Revelation 22 – Part 1

“And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Revelation 22:1

After focusing primarily on the glorious external appearance and materials of the New Jerusalem on the new earth (21:1-27), the apostle John is directed by the angel to the interior of the New Jerusalem which will nourish and enrich the lives of God’s redeemed people (22:1-5). 1

McGee writes, “Up to this chapter, the New Jerusalem seems to be all mineral and no vegetable. Its appearance is as the dazzling display of a fabulous jewelry store; we wonder if there is no soft grass to sit upon, no green trees to enjoy, and no water to drink or food to eat. However, here are introduced the elements which add a rich softness to this city of elaborate beauty.” 2

“And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Revelation 22:1). The phrase, “And he showed me” (kai edeixen moi) indicates a new aspect of the Celestial City that John’s guiding angel proceeds to show him. John sees a literal “river of water of life” that is “clear as crystal.” Since “there was no more sea” on the new earth (21:1), water will be supplied by this river. 3 This river is described as bright or “clear as crystal” because it was “shimmering like mountain water over the rocks” 4 and “sparkling” like a stream of unpolluted water. 5

In this section the apostle John is describing Paradise Restored which includes a river, the tree of life, fruit, and God’s presence (22:1-3). In the original Paradise, the Garden of Eden, there was a river that watered the garden (Genesis 2:10), a tree of life (Genesis 2:9b), fruit (Genesis 2:16; 3:2-3), and God’s presence (Genesis 2:15-25; 3:8). When Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-6), this original Paradise was lost. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden so they could not eat from the tree of life and live forever in unglorified bodies (Genesis 3:22-24). 6 From that moment on, humanity began to decline into disharmony, disease, and eventual death.” 7

But now in the final stage of heaven, we see the original Paradise is restored. This life-giving and pristine river in the New Jerusalem flows “from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1b). Notice that there is one “throne” that is shared by “God” the Father and God the Son (“of the Lamb”). This is important to observe because it helps us understand what is meant in I Corinthians 15:24 which says, “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” When the Lord Jesus “delivers the kingdom to God the Father,“ it does not mean Christ’s reign on the throne ceases, but that it will change its character. Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords forever. 9

This river that flows from God’s throne suggests not only physical refreshment for God’s people throughout eternity, but also everlasting enjoyment of God and His eternal life flowing to His people as well. We were told in Revelation 7,15 Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. 16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to fountains of the water of life. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (7:15-17). Throughout eternity, the Lamb of God will be the source of experiencing and enjoying eternal life or “the water of life” (21:6; 22:1, 17; cf. John 4:10, 14; 7:37-39; I John 5:20).  The water that flows from God’s throne in the New Jerusalem will cause the tree of life to grow and produce different fruit each each month (22:1-2). Both the fruit and the water will enhance the lives of those who consume them. 10

Alcorn adds, “Notice that the source of this powerful stream is the throne of God, occupied by the Lamb. He’s the source of all natural beauties and wonders. They derive their beauty from the Artist. The great river reflects His thirst-quenching, need-satisfying nature. He always meets His people’s needs and fulfills their longings.

“On the New Earth, we won’t have to leave the city to find natural beauty. It will be incorporated into the city, with the river of life as its source. The river flows down the city’s main street. Likely it has countless tributaries flowing throughout the rest of the city. Can you picture people talking and laughing beside this river, sticking their hands and faces down into the water and drinking? This fully accessible natural wonder on the city’s main street is amazing – something that would be featured in any travel brochure.” 11

“In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2). This life-giving river flowing from God’s throne runs down “the middle of” the New Jerusalem’s very broad “street.” Each “side of the river” is lined with “the tree of life,” which we were told earlier is located “in the midst of the Paradise of God” which is the New Jerusalem (Revelation 2:7). 12

These trees lining the riverbank will bear “twelve” different “fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month.” While most fruit trees on the current earth only bear fruit a few months of the year at most, these trees will produce fruit all year long. 13

Notice also that there will be a sense of time in heaven. The Bible says each of the trees will produce fruit “every month.” Many people think there will be no sense of time in God’s heaven. A theologian argued, “What a relief and what joy to know that in heaven there will be no more time.” 14 Someone else wrote, “Heaven will be a place where time will stand still.” 15

