has taught me that one of the reasons Christians experience fear in evangelism is that they do not know what to say to an unsaved person. So the obvious solution is to teach fearful believers what to say to a non-believer. This leads us to our next verse about overcoming our fears.

We are learning how to overcome our fears by looking at how Jesus enabled His disciples to overcome their fears when He encountered them the evening of His resurrection day hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews.From this encounter we have learned to overcome our fears when we …

– Rely on Jesus to calm our fear with His peace-giving presence (John 20:19).

– Redirect our focus to the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection to convince our doubting hearts (John 20:20).

– Renew our sense of purpose (John 20:21).

– Relate to the Person of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).

After breathing the Holy Spirit upon His ten disciples to prepare them physically and visually for the coming of the Holy Spirit fifty days later on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (John 20:22; cf. Acts 2:1-21; 11:15-16), Jesus then says to them, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:23).

What does this verse mean? Is Jesus giving His disciples the ability to forgive and retain sins? Does this verse provide the biblical basis for Roman Catholic priests to forgive the sins of their parishioners?

To properly understand this verse, it is important to know that the Bible teaches that God is the only One who has the power and authority to forgive sins committed against Him. The Lord God said, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25). Mark 2:7 points out that only God can forgive sins. “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus demonstrated that He was God when He demonstrated the divine authority to both forgive the paralytic’s sins (an invisible healing) and enable him to walk (a visible healing). Jesus said to the scribes who thought He committed blasphemy by claiming to forgive sins, “ ’But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’ Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’ ” (Mark 2:10-12).

When we look at the Greek grammar of John 20:23, we learn that the first verbs in the two clauses (“forgive” and “retain”)are an aorist (aphēte) and present tense (kratēte), whereas the second verbs in each clause (“are forgiven” and “are retained”) are perfect tense verbs in the passive voice (apheōntai,  kekratēntai). “The perfect tense portrays past action and affirms an existing result.” This implies that the abiding state of the second verbs in each clause began before the action of the first verbs.

The passive voice indicates that someone has already done the forgiving or retaining. That Person must be God, since He alone has the authority to do that (Matt. 9:2-3; Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21). This means that God’s action of forgiveness (“they are forgiven them”) took place prior to the announcement of forgiveness by Jesus’ disciples (“If you forgive the sins of any”). It also means that God’s action of withholding forgiveness (“they are retained”) also took place prior to the announcement of the withholding of forgiveness by Christ’s disciples (“If you retain the sins of any”). “The grammar used by Jesus did not provide the disciples with the personal authority to forgive sin.” 3

Robertson states, What he commits to the disciples and to us is the power and privilege of giving assurance of the forgiveness of sins by God by correctly announcing the terms of forgiveness. There is no proof that he actually transferred to the apostles or their successors the power in and of themselves to forgive sins.” 4

God does not forgive peoples’ sins because we decide to do so nor does He withhold forgiveness because we will not grant it. We simply announce the previous forgiveness of God. We don’t create it. God has given Christians the privilege of proclaiming His terms on how a person can receive forgiveness of sins. 

The basis for forgiveness is not that God likes us or even that He loves us. It is that Christ laid down His life to pay the penalty for all our sins. “The Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13b-14). Forgiveness is based upon the cross of Christ, not our performance or good works.

Some people think forgiveness is like a man saying to the child down the block who threw a baseball through his window. “It is okay kid. I like you. Forget it.” No, God is love, but He is also righteous and just. Biblical forgiveness is like a child throwing a baseball through a window and the owner’s son paying for the broken glass. Then the man says, “It is okay. My son paid for it.”

What God wants Christians to proclaim to people is that they can obtain His complete forgiveness freely by believing in Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter told a Gentile named Cornelius, “All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” (Acts 10:43 NIV).

What this means is when we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the unsaved, which includes His death and resurrection (I Corinthians 15:3-6), we can say to them, “If you believe or trust in Christ alone, I can say on the authority of the New Testament, that you are forgiven.” Or we can say, “You are entitled to your opinion, but I must warn you that according to the New Testament, unless you believe or trust in Christ alone, your sin remains unforgiven.” The Holy Spirit enables us to  authoritatively declare that God has indeed forgiven the sins of any who believe in Jesus Christ. 5

Jesus did something similar when He said to the Pharisees who overheard Christ’s conversation with the former blind man, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” (John 9:41). Christ is saying to these self-righteous religious leaders, “If you recognized your spiritual blindness and acknowledged your sin and guilt, you would have believed in Me for forgiveness. And I would have forgiven you so ‘you would have no sin.’ But because you claim to have spiritual sight and deny your own sin, and refuse to come to Me for forgiveness, ‘your sin remains.’ ”

Now Jesus’ disciples (including you and me) would continue His ministry relative to the forgiveness of sins. When we share the gospel, care must be taken to make sure they understand that only God forgives. But the messenger does state it. What a high privilege we have in announcing the forgiveness of sins to those who believe in Jesus Christ alone.

