I John 3 – Part 1

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” I John 3:2

The apostle John has just spoken about how a born-again person can make himself visible by practicing righteousness (2:29). The thought of new birth brings an exclamation of wonder from John: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore, the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” (I John 3:1). When John uses the word for “Behold” (Idete), he is saying to “stop whatever you are doing and pay attention” 1 to or “look with wonder at the amazing love that God has toward us in that we should be called His children.” The Greek word for “what manner of” (potapēn) sometimes conveys a sense of intensification, like “how great,” “how wonderful,” or “how glorious.” 2John wants us to pause and focus on how glorious the love of God toward us is. 3

God “the Father” expressed His “love” toward us by placing us in His family the moment we believed in Jesus “that we should be called children of God!(cf. John 1:12). Believers in Jesus are “called children of God” because they are born-ones (tekna) of “the Father.” 4 If we see a child of God manifesting Christ’s righteous behavior (2:29), we can look at him as the recipient of God’s marvelous love (3:1a).

Few verses in the Bible are as beautiful as this one. For believers to experience victory in their Christian lives, they need to know Who their Daddy is! God is their perfect heavenly Father, and He does not share any of the failures or weaknesses of their earthly fathers. In addition, He is the King of creation which makes us royalty. 5

“John is slowly getting around to the new nature we have in Christ. He is saying that God’s nature is righteous. So, we can be born of God and share in His nature. We can be righteous. It stupefies John that God would love us enough to let us share in His nature. This is the same nature that came into Mary in the form of Jesus and was born on Christmas. Part of this same divine nature was passed along to us at new birth. It has changed our entire character and make-up. Now we are truly the children of God. That’s who we really are.” 6

It is an awesome privilege to be called God’s child. When we stop to ponder our new identity in Christ – that we are God’s children – it will take our breath away. When you believe in Christ, you are born of God and share in His divine righteous nature (cf. John 1:12; I John 2:29; 3:9; 5:1). At the core of your being you are God’s child no matter what you or others do, say, or think.

Many of us may believe the lie that says, “I am what I do.” We tell ourselves that what I do determines who I am. So, if I sin, I must be a sinner. What Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), tries to do is deceive us to believe this lie. Hence, when I sin, he whispers the lie that I am a sinner so I will perceive that sin is the normal and natural outgrowth of who I truly am at the core of my being. But listen to what God says: “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him” (I John 5:18).

Our born-again self (“whoever is born of God”), John tells us, “does not sin.” Sin can never be traced back to my new identity in Christ. At the core of my being, I am now God’s dearly beloved child through faith alone in Christ alone (I John 5:1; cf. John 1:12). I am defined by what God says about me, not by what I do. Satan cannot “touch” or defeat our born-again nature (I John 5:18). This is important to remember especially after being humbled by our sinful failures.

The evil one would like to trick us into thinking that we are not really God’s children after we have failed, thus leading us into more failures. But if we know and embrace the truth found in I John 3:1 and 5:18, we can avoid the devil’s deception, and rise from our confession of sin to the Lord (cf. I John 1:9) knowing we are the same inwardly holy children we were before we sinned.

God is righteous and we can now share in His righteousness. This new birth has changed who we are. We are now God’s child having been begotten by Him. However, it should not take us by surprise when the world looks at us and fails to perceive that we are children of God. Why? Because the world did not “know” (ginōskō) Christ (or God the Father) experientially, 7 they cannot recognize His children either (I John 3:1b). Since they do not know the Divine Parent, they do not know His children either. 8

The world does not know what it is like for a Christian to be given a new righteous nature from God because the world has not experienced God in this way. Anderson explains, “Until someone has experienced the new birth, it’s even hard to explain what it is like to have this new nature within. But in verse two John goes on to explain that one day this new nature is the only nature that we will manifest.” 9

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2). The word “Beloved” (agapētoi) connects back to the thought of verse one where Christians are described as the recipients of the glorious love of God the Father who regards them as His children. 10 Verse two informs us that believers in Jesus now have a new spiritual nature (“now we are children of God”) that is invisible to the world (“it has not yet been revealed what we shall be”).This suggests that there is no physical transformation from the new birth.

Believers in Christ will not undergo a physical transformation which outwardly manifests their spiritual birth until Jesus “is revealed.” The word translated “revealed” (phaneróō) twice in this verse is also the same word translated “appears” (phanerōthē) in I John 2:28. When Jesus “appears,” what believers “shall be” will “appear” too. Since “we shall be like” Christ physically when He returns for His church (cf. Phil. 3:20-21),Christians do not want to “be ashamed before Him” now (2:28; cf. 4:17-19). 11

The reason we “shall be like” Jesus physically when He appears is because we shall see Him as He is.” The moment we see the Lord Jesus in all His glory when He returns in the air for His church, our sinful nature will be taken away and Christ will automatically transform our physical bodies into the likeness of Christ’s glorious resurrection body (Phil. 3:20-21; I Cor. 15:51-54). 12

Could anyone but God miraculously transform a person physically into His own glorious likeness who looks at Him? This argues for the deity of Jesus Christ. If Jesus were a mere human, how could He miraculously transform another human being into His glorious likeness!?! It would not happen. But the fact that Christ is God (I John 5:20; cf. John 1:1; Titus 2:13) explains how seeing Him when He returns in glory can change us physically into His own glorious likeness.

Looking at a mere human being does not change our physical bodies. If I was to behold President Biden or evangelist Franklin Graham in person, my physical body would not be changed into their likeness. There is no human being on earth that could do that to us. But Jesus Christ can and will when He returns for His church at any moment because He is Lord of all!

Such a transforming look agrees with what Paul taught about our present spiritual transformation which takes place as we behold Christ’s glory in the Scriptures: 13 “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18). In the context, the “mirror” Paul has in mind is the Scripture (2 Cor. 3:12-16; cf. James 1:21-25). As a Christian approaches the Bible openly with the eyes of faith (“with unveiled face”), he or she sees the reflection of Christ’s glory in the “mirror” of the Bible which transforms him or her “from” one stage of Christ’s “glory to” to the next stage of Christ’s “glory” through the power of God’s “Spirit.” 14

“Can you think of anything more wonderful than seeing Jesus? We have sung about Him, talked about Him, studied about Him, communicated with Him, but the grand climax will be when we see Him.” 15

The prospect of being physically transformed into the glorious likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ when we see Him at the time of His appearing can have a purifying effect on a Christian’s life now. John writes, “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (I John 3:3). One of the best ways for Christians to purify themselves from sin now is to focus on “this hope” of Christ’s return at any moment and the accompanying physical and spiritual transformation that will occur with it. 

Anderson writes, “That John speaks of this hope as a purifying hope is one of the reasons we believe the rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins. If the rapture takes place after the Tribulation, as many teach, I could wait until the middle of the Tribulation to start cleaning up my act. I could just wait around until the Man of Sin reveals himself, and then I could start getting serious about my Christian life. After all, I could count the days until His appearing. It will be 1260 days from the revelation of the Antichrist.

“No, we believe the NT teaches Christ can come for His bride at any moment. We don’t know when that will be.” 16

To illustrate this, let’s say you are a close friend of President Biden and he said he planned to drop in to see you on one of his frequent trips to Delaware. You ask, “Do you know when that will be?” “Why?” he asks, “Well, I want to make sure the house is clean when you come.” “Oh,” he says, “Well I want to surprise you. Just keep it clean.” 17 That’s what the apostle John is saying in I John 3:2-3.

The promise that Jesus Christ could return for His church at any moment is one of the greatest reasons for us to live for Jesus now. Focusing on Christ’s any-time-return “purifies” us inwardly so we can have confidence and not be ashamed before Him when He appears.

Prayer:  Precious heavenly Father, thank You for the amazing way You have given Your love to us by declaring that at the core of our being we are Your dearly loved children no matter what we or others say, think, or do. Since we are Your children, we have all we need (Your nature, Your Spirit, and Your Word) to manifest Your righteous and loving nature. The world does not know what it is like for us to be given a new spiritual nature because they have not experienced You in this way. The day is coming, however, when we will undergo a physical transformation which outwardly manifests our spiritual birth at the time of Christ’s coming for His church. Help us focus on this hope of Christ’s return at any moment which purifies us inwardly from sin now so we can have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. Lord God, please lead us to those without Christ so we may share the gospel with them so they may believe in Him for His gift of eternal life. Then they too can prepare to face Christ with confidence at His coming. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.   

ENDNOTES:

1.Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 720.

2. Ibid., pg. 856.

3. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 137.

4. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3780.

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

6. Anderson, pp. 137-138.

7. The Greek word translated “know” (ginōskō) refers to experiential knowledge (see Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 205650 to 205667.

8. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 69.

9. Anderson, pg. 138.

10. Zane C. Hodges, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 594.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. See Zane C. Hodges’ helpful discussion on 2 Corinthians 3:18 in his book Six Secrets of the Christian Life (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 15-19.

15. Constable, pg. 70 cites J. Allen Blair, The Epistles of John: Devotional Studies on Living Confidently (Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux Brothers, 1982), pg. 92.

16. Anderson, pp. 138-139.

17. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 139.

I John 2 – Part 14

“If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” I John 2:29

During the first quarter of the Monday night NFL game on January 2, 2023, between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills, twenty-four-year-old Damar Hamlin of the Bills made a tackle and hopped up to his feet only to collapse to the ground a second later. Immediately, Bills’ assistant athletic trainer, Denny Kellington, jumped to action after Hamlin’s heart stopped beating and began administering CPR on the football field while players from both teams formed a wall around Damar. Eventually Hamlin’s heartbeat was restored after a defibrillator was used on him on the field.

Physicians at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where Damar was taken after his collapse Monday night, stated on January 6th that his “breathing tube was removed overnight” and that “he continues to progress remarkably in his recovery. His neurologic function remains intact, and he has been able to talk to his family and care team.” 1

At a recent press conference Bills head coach, Sean McDermott, said, “For an assistant to find himself at that position and needing to take the action that he did and step up and take charge like he did … is nothing short of amazing… The courage that that took … talk about a real leader, a real hero, in saving Damar’s life, and I just admire his strength.” 2

McDermott also praised the Bills entire medical team for their quick response. “Our medical team, they go through mock exercises for things like this, but we are never around to see that when they do that,” he said. “As they say, practice pays off, and it did in this case.” 3

Wellington’s quick response is truly amazing. One of the doctors treating Hamlin at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Dr. William Knight IV, states, “There are injuries occasionally that happen on sports fields, be it in football or others, but it is incredibly rare to have something be this serious (and) that quickly recognized. Meeting the standard of what we would expect in that scenario is what has allowed us to be able to discuss these good outcomes today.” 4

Another of Hamlin’s doctors, Dr. Timothy Pritt, also said, “had Hamlin’s care on the field been delayed by minutes or even seconds, his prognosis could’ve been quite different.” 5

Praise for Kellington’s life-saving actions has been overflowing on social media. Several fans are calling for him to be formally honored by the NFL. 6

Denny Kellington manifested that he was a hero through his actions. He, along with the Bills’ entire medical team, had practiced mock exercises for scenarios like Hamlin’s but it was Kellington who experienced this training at a much deeper level when he stepped up in the time of crisis. No doubt, the Bills have many athletic trainers on their team with impressive credentials, abilities, and knowledge regarding medical emergencies like Hamlin’s, but it was this specific trainer who manifested heroic character through his quick decisions and actions.

