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.

Revelation 20 – Part 4

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.” Revelation 20:11

“Abandon every hope, all you who enter here.” 1

“Those are the famous words appearing above the gates of hell in Dante’s ‘Inferno.’ According to Dante, those who pass beneath that sign will have absolutely no hope of ever getting out. Though the details of Dante’s fictional picture of heaven, hell, and purgatory range from the fantastic to the heretical, he was right about this: the final destination of the wicked is a one-way entrance. There is no hope beyond; there will be no escape from the lake of fire.” 2

For over the last two thousand years, the disturbing facts recorded in Revelation 20:11-15 describing the final judgment of all unsaved people has instilled fear, sorrow, disappointment, and even denial in believer and nonbeliever alike. No one wants to hear that eternal punishment for sin awaits those who refuse to believe in God’s only provision for sin – His perfect Son, Jesus Christ. While believers in Jesus will find themselves enjoying the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ forever (Revelation 21:1-22:21), the nonbeliever will find himself or herself forever removed from His presence (Revelation 20:11-15). The facts of eternal punishment are clearly presented without a hint of any hope – “because no hope exists apart from God.” 3 (emphasis added)

In our study of the book of Revelation, we learned that the members of the unholy trinity (Satan, the beast, and false prophet) all received their final judgment and consignment to the lake of fire forever (19:20; 20:10). Now we will see the Judge of all the earth, the Lord Jesus Christ, determine the degree of eternal punishment for every nonbeliever who has ever lived before he or she is cast into the lake of fire (20:11-15). The “rest of the dead” will “live again” (receive bodily resurrection) to receive their final judgment (20:5). 4  This is thought to be “the most serious, sobering and tragic passage in the entire Bible.” 5

The apostle John writes, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.” (Revelation 20:11). The words translated “Then I saw” (kai eidon) introduces additional information John saw in this vision (cf. 19:11, 17, 19: 20:1, 4, 12; 21:1-2). The continuation of chronological progression seems obvious from the continued use of kai often translated “And,” to introduce new information. All but one verse in this chapter begins with kai (20:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15). 6

Initially the apostle John sees “a great white throne and Him who sat on it” (20:11a). This throne is “great” because of the One Who sat on it – the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ (19:16; cf. I Timothy 6:14-16) – to Whom God the Father “has committed all judgment” (John 5:22). This throne is “white” because every verdict that proceeds from it is holy, just, pure, and righteous (cf. Psalm 97:2). 7 No one will be able dispute or reverse the final verdict and sentencing issued from this throne.

Erwin W. Lutzer writes, “We picture the scene: host beyond host, rank behind rank. The millions among the nations of the world, all crowded together in the presence of the One who sits upon the throne, the One who looks intently at each individual. We are accustomed to human judges; we know their partial and impartial verdicts. In the presence of the Almighty, all previous judgments are rendered useless. Many men and women acquitted on earth before a human judge will now be found guilty before God. Men who have been accustomed to perks, special privileges, and legal representation now stand as naked in the presence of God. To their horror they are judged by a standard that is light-years beyond them: The standard is God Himself… For the first time in their lives they stand in the presence of unclouded righteousness. They will be asked questions for which they know the answer. Their lives are present before them; unfortunately, they will be doomed to a painful, eternal existence.” 8

The location of this judgment is neither in heaven nor on earth, but in space as suggested by the statement “from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away” (20:11b). 9 The “earth” and “heaven” flee in terror from the Judge’s “face.” This portrays how serious and fearful it will be to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ at this final judgment. All of creation seeks to run away and hide, but “there was found no place for them” to escape (20:11c). 10 No unsaved person will be able to avoid this final judgment.

“Most adults have seen a courthouse, and some have probably been in a courtroom as a juror, witness, or part of a lawsuit. The scene is very imposing. Courtrooms often have high, vaulted ceilings with beautiful paintings and massive chandeliers. In the gallery the people sit on dark wooden benches with high, straight backs. The atmosphere is always serious and silent, except for a few muted whispers. Suddenly the door from the judge’s chambers opens and the bailiff enters, commanding all present to rise as the black-robed judge enters the courtroom. When the judge takes a seat behind the bar, court is in session. The parties are called, and the case begins.” 11

This scene will someday occur before the bar of the King of kings and Lord of lords somewhere between earth and heaven – only it will be multiplied times infinity. 12 Jesus Christ Himself will conduct the trial, and no one is more qualified than Him. He made provision for the salvation of every human being (cf. John 19:30; I Timothy 2:3-5). But those who rejected Him and His offer of salvation, must now be judged by Him. 13

“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before the throne, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” (Revelation 20:12). John “saw” the unbelieving “dead” from all ages of history “standing before the throne” in their resurrected bodies which are indestructible. The defendants at this final judgment of unsaved humankind will consist of the “small” or insignificant. No nonbeliever will be too unimportant to go unnoticed at this judgment. Unsaved people whose lives were barely a blip in history will be there. Nor will any unbeliever be too “great” or significant to escape judgment here. The unbelieving Alexander the Great’s, Julius Caesar’s, Stalin’s, and Hitler’s will be there. Unbelieving self-righteous religious leaders will be there. Atheists and terrible sinners will be there. Unbelieving procrastinators will be there. Unconverted church members will be there. No unsaved person will escape his or her day in God’s courtroom. 14

This multitude of defendants will be diverse in its religions. “We see Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Protestants, and Catholics. We see those who believed in one God and those who believed in many gods. We see those who refused to believe in any God at all. We see those who believed in meditation as a means of salvation and those who believed that doing good deeds was the path to eternal life. We see the moral and immoral, the priest as well as the minister, the nun as well as the missionary.” 15

Swindoll describes the unsaved at this final judgment as…

  • “Those who existed amidst creation but replaced the Creator with idols and false gods.
  • Those who turned their backs on the free grace of God in favor of a works-based religion.
  • Those who repeatedly heard the gospel of Christ but rejected Him until it was too late.
  • Those who concluded, based on logic, reason, and experience, that God doesn’t exist.
  • Those who lived out their depravity through selfishness, wickedness, and violence.” 16

This final judgment will involve the consultation of two heavenly records: the “books” and “the book of life” (20:12b). The first heavenly record (the “books”)will determine the degree of punishment for the nonbeliever in the lake of fire. These “books” contain the record of every unsaved human being’s deeds so they can be judged “according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (20:12c). 17  Since this judgment will be “according to their works,” there will be differing degrees of punishment among nonbelievers (cf. Matthew 11:20-24; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47), just as there will be varying degrees of rewards for believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 2:25-27; 22:12).