This leads to our final principle for overcoming our fears. REVIEW CHRIST’S MESSAGE OF FORGIVENESS AS YOU PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL TO THE LOST (John 20:23). If you are afraid to share the gospel with the unsaved because you are not sure what to say, review the message of the gospel with another Christian before going out to share with non-believers. You can role play with that believer. Have the other person assume the role of the non-Christians while you assume the role of the Christian and share the gospel with him or her. And remember, the gospel by which we are saved is that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Then invite the non-Christian to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of all his or her sins (Acts 10:43).

When we share the good news of God’s forgiveness with non-believers, we not only bless those who hear the message, but we are also blessed to be reminded of the unlimited forgiveness we have in Christ. One of the greatest blessings we can receive is the joy of knowing that all our sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ! Every time we share the gospel with a lost person, we are blessed to review this incredible truth. Any doubts or fears we may have about being totally forgiven are quickly dispelled as we proclaim God’s free and unlimited forgiveness through Jesus Christ to a lost world.

But it is also true that one of the greatest fears a person can have is knowing your sins are not forgiven before you face a holy God. This is one of the main reasons why people are afraid of dying. They are not prepared to face their Maker without the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

As we saw earlier, the Lord God said, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25; cf. Hebrews 10:16-18). God chooses to remember our sins no more when He forgives us.

If you are a Christian and you know God has forgiven you, but you are struggling to forgive yourself, listen to what Larry Moyer says about such a dilemma. “This is a beautiful way to explain God’s forgiveness: if what we have done is no longer on His mind, it doesn’t have to be on ours either.” 6

The more we focus on Christ’s forgiveness of all our sins, the less fear we will have about our future and the more joy we will have today.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for entrusting us with Your gospel message. Even though we are often afraid before sharing this life-giving message with the unsaved, we are also excited to watch what You will do in the listeners’ hearts. What a high privilege You have given us in announcing the forgiveness of sins to those who believe in You, and Your death and resurrection. Please provide other Christians we can practice sharing the gospel with to overcome our fears of not knowing what to say to a non-Christian. We are realizing that the more we share the gospel with the unsaved, the more we are reminded of the complete forgiveness we received the moment we believed in Jesus. Please let Your forgiveness ring throughout our communities and world. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 367 cites H.E. Dana and Julius Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York: Macmillan, 1927), pp. 200-201.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John (2017 Edition), pg. 380.

3. Laney, pg. 367 cites Julius R. Mantey, “Evidence That the Perfect Tense in John 20:23 and Matthew 16:19 Is Mistranslated,” JETS 16 (1973): 129-138.

4. Archibald Thomas, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (with Bible and Strongs Numbers Added!), 6 Volumes (The Ephesians Four Group: 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 77918-77920.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1829.

6. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How to Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2012), pg. 288.

How can Jesus’ resurrection make a difference in our daily lives? Part 2

“Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.” John 20:8

Today we will continue to look at how the empty tomb of Jesus challenged the life of Mary Magdalene. From this we will see how Jesus’ resurrection can make a difference in our daily lives. We discovered last time that Jesus will dispel the darkness in our lives with the light of His resurrection (John 20:1). The next way Christ can make a difference in our daily lives isto PROVIDE EVIDENCE OF HIS RESURRECTION FOR OUR MINDS (John 20:2-9).

As we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection last month, those of us who believe in Jesus as our Savior were filled with joy as we sang and worshiped our risen Lord! However, it may be difficult for us to realize what it was like for those who discovered the empty tomb on that first resurrection Sunday. When Mary Magdalene saw that the tomb was empty, she wasted no time and “ran” to Peter and John, “the other disciple, whom Jesus loved” to tell them that “they [the religious leaders] have taken away the Lord out of the tomb” (John 20:2b).

Why didn’t Mary remember Jesus’ promise that He made before His crucifixion, saying He would rise from the dead on the third day (Matthew 16:21; 20:19)? Why didn’t Mary relay the message of the angel announced to her (and the other women) earlier that morning, that Jesus had risen (cf. Matthew 28:1-8; Luke 24:1-10)? Mark’s account tells us that fear had overcome Mary, so she said nothing to anyone (Mark 16:8). Since Mary was a former demon possessed person, she may have feared people would easily suspect her of having hallucinations (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). She may have thought that the angels were actually men who took Jesus’ body. What would that be like to conclude that the body of the One you followed and revered was stolen from His grave?