Why do I draw attention to this? Because I believe the author of I John would appreciate such a perspective. In our study of the book of I John, the apostle John introduced a new theme of having “confidence” or boldness before the Lord Jesus “at His coming” to motivate his Christian readers (2:12-14; 5:13) to continue to cultivate fellowship or intimacy with Christ (2:28). He uses one of his favorite terms for fellowship with God (“abide”) in verse 28 to emphasize the importance of cultivating intimacy with Christ in preparation for His return. Starting with verse 29, John begins to tell us how to prepare to have boldness at the prospect of Christ’s coming at any time (2:29-4:19). More specifically, in I John 2:29-3:10, John wants to talk about how to manifest with our actions that we are children of God. 7

John writes, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” (I John 2:29). Some students of the Bible conclude that John is saying a true Christian will always practice righteousness. But let’s be clear. John does not say this.

“We must not make this verse say more than it does. John certainly does not say, ‘Whoever does not do righteousness is not born of Him.’ That would be an inference in no way justified by John’s statement. He is not talking here about how we can decide if a person is saved. If we know that a person believes (cf. 1 John 5:1 …), we can know he is saved. But here, John is clearly concerned with the deduction which we can make if we know that God is righteous. If that is known, it follows that one who to any extent reproduces His righteous nature is actually manifesting that nature and can rightly be perceived as born of Him.” 8

“This verse does not say that everyone who is born of God practices righteousness. Believers can walk in darkness and sin (1:6, 8; 2:1). The point here is that when a child exhibits the nature of his or her father, he or she is perceived as the child of the father.” 9

John first says, “If you know that He is righteous” (Ean eidēte hoti dikaios estin). This is a third-class condition in the Greek language which conveys probability. 10 The first Greek word translated “know” (eidēte) in this verse refers to intuitive or absolute knowledge. 11 The second word translated “know” (ginōskete) refers to experiential knowledge. 12 Hence, John is saying, “If you know intuitively or absolutely from the Scripture that Christ is righteous, and you probably do, then you know from experience that everyone who practices or does righteousness is born of Him.”

The only way children of God can be manifested is through Christ’s “righteous” behavior. When we see someone exhibit Christ’s righteous behavior, we can be sure they are born of God. This righteous behavior is not referring to humanistic kindness or morality which even non-Christians can manifest. This “righteousness” (“what is right” translates tēn dikaiosynēn) 13 is not possible apart from believing in Christ for new birth and loving one’s fellow Christians. 14 John writes, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (I John 3:23).

“John is not talking about how one can decide if a person is regenerate. John is clearly concerned with the deduction one can make if a person knows that God is righteous. If that is known, it follows that one who reproduces His righteous nature is actually manifesting that nature and can rightly be perceived as born of Him.” 15

Does I John 2:29 mean that all children of God will manifest Christ’s righteous behavior or that all people manifesting Christ’s righteous behavior are children of God? Perhaps it would be helpful to illustrate using the NFL motif. Since our opening illustration involved a Buffalo Bills football player, let’s talk about Buffalo Bills football fans. Are all football fans Buffalo Bills fans? No. But are all Buffalo Bills fans football fans? Yes. Hence, are all Christians practicing Christ’s righteousness? No. But are all those practicing Christ’s righteousness Christians? Yes.

First John 2:29 does not say, “Everyone who does not practice righteousness is not born of Him.” John has already stated that Christians can walk in darkness and sin (1:6, 8, 10-2:1). John’s emphasis here is that when a child manifests the righteous nature of his or her father, he or she is perceived as a child of the father.

Getting back to the Damar Hamlin story involving the athletic trainer. I think we can safely assume that all the athletic trainers for the Buffalo Bills had a thorough knowledge of how to treat a player in Hamlin’s situation. But Denny Kellington manifested or experienced that knowledge when he sprang into action and helped save Damar’s life. The other trainers were still trainers even though they did not share Kellington’s experience. But Kellington manifested his trainer’s knowledge through his actions. And he has become a hero in the eyes of many people.

Not all Christians manifest Christ’s righteous behavior to the same degree. Practicing Christ’s righteousness is not automatic for Christians. We must choose to abide in Christ, to walk in the light as He is in the light to manifest His righteous behavior (1:5-2:6, 28). Those believers in Jesus who do will have more confidence and less shame when they stand before the Lord Jesus at His Judgment Seat (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; I John 2:28; 4:17-19). It is there they will hear Jesus say to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matt. 25:21).

But those believers who do not manifest Jesus’ righteous behavior in their Christian lives “will be saved, yet so as through fire” at the Judgment Seat of Christ where they “will suffer [the] loss” of eternal rewards (I Cor. 3:15). They will hear Jesus say, “’26 You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed… 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 25:26, 28-30).

Notice the contrast of rewards between the faithful believer and the unfaithful believer in Matthew 25:14-30:

Faithful Believer’s Rewards Unfaithful Believer’s Loss of Rewards
Commendation – “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matt. 25:21aReprimanded – You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.” Matt. 25:26
Promotion – “you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” Matt. 25:21bDemotion – So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents… but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” Matt. 25:28-29
Included in the joy of co-ruling with Christ – “Enter into the joy of your lord.” Matt. 25:21cExcluded from the joy of co-ruling with Christ – “And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matt. 25:30

In a manner of speaking, faithful Christians will be perceived as heroes because they manifested the righteous character of God their Father and God the Son through their actions on earth. These overcoming believers will receive special recognition throughout eternity when they enter the main gates of the New Jerusalem on the new earth (Rev. 22:14b). Each time they enter one of the main gates of the New Jerusalem, they will be given special honor perhaps before the angel at that gate (Rev. 21:12).

Jesus promised, “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8). It may be when an overcoming believer who faithfully “confessed” Christ “before men” especially in hostile contexts (Luke 12:1-12; cf. Matt. 10:16-42) during his Christian life on earth, enters one of the main gates into the New Jerusalem in the life to come, the Lord Jesus will give a good confession (special recognition) about that believer to the angel of God at that gate. Jesus wants us to know that if we testify of Him in the face of hostile persecution during our Christian lives on earth, He will testify about us before the angels of God and God the Father in the life to come on the new earth (Luke 12:8; Matt. 10:32).

This confession by Christ may include the declaration that this faithful believer is fit to rule with Him because he or she endured opposition when speaking up for Christ throughout their entire Christian lives (cf. 2 Tim. 2:12; Matt. 10:16-32). 16 Believers on the inside of the city at that gate will stop what they are doing to welcome this overcomer into the city. Since overcomers will rule with Christ in His eternal kingdom (Rev. 2:25-27; 3:21), they will be honored as royalty each time they enter the New Jerusalem.

Those believers who do not faithfully confess Christ before hostile people in this life will still be on the new earth because the only condition for that is to believe in Christ for His gift of eternal life apart from any works, including confessing Him before men (cf. John 3:5-16; Ephes. 2:8-9; Rev. 21:27b). However, Jesus will “deny” giving them a good confession before God the Father and the angels of God because they refused to testify of Him in the face of opposition during their Christian lives on earth (Luke 12:9; Matt. 10:33). Hence, they will still be on the new earth, but they will not have the honor and privilege of entering through one of the main gates into the New Jerusalem. Christ has informed us now of this reward to motivate us to speak up for Him even though the cost may include losing our lives for Him.

Prayer: Gracious Father in heaven, we thank You for the gift of eternal life that we received the moment we believed in Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. It was our faith in Christ that resulted in being born into Your forever family. We praise You today for explaining how we can prepare to have more confidence and less shame before the Lord Jesus when He returns for His church. Please help us manifest Your righteous nature through our actions – especially loving one another – so others can perceive we are Your children, and You are our Father. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Lindsay Lowe’s January 6, 2023, article originally published on Today.com entitled, “Fans want the trainer who saved Damar Hamlin’s life with CPR in the Football Hall of Fame” at www.news.yahoo.com.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3767 to 3775.

8. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 edition, pp. 67-68 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, Tex.: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pg. 127.

9. Constable, pg. 68 cites The Nelson Study Bible, Edited by Earl D. Radmacher (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), pg. 2144.

10. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 205650.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid., Kindle Location 205650 to 205667.

13. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3771.

14. Zane C. Hodges, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 594.

15. Ibid.

16. Hal Haller, Jr., 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. 58.

I John 2 – Part 13

“And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” I John 2:28

In I John 2:28, the apostle John introduces a new theme of having “confidence” before the Lord Jesus “at His coming” to motivate his readers to continue to cultivate fellowship or intimacy with Christ despite the increase in false teachers or “antichrists” (2:18-27). 1 The Greek word translated “confidence” (parrēsia) refers to a state of boldness and confidence, courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness, especially in the presence of persons of high rank.” 2 John will focus on how to have boldness at the prospect of Christ’s coming throughout the body of this epistle (2:29-4:19). 3

Verse 28 is known as “a Janus that looks in two directions: backward to summarize the preceding section” 4 “and forward to introduce the following section. Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and endings who supposedly guarded portals. He had two faces, one on the front and the other on the back of his head. The month of January gets its name from him. It is the month in which we look backward on the past year and forward to the new year.” 5

John has looked back at his readers’ spiritual advancement (2:12-14), and he has warned them of enemies to their fellowship with God: personal sin (1:5-2:11), the enticements of the world (2:15-17), and the Devil and his false teachers (2:18-27). Now John looks forward at how to prepare to have boldness before Jesus at His imminent coming (2:28-4:19). The Greek phrase translated “that when He appears” (hina nean phanerōthē), is a third-class condition about the coming of Christ which could take place at any time. 6Itemphasizes the fact of Christ’s coming, even though the time of it is indefinite. 7  

The apostle John expected the return of Christ in his lifetime when he writes, “that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (2:28). This expectation of Jesus returning at any moment in one’s life is called imminency and is common throughout the writings of the New Testament authors (Matt. 24:42-44; Luke 12:37-39; John 14:1-3; Acts 20:31; 1 Cor. 1:8; 4:5; 15:51-52; 16:22; Phil. 3:20; 4:5; 1 Thess. 1:10-12; 4:15-17; 5:2-10; James 5:7-9; I Pet. 1:13; Jude 1:21; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:2-3, 11; 16:15; 22:7, 12, 17, 20).

As we look back at the Year 2022 and prepare for the New Year tonight, those of us who believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life can also expect Him to return at any moment in our lifetime. Even though eternal life is a free gift which can never be lost (John 4:40-14; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; Rom. 6:23b; Ephes. 1:13-14; 2:8-9), the New Testament makes it clear that every believer must give an account of his or her Christian life at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10-12; I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10) which takes place after the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth.

It is important to understand that the New Testament speaks of two different judgments separated by the Millennium or one-thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ on earth. The first judgment is for believers in Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ which takes place in heaven after the Rapture of the Church (Rev. 4:1-4; cf. Rev. 22:12; John 14:1-3; I Cor. 15:51-52; 2 Cor. 5:10; I Thess.1:10; 4:13-5:11). The second judgment is for nonbelievers after the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-10), and it is called the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).

Those who appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12) and the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) are judged “according to their works,” not according to their faith or the lack thereof. Since every person is judged “according to their works” at both these judgments, there will be differing degrees of punishment for nonbelievers in the lake of fire as determined by the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15; cf. Matt. 11:20-24; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47), just as there will be varying degrees of rewards for believers as determined at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 2:25-27; 4:1-4; 22:12).

In I John 2:28, the apostle John has the Judgment Seat of Christ in mind when he writes, “that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” It will be possible for transformed Christians (3:2-3) to experience shame before the Lord Jesus when He evaluates both the “good or bad” things we have done in our Christian lives (2 Cor. 5:10). Keep in mind that Revelation 21:3-6 which speaks of their being no more more death, nor sorrow, nor pain, takes place after the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rev. 4:1-4) and the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-10). In our transformed bodies (Phil. 3:20-21; I John 3:2), we will probably be more sensitive to sin because our sin nature will be gone along with its excuses and rationalizations for sin (I John 3:2-3). We will have a greater capacity to feel holy shame over sins that we committed on earth.