Millions if not billions of people have died thinking they are good enough to enter God’s heaven. Hence, Jesus Christ will examine all they have done throughout the course of their lives on earth and render His verdict the same for all nonbelievers: “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:20). 18

It is very important that we understand that the sinful deeds of the nonbeliever are not the basis on which the nonbeliever is consigned to the lake of fire. The basis of eternal condemnation is found in the second heavenly record: “another book was opened, which is the Book of Life” (20:12b),and it contains the names of all those who have been born spiritually into God’s family since the beginning of creation through faith in God’s promises(cf. Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 21:7). 19

Eternal condemnation in the lake of fire is not based on a person’s behavior, but on whether his or her name is written in “the book of life” (20:15). Those who believe in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life will be found to have their names written in the book of life (cf. John 3:16, 36; 5:24; et al.). They have been credited with God’s imputed righteousness because of their faith in Jesus, not because of their good works (Romans 4:5). No one will receive eternal life based on what is written in a book of deeds because everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect standard of righteousness (Romans 3:23; 6:23). 20 Hence, all nonbelievers, will not have their names written in the book of life because they were never saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone for His gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).

To have your name written in the book of life you must reject the idea that your own righteousness will gain acceptance before God. The apostle Paul wrote, “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” (Galatians 2:16). Believers in Jesus for His gift of salvation will have their names written in “the book of life” and therefore, will never receive eternal punishment based on their deeds. Hence, they will not be summoned to appear before the great white throne. 21

But all unsaved people from all ages of history will be summoned to appear at the great white throne. No high-priced lawyers will get the case postponed or dismissed on a legal technicality. No one will jump bail. Everyone who is summoned must appear. 22

“The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.” (Revelation 20:13). God will physically resurrect the bodies of all nonbelievers, and unite them with their spirits, even those bodies decomposed in “the sea.” “In the ancient world the sea was thought to be the most inaccessible place. No human could venture to the depths of the ocean. People believed that no one buried in the ocean could ever be disturbed. God makes it clear that even the most mysterious, difficult, out-of-the-way, forbidden places are fully accessible to God. The Day of Judgment is sure (Hebrews 9:27).” 23

The statement “Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them” refers to the physical bodies of the unsaved (“Death”) being joined with their souls and spirits which have been in “Hades.” 24 “Hades” is the temporary holding place of the souls and spirits of all nonbelievers until the great white throne judgment (Luke 16:23-24).

At the time of physical death during this church age, the soul and spirit are separated from the physical body, with the immaterial parts (spirit and soul) of believers going immediately into the presence of Christ in the third heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 12:1-4) and the immaterial parts (spirit and soul) of nonbelievers going to torments in Hades (Luke 16:23-24). At the Rapture of the church (I Thessalonians 4:15-17), believers’ souls and spirits will be united with glorified bodies appropriate to their eternal existence in heaven. Here in Revelation 20:12-13, nonbelievers’ souls and spirits are united with bodies suited for their eternal location. 25

John informs us a second time that all nonbelievers at the great white throne will be judged, each one according to his works.” (Revelation 20:13b). The punishment of each nonbeliever will be proportional to their sinful works. The more wickedly they behaved, the greater the degree of their punishment in the lake of fire. The charges against each nonbeliever will be read to them before their sentencing. One interpreter describes the seriousness of this judgment:

“The accused, all the unsaved who have ever lived, will be resurrected to experience a trial like no other that has ever been. There will be no debate over their guilt or innocence. There will be a prosecutor, but no defender; an accuser but no advocate. There will be an indictment, but no defense mounted by the accused; the convicting evidence will be presented with no rebuttal or cross-examination. There will be an utterly unsympathetic Judge and no jury, and there will be no appeal of the sentence He pronounces. The guilty will be punished eternally with no possibility of parole in a prison from which there is no escape.” 26

Next John tells us, “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14). From this point on there will be no more since God will cast “death and Hades… into the lake of fire.” Being “cast into the lake of fire” is described as “the second death.” “When a person is arrested for a crime, he is sent to a temporary place of punishment awaiting trial. But once that person has been tried and found guilty, he is sent to a long-term place of punishment. Hades can be conceived of as a prison to which men are temporarily assigned because they have been bound over for trial, but the lake of fire is God’s permanent prison for the eternally lost (cf. Matthew 13:40-42; 25:41; Mark 9:43-44; Jude 1:7; Revelation 21:8).” 27

Just as believers in Jesus have two births – physical and spiritual (John 3:5-6), so nonbelievers have two deaths. The first death involves separation of the soul and spirit from the physical body. The second death involves separation of the soul and spirit from God forever.