In 1876, a gang of counterfeiters from Chicago attempted to steal the dead body of President Abraham Lincoln and hold it for ransom.  Even though their attempt to steal Lincoln’s remains failed, it led to Lincoln’s corpse being buried again in Springfield, Illinois, in a steel cage under tons of cement so that it would not happen again. When the rest of the nation found out about this failed attempt to steal the President’s remains, it was in shock that a leader like that would be defiled in that kind of way. 1

That is probably how Mary and the disciples of Jesus must have felt. Their response is not uncommon. Even for us, when we first discover the shocking truth of the resurrection of Christ, we may have more confusion or doubt than we have joy or hope. For example, when we attempt to apply the truth of Christ’s resurrection to our lives, we may have confusion –  “How does Jesus’ resurrection apply to my situation?” Or we may have fear“I’m afraid of what this power might do in my life.” Or we may even have doubt– “I don’t know if this power will work in my life.” For Mary it was confusion (John 20:2). For the disciples in the Upper Room it was fear (John 20:19). For Thomas it was doubt (John 20:24-25).

Notice Mary said, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb” (John 20:2b). Often when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus and how that resurrection can apply to our lives, the hope is right there in front of us. We just cannot see it yet. How can I start to see the resurrected Jesus there where I am confused? 

When Mary informed Peter and John of the empty tomb, they wasted no time talking. They ran toward the tomb. “Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first” (John 20:3-4). These verses are captivating because of their eyewitness nature. John probably wrote these verses thirty-five years after it happened, before A. D. 70. 2  But as we read this almost two thousand years later, it reads like it happened today. Like he just saw it. If this happened to me, I would not forget it either. It is almost funny to read this eyewitness account because it is so fresh and real to John. Even though it is thirty-five years later, John wants his readers to know he was faster than Simon Peter. That sounds like someone else I know – me!

Even though John arrived at the empty tomb first, he does not go into the tomb. “And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in.” (John 20:5). John seems to wait at the entrance to process what he sees as quickly as possible. “Why would the linen wrappings be here without the body? Is there any sign of forced entry? Any indication of foul play? Where is the body? What has happened here?” 3

“Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.” (John 20:6-7). Peter pushes his way past John, as if to say, “Out of the way John. I’ve got to go in there to see what has happened.” That’s just the way Peter was. Peter also saw thestrips of “linen cloths lying there” where the body of Jesus had been placed and he also saw “the handkerchief that had been around His head.” Instead of being tossed aside, it was “folded together in a place by itself.” The fact that this head piece was “not lying with the linen cloths” suggests that Jesus first unwrapped the face cloth and folded it, set it down, and then unwrapped the rest of His grave clothes. The fact that the grave clothes were not in disarray and that the headpiece was neatly folded, demonstrates that the body was not stolen. Grave robbers would have been in a hurry and either taken the body with the wrappings or would have ripped and scattered them. Thieves would not have been this careful. Neither would friends who might have removed the body done this; they would have hurried away from the tomb as quickly as possible to avoid being apprehended.” 5

Carson observes, “The description is powerful and vivid, not the sort of thing that would have been dreamed up; and the fact that two men saw it (v. 8) makes their evidence admissible in a Jewish court (Dt. 19:15).” 6

Also this eyewitness description refutes the attempt to explain away Jesus’ resurrection (The Swoon Theory) by saying Jesus did not really die on the cross, He merely fainted and then was later revived in the tomb. This theory proposes that after enduring the intense brutality of being beaten and crucified, Jesus was revived by the cool interior of the tomb. But this doesn’t explain why a half-dead man would remove his head cloth, neatly fold it, and place it separate from his intact linen wrappings! Nor does it explain how he could have had the strength to move the heavy stone blocking the entrance. As with other attempts by unbelievers to deny the resurrection, this one fails to adequately explain the evidence. One thing is clear: When the disciples saw Jesus later (see 20:19-23), he didn’t look like a man who had been merely resuscitated from a near death experience!” 7

John now goes into the tomb. “Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.” (John 20:8).What did John “believe?” Mary’s report that the tomb was empty? Doubtful. When John saw that Jesus’ body was missing and the position of His grave clothes, he believed Jesus had risen from the dead. The evidence persuaded him to believe Christ was alive. Earlier in John’s gospel after Jesus had cleansed the temple and said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19), John wrote, “But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:21-22). John had already believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, that believing he may have eternal life in Jesus’ name (John 2:11; 6:69; 13:10; cf. 20:31). But when he saw the empty tomb and the arrangement of Jesus’ grave clothes, he believed Jesus rose from the dead. The evidence of Jesus’ resurrection convinced John even before he encountered the risen Lord Jesus. People since John can believe in Christ because of this evidence, too, even though they have not yet seen the risen Jesus (cf. John 20:29; 1 John 1:1- 4). 8

If you and I are going to see Jesus’ resurrection in our daily lives, we need evidence for our minds. For example, when you say, “I believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead,” how do I know you are not making that up? What makes that statement any different than saying, “I believe that the scrambled eggs I ate this morning have the power to change my life?” What makes it any different? Evidence. Something amazing happened in that tomb.

