Revelation 19 – Part 5

“Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” Revelation 19:15

For centuries believers have prayed for Christ’s return to earth to set up His kingdom (cf. Matthew 6:10; Revelation 6:10; 22:20) and now the apostle John records the answer to their prayers (Revelation 19:11-21). Last time we saw that King Jesus is “Faithful” and “True” in contrast to the unfaithfulness and deception of the beast who leads the armies of the world to fight against Christ at Armageddon when Jesus returns with His church to the earth (19:11, 19; cf. 13:1-18; 16:12-16). The apostle John continues his description of Jesus Christ before he records His return to earth.

“His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had names written and a name written that no one knew except Himself.” (Revelation 19:12). Reference to Jesus’ “eyes” being “like a flame of fire” emphasizes His penetrating and all-knowing judgment of sin, that takes all things into account (cf. 1:14; 2:18). 1 Jesus has an instinctive “ability to render perfect judgment of every person and every situation (Hebrews 4:13).” 2 His gaze will be able to pierce the darkness of the kingdom of the beast and the very center of the souls of its citizens, exposing their deepest thoughts and motives. 3

Likewise, Christ is fully aware of all our thoughts, words, actions, and motives which is meant to motivate us to live holy lives before Him (cf. Hebrews 4:12-13). Only Jesus is qualified to judge us at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is why the apostle Paul writes, 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” (cf. I Corinthians 4:3-5). Sin-scarred Christians cannot accurately judge the lives and ministries of other Christians let alone their motives. 4 This is why Paul told the Corinthians it really didn’t matter if they judged him. In fact, he didn’t even judge himself because “He who judges” Paul “is the Lord.” At the Judgment Seat, Jesus “will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts.” Only the Lord Jesus knows all the facts and can render a perfect and righteous judgment. So, it is time for Christians to stop playing God and start preparing for the Judgment Seat of Christ.

The fact Jesus had “many crowns” on “His head” (19:12) suggests He will not only defeat the beast or Man of Sin at His Second Coming, but all the world’s rulers and will acquire their crowns, as it were, upon Himself, 5 signifying His right to rule over the entire world (cf. I Chronicles 20:1-2; Psalm 47:8). 6 This image of Christ wearing “many crowns” inspired Matthew Bridges to write a majestic hymn that believers still enjoy singing:

“Crown Him with many crowns,

The Lamb upon His throne:

Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns

All music but its own!

Awake, my soul, and sing

Of Him who died for thee,

And hail Him as thy matchless King

Thro’ all eternity.” 7

Even though Christ’s glory will be openly manifested at His Second Coming, some aspects of His Personhood will remain beyond human comprehension 8 as implied by the phrase “He had names written and a name written that no one knew except Himself.” 9In John’s vision, he saw crowns having many “names” and one crown having “a name written that no one knew except” Jesus. Vacendak explains that this is like Isaiah 9:6 which describes Jesus the Messiah who will rule on the earth. Christ has multiple aspects to His nature and Person that are knowable: “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). However, not all facets of Christ’s Being are understandable to people; hence, Jesus possesses a name that is known only to Him – a name that reflects qualities beyond human understanding! 10

“Throughout the ancient world a name revealed the nature of an individual, who he is and what he is. The unknown name of the Christ comports with the fact that His nature, His relationships to the Father, and even His relationship to humanity, transcend all human understanding.” 11

“It is possible that there is another thought. Those who practiced magic in the first century believed that to know a name gave power over him whose name it was. John may well be saying that no-one has power over Christ. He is supreme. His name is known only to Himself.” 12

Swindoll writes, “Why would John bother to mention that Jesus had a secret name? Perhaps the secret name indicates a unique relationship with God the Father that nobody else shares.” 13Christ also extends the promise to overcoming (faithful) believers that He will give them a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it”(2:17). This demonstrates the deep personal and inseparable relationship that faithful believers will enjoy with Christ in His coming kingdom. What Christ is by nature (unique, eternal, divine Son of God), faithful believers will reflect in a limited way by grace (adopted, finite, glorified children of God). 14

Next John writes, He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.” (Revelation 19:13). In the context, the reference to Christ being clothed with a robe dipped in blood” foreshadows His bloody judgment of His enemies – the beast and the armies of the world (19:19-21). In this vision, John did not see a meek and mild Savior who would shed His blood for the sins of the world, instead he saw a Warrior-King Who would establish His reign on earth by force. 15 His robe would be soaked in the blood of His enemies (Isaiah 63:3-4). 16

“His name is called The Word of God” because every thought, word, and action of Christ expresses God’s mind, words, and actions 17 even in events such as the bloody destruction of His enemies at Armageddon. 18 Not only does this title “The Word of God” represent the manifestation of God’s revelation, but it also signifies the manifestation of God Himself (cf. John 1:1). The “Word of God” is always “Immanuel… God with us” (Matthew 1:23). 19

Christ did not return to earth alone at the end of the Tribulation period. “And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.” (Revelation 19:14). The clothing (“fine linen”) of these “armies in heaven” connects them with the Lamb’s faithful followers from the church age (19:7-8; cf. 2:10, 17, 25-27; 3:5, 10-11; 17:14). Since Christ’s troops are faithful believers from the church age, the fact that they are following King Jesus “on white horses” which symbolize victory, is an incredible testimony to their victorious lives. 20

Other Scriptures also inform us that God’s angels will accompany Christ to earth as well (cf. Matthew 16:27; 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). But it is not likely that angels will be riding on horses since Revelation 17:14 tells us that those who are with King Jesus when He returns to earth are called, chosen, and faithful,” a reference to resurrected, glorified, and rewarded church age believers 21 (cf. Matthew 20:1-16; 22:1-14).

Only King Jesus will have a weapon with which to defeat His enemies when He returns. “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” (Revelation 19:15). You may recall in Revelation 6:2 that Jesus sat on “a white horse” carrying “a bow” in contrast to Him using a “sword” herein 19:15.