Finally, John writes, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). The “lake of fire” will be the final and eternal location of every human whose name is “not found written in the Book of Life.” Every person who dies without believing in Christ alone for everlasting life will not be “found written in the Book of Life.” The “lake of fire” is a horrible place of eternal, conscious torment (14:10-11; 20:10) received in proportion to one’s sinful “works” done in the body (cf. 20:12-13). Those who receive this eternal punishment have not necessarily committed worse sins than believers who dwell with God in His heaven. Nonbelievers are simply reaping the fruit of their sins instead of enjoying the benefits of having Christ’s perfect record credited to their accounts (cf. Roman 3:22, 24-26, 28; 4:5-8). 28

Although many Christians and non-Christians have tried to deny or avoid the biblical truth concerning eternal punishment, as far as God’s revelation is concerned there are only two destinies for human beings; one is to be with the Lord forever in His heaven (John 3:36a; Revelation 21:1-22:21) and the other is to be separated from God forever in the lake of fire (John 3:36b; Revelation 21:14-15). This solemn fact is intended to motivate Christians to take the gospel to the ends of the earth no matter what the cost and doing everything possible to inform and challenge the unsaved to believe in Christ for His free gift of eternal life before it is too late. 29

The sentencing of nonbelievers to the lake of fire forever may seem very harsh to us. Some of us may think it is unfair and inconsistent with God’s love and mercy. But we must remember that God is infinitely holy (Revelation 3:7; 4:8; 6:10; 15:4; cf. Isaiah 6:3) and just (Revelation 15:3; cf. Psalm 89:14; Isaiah 30:18). The penalty for sin must be paid (Romans 6:23). Jesus Christ Himself loved us so much He personally bore the wrath and punishment of God for human sin (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18), fully satisfying God’s demand to punish sin (I John 2:1-2).

Every person must decide to either accept Christ’s full payment for his or her sins (John 19:30) or pay the infinite price himself or herself in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). The price must be paid in full. Will we pay it ourselves in the lake of fire or will we believe in Christ and His full payment in our place? The choice is ours. Either way, God is perfectly fair and just. 30

If you do not know for sure you will live with Jesus in eternity, you can make sure right now so you can avoid eternal torment in the lake of fire. Simply believe Jesus’ promise in John 3:16: “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus is not asking you if you keep His commandments or go to church every week. Because He never said whoever keeps His commandments or goes to church every week should not perish but have everlasting life. Christ is not asking you if you pray or meditate every day because He never said whoever prays or meditates every day should not perish but have everlasting life. Nor is Jesus asking you if you persevere in good works or have been baptized with water because He never said whoever perseveres in good works or is baptized with water should not perish but have everlasting life.

No. Jesus is asking you, “Do you believe in Me?” because He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The word “believe” (pisteuō) in the New Testament means to be persuaded that something is true and therefore worthy of one’s trust. 31 When Jesus says, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” are you convinced He is telling the truth and therefore is worthy of your trust? If you are, then trust Him to give you His gift of everlasting life.

The moment you believe or trust in Jesus for eternal life – you have eternal life. It is so simple a child can do it, yet, as adults, we have made it difficult. Jesus says the person “believes” and “have.” We have what we take, correct? Jesus asks us to take the eternal life that He is freely offering to us.

For example, I sometimes illustrate faith by holding up a five-dollar bill at an evangelistic gathering. I explain to the audience that the first person who comes up to me and takes this bill from my hand can keep this bill. When someone does this, I then ask them why he or she came up. If they understand the simplicity of faith, they usually say because they believed my promise to give them the money.

Jesus Christ is saying, “I love you. I died for you. Do you believe? Will you trust Me to give you the never-ending life I bought for you with My own blood that was shed for you on the cross?” This is an invitation to believe in Jesus Christ and Him alone – not ourselves or Him plus our works. Nor is He asking us to believe in the Jesus of Islam or Hinduism or Mormonism or Jehovah Witnesses or some other religion. Christ is asking us to believe in the Jesus of the Bible.

Many people don’t believe in the lake of fire or hell, but they better be sure because no one can afford to be wrong on this issue. When we believe in Jesus, Christ promises we shall not “perish” in the lake of fire (John 3:16). This is the best news ever!

If you just believed in Christ for His gift of everlasting life, you can tell God this through prayer. You can simply say to the Lord, “Dear Jesus, I come to you now as a sinner. I cannot save myself. I believe You died for me on the cross and rose from the dead. I am now believing or trusting in You alone Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion), to give me everlasting life and rescue me forever from the lake of fire. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and for the future home I will have in Your heaven. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.”

When you believed in Jesus, He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He guarantees you will never come into judgment because He has rescued you from the lake of fire forever (John 3:16b; 5:24). God now wants to use you to tell your family and friends the good news of Jesus’ free offer of eternal life so they can be forever saved from the lake of fire the moment they believe in Jesus.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, all people have sinned against you and deserve to suffer eternal punishment and torment in the lake of fire. Yet because of Your amazing grace, we can be forever saved from the lake of fire simply by believing in Your Son who was lifted up on a cross to die in our place for our sins and then rose from the dead so whoever believes in Him should not perish in the lake of fire but have everlasting life with You in Your heaven. Because of Your great love and grace, we will not have to stand before the great white throne if we believe in Jesus. Please use us, we pray, to share this wonderful news with those who are perishing without Christ. May we be willing to do whatever it takes to share the gospel of grace with every lost person in the world today. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 366 cites Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, “Inferno,” Canto 3, retranslated by Michael J. Svigel from the Italian version of Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Inferno, vol. 1, ed. Charles Singleton, Bollingen Series 18 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970), pg. 24.

2. Ibid., pg. 367.

3. Ibid.

4. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1581.

5. Swindoll, pg. 367 cites John MacArthur, Revelation 12-22, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 2000), pg. 245.

6. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 229.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1581.

8. 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. 436 cites Erwin W. Lutzer, Your Eternal Reward: Triumph and Tears at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Chicago: Moody, 1998), pp. 164-165.

9. 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 6448.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1581.

