Revelation 22 – Part 9

18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God may add to him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God may take away his part from the tree of life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19

After the Lord Jesus offered eternal life freely to those who thirst for it (22:17), the exalted Lord Jesus Christ 1 offers a stern warning to anyone who wants to add or subtract from the book of Revelation, “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God may add to him the plagues that are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18). Christ is warning “everyone,” saved or unsaved, who “hears the words of the prophecy of this book.” The word “everyone” includes the seven churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 2-3) and all churches to the present. It also includes any non-Christians who are exposed to the message of the book of Revelation since the time of its writing. This would include copyists, translators, and teachers of the book who intentionally distort or pervert the written message of the book of Revelation. 2

“He is not concerned about possible mechanical errors in transmission or mistakes of judgment in interpreting his message, but in deliberate distortions and perversions of it.” 3

God does not want anyone to alter or distort the final book of the Bible because its message is vitally important to future generations. This warning from the Lord Jesus has two parts: first He warns against adding to the book of Revelation. Anyone who does this Christ warns, “God may add to him the plagues that are written in this book.” The majority of Greek manuscripts include “God may add to him…” instead of “God will add to him…”

Second, the Lord warns against subtracting from the book of Revelation: “If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God may take away his part from the tree of life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” The majority of Greek manuscripts include “God may take away…” instead of “God will take away…”

Vacendak explains, “This is not so much a prediction as it is an imprecation (a wish of judgment and difficulty on another). This is an expression of holy desire that the seriousness of these acts be met with severe divine judgment. John is not making an exact prediction about what will happen to people who add or subtract from the Book of Revelation; the imprecations express judgments John believes such people deserve. He wants the retribution to be commensurate with the guilt. Throughout history, God has sent plagues on people who were disobedient to Him that resemble the plagues of the Tribulation (e.g., the plagues of Egypt). And as He sees fit, He can still bring similar troubles, diseases, and so forth, on those who deliberately revise Scripture today. He can ‘add to’ and ‘take away’ from them as He desires (including eternal rewards like the tree of life).” 4

For example, in the context, one of the most important truths in the book of Revelation is that eternal life (“the water of life”) is “freely” offered by Jesus Christ to whoever “thirsts” for it (22:17; cf. 21:6). Jesus is warning that anyone – saved or unsaved – who “adds” to this by saying eternal life is freely offered by Jesus and other religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, etc., may be subject to the plagues found in the book of Revelation. Nowhere does the book of Revelation (nor the rest of the Bible) say that eternal life can be freely received outside of Jesus Christ.

For the believer who adds to this truth, this could mean they will have more troubles, diseases, and other calamities mentioned in the book. For the non-believer, in addition to receiving the aforementioned temporal plagues is a far worse eternal plague – greater punishment in the lake of fire forever (20:11-15). Since they led people away from faith alone in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life, they will receive greater condemnation in the lake of fire (cf. Matthew 10:15; 23:14; Mark 12:40; 2 Peter 2:1-17; Jude 1:1-13).  

For the believer who “takes away” from Jesus’ free offer of eternal life by removing the word “freely” and then saying eternal life must be earned by good works or faith plus good works, that believer will have eternal rewards taken away from him or her such as access to the “tree of life” (22:19; cf. 2:7), the loss of special honor and privileges in the “holy city” (New Jerusalem), or the loss of other “things” (rewards) mentioned in the book of Revelation (22:19) such as wearing special white garments (3:4-5), ruling with Christ (2:26-27; 3:21), eating hidden manna (2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (22:14).

For the unbeliever who takes away from the book of Revelation, he or she will have no “part” of anything on the new earth because they will be confined forever to the lake of fire (20:11-15). His or her degree of punishment in the lake of fire will be greater than those nonbelievers who did not take away from this book.

Walvoord writes, “How great will be the judgment of those who despise this book and relegate it to the mystical experiences of an old man, thereby denying that it is the inspired Word of God. Rejecting the Word of God is rejecting God Himself. And those who deny His promises of blessing and subtract from His truths will receive His judgment.” 5

Chuck Swindoll describes some subtle ways a believer could “add” or “take away” from the prophetic words of the book of Revelation:

“Disobeying – willfully rebelling against clear commands of Scripture

“Disregarding – intentionally ignoring what is written

“Distorting – purposely twisting the true meaning of God’s Word to accommodate our opinions

“Diluting – adding other traditions, texts, or teachers as authoritative ‘truth’” 6

“Some well-meaning theologians argue that certain versions or paraphrases of the Bible violate the parameters given in Revelation 22:18-19. Still others argue that accidental errors made by well-meaning students of Scriptures constitute ‘adding to’ or ‘taking from’ God’s Word. Correctly handling Holy Scripture is vital to the health of the church, but the warning of 22:18 addresses those who would intentionally, maliciously, and deceptively disobey, disregard, distort, or dilute God’s authoritative Word. We keep the words of God by hearing them, accepting them, internalizing them, and applying them to our daily lives.” 7

All of us – Christian or non-Christian – can be guilty of adding or taking away from the book of Revelation. May God increase our sensitivity to Him and grant us humility to place ourselves under His authoritative Word. Instead of us changing His Word, may His Word change us to be more like His Son.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for preserving Your Word which is truth. When You warned us not to add or take away from the words of the book of Revelation, we are reminded that Your Word is unchangeable and unchanging. May each of us approach Your Word with humility and openness to let Your Word change us instead of us trying to change Your Word. Please enable us to know Your Word so well that we are not deceived by those who deliberately alter Your Word to mislead people away from freely receiving eternal life by believing in You. In Your precious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 257. Evidence for Jesus speaking here includes the preceding context (22:16) and especially verse 20: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.” (22:20). Those who think the apostle John is speaking here include 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. 1591; Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 403; Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2425.

2. Constable, pg. 257.

3. Ibid., cites George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, 1972 reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing C., 1985), pg. 295; cf. Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pg. 313.

4. Vacendak, pg. 1591.

5. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 6701.