“The bow is the weapon of long-range warfare, whereas the sword is the weapon used in close combat with the enemy. If the rider of 6:2 represents Christ as the Initiator of all God’s judgments upon His enemies, it is clear that throughout the Tribulation He fights with them, so to speak, at long range. For the judgments of the Tribulation are such as fall from heaven to earth while the King is absent. But in chapter 19, the King comes personally to earth and now the conflict with the forces of evil is waged at close quarters and, with the sword, the last battle is won. And just quite naturally the sword is thought in connection with His Word – for it proceeds out of His mouth – so also may the bow be linked with the same Word. As the prophet Habakkuk has written, 22

“Your bow was made quite ready; oaths were sworn over Your arrows.” (Habakkuk 3:9). Hence, the judgment-bringing Word of God is seen first under the figure of a “bow” foreshadowing Jesus’ conquests over His enemies from long range in heaven (6:2) until the final battle when He returns to earth in Chapter 19 as the last, white-horse Rider fighting and winning at close range with a “sword” (19:11-21). 23

Instead of King Jesus using physical weapons of mass destruction, the “sword” He will use will come “out of His mouth” to “strike the nations” who have gathered with the beast at Armageddon (cf. 16:12-16; 19:19). This “sword” is the powerful and supernatural Word of God (cf. Hebrews 4:12). 24 Just as Jesus spoke and the universe was created (Genesis 1; John 1:2-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:1-2), so He will speak, and the nations of the world will be demolished (Revelation 19:15; cf. Psalm 2:5; Zechariah 14:12). 25

This stern judgment King Jesus will bring against His enemies will characterize His reign as King over all the earth during the Millennial Kingdom as He “will rule” the nations “with a rod of iron” (cf. Psalm 2:8-9). Under King Jesus’ reign, there will be inflexible righteousness. All who live on planet earth during His one-thousand-year reign will be commanded to live according to the laws and decrees of the King. Believers in Jesus who already have glorified bodies will obey Him perfectly because they will be “like Him” (I John 3:2). 26

So strick will King Jesus’ rule be during the Millennium that those who do not believe in Christ could be in danger of “hell fire” for calling someone a “fool.” During Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He applied the fulfillment of the Law to the Millennial Kingdom when He would rule with a rod of iron. 27 Christ said, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:22). Christ’s reign during the Millennial Kingdom will be so strict that a person could go on trial (“judgment”) for unjustified anger (“angry… without a cause”) with his brother. Whoever bullies his brother and calls him “Raca,” which means“numskull” or “empty one,” 28 would go on trial before the “council” or Supreme Court. If worse language is used (“You fool”), the offender may be thrown immediately into “hell.” The decision will be up to King Jesus, the Judge, to determine if they go to hell during the Millennial Kingdom.

This severe of punishment is reserved for nonbelievers since a believer in Jesus cannot lose eternal life (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29). Amazingly, there will be many nonbelievers who will rebel toward the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ (Revelation 20:7-10). But for believers in Jesus, both then and now, this picture of kingdom righteousness challenges us to live like kingdom subjects by refraining from inappropriate expressions of anger.  

King Jesus will punish His enemies gathered at Armageddon like the trampling of grapes in a “winepress” which portrays “the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (19:15b). Ruling includes destroying the wicked, not just reigning over the righteous. 29

“The treading of this winepress by Christ will result in the blood of His enemies flowing like a river for two hundred miles at a depth of about four or five feet” (14:19-20). 30

Once King Jesus tramples His enemies under His feet, His reign will be absolute and worldwide and He will bear a name that only He deserves. 31 “And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:16). This title for Jesus identifies Him as the supreme human Ruler over all the earth (“KING OF KINGS”) and also as God Almighty (“LORD OF LORDS”)! Jesus Christ is King over all who call themselves “king,” and Lord above all who call themselves “lord.” 32

Because Jesus is “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS,” “conquering every enemy on earth will be a matter of relative ease. It will be a matter of speaking.

“This is nothing new, though. From Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is pictured as possessing an authoritative Word. John 1:1 says of Jesus, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ At creation Jesus spoke the words, ‘Let there be light’ (Genesis 1:3), and by His Word light came about. It was by that same authoritative Word that Jesus caused the devil to flee in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1-11) and sent a legion of demons out of a demon-possessed man and into a herd of pigs (see Mark 5:1-13). In each of these instances, the way He brought out powerful results was by speaking His Word. And it shall be at the end of time.

“Likewise, for followers of Jesus, we must not simply know God’s Word or study it, but also verbally quote it. So, when was the last time you actually quoted God to another person or even to the devil in order to handle a specific situation? If you have truly received authority from God – which all believers have – and you quote the Word accurately to people or forces of Satan, it carries intrinsic authority to accomplish God’s purposes. In some cases, it draws a person to salvation. In others, it causes a hardened sinner to be without excuse for his or her conduct. In no situation, however, will a child of God verbally quote and obey the Word of God and have that Word return empty (see Isaiah 55:11).” 33

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we watch the world increase in chaos and conflict as evil continues to increase, we are deeply grateful for this vision John receives of King Jesus before He returns to earth to defeat His enemies at close range using His sword – the powerful Word of God – to establish His universal reign on the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords! Thank You Lord God Almighty for entrusting the Word of God to those of us who believe in Jesus to share with a lost world so that same Word may persuade them to cross over from eternal death into eternal life simply by believing in Jesus for His gift of salvation. Lord of lords and King of kings, we not only look to You to conquer evil and sin in the future Tribulation period, but we also trust You to lead us into victory over evil and sin in our own lives. Help us not only to know and study Your Word, but to speak it to others including Satan and his followers, so Your purposes will be accomplished for Your glory. May we never underestimate what Your spoken Word can do in any situation we may face. Please bring Your Word to our hearts and minds especially in times of spiritual battle so we may speak it to our enemies whether they be physical or spiritual. In Your mighty name we pray, King Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 210.

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. 1574.

3. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 342.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 1980.

5. Constable, pg. 210.

6. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6275 to 6280.

7. Swindoll, pg. 343 quotes Matthew Bridges, “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” in The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration (Dallas: Word Music, 1986), no. 234.

