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 14 – Part 2

“Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.” Revelation 14:6

After receiving revelation about Satan’s two wild beasts (the World Ruler and the False Prophet) who will triumph during the last half of the Tribulation period (13:1-18), the apostle John receives revelation that describes both what happens on earth to those who refuse the mark of the beast (14:1-5) and what happens to those who receive the mark of the beast (14:6-20).

Last time we discovered that the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, was standing triumphantly on Mount Zion in Jerusalem on earth at the end of the Tribulation period along with the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who faithfully proclaimed Jesus’ gospel message to the ends of the earth during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation when the beast ruled without mercy over the earth (14:1; cf. 7:1-8; Matthew 24:14). Because of their faithfulness to Christ to the end of the Great Tribulation, these evangelists will be richly rewarded by King Jesus in His eternal Kingdom (14:2-5; cf. Romans 8:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21).

In another scene of John’s vision on earth (14:6-13), the apostle hears four announcements that provide motivation to remain faithful to God and resist the beasts during the last half of the Tribulation period. God’s angels will make the first three announcements (14:6-12), and a voice from heaven will declare the fourth (14:13). 1

John records the first angel’s proclamation: “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.” (Revelation 14:6). This first angel is “another angel” like the archangel Michael (12:7), the closest specific angel in the context. 2 The phrase, “flying in the midst of heaven” (πετόμενον ἐν μεσουρανήματι), literally says, “flying in mid-heaven,” meaning in the sky between heaven and earth. 3

This first angel proclaims, “the everlasting gospel” to all earth-dwellers (14:6a). Unlike the message of the Beast and the False Prophet, which is evil and temporary, this message will be good (euangelion = God’s good news for humans 4) and eternal. It is “everlasting” because “it has eternal significance.” 5 “The ‘new’ [and false] religion of the Beast and False Prophet just described in Chapter 13… will blaspheme the God of the Two Witnesses as a vengeful, evil deity that is out to destroy earth’s environment and inhabitants. The angelic message will counteract these deceptive lies.” 6

This gospel proclamation is also universal in extent. It is not just for one nation, one people group, one ethnicity, or one language group, but for “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (14:6a). Why? Because the judgments of God are impacting the entire world during the Tribulation, so the inhabitants of every nation need to hear the truth about what is happening to them instead of the lies of the Beast and the False Prophet.

The content of this “everlasting gospel” is given in the next verse. “Saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’” (Revelation 14:7). It is important to understand that this gospel message is not the same as the saving message the apostle John gave us in his gospel. That message said all anyone must do to have everlasting life is believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31; cf. 1:12; 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:29, 35-40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-27; et. al).

This gospel message being proclaimed by the angel during the last half of the Tribulation period will counter the falsehood and deception of the Beast and False prophet who will blaspheme God, saying He is an unfair and vengeful god who delights in punishing people (14:7a). The gospel message of this angel will call unbelievers to “fear God and give glory to Him” because the reason for all this worldwide death and disaster is that “the hour of His judgment has come” (14:7b). 

When people on the earth understand why all the calamities are taking place during the Tribulation, they may be more likely to believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life. 7 These earth-dwellers are also to “worship” God because He “made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (14:7c). God is worthy of worship because He is the Creator, and He has the right to judge what He has created (cf. Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 33:6-9; 146:6). “When people refuse God’s authority and set themselves up as God, He has the right to judge them.” 8

However, if people will worship and give thanks to their Creator, God is more inclined to give them more truth (Romans 1:18-23),including the gospel of Jesus Christ which saves them from eternal judgment (Romans 1:15-16; cf. John 3:36; I Corinthians 15:1-8). This also relates to those who have never heard the gospel before.

I sometimes get asked, “What about those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ? How could God punish them in hell if they have never heard about Jesus?” I believe the best answer is no one is without excuse because God has given every human being some degree of revelation from Him. He has given us general revelation in creation (Psalm 19:1-6) and special revelation in the Bible (Psalm 19:7-14). God has given all humankind evidence that He exists through the things He has made, so no one is without excuse. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Those who respond positively to general revelation by worshiping their Creator instead of His creation, will receive more specific revelation concerning God’s Son, Jesus Christ, because God “is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

An example of this is seen in Acts 10. A man named Cornelius had never heard of Jesus, but he was seeking God. 1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion… 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” (Acts 10:1-2). God answered Cornelius’ prayers and sent the apostle Peter to him to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to him and to those close to him (Acts 10:9-48).