The book of Revelation contains many other references to time in heaven. The descriptions of worship in heaven include successive actions, such as falling down at God’s throne and casting crowns before Him “whenever” the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne (4:9-11). There is a sequence of events; things happen one after the other, not all at once. Martyrs in heaven are told to “rest a little longer” when they asked “How long” before God would avenge their deaths (6:10-11). Believers in heaven could not ask “how long” or be told to “rest a little longer” unless time passes in heaven. God’s people in heaven “serve Him day and night in His temple” (7:15). Revelation 8:1 says, “There was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” The inhabitants of heaven sing (5:9-12) which requires a sense of time. 16 “Meter, tempo, and rests are all essential components of music, and each is time related. Certain notes are held longer than others. Songs have a beginning, middle, and end. That means they take place in time.” 17

“How can Scripture be any more clear about time in Heaven? (Right down to silence in Heaven for half an hour.) To say we’ll exist outside of time is like saying we’ll know everything. It confuses eternity with infinity. We’ll live for eternity as finite beings. God can accommodate to us by putting Himself into time, but we can’t accommodate to Him by becoming timeless. It’s not in us to do so because we’re not God.” 18

Alcorn astutely observes, “People imagine time is an enemy because the clock seems to move so slowly when we’re having a root canal and so quickly when we’re doing what we love. But time isn’t the problem, the Curse is. Time isn’t the enemy, death is (I Corinthians 15:26). Time predated sin and the Curse. When the Curse is lifted, time will remain. Without the Curse, time will never work against us. We won’t run out of it. Time will bring gain, not loss. The passing of time will no longer threaten us. It will bring new adventures without a sense of loss for what must end.

“We’ll live with time, no longer under its pressure. When we see God face-to-face, time will pass, but we’ll be lost in Him. We’ll be busy exploring His universe, working on projects, fellowshipping with Him and each other, listening to and telling great stories. We’ll delight in time because it’s part of what God calls ‘very good.’ It’s a dimension in which we’ll enjoy God.

“When we say good-bye in Heaven, we’ll know people won’t die before we see them next. Time will no longer be an hourglass in which the sands go from a limited past to a limited future. Our future will be unlimited. We’ll no longer have to ‘number our days’ (Psalm 90:132) or redeem the time, for time won’t be a diminishing resource about to end.” 19

Since consumption of this fruit from the tree of life is an eternal reward, only overcoming believers – those who remained faithful to Christ to the end – will have the right to eat this fruit (2:7; cf. 2:10, 25-27; 22:12,14). 20 This fruit will give life-enhancing properties which will give overcoming believers additional energy or capacity to fulfill their responsibilities, including ruling on the new earth.

“It will reward those who overcome with a special privilege, an enhanced intimacy with God. The original tree of life would have provided immortality on earth in mankind’s natural bodies had Adam not sinned and been expelled (Genesis 3:22). This future tree of life will provide an enhanced experience of life in the new heavens and the new earth.” 21

Since the tree of life will produce fruit monthly throughout all eternity, “it seems possible… to understand participation in the tree of life and eating of this monthly fruit as a picture of the regular experience of fellowshipping with God. It is inconceivable that a Christian, in whom eternal life dwells, must continually eat from a tree to obtain final entrance into heaven or maintain his presence there. Therefore, eating of the tree of life cannot refer to regeneration.

“It is impossible that the tree of life refers to final entrance into heaven. Why? Because we are told in Revelation 2:5 that the condition for obtaining the right to eat of this tree is based upon ‘doing,’ that is, on works. Final salvation comes to us by faith alone apart from works. In Revelation 22:19, Jesus says that if anyone takes away from the words of the prophecy, ‘God will take away his portion (Gr meros) from the tree of life and from the city.’” 22

Marty Causley notes, “Obviously one cannot lose something one does not have… Genuine believers are in danger of losing their right to this tree; unbelievers have no right to this tree to lose.” 23

Barnhouse correctly states, “Some have said that eating from the tree of life was the equivalent of receiving eternal life, but this is most evidently a false interpretation. Eternal life is the prerequisite for membership in the true Church. Eating of the tree of life is a reward that shall be given to the overcomer in addition to his salvation…. He receives over and above his entrance into eternal life, a place in the Heavens in the midst of the paradise of God.” 24

John also says, “The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (21:2b).  An additional function of the tree of life is for its “leaves” to provide “healing of the nations.” Keep in mind that “the nations” outside the New Jerusalem consist of believers from before and after the Church Age, some of whom will not have resurrected or glorified bodies. These will be sinless believers, much like Adam and Eve before they sinned, who descended from infants and children that survived the Tribulation period. 25 Even though there will be no more disease or death on the new earth because of sin, it may still be possible for these people who do not have glorified resurrected bodies to be injured or hurt. The leaves of the tree of life will bring healing and restoration to these people.