8. Evans, pg. 2415.

9. The majority of Greek manuscripts add the phrase “names written, and” (onomata gegrammena kai).

10. Vacendak, pp. 1574-1575.

11. Constable, pg. 210 quotes George Raymond Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation New Century Bible Commentary series, revised ed. (London: Morgan & Scott, 1974); reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1983), pp. 279-280; cf. Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan and Co., Let., 1907), pg. 252; William Barclay, The Revelation of John, Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 232.

12. Constable, pg. 211 quotes Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 230.

13. Swindoll, pg. 343.

14. Adapted from Ibid. Swindoll thinks Revelation 2:17 applies to all believers, but I believe this promise is limited to overcoming believers who are faithful to Christ to the end of their lives on earth (cf. 2:10b, 25-27).

15. Evans, pg. 2415.

16. Swindoll, pp. 343-344; Constable, pg. 211.

17. Constable, pg. 211.

18. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

19. Swindoll, pg. 344.

20. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

21. Swindoll, pg. 344; cf. Constable, pg. 211.

22. Zane C. Hodges, “The First Horseman of the Apocalypse,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 119:476 (October 1962), pg. 333.

23. Ibid., pp. 333-334.

24. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Zane C. Hodges, Grace In Eclipse: A Study On Eternal Rewards (Grace Evangelical Society, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 36-38.  

28. 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. 903.

29. Constable, pg. 212.

30. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

31. Ibid., pg. 1576.

32. Swindoll, pg. 345.

33. Evans, pp. 2415-2416.

How Can I Overcome Loneliness (Video)

This is the fourth video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible several transforming principles for overcoming loneliness.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from FreeBibleimages.org, Goodsalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org or they are creative common licenses.

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.

How do I climb out of the pit of discouragement? (Video)

This is the third video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible several transforming principles for climbing out of the pit of discouragement.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from FreeBibleimages.org, Goodsalt.com, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, or they are creative common licenses.

Revelation 14 – Part 5

“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” Revelation 14:13

In another of the apostle John’s visions on earth (Revelation 14:6-13), he hears four announcements that provide motivation to remain faithful to God and resist the beasts during the last half of the Tribulation period. We have looked at God’s angels who will make the first three announcements (14:6-12), and we are now ready for the fourth announcement (14:13).

In Revelation 14:9-11, nonbelievers who have not yet bowed to the beast nor taken his mark during the last half of the Tribulation period are warned not to do so lest they be subject to “the full strength” of God’s wrath in time and eternity. The apostle then encourages believers to persevere in their faithfulness to Christ during this extremely difficult time (14:12). In the next verse he gives them incentive for remaining faithful to God.

“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” (Revelation 14:13). This “voice from heaven” may belong to the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (1:10-11, 19; cf. 10:4, 8; 11:12; 14:2; 18:4; 21:3). 1 His voice announces that many believers “in the Lord” who live during the last half of the Tribulation will be “blessed” to “die” as martyrs. These believers in Christ who stand firmly against the Beast and refuse to worship him or take his mark, and die as a result, will be “blessed” both now and forever. 2 The phrase “from now on” means “from this time on during the Tribulation,” specifically during the persecution of the Beast and the bowl judgments. Through their martyrdom, these believers will escape the intense judgments and sufferings of the last half of the Tribulation. 3

God the Holy “Spirit” then adds that these faithful believers will be “blessed” beyond the grave in heaven where “they may rest from their labors,” which is the opposite of what will be experienced by those who receive the mark of the beast (14:9-11). 4 Nonbelievers will receive “no rest” and “shall be tormented with fire and brimstone … forever and ever” because of their unbelief toward Christ (14:10-11). But the good “works” of these faithful believers will “follow them” into heaven where they will be rewarded forever by the Lord Jesus Christ (14:13b; cf. Matthew 10:42; Mark 9:41).

“God does not save anyone for his works, but He does reward us for our works. Our works (good or bad) are like tin cans tied to a dog’s tail; we cannot get away from them. They will follow us to the bema seat of Christ.” 5

While we cannot take our material possessions with us when we die, the Bible does teach that we can send eternal wealth ahead of us. Jesus said,19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20). Christ instructs us not to lay up treasure on earth because it is temporary. Perhaps you have had a “moth” eat holes in your clothes or “rust” destroy your possessions made of metal, or “thieves” break in your house and steal your valuables. These earthly treasures are perishable.

But notice Jesus says to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Why? Because it is permanent. In heaven, a “moth” or “rust” cannot destroy your heavenly treasure, nor can a “thief… steal” it.

We usually miss those words “for yourselves.” Jesus makes it clear that there IS a way to “take it with you.” We can send treasure ahead of us by using the time, treasure, and talent God has entrusted to us on earth as a steward for God’s kingdom and glory (cf. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-26).

Well-meaning Christians have asked me, “Isn’t it selfish to seek eternal rewards? My answer is, “Not according to Jesus.” Since Christ commands us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, it is selfish not to obey His command to pursue eternal rewards. Plus, a believer cannot afford to be selfish in nature, for to do so would disqualify him or her for the eternal rewards he or she seeks. Pursuing eternal rewards is one of the strongest motivations for an unselfish and merciful lifestyle (cf. James 2:1-13).

When we get to heaven, the treasure we have sent ahead of us will be reserved there for us to use to bring glory to God throughout eternity. The more treasure we lay up in heaven now, the more we can use to honor Christ in His coming Kingdom.  

Bob Wilkin shares some helpful insights: “While many think of this treasure as a figure of speech for some unspecified blessings, I see it as an eternal trust fund that believers will use to glorify God. The more we have stored up, the more we can give away in service to the Lord.

“What? Who would need money in the kingdom? Well, no one, if the kingdom of God were going to be some ethereal experience, consisting of floating on clouds and strumming harps. However, the description of the eternal kingdom on the new earth in Revelation 21:24 strongly suggests the existence of an economy: ‘The kings of the earth [will] bring their glory and honor into it [the New Jerusalem].” Actually, the majority of manuscripts read, ‘The kings of the earth [will] bring the glory and honor of the nations to Him.’