6. Swindoll, pg. 403.

7. Ibid., pp. 403-404.

Revelation 16 – Part 3

“And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” Revelation 16:9

After the inhabitants of heaven praise God for His righteous and just judgments toward rebellious humankind who shed the blood of His servants (16:5-7), the fourth angel arrives to pour out his bowl of wrath. Instead of the beast-worshippers on the earth receiving a much-needed drink of rainwater to quench their parched throats, they got the exact opposite. Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” (Revelation 16:8-9). The definite article before “men” (tous anthrōpous) refers specifically to those whose allegiance was to the Beast (cf. 16:2). It is possible that those who refused to worship the Beast and receive his mark were not struck with this judgment. Likewise, the Israelites also escaped some of the plagues on Egypt’s land, water, animals, people, leaders, and even Pharaoh (Exodus 8:20-9:7; 9:13-35; 10:21-12:36). 1

This “fourth… bowl” judgment used “the sun” to “scorch men” who followed the Beast “with fire” and “great heat” that will leave their human flesh charred. This was “more than an oppressive heat wave that weakens and withers people, this judgment will involve the blistering and charring of human flesh by the sun.” 2

Swindoll writes, “Instead of catching soothing drops of rain, the people of earth were burned with searing rays from the sun! Scientists have long been concerned about the possibility of massive, unexpected solar flares, which could increase the number of harmful rays that penetrate our atmosphere. It seems that by the end of the Tribulation, the atmosphere will have been so damaged that the rays of the sun will no longer be filtered or deflected, causing all sorts of catastrophic climatic changes. This end-times global warming will make today’s hot-earth hysteria resemble nothing more than a warm spring day.” 3

One would think that after all these horrific judgments on the earth that left people painfully afflicted, starving, dying of thirst, and severely burned, that humankind would fall to their knees and beg God for His mercy, right!?! Wrong!!! “And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” (Revelation 16:9). Instead of turning to the Lord in repentance and giving “Him glory,” they “blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues.” Instead of letting the scorching sun melt their hearts, they let it harden their hearts toward God, much like Pharaoh hardened his heart after each of the plagues on Egypt.

Surely a loving God would relent of His judgments if people sought to get right with Him. The prophet Joel addresses this part of God’s character when he writes, 4 “’12 Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. 13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. 14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him— a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?” (Joel 2:12-14).

Instead of humbly repenting before the Lord God Whom they know has the power over these plagues to lovingly bring them to a stop, the people of the earth increased the hardness of their hearts during the last part of the Tribulation. Why? Because they have taken on the character of the Beast who blasphemes God and indoctrinates the citizens of his worldwide kingdom to do the same (Revelation 13:1, 5-6; 17:3; cf. Daniel 11:36; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10). Instead of blaming their own sinfulness for these first four plagues, they blame God for them. 5

The first four bowl judgments targeted the natural realm (the earth, sea, fresh waters, and the sun), but the next two bowl judgments target the Beast and his worldwide kingdom. “Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain.” (Revelation 16:10). The fifth bowlof God’s wrath was “poured out… on the throne of the beast and his kingdom.” Since the beast’s kingdom was worldwide,this was a global darkness that will cause such intense emotional anguish that beast-worshippers will engage in self-mutilation (“they gnawed their tongues because of the pain”). 6

This darkness is reminiscent of the plague God brought upon Egypt. 21 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.’ 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.” (Exodus 10:21-23). This darkness in Egypt was so deep, oppressive, and complete, that the Egyptians did nothing during those three days.The chaos caused by the darkness in Egypt may explain the intense pain this global darkness will cause to the citizens of the Beast’s kingdom during the Tribulation period.

Keep in mind that the effects of these first five bowl judgments are cumulative. “The sores brought on by the first bowl will continue to fester as the darkness closes in around them. The water that would have soothed their sun-scorched flesh will stand in stinking, stagnant pools; once-clean water will be polluted with decaying blood.” 7

Nevertheless, people will still refuse to humble themselves before the God Who could bring a stop to these severe bowl judgments. “They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 16:11). Instead of blaming their rebellious ways for these plagues, the followers of the Beast choose to blaspheme God for “their pains and their sores.” But they don’t stop there. They choose to abide in their wicked ways that caused them to be oppressed by these horrific plagues – they do “not repent of their deeds.” 8

As in 16:9, this scene is reminiscent of a child cursing his parent while he is being spanked. Such a reaction to punishment inevitably triggers more punishment.” 9

We have learned in our study of the seven-year Tribulation on earth in the book of Revelation, that this will be a time that is filled with heightened deception (12:9; 13:14; 18:23; 19:20). One of Satan’s oldest strategies which will be implemented in full during the Tribulation is to blame God for all the pain that exists in the world to deceive people into thinking that the true God is an out of control, vengeful deity who can be defeated if everyone comes together to fight against Him. The truth is pain and suffering did not exist in the world God created (Genesis 1-2). Pain and suffering were the result of Satan, who sinned first against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19), tempting Adam and Eve to sin (Genesis 3:1-6) which resulted in sin and death entering the entire world (Romans 5:12). The effects of sin will culminate in the Tribulation period when humanity’s rebellion against God will reach an all-time depth of depravity resulting in God’s in-kind judgment (Revelation 6-16).

When we look back at the chaos and pain the global pandemic has caused the past two years, do we blame God for this? Or when we observe the loss of innocent lives during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, do we shake our fists at God and hold Him responsible for this? How do we respond to God when we or those close to us experience suffering and pain? Do we harden or humble our hearts toward the Lord?

Satan wants to convince us that God is to blame for all our problems and pain so we will not come to the Lord in faith and be saved forever from Satan’s destiny in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10). Please understand that God is the One Who loves us, not Satan. Satan doesn’t care about you or me. He knows his destiny is in the lake of fire and he selfishly wants to take as many people with him as possible. He will go to any length of deception to help populate hell. He has no guilt or shame for his actions because he is evil to the core.

But Jesus Christ is selfless to the core. Instead of holding on to His glory in heaven, He veiled His glory with human flesh when He left heaven and came to earth knowing He would be rejected by the world and His own Jewish people who would condemn Him to die on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). The Bible tells us, 9 God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (I John 4:9-10 NLT). “Real love” gives instead of takes. God’s love gave His best (His Son) when we were at our worst (in bondage to our sins) so we “might have eternal life through” Jesus if we would do one thing: BELIEVE IN HIM.

Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). The word “believe” in the New Testament means to be persuaded that something is true and then trust or depend upon. Do you believe Jesus was speaking the truth when He said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life”? If so, do you now trust Christ (not your good life, religion, or prayers) to give you His gift of eternal life? If you do, Jesus guarantees you now have everlasting life which can never be taken away from you (John 10:28-29). God is now your Father in heaven, and you are His child forever (John 1:12; 6:35). Everyone who believes in Jesus for eternal life is your brother or sister in Christ.

Christ wants you to grow in your relationship with Him. Jesus said to those who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31b-32). The opposite of truth is falsehood or lies. Jesus wants you to “abide” or continue in His Word, the Bible, so you can “know the truth” which “shall make you free” from Satan’s lies that keep you enslaved to sin and shame. God’s truth will identify the lies you have been believing that have held you in bondage to sin and will also provide the remedy to overcome those lies. It is the truth of God’s Word that will break the shackles of Satan’s lies that have kept you from leaning into the Lord when you face pain and suffering.

Below are some examples of Satan’s lies that can keep us from drawing near to the Lord. I have included God’s truth to replace those lies and the Scriptures to go with them.Take some time to read through these lies and then identify the ones that you have believed to be true. The lie will feel true to you if you believe it. Then read the corresponding truth statements repeatedly until they feel true to you. As you do that the corresponding lies will feel less and less true. Ask the Lord Jesus to deliver you from bondage to these lies (cf. Psalm 119:28-29). We do not have the power in ourselves to overcome them, but Jesus Christ does. Let Him renew your mind as you meditate on God’s truth.  

Lie: God is to blame for all your pain and suffering.

Truth: Pain and suffering were the result of Satan (who sinned first against God), tempting Adam and Eve to sin which resulted in sin and death entering the entire world.

Scripture: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12; cf. Genesis 3:1-6; Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19.

Lie: God cannot be trusted.

Truth: God can be trusted because He is good and faithful to His promises.

Scripture: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

“In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” Titus 1:2

Lie: God is holding out on you.

Truth: God wants to give you, His best.

Scripture: “The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

Lie: You can be like God by disobeying Him.

Truth: Since there is only one true God, and I am not Him, I must live in total dependence on Him.

Scripture: God said, I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me.” Isaiah 45:5

“’But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;’ I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand.’” Psalm 31:14-15

Lie: God is against me.

Truth: God is for me and not against me.

Scripture: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Lie: God has or will accuse me.

Truth: God has declared me totally righteous in Christ.

Scripture: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Romans 8:33

Lie: God has or will condemn me.

Truth:  God will not condemn me because Christ took my condemnation on the cross and He now defends me and intercedes for me in heaven.

Scripture: “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

Lie: I am going to be separated from the love of Christ because I’m so unworthy.

Truth: No one and nothing can separate me from Christ’s love.

Scripture: 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35, 37-39

Lie: God would never love me as I am.

Truth: In Christ, I am totally loved by God as I am.

Scripture: “Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose us to be His very own through what Christ would do for us; He decided then to make us holy in His eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before Him covered with His love.” Ephesians 1:4 TLB

Lie: I am alone and unloved.

Truth: I am not alone or unloved. I am loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe.

Scripture: “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.” Psalm 27:10

Lie: I could never be forgiven.

Truth: I am totally forgiven in Christ.

Scripture: 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

Lie: I am an unacceptable person.

Truth: I am totally accepted in Christ.

Scripture: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1a

“To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:6

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we come to You now realizing that we can be a lot like the people in the Tribulation period who will be deceived into blaming You for their suffering and pain instead of their own rebellion against You. When bad things happen to us, help us O Lord to humble our hearts before You instead of hardening them. Lord, we cannot overcome Satan’s lies on our own. The Devil wants to take as many people with him to hell as possible. He will go to any length of deception to populate the lake of fire. Lord, please make us the kind of people who will do whatever it takes within the boundaries You have given us to populate Your heaven through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We desperately need You and Your Word to help us identify the lies we believe and replace them with Your truth so we can live the abundant life You came to give us. We pray for those whose hearts and minds have been deceived by Satan into believing You are responsible for all their pain and suffering. Help them to see that You love them and gave Your best for them when they were still undeserving sinners. And You want to save them forever from the lake of fire and give them eternal life if they would simply believe in You, Lord Jesus. Please use our lives and lips to communicate Your love to a lost and broken world so they can hear and believe the good news of Jesus’ gift of eternal life. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 172.

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. 1559.

3. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 296-297.

4. Ibid., pg. 297.

5. Constable, pg. 172 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 257.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2407.

7. Swindoll, pg. 298.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1559.

9. Evans, pg. 2409.

Revelation 13 – Part 5

“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” Revelation 13:18

Chuck Swindoll writes, “Imagine that you live in an oppressive regime in which professing to be a Christian is outlawed and punishable by death. You cower in a small apartment at night while the heavy boots of soldiers can be heard on sidewalks and streets and people in the neighborhood are arrested, suspected of being Christians. As you pray that the soldiers will pass you by, they force themselves through the door. Lights flash around the room, boots stomp across the floor, and you suddenly find yourself looking into the barrels of automatic weapons.

“’Tell me,’ barks the man pointing his rifle at you, ‘are you a Christian?’

“You have a choice to make. Either deny Christ and live, or confess Him and die on the spot.

“Chances are, most believers reading this would think, ‘I’d confess Christ. Of course I would. That soldier can’t threaten my faith in Jesus as my Lord!’

“Now let’s intensify that scene.

“Imagine that you aren’t alone. Instead, when the soldiers barge through the door they point their weapons not at you but at your spouse and your three small children. ‘Reject Christ or they die!’

“Dying for your faith is one thing. Letting others die for your faith is quite another. Yet this is just the kind of sickening scenario Satan will inspire in the dreadful future John is describing. Because of the impact of earthly disaster, food will be scarce. Yet people will still need to buy and sell food to provide for their families. The alternative to participation in the Antichrist’s economy is a long, slow death by starvation. The book of Revelation tells us that the Antichrist’s regime will force believing parents to choose between feeding their families and defending their faith! As a father and grandfather, I can’t imagine a crueler test of faith than this.” 1

Let’s look at the last three verses of Revelation 13 in detail. In addition to the False Prophet using his persuasive words and profound works to deceive people to worship the first Beast out of the sea (Antichrist) during the last half of the Tribulation period (13:11-15), he will also require people to receive an identifying mark to signify allegiance to the Beast. “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads.” (Revelation 13:16). This second beast “causes all” unbelievers from various social (“small and great”), economic (“rich and poor”), and cultural (“free and slave”) groups “to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads.”