How can we reduce our shame and increase our boldness (“confidence”) before the Lord Jesus at His Judgment Seat? John instructs us to “abide in Him” (2:28a). Again, John refers to fellowship with God using the Greek verb menō (“abide”) which has already occurred 10 times in 2:6-27. “(John used menō 66 of the 112 times it occurs in the New Testament: 40 in John, 23 in 1 John, and 3 in 2 John.) In accord with his basic theme about fellowship (1 John 1:3), John once more enjoined the ‘abiding’ life.” 8

The believer who abides in fellowship with God, who seeks to walk in the light as God is in the light and obey His commands (1:5-9; 2:3-11; 3:24) during his or her Christian life, will “have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” But for the Christian who has not been abiding in Christ during his or her Christian life, there will be less confidence and more shame before the Judgment Seat of Christ.

“Yes, there will be shame at this time for His children who have lived their lives for the flesh and in the flesh. Does this threaten their eternal destiny? No. No more than you may be more proud of some of your children than others. Maybe one of your children has taken the gifts he has been given, worked hard to develop them, and is doing something productive with his/her life. You are proud of that child, and rightly so. Perhaps another child even more gifted has buried his gifts in the sand, has not worked hard to develop his God-given abilities, and is not doing anything productive with his life. Of that child you may be ashamed. Is he still your child? Yes, but you probably would not wish to reward him for his slothful life.” 9

The Christian who lacks the “abiding” life will still be in heaven because that was already determined the moment he or she believed in Jesus for eternal life (John 5:24). But they will have less rewards because they did not abide in Christ. That is why John says to confess your sins now. Abide now. 10

Prayer: Father God, as we close out this year (2022) and begin a new year tonight (2023), we pause to confess our many sins to You because You are faithful and just to forgive the sins we confess to You. We want to begin the new year with a clean slate and a clear conscience. We look forward to the day when You come to meet us in the clouds at any moment to be with You forever. May You find us abiding in You at that time so we may have confidence and not be ashamed before You at Your judgment Seat.  Please use us to share Your gospel of grace with those who are currently alive and destined for the lake of fire due to their unbelief.  May Your Holy Spirit prepare them to hear and believe the gospel so they may also enjoy an eternal life of fellowship with You and receive eternal rewards with which to honor You. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 65.

2. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 781-782.

3. Zane C. Hodges, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 593; Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3752 to 3762.

4. Constable, pg. 65 cites Henry Alford, The Greek Testament, Vol. 4, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, and Co., 1883, 1881, 1880, 1884), pg. 457.

5. Constable, pg. 65.

6. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 205608 to 205629.  

7. Constable, pg. 66 cites Gerald B. Stanton, Kept from the Hour, ch. 6: “The Imminency of the Coming of Christ for the Church,” Fourth ed., (Miami Springs, Fla.: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1991), pp. 108-37.

8. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3757.

9. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 135-136.

10. Ibid., pg. 136.

IMMANUEL IS GOD WITH US

“’Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” Matthew 1:23

I never grow tired of hearing the Bible’s perspective about the birth of Jesus Christ. It truly is good news! In the gospel of Matthew, we learn of the humanity of Jesus as proven by the fact that He is a legal Descendant of King David (Matt. 1:1-17; 2 Sam. 7:16). But Jesus is also God as proven by His names and manner of conception (Matt. 1:16, 18, 20-21, 23, 25). 1

When Joseph discovered Mary became pregnant while engaged to him, he assumed the worst and sought to put her away to avoid public disgrace for them both (Matt. 1:18-19). Before Joseph could act, God showed up to him and addressed him as a descendant of David (“son of David”) through whom the Messianic King would come, telling him not to be afraid because Mary’s pregnancy was supernaturally produced by God the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20). This Son Whom Mary would bear was to be named “Jesus” (Yahweh is Savior) “for He will save His people,” Israel, “from” the physical (Zech. 9:9-10) and spiritual (Acts 10:43; 16:31) consequences of “their sins” (Matt. 1:21). 2

Jesus’ virgin birth fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 7:14) that a virgin shall be with child – a supernatural sign that would indicate an unusual “Child” was to be born because of His divine nature and presence (Matt. 1:22-23a). A virgin birth through the Holy Spirit explains Jesus’ sinless nature (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15). The sin nature is passed on through the human father. Romans 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (cf. Rom. 5:18).Although Eve sinned first in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-6), Adam is held accountable for sin’s entrance into the world.

The Bible also teaches that God visits “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations” (Exod. 20:5; cf. Deut. 5:9). Generational sins are passed on through the fathers, not the mothers.This implies that the sin nature is transmitted through the fathers, not the mothers or both parents.

“Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes: one member of each pair inherited from the mother and the other from the father. This suggests that when the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary (Luke 1:35), and Jesus was conceived in His mother, God miraculously supplied the other 23 chromosomes to make the matched pair with Mary’s. These would normally have come from a human father.” 3

“And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’” (Luke 1:35). Since God the Holy Spirit took the place of the human father and brought about the conception of Jesus, His 23 chromosomes “overshadowed”Mary’s, causing Christ to be the only human being ever to be conceived since the fall of Adam and Eve without a sin nature. The Greek word translated “overshadowed” (episkiazo) occurs in all three accounts of the Transfiguration where the cloud overshadowed those present (Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34). 4 The Holy Spirit “overshadowed” Mary with His presence to bring about this supernatural conception.

“This delicate expression rules out crude ideas of a ‘mating’ of the Holy Spirit with Mary.” 5

“The deity and preexistence of the Son of God required a miraculous conception. His virgin birth resulted in His assuming a human nature, without giving up His divine nature.” 6

The virgin birth qualifies this infinite Person (Jesus) to bear an infinite number of sins for all humanity on the cross 7 (cf. John 1:29; I John 2:1-2). Only a perfect sacrifice could remove the sins of all humanity forever. In the Old Testament, emphasis is given to “perfect” animal sacrifices “without blemish” (Exod. 12:5; 29:1; Lev. 1:3, 10; 3:1, 6; 4:3, 23, 28, 32; 5:15, 18; 6:6; 9:2-3; 14:10; 22:19, 21; et al.) as foreshadows of the perfect Lamb of God Whose shed blood on the cross would perfect forever those who believe in Him (John 1:29; 3:14-18; Rom. 4:5; 8:31-39; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 9:1-10:18; I Pet. 3:18)!   

Since Jesus is fully human (John 1:14; I Tim. 2:5), He can empathize with our human struggles (Heb. 4:15). And since He is fully God (John 1:1, 18; Titus 2:13; I John 5:20), He can heal our brokenness (Exod. 15:26b; Psalm 147:3). Jesus is “Immanuel” which means “God with us” (Matt. 1:23b). We often focus on this verse to emphasize that Jesus is “God,” but in so doing we can easily skip over the word “with.” The Greek word translated “with” (meta) refers to God being “among” or “in the company of” someone in a supportive way. 8 

Jesus Christ is not “God against us,” “God condemning us,” “God judging us,” “God punishing us,” “God pushing us,” “God shaming us,” or “God shoulding us.” The God of the universe is saying, “I am God WITH you.” The Lord is with us in our pain and struggles. He moves toward us with compassion and love so we can feel safe from being criticized, judged, or shamed. This can help us relax and let Jesus heal the deep wounds that we have buried deep within our souls to protect us from rejection and ridicule.

Jesus is “God WITH us.” He is“God HELPS us.”He moves toward broken humanity with compassion, not against them with condemnation (Matt. 11:28-30; 12:20; John 3:17).

Unfortunately, Christians may not experience Christ in this way when it comes to their “church” experience. When they struggle with anxiety, depression, loneliness, rejection, sadness, or suicidal thoughts, well-meaning Christians may move against them by saying, “You shouldn’t feel that way. Just trust God.” Then they quote a Bible verse to support their should’s. What this communicates to the struggling believer is that it is not okay to feel that way. It also reinforces the lie that says, “Good Christians don’t have negative emotions.”

I believe when a hurting believer gets exhorted by other Christians with should’s, it is often because the exhorting believer is uncomfortable with their own feelings that are activated when they hear someone else talk about negative emotions. But instead of facing their own feelings, the exhorting believer focuses on the feelings of the hurting person in a critical or judgmental way to get them to stop talking.

The result is the struggling Christian learns that it is not safe to talk about their negative emotions in a church setting. So, they work extra hard to know the Bible and have all the right answers. They faithfully attend prayer meetings, volunteer to teach Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and go on mission trips so they don’t upset God and other believers. It is not wrong to do these things per se. But when we do these things out of fear instead of love, it causes more isolation and pain. We can do all these right things without any close connection with God and others.  

You probably realize that I am speaking from my own experience. I have been on both sides of this equation. I have been the exhorting Christian who moves against the hurting believer with should’s and lots of Bible verses. And I have also been the hurting believer who has been the recipient of many Bible verses and should’s from well meaning believers who unknowingly moved against me.

This serves as a reminder that all people, including Christians, need Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can move toward us with perfect love and compassion regardless of our condition. Perhaps you are struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, rejection, sadness, self-doubts, stress, or suicidal thoughts. You can draw near to Jesus this Christmas season with confidence that He will help you and heal you. He wants all people to experience “God with us” both now (Matt. 28:20) and forever (Rev. 21:3)!!!

How can you experience God’s loving presence in your life if you are not a Christian? Jesus wants you to understand your need for Him. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). All people (except Jesus) are born with a sin nature that desires to live our own way instead of God’s way. All of us are like sheep who “have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6a). All people have rebelled against God and disobeyed His laws.

Since God is absolutely holy and righteous, He cannot be around our sin. Therefore, the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23b). The word “death” means separation. Our sins separate us from God. Jesus tells us that the final punishment for our sins is death in hell or the lake of fire forever (Mark 9:43-48; cf. Rev. 20:15). I think you will agree this is bad news.

But Isaiah’s prophecy also has good news!  “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6b). Hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth, the prophet Isaiah tells us that Christ would be punished for all the sins of the world through crucifixion (“pierced through for our transgressions” – Isaiah 53:5).  

God loved you and me so much He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place on the cross and rise from the dead over two thousand years ago (John 3:16a; I Cor. 15:1-6). Jesus is alive today and He invites you to come to Him on His terms when He says, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16b). What are Jesus’ terms? He says, “whoever believes in Him.” He does not say, “whoever lives a good life… prays… has religion… turns from sin… meditates… loves God… surrenders… gives his or her life to God… is baptized with water, etc.” Christ says simply to “believe in Him.”

To “believe in” (pisteuōn eis) Jesus means to be persuaded that He is speaking the truth and is therefore worthy of your trust. 10 Are you convinced Jesus was speaking the truth when He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”? If you are, then believe or trust in Him alone to give you His gift of everlasting life so you will not perish in hell.

If you believed Christ’s promise, He wants you to know with absolute certainty that you now have eternal life (I John 5:13)! Jesus now lives inside you forever through His Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39; Gal. 2:20) and He promises never to leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5). You can now experience “God with us” every day of your life as you learn to talk to Him in prayer (John 15:7) and obey His Word (John 15:4-5; I John 3:24).  

The best part is we will experience God dwelling with us in perfect harmony on the new earth in the eternal state where there will be no more barriers to fellowship with Him (Rev. 21:3-4). Anything associated with the fallen world will “have passed away,” never to return (Rev. 21:4). The sin that caused tears, pain, and death will be forever removed! We can enjoy uninterrupted fellowship with God and with His people for all eternity.

Prayer: Hallelujah Lord God Almighty! Thank You for giving us Immanuel that first Christmas season so we can experience God with us both now and forever the moment we believe in Jesus for everlasting life. Thank You Jesus for moving toward us with compassion and love so we can feel safe from criticism, judgment, rejection, and shame. Use us to move toward other broken sinners with the same love and compassion You have moved toward us so they can discover You alone are the Giver of eternal life. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

 ENDNOTES:
 
1. Hal Haller, Jr., Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 14-15.

2. Ibid., pg. 15. 

3. Randy Alcorn’s and Julia (Stager) Mayo’s August 26, 2013, article entitled, “Did Jesus Have a Sin Nature?” at eternal perspective ministries (https://www.epm.org).

4. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on Luke, 2022 Edition, pg. 46.

5. Ibid., cites Leon Morris, The Gospel According to St. Luke, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), pg. 73.

6. Ibid., pp. 46-47 cites Erwin W. Lutzer, Christ among Other gods (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), pp. 64-74.

7. Haller, pg. 15. 

8. When meta (“with”) occurs with the genitive (hēmōn – “us”), it expresses supportiveness as in “God with us,” “God stands by us,” or “God helps us.” See Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 636. 

9. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!), 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2017 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 567. 

10. Bauer, pg. 816.

I John 2 – Part 10

“And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” I John 2:17

We began this section of I John (2:15-17) talking about investing our lives in something that is safe and secure. John has instructed us not to invest our lives in the world because it is not possible to love God the Father and the world at the same time (2:15) since the world promotes standards and values that are hostile toward God (2:16). John then gives a final reason not to invest our lives in the world: “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (I John 2:17). John reminds us that “the world is passing away,” and therefore, it is a totally unworthy object of our sinful lusts and longings. Often when a Christian indulges in some worldly lust, he or she discovers that its gratification is short-lived and must be renewed again and again in more intensive forms to get the same amount of pleasure as before. The “addicted” believer is reminded of the highly transient nature of the world and all its lusts. 

“Worldliness makes the ‘now’ more important than eternity. But you are passing through, and the world is passing by. It’s transient.” 1

The world often bases one’s identity on the type of vocation or skills they possess. But did you ever stop to think that your skills will pass away with the world? If you are an architect, a biologist, an electrician, a farmer, a musician, a physician, a scientist, a secretary, a teacher, etc. – however skilled you may be at any of these activities – none of these designations will survive the present. The Bible tells us, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” (2 Pet. 3:10).

How can a believer in Jesus establish an identity that outlasts this present world system? John tells us: but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (2:17b). The believer who is doing God’s will possesses a lifestyle that is in stark contrast with the world and all its lusts. His or her obedient lifestyle will not be interrupted by the passing away of this world. He or she experiences uninterrupted fellowship (“abides”)with God. 2

Hodges writes, “It [‘abides’] suggests, as almost always in this epistle, the ‘abiding life’ of fellowship with God. But here is obviously the additional thought that the life lived in God’s fellowship, rejecting the sinful things of this passing world, is a life that has no real ending. A person whose character and personality are shaped by obedience to God will not be affected by the passing away of the world and its vain desires. It is a Johannine way of saying, ‘Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.’” 3

“The one who does the will of God is inseparable from the Christ likeness which such a person has achieved. Likeness to Christ can give boldness at the Judgment Seat of Christ” 4 (cf. I John 2:28; 4:17; cf. 1 Cor 3:11-15; 2 Cor 5:10) where the eternal worth of his or her earthly Christian life will be assessed.

You may ask, “What is God’s will?” We know from the book of I John that God’s will is keeping His commandments (2:3-6; 3:24). Here are some examples of commands God wants us to keep: love one another (John 13:34-35; I John 3:23b; 4:21), go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15), make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:19-20), abstain from sexual immorality (I Thess. 4:3) and fleshly lusts (I Pet. 2:11), obey governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-7), warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all (I Thess. 5:14), rejoice always (I Thess. 5:16), pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17), in everything give thanks (I Thess. 5:18), forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven you (Ephes. 4:32), do not be drunk with wine, be filled with the Spirit (Ephes. 5:18), honor your parents (Ephes. 6:2-3), put on the whole armor of God (Ephes. 6:11) to name a few.

But the believer who lives out of fellowship with God does not “abide” forever in that his or her worldly lifestyle will be radically interrupted when he or she goes to heaven. Their worldly lifestyle will not abide forever. It stops at heaven’s gates. They are likely to experience “shame” instead of boldness before Christ at the Judgment Seat (2:28; cf. 4:17-19) because they did not live the way Christ lived (2:6).

Not everyone agrees with this understanding. There are some who believe I John 2:17 is saying that you cannot go to heaven if you give your life to the world. 5 Those who take this view fail to understand that the book of I John was written to encourage Christians (2:12-14; 5:13) to develop greater intimacy with God (1:3-4). The greater our intimacy with Him, the greater our fellowship with Him and the better we will know God experientially and experience His life abundantly both now and in eternity. In the context of I John 2:17, John is not talking about going to heaven. He is talking to believers (2:12-14) about how to maintain their fellowship with God in a world that is hostile towards Him (cf. I John 2:15-17). 

Believers who fail to do God’s will and do not possess an abiding life will still be in heaven. They will be with Christ not because they lived the way Jesus lived or did not love the world, but because they did the Father’s will as it relates to entering His heaven. What is the Father’s will when it comes to getting to heaven? Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40). The only thing we can do to enter the kingdom of heaven according to the will of the Father, is to believe in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life.

Getting to heaven is not a matter of what or who you love or don’t love because Jesus never said, “Everyone who does not love the world may have everlasting life.”Nor did He say,“Everyone who loves the Father may have everlasting life.”Going to heaven isa matter of whom you are believing or trusting to get you there (John 6:40). It doesn’t matter if you have loved the world or not, because you are still a sinner who needs a Savior to take away your sins. Your lifestyle cannot get you to heaven because it is all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). Only Jesus Christ can take away our sins because He was the only perfect sacrifice. Christ was without any sin (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15) since He was fully God (John 1:1) and fully Man (John 1:14). When He died on the cross for all our sins, He satisfied God’s holy demand to punish sin forever as demonstrated when He raised Jesus from the dead (John 19:30; I Cor. 15:1-6; I John 2:1-2).

When it comes to getting to heaven, it is not the will of God that you abide in Christ or do not love the world. It is the will of God that you believe in Christ alone Who died for your sins and rose from the dead so He may give you His gift of eternal life (John 6:40). If you have never understood and believed this before, and now you do, you can tell God this through prayer.

Prayer: Dear God, for much of my life I thought going to heaven was based on how I lived my life on earth. Thank You for revealing to me that going to heaven is not based on how I live, but on how Jesus lived, died, and rose again. God, I come to You now as a sinner who cannot save himself. I believe You died in my place on the cross for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now believing in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my love, or my prayers), to give me everlasting life and a future home in Your heaven. Thank You for the eternal life I now have and for the future home I will have in heaven. Please help me to know and do Your will now so my lifestyle will continue after I leave this world which is passing away. In mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

The moment you believed in Jesus for His gift of eternal life, you became God’s child forever (John 1:12). God is now your Father (Matt. 6:9) and you now have many brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world. God wants you to know Him more intimately now as you learn how to spend time with Him studying His Word (John 8:30-31) and talking to Him through prayer (John 15:7). He wants you to love Him and other Christians who last forever, not this world which is passing away (I John 2:15-16) so you can have a godly lifestyle that is permanent and greatly rewarded (I John 2:17, 28; 4:17-19). Knowing and doing God’s will is the safest and securest way to invest your life during your time on earth.

I wonder how much you and I will miss the world and its vain desires when we go to heaven to be with Jesus? Will our love for the world be greater than our love for the Lord? Like Lot’s wife (Gen. 19:16), will it be difficult to leave the things of this world behind us? The Lord Jesus told us to “remember Lot’s wife” in Luke 17:32a. Then He said, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33b). Lot’s wife sought to save her worldly lifestyle. She loved her earthly things so much that she could not leave them all behind. They were more valuable to her than her own life. The bottom line was she did not take God seriously! She was bent on doing her own thing rather than what the Lord wanted her to do.

The same thing can happen to us as Christians. The Lord saves us, and we begin walking with Him. But as we encounter difficulties, we begin to wonder if our old life would be better. Eventually we can turn to a pillar of salt spiritually. When you have a chance, lick some salt today and ask yourself, “What are some things in my life that God has asked me to leave behind? Things that keep me from following Christ?” Purpose in your heart not to be like Mrs. Lot. Seek the Lord Jesus first (Matt. 6:33) and rely on Him to live a life of love toward Him, not toward this world (I John 2:15-17).

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2939.

2. The Greek word for “abides” (menō)is one of John’s favorite terms for fellowship with God (I John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 19, 24 [3], 27 [2], 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17 24 [2]; 4:12, 13, 15, 16 [3]; cf. John 8:31; 15:4-7, 9-10) and it means “to remain, stay, dwell, continue.” See Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 630-631 and Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 616-619.

3. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3710.

4. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 592.

5. When referring to I John 2:17, the authors of the discipleship course entitled Rooted go so far to say that “if we give our lives to the world, we will pass away and be separated from God for all eternity” (pg. 98). See Kenton Beshore, Muriithi Wanjau, Peter Kasirivu, Samuel Metelus, Camille and Esther Ntoto, Daniel Nunez, Adrian De Visser, Rooted: Connect with God, the Church, Your Purpose (China: Rooted Network, 2020).

Revelation 22 – Part 4

“Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” Revelation 22:9

I have known Jesus Christ as my personal Savior for over forty-three years, and yet I still have a lot to learn about what it means to worship Him. Most Christians know they will worship God in heaven, but many of us fail to grasp how thrilling this will be. We may think that worship in heaven will be boring and monotonous.

One reason we don’t look forward to worshiping God in heaven is because of the bad worship experiences we’ve had on earth. We think in heaven we are going to sing a few songs, hear a sermon, eat a snack, and go home, and repeat this monotonous routine throughout eternity. While things on earth can become less interesting over time, including worship services, in heaven focusing on God all the time will be fascinating, not boring! Those of you who know the Lord intimately understand what I am talking about.  

The book of Revelation has a lot to teach us about the worship of God. While one of the primary themes of this book is to inform us of future events, we are told at the beginning of Revelation that its main subject is Jesus Christ. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 1:1a). The apostle John immediately alerts his readers to the Source of this book’s information when he writes, “The Revelation of [about or from] Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is the Giver of this revelation, and He is its MAIN SUBJECT.

As the prophetic events have been chronologically revealed in this book, leading up to the return of Jesus Christ to earth to set up His eternal kingdom, we have learned more and more about the Lord Jesus. Our view of Christ has become clearer as He disclosed more of Himself and His redemptive plan in this book. The more we encounter Jesus in the pages of the book of Revelation, the more we want to worship Him! This is what happened to the apostle John.

After the apostle John saw the original angel who spoke to him (22:6; cf. 1:1) and then heard the voice of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ (22:7), he mistook the angel for the Lord Jesus. “Now I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.” (Revelation 22:8). John now resumes addressing his readers in the first person, directly, which he had not done since the first chapter (cf. 1:1, 4, 9). 1 John had personally “heard” and seen “these things” that he had recorded. He was an eyewitness. When John “saw” the angel (22:6) and “heard” the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ (22:7), he may have concluded he was worshipping Christ. 2 The apostle’s strong response further attests to the genuineness of the profound revelations he had received. 3

Immediately the angel corrects John: “Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” (Revelation 22:9). The angel’s words, “See that you do not do that,” remind us thatthe worship of angels is forbidden in God’s Word (cf. Exodus 34:14; Matthew 4:10; Colossians 2:18). No matter how glorious an angel is or exalted a servant of God is – for that matter – they are never to be worshiped.

The angel reminds John (and us), “I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book.” The reason the angel was not to receive worship is because he is a “fellow servant” of John’s; they both serve God. He also said he served the other “prophets” in addition to John, as well as all believers who “keep” or obey “the words of” the “book” of Revelation.