There are three different Greek words used for “saw” in these verses (John 20:5-6, 8). When we are told that John bent down and “looked in” the tomb, the word for “saw” [blépō, βλέπω] is used which is a common Greek word meaning to “perceive with the eye” (John 20:5). In this context, it conveys the idea of John bending down to glance or look quickly into the tomb. 10 When Peter entered the tomb, the word John uses for “saw” [theōréō, θεωρέω] refers “to observing something with sustained attention” 11  or “careful observation” 12(John 20:6). Peter carefully observed the contents inside the tomb. This is the word that we get the English word “theorize” from. When Peter saw the linen cloths lying there, he was thinking it through, wondering what was happening. He was coming up with a theory. The third word John used for “saw” [horáō, ὁράω] means to be mentally or spiritually perceptive,”(John 20:8). 13  Peter saw more after entering the tomb than John did in his first glance from outside the tomb, but John saw into the meaning of it all better than Peter. 14  Peter had more sight, but John had more insight. The evidence of Christ’s resurrection convinced John even before he met the resurrected Jesus.

These verses describe three different ways of seeing the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. I can take the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and just glance at it as I run by. Or I can gaze at it and try to figure it out. But the third way, the way John saw, is I can get it. John looks at the evidence and sees what has happened, and is persuaded to believe Jesus rose from the dead. We have had this happen with spiritual truth. It is when the truth is perceived in our minds so that it becomes real in our lives.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is defined as “the substance” or confident assurance “of things hoped for.” It is “the evidence” or conviction about “things not seen.” Through faith, the unseen becomes seen. The invisible become visible. John did not have to see the risen Lord Jesus to be convinced He was alive. He saw the evidence and was persuaded that Christ had come back to life.

Some people think that to have faith means you stop thinking. But we cannot believe in something that our mind rejects. Christianity is reasonable because it is based on historical facts. The resurrection of Christ makes sense when you start to look at what really happened. It is not true that there is no evidence for our faith. There are a number of very strong evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

First, we have the historical record. The historical reliability of an ancient document is determined by the number of manuscripts and the time interval between the original and earliest copy. The more manuscripts and the shorter the time gap between the original and earliest copy, the greater the historical reliability of the document. When comparing the New Testament with other famous ancient writings, the New Testament has far more manuscript authority than any other ancient literature. For example, the New Testament has 5,686 surviving Greek manuscripts compared to the most documented secular work from the ancient world, Homer’s Iliad, which has 643 surviving manuscript copies. 15  Most books from the ancient world have surviving manuscript copies about one thousand years after they were originally composed, with the Odyssey having one manuscript copied five hundred years after the original. But the New Testament survives in complete books from a little over 150 years after the original. 16  No other book from the ancient world has a smaller time gap between the original and the earliest copies as the New Testament. 17

Most (if not all) of the New Testament books were written by eyewitnesses and contemporaries of Jesus and His ministry (A.D. 29-33). For example, the gospel writers include, Matthew, who was accustomed to taking accurate records as a tax collector (Matthew 9:9), and was a disciple and observer who provides long and direct quotes from Jesus (cf. Matthew 5-7; 13; 23-25). Mark was a disciple of Peter (I Peter 5:13) who was an eyewitness of Christ (2 Peter 1:16). Luke was an educated contemporary of Christ who said, “Just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seems good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account” (Luke 1:2-3). John the apostle was a direct eyewitness of Jesus (John 19:35; 21:24; cf. I John 1:1-4). In addition to the gospel writers, Peter was also a direct eyewitness (2 Peter 1:16) and Paul was a contemporary of Christ and a witness of Jesus’ resurrection (I Corinthians 15:8). 18

The early dating of the New Testament manuscripts supports their truthfulness. The most knowledgeable scholars date the New Testament books within the lifetime of the eyewitness writers and contemporary authors. Noted Archaeologist Nelson Glueck wrote, “We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80.” 19  William F. Albright, the distinguished paleographer, said that “every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably between about A.D. 50 and 75).” 20

Luke claims to be a careful contemporary historian of the events he records, saying, “having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account… that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.” (Luke 1:3-4). “After spending many years researching the area, the noted expert on the first-century Near East, Sir William Ramsay, concluded that Luke was a first-rate historian. For in reference to thirty-twocountries, fifty-four cities and nine islands he did not make a single mistake!” 21