What exactly is this “mark”? This “mark” will be a brand-like logo, possibly like a tattoo, that will identify beast-worshippers. 2 The word “mark” occurs throughout the Bible. “For example, it is used many times in Leviticus as a reference to a mark that renders the subject ceremonially unclean, usually related to leprosy. Clearly, in these cases the ‘mark’ is external and visible.

“Interestingly, Ezekiel 9:4 uses mark similarly to the way Revelation uses it: “He said to him, ‘Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city.’” Here the mark preserved the righteous, similar to the way the blood on the doorposts spared the Hebrews from the death angel in the Exodus. In Ezekiel, the mark is placed visibly on the forehead, which anticipates the practice described in Revelation.” 3

The Greek word translated “mark” (charagma) in Revelation 13:16-17, means “a mark that is engraved, etched, branded, cut, imprinted, mark, stamp.” 4 The same Greek word is used to refer to a brand left by a branding iron. It also described the seal attached to legal documents, the logo of which bore the name of the emperor and the date. 5 Sometimes Roman soldiers branded themselves with the “mark” of their general if they were particularly fond of him.

Some believe this could be an implanted radio “microchip” under the skin of the person that can be used to track billions of people worldwide. But the text says it is “on” their hand or forehead, not “in” (en) their hand or forehead to identify the person as a beast-worshipper. The Greek word for “on” (epi)means “upon” in this context. 7 It will be on the outside of the skin, where it can be seen. Its placement on the skin will make it easy to identify those who are loyal to the Antichrist.

Without this mark of allegiance to the Beast or Antichrist, a person will not be able to buy or sell: And that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (Revelation 13:17). Without this “mark” upon one’s right hand or forehead, a person will not be able to participate in commerce (“buy or sell”) of any kind during the last half of the Tribulation period.So, there will be a penalty if a person chooses not to receive the “mark of the beast.” There will be no buying or selling for that person. That means no groceries, clothing, medicines, or shelter for you and your family.

In the day of the apostle John, Roman coins bore the stamped “image” of the head, and the inscription of, the emperor. Likewise, those who bear the “stamped image,” or “mark of the beast,” will show by this that they belong to him. When a person burned a smidgeon of incense to “worship” Caesar, he received a certificate attesting that he had done so. This certificate protected him from death by persecution and enabled him to buy and sell. 8

Please understand that it will be far better to refuse the mark of the beast and starve or be beheaded (cf. 20:4) than to receive it and receive eternal condemnation. The Bible tells us, 9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’” (Revelation 14:9-11). God will only allow unbelievers to take the mark and those who do will be hardened in their unbelief. Though they may live during the entire Tribulation period, their eternal destiny will be in the lake of fire because of their continued unbelief. 9

However, believers in Jesus will not face eternal judgment because they have been guaranteed not to come into judgment (John 5:24). They possess eternal life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). God’s grace will enable believers in the Tribulation not to take the mark or worship the beast. But some unfaithful believers will succumb to the worldwide lawlessness and not be delivered from the Tribulation judgments (cf. Matthew 24:10-12). But those believers who faithfully endure for Christ during the Tribulation will be saved from physical death, except for those whom God allows to be martyred (cf. Revelation 20:4).

Notice in Matthew 24:22, that if the Tribulation period had lasted any longer, no human flesh would have been saved physically. “But for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” The implication of these verses is that some of the elect will die during the Tribulation because they will fail to persevere. This is supported further by Revelation 16:15: “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” “The garments” refer to the “righteous acts” of believers (cf. Revelation 19:7-8; cf. 3:4-5, 18; 4:4). The consequence of failing to be watchful for Christ’s return is a lack of righteous acts (loss of garments) and “shame.” This verse teaches that believers can be unfaithful, especially if they have lost sight of Christ’s return. The idea of this verse is that the saints have the garments (faithfulness) but can lose them if they lose their hope of the Lord’s coming.

We learn from Jesus’ judgment of the sheep and goats at the end of the Tribulation period (Matthew 25:31-46), that some Gentile believers (“sheep”) during the last half of the Tribulation period will find ways to help Christ’s Jewish “brethren,” the 144,000 Jewish evangelists. These evangelists will preach the gospel during the last half of the Tribulation period resulting in large numbers of Gentiles getting saved (Revelation 7:1-14). These believing Gentiles in turn will minister to these evangelists by giving them “food, drink,” shelter, clothing, medical care, and comfort when they are in prison (Matthew 25:35-36). Jesus will reward them at this judgment of the sheep and goats for risking their lives to help these faithful Jewish evangelists who will not be able to buy or sell. Christ says they “inherit” the kingdom which refers to reigning with Christ in His Millennial Kingdom on earth (Matthew 25:34; cf. 19:27-29; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21).

John informs us that the “mark of the beast” will consist of “name of the beast, or the number of his name” (13:17b). “The interchangeability of the beast’s ‘name’ and the ‘number of his name’ evidently indicates that the name, written in Greek letters, has a numerical equivalent.” 10

“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” (Revelation 13:18). Believers will need “wisdom” during the last half of the Tribulation period to understand and “calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man,” not God: “His number is 666.” Believers during the Tribulation will understand the connection between the mark of the beast and the beast himself and will refuse to worship the beast and take his mark by the grace of God since those who do take the mark will experience eternal damnation (cf. 14:9-11).