“In any case, the point is clear. The three wise men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus were types of rulers who, in the age to come, will forever bring gold and other treasures to the Lord Jesus.” 6

Why is it so important to focus on storing up treasures in heaven instead of treasures on earth? Jesus tells us, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21). What we value the most is what directs our hearts. Wherever our treasure happens to be, that is where our hearts will be focused. God wants our hearts to be focused on Him and the life to come. This is why we are commanded to invest in heavenly rewards. God knows better than we do what will motivate our hearts for Him. If we set our hearts on accumulating the things of this earth, then the pursuit of earthly possessions will guide our hearts. But if we focus on the things of God and the life to come, then that is what will direct our hearts. We cannot focus on laying up treasures on earth and at the same time concentrate on laying up treasures in heaven.

Wilkins writes, “A few years ago, world-class athletes were asked the following question: ‘If you could take a drug that would cause you to win a gold medal, but it would kill you in ten years, would you take it?’ Amazingly, the majority said yes. They’d sacrifice fifty or more years of life for a gold medal.

“What would you give up to have treasure in heaven? Would you drive a lesser car than you could otherwise afford? Live in a more modest home? Have a less expensive wardrobe? Enjoy simpler or fewer vacations? Give up fifty years of life (if called upon to be a martyr, for example)? The answer you give to these questions will depend on where your heart is.” 7

Heavenly treasure is a type of reward that cannot be lost once it has been earned. So, when a believer gives a cup of cold water to one of God’s servants (Matthew 10:42) or does a charitable deed in private (Matthew 6:3-4), prays in private (Matthew 6:6), or fasts in private (Matthew 6:17-18) with the proper motive, a deposit is made into his or her eternal bank account in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). The more deposits you make, the more heavenly treasure you will have with which to honor Jesus Christ in His coming kingdom.

A second type of reward is called a perseverance reward. Believers who remain faithful in their service to Jesus to the end of their lives will be given rewards that include wearing a special white garment (Revelation 3:4-5), ruling with Christ in His kingdom (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21), eating the fruit from the tree of life (Revelation 2:17; 22:14), eating hidden manna (Revelation 2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (Revelation 2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:14).

A third type of reward has to do with crowns. Believers can earn a crown of rejoicing for making disciples of Jesus (I Thessalonians 2:19), a crown of righteousness for loving the coming of the Lord Jesus (2 Timothy 4:8), a crown of life for enduring trials and temptations until death (James 1:12), a crown of glory for faithfully shepherding others as a servant leader (I Peter 5:4), and an imperishable crown for living a disciplined life (I Corinthians 9:25).

By focusing on eternal rewards, believers in Jesus will develop a greater desire to please God rather than men. Because Christ is first in the life of a disciple and could come back at any moment for His church, a disciple should seek to win as many people to Christ as possible and become more like the Judge who will evaluate his or her life at the Judgment Seat (2 Corinthians 5:9-11; I John 2:28-3:3).

Prayer: Loving heavenly Father, we thank You for Your perspective given to us in Revelation 14:13 which involves encouragement for believers in the last half of the Tribulation period who may suffer physical death for taking a stand against the Beast and refusing to take his mark. You promise them that their good works will follow them into heaven where they will receive eternal rewards from the Lord Jesus. Thank You Father for reminding us that this life is not all there is to live for. As believers in Jesus, we are commanded to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven by living a godly life for You. Please help us to keep our focus on You and the life to come so we may have more treasure in heaven with which to honor You throughout all of eternity. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 161.

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. 1553.

3. Constable, pg. 161.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2403.

5. Constable, pg. 162 cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 5 Vols., (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), 5:1011.

6. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 39-40. 7. Ibid., pg. 40.

7. Ibid., pg. 40.

Revelation 14 – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

2. Ibid.

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

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

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

6. Vacendak, pg. 1549.

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

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

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

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

11. Vacendak, pp. 1549-1550.

12. Ibid., pg. 1550.

13. Ibid.

14. Constable, pp. 156-157.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1550.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Swindoll, pg. 267.

19. Ibid., pg. 268.

Revelation 11 – Part 2

“And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.” Revelation 11:12

We saw last time that through two witnesses God brings directly to faith in Christ, He will proclaim the gospel of the kingdom during the first half of the Tribulation period, resulting in the salvation of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will then evangelize all the nations during the last half of the Tribulation period (Revelation 11:1-6; cf. 7:1-17; Matthew 24:14). These two end-time prophets empowered by God’s Spirit will seem to be untouchable and unstoppable even though their enemies will hate them because of the judgments they bring upon the earth (11:5-6). But like other servants of the Lord, when God says, “Mission accomplished,” He removes His protection from them and permits their enemies to kill them. 1

The apostle John writes, “When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.” (Revelation 11:7). It is only when the two witnesses “finish their testimony” after 1260 days (three and a half years – 11:3) that God will permit “the beast” to “kill” them. They will not die prematurely. This is the first of 36 references to “the beast” in Revelation (cf. Daniel 7:21). 2 He is the Antichrist, as later passages will show (Revelation 13:1-10; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 17:3-13; 19:20; 20:10). As John testifies in his first epistle, the Antichrist and his servants, will deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah-God, and will mislead many people away from the truth that Jesus alone guarantees eternal life to those who believe in Him (I John 2:18-25; 4:3; 5:9-13, 18; 2 John 1:7; cf. John 11:25-27; John 14:6; Acts 4:10-12). This verse in Revelation 11 describes the Antichrist as having his origin in the “bottomless pit,” the abode of Satan and his demons (cf. Luke 8:31). 3

It is interesting to discover that the Greek word translated “testimony” (11:7),is martyrian, which has the same root as our English word “martyrdom.” Swindoll writes, “Originally, to be a martyr meant to give public testimony about the truth, but that public witness could lead to the sealing of that testimony with death. Thus, these two ‘martyrs’ of the future will follow their Savior and countless saints before them in the path of martyrdom for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 4

Only “the beast” or Antichrist will be able to stop these two witnesses. At the middle of the seven-year Tribulation (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15), he will become the world’s dictator and “will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them” (11:7; cf. 13:1-10). His power overrules the power of these two witnesses—but only temporarily. 5

It is important for us to remember that just like these two witnesses, our times are in God’s hand as well (cf. Psalm 31:14-15). We, too, are invincible until the Lord is finished with us, and we have completed our work for Him on earth. What a comforting, strengthening truth this is amid a dark and devastating world. 6