The angel emphatically says to John, “Worship God!” This is the most appropriate response to all that God has revealed in the book of Revelation. Throughout the book of Revelation, we see that God alone is to be worshiped. In God’s heavenly throne room prior to the beginning of His horrific Tribulation judgments on the earth, the angelic and human inhabitants of heaven are so overwhelmed with God’s holiness, power, and eternality (4:8-10), they fall on their faces saying, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.” (4:11).  

After the Lamb and Lion, Jesus Christ, takes the scroll containing the seal judgments from the hand of God the Father in heaven’s throne room, the four angelic creatures and redeemed people from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” worshiped Jesus Christ by singing a new song of praise for His work of redemption (5:8-10). Then an innumerable host of “angels around the throne” now join this group ascribing worth to “the Lamb who was slain” Who deserves “power… riches… wisdom… strength… honor… glory… blessing” to be given to Him at the beginning of His reign on earth (5:11-12). Then every creature, saved and unsaved, angelic, and demonic, will join in giving God the Father(“Him who sits on the throne“) and “the Lamb,” Jesus Christ, “the blessing and honor and glory and power” they deserve (5:13). Then we see the four living creatures and twenty-four elders continue their unceasing worship of God in His heavenly throne room (5:14).

During the interlude between the sixth and seventh seal judgments, the apostle John receives a vision of God’s great mercy involving the salvation of Gentiles and Jews from every nation who are taken to heaven (7:9-17). An innumerable group of saved people from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” will be in heaven praising God, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (7:9-10). In addition, 11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (7:11-12). Imagine being in God’s throne room with an innumerable group of redeemed people from all over the world together with all of God’s angels falling on our faces because we are so overwhelmed with the goodness and greatness of God!

When the seventh trumpet sounded and the inhabitants of heaven announced the future eternal reign of Christ on earth in the past tense as if it has already taken place (11:15), “the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God.” (11:16).

During the last half of the Tribulation when the beast and false prophet blaspheme the true God and blame Him for all the calamities they are experiencing on the earth, an angel will be sent to nonbelieving earth-dwellers saying, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” (14:7). They are to“fear God and give glory to Him” because the reason for all the worldwide death and disaster during the last half of the Tribulation is that “the hour of His judgment has come” (14:7a). When people on the earth understand why all the calamities are taking place during the Tribulation, they may be more likely to believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life.These earth-dwellers are also to “worship” God because He “made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (14:7b). God is worthy of worship because He is the Creator, and He has the right to judge what He has created.

In Revelation 15, the apostle John has a vision of believers who were martyred during the last half of the Tribulation who are now in God’s throne room in heaven, singing “the song of Moses… and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the nations!’ Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.’” (15:3-4). It does not matter if the songs are old (“song of Moses”) or new (“song of the Lamb”), the purpose of worship is to “glorify” God for His awesome Person (“Lord God Almighty…You alone are holy”) and His “great and marvelous… works.”

Following the destruction of the great harlot (Rome) which caused the people of the world to grieve deeply and be distressed (18:1-24), we see a much different response to Rome’s destruction in heaven (19:1-10). All the inhabitants of heaven are praising God for what He has done to Rome, 1 saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.’” (19:1-2). The “twenty-four elders” representing the church in heaven (cf. 4:1-4) and “the four living creatures” representing angelic beings (cf. 4:6-8), “fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne,” crying out, “Amen! Alleluia!” (19:4). In saying “Amen” (lit., “so be it”), they were giving their wholehearted agreement to the praise already given to God.

This last worshipful scene in heaven (19:1-4) which is contrasted with the mourning that will take place on the earth for Rome’s (“Babylon”) destruction (Revelation 18:9-24), reminds us that God is still worthy of praise no matter what we face in life. All God’s decisions are “true and righteous” (19:2) even when a romance does not blossom as we had hoped, or a job interview does not turn out the way we thought it would. It is important to remember that God is worthy of our admiration and trust even when the effects of sin endanger our families, when pain drives us to our wits’ end, or when misfortune is about to push us over the edge. God gives and He takes away (Job 1:21). He is honored when we return to Him, when we release our worries to Him, and when we rest in Him.

From this survey of the book of Revelationwe learn that in the current heaven, everyone worships Jesus Christ, including all the angels and God’s redeemed people. No one says, “Now we’re going to sing two hymns, followed by announcements, and prayer.” The praising of God is not ritual, it is spontaneous. 4

Alcorn writes, “If someone rescued you and your family from terrible harm, especially at great cost to himself, no one need tell you, ‘Better say thank you.’ On your own, you would shower him with praise. Even more will you sing your Savior’s praises and tell of His life-saving deeds.

“In 2003 when Saddam Hussein’s statues were being torn down in Baghdad, a television commentator said something so striking that I wrote it down. He said, ‘These people are used to coming out in the streets and praising Saddam. If they didn’t, they were punished. He had a policy of compulsory adulation.

“God seeks worshipers (John 4:23). But He has no policy of compulsory adulation. His children’s response to Him is voluntary. Once we see God as He really is, no one will need to beg, threaten, or shame us into praising Him. We will overflow in gratitude and praise. We are created to worship God. There’s no higher pleasure. At times we’ll lose ourselves in praise, doing nothing but worshiping Him. At other times we’ll worship Him when we build a cabinet, paint a picture, cook a meal, talk with an old friend, take a walk, or throw a ball.” 5

People all over the world today “are always striving to celebrate – they just lack ultimate reasons to celebrate (and therefore find lesser reasons). As Christians, we have those reasons – our relationship with Jesus and the promise of heaven.” 6

In the final stage of heaven when King Jesus rules the new heaven and new earth from the New Jerusalem, we read, 3 Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3). In this final stage of heaven, believers will enjoy a new intimacy with God which is impossible in a world where sin and death are still present. God will finally “tabernacle” or dwell among His cleansed and forgiven people, and they will experience perfect fellowship with Him on the new earth.

I want to conclude with Randy Alcorn’s description of worship in this final stage of heaven on the new earth:

“Does this excite you? If it doesn’t, you’re not thinking correctly.

“I find it ironic that many people stereotype life in Heaven as an interminable church service. Apparently, church attendance has become synonymous with boredom. Yet meeting God – when it truly happens – will be far more exhilarating than a great meal, a poker game, hunting, gardening, mountain climbing, or watching the Super Bowl. Even it if were true (it isn’t) that church services must be dull, there will be no church services in Heaven. The church (Christ’s people) will be there. But there will be no temple, and as far as we know, no services (Revelation 21:22).

“Will we always be engaged in worship? Yes and no. If we have a narrow view of worship, the answer is no. But if we have a broad view of worship, the answer is yes. As Cornelius Venema explains, worship in Heaven will be all-encompassing:” 7

“No legitimate activity of life – whether in marriage, family, business, play, friendship, education, politics, etc. – escapes the claims of Christ’s kingship… Certainly those who live and reign with Christ forever will find the diversity and complexity of their worship of God not less, but richer, in the life to come. Every legitimate activity of new creaturely life will be included within the life of worship of God’s people.” 8

Alcorn then says, “Will we always be on our faces at Christ’s feet, worshiping Him? No, because the Scripture says we’ll be doing many other things – living in dwelling places, eating, and drinking, reigning with Christ, working for Him. Scripture depicts people standing, walking, traveling in and out of the city, and gathering at feasts. When doing these things, we won’t be on our faces before Christ. Nevertheless, all that we do will be an act of worship. We’ll enjoy full and unbroken fellowship with Christ. At times this will crescendo into greater heights of praise as we assemble with the multitudes who are also worshiping Him.

“Worship involves more than singing and prayer. I often worship God while reading a book, riding a bike, or taking a walk. I’m worshiping Him now as I write. Yet too often I’m distracted and fail to acknowledge God along the way. In Heaven, God will always be first in my thinking.” 9

“…Nothing is more fascinating than God. The deeper we probe into His being, the more we want to know. One song puts it this way: ‘As eternity unfolds, the thrill of knowing Him will grow.’” 10

“We’ll never lose our fascination for God as we get to know Him better. The thrill of knowing Him will never subside. The desire to know Him better will motivate everything we do. To imagine that worshiping God could be boring is to impose on Heaven our bad experiences of so-called worship. Satan is determined to make church boring, and when it is, we assume Heaven will be also. But church can be exciting, and worship exhilarating. That’s what it will be in Heaven. We will see God and understand why the angels and other living creatures delight to worship Him.”

“Have you known people who couldn’t be boring if they tried? Some people are just fascinating. It seems I could listen to them forever. But not really. Eventually, I’d feel as if I’d gotten enough. But we can never get enough of God. There’s no end to what He knows, no end to what He can do, no end to who He is. He is mesmerizing to the depths of His being, and those depths will never be exhausted. No wonder those in Heaven always redirect their eyes to Him – they don’t want to miss anything.” 11

J. I. Packer puts it this way: “Hearts on earth may say in the course of a joyful experience, ‘I don’t want this ever to end.’ But invariably it does. The hearts of those in heaven say, ‘I want this to go on forever.’ And it will. There is no better news than this.” 12

Prayer: Gracious God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, we pause right now to thank You for revealing to us future certainties in the book of Revelation which cause us to pause and worship You, our Triune God. Forgive us Lord God for sometimes getting caught up in the moment, like John did, and forgetting the One who deserves our full affection. We can so easily focus on the Gift rather than the Giver when we receive Your incredible blessings. Thank You for rebuking us, like the angel rebuked John, when we take our eyes off You, so we can redirect our focus onto You alone. Regardless of what we face on earth, You are always worthy of our admiration and praise. Your work in creation and redemption increases our sense of Your goodness and grace. Thank You for our eternal salvation. Thank You for the everlasting hope we have in the Lord Jesus Christ who died in our place and rose from the dead so whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life both now and forever. Until we see You face to face, help us to live lives that worship and exalt You for who You are and what You have done. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 252.

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. 1589.

3. Constable, pg. 253.

4. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 285.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid., pg. 283.

7. Ibid., pg. 284.

8. Ibid., cites Cornelius P. Venema, The Promise of the Future (Trowbridge, UK: Banner of Truth, 2000), pg. 478.

9. Alcorn, pg. 284.

10. Ibid., pg. 286 cites John G. Elliot, “The Praise Goes On and On” (Grapevine, Tex.: Galestorm Music, n. d.).

11. Alcorn, pg. 286.

12. Ibid., pg. 287.

Revelation 21 – Part 9

“The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine, for the very glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” Revelation 21:23

Following the descriptions of the exterior of the New Jerusalem (21:1-21), the apostle John now focuses his attention on the interior of the city (21:22-22:5). The first thing John mentions has to do with the absence of the temple. “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (Revelation 21:22). For hundreds of years the tabernacle and the temple symbolized God’s presence with humankind on the earth (Hebrews 9:9). 1

“People tend to associate impressive structures with religious activity, such as the massive, ornate buildings of the Vatican or the enormous golden Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Even smaller structures, such as our own churches, represent sacred places to us where we learn about and worship our God. The New Jerusalem, however, will have no need for a special building set aside for worship.

“It’s true that in the present age of the church, God redirected the location of worship from the physical temple in Jerusalem to the spiritual ‘temple’ of the church itself – the body of believers (I Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:19-22).” 2

But in the future New Jerusalem, where all the redeemed from the church age will dwell, the center of worship will be God the Father, “the Lord God Almighty,” and God the Son, “the Lamb” (21:22b).In the New Jerusalem, the temple will no longer be necessary because “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” Under the Law of Moses only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place and only once a year. In eternity, people will live in God’s presence continually.” 3

Heaven’s greatest miracle will be our constant access to God. Christ promised His disciples, “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3b). For believers in Jesus, to die is to “be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). The apostle Paul stated, “having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23b). Paul could have said, “Having a desire to depart and be in heaven,“ but he did not. His focus was on being with the Lord Jesus, which is the most important aspect of being in heaven. 4

Samuel Rutherford wrote, “O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without thee, it would be a hell; and if I could be in hell and have thee still it would be a heaven to me, for thou art all the heaven I want.” 5 Martin Luther said, “I had rather be in hell with Christ, than be in heaven without him.” 6

What will make heaven so special is not the huge dimensions of the New Jerusalem or the precious materials that comprise the city and its beautiful array of colors. It is the presence of Jesus Christ that makes heaven heaven. Since Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6), we will be forever free from the penalty of our sins or even the fear of sin. We will have no more shameful skeletons in the closet or secrets to keep hidden. All barriers between us and Jesus will be forever removed. 7 We will be able to relax in His presence, free from the bondage of sin and shame.