The number “666” is one of the most familiar numbers even among the most biblically illiterate people in the world. “In the 1976 horror movie The Omen, Damien is born on June 6, at six o’clock (666) to symbolize his identification as the coming Antichrist.” 11

Throughout history, people have tried to calculate the identity of the man behind this number. “In Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, letters stand for numbers, so anyone with a calculator and a good dose of creativity can slap the ‘666’ label on a number of prominent personalities.” 12

The following people have been proposed to be the Antichrist by the misapplication of numerical calculations: Nero Caesar, the emperor Constantine, Mohammed, the popes, Martin Luther, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Mikhail Gorbachev, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, 13 Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. 14

Figuring the identity of the Antichrist by calculating the numbers of his name is not to be applied by those of us living today. It is to be applied by believers who will be living during the Tribulation period. The Bible tells us that the Man of Sin or Antichrist will not be revealed until the middle of the Tribulation period when he takes his place in the rebuilt Jewish temple: Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). It is at this time that believers in Jesus will be able to identify the Man of Sin or Antichrist because the number of his name will be 666. It is quite possible that the Two Witnesses will have disclosed the identity of this first Beast through their teachings before they ascend to heaven (cf. Revelation 11:1-12). So, believers will wisely make the connection between the Beast and the number 666 and avoid taking his mark and worshiping him. 15

We may wonder why God planned for the Antichrist’s name to equal 666? Several Bible prophecy students have taught that the triple six equals man’s number, which is the number six or one short of God’s perfect number, seven. After all, man was created on the sixth day (Genesis 1:26-31). 16

Hitchcock quotes M. R. DeHaan, the founder of the Radio Bible Class: “Six is the number of man. Three is the number of divinity. Here is the interpretation. The beast will be a man who claims to be God. Three sixes imply that he is a false god and a deceiver, but he is nevertheless merely a man, regardless of his claims. Seven is the number of divine perfection, and 666 is one numeral short of seven. This man of sin will reach the highest peak of power and wisdom, but he will still be merely a man.” 17

Adam, the first man, was created on the sixth day, while Jesus, the Second Adam, “was raised from the dead on Sunday, the ‘eighth day’ of the week (the second first day of the week).” 18 Interestingly, “the number of the name Jesus in Greek is 888, and each of His eight names in the New Testament (Lord, Jesus, Christ, Lord Jesus, Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, Lord Christ, and Lord Jesus Christ) all have numerical values that are multiples of eight.” 19

Jesus Christ is complete perfection because He is God (John 1:1; I John 5:20), while man is a complete failure. The number 666 is God’s way of showing that Satan’s masterpiece, the Antichrist, is a fallen man who is completely inferior to God and is under God’s sovereign control. 20

The technology is available today to accomplish the purposes of the mark of the beast by regulating world commerce and controlling people’s transactions. There are also many remarkable new means of locating, identifying, and tracking people’s lives that foreshadow the global scenario depicted in Revelation 13. This is one more indicator pointing toward the nearness of end time events. 21

Instead of the world getting better and better as some argue, the world will get much worse before Jesus returns to earth. As Christians observe world events today moving rapidly toward a one world government and economic system which will enable the rapid rise of the first Beast and his False Prophet to take place, they are to be motivated to make the most of their time before the Rapture of the Church or death brings an end to their ministry on earth.

Prayer: Loving Father, thank You for revealing Satan’s future strategies for deception and destruction regarding the first and second beasts who will seek to mislead people away from the true and holy triune God to worship a false and unholy triune god. Although the Antichrist and False Prophet will manifest themselves during the future Tribulation period, we know that the spirit of the antichrist is already at work to deceive and destroy people in the present. Please equip each of us who believe in Jesus for spiritual battle today with accurate knowledge, acute discernment, and heavenly wisdom. Empower us to make the most of our time on earth to reach lost people with the gospel of grace and train believers to multiply disciples of Jesus Christ. In the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 254.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 150.

3. 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. 336.

4. See 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. 1077.

5. Constable, pg. 150.

6. Ibid., cites Plutarch, Pericles, 26; Herodotus, 7.233.

7. Hitchcock, pg. 342.

8. Constable, pg. 151 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John, 2nd Ed., Vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 130.

9. 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. 1548.

10. Constable, pg. 151 cites R. H. Charles, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, International Critical Commentary series, Vol 2 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), pg. 364; Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 6 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 406.

11. Hitchcock, pg. 337.

12. Swindoll, pg. 255.

13. Ibid.

14. Hitchcock, pg. 338.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1549.

16. Hitchcock, pg. 339.

17. Ibid., pp. 339-340.

18. Ibid., pg. 340 cites Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, Tyndale; and San Diego: Creation-Life, 1983), pg. 256.

19. Ibid.

20. Hitchcock, pg. 340.

21. Ibid., pg. 342.

Revelation 13 – Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

3. Vacendak, pg. 1547.

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

5. Hitchcock, pg. 270.

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

7. Ibid., pp. 270-271.

8. Ibid., pg. 273.

9. Evans, pg. 2401.

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

11. Constable, pg. 148.

12. Hitchcock, pg. 274. F

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

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

15. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 281.

16. Swindoll, pg. 253.

17. Ibid.

18. Evans, pg. 2401.

How can I overcome spiritual blindness? Part 4

“Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” John 9:32-33

In this article we will discover another symptom and solution concerning spiritual blindness. Since the religious leaders could get nowhere with the healed man’s parents, they decide to talk to the former blind man a second time. “So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, ‘Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.’ ”(John 9:24). In the Pharisees’ minds, since the Law forbid working on the Sabbath and Jesus healed on the Sabbath, Jesus was a sinner. They tell the former blind man to “Give God the glory by telling the truth about Jesus – He is a sinner. Jesus just put clay on your eyes and told you to wash. God is the One who healed you,” they were saying. These religious leaders were trying to pressure everyone to be biased against Jesus by already determining (“we know”) that Jesus was “a sinner.”

According to those who are spiritually blind, to give God glory a person must call Jesus a sinner! How strange indeed is the thinking of the spiritually blind. The former blind man answered and said, ‘Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.’ ” (John 9:25). The healed man chose not to speculate about Jesus’ sinfulness. Rather than listen to the theological errors of the Pharisees, he focused on the truth. He knew that he had been blind but now he can see. No theological argument could change that. Regardless of a believer’s understanding of the nature of Christ’s Person, he or she can always testify to the way Jesus has changed his or her life.

Sometimes the best way to present the gospel to a non-Christian is through a personal testimony. Arguments for the existence of God and Christian apologetics have their place, but few arguments are as powerful as a personal testimony which describes how God’s grace has transformed one’s life.

“Then they said to him again, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?’ ” (John 9:26). The Pharisees asked the man to repeat his story again hoping to find a contradiction.Four times in this conversation the religious leaders asked the man how he gained his sight (cf. John 9:10, 15, 19, 26). Spiritually blind people are usually more concerned about the way a miracle was performed than they are about the person who performed the miracle.