We see the world’s contempt for these two prophets in their response to their deaths. 8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves.” (Revelation 11:8-9). The beast will add insult to injury by allowing the “dead bodies” of the two witnesses to “lie in the street” of Jerusalem where the “Lord” Jesus “was crucified” (11:8). To leave a corpse unburied was the worst indignity that someone could perpetrate on a person in biblical times (cf. Psalm 79:2-3). 7 “Spiritually” Jerusalem was “called Sodom” because of its pride and iniquity (cf. Genesis 13:13; Ezekiel 16:49) and “Egypt” because of its oppression of God’s people (cf. Exodus 3:7; 20:2). 8

Some “peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations” will not allow the two witnesses to be buried, viewing their corpses for “three-and-a-half days” (11:9). Just as individuals from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” will be saved by the blood of the Lamb (7:9), some from every ethnic group will also harden their hearts against God. The beast will engineer all this activity to show he is superior in power to God’s two witnesses and to the God they serve. 9

This viewing of the witnesses’ dead bodies by every ethnic group implies some worldwide display, now made possible by modern technology. 10 Television and satellite communications make this scene seem even more plausible today.

Mark Hitchcock writes, “It means their bodies will be seen simultaneously by people all over the world. If this is correct, it means that John saw something that has only become possible in the last sixty years, almost two thousand years since he predicted it.

“At the time this prophecy was given, and for centuries after, the scope of such a prediction would have seemed impossible. Yet today it’s commonplace. It happens 24/7 every day on cable news all around the world, even in many poor Third World countries.” 11

“As Tim LaHaye says, ‘Ours is the first generation that can literally see the fulfillment of 11:9 in allowing people of the entire world to see such an awesome spectacle. This is one more indication that we are coming closer to the end of the age, because it would have been humanly impossible just a few years ago for the entire world to see these two witnesses in the streets at a given moment of time.’” 12

The entire world will celebrate the deaths of these two witnesses. “And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 11:10). John informs us that “those who dwell on the earth” will celebrate not only the death of the two witnesses, but the triumph of the beast as well. This celebration will involve gifts, like those given at a Christmas or birthday party, because wicked men and women will delight in the death of two prophets who “tormented” them with supernatural judgments and the preaching of God’s truth. 13

Hitchcock quotes Ray Stedman, They keep telling the truth to people who want only to embrace their delusions. They keep blunting the Antichrist’s carefully concocted propaganda. . . . The vile and godless society of the world under the Antichrist takes the death of the two witnesses as a cause for global celebration. One is reminded of a saying that was common among ancient Roman generals, ‘The corpse of an enemy always smells sweet!’” 14

People all over the world will be so ecstatic these witnesses for God are dead that they will hold a Christmas-like celebration and send gifts to one another—Satan’s Anti-Christmas. This is the only mention of any kind of rejoicing or celebrating on earth during the entire Tribulation period. People will be so thrilled to see these men dead that no burial will be allowed. They will want to watch their bodies rot in the street.” 15

This worldwide celebration of the two witnesses’ deaths will not last long. “Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.” (Revelation 11:11). John tells us,“After the three-and-a-half days the breath of… God” resurrected the two witnesses causing “great fear to fall on those who saw them.” The two dead bodies that “stood on their feet” will “terrify these onlookers, because these gawking God-haters will be able to do no more to silence their enemies beyond killing them. The use of the prophetic present tense in the verbs in this verse pictures what is future as fact.” 16

Picture the scene—the sun-drenched streets of Jerusalem, the holiday crowd flown in from the ends of the earth for a firsthand look at the corpses of these detested men, the troops in the Beast’s uniform, the temple police. There they are, devilish men from every kingdom under heaven, come to dance and feast at the triumph of the Beast. And then it happens! As the crowds strain at the police cordon to peer curiously at the two dead bodies, there comes a sudden change. Their color changes from cadaverous hue to the blooming, rosy glow of youth. Those stiff, stark limbs—they bend, they move! Oh, what a sight! They rise! The crowds fall back, break, and form again.” 17

As these mockers look on with fear, They heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.” (Revelation 11:12). Before these God-haters are even able to process all that they are observing, they hear “a loud voice from heaven.” The beast’s bragging will be silenced by God’s voice calling, “Come up here.” At that, the witnesses will be taken up in a cloud while “their enemies” watch. 18 Just as Christ was raised from the dead and ascended in a cloud (cf. Acts 1:9), so these two witnesses will ascend to heaven in a cloud and will be seen by “their enemies.” Their glorious ascension is also like that of Elijah (2 Kings 2:11), and Christians at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:17). 19

This is a quite a scene. People all over the world will see the two witnesses caught up to heaven on their favorite TV newscast as the analysts will sit around discussing its significance. 20

Shortly after the ascension of the two witnesses, God’s judgment fell upon the city of Jerusalem. “In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Revelation 11:13). A “tenth” of Jerusalem’s buildings are destroyed as “a great earthquake” rips through the city, and kills “seven thousand people.” The people in Jerusalem who survive the earthquake become “afraid” and give “glory to the God of heaven.” As God often does, in this instance He will allow catastrophic events to occur because those events will bring Him greater glory. 21

The biblical text does not say that these survivors believe in Christ for eternal life. Instead, their response is like people who endure frightening events such as tornadoes or typhoons and acknowledge them as acts of God. However, a person who is overwhelmed by God’s power and a person believing in Christ for eternal life are two different things. 22

The great Jerusalem earthquake following the ascension of the two prophets will bring a close to the interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments. “The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.” (Revelation 11:14). The “second woe” or sixth trumpet judgment announced in 8:13 had come to pass, leaving only the “third woe” or final trumpet judgment, to come “quickly.” 23

The account of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:1-14 encourages us to remember that no matter how dark things may be, the Lord never leaves Himself without a witness. Paul Benware offers this comforting insight about the life and ministry of the two witnesses: 24

“These two miracle-working servants of God are lights for the Lord in the morally and spiritually dark city of Jerusalem. The two witnesses are a reminder that even in the worst of times God does not leave Himself without witnesses.” 25

When I observe people mocking God and His servants today, I often complain about the lack of Christian influence in the world. But God is convicting me to be His witness in the darkness. This is the challenge from Revelation 11:1-14 to all of us who know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. God wants to use each of us regardless of our past or our weaknesses. One day He will send His two witnesses to proclaim His life-giving message to a wicked world. But for now, God has sent those of us who believe in Jesus to announce the truth about the risen and ascended Christ to a world that is reeling in the darkness of deception.