Next John writes, “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine, for the very glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” (Revelation 21:23). This verse does not say there will be no sun or moon, but that there will be “no need of the sun or of the moon to shine.” Why? Because “the very glory of God illuminated it.” Our sun is ninety-three million miles away from us, yet its power is sufficient to illumine the entire earth. God’s presence can replace the sun with ease because the Lord possesses an even greater degree of power and radiance. 8

The New Jerusalem will be the heavenly version of “the city that never sleeps” because “The Lamb is its light” (cf. I Timothy 6:16; I John 1:5). 9 The glory of the Lord Jesus will illuminate the Celestial City.

“It truly will be the Jesus Christ Light and Power Company then.” 10

We will not need to sleep because we will have glorified bodes that never grow tired (I Corinthians 15:35-58; Philippians 3:20-21). There will be no need for Monster or Red Bull energy drinks!

When Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father that we may be with Him in heaven He explains why in John 17:24: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” When Jesus prays for believers to “be with Me where I am,” it is so “they may behold” His “glory” illuminating the New Jerusalem and the new earth.

When we accomplish something, we want to share it with those closest to us. Likewise, Jesus wants to share His accomplishments with us. He wants to share His glory with us. 11 Christ is saying in John 17:24, “Here is My family. All who have believed in Me. They know about the cross and they know how I was born in a manger in Bethlehem. But there are some things they don’t know about Me. They don’t know some of the best parts of Me. They don’t know what it is like for Me to be glorified, sitting on My throne in glory as King of kings and Lord of lords. I want them to be there. I want them to see that. I want them to know what great lengths I have gone to, at such sacrifice, to prepare a place for them to behold and participate in My glory. When I am sitting on My throne in My eternal kingdom, I want them to see My glory illuminating the New Jerusalem on the new earth.”

What a wonderful day it will be when we behold the glory of the Lamb illuminating the  entire New Jerusalem. No more darkness. No more crime. No more shadows. No more night. No more fatigue.

God wants those of us who believe in Christ to walk in His light now. The Bible says, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7). Notice John says to walk “in” the light, not “according” to the light. Walking “according” to the light would refer to sinless perfection as a condition for fellowship with God. But the preposition “in” refers to walking in the sphere of God’s light where there is no darkness or dishonesty. In other words, to have fellowship with God we must be open and honest with Him, not sinless, as we walk in the light with Him.

Like a man walking in the sphere of light produced by a streetlamp at night where he can see any stains on his clothing, so believers are to walk in the sphere of light that God gives us through His Word and His presence. As we walk in the light in which God dwells (“as He is in the light”), His light will reveal any unconfessed sin in our lives. We then have a choice to make. We can either agree with God and confess our sins (I John 1:9) or we can disagree with God and deny our sins. Denying our sins will cast us into the darkness of broken fellowship with God. Confessing our sins will enable us to maintain close fellowship with God.

When we are open and honest with God, the Bible says we will “have fellowship with one another.” The “one another” refers to God and us in the context. How can sinful believers enjoy fellowship with a holy God? The last part of the verse explains. “And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Right now, you and I are not aware of all the sin that is in our lives. But God knows about it. And being the gracious and merciful God that He is, He does not reveal all our sin at once. If He did, we would be so overwhelmed by all our sin it would probably kill us on the spot. But the reason we can enjoy closeness with our holy God even though we have all this unknown sin in our lives is because the blood of Christ cleanses us of “all” that sin. So, no matter how badly or often we have sinned, the blood of Jesus is sufficient to cleanse us of all our sins.

I believe I John 1:7 speaks to the process of healing that God wants all of us to experience. When we experience trauma in our childhood which may be intense (e.g., physical, or sexual abuse, parents divorce, etc.) or less intense (e.g., frequent moves, a hurtful word on the playground, etc.), we may retreat into the darkness of fear and shame, blaming ourselves for what happened to us. We don’t trust anyone, nor do we believe anyone could love us. Often, we pick up where our abusers left off and we abuse ourselves with critical self-talk and/or addictions. We may feel engulfed in a sea of darkness and hopelessness.

But Jesus wants to shine His light of love and truth into the darkness that engulfs our wounds. He wants us to understand that when trauma took place in our childhood,He was there with us with tears in His eyes. And He is saying to us, “It was not your fault. I love you and I am so proud of you.” And even though we may abuse ourselves as adults, Jesus is still with us, waiting for us to welcome Him into the darkness where we have been hiding under the weight of our fear and shame. Jesus wants to shine His light of love and truth into the broken and wounded areas of our souls – not to condemn or shame us, but to heal us. And the more we permit Him to shine His light in the depths of our wounded souls, the more eager we will be to walk in the light of His love and truth, being open and honest with Him. 

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for giving us a glimpse of the magnificent glory of the Lord Jesus Christ which will illuminate the entire New Jerusalem on the new earth. Lord Jesus, You are light. You are all that is pure, holy, gracious, love, merciful, and true. There is no darkness or deceit in You. As we grow in our understanding of Who You are, we want to choose to be open and honest with You, Lord, because You are a good, good God Who is eager to forgive us and cleanse us, not forsake us or condemn us. When we focus on our sin and shame, we retreat into the darkness where You are not. We shut You out of our lives because we perceive ourselves to be too bad for You to love us. But the truth is Lord, You know us better than we do, and You still love us and cherish Your time with us. Knowing we are deeply surrounded and filled with Your love for us, frees us to release our sin and shame to You. Please help us to say “good-bye” to the lies that isolate us from You and Your family. Please cleanse us of those lies and hold us in Your everlasting arms of love and mercy. Thank You for letting us be open and vulnerable with You. Thank You for listening to us and loving us as we are. Oh, how we appreciate Your gentleness and graciousness with us. We love You Lord Jesus. Thank You for loving us far more than we deserve or can comprehend. In Your matchless name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

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

2. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 391.

3. Vacendak, pg. 1586.  

4. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 272.

5. Alcorn, pg. 272 cites Samuel Rutherford, quoted in Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, January 17, morning reading.

6. Ibid., cites Martin Luther, quoted in James M Campbell, Heaven Opened: A Book of Comfort and Hope (New York: Revell, 1924), pg. 148.  

7. Ibid., pg. 273.

8. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2422.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1586.

10. Constable, pg. 245 quotes J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 5 (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), pg. 1072.

11. Adapted from Alcorn, pp. 273-274.

Revelation 21 – Part 8

“The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” Revelation 21:21

After discovering the shape and size of the New Jerusalem on the new earth during the final stage of heaven (21:15-17), the apostle John now describes the construction materials of this colossal city (21:18-21). He zooms in to take a closer look at the texture and color of the walls, gates, and foundations. 1 “The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.” (Revelation 21:18). The word “construction” (endōmēsis) means “to build in,” suggesting the wall had jasper built into it and was not made of solid jasper. 2 John may have meant that the walls were overlaid with this brilliant material, 3 making the city walls appear to glisten like a perfect diamond. 4 When describing both the “jasper” and “gold,” John was using the language of appearance (“clear as crystal,” “like clear glass,” “like transparent glass”), since both metals apparently differed in appearances as we know them today (21:11, 18, 21). 5

The entire city appeared to shine as a mass of “pure gold” that was “like clear glass” (21:18b). “Clear glass” in John’s day was the best quality of glass, so when he compares the “pure gold” to “clear glass,” he may have meant that there was no impurity in the New Jerusalem. 6

Swindoll takes this reference to the city being “like clear glass” (21:18) to mean something different. He writes, “In our present fallen world, people build walls to maintain privacy and security. These can be physical barriers to keep curious onlookers from watching our every move, but they can also be mental, emotional, or spiritual walls that protect us from harm, hide our shame, or keep people at a distance from us relationally. This kind of secrecy and security will be unnecessary in the Celestial City. To a certain degree, Christians today can reflect the grace and glory of God, not by hiding in the ‘inner sanctuary’ of private life but by being transparent with others. This means keeping the inside as pure as the outside, then letting people see the glory of God shine through us.” 7

Next John zooms in on the foundation stones of the colossal city which reveal its permanence (Hebrews 11:10). 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.” (Revelation 21:19-20). The apostle names twelve precious stones, one different gem adorning each of the twelve foundations. Eight of these gems correspond to the stones of the high priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:17-20). 8 Another view is that the jewels did not decorate the foundation stones, but the foundation stones were themselves whole gemstones. 9

These twelve foundation stones involve a different color: “jasper” is diamond, 10  “sapphire” is deep blue; the “chalcedony” comes from Chalcedon, Turkey and is basically blue with stripes of other colors. 11 The “emerald” is a bright green; the “sardonyx” is red and white; and the “sardius” is usually ruby-red in color, though it can have an amber or honey color. 12 The “chrysolyte” is a golden color, different from the modern chrysolyte stone which is pale green. 13 The “beryl” is a sea green; the “topaz” is a transparent yellow green; the “chrysoprase” is also green; the “jacinth” is violet in color; 14 and the “amethyst” is purple quartz. 15 Together these precious stones provide a brilliant array of beautiful colors, much like the rainbow’s colors.

Instead of there being one pearly gate as we are accustomed to hearing, there are twelve gates of pearl, three on each wall. “The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl.” (Revelation 21:21a). Each gate leading into the city was made of a single giant pearl.

“Among the ancients, pearls were ranked highest among precious stones, because their beauty derives entirely from nature, improvement by human workmanship being an impossibility.” 16

The significance of these gates of pearl is noted by John Philips: “All other precious gems are metals or stones, but a pearl is a gem formed within the oyster – the only one formed by living flesh. The humble oyster receives an irritation or wound, and around the offending article that has penetrated and hurt it, the oyster builds a pearl. The pearl, we might say, is the answer of the oyster to that which injured it.” 17

“The pearl represents pain resulting in beauty, suffering crowned with glory. When we read of this symbol of the pearl eternally embedded in the doorways of heaven, it should remind us that Christ’s suffering had an eternal purpose and opened heaven for us (John 10:9; 14:6). It also assures us that our own suffering for the sake of Christ has a purpose and can be used by Him to reflect His glory in our lives (Romans 5:3-5; Philippians 3:8-11; James 1:2-4).” 18

In addition to the gates of pearl, John describes the street of the New Jerusalem. “And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” (Revelation 21:21b). People frequently talk about the streets of gold in heaven, but there is only one “street” or pavement “of the city.” Everyone living in the New Jerusalem will live on Main Street. 19 The street in our eternal home will not consist of gravel, nor of tar, nor cement or asphalt, 20 but of “pure gold, like transparent glass.” This “street will be paved with gold polished to mirror brilliance. Gold is so plentiful to the Creator that He uses it to pave His street.” 21

“In the New Jerusalem the materials we adore the most in this world will be put to common use. The marble-paved streets of Ephesus, where the apostle John lived out his days, were unusually extravagant, earning Ephesus a reputation as one of the most opulent cities of the Roman Empire. But the opulence of the New Jerusalem will far exceed that of Ephesus or any other city. Gold will be trodden upon like asphalt. There will be no vanity, no materialism, no envy, or greed. Best of all, no one will be poor in a place that paves its streets with gold.” 22

Can you imagine approaching the New Jerusalem and seeing it from a great distance? A remarkable city over 14,000 miles long, wide, and high being built upon gemstone foundations, each gate brilliantly crafted from a single giant pearl, with a street poured from the purest gold. One day all who have believed in Jesus Christ for His gift of eternal life will be able to walk into this magnificent city with jaws dropped and eyes widened in absolute wonder, for even the most beautiful places on earth do not compare to what the Lord Jesus is preparing for those who believe in Him.