“He answered them, ‘I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?’ ” (John 9:27). The relentless questioning of these religious experts exhausted the man’s patience. Realizing they were not wanting to know the truth but to acquire information to use against Jesus, the former blind man sarcastically asks if their request meant that they had a change of heart. Did they want to become His disciples like he had become? This man was not intimidated by these religious leaders because his testimony was based upon the truth.

The Pharisees realized the man saw through their ploy to unjustly condemn Jesus, so they verbally abused (“reviled”) him. “Then they reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples.’ ” (John 9:28). The Pharisees were so proud to think that they were right. Ironically, Jesus was more of a disciple of Moses than these Pharisees were. But the Pharisees could not believe Jesus was from God because in their estimation, Jesus broke God’s Law (actually their laws) when He healed the man on the Sabbath.

They continued, “We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.” (John 9:29).Christ’s critics knew that God spoke to Moses and sent him, but they did not know by whom Jesus was sent. They boasted in what they knew about Moses just like many people today will boast about what they know to attempt to put themselves in a superior position to those who know Jesus. For example, when I was in college, an unbelieving religion professor said, “We all know, of course, that Jesus never claimed to be God.” By adding that little phrase, “of course,” he was insinuating, “Anyone with half a brain would know that what I am saying is true.” As a young believer at that time, I felt too intimidated to question his opinions in class.

The Pharisees would not follow Christ because they did not know His origin. Their ignorance of His origin was not due to a lack of information about Jesus because He had already revealed enough for them to know this (cf. John 5-8). Their ignorance of Christ’s origin was due to a willful rejection of Christ. Such is the case with non-Christians today. Their ignorance is not due to a lack of evidence concerning the identity of Jesus Christ. It is due to their willful rejection of Him.

The former blind man teaches these proud religious leaders, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes!” (John 9:30). Although his parents were afraid to speak the truth to the Pharisees, this man boldly challenges their illogical thinking! It is like he is saying, “Your ignorance of Jesus’ origin is more of a miracle than my cure! You are the experts and you do not know where my Healer is from?!” Their disbelief was incredible to him in light of the evidence!

This is the fourth symptom of spiritual blindness – DELIBERATELY REJECT CHRIST DESPITE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE ABOUT HIS IDENTITY (John 9:24-30). It is amazing how blind people can be to the truth about Jesus Christ. This is a heart issue not an intellectual issue. This incredible miracle should have overwhelmingly convinced the Jewish leaders of Christ’s identity, yet they denied this truth.

Even today unbelievers remain skeptical of the truth of Jesus Christ until the Holy Spirit causes them to see their need for Jesus. Until God removes the spiritual veil that blinds them to the truth about Jesus, they will not embrace Christ even though the evidence overwhelmingly points to Him as a supernatural Person!

The former blind man continues to teach the Pharisees by giving them a lesson on logic. “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” (John 9:31). When the healed man says, “We know,” he is referring to himself, the Pharisees, and the community. “We know that God does not hear sinners. He hears the righteous! If God does not hear sinners, then how could Jesus perform this miracle if He were a sinner?!” His logical argument in this verse can be summarized in this way:

1. Only God could heal congenital blindness.

2. Jesus healed congenital blindness.

3. Jesus must be from God.

Then the former blind man said, “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” (John 9:32-33). The healing of a man born blind was never heard of. “Jesus could not have healed me, a healing unparalleled in history, unless He were from God. How else do you explain such supernatural activity, if it is not from God?” It is also amazing that this former blind man was able to see things so clearly in contrast to the Pharisees who were so prejudiced against Jesus. While there was no record in history up to that time of a person blind from birth being healed, the Old Testament did prophesy that the Messiah-God would heal the blind (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:7).

This is the third way to overcome spiritual blindness – DISCERN THE TRUTH FROM ERROR (John 9:31-33). Instead of yielding to the error of the Pharisees, the beggar used reason and logic to hold fast to the truth and concluded that Jesus was from God.

What about you? Does your family or religious community question what Jesus has done in your life because they refuse to embrace the truth about Christ? Do their emotions or traditions guide their decisions about Jesus instead of logic, reason, and truth? Please know that their skeptical response to what Jesus has done in your life does not make it any less true. Truth is not truth because people vote on it. Truth is truth based on what God has revealed.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus repeatedly claims to have been sent by God the Father to reveal the Father to us. John stated, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18). Jesus tells Philip, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9). God’s revelation of Himself to us centers in the Person of Jesus Christ, which we have in the written eyewitness testimony of the apostles. True spiritual knowledge of God is founded on knowing Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent to reveal Himself to us. Anything else is mere speculation.

Many years ago the head of a rescue mission in London accepted the challenge to debate a well-known skeptic, but with this condition: he would bring with him one hundred people who would tell how believing in Jesus changed their lives. He invited his opponent to counter with witnesses to the benefits of unbelief. On the appointed day the believer came with his one hundred witnesses, but the skeptic never showed up. (Our Daily Bread, 1999).

Your testimony about how Jesus has changed your life is one of the most powerful testimonies to those who are dying in their sins. Do not let the bullies and lies of this world keep you from sharing it. Christ is counting on you and the unsaved world needs you.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, knowing You and making You known go together. The more I know You, the more I long for people to know You. Whether they be my intellectual superiors or not, I must share what You have done in my life because apart from You, they cannot know God the Father. They cannot have everlasting life. And they cannot be set free from the darkness that keeps them in bondage to sin. In Your name. Amen.

How do I stay focused on what is important to God? Part 2

“If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” John 7:17

The second way to major on the majors is to ASCERTAIN GOD’S WILL BY DOING IT (John 7:17). “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” (John 7:17). If anyone was willing to do God’s will, not just to know God’s truth, God would enable that one to believe that Jesus’ teaching came from heaven. The most important thing then is a commitment to follow God’s will. Once a person makes that commitment, God begins to convince him or her of what is true. Faith must precede reason, not the other way around.