11. Hitchcock, pg. 438.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid., pg. 439 cites David Jeremiah, Escape the Coming Night (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1997), pg. 236.

14. Hitchcock, pg. 439.

15. Ibid., cites Lutzer, Your Eternal Reward, pg. 166.

16. Swindoll, pg. 368.

17. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2419.

18. Vacendak, pg. 1581.

19. Ibid.

20. Evans, pg. 2419.

21. Swindoll, pp. 368-369.

22. Hitchcock, pg. 440.

23. Ibid.

24. Walvoord, location 6482.

25. Evans, pg. 2420.

26. Swindoll, pp. 371 cites John MacArthur, pp. 245-246.

27. Vacendak, pg. 1582.

28. Evans, pg. 2420.

29. Walvoord, location 6492.

30. Hitchcock, pg. 441.

31. 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. 816.

Revelation 20 – Part 3

7 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.” Revelation 20:7-8

The Bible makes it clear that King Jesus’ kingdom will last forever: 1 The prophet Isaiah predicts, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.” (Isaiah 9:7). The angel Gabriel announced Isaiah’s prophecy to the Virgin Mary concerning her Son, 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33). Loud voices in heaven declared, “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15). According to the prophet Daniel, the saints of the Most High God will possess this kingdom forever, But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.” (Daniel 7:18).

If Christ’s Kingdom is eternal and His saints possess it forever and ever, how can Revelation 20 say it only lasts “a thousand years” (20:1-7)? Because the Millennial Kingdom of Christ is only the first thousand years of King Jesus’ eternal reign. The peace and righteousness established by King Jesus during the first thousand years will continue forever without end. King Jesus and His faithful followers will never be dethroned. Satan and his false messiah (the beast) will never regain their thrones. The world will never again be ruled by Satan and his followers. 2 But Satan does not accept defeat easily. He is so full of deceit and pride that he convinces himself he can still overcome King Jesus at the end of Christ’s first thousand-years of His eternal reign.

7 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.” (Revelation 20:7-8). John informs us that “when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison” in the bottomless pit or Abyss. The Devil will resume his strategy of deception and “will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth” (i.e., all over the earth). 3 Satan’s plan is to “deceive” all nonbelievers represented by the words “Gog and Magog,” and “gather them together to battle” against King Jesus and His people in the city of Jerusalem (“beloved city” – 20:9; cf. Ezekiel 38:11-12). Ezekiel 38-39 informs us that “Gog” (cf. 38:2-3) will be the earthly military leader over this huge army of unbelieving people that Satan will deceive. “Magog” represents the land or nations that Gog is from (Ezekiel 38:2). 4 Here the terms are symbolic of all the enemies of God in general. 5

Even though King Jesus has been reigning perfectly in righteousness for “a thousand years,” the number of nonbelievers who rebel against Christ will “number as the sand of the sea.” 6

These people will be like people in the first century AD who followed Jesus and applauded His miracles but then yelled, ‘Crucify Him’ before Pilate (Luke 23:21). Such people will follow Jesus outwardly but have experienced no heart transformation. When Satan is released from captivity, he will not force anyone to rebel against Christ. He simply will take advantage of what’s already inside them.” 7

Who are those who follow Satan’s rebellion against King Jesus? If Christ judges all the nonbelievers left on earth after Armageddon at the Judgment of the Sheep and Goats, consigning them to the lake of fire in Matthew 25:31-46, where do the unsaved people with non-glorified bodies come from? Most likely they will come from two different groups:

1. Some will be the infants and children of the unsaved who survived Armageddon and were not confined to the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41) along with their parents because they were below the age of accountability. They enter the Millennium in natural human bodies and eventually will marry and bear children throughout the thousand-year reign of Christ (Isaiah 65:18-25). 8

2. Some will be the offspring of believers who survived the Tribulation and will enter the Millennium in their mortal bodies, able to bear children and repopulate the earth (Isaiah 65:18-25). 9

By the end of the thousand years, the world will be filled with numerous generations of descendants from both groups of Tribulation survivors many of whom believed in King Jesus and have eternal life while many others did not believe in King Jesus and will be vulnerable to Satan’s deception.

Why is Satan permitted to lead one final worldwide rebellion against the Lord? One reason is to demonstrate the incorrigibility of Satan. After one thousand years of imprisonment, the Devil had not changed for the better nor been reformed. The second reason is to demonstrate the depravity or wickedness of humanity. 10 Wiersbe writes, “As final proof that the heart of man is desperately wicked and can be changed only by God’s grace [cf. Jeremiah 17:9]. Imagine the tragedy of this revolt: people who have been living in a perfect environment, under the perfect government of God’s Son, will finally admit the truth [that they hate Him] and rebel against the King!…

“In one sense, the millennial kingdom will ‘sum up’ all that God has said about the heart of man during the various periods of history [dispensations]. It will be a reign of law, and yet law will not change man’s sinful heart. Man will still revolt against God [cf. Genesis 2:16-17]. The Millennium will be a period of peace and perfect environment, a time when disobedience will be judged swiftly and with justice; and yet in the end the subjects of the King will follow Satan and rebel against the Lord. A perfect environment cannot produce a perfect heart.“  11

Next the apostle John writes, “They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.” (Revelation 20:9). This massive army of unsaved people are deceived by Satan into believing that victory over King Jesus and His people is possible. During the thousand-year rule of Christ, many people will outwardly conform to Christ’s rulership, but inwardly their hearts will be hardened so that when Satan is released, they will harbor bitter feelings that will be ripe for the Devil’s message of false hope. 12  So, Satan and his massive army go “up on the breadth of the earth” (i.e., “the broad plain” of Palestine) 13 and surround “the camp of the saints and the beloved city” of Jerusalem from which King Jesus and His faithful followers ruled the earth.