Would you like to call the New Jerusalem your eternal home? You can if you will come to God on His terms. The Bible says, “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). The person who comes to God “does not work.” Getting right with God is not based on the things you do. It is not based on praying, living a good life, obeying God’s commands, confessing your sins, being baptized with water, or turning from your sins. Getting right with God is not based on the things you do but on what Jesus Christ has already done when He died in your place on the cross to pay the penalty for all your sins and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6).

Getting right with God is not based upon behaving, but upon believing in Jesus Christ “who justifies the ungodly.” It does not matter how well you have behaved; you are still “ungodly” before a holy God. You may say, “Well, I’m not as bad as him or her.” You need to understand that God is not comparing your life to other sinful people. He is comparing your life to the only perfect Person who has ever lived on earth – Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus never told a lie, but you have told many. Jesus loved everyone, including His enemies. But you have days you cannot stand to be with your own family. The good news is that the moment you believe or trust in Christ alone who paid the full penalty for your sin when He died on the Cross and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6), God “justifies” you which means He declares you to be totally righteous as if you had never sinned.  

The fact is that all people are “ungodly” sinners who deserve to be separated from God forever in a terrible place called the “lake of fire” (Romans. 3:9-23; Revelation 20:15). But the moment you believe in Jesus Christ alone, God gives you a right standing before Him as “your faith is accounted for righteousness.”

God now invites you to come to Him on His terms. He doesn’t say to behave or “work,” He says to “believe” in His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, who died in your place on a cross and rose from the dead. All of us are “ungodly,” and we need to believe or trust in our only Savior, Jesus Christ. The moment we do, God declares us to be totally righteous in His eyes so He can let us enter the New Jerusalem on the new earth in the final stage of heaven.

You can tell God through prayer you are now believing in Jesus to give you His gift of righteousness so you can be accepted by God and enter His heaven.

Prayer: Dear God, thank You for showing me that I could never live up to Your standards of holiness. Thank You for sending Your only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, Who did live up to Your standards of holiness because He is God. And He lived a perfect life and then died in my place on a cross and three days later rose from the dead so that He is alive today. I am now believing in the risen Lord Jesus for His gift of righteousness and eternal life. Thank You God for declaring me to be totally righteous the moment I believed in Jesus. Thank You that I am totally accepted by You and I can now enter Your heaven in the future. Please use me to share this good news with others who are trying to behave instead of believe to enter Your heaven. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus, God declared you to be totally righteous in His eyes. You are now covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that God sees all the beauty, holiness, and goodness of His Son when He looks at you (Romans 8:31-38). God can now permit you to enter His heaven based on your faith in Jesus Christ and what He did for you on the cross. Now that you know you will be living in a magnificent and beautiful city and world – apart from any evil – in the presence of Jesus Christ, this can encourage you to endure difficulties in this life knowing what awaits you afterward. 24

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 389.

2. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 230,163; cf. 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. 334.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 243.

4. Jasper is said to be “clear as crystal” in 21:11.

5. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6585.

6. Constable, pg. 243 cites Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), pg. 381.

7. Swindoll, pg. 390.

8. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 360.

9. Constable, pg. 243 cites James Moffatt, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament Vol. 5, 4th Ed. Edited by W. Roberston Nicoll (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1910), pg. 484.

10. 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. 455.

11. Walvoord, location 6591.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid., location 6596.

15. Hitchcock, pg. 456.

16. Constable, pg. 244 quotes Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 473.

17. Swindoll, pg. 390 quotes John Philips, Exploring Revelation, rev. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987), pg. 254.

18. Swindoll, pg. 390.

19. Hitchcock, pg. 456.

20. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2422.

21. Hitchcock, pg. 456.

22. Swindoll, pp. 390-391.

23. David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015 Kindle Edition), pg. 101.

24. Adapted from 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. 1585.

Revelation 21 – Part 4

“And He said to me, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.’” Revelation 21:6 

After the apostle John begins to describe the new heaven and new earth, and the New Jerusalem (21:1-5), the apostle John designates three categories of people (21:6-8). 1 The first category is seen in verse 6: And He said to me, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.’” (Revelation 21:6). The promise in this verse refers to all who believe in Christ. They will all enter the new earth and New Jerusalem (21:1-5).

The Lord Jesus says to John, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (21:6a). “The Alpha and Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and signify here, Jesus’ eternality. Christ is the Originator (“the Beginning”) and Terminator (“the End”) of all things, 2 and therefore He can be trusted.

Because Jesus exists eternally, He can offer eternal life freely to whoever thirsts. “I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.” (21:6b). The phrase “water of life” is like the imagery Jesus used with the Samaritan woman at the well. 10 Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water… 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:10, 14). The “water of life” is eternal life.

Jesus offers eternal life “freely” (dōrean) or “without payment” 3 or cost to “him who thirsts” (21:6b). The book of Revelation offers eternal life “freely” or without cost (cf. 1:5; 7:14; 21:6; 22:17) 4 because it has already been paid for by Jesus Who “washed us from our sins in His own blood” when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (Revelation 1:5; cf. 7:14; I Corinthians 15:3-6). This is also the case throughout the New Testament where eternal life or salvation is presented as a free gift that is received through faith alone in Christ alone (John 4:10-14; Romans 3:24; 4:5; 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 22:17; et al.). Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ alone for “the water of life” (eternal life) acquires it the moment they believe (cf. John 3:15-16, 36; 4:13-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; et al.).

While eternal life is offered freely in the New Testament, the next verse informs us that the reward inheritance is costly (cf. Matthew 19:27-30; Colossians 3:23-24). It is in this verse that John addresses the second group of people: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” (Revelation 21:7). The word “overcomes” comes from the Greek word nikaō which means to “be victor, conquer, overcome, prevail.” 5 The Lord Jesus is challenging those who received eternal life as a free gift by believing in Jesus (21:6), to remain faithful to Christ until the end of their lives so they may “inherit all things” (21:7a; cf. 2:10b, 25-27; Colossians 3:23-24), including wearing special white garments (3:4-5), ruling with Christ (2:26-27; 3:21; cf. 2 Timothy 2:12), eating the fruit of the tree of life (2:7), eating hidden manna (2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (21:7a; cf. 22:14). 

Dillow observes that the book of Revelation repeatedly contrasts the faithful overcoming believer in Jesus with the unfaithful believer in Jesus. For example, Revelation 2:16 versus 2:7; 2:14-16 versus 2:17; 2:18-23 versus 2:24-29; 3:1-3 versus 3:4-6; 3:11 versus 3:12; 3:14-19 versus 3:21. 6

Jesus promises the overcoming believer that He “will be his God and he shall be My son” who will co-rule with the Davidic King (21:7b; cf. 2 Samuel 7; Psalm 2; Romans 8:14, 17b). 7 The phrase “I will be his God and he shall be My son” is “defined elsewhere as a statement of special honor, not regeneration. The Davidic Covenant promised to David’s Son, Solomon, ‘I will be a Father to him, and he will be a son to Me’ (2 Samuel 7:14). The intent of the phrase was to signify installation as the king.

“On His resurrection from the dead, Jesus was invested with the title ‘Son’ (Acts 13:33), and this was because His humility involved total obedience to the Father’s will (Philippians 2:5-10). Similarly, we arrive at the state of full sonship (Greek huioi, not tekna, ‘children’) by a life of obedience. Our union with Him, according to the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, means our path to glory is the same as His. Because of His obedience He was entitled to the designation ‘Son of God,’ King of Israel. ‘Thou has loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy companions’ (Hebrews 1:9).

“A similar thought regarding sonship is expressed in Hebrews 11:16, ‘Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.’ Of course, in the heavenly city God will be the God of all, both faithful and unfaithful Christians (Revelation 21:3), but it is apparently possible for us to live life in such a way that God is proud to be called our God. Evidently the writer has the title ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’ in mind. This sense fits well [with] the conditional aspect of sonship in Revelation. John’s meaning is simply, ‘Because you have lived a life of constant fellowship with Me,’ God will say, ‘I am proud to be known as your God.’

“The idea here is that God is ‘proud’ to be known as ‘our God,’ because we have persevered to the final hour in contrast to other Christians who are sons but not obedient sons, and who will draw back from Him in shame at His coming (I John 2:28) and lose what they have accomplished (Mark 4:25; Revelation 3:11).” 8

This is the only time in John’s writings where he uses the term “son” (huios) to refer to a person other than Christ (Revelation 21:7b). The normal term in John’s writings for a Christian is “children” (tekna). 9  So, this is a unique relationship inherited by overcomers in the Christian life whereby “God will dwell with him at an increased level of intimacy like a father with his son.” 10

Hence, in the world to come, overcomers or “heirs” would be treated as God’s adult “sons” (Revelation 21:7). In John’s society, a child could not obtain his inheritance until he reached the age of civil responsibility as established by the law. He might be potentially wealthy through all the years of his youth, but when the “child” became a full grown “son,” his potential wealth would become actual wealth, and he could enter into legal possession of his inheritance.

The New Testament doctrine of co-heirship supports this as a distinction is made between “entering” the Kingdom of God (new earth) through childlike faith alone in Christ alone for His free gift of eternal life (Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:14-15; Luke 18:16-17; John 3:5-16; Revelation 21:6) and “inheriting” the new earth through faithful trust and obedience to Christ until the end of one’s life on earth (Matthew 5:3; 19:27-30; Romans 8:17b; 2 Timothy 2:12; James 2:5; Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21; 20:4, 6; cf. Exodus 12:48-49; Numbers 18:20-24; 36:7-9; Deuteronomy 21:15-17; I Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5-6). 11

All who freely drank of the water of life (21:6), John called “children” or “born ones” (tekna; cf. John 1:12; I John 2:12), but those who became full-grown and matured through faithful obedience he called adult “sons” (huios). 12 In the day of the new heaven and new Earth, and the New Jerusalem, only those believers who overcame through faithful obedience could say not merely “I am here,” but “these are mine.”

The first two groups of people in these verses included believers in Jesus, but the third and final group of people refers to nonbelievers. “But the cowardly, sinners, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8). This verse is simply saying that in the new heaven and earth, and New Jerusalem, there are no more “cowardly, sinners, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” because they are all confined to “the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.”

This verse is saying nothing about born again believers in Jesus who have done such things because their sins are now gone because they are forgiven, immortal, and sinless (Acts 10:43; 2:13-14; I Corinthians 15:35-57; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 5:26-27; I John 3:1-3). For instance, King Solomon ended his life as an idolator (I Kings 11:1-10), yet he will still be with God on the new earth. God used Solomon to author three books of the Bible: Proverbs (Solomon was the principal author), Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes. The Bible says that the human authors of the Bible were “holy men of God” who “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Even though Solomon was an idolater, the Bible says he was a “holy” man of God. How can this be? He is “holy” in God’s eyes because he has been set apart from his sin and shame by virtue of his faith in the coming Messiah who would die for all his sins – including the sin of idolatry (cf. Isaiah 53; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 10:10, 14).

Likewise, eventhough King David had committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11:14-27), the Bible refers to David as an example of those who are justified (declared totally righteous before God) by faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin’” (Romans 4:5-8; cf. Psalms 32:1-2). Paul quotes David (Romans 4:7-8) who wrote in Psalm 32:1-2 of the blessedness of forgiveness as he looked ahead to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which would pay the penalty for the sin of the world (John 1:29), including David’s adultery and murder (cf. Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 2:24-36; Colossians 2:13-14).