Although this promise applies to all that Jesus taught, it especially applies to what a person must do to have everlasting life. Everyone who is willing to do what God says will discover that anyone who believes or trusts in Jesus alone has everlasting life. Jesus said, “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:40). Unfortunately, many of Jesus’ listeners did not want to do God’s will, so they never discovered the free gift of everlasting life through faith in Jesus. Instead, they wanted to kill Jesus and bring His teaching to an end (cf. John 7:19-20).

We see this happening often today. The reason people do not discover the freeness of everlasting life through faith alone in Christ alone is because they are not willing to do God’s will. They are committed to doing their own will instead of God’s. Hence, they embrace a “faith plus” gospel that emphasizes good works to get them to heaven. But because this is their will instead of God’s, they are convinced that this is the right way to heaven. It is not until they are willing to do what God says that they discover that everlasting life is a free gift through believing in Jesus Christ apart from any works (John 3:15-18, 36; 4:10-14; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26).

The reason why so many people reject that Jesus is God is because they are not willing to do God’s will. If they were willing, God would enable them to believe that Jesus is the true God and eternal life (John 1:1; I John 5:20). Spiritual understanding and growth begins with our willingness to do what God says.

But those who do believe in Christ for salvation must be willing to apply what they know to grow in their faith. We learn by doing. For example, we can know how to share the gospel, but we will not grow in evangelism until we start sharing Christ with non-Christians. Likewise, you can know the steps to forgiveness, but you will not grow in forgiveness until you choose to actually forgive the people who have hurt you. You may be able to quote 1 Corinthians 13, but until you choose to work at loving your enemy and those who are difficult to love, you inhibit your ability to grow in love. You can know how important discipleship is, but until you begin carving time out of your schedule to study God’s Word and teach it to others, you will not grow further in discipleship.

With every act of obedience, the truth of what Jesus says becomes more and more persuasive to us. We know it is true, because God proves Himself true every time. This explains why some new believers learn and grow with incredible speed. They become grown up, mature believers, in a matter of months, while others who sit under the teaching of the Word for years hardly seem to grow at all; they are still Kindergarten Christians. Why is this? It is because they are not doing what they hear. Those who put into practice the truth they hear begin to grow immediately. They move beyond spiritual infancy and enter the spiritual infantry of Christ.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, salvation and spiritual growth begin with my will. If I am not willing to do what You say, I will not discover the reality of everlasting through faith in You alone. If I am not willing to do Your will after I am saved, I will not grow in my relationship with You. Lord God, I want to become a doer of Your Word and not merely a hearer. Please help me to grow beyond where I am today by taking that first step of obedience to Your will. Every time I obey You, the truth of what You say becomes more persuasive to me. I grow spiritually by doing what Your Word says, not by hearing. I pray Your church will be filled with followers of Christ who are growing exponentially as doers of Your Word and not hearers only. As a result, You will receive more glory and the world will be a much better place to live. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How do I stay focused on what is important to God? Part 1

“Jesus answered them and said, ‘My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.’ ” John 7:16

God wants us to major on what is important. He wants us to focus on relationships, especially with Him, and internal attitudes, not ourselves and external appearances. But how do we do that? How do we major on the majors? How do we stay focused on what is important to God – our relationship with Him and doing His will during this season of chaos and uncertainty? Let’s look at John 7:14-24 the next few days and find out.

The first way to stay focused on what is important to God is to AVOID HIDING BEHIND FOOLISH STEREOTYPES (John 7:14-16). In John 7:1-13, Jesus’ half-brothers tried to persuade Him to go up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles to make Himself known as the Messiah. Jesus refused to follow His unbelieving brothers’ advice. Instead, He waited until the Feast was half over before going up to it. 14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, ‘How does this Man know letters, having never studied?’ ” (John 7:14-15). The word “letters” refers to the Scriptures. The crowd was amazed that Jesus could teach with such authority since He had no formal education. He had not gone to the proper rabbinical schools. Yet, He took the ancient prophecies, and expounded and explained them. This was so different from the other rabbis. They taught from authorities, but Jesus taught with authority. Christ was a refreshing difference.

These people were not admiring Jesus – they were finding ways to avoid the impact of His message. They were doing what many of us do today – they were hiding behind foolish stereotypes. That way they would not have to deal with what Jesus was saying. We can often dismiss uncomfortable teaching because the teacher is either: not very educated (and so couldn’t possibly have anything to teach me) or, they are too educated (and surely parroting what they have been taught rather than making an informed decision based on the scriptures). Have you ever done that? I know I have. We stop listening to people because of their incorrect grammar, background, their past failures, their appearance, and a host of other reasons.

Jesus tells the people –  “Jesus answered them and said, ‘My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.’ ” (John 7:16). Jesus did not receive His message from men nor make it up Himself. Many people who have not gone to school are still proud of their knowledge. They say, “I studied and taught myself.” There is a lot of pride lurking beneath such a statement. But Jesus does not say that. “I am not even self-taught. My teaching is from Him who sent me.” In other words, the issue is not the Person who is speaking, but the message that is spoken.

God can and does speak to us in a number of different ways. He can speak to us through the words of a child, a grandparent, even a new believer. However, we must be open to instruction. We must stop hindering God’s Spirit by refusing to listen to someone because of our foolish stereotypes. I believe that most people today want to hear from someone who has been taught by God. Isn’t that true? Hopefully you didn’t start reading this article to hear from me. You have come to this article because you wanted to get a word from the Lord. That’s why those of us who teach God’s Word need your prayers. Pray for us to hear from God each day – to get fresh insight from His Word.

Prayer: Father God, I am certain I have often missed out on Your message in the past because of my foolish stereotypes. I have stopped listening to Your messengers because of their incorrect grammar, background, their past failures, their appearance, and a host of other reasons. Oh how I regret hiding behind such stereotypes to avoid the impact of Your Word in my life. I have forgotten how You use unexpected people to communicate Your message of grace and truth. During this time of great chaos and uncertainty in our world, I desperately need to hear from You, my Lord and my God. Please open my eyes and heart to see wonderful jewels in Your Word. Holy Spirit, please give me the ability to understand and apply the truth of God’s Word to my life. Please give me an open heart to those whom You have raised up to speak to this current generation. Help me discern fake news from Your news. In the precious name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

How do I follow God’s plan? Part 5

“But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.” John 7:10

The fifth way I follow God’s plan is when I APPLY DISCRETION (John 7:10-13). After Jesus’ brothers went up to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, Jesus went up in secret. “But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.” (John 7:10). Contrary to His brother’s insincere advice, Jesus kept a low profile during the opening days of the feast because it was not God’s time for Him to be manifested as the Messiah. He was very discreet. The message is clear – people do not determine what Jesus does. Christ is supremely the Master of every situation. So now He goes up when He is ready and in the way He chooses.