The war that Satan masterfully planned never took place. Before a single shot is fired or blasphemous words are uttered, “fire” quickly “came down from God out of heaven and devoured” Satan’s huge army of rebels. 14

Following the destruction of Satan’s followers, “the devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10). The fact that “the beast and the false prophet are” still there a thousand years later (19:20) demonstrates that this is a place of conscious torment, not annihilation. 15 The lake of fire is a place of eternal punishment as indicated by the statement, “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” The “they” refers to the unholy trinity of the “devil… the beast and the false prophet.” When Satan was the heavenly angel named Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:11-15a), he could have remained loyal to God and avoided this horrific, eternal destiny. “But he chose his way over his Creator’s, which is always in every situation, a foolish and costly decision.” 16

It is important to understand that the judgment experienced by individuals in the lake of fire will not be identical. Instead, the judgment a person or demon receives will be in proportion to their sinful works (cf. 20:12-13). 17 In this case, “the devil” is “cast” straight “into” the same portion of the lake of fire as “the beast and the false prophet.” This unholy trinity will receive the worst punishment for their heinous sins which deceived multitudes of people to rebel against God and His promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Jesus taught that “the everlasting fire” was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). It was not prepared for people. The only way people can go to the lake of fire is by choosing the way of Satan. No one goes to hell by accident. 18 Those who refuse to believe in Jesus Christ for His gift of eternal life are sending themselves to the lake of fire. God does not send them there. They send themselves there. When a person refuses to trust Christ alone for the free gift of eternal life, they are in essence saying to God, “I reject what Jesus Christ did in my place as my Substitute.” Therefore, God has no choice but to let us pay for our own sin, through eternal separation from Him in what the Bible calls hell or the lake of fire. Those who go to hell are going there of their own choosing because they have rejected Christ and His free offer. God has not rejected them; instead, they have rejected God.

Suppose God blessed you and your spouse with a little boy. You love that little boy so much that you’d do anything for him. Forbid the thought, but suppose that when your little boy is 21, he begins a wayward life and eventually murders someone. Your state sentences him to die by lethal injection. Suppose that you could walk into his cell the morning he is to be executed and offer to take his place. That’s how great your love is for him. In so doing, you explain that he can be a free and forgiven man. Much to your surprise, he pushes you aside, walks to the table, and receives the punishment for his horrible crime himself. Did you not love him enough? Would you accept the accusation, “If you really loved your son, you wouldn’t have allowed that to happen”? Hardly! You did not reject him; he rejected you.

Many of us are grieving the tragic school shooting at Uvalde, Texas yesterday (May 24, 2022). This senseless killing of nineteen fourth grade students and two teachers has sent a shockwave across our nation. Amid the sadness, politicians are already using this tragic shooting to boost their views on gun control, as if governmental laws will prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.

Before people will change their behaviors, they must undergo a change of heart.  Governments do not change the human heart. Revelation 20:7-10 demonstrates this. Satan was bound for a thousand years, unable to deceive the nations (20:1-3) and King Jesus provided a perfect government to guide the people (20:4-6; cf. Psalm 2:6-9). Much of the world’s temptations were removed. Yet when given the opportunity at the end of the thousand years, unsaved people still rebelled against their good and gracious King (20:7-9). Why? Because the human heart is deceived and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).

The world is not getting better. The tragic Uvalde school shooting reminds us of this. You can legislate all the laws you want, but until this country gets God back into human hearts, the brokenness of our society will worsen. It does not help to blame the devil (I Peter 5:8) or the world (I John 2:15-16) alone for all this mess. The depravity of humankind is also responsible (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:9-23).

Only Jesus Christ can cleanse a desperately wicked heart and make lasting and healthy changes within a person. Christ said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35). Jesus says to look to Him (not to government, pleasure, possessions, or power) to satisfy our hunger for immortality. Look to Him to quench our thirst for eternal life. What do you do when you are hungry? You eat. What do you do when you are thirsty? You drink. Jesus says that if we come to Him in faith, we will never hunger for eternal life again. If we believe in Him, we will never thirst for eternal life again.

The moment we come to Jesus in faith, He makes us a new person inside. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When you are “in Christ” by believing in Jesus for His gift of eternal life, He gives you a new identity, and the past is gone. You’ve got potential because Jesus now lives in you through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:10-11; Galatians 2:20)!!!!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for exposing the sinfulness of our hearts by revealing what happens at the end of the Millennium when Satan is released and leads a final worldwide rebellion against the King of kings and Lord of lords only to be crushed by the Lord. The thousand-year reign of Christ sums up the total depravity of humankind. Despite a thousand years of peace and perfect government led by a perfect King Who judges disobedience swiftly and with justice, in the end people will still follow Satan and rebel against the Lord God. This proves that apart from the transforming grace of God, people are rebels to the very end, even after living a thousand years under a perfect government and a perfect King. Oh Father God, we need You to change our wicked hearts. As the songs says, “Change my heart Oh God, make it ever true. Change my heart Oh God, may I be like You.” In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 359.

2. Ibid., pp. 359-360.

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. 1580.

4. Ibid.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2418.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1580.

7. Evans, pg. 2418.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1580.

9. Swindoll, pg. 360; cf. 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 6423.

10. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 226.

11. Ibid., pg. 227 cites Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 620.

12. Swindoll, pg. 361.

13. Constable, pg. 228.

14. Swindoll, pg. 360.

15. Constable, pp. 228-229 cites David E. Aune, Revelation 17-22 Word Biblical Commentary series (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), pg. 1100; cf. Walvoord, location 6444.