“The New Testament writers were honest men who willingly died for what they believed. And they were careful to distinguish their words from those of Jesus, revealing that they were not inventing them but reporting them (Acts 20:35; I Cor. 7:10, 12, 25; Rev. 1:17-20; 2:1f; 3:1f; 22:16-20). The New Testament is markedly different from Christian folklore, such as is found in the second- and third-century Christian apocryphal books. Noted Oxford expert on literature and myths, C.S. Lewis, insightfully notes about New Testament critics: 22

“’I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgment, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading… If he tells me something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read. I  have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this [the Gospels].” 23

Although some skeptics claim the New Testament is dependent on earlier sources, the evidence shows the New Testament is “clearly a firsthand, first-century account by disciples and contemporaries of Jesus. And contrary to widely believed liberal myths, each account is independent. Everyone acknowledges the difference between and independence of John and Luke, which is all that is necessary to manifest their authenticity. And even though it is unnecessary for the overall argument in defense of the authenticity of the basic life and words of Christ, a good case can be made for the independence of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) as well.” 24 

The science of archaeology has verified the historical accuracy of the Gospel records as well. Renowned Archaeologist, Nelson Glueck concluded, “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible.” 25

Sir William Ramsay, whose change from a skeptical view of the New Testament to a converted view was supported by a lifetime of research in the Near Eastern world. He writes, “I began with a mind unfavorable to it [Acts], for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tubingen theory had at one time quite convinced me. It did not lie then in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself often brought in contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.” 26

Renowned historian Colin Hemer has demonstrated the historical accuracy and authenticity of the New Testament in an amazing way. His research shows: “1) that the Book of Acts was written no later than A.D. 62; 2) that it is minutely accurate history written by an eyewitness and contemporary of the events of Jesus’ life; 3) that the same highly accurate contemporary historian, Dr. Luke, also wrote a Gospel (cf. Acts 1:1 and Luke 1:1) which tells the same basic story as the other Gospels, namely, that Jesus claimed to be and proved to be the Son of God by numerous incredible miracles, and that He died on the Cross and rose from the grave three days later. This is of course a strong confirmation of the central Christian message…  So Luke’s narrative of the life and miracles of Christ must likewise be accepted as authentic. And since Luke’s narration of Christ’s life and miracles in it accord with that of the other Gospels, we have here an archaeological confirmation of the Gospels that record the miracles and resurrection of Christ. In brief, from a strictly historical point of view, we could not have better evidence for the authenticity of events than we possess for the events in the life of Christ recorded in the New Testament.” 27

Having established the historical reliability of the New Testament, let’s listen to Its testimony regarding Jesus’ resurrection. “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was … declared to be the Son of God with power… by the resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:3-4). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8). Listen to what a former persecutor of Christianity, named Paul, wrote in the Bible. 3 That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.” (I Corinthians 15:3-6).

The reason these facts are so significant is because of who Christ is and what his death accomplished. Jesus Christ is the God-man. He is the Word of God who became flesh (John 1:14). He is the Son of God, the second Person of the Godhead, who became a man without giving up his deity (see Phil 2:5-8). He is the one and only person with both a divine nature and a human nature, unmixed forever. Therefore, he could serve as a perfect substitutionary sacrifice for sinners because as God he is without sin, and as a man he could die in our place. By bearing our sins on the cross, he suffered the wrath of God that we deserved so that we might be forgiven, receive eternal life, and be saved (see, e.g., 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 2:24).” 28

Notice the phrase “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth, the prophet Isaiah predicted in the Old Testament Scripture that the Messiah would die for our sins when he wrote, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:5). When Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. The proof that Jesus died was “that He was buried.” Christ did not merely swoon or faint on the cross. He died on that cross. We do not bury a living person, we bury a dead person.

Next, we see that Jesus “rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” The verb “rose” (egēgertai) is in the perfect tense in the original language, and it means Jesus rose from the dead in the past and He remains risen today. You will never hear a news report today that says Jesus’ dead body has been found. Why? Because He is risen and He remains alive today!

“Jesus suffered and died on our behalf; he made payment for our sins. Was this payment accepted? We can be certain that it was because God raised him from the dead. This is the clear and consistent testimony of the early church (see, e.g., Acts 2:24-32; 3:15; 5:30; 10:39-41; 13:29-37; 17:31). Jesus has risen from the grave, and the apostles and many others were eyewitnesses to this. The resurrection, then, is your receipt that God accepted Christ’s payment for your sins and mine.” 29

Notice the phrase, “according to the Scriptures.” Jesus’ resurrection also fulfilled Old Testament Scriptures written hundreds of years before Christ came to earth. In Psalm 16:10, King David wrote, “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, a follower of Jesus named, Peter, said that when Jesus rose from the dead, He fulfilled what David wrote hundreds of years before. “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.” (Acts 2:29-32).