Cornelius’ piety (“a devout man …who feared God”), generous giving (“who gave alms generously”), and persistent prayer (“prayed to God always”) did not save him. His fear of God and righteous works did not give him “peace” with God (10:35-36). All his devotion to God, prayers, and alms giving were expressions of his restlessness to be right with God. The apostle Peter correctly perceives this, so he speaks of Christ “preaching peace” (10:36). After declaring Jesus’ death and resurrection to Cornelius (10:39), Peter invites this religious man to “believe” in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins (10:43). And Cornelius did along with his relatives and close friends, and then they were all baptized (10:44-48). What Cornelius could not find in fearing God, prayers, and alms giving, he found in the name of Jesus Christ! Only the name of Jesus Christ has the power to save and forgive all our sins.

There are many people in the world today like Cornelius. They do not know about Jesus Christ, but they are responding positively to what God has revealed to them. They want to know the true and living God Who created the universe. And God is sending people like Peter to them, no matter where they live, so they can hear and believe the good news of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection and live forever with Him in His heaven!

In the future Tribulation period, God will send this first angel to point the unsaved world to the true God and Creator of the universe. If people will respond positively to this message, and fear God, the Lord will send His Jewish evangelists to them to preach the gospel of Christ’s coming kingdom so they can enter His eternal kingdom by believing in Jesus alone (cf. Mark 1:15; Matthew 24:14; John 3:5-16).

What you think or believe about what might happen to those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ does not mean you are not responsible to God on judgment day. Since you are reading this article, you are now responsible for how you respond to God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Someone once said, “Many things in the Bible I cannot understand; many things in the Bible I only think I understand; but there are many things in the Bible I cannot misunderstand.”

For example, a verse we cannot misunderstand is John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” We can live forever with God in His eternal kingdom if we believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. Or we can experience the wrath of God forever if we do not believe in God’s Son. For those who have not heard of Jesus yet, if they respond positively to the revelation God has given them, God will make sure to send a messenger to them to explain the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). To Him be all the glory both now and forever!

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, Creator of the heavens and the earth, we praise You for Your eternal plan of redemption through Jesus Christ! No matter what age we live in, salvation has and always will be through faith alone in Your only perfect Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for telling us You will send this first angel to proclaim the everlasting gospel to the world during a time of horrific judgments on the earth. Even amid the outpouring of Your wrath, You still desire that people will be rescued from eternal condemnation. O Lord, please lead us to those like Cornelius, who are responding positively to what You have already shown them, so we may share the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection with them before it is too late. Your Word tells us that You desire all people to be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4) and that none should perish in hell (2 Peter 3:9). Because Jesus is “the way” to heaven (John 14:6), not one of many ways, we must go wherever You lead us to reach those who are perishing without Christ. Thank You for entrusting us with Your gospel. May we be found faithful to share it wherever You lead us. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 157.

2. Ibid.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1530, 1551.

4. 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. 402.

5. Constable, pg. 158.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1551.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

Lessons from the risen Lord Jesus – Part 4

“Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.” John 21:7

We are learning in John 21:1-14 how to relate to the risen Lord Jesus Christ in our daily lives. So far we have discovered…

– Failure and discouragement are often connected to the risen Lord Jesus’ purpose for our lives (John 21:1-3).

– Success in our risen Lord’s eyes is not in trying harder (John 21:4-5).

– Success in our risen Lord’s eyes depends on following His will (John 21:6).

After the disciples stayed up all night trying to catch fish without any success, the risen Lord Jesus appeared to them on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and advised them to cast their net on the right side of their boat (John 21:3-6a). At this time, the disciples did not realize that this Stranger on the shore was Jesus. When they did what Christ said, they caught so many fish they were not able to haul them all into their boat (John 21:6b).

Then the apostle John writes, “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.” (John 21:7). This miraculous catch of fish opened the eyes of John (“that disciple whom Jesus loved”) so he could identify this Stranger to be the risen Lord Jesus (“It is the Lord!”). John was the first to discern that this was the risen Lord Jesus and he “had also been first to discern the significance of the grave clothes (John 20:8).” 1  

This is an important lesson for those of us who proclaim the gospel to a lost world. When our risen Lord Jesus grants success to our labors, especially “when the gospel-net in our hands gathers fishes, let us not forget to own ‘It is the Lord!’” 2  The risen Lord Jesus is the One responsible for people coming to salvation. He is the One Who gets the glory. We are merely His instruments.