16. Vacendak, pg. 1580.

17. Evans, pg. 2419. 18. Ibid.

Revelation 19 – Part 1

“After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to our God!’” Revelation 19:1

“The classic science-fiction adventure Star Wars ends with the dazzling destruction of the Death Star – a moon-sized space station that had terrorized the galaxy as a symbol of evil and tyranny. The epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings climaxes with the cataclysmic destruction of the dark tower of Mordor – the center of the demonic Dark Lord Sauron’s evil oppression.” 1

In a similar way, the obliteration of Rome (“Babylon”) represents the destruction of everything that is evil and demonic in the current world system. So, it should not surprise us when something as decadent as Rome and its religious/economic system comes to an end, all of heaven will celebrate with a jubilant chorus of hallelujahs. Even in the fictional realms of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, the victory over evil causes great rejoicing among those who are triumphant. 2

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. As the Tribulation period is coming to an end, the focus in heaven is on God and the nearness of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to earth.

The apostle John writes, “After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to our God!’” (Revelation 19:1). The phrase “After these things” (Meta tauta) refers to the events of chapter 18 and marks a new chronological development in the book of Revelation. 3 In this new vision John “heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven.” Think of a large stadium filled with enthusiastic football fans screaming at the top of their lungs when their team scores the go-ahead touchdown. In heaven, a “great multitude” of heaven’s inhabitants (possibly believers and angels) are roaring with praise toward God’s judgment of Rome.

This heavenly choir is saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to our God!” The word transliterated “Alleluia” is from the Hebrew compound word: “hallal” (praise) and “Yah” (an abbreviated form of Yahweh). 4 Hence, the word means “praise Yahweh” or “praise the Lord.” The only four occurrences of “Alleluia” in the New Testament are in this section (19:1, 3, 4, 6) although it does occur often in the Psalms. 5This is the biblical Hallelujah Chorus! 6

“Praise” “is the declaration of the glory, greatness, power, and majesty of God, and there is no such thing as silent praise. Unlike worship, which can occur quietly within a believer’s heart, praise in Scripture often is tied to our lips (e.g., Ps. 34:1; 51:15; 119:171). God is not untoward in demanding praise because He is worthy of it. Hundreds of thousands of people attend parades to celebrate championship sports teams, yet God is infinitely more worthy of celebration than any athlete.” 7

This is why we see the inhabitants of heaven crying out, “Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to our God!” Barclay notes, “The salvation of God should awaken the gratitude of man. The glory of God should awaken the reverence of man. The power of God is always exercised in the love of God, and should, therefore, awaken the trust of man. Gratitude, reverence, trust – these are the constituent elements of real praise.” 8

There are two reasons why heaven praises 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.” (Revelation 19:2). The first reason heaven praises God is because “His judgments,” including His annihilation of “the great harlot,” are “true and righteous” (19:2a). The word “true” (alēthinai) conveys that God’s judgments are totally in line with the truth of His Word. The Lord did what His Word said He would do. 9

In addition, God’s judgments are also “righteous” (dikaiai) which carries the idea that God is fair and just in carrying out these judgments. 10 For centuries, pagan and papal Rome seduced people away from the true God with her rituals and superstitions to worship false gods (“fornication”). Her worldly luxuries and pleasures had deceived the nations of the world into believing that joy, security, and meaning in life come through the accumulation of material wealth instead of through their Creator God. God was just to judge her severely for these decadent things.

The second reason God is to be praised for these judgments is because “He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her” (19:2b). Thousands of years ago, the Lordsaid He would judge those who shed the blood of His servants (cf. Deuteronomy 32:42-43), 11 and now He has fulfilled His promise by judging Rome (“her”) for killing His “servants.” For centuries, pagan and papal Rome persecuted those who proclaim the truth exposing her materialistic and idolatrous false religion. History shows that the Roman Catholic Church has shed the blood of many believers and victims of the Crusades and Roman Inquisition. 12But the height of Rome’s hostility toward God’s people will take place during the Tribulation period when she vehemently opposes God’s people on the earth. Rebellious humankind who witnessed God’s judgments blasphemed His name (cf. Revelation 16:9, 11, 21); but the heavenly multitude praised Him because His wrath was “true and righteous.” 13

Another burst of praise breaks forth from the heavenly multitude. “Again they said, ‘Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!’” (Revelation 19:3). This encore heightens the first burst of praise.14All of heaven praises God a second time for the finality (“rises up forever and ever”)of Rome’s destruction (“her smoke”). Never again will Rome be able to shed the blood of God’s people.

A third burst of praise for God takes place next in heaven. “And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, ‘Amen! Alleluia!’” (Revelation 19:4). The “twenty-four elders” representing the church in heaven (see comments on 4:1-4) and “the four living creatures” representing angelic beings (see comments of 4:6-8), “fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne,” which is evidently God the Father. Both these groups were crying out, “Amen! Alleluia!” In saying “Amen” (lit., “so be it”), they were giving their wholehearted agreement to the praise already given to God. 15 By shouting “Alleluia,” they were giving God their own praise for His “true and righteous” judgments.

As we have looked at the great mourning that will take place on the earth for Rome’s (“Babylon”) destruction (Revelation 18:9-24) and then the great celebration that will take place in heaven (Revelation 19:1-4), we are reminded that God is still worthy of praise no matter what we face in life.

All God’s decisions are “true and righteous” 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). 16 He is honored when we return to Him, when we release our worries to Him, and when we rest in Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, what a contrast You have shown us between the mourning of the people on earth after Rome’s destruction and the celebration of the inhabitants of heaven. The difference is on each group’s focus. Those on the earth were paying attention to what was lost. But those in heaven were focused on what they had – a God Who is worthy of all praise. Father, whether our lives are filled with grief or gladness, You alone deserve our praise. Thank You for reminding us of this today. May we live our lives focused on who You are and what You have done. In the mighty name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 330.  

2. Ibid.

3. 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 6190.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2413.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 203.