Keep in mind that the Old Testament not only predicted the death and resurrection of Christ, but Jesus also predicted His own death and resurrection on several occasions. In the earliest part of His ministry He said,  “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19). John explains, “But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:21-22). Later in Matthew 12:40, Jesus said, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” To those who had witnessed His miracles and stubbornly refused to believe in Him as the Messiah, He said more than once, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39; 16:4). After Peter’s confession of Jesus as “the Christ” (Mark 8:29), Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31). This became a primary part of Jesus’ teaching from that point until His death (Mark 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:58; Matthew 27:63). In addition Jesus taught that He would raise Himself from the dead, saying of His life, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:18). 30 

“Famous philosopher of science, Karl Popper, argued that whenever a ‘risky prediction’ is fulfilled, it counts as confirmation of the theory that comes with it. If so, then the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction of His own resurrection is confirmation of His claim to be God. For what could be riskier than predicting your own resurrection? If a person will not accept that as evidence of a truth claim, then he has a bias that will not accept anything as evidence.” 31

Finally, in I Corinthians 15, we see the proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was “seen” by “over five hundred” eyewitnesses “at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present.” Most of these eyewitnesses were still alive when Paul wrote this two decades after Jesus’ resurrection,  so they could verify the reliability of the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. 32  This was not a conspiracy invented by a small group of people! Hundreds of people saw Jesus alive after His crucifixion!

While Jesus appeared to this crowd of over five hundred people in His resurrected body on one occasion, the historical record also shows that Jesus appeared in His resurrection body to people on twelve different occasions over a forty-day period (Acts 1:3). Luke writes of Jesus, “He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:2b-3).

The disciples didn’t have a corporate delusion. Nor did they see a ghost. Jesus proved to them that he was the same flesh and blood man who had been crucified and buried—though he’d since gained a glorified body (see Luke 24:36-43).” 33

When the twelve different appearances of Jesus in His resurrection body are examined, we discover that Christ was seen and heard with the natural senses of the observer – Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18), Mary and the women (Matthew 28:1-10), Peter (I Corinthians 15:5), the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-25), the ten apostles (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23), the eleven apostles (John 20:24-31), the seven apostles (John 21), all the apostles (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18), the five hundred brethren (I Corinthians 15:6), James (I Corinthians 15:7), all the apostles (Acts 1:4-8), and Paul (Acts 9:1-9; I Corinthians 15:8). On four different occasions He was either touched (John 20:10-18; Matthew 28:1-10) or offered to be touched (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23; 24-31). Four times Jesus ate physical food with His disciples (Luke 24:13-35; 36-49; John 20:19-23; 21:1-15). Four times they saw Jesus’ empty tomb (John 20:1-18; Matthew 28:1-10; I Corinthians 15:5) and two times He showed them His crucifixion scars (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23; 24-31). 34  Jesus “literally exhausted the ways possible to prove that He rose bodily from the grave. No event in the ancient world has more eyewitness verification than does the resurrection of Jesus.” 35

Those who question the reliability of the New Testament writers and eyewitnesses concerning the resurrection of Christ because they assume they were predisposed to believe the resurrection events to which they gave testimony, need to consider the following:

“First, the apostles themselves did not believe the testimony of others that Christ had risen from the dead. When the women reported it, ‘their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them’ (Luke 24:11). Even when some of the disciples saw Christ themselves they were ‘slow of heart to believe ‘ (Luke 24:25). Indeed, when Jesus appeared to ten apostles and showed them his crucifixion scars, ‘they still did not believe for joy, and marveled’ (Luke 24:41). And even after they were convinced by Jesus’ eating of food, their absent colleague Thomas protested that he would not believe unless he could put his finger in Jesus’ hand (John 20:25).

“Second, Jesus not only appeared to believers; he also appeared to unbelievers. He appeared to his unbelieving half-brother James (John 7:5; I Corinthians 15:7). Indeed, he appeared to the greatest unbeliever of the day – a Jewish Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9). If Jesus had only appeared to those who were either believers or with the propensity to believe, then there might be some legitimacy to the charge that the witnesses were prejudiced. But just the opposite is the case.

“Third, the witnesses to the resurrection had nothing to gain personally for their witness to the resurrection. They were persecuted and threatened with death for their stand (Acts 4, 5, 8). As a matter of fact, most of the apostles were martyred for their belief. Certainly, it would have been much more profitable personally for them to deny the resurrection. Rather, they proclaimed and defended it in the face of death.