Paul is saying that the righteousness of Jesus Christ was credited to David and all who believed in His coming death and resurrection in the Old Testament (Romans 4:5-8; cf. Genesis 15:6; Isaiah 61:10; John 8:56; Hebrews 11:26). So, when a person in the Old Testament or in the New Testament believes in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, he or she is covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that God no longer sees their sin, He sees the perfect righteousness of His Son (Genesis 15:6; Romans 3:21-4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

By God’s grace, all believers who have failed Him, will be on the new earth and/or New Jerusalem because God does not fail them (2 Timothy 2:13). However, only those believers who faithfully endure (overcome) to the end will “inherit all things” such as prominence, rulership, the joy of the Messiah’s rule, and commendation (cf. Matthew 25:20-23).

Since “the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (21:8b) still exists after the passing away of the present heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1; cf. 2 Peter 3:10-13), this reaffirms that hell is eternal, and there is no such thing as the annihilation of nonbelievers. All those who rejected Christ will suffer torment in the lake of fire forever and ever (Revelation 20:10-15). Constable understands this also to mean that the lake of fire “is probably not in the center of the present earth, nor is it connected to this earth spatially. Therefore, it will exist separately from the new heaven and new earth and the New Jerusalem.” 13

Which of these three groups of people will you be among? Believers in Jesus who are unfaithful yet on the new earth (21:6), believers who are faithful and greatly rewarded (21:7), or those who did not believe in Jesus and are confined to the lake of fire forever (21:8)? We are not promised tomorrow on earth. Decide today which of these three groups you want to be among.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for revealing these three groups of people who will exist in the eternal state so we may prepare for what is coming. For those of us who believe in Jesus, please help us rely on Your Holy Spirit to remain faithful to You till the end of our lives on earth so we may be able to inherit all Your promised rewards with which to honor You for all eternity. For those who do not believe in Jesus, please remove the Satanic blinders that keep them from seeing You are the eternal God who freely offers them eternal life as a gift for them to receive by believing in You alone. Use those of us who believe in You to spread Your good news to those who are perishing without You so they can believe in You Lord Jesus and possess eternal life. Also use us to teach new believers to follow You as Your disciple so they may receive Your inheritance rewards. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1.Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 676.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 238.

3. 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. 266.

4. Dillow, pg. 676.

5. Bauer, pg. 673.

6. Dillow, pp. 677, 1058.

7. 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. 1584.

8. Dillow, pg. 677.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1584.

10. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2421.

11. Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse: A Study on Eternal Rewards (Grace Evangelical Society, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 99-118.

12. Dillow, pg. 729 cites William R. Newell, Romans: Verse by Verse (Chicago: Moody Press, 1938), pg. 314; Henry Alford, “Romans,” in Alford’s Greek Testament: An Exegetical and Critical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 2:391; Frederic Louis Godet and A. Cousin, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 2 Vols.(Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), pg. 311.

13. Constable, pg. 239 cites Robert A. Peterson, “Does the Bible Annihilationism?” Bibliotheca Sacra 156:621 (January – March 1999), pp. 25-26.

Revelation 21 – Part 3

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

After the apostle John watched the New Jerusalem descend out of heaven from God to the new earth in this new vision about heaven (21:2), he hears the last of twenty times the phrase, “a loud voice,” is used in the book of Revelation, signifying a very important announcement. 1 “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’” (Revelation 21:3). This loud voice most likely belonging to an angel, proclaims, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people” (21:3a). The word “tabernacle” (skēnē) refers to a “transcendent celestial tent.” 2 The verb form of this word is also in this verse, and it is translated “will dwell” (skēnōsei) and means to “set up His tent” 3 or “take up residence” 4 with them.

In this final stage of heaven, believers “will enjoy a new intimacy with God which is impossible in a world where sin and death are still present.” 5 God will finally “tabernacle” or dwell among His cleansed and forgiven people, and they will experience perfect fellowship with Him on the new earth.

“This fellowship existed, to some extent, when God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and when He dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle and later in the temple, hence the reference to ‘the tabernacle’ (cf. 13:6; 15:5). It also existed partially when Jesus Christ ‘tabernacled’ among people (John 1:14). It exists today as God inhabits the bodies of Christians individually (I Corinthians 6:19-20) and the church corporately (Ephesians 2:21-22).” 6

God’s “tent” or presence will be among humankind: “God Himself will be with them and be their God” (21:3b). At His first coming, Jesus Christ “dwelt” (eskēnōsen) among humankind, but He was rejected by them (John 1:10-11). In the New Jerusalem on the new earth, Christ will dwell with humanity in perfect harmony forever. 7 Unlike the temporary tabernacle in the Old Testament, the presence of God among humankind on the new earth will be permanent (Revelation 22:5). 8

Heaven is where God lives. So, in the final stage of heaven, there will no longer be a separation between heaven and earth because God will dwell on the new earth with His redeemed people forever (Revelation 21:1-3). Thus, heaven and the new earth will essentially be the same place. 9

God’s glorious presence on the new earth will introduce many wonderful changes. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4). This one verse reveals several things you will not find in this final stage of heaven:

  • “wipe away ever tear from their eyes.” There will be no more broken hearts … rejection… loneliness… grief. No more heartache. That is heaven. God will wipe away every tear from your eyes. You will not have sadness or grief again. There will be no disappointing memories. Those will either be erased, or we will look at them from God’s perspective and no long experience sadness. Those of you who are grieving the loss of a loved one or maybe you have been going through a period of depression, one of the things that does in our lives is it just makes heaven seem a little bit closer. We want to go to heaven when we are in pain. Why? Because there is none there.
  • “there shall be no more death.” There will be no funerals or cemeteries in heaven. Why? Because in this final stage of heaven on the new earth no one ever dies. You won’t ever have to be concerned about losing a loved one because death will be gone forever!
  • “there shall be no more pain.” In heaven, there will be no more bad hair days ladies and gentlemen. Everything about us will be perfect. This will be a glorious time. We will have glorified bodies. There will be no eyeglasses, no braces, no wheelchairs, no hearing aids, and no crutches. There will be no more hospitals, no ambulances, no CPR. COVID-19 will not exist, aspirin will be gone, accidents over, heart attacks banished, AIDS a distant memory, cancer done away with. No more chronic pain forever!

All the pain and suffering we face now will be forever gone! Why? “For the former things have passed away” (21:4b). Anything associated with the fallen world will “have passed away,” never to return. The sin that caused tears, pain, and death will be forever removed! We can enjoy uninterrupted fellowship with God and with His people. All of creation eagerly awaits this new earth (Romans 8:20-23).

“How different is this concept of heaven from that of Hinduism, for example? Here heaven is depicted as a city, with life, activity, interest, and people, as opposed to the Hindu ideal of heaven as a sea into which human life returns like a raindrop to the ocean.” 10

It is important to observe that the complete removal of pain and sadness takes place long after the Judgment Seat of Christ which occurs in heaven during the seven-year Tribulation period (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3). 11 It is at the Judgment Seat of Christ that some Christians will suffer the loss of rewards (I Corinthians 3:15; 2 Corinthians 5:10), which will include shame (I John 2:28) and a deep sense of regret (Matthew 8:12; 24:48-51; 25:24-30; Luke 19:20-26). 12 At the most, this painful loss of reward will not last beyond the Millennial Kingdom since the permanent removal of pain and sadness takes place when the New Jerusalem rests upon the new earth (Revelation 21:1-4). It is conceivable that this painful sense of loss will take place only at the Judgment Seat of Christ and not beyond that. However, one cannot be dogmatic about the length of time this sense of loss will last.

This new, joyful experience on the new earth is made possible because of Jesus Christ. “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’” (Revelation 21:5). Jesus is portrayed as the One “who sat on the throne.” He is presented as the Judge in the book of Revelation. He is the Judge Who walks among the seven lampstands (Revelation 1); He judges the seven churches (Revelation 2-3); He judges rebellious humankind (Revelation 4-19), and He judges nonbelievers (Revelation 20). 13

Now the apostle John hears the Lord Jesus Christ, proclaim, “Behold, I make all things new.” Following His many judgments, King Jesus, announces that He is making “all things new.” This is a summary of the entire vision that the apostle John receives. It is the climax of the entire book of Revelation.

“Think about it. No more terminal diseases, hospitals, wheelchairs, or funerals. No more courts or prison. No more divorces, breakdowns, or breakups. No more heart attacks, strokes, or debilitating illnesses. No more therapists, medications, or surgeries. No famines, plagues, or devastating disasters. He is making all things new!” 14

The Lord Jesus says to John, “Write, for these words are true and faithful” (21:5b).  Christ instructs John to “write” about all these new things: new heavens [universe], new earth, and a new capital city, the New Jerusalem. Since Jesus’ promise to “make all things new” may seem too good to be true or believed, He says to John, “for these words are true and faithful.” Christ’s promise can be believed and trusted because it comes from Someone who is “true” and never misleads or tells a lie (Titus 1:2). It is spoken by Him Who is always “faithful” to keep His promises (2 Timothy 2:13).

Heaven is going to be an incredible place! God loves you so much that He wants you to live with Him there for eternity. To do so, you must receive His free gift of eternal life. Why? Because the Bible says we are born with sinful hearts – “Surely, I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5). From the moment of conception, we possess a sinful nature that causes us to break God’s rules. Because all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23), we deserve to be separated from God forever in the lake of fire (Romans 6:23a; Revelation 20:15).

But God’s love for those who don’t possess eternal life is so great that in the final two chapters of the Bible He offers eternal life (“the water of life”) as a free gift (Revelation 21:6; 22:17). “The water of life” is eternal life and Jesus offers it “freely” to those who believe in Him. You don’t work for eternal life because it has already been paid for when Jesus died on the Cross for our sins and rose from the dead.  Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47).

What is Jesus asking you to do that is hard for you to trust Him with? Is He asking you to trust Him for eternal life, but it’s hard for you to let go of your works and trust Him alone? It is so simple that children get it and adults miss it. None of us are promised tomorrow. If you were to drop dead in the next minute, are you absolutely certain you are going to heaven? If you are not, you can make sure right now. Why would anybody put it off? You need to settle this issue right now and you need to put your trust in Jesus for eternal life.

When you trust Him, He gives you everlasting life (John 6:47), He forgives all your sins (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14), He places you in God’s family forever (John 1:12; 6:37), and He comes to live inside you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:39a; Galatians 4:6). He guarantees that you will live with Him forever in His heaven when you die or are removed from the earth through the Rapture of the Church, whichever occurs first (John 3:16; I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11; I John 5:13).

If you just believed or trusted in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life, you can tell Jesus this through prayer. But praying this prayer is not what gets you to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Christ alone gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I come to you now as a sinner who cannot save him or herself. I believe You died in my place on the cross for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion) to give me everlasting life and a future home in Your heaven. Thank You Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have and the future home I will have in heaven. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus, He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He forgave all your sins (Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14) and placed you in His family forever (John 1:12; 6:37). Christ’s Spirit now lives inside you to comfort, guide, and teach you how to follow Jesus as you read and apply the Bible (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, please download our free digital Pressing on materials to go through with those you love.

If you found this article to be helpful, please share it with those you want to see in heaven. Thank you and may Jesus reveal more of Himself to you as you learn to follow Him.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 236; 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 6537.

2. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 928.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1583.

4. Bauer, pg. 929.

5. Walvoord, location 6357.

6. Constable, pg. 236.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1583.

8. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 373.

9. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pp. 80-81.

10. Constable, pg. 237 cites Alan Johnson, “Revelation,” in Hebrews-Revelation, Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pg.  593.

11. 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. 1147.

12. Constable, pg. 237.

13. Vacendak, pg. 1583.

14. Swindoll, pg. 375.