6. Walvoord, location 6200.

7. Evans, pg. 2413.

8. Constable, pg. 203 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John, Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible Series, 2nd Ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 218.

9. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1571.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. “Bill Salus on Mystery Babylon video on the August 26, 2018, Christ in Prophecy show.

13. Vacendak, pg. 1571.

14. Constable, pg. 203.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1571.

16. Swindoll, pg. 333.

Revelation 18 – Part 2

“They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’” Revelation 18:19

When my wife and I drive through the countryside, we like to play a game that involves choosing our favorite houses and dreaming of what it would be like to live in them. I especially like the log cabin look far from the road surrounded by trees on the west and north to protect the occupants from Iowa’s cold winter winds. My imagination makes changes to the appearance of the house and its location. The biggest change I want to make is the owner. It should be me!

Perhaps your dream is not some house. When it comes to luxuries, we have all kinds of options for channeling our envy. Yours might be a swimming pool in the backyard, exquisite furnishings in your living room, a powerful V-8 with four on the floor, an expensive antique, a mountain cabin, a trip to Paris, the latest electronic device, or a flawless gem. The list of potential luxuries is without end. When it comes to possessing the luxurious, our imaginations have no limits. 1

God never directly forbids luxuries. The apostle Paul said he had learned “to live in prosperity… being filled and… of having abundance” (Philippians 4:12 NASB). By themselves, prosperity, fullness, and luxury are not sinful. It is when these things begin to possess us that we find ourselves guilty of Babylon’s allurement. Like the farmer in Luke 12:16-21 who thought “life” was found in his possessions instead of in his relationship with God. Jesus said that man was a fool because he was rich toward the things of the world but poor in his relationship with the Lord. This man looked to his material wealth for peace and security. He focused on the gift instead of the Giver. 2 And we can be prone to do the same. Instead of focusing on what is temporary, we need to focus on what is eternal. This is the primary lesson God wants us to learn from Revelation 18.

Last time, we learned several reasons why the worldwide false religious and economic system called “Babylon,” the code name for Rome (Revelation 14:8; 16:19-21; 17:1, 9, 18; cf. I Peter 5:13), would be swiftly destroyed by the ten kings and beast (17:16-17) during the last half of the Tribulation period (18:1-9). God hates the shameless pride and self-reliance that led Rome to reject God’s ways. Hence, the Lord will severely and swiftly judge this city for her decadent influence upon the nations and leaders of the world.

Following the message from heaven (18:1-9), John now focuses on a new message from the earth which included three groups that grieved the destruction of Rome (18:10-19). The first group is world leaders. 9 The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, 10 standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’” (Revelation 18:9-10). As mentioned last time, Vacendak suggests that Rome’s destruction“will be by means of a nuclear warhead… Kings, merchants, and shipmasters will all stand ‘at a distance’ when they see ‘the smoke of her burning.’ The desire to keep a certain distance between themselves and the mushroom cloud of smoke billowing up to heaven may indicate their fear of the nuclear radiation that now envelops the city.” 2

World government leaders (“the kings of the earth”) will grieve when they see the destruction of Rome whose sensuality and wealth had sustained them and enabled them to live luxuriously. They were in shock that such a “great… mighty city” could be destroyed in such a short amount of time (“in one hour”)! This city was great and mighty, but its Judge was greater and mightier!

The second group mourning Rome’s destruction is merchants. 11 And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: 12 merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; 13 and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.” (Revelation 18:11-13). The word “merchants” (emporoi) refers to “one who travels by ship for business reasons.” 3 These businessmen grieve over the loss of customers and profits that Rome’s destruction causes.

The wailing of these merchants is greater than that of the kings (18:9-10) and ocean travelers (18:17b-19) because their loss is greater. The variety of goods that are listed here suggests how extensive the trade will be at this time in history (18:12-13). Most of the things listed by John were luxuries in his day. Constable identifies “eight categories into which these twenty-nine items fall.

“These categories are: (1) precious metals and gems (gold and silver, precious stones and pearls”), (2) clothing (“fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet”), (3) furnishings (“citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble”), (4) spices (“cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense”), (5) food (“wine and oil, fine flour and wheat”), (6) animals (“cattle and sheep, horses”), (7) implements (“chariots”), (8) people (“bodies and souls of men”).” 4

“Persons are ‘bought and sold’ (and even traded!) by athletic teams; and our great corporations more and more seek to control the lives of their officers and workers. As people become more enslaved to luxury, with more bills to pay, they find themselves unable to break loose from the ‘system.’” 5

These merchants had become wealthy by selling Rome’s religious paraphernalia and by engaging in slave trade for the “bodies and souls of men” (18:12-13). 6 Now their source of wealth and luxury was all gone. “The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have been lost to you, and you shall find them no more at all.” (Revelation 18:14). The “fruit” these merchants “longed for” was no longer available to them. The words “rich” (liparos) and “splendid” (lampros) refer to food and clothing respectively. 7 The extravagant lifestyle Rome once provided was no longer possible for these businessmen. The phrase “shall find them no more at all” contains two doubt negatives in the Greek text (outketi ou mē), emphasizing that these luxurious things these merchants craved will never ever return. 8

God’s destruction of wealth in this case should not be taken to mean God condemns wealth in general. There are many wealthy people in the Bible who walked with God – Abraham, Job, Joseph, and Solomon to mention a few. In the case of Solomon, the Bible clearly says that great wealth is a gift and reward from God (2 Chronicles 1:11-12). What the Bible condemns is the love of money or being controlled by it (I Timothy 6:10). The more God blesses us, the more grateful and worshipful we should be toward Him. But in the case of Babylon (Rome), wealth led to self-centeredness and a rejection of God. 9

That Rome’s wealth controlled the merchants of the world during the Tribulation is evident in their response to the destruction of Rome’s luxurious possessions.15 The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, 16 and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! 17 For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’” (Revelation 18:15-17a). These merchants are not mourning the loss of human life or the swift removal of other people’s income, but that “in one hour such great riches came to nothing.” 10 Possessions were far more important to them than people.