The Greek word for “healing” (therepeia) means “health-giving” and is where the English word “therapeutic” is derived from. 26  Hence, it is possible that these leaves will enhance the well being of all believers on the new earth in some way.

Next John informs us, “And there shall be no more curse.” (Revelation 22:3a). To help us understand what this means, think about what the earth would have been like if Adam and Eve had not sinned. They would have been fruitful and multiplied and filled the earth with billions of people since there would have been no death (Genesis 1:26-28).  Eternity would have taken place on a glorious earth that was free from sin and its consequences. 27

If Adam and Eve had not sinned, there would have been no “curse” on the ground (Genesis 3:16-19). Adam and his descendants would have enjoyed satisfying caretaking of the earth. There would have been no “thorns and thistles.” Imagine not having to toil or sweat trying to remove unwanted plants (weeds)! No one would have returned “to the ground” in death.

Had Adam and Eve not sinned there would also have been no curse (Genesis 3:16) on conception (menstrual cycle) and childbirth so women could have conceived and eventually given birth to children without the pain and discomfort of the curse (cf. Isaiah 65:17-23).

The point is this earth would be where humankind would have lived eternally if Adam and Eve had not sinned. 28 Certainly, it would be much better than this current earth. This planet has changed drastically since Noah’s flood. But if the first man and woman had not disobeyed God, this earth would be perfect.

God is telling us that the new earth and the New Jerusalem will be like the Garden of Eden before the Fall (Genesis 2) revisited with the river of life providing refreshment for all of God’s people and the tree of life providing special enhancement for faithful believers to rule with Christ (22:1-2; cf. 2:7, 25-27; 3:12, 21; 22:12, 14).

Revelation 22:1-3a shows that what Genesis 3:8 anticipated will be realized on the new earth – walking with the Lord Jesus in the cool of the day in the garden. The Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, “will live with us forever, but not on a fallen earth, but a new and unfallen earth.” 29 An earth that “will be free from death, sin, disease, a ground that fights us, wild animals, pests, etc.” 30 This is going to be a spectacular place to live forever!

Do you want the New Jerusalem and new earth to be your future home? Listen to what Jesus said on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles during His earthly ministry: 37 If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38). Only thirsty people drink. God has created us with a built-in need for Him. We are all born with a thirst for God—a longing to know God. For some, there is a deep thirst for significance. They want to feel like they are important and belong. That they are somebody. People whom society overlooks – those who are not wealthy, or handsome, or have strong personalities – thirst to be regarded as important. Some are looking for power – the ability to accomplish things. Jesus says to such, “If that is what you want, come to Me. Enter a personal relationship with Me,” Jesus says, “And your thirst for power and significance will be satisfied forever.”

Have you ever really been thirsty? When you are thirsty, there is not much else you can think about. When you are thirsty, you cannot get it out of your mind. That is what Jesus means. If you feel yourself driven, wanting something, restless and thirsty and longing for satisfaction, then His invitation is, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” Regardless of your background, color, culture, education, intelligence, past, or social status, Jesus says to come to Him for eternal satisfaction. It is free. You don’t have to pay a cent. You simply come to Christ as you are.

The way to come to Christ is by faith alone apart from any good works. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38). To “believe” in Jesus means to be convinced that He is speaking the truth here and is therefore trustworthy. And then trust Him for your eternal destiny.

Years ago, three men were fishing on the Broadback River in northern Quebec. A violent storm arose, and gale force winds overturned their canoe. The men knew they couldn’t save themselves. They noticed the large ice chest that had been in the canoe now floating on the water. They pulled the ice chest underneath them, rested their weight upon it and trusted it to save them. It did.