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, we thank You for this amazing account of the two witnesses who were permitted to be killed by the Antichrist only after they had finished their prophetic ministry to the world. What a great reminder that no one can touch us until we have completed the work You have given us here on earth. And just as the death of the two witnesses was not final, nor will ours be. You raised them from the dead so they could ascend to heaven, and You will also triumphantly raise up believers who have died to be caught up together with those believers who remain alive to meet our Lord Jesus in the air when He returns for His church prior to the horrific judgments of the Tribulation (I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-18). Thank You for promising us triumph after tragedy. Please enable us to proclaim your life-giving gospel message with all boldness and faithfulness so more people can be translated into Your presence the moment You tell us to “Come up here.” In the name of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 217.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 127.

3. Ibid.

4. Swindoll, pg. 217.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2394.

6. 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. 349.

7. Constable, pg. 127.

8. 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. 1538.

9. Evans, pg. 2394.

10. 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 5617-5623.

11. Hitchcock, pg. 350.

12. Ibid., cites Tim LaHaye, Revelation Unveiled (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), pg. 188.

13. Evans, pg 2394.

14. Hitchcock, pg. 349 cites Ray Stedman, God’s Final Word: Understanding Revelation (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1991), pg. 220.

15. Hitchcock, pg. 349.

16. Constable, pg. 128.  

17. Hitchcock, pp. 350-351 cites John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), pg. 150.

18. Evans, pp. 2394-2395.

19. Constable, pg. 128.

20. Hitchcock, pg. 351.

21. Evans, pg. 2395.

22. Vacendak, pg. 1538.

23. Walvoord, location 5628.

24. Hitchcock, pg. 352.

25. Ibid., cites Paul N. Benware, Undersanding End Times Prophecy: A Comprehensive Approach (Chicago: Moody, 1995), pg. 254.

How can I overcome loneliness? Part 2

“But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” 2 Timothy 4:17a

We are looking at different causes and cures for loneliness in 2 Timothy 4 where the apostle Paul is writing to a young pastor named Timothy. Paul was near the end of his life, and he was having to deal with loneliness. The first cause of loneliness we learned was the transitions of life (2 Timothy 4:6-8). The cure for this was to utilize our time wisely (2 Timothy 4:13).

The second cause for loneliness is SEPARATION FROM LOVED ONES (2 Timothy 4:9-12, 21). When we are separated from our friends or from our family (because of career, COVID, military deployment, health, or any reason) – that can cause loneliness.

Paul says to Timothy, Be diligent to come to me quickly.” (2 Timothy 4:9). Then Paul mentions his best friends, but none of them are with him except Luke: 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica — Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. 12 And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.” (2 Timothy 4:10-12). Paul is in a foreign country in a prison, and he is saying, “I miss these people.” These were his best friends, his previous traveling companions. Paul was a “people person,” andhe loved to be among people. But now at the end of his life he experiences the loneliness of separation because his friends are in other countries.

Today you can contact people in other parts of the world using various electronic devices, but Paul did not have access to those devices. It took a long time to reach someone. Three times in this chapter Paul asks Timothy to come to him (2 Timothy 4:9, 13, 21). Why is he saying this? Because he may not be around much longer, and he really wants to see his dear friends.

Whom do you need to call or visit? Whom do you need to write a letter of appreciation to? You need to do it now while there is still time. Help relieve someone’s loneliness of separation by reaching out to them.

The second way to deal with loneliness is to RECOGNIZE GOD’S PRESENCE (2 Timothy 4:17a). Even though most of Paul’s friends were far away from him, the Lord was not. Although his companions abandoned him when he gave his first defense before the imperial court (2 Timothy 4:16b), 1 the Lord did not. Paul writes, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” (2 Timothy 4:17a). While Paul stood before his accusers and prosecutors, “the Lord stood with” him. God gave Paul the strength he needed to fight the good fight and finish the race and keep the faith even though others had forsaken him. God’s presence gave him all the support he needed.

While it does help to have others supporting us, it is also true that people cannot always be there for us twenty-four hours a day. Where is God when we are lonely? He is right next to us to give us all the support we need. God said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). There is no place where God is not. He is everywhere at every time, and we can constantly talk to Him. Prayer is a great tool to use during lonely times. Occasionally, when we are feeling lonely, our instinct is to turn inward and revel in self-pity. Like the apostle Paul, we can learn that loneliness is a signal that it is time for us to get better acquainted with our precious Savior Who replaces our loneliness with His loving presence.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, all of us go through times of loneliness and self-pity. During the coronavirus pandemic, we have experienced prolonged periods of separation from loved ones. Like the apostle Paul, some of us have also been abandoned by friends when we needed their support the most. As best we know how, we want to thank You, Lord, for these times when we feel lonely because they can remind us to get better acquainted with You. By Your grace, help us learn to talk to You when we feel all alone or abandoned. Because You are our Refuge, we can safely share our most intimate thoughts and feelings with You, knowing You still love and accept us. You understand what it feels like to be alone or abandoned. Your presence can give all the support we need when we find ourselves struggling with loneliness. When we are weak, Your presence makes us strong. In Your ever-present name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Robert W. Wilkin; J. B. 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. 1216.

How much you matter to God – Part 3

“And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus…’ ” Luke 19:5ab

During COVID, people have felt disconnected and isolated from one another. Many have felt all alone and unwanted. They may feel as though no one cares about them or notices them, including God. But the Lord has something to say to us about this.

We are learning from Jesus’ encounter with a man named Zacchaeus how much we matter to God. Zacchaeus was a man who felt all alone and unwanted because of his appearance and his actions. The only attention he received from people was negative. But that all changed one day when he met Jesus Christ passing through the city of Jericho.