A third group that grieves Rome’s destruction is the ocean travelers. 17b Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance 18 and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’” (Revelation 18:17b-18). There are four groups of ocean travelers represented by: “shipmaster” (ship captains and other ship crew officers), “all who travel by ship” (passengers), “sailors” (ship crewmen under the crew officers), and “as many as trade on the sea,” such as fishermen and divers for pearls. 11 These ocean travelers are of special interest here because they represent sea merchants and shipping companies, being the shippers and distributors of Rome’s luxurious possessions. 12 Like the merchants of the earth (18:10, 15), they too are all standing “at a distance” from Rome due to the fear of nuclear radiation enveloping the city from the nuclear warhead explosion (18:17b).

These ocean travelers grieve deeply because of the collapse of this great economic empire which they thought was invincible as their question (“What is like this great city?”) implies (18:18).

“They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’” (Revelation 18:19). In the Old Testament, throwing dust on one’s head represented great grief (Joshua 7:6; I Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 1:2; 13:19; 15:32; Job 2:12; Lamentations 2:10). 13 The ocean travelers and tradesmen express the same laments as the kings (18:10) and merchants (18:15-17).

Just in case anyone might think this swift economic destruction is mere happenstance, John makes its source clear: 14 “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!” (Revelation 18:20). The angel instructs God’s people in “heaven,” including “saints” (all believers), “apostles” (who were martyred), “and prophets” (those who received and proclaimed divine revelation),to “rejoice over” Rome’s destruction because “God has avenged” them. The greed of nonbelievers to accumulate wealth for themselves resulted in countless opposition to the gospel and God’s servants throughout history. 15 God was now repaying the greedy oppressors of His people through the destruction of the city of Rome – the source of their income and luxury.

In his first epistle, the apostle John writes, 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” (I John 2:15-16). When John speaks of “the world,” he is not talking about planet earth. He is referring to an organized system under the authority of Satan that desensitizes us to God and His Word (cf. John 14:30; Ephesians 2:2). If, as a believer in Jesus, you “love the world,” you lose intimate fellowship with God. We love the world when it controls our affections and guides our choices by getting us to exclude God from our lives. 16

What does the world promise us if we love it? First, it promises to satisfy legitimate desires in illegitimate ways (“the lust of the flesh”). For example, eating is a legitimate desire; but gluttony is worldly. Sex is a legitimate desire; but outside of marriage it is worldly. 17

Second, the world tempts our minds through what our eyes behold (“the lust of the eyes”). The Bible calls this covetousness which is desiring and pursuing that which is not legitimate for us to have 18 – such as our neighbor’s possessions, livestock, and spouse.

Third, there is “the pride of life” which involves living to impress others. 19 What those in love with the world forget is that “the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (I John 2:17). The world and its lusts are transient. The world makes the “now” more important than eternity.

As believers in Jesus, we are passing through, and the world is passing away. The cost of loving the world is the loss of personal intimacy with God (“he who does the will of God abides forever”). The term “abides” is a fellowship term in John’s writings (John 8:31; 15:4-7, 9-10; I John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 24, 27-28; 3:6, 14, 17, 24; 4:12-13, 15-16; et. al). The believer in Jesus who loves the world will still be with God in heaven in the future, but he will not enjoy heaven nearly as much because he wasted his opportunities to love God while he was on earth. Instead, he invested his life in what is temporary instead of in what is eternal.

But the believer who is doing “the will of God” possesses a lifestyle that will not be interrupted by the passing away of this world. He experiences uninterrupted fellowship or intimacy with God. He will experience “boldness” at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I John 2:28; 4:17) where the eternal worth of his earthly life will be evaluated (I Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). However, the believer who lives out of fellowship with the Lord does not “abide” forever in that his worldly lifestyle will be radically interrupted when he goes to heaven. His worldly lifestyle will not abide forever. It stops at heaven’s gates. But a dedicated lifestyle to Christ really has no ending.

How do we see the wealth and luxury of this world? Do we see it as it truly is? Can we use it without it controlling our lives? How would we feel if the luxuries in our lives which we have considered to be necessities suddenly went up in smoke? Would it deeply grieve our hearts to suddenly see the things of this world go up in smoke? Or is our heart focused on Christ in heaven? 20

Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your Word which brings us back to You. Satan has designed this world to draw us away from You. We can often become so focused on what is temporary that we lose sight of what is eternal. Thank You for reminding us that our lives here on earth are intended to prepare us for eternity with You. Please help us to focus on the Giver and not the gift. By Your Spirit working in and through us, we pray that each of us would establish an eternal identity that outlasts this present world system as we learn to do Your will. Use our time, talents, and treasures to advance Your gospel of grace around the world so more people can discover the abundant life that Christ came to give. In Jesus’ mighty name, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 325.

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. 1568.

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. 325.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 198.

5. Ibid., cites Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 615.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1569.

7. Constable, pg. 199 cites Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John 2nd Ed., (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pg. 235 and R. H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John Vol. 2, International Critical Commentary series (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), pg. 108.

8. Ibid., cites Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. 6 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 442.

9. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2412.

10. Ibid.

11. Constable, pg. 199 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 339.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid., pg. 200.

14. Evans, pg. 2412.

15. Constable, pg. 200.

16. Evans, pg. 2337.

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. Constable, pg. 200 cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 5 (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), pg. 1041.

Revelation 14 – Part 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1553.

3. Constable, pg. 161.

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

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

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

7. Ibid., pg. 40.