What Jesus is saying is we are to come to Him just as we are – as sinners, understanding that He died in our place to take the punishment for all our sins and rose again, so that all we must do is believe in Him alone for His gift of salvation. The moment a person believes in Christ alone for everlasting life, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

What “Scripture” is Jesus thinking of? I agree with Hodges who argues that it refers to Ezekiel’s vision of the future Millennial Temple in Ezekiel 47. 31 “Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east…south of the altar… it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep… And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live” (Ezekiel 47:1, 5, 9).  Ezekiel is talking about the Temple of God in the future thousand-year reign of Christ on earth.

The waters of Ezekiel’s prophecy have similar properties as the rivers Jesus speaks of, “And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live.” (Ezekiel 47:9). Those waters are properly described as living waters. This will be a life-giving river that flows from the Temple in the future Millennial Kingdom that will bring blessings to all it reaches.

If the Millennial Temple was to become the source of living, healing waters, could the destiny of those who believe in Christ be any different? Jesus tells us that when we come to Him as we are and believe in Him for His gift of eternal life, out of our innermost being will flow “rivers,” not just a river, of living water. The great thing about what Jesus offers is that it will never run dry. We will always have more than we need. When we are filled with the water Jesus offers, it does not stop with us. It gushes out of us! It keeps coming and touches those that we touch. We become, pipes, so to speak – pipes for Jesus – that in effect, allow Christ’s living water to flow through us to others. We are former thirsty people who now show thirsty people how to get a drink. God wants these rivers of living water to flow out of our lives and bless others.

When we come to Jesus, and He more than satisfies our spiritual thirst, we start to show concern for others. The satisfaction that we found in Christ leads us to reach out to needy people around us and to minister to them. Why not be a pipe for Jesus and let His blessings flow through you as you step out in faith to share the gospel with those who don’t have Christ in their lives? Be the channel through which the unsaved can discover how much God loves them and wants to bless them with eternal life. God saved you so that you can become a blessing to others as His rivers of living water flow through you to satisfy the needs of other people.

Those who believe in Christ will be able to experience the supreme blessing of Paradise on the new earth. On the new earth in the New Jerusalem, a river of living waters will flow from the throne of God the Father and God the Son, not from a temple. God will then reside with His people on the new earth forever and we will experience a new earth that is totally free from the Curse.

Prayer: Gracious Lord Jesus, thank You so much for this incredible description of our future home in the New Jerusalem on the new earth. This experience will be much like the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve sinned. There will be a river, a tree of life, fruit, and most importantly – You! We will get to experience what Genesis 3:8 anticipated – walking with You in the cool of the day in the garden. Thank You for reminding us that the fruit of the tree of life is an eternal reward for those who remain faithful to You to the end of their lives on this earth. Please grant us the grace to faithfully serve You now so we can experience in the New Jerusalem this life-enhancing fruit and a deeper intimacy with You. And may each of us who believe in You be the channel through which the unsaved can discover how much You love them and want to bless them with eternal life. In Your matchless name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 246.

2. Ibid., 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. 1075.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2423.

4. 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 230548.

5. Constable, pg. 246.

6. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 78.

7. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 392.

8. Evans, pg. 2423.

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), Kindle Location 6622.

10. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1526-1527, 1587.

11. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 361.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1587.

13. Constable, pg. 247.

14. Alcorn, pg. 376 cites Rene Pache, The Future Life (Chicago: Moody, 1971), pg. 357.

15. Ibid., cites Salem Kirban, What is Heaven Like? (Huntingdon Valley, Pa.: Second Coming, 1991), pg. 35.

16. Alcorn, pp. 377-378.

17. Ibid., pg. 378.  

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid., pp. 379-380.

20. Vacendak, pg. 1587; Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 678.

21. Dillow, pg. 679.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid., cites Marty Cauley, The Outer Darkness 2 Vols. (Sylva, NC: Misthological Press, 1231 Monteith Branch Road, 2012), pg. 510.

24. Ibid., cites Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Last Word: Revelation; an Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), pp. 43-44. For a similar view see Richard R. Benedict, “The Use of Nikaō in the Letters to the Seven Churches of Revelation” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1966), pg. 11.

25. Vacendak, pg. 1586; cf. Evans, pg. 2423.

26. Walvoord, Kindle Location 6629 to 6633; Constable, pg. 247.

27. Wilkin, Road to Reward, pg. 94.

28. Ibid., pg. 95.

29. Ibid., pg. 96.

30. Ibid.

31. Zane C. Hodges, “Rivers of Living Water – John 7:37-39,” Bibliotheca Sacra 136:543 (July-September 1979), pp. 239-248.