But we also see that Peter was the first to take action after Jesus was identified by John. Peter responded by wrapping his “outer garment” around himself and “plunged into the sea.” His quick reaction reveals his true feelings toward Jesus. He was so eager to be in Jesus’ presence, that he couldn’t wait for the boat to come to shore. Peter’s action contrasts strikingly with the time he started to sink in the water (Matt. 14:30).” 3

“True to the pictures we have of them in the New Testament, John exhibited quick insight and Peter quick action… Peter had learned that John’s instincts about these things were better than his. He accepted John’s conclusion and jumped into the water…  Apparently he wanted to get to Jesus faster than his boat and net, now full of fish, would allow. He showed no concern for the fish; he willingly let them go. His only desire was to get to Jesus. That his action was thoughtful, rather than impulsive, is clear from the fact that ‘he put his outer garment on’ before jumping overboard.” 4

Peter’s actions may seem strange to us. Why would he put on his “outer garments” before swimming? Normally people take off unnecessary clothing before swimming. The Greek word that is used to describe Peter is translated “for he had removed it.” This word is gumnos and can mean “naked, stripped bare, poorly dressed” or to “be lightly clad without an outer garment.” 5  In this context, Peter most likely had dressed lightly down to his loincloth for work as a fisherman, but he wanted to be dressed appropriately when he reached shore to greet Jesus.Modesty even had its place in the life of a Galilean fisherman. 6

But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish.” (John 21:8). While Peter swam the hundred yards (“two hundred cubits”) to shore, the “other disciples”  followed in the boat towing the net full of fish.

I am really drawn to Peter’s actions. Remember fishing was Peter’s profession. He had left his fishing business to follow Jesus a few years earlier (cf. Luke 5:11). But while waiting to meet Jesus in Galilee after Christ’s resurrection, Peter returns to fishing with six other disciples of Christ. They throw in the fishing net where Jesus said, and Peter and the other disciples catch so many fish that they cannot even haul them all in. And then when Peter realizes it is the risen Lord Jesus on the shore, he jumps in the water to go over and greet Jesus. Only those of you who are fishermen can appreciate the significance of this. Why would a fisherman leave behind one of the greatest catches he ever had? Because he discovered what his real purpose was. It wasn’t in the boat. It wasn’t with those fish. He realizes immediately that it is the risen Lord Jesus on the shore. And He is the One Peter needs to be with. Peter was reminded of his purpose, and it was not fishing.

What about you and me? Do we realize our primary purpose in life is to be with the risen Lord Jesus Christ? To know Him more intimately and to make Him known to others? This leads to our fourth valuable lesson. OUR PRIMARY PURPOSE IN LIFE IS TO BE WITH THE RISEN LORD JESUS CHRIST WHO IS GRACIOUS (John 21:7-8).

You may ask,“But isn’t Jesus in heaven now with God the Father? How can I be with Him here on earth?” Great question! Jesus anticipated this question when He said to His disciples, 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18). Christ promises that He will not leave His disciples as “orphans” who are deprived of their parents. Jesus had been like a father to the disciples – protecting, providing, guiding, and instructing them as His own children. And now He was leaving them. But He would not leave them as “orphans.” He says, “I will come to you” through the Holy Spirit (“another Helper… the Spirit of truth”). The Holy Spirit would fill the void left by Jesus’ departure. The Holy Spirit would protect, provide, guide, and instruct them. He would function as their Divine Parent and “abide with [and “in”] you forever” (John 14:16-17). There would never be a time when this coming Helper would be taken away from them (or us) in the way Christ was now being taken from them through His death and eventual ascension to heaven. 

The risen Lord Jesus is reminding us that our primary purpose is not in the number of fish or people we catch with our gospel nets. It is not in our job successes or failures. It is not in the number of people who like us or dislike us. Nor is our primary purpose found in how much money we make or don’t make. Or how much education we have or don’t have. Our primary purpose revolves around being with the risen Lord Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit. Are we willing to put spending time with the risen Lord Jesus ahead of our achievements, our families, our hobbies, our jobs, our peers or anything else in life? Peter came to this realization on that “little boat.” He was so eager to be with Jesus that he turned his back on one of the greatest catches of fish he had ever seen.