Since Zacchaeus was a small man, he had to climb up into a sycamore tree to get a look at Jesus as a large crowd of people followed Christ on His way through Jericho. When Jesus came to the sycamore tree, He stopped and looked up at Zacchaeus. From this we learned that no matter how insignificant I feel, Jesus notices me (Luke 19:4-5a). But Jesus did more than look at Zacchaeus.

All of his life Zacchaeus had been ridiculed and rejected. First, because of his appearance. He was a small or little person. Second, because of his actions. He was a chief tax collector who became wealthy at the expense of the people from whom he collected taxes. He was dishonest and corrupt. Nobody liked the way Zacchaeus looked or the way he acted. Imagine the kind of gossip that was spread about this guy! He was the most hated man in town. No doubt Zacchaeus heard many cruel remarks directed at him. There was a surplus of criticism behind his back. Evil things were said about him throughout all of Jericho and beyond. No wonder he had such a low self-image.

But Jesus did something else. Not only did Jesus stop at Zacchaeus’ tree and look up at him, but notice what He does next: And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus…’ ” (Luke 19:5ab). Imagine the shock of Zacchaeus. “He not only stopped. He not only looked up at me in front of all these other people. He knows my name. I didn’t hear anybody tell Him my name. I didn’t hear Him ask anybody what my name is. He just knows it. How does He know my name?”

From this we learn the second profound truth about how much we matter to God: No matter what other people say, Jesus affirms me (Luke 19:4-5a). God not only knows where you are, He also knows who you are. He knows everything about you. When Jesus called Zacchaeus by name, it shocked everybody. For two reasons: one, the fact that Jesus knew the name of the biggest scoundrel in town. And two, because of what his name meant. “Zacchaeus” means “pure” or “just.” Pure or just one!?!  Zacchaeus was anything but pure or just. He was the biggest crook in Jericho. He was a deceptive, dishonest, and despised scoundrel. This was probably the first time in many years that Zacchaeus was called by his real name. I doubt any one called him the “pure” or “just” one. He was anything but pure and just. But in spite of Zacchaeus’ sin, Jesus affirms him. 

Jesus says, “Zacchaeus, I look beneath all that emotional hurt, all that pain, all that other people have said about you and beneath all that I see a pure one. Zacchaeus, I made you to be pure. I didn’t make you to be a crook. I made you to be pure.” Christ is affirming him while everybody else in the world is putting him down. 

Someone has said, “God has your picture in His wallet. That’s how much God loves you.”  God doesn’t really have your picture in His wallet. He has something much more profound. The Lord said, “See, I have tattooed your name upon My palm.” (Isaiah 49:16 LB). When Jesus Christ looks at the scars in His hands where He was nailed to the cross, what do you think He is thinking of? You! Because He died for your sins. God says, “No, I don’t just carry your picture in My wallet. This is how much I love you. I died for you. I have tattooed you on My body. That is how much you matter to Me,” God says.

It really doesn’t matter what other people say. Jesus says, “I affirm you.” Jesus looks at Zacchaeus and says, “You are a pure one. I can see it in you. I can see all your potential in spite of all the hurt in your life.” Some of us have had a hard time feeling good about ourselves because some people close to us have said some really hurtful things. 

Maybe we have even been rejected in the home. The Bible tells us, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.” (Psalm 27:10). It breaks God’s heart to see kids abandoned, abused, or neglected by their parents. Parents will say to kids, “We didn’t plan you.” They didn’t, but God did. There are no illegitimate children. There are illegitimate parents, but there are no illegitimate children. When those closest to you hurt you or abandon you, God says, “Climb up into My lap and let me hold you. You are safe in My arms. You are wanted. You were planned. I have a purpose for your life.”

We need to remember this: When other people have called us all kinds of names it doesn’t matter. We are not defined by what other people say to us. We are defined by what God says to us. What matters is Jesus Christ calls us by name.

When we become Christians by believing in Jesus Christ for His gift of eternal life (John 3:16), God tells us that He as transformed us from guilty sinners into forgiven saints. This is why the apostle Paul begins his letter to an immature church at Corinth, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” (I Corinthians 1:2).

The apostle Paul refers to the believers “at Corinth” as “those who are sanctified [set apart positionally from their sin] in Christ Jesus” (I Corinthians 1:2a). He addresses them as “saints” positionally even though their practice was far from saintly (I Corinthians 1:2b). The Corinthians had permitted their pagan culture to invade the church as seen in their divisive sectarianism (1:10-17; 3:1-4), their exaltation of the world’s wisdom above God’s wisdom (1:18-31), their toleration of sexual immorality among their church members (5:1-13), their lawsuits against one another (6:1-11), their immoral relations with temple prostitutes (6:12-7:5), their questionable practices (10:14-33), their mistreatment of one another at the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34), their selfish misuse of spiritual gifts to edify themselves instead of the entire body of Christ (12:1-14:40), and their denial of the resurrection of the dead (15:12-58).

Paul addresses them as “saints,” so they will begin to live like the saints they are in Christ. The more believers see themselves as saints in Christ, the more they will live like saints. Nowhere in I Corinthians does Paul doubt or question the salvation of the Corinthian believers. What he does question is their understanding of who they are in Christ. For example, in I Corinthians 6:19, he writes, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” The more they understood and believed their new identity in Christ, the more they would live the way God created them to live in Christ.

When professing believers do not go on to grow toward Christlike maturity, it is important that church leaders do not automatically assume that they are unsaved. It is possible they are not saved, but not because they lack a changed life. What makes a person unsaved is their unbelief toward Christ (John 3:18, 36). Many believers lack spiritual growth in their Christian lives because they have not been discipled by older believers. Discipleship involves helping believers to see who they are in Christ, so they can begin to live like the person God created them to be in Christ Jesus (cf. Ephesians 2:10).

Christ’s interaction with Zacchaeus teaches us that no matter how insignificant I feel, Jesus notices me. He has always got His eyes on me. No matter what other people say, Jesus affirms me. He calls me by name.