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 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 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.

Come Home

“But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” Luke 15:20b

Do you ever have a disconnect from the way God is portrayed in the Bible and your perception of God based on your own experiences or feelings? We may think that God will resemble our parents or authority figures from our childhood (cf. Psalm 50:21). For example, if you had a rigid and perfectionistic father or father figure, you could never measure up to his demands no matter how hard you tried. Because of this, you view God as Someone who is impossible to please. He does not forgive nor forget sins. And when you mess up!?! Watch out! His cruel side is manifested. He seems to delight in sending financial disaster or physical disease to emphasize His intolerance of your spiritual failures. Understandably, it is difficult for you to approach God and experience His forgiveness and love when you have this kind of distorted view of Him.

The Bible gives us a beautiful picture of God the Father in Luke 15. When “all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to” Jesus to listen to His teaching, the religious leaders of Israel were critical of Christ for associating with spiritual outcasts (Luke 15:1-2). Christ responds by telling three parables (parable = an earthly story that teaches spiritual truth) to teach these religious leaders that when a sinner returns to God it is reason for celebrating instead of complaining (15:3-32).

After telling parables about a lost sheep and a lost coin, Jesus tells a parable about the love of a father toward his two sons (Luke 15:11-32). The youngest son asked for his “portion” of his father’s inheritance, and the father graciously gave both sons theirs (15:12). Normally in the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day, the inheritance did not pass to the heirs until the death of the father. To request it prior to the father’s death, was like wishing for the father to die. The youngest son then “journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living” (15:13). When a “severe famine” came to that land, the son “began to be in want” because of his wasteful living (15:14). He got a job in the fields feeding “swine,” which is something any self-respecting Jew would only do out of desperation (15:14-15). The son had sunk so low that he longed to eat pig’s food because “no one gave him anything” to eat (15:16).

Have you ever wasted the resources God has given you? Just as the youngest son “wasted his possessions with prodigal living” (15:13), so also when we stray away from God, we waste the the resources God has placed in our possession. Time spent out of touch with God is an enormous waste of time, energy, strength, ability, and opportunity. When we are restored to the Lord, we may experience profound regret for what has been wasted during our time of separation from God. This is especially true when the separation has lasted for years, as it sometimes does.

I wonder how many of us have ever wandered so far away from God that we were willing to do anything just to survive? But no matter where we turned, we could not find one person on earth who showed us any compassion. We were all alone and destitute. Our stomach and our soul were empty. We may cry out, “Where are you God!?! Why have you abandoned me!?!” This is the place the youngest son had come to. Thankfully the story does not end there.

At this point of absolute brokenness, the son “came to himself” (15:17). He repented or changed his mind and decided to “go” back to his father (15:18a). He planned to confess his sin and his unworthiness to be his father’s son (15:18a-19a), and then ask to be one of his father’s “hired servants” because he knew his father paid his servants well (15:19b; cf. 15:17). This son thought he would have to work for His father’s love and acceptance.

How many of us perceive our Father in heaven to be this way? We think that when we fail God spiritually, the only way He could ever accept us and love us is to pay for our own sins with self-hatred and condemnation? We may rehearse in our minds what we will do for God before we approach Him. We assume that the only way God will ever accept us and forgive us is to work so hard or punish ourselves so much, God will eventually have compassion for us and forgive us.

This kind of thinking fails to understand the heart of our heavenly Father. Nor is this thinking from the Lord. It is from the father of lies (John 8:44) who delights in accusing God’s children (Revelation 12:10). When we fail, Satan whispers in our ear, “This is how God thinks of you. He thinks you are unloveable and unforgivable. He thinks you are worthless and pathetic. The only way He could possibly ever forgive you or love you is for you to do this and this and this and this…” These lies drive us deeper into a pit of shame, isolating us from God.

But let’s take a look at the father’s response when his son returns home. “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (15:20). When the father “saw” his prodigal son coming home from “a great way off,” it suggests he was continually watching and waiting for his son’s return. He longed for his son to come home. This is the way God is with us when we wander away from Him. He leaves the porch light on every night, looking for our return.