Jesus found Jerusalem filled with rumors about Him. In the intervening months, He had become the sensation of the nation. Reports of His great miracles had filtered down to Jerusalem and everybody was talking about Him, as John describes: 11 Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, ‘Where is He?’ 12 And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, ‘He is good’; others said, ‘No, on the contrary, He deceives the people.’ 13 However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.” (John 7:11-13). There was a growing tension. Public opinion was divided. Some favored Christ and others were opposed to Him.

As we seek to follow God’s plan, we must apply discretion. There is a time and place to speak up for the Lord and then there is a time and place to be silent. Christians have turned off unbelievers by failing to apply discretion. We need God’s wisdom to know when and what to say or do before an unbelieving world. We need to rely on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit for guidance.

Are you willing to follow God’s plan for your life or do you want to run ahead of Him and take your chances? Let’s wait for His leading, shall we? And if the light is red or even yellow, we will be wise to let Him hold us back. When it turns green, you will know it. Don’t race your motor while you are waiting. You will burn up all your fuel… and you might slip across that delicate line. God’s moving-violation fines are quite expensive.

Prayer: Father God, forgive us for following our own inclinations instead of Your clear and simple leading. We want to follow Your plan for our lives. Lead us to those who are receptive to the gospel that we might boldly share Jesus with them. May we follow Your leading and not our own, adjusting to Your timing even if it is a red or yellow light. It is far better to be behind You, Lord, instead of in front of You. May our lives challenge the status quo of wickedness around us because You are living in and through us. Grant us Your wisdom as we face decisions each day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How do I follow God’s Plan? Part 3

“You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” John 7:8

The third way to follow God’s plan is to ADJUST TO HIS TIMING AND WILL (John 7:6a, 8). Jesus understood the Scriptures. He knew that God had appointed the very time in which He would be crucified. Six months from now Jesus would make a triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The people will receive Him with shouts of Hosanna. But now is not God’s time for that to happen. It is the wrong feast. It is the Feast of Tabernacles not the Passover. So Jesus told His brothers, My time has not yet come… You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” (John 7:6a, 8). Jesus was not only being sensitive to what God wants to do but WHEN He wants to do it as well. We use the phrase, “Timing is everything,” because by experience we have learned that to do the right thing at the wrong time does not work. 

A basketball player can throw the most beautiful pass down the court, but if it is not timed right for his teammate to receive it, it will either go out of bounds or be stolen by the other team. For Jesus, His obedience to the Father must be according to God’s timing – like a batter swinging the bat just as the ball crosses the plate. In my own life, some of my greatest regrets were the result of hasty decisions – because I got ahead of God. It is better to wait on the Lord’s timing than to get ahead of Him and experience disaster.

Jesus knew His Father’s will and did it. How do I discern God’s will today? Ask yourself these questions as you seek to discover God’s will before making any major decisions:

1. What does the Bible tell me to do?” If your choice of action violates God’s Word, you know God’s will in the situation: “Don’t do it!” For example, co-signing on a loan. “It is poor judgment to co-sign a friend’s note, to become responsible for a neighbor’s debts.” Proverbs 17:18 [NLT]. It is unwise to become entangled in someone else’s financial problems. So if someone asks you to co-sign on a loan, don’t do it. If you already have, Proverbs 6:1-5 says to get out of it. So yes, only if your tentative decision would not violate God’s Word are you free to proceed. The matter then becomes a matter of fine tuning, being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, who will bring more information to your mind, especially relevant principles and examples from the Bible.

2. What can God show me as I pray? After you are convinced that your tentative decision would not violate God’s Word, you will want further guidance through prayer. For example, you are looking at a possible job change and you need some direction. After searching God’s Word, you have discovered that such a change would not violate God’s Word, but now on the basis of James 1:5 – you commit yourself to praying for God’s leading every morning for several days. At the outset, you prepare a sheet on which two columns are drawn, one for listing all the reasons to change jobs, and the other column to list reasons not to change jobs. Each evening you cross off a reason on one side or the other, as a result of what God told you during your prayer time that day. At the end of several days, you should see a definite trend developing, especially if you have continued to study God’s Word and Scriptural aids.

3. What can knowledgeable counselors or advisors tell me? Look at the following verses:

“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14

“Plans are established by counsel; by wise counsel wage war.” Proverbs 20:18

“For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, and in a multitude of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 24:6

According to these verses, seeking godly advice can bring wisdom, safety, and a better chance of success. Do you have an older Christian in your life to whom you can turn for biblical counsel? If not, ask the Lord to guide you to such a person.

4. What do these circumstances tell me about God’s purposes and timing? Ask yourself whether the existence of this situation tells you something about God’s plan for you. For example, is He showing you some doors are now open? Are other doors being closed?

5. Is my heart filled with peace about my decision? This is a very subjective question, which is why it is last. According to Colossians 3:15, “the peace of Christ” is an important element in our fulfillment of God’s will in our lives. If your decision is right, you will have great confidence that you are in God’s will. If you don’t have peace, it may not mean God is saying “no,” but to wait, slow down and let God make His will clear to you.

Prayer: My precious Lord, please make me sensitive to Your will and timing, especially in these days of chaos and uncertainty.Some of my deepest regrets in life were the result of hasty decisions. Even making the right decision at the wrong time has produced disastrous results. This is such an area of weakness for me. And it does not help to live in a world that is making many fear-based decisions that ignore Your counsel. Christians are being pressured to do the same. Lord, one of my greatest needs right now is to slow down and wait upon You. Living with delayed gratification is one of the marks of Christian maturity. It is also seldom modeled in our society. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for showing me what it means to be sensitive to the Father’s will and timing. You have recorded Your wisdom in the Bible and given me the Holy Spirit to enable me to understand and apply it to my life. Thank You for giving me everything I need to make godly decisions that reflect Your will and timing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.