“Fourth, to discount their testimonies because they believe in the resurrected Christ is like discounting an eyewitness of a murder because he actually saw it occur! The prejudice in this case is not with the witnesses but with those who reject their testimony.” 36

So far we have talked about the historical record of the New Testament regarding the death and resurrection of Christ. What do non-Christian historians and writers from the first and second centuries say about the death and resurrection of Christ? Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote of Jesus’ death, “Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross.” 37  Roman historian, Cornelius Tacitus, wrote, “a wise man who was called Jesus…. Pilate condemned Him to be condemned and to die.” In addition he said that Jesus’ disciples “reported that He had appeared to them three days after His crucifixion and that He was alive.” 38  A Roman writer, Phlegon, referred to Christ’s death and resurrection in his Chronicles, saying, “Jesus, while alive, was of no assistance to himself, but that he arose after death, and exhibited the marks of his punishment, and showed how his hands had been pierced by nails.” 39  In addition, Phlegon spoke of “the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquakes which then took place.” 40

The historical evidence for Jesus’ death is so overwhelming that even a Muslim scholar,Reza Aslan, who wrote the book, Zealot, was persuaded to conclude Jesus “was most definitely crucified.” 41  Despite what the Quran teaches, the historical evidence persuaded Aslan to conclude that Christ truly did die on the cross.He believes so strongly in Jesus’ death by crucifixion that he uses it as the foundation for his entire theory of Jesus’ life.” 42

Just as history proclaims that George Washington was the first President of the USA, so history proclaims that Jesus Christ died and was resurrected from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the most attested fact of ancient history. Thomas Arnold authored a three-volume history of Rome and was appointed to Oxford’s Chair of Modern History. Concerning the evidence behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he said, “I have been used for years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than that Christ died and rose from the dead.” 43

Frank Morison, a British trial lawyer, vowed to write a book disproving Christianity and committed to base his book on a collection of facts. Using a critical method of evaluation and despite his initial beliefs, he concluded that Christianity is true. The resurrection convinced him, and he wrote a book entitled, Who Moved the Stone? which begins with the chapter, “The Book that Refused to Be Written.”

Former atheists Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel set out to disprove the resurrection of Christ only to be persuaded by the historical evidence that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. You can read about the evidence that persuaded them to believe in Jesus in their books: McDowell ‘s  The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (1999) and The Resurrection Factor (1981); Strobel’s The Case for Christ Revised (2013) and The Case for Easter (2004).

The second evidence of Jesus’ resurrection is the change in the lives of His followers. His disciples were not shrewd men who figured out some weird way to start a new religion. They did not say, “Let’s get our Leader killed off. Then we’ll go hide out in an upper room and then all of a sudden we will have a new hope.” No. After Jesus’ death, these men were discouraged. They were hiding for fear of the Jews (John 20:19). And all of a sudden their lives were changed overnight! And they went out preaching the message of Jesus Christ without fear. They were not afraid of being arrested or of being put to death (Acts 3, 4, 5, 8, et al.). What happened to them? The resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

The third proof of Jesus’ resurrection is the silence of Jesus’ enemies. If you were one of Jesus’ enemies (the Romans or Jewish religious leaders), and you have the disciples going around saying Jesus is alive and it is bringing people away from your faith to a new faith, what would you do to stop them? Go find the dead body! If you could find the dead body of Jesus Christ, it would bring this entire movement to a stop. But they couldn’t find the body. Why? Because there was no dead body to be found. They tried to make sure that the body would stay there in the tomb. They sealed the tomb and had Roman soldiers guard it to keep somebody from trying to get in to the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). But they forgot that somebody would be getting out. And when Jesus burst out of that tomb in resurrection, there was no body there.

The final proof of Jesus’ resurrection is the changed lives of people today. Look at what the risen Lord Jesus is doing in the lives of people from every nation today! Former atheists and God-haters are coming to faith in Christ. Headlines read, “Life under ISIS led these Muslims to Christianity” (NBC News on February 3, 2019) and “Muslims Converting to Christianity in Unprecedented Numbers” (Open Doors on June 28, 2017). People who once hated the God of the Bible, are now loving Him because of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. People from all walks of life are coming to faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. And I am one of them!

You may say,“I believe in another religion. It has changed my life just like your belief in Jesus Christ. What’s the difference?” The difference is an empty tomb. The difference is Christians have a reality behind their faith. Their faith is based upon historical facts. It is not a man-made philosophy or superstition. We have evidence for our minds.