What about us? How does our eagerness to be with Jesus compare to Peter’s? Peter and the other disciples went fishing without Jesus and caught nothing. But Jesus was so good and gracious to give them advice that led them to catch a large amount of fish. Christ’s goodness and grace toward them had a lot to do with Peter’s eagerness to swim over to Jesus. The more we experience the goodness and grace of our risen Lord Jesus, the more eager we will be to spend time with Him.

Peter spoke of this in his epistle when he wrote, 2As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (I Peter 2:2-3). Just as newborn babies desperately desire their mother’s milk, so believers are to desire time with the Lord in His Word so they “may grow thereby.”  The word “if” 7  assumes that Peter’s readers had “tasted” or experienced “that the Lord is gracious” and good in new birth (cf. I Peter 1:3, 23-25).

Our spiritual appetite for God’s Word is heightened by the graciousness and goodness of our risen Lord Jesus. If we have lost our eagerness to spend time with Jesus it is probably because we have lost sight of the goodness and graciousness of our risen Lord. God’s graciousness can be seen in His sacrifice on the cross. He gave Himself for us so He could have a love relationship with us. God is so gracious, He died for you and me. He is full of grace. Grace means giving your absolute best to someone who deserves your absolute worst. And this is what God did through Jesus Christ.

God is also patient and kind. If He were not, you and I would drop dead because God is so holy that He has to punish every sin. He has been waiting for years for some of us to come through on our promises to Him. The only reason we are still hanging around and He is still listening to those promises is that He is patient. We would give up on other people a lot sooner than God does. But Jesus Christ is also merciful which means removing our misery. He is truthful. He is the only One who will give us the straight story all the time. He forgives us of things that other people will hold against us until they go to their graves. That is God’s goodness and that is grace!

Our desire to spend time with the risen Lord Jesus hinges on our taste of His grace to us. If we perceive Jesus to be a harsh, critical, and angry God, we are not going to want to hear what He has to say. We are not going to want to be open to His Word.

It is easy for Christians to see God as an unkind Person when they experience suffering. But God is not to blame for the bad things that happen to us. We live in a world that is contaminated by sin. Because of sin, we live in a very painful world of cancer, COVID, personality conflicts, attitude battles, and political strife. We live in a world where if a sinner decides to pick up a gun, a Christian could be in trouble. Much of our world is not good, but it is not because God is not good. It is because people are not good.

All of creation was completely good when it came from God’s hand (Genesis 1:31), but it was contaminated by sin (Genesis 3:1-19; Romans 5:12). Therefore, we live in a world where many bad things happen.

But the goodness of God can be seen when He takes the bad things that happen to us and brings eternal good out of them. Like the Christian who knew he was dying and knew there was no medical hope. He looked up and said, “This is my crowning day. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” But those who loved him and were looking on wanted to know, “Why did God let him die?”

Peter is telling us in his epistle and in his example in John 21 that our desire to spend time with the risen Lord Jesus hinges on our experience of His goodness and grace in our lives. Have you lost your eagerness to spend time with the risen Lord Jesus? If so, you can activate it by focusing on the richness of His grace toward you.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Peter’s example of eagerness to meet with You. Honestly, it hurts me to think about the number of times I have been a lot more eager to focus on the things of this world instead of You. I have put people and ministry ahead of You so much of the time. Yet You patiently wait on the shore for me to come to You. You even intervene to help me when I am struggling to do things without You. Lord, Your goodness and grace humble me. Yet the more I experience Your grace, the more eager I am to be with You. Lord Jesus I want to be with You. I want to sense You with me always. Please enable me to be as eager as Peter, and to dive in to those opportunities and places where I anticipate You will show up. Thank You my Lord and my God. In Your gracious name I pray Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 702.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 390 cites Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John Vol. 3 (Swengel, Pa.: I. C. Herendeen, 1945; 3 vols. in 1 reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), pg. 317.

3. Blum, pg. 702.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 390.

5. 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. 208.

6. J. Carl Laney Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 376.

7. The phrase, “If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (εἴπερ ἐγεύσασθε ὅτι χρηστὸς ὁ κύριος) is a first-class conditional clause that assumes the truth of what is said. See 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. 1379.