We are not defined by what other people say to us. Nor are we defined by what we do. We are defined by what God says about us. And God tells us that we are forgiven “saints” who are set apart positionally from our sin and shame to serve God practically (cf. Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:2;  2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2; I Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Philemon 1:7; Hebrews 13:24; Jude 1:3; Revelation 5:8; 19:8; 20:9).  

Prayer: Father God, like Zacchaeus, many of us have been deeply wounded by the words of other people. We have permitted those words to define who we are. But when Jesus pursued us and saved us the moment we believed in Him, we were transformed from guilty sinners into forgiven saints. Thank You so much for saving us from our sins and giving us everlasting life. We are now defined by what You say to us. Like Zacchaeus, we are pure in Your eyes, having been forgiven and cleansed of all our sins (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14; Titus 3:4-6). Please renew our minds to see ourselves as You see us so we may live a life of purity in the power of Your Holy Spirit. We are still amazed by Your grace toward us. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Luke, 2016 Edition, pg. 271.

How do I climb out of the pit of discouragement? Part 9

15 Then the Lord said to him: ‘Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus… 18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’ “ I Kings 19:15a, 18

Remember how Elijah felt in verse 14? “Lord, Your people don’t care about You and I’m the only one left who does. I’m the only one left standing for what is right! I’m the only one left trying to serve You and that’s very discouraging.” Do you ever feel like that? Alone, afraid, and angry?

Then God has to tell us what He told Elijah –15 Then the Lord said to him: ‘Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus… 18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’ “ (I Kings 19:15a, 18). Circle the word “Go.” God is saying, “Get moving. Don’t sit in the cave of life feeling sorry for yourself. There is more to be done and I am doing things you don’t even know about that will encourage you and help you.”

This leads to our final step out of the pit of discouragement: GET MOVING, KNOWING WE DON’T HAVE THE WHOLE PICTURE (I Kings 19:15a, 18). We don’t have to have the whole picture to move out for God. God has a journey for us to take…a course for us to follow. He is inviting us to step out in faith, believing He is already at work behind the scenes to prepare the way for us.

Jesus Christ wants to lift us out of our pit of discouragement. He can help us; He can change us; He can heal us of discouragement. We don’t have to go through life being controlled by our emotions. Our emotions are controlled by our thoughts, and even though we cannot directly control our feelings, we can control what we think about with God’s help. We can choose to change our thoughts.

This is what Jesus is saying in John 8:31-32: “31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him,  ‘ If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’”The opposite of truth is falsehood or lies. The Lord Jesus wants to change our false beliefs that can keep us enslaved to harmful habits, hurts, and hang-ups, including discouragement.

I’d like to share some lies that have contributed to discouragement in my life along with the truth that is setting me free from them:

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: If somebody criticizes me, it means I’m worthless.

Truth: If somebody criticizes me, it is an opportunity for me to grow.

Scripture: “Princes also sit and speak against me, but Your servant meditates on Your statutes.Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” Psalm 119:23-24

Lie: I  must be loved and accepted by everybody to be fulfilled in life.

Truth: It does not matter what other people say or think about me, what matters is that God always loves and accepts me.

Scripture:  “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.’ ” Jeremiah 31:3

Lie: I cannot admit any area of weakness; I have to be perfect or else I’m a failure.

Truth: It is good enough to do my best for Jesus, and not be perfect.

Scripture: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Colossians 3:23

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: 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

Lie: I do not have what it takes.

Truth: Through Christ who strengthens me I do have what it takes.

Scripture: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

These are the kinds of lies that cause discouragement. Jesus knew the importance of correct thinking when He said, “31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him,  ‘ If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ ” (John 8:31-32). The more we “abide” or remain in Christ’s word, the more we will know the truth which can deliver us from the lies that can enslave us to discouragement.

You can change. How do you start? By beginning a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This doesn’t automatically cure all of your discouragement, but without Christ in your life you have no lasting power to change. He wants to be a part of your life, and if you will receive Him by faith, He will come into your life to help you start climbing out of the pit of discouragement.

To help us understand our need for Christ, we need to understand that the Bible makes it clear that all of us have sinned against God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Our sin separates us from God Who alone is perfect and righteous. “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23a). By sinning with our thoughts, words, and actions, we have earned death. The word “death” in the Bible means separation. This means we all deserve to die and be separated from God forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). I think you will agree that is bad news.

“But the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b). Notice that eternal life is not through our religion, our good life, or prayers. Eternal life is “through Jesus our Lord.” God sent His Son Jesus to take our punishment on the cross and rise again so we could receive everlasting life as a free gift by believing or trusting in Jesus alone (John 3:16; I Corinthians 15:1-6). Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). The word “believe” in the New Testament means to be convinced that something is true and then trust or depend upon.

Jesus is inviting you to believe or trust in Him alone for His gift of forgiveness and everlasting life, not your good life or religion or prayers. If you are ready to believe or trust in Christ alone for His free gift of eternal life, you can tell God this through prayer. Praying this prayer does not get you to heaven. Only trusting in Christ gets us to heaven. Praying this prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son, Jesus Christ, to get you to heaven now.

Prayer:  Dear God, I come to you as a sinner. I cannot save myself. I believe You died on the cross for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now trusting You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my religion, or my prayers), to forgive all my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. Thank You for the forgiveness and everlasting life that I now have. Thank You for coming to live inside me through the Holy Spirit. And thank You for the assurance I now have a future home in heaven with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When you trusted in Christ for everlasting life, the Bible says Jesus gave you everlasting life (John 3:16; 10:28). How long does eternal life last? 5 minutes? 5 years? 5 million years? Or forever? Eternal life is forever! It never ends. And it begins the moment you believe in Jesus. Christ now lives inside you through His Holy Spirit and He wants to give you the power to live for Him now (John 7:37-39; Romans 8:9, 11; Galatians 2:20). Jesus in you can enable you to say “No” to Satan’s lies and “Yes” to God’s truth as you learn to trust and obey His Word. He can empower you to climb out of the pit of discouragement and help others to do the same.

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, I recommend downloading our free digital Pressing On discipleship materials to go through with those you care about. This will help you grow in your relationship with Jesus and with those you love.