For the apostle John that evidence was very powerful. What did he see that made him believe? Was it the stone that was cast aside? No. Was it an angel? No. He saw the grave clothes lying there and he believed. There was something about the arrangement of the grave clothes. A lot of people say they were lying there as if Jesus had just evaporated out of them immediately. And because they were folded so neatly, not torn aside. Remember, the strips of linen would have been wrapped around the body. You couldn’t get a body out of that and leave it just lying there undisturbed. So when John saw that he believed. That evidence persuaded him to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

I find verse nine to be very significant. “For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” (John 20:9). The disciples did not yet understand the prophecies of Old Testament Scripture that indicated Jesus would rise from the dead. Their belief in the resurrection preceded their understanding that the resurrection was foretold in Scripture. The first believers did not manufacture a resurrection story to agree with their interpretation of Bible prophecy. 45  Instead, they were first convinced that Christ had risen from the dead based upon the evidence, and then they came to an understanding of the Scriptural teaching of this truth.

I wonder. What if we had stopped at the empty tomb that morning? What if this were all we had of the resurrection account? They went in and the clothes were there, and the linen was there undisturbed. I think if that were true there would be some of us who would say, “Wow, Jesus must be alive for His clothes to be arranged that way!” Others of us may say, “Maybe I can believe.” Others of us would say, “There’s just not enough evidence.”  When it comes to seeing the resurrected Lord, some of us may need more than just evidence for our minds. We will talk more about that next time, Lord willing.

Prayer: My precious risen Lord Jesus, thank You for providing evidence for our minds that You truly died on a cross and rose from the dead. When John looked in that tomb and saw Your body was missing and the position of Your grave clothes, he believed You were alive. One of the things I love the most about You, Lord Jesus, is You meet us where we are at. Many people today are confused about Your resurrection. To them You give evidence for their minds. Please reveal more of Yourself to them so that their confusion is changed into confidence that You are alive and You can give them everlasting life when they believe in You. Thank You, my risen God and Lord. In Your name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Thomas J. Craughwell’s June 24, 2007 article at https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2007/06/24/a-plot-to-steal-lincolns-body on May 11, 2021. Craughwell is the author of Stealing Lincoln’s Body (Harvard University Press, 2007).

2.  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. 424; Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), pg. pg. 30; Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), pp. 177-205, 531.

3. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 359.

4. Ibid., pg. 360; Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 368.

5. Constable, pg. 368.

6. Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), pp. 637-638.

7. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1826-1827.

8. Constable, pg. 368.

9. 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. 179.

10. Laney, pg. 359 cites A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman, 1932), Vol. 5, pg. 309.

11. Bauer, pg. 454.

12. Laney, pg. 359.

13. Ibid., pg. 720.

14. Laney, pg. 360 cites Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 5, pg. 310.

15. N. L. Geisler and W. E. Nix, General Introduction to the Bible, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), pg. 408.

16. Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), pg. 238.

17. Ibid.

18. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 243.

19. Ibid., pg. 242 cites Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1969), pg. 130.

20. Ibid., pg. 242 cites interview with William F. Albright, Christianity Today, January 18, 1953, 359.

21. Ibid., pg. 243-244 cites Sir William Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen (New York: G. Putnam’s Sons, 1896), esp. pg. 8.

22. Ibid., pg. 244.

23. Ibid., pg. 244 cites C. S. Lewis, Christian Reflections (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), pp. 154-155.

24. Ibid., pg. 244.

25. Ibid., pg. 247 cites Glueck, pg. 31.

26. Ibid., pp. 244-245 cites Sir William Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, pg. 8.

27. Ibid., pg. 245 cites Colin Hemer, Acts in the Setting of Hellenic History (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990).

28. Evans, pg. 2016.

29. Ibid.

30. Geisler and Saleeb, pg. 260

31. Ibid., note 59.

32. Ibid., pg. 246.

33. Evans, pg. 1838.

34. Adapted from Geisler and Saleeb, pp. 258-259.

35. Ibid., pg. 259.

36. Ibid., pp. 247-248.

37. Ibid., pg. 236 cites Flavius Josephus, “Antiquities of the Jews,” 18:3; trans. William Whiston, Josephus: Complete Works (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1963), 379.

38. Ibid. cites Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 55? – after 117), Annals, 15.44.

39. Ibid., cites Phlegon, “Chronicles,” as cited by Origen, “Against Celsus” from The Ante-Nicene Fathers, trans. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), vol. 4, 455.

40. Ibid.

41. Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pg. 179 cites interview with Lauren Green.

42. Ibid.

43. Thomas Arnold, Christian Life, Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close, 6th ed. (London: T. Fellowes, 1859), pp. 14-16.

44. Laney, pg. 361 cites Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), pg. 835.