How can we overcome self-centeredness? Part 4

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” John 12:32

All human beings are born with a sin nature that wants its own way (cf. Isaiah 53:6). Like the child when being disciplined said to his father, “I’m not bad. I just want my own way.” All of us are self-centered creatures. We demand our own way. Life revolves around self. “It’s all about me!”

This is very evident as we approach our presidential elections in the USA. Our country is extremely polarized right now because individuals and political parties are demanding their own way. There is a lack of unity and cooperation with one another because of this sinful nature that insists on “my way or no way.”

We are learning how to overcome self-centeredness in our study of John 12:20-33. So far we have discovered that the way to overcome our self-centeredness is through…

– Seeking Jesus (John 12:20-22).

– Self-denying service to Christ (John 12:23-26).

– Surrendering to God’s control in prayer (John 12:27-30).

Today we will look at the fourth and final way to overcome self-centeredness in this passage. It is STAYING FOCUSED ON THE ONE WHO DEFEATED THE DEVIL AND DRAWS ALL PEOPLE TO HIMSELF (John 12:31-33). After God the Father spoke from heaven to affirm that He would glorify His name through His Son’s death, Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (John 12:31). While the death of Christ makes all people savable (Romans 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 John 2:2), it also means those who reject Christ will be judged or condemned.

Jesus had said, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18). Constable states, “The Jews thought they were judging Jesus when they decided to believe or disbelieve on Him. In reality, their decisions brought divine judgment on themselves. By crucifying Jesus, they were condemning themselves. Jesus was not saying that this would be the last judgment on the world. He meant that because of humankind’s rejection of Him, God was about to pass ‘judgment’ on the world for rejecting His Son (cf. Acts 17:30-31).” 1

Satan, “the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31b; cf. 14:30; 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4), because the cross will deprive him of power and influence. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given the responsibility to rule the world on God’s behalf (cf. Genesis 1:26-28). Instead, they chose to sin against God (Genesis 3:1-6) and thereby granted rule of the world to Satan (see 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 5:19). So the Son of God, Jesus Christ, became a Man without ceasing to be God (John 1:1, 14; Titus 2:13; I John 5:20), to defeat the devil. The cross guarantees the enemy’s defeat because Satan achieves victory through accusing sinners. But through the cross, Jesus Christ would deal with sin once and for all (see Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 7:26-27; 9:12; 10:10) so Satan can no longer successfully accuse or oppose those who believe in Jesus (Romans 8:31-39).2

Look in Hebrews 2:14-15: “14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Satan’s power was destroyed, not Satan himself. He had the power of death and used peoples’ fear of death to enslave them to his will. But through the cross, Jesus defeated death and now His children can live for Him and face death with confidence! Satan opposes Jesus so much because he knows what Jesus’ death means. When Jesus said Satan would “be cast out” (John 12:31b), He is referring to His ultimate victory over Satan which, though still future, was initiated at the cross. This victory will be finalized when the devil is cast into his permanent home in the lake of fire where he “will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10).

Satan often appeals to our self-centeredness to lead us away from God to serve his deceitful schemes which are opposed to the Lord. He did this in the Garden of Eden when he said to Eve,4bYou will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4b-5). God had told Adam, who told Eve, that they could eat from any tree in the garden except one – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17a). God promised that if they ate from that tree they “shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17b).

So what does Satan do? He tells Eve that she will not die. The devil says there is no penalty to sin. And all of us have believed that lie ever since. Satan tells Eve (and us) that God just told her that because He is selfish. He does not want anyone to be like Him and take His place. Satan explains, God “knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan is saying, “God doesn’t want anyone to become like Him by knowing good and evil… He doesn’t want you to reach your full potential. If you obey God, you will be limited and unfulfilled.” But Satan knew no one could be like God. How did he know? Because he tried it himself and got kicked out of heaven (cf. Isaiah 14:12-15)!

Jesus then says, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32). The words “lifted up”refer to Christ’s crucifixion (cf. John 3:14; 8:28; 12:33). Why? Because He must be lifted up on the cross to draw “all”(the word “peoples” is not in the Greek) to Himself. This refers to “all”people, not just Jews, but all people including the Greeks or Gentiles. Jesus’ love is not exclusive. This drawing or pulling is universal regardless of one’s past, nationality, political party, or skin color.

Because of the cross, God does the drawing work that impacts every individual in some way. No one can come to Christ in faith apart from God’s drawing (cf. John 6:44). Jesus does not tell us how long God will draw people to Himself. He may draw them for a brief time or thirty years (cf. Acts 13:46; Romans 1:18-32). That this drawing can be resisted is seen in the life of Judas.3 Judas said “no” to God’s intense drawing for over three years but Judas rejected that drawing and never believed in Christ (cf. 6:64, 70-71; 13:10-11; 17:12). 

John 12:32 does not mean all people will be saved, but that all people will be impacted by the cross in some way and have an opportunity to believe in Christ. But it is still each person’s choice to believe in Christ. John informs us, “This He said, signifying by what death He would die.” (John 12:33). Crucifixion was the kind of death Jesus was destined to die.

The January 10, 2006 Daily Bread reads, “Towering above New York Harbor is the Statue of Liberty. That stately lady, with freedom’s torch held high, has beckoned millions of people who were choking from the stifling air of tyranny or oppression. They’ve been drawn to what that monument symbolizes – freedom. Inscribed on Lady Liberty’s pedestal are these words by Emma Lazarus from her poem ‘The New Colossus’:

            “Give me your tired, your poor,

            Your huddled masses

            yearning to breathe free,

            The wretched refuse

            of your teeming shore;

            Send these, the homeless,

            tempest-tossed, to me:

            I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

“A different monument towers over history, offering spiritual freedom to enslaved peoples everywhere. It’s the cross where Jesus hung 2,000 years ago. At first the scene repels us. Then we see the sinless Son of God dying in our place for our sins. From the cross we hear the words ‘Father, forgive them’ (Luke 23:34) and ‘It is finished!’ (John 19:30). As we trust in Christ as our Savior, the heavy burden of guilt rolls from our sin-weary souls. We are free for all eternity.” 4

Remember Mrs. Lot’s philosophy – “There’s no need to take God seriously”? That could have been etched on her salt-block tombstone. When you have a chance, lick some salt today and ask yourself, “What are some things in my life that God has asked me to leave behind? Things that keep me from following Christ?” 5 After receiving Christ by believing in Him alone for His eternal freedom (John 1:12), you can begin to experience freedom from sin’s bondage in your Christian life by purposing in your heart not to be like Mrs. Lot. You can daily overcome self-centeredness through …

– Seeking Jesus (John 12:20-22).

– Self-denying service to Christ (John 12:23-26).

– Surrendering to God’s control in prayer (John 12:27-30).

– Staying focused on the One who defeated the devil and draws all people to Himself (John 12:31-33).

When you do, you can experience the quality of Christ’s life now (John 12:24-25b; cf. John 8:31-36; 10:10) and be honored by the Father in the future (John 12:25b-26; cf. Matthew 19:29-30; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30; John 4:36; 12:25; Romans 2:7; Galatians 6:7-9; I Timothy 6:12, 19). Only Jesus can unite all people everywhere because only He can transform our selfish, sinful hearts into selfless, loving hearts. Let’s stay focused on Him – the Prince of Peace.

Prayer: Father God, I am so thankful to live in America which was birthed to provide freedom for those who were oppressed. But because of human self-centeredness, that freedom is often limited and redefined to serve one’s selfish interests. There is a much greater freedom that is offered to the world today through Jesus Christ. This freedom that Jesus offers is spiritual,  eternal, and absolutely free to anyone who receives it by faith in Christ alone because His sacrifice on the cross paid for it in full (John John 3:16; 19:30). No politician or government can grant this spiritual freedom. Only Jesus can. Please use me to share this good news of Jesus with the entire world so they can be set free from the penalty of sin (eternal death) and Satan’s counterfeit kingdom of darkness! And Lord, please grant me the desire and the power to abide in Your Word daily so Your truth can set me free from the bondage of self-centeredness that can so easily cripple my walk with You. In the liberating name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition, pg. 223.

2. Dr. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.), pg. 1796.

3. Dr. Robert Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pp. 396, 434,435.

4. https://odb.org/2006/01/10/drawn-by-the-cross/

5. Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Portland: Multanomah Press, 1983), pp. 438-439.