The father did not reject his son by running into the house and locking the doors. He did not scold or condemn his repentant wayward son. Instead, he “had compassion” on his son. This shows that the father had some knowledge of his son’s immorality and misfortunes – probably from reports about him (cf. 15:13, 30). He empathized with his son’s brokenness and need for acceptance and love after his wayward journey. God is also this way with us. He is not quick to criticize or condemn us because He knows our weaknesses and how much we need His mercy and grace when we have failed (cf. Psalm 103:11-14).

When the father “ran” out toward his son, this was very unusual for any Jewish father to do. It was not acceptable for him to run out like that in the Jewish culture of that day. But in the father’s eagerness to restore his son to fellowship, the father ran to him while he was “still a great way off.” This was the father’s way of preserving his son’s dignity. By this time, all the neighbors knew how the son had wasted his inheritance on prostitutes (15:13, 30). So instead of letting his son walk by these gossiping neighbors by himself when he was most vulnerable to discouragement, the father runs out to his son to walk beside him as a show of his love and acceptance of him. Surely, no one would speak poorly of his son if he were to walk with him all the way home.

God is that way with us. He is not apathetic and cold toward us when we fail. He does not abandon us when we return home to Him. He is not bound by culturally acceptable expressions of love and forgiveness. He is eager to forgive us and restore us to fellowship or closeness with Him. He wants to restore our dignity which had been lost by our shameful choices and actions. While Christian peers or churches may shun us or speak down to us after we have failed the Lord, God is the first to run out to us and shoulder our brokenness and restore our closeness with Him. He will protect us from the accusations and condemnation of others.

When the father “fell on his neck” he embraces and hugs his repentant son. Then the father “kissed him” which was a friendly sign of greeting like a warm handshake in American culture. This is a very affectionate reception from the father. Imagine how this young man must have felt?! Before he could begin his rehearsed speech, he already had his father’s total unconditional love and acceptance. Likewise, God is not cold and calculating toward his repentant children. He embraces us and welcomes us home when we repent. But it does not stop there.

When the son began his rehearsed speech, he could not even get to the part about becoming a hired servant of his father (15:21). His father interrupted him and said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry” (15:22-23). What is the father doing here? I believe the father knew his son’s heart. He was not focused on all the immoral and shameful living of his son. He was not uptight about his son’s sin and shame. He saw the heart of his son which longed to be connected to his father’s heart. Instead of making his son a hired servant, the father bestowed the symbols of honor (“best robe”), authority (“ring”), and freedom (“sandals”) on him. Sandals were marks of a free man, but slaves went barefooted.

The forgiveness from the father is complete and his son does not need to feel as if he is a forever second-class Christian, as if he now served God as a mere hired servant. He is now able to enjoy all the privileges of sonship, symbolized by the robe, the ring, and the sandals.

Then his father prepared a banquet for his son because his “son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found” (15:24). The father felt the absence of his son as deeply as if he had died (“dead”), because he had totally lost contact with him. So, the death he is referring to is a separation from the father. Their reunion is like a glorious coming to life and a joyful rediscovery of the shared father-son experience. Any father who has long been separated from a son whom he loves dearly can fully relate to these words.

Years ago, a young man had a verbal argument with his father and left home. He continued to keep in touch with his mother, and wanted very badly to come home for Christmas, but he was afraid his father would not allow him. His mother wrote to him and urged him to come home, but he didn’t feel he could until he knew his father had forgiven him. Finally, there was no time for any more letters. His mother wrote and said she would talk with the father, and if he had forgiven him, she would tie a white rag on the tree which grew right alongside the railroad tracks near their home, which he could see before the train reached the station. If there was no rag, it would be better if he went on.

So, the young man started home. As the train drew near his home; he was so nervous he said to his friend who was traveling with him, “I can’t bear to look. Sit in my place and look out the window. I’ll tell you what the tree looks like, and you tell me whether there is a rag on it or not.” So, his friend changed places with him and looked out the window. After a bit the friend said, “Oh yes, I see the tree.” The son asked, “Is there a white rag tied to it?” For a moment, the friend did not say anything. Then he turned, and in a very gentle voice said, “There is a white rag tied to every limb of that tree!”

That, in a sense, is what God is saying to us in Luke 15. The truth is all of us are like the prodigal son. He can represent a non-Christian whose repentance or change of mind about his sinful lifestyle leads him to come home to His Creator God and believe in Jesus for complete forgiveness of sins, much like Cornelius in Acts 10. You may be seeking God by going to church and giving money to it, or by trying to clean up your life. But you are not saved from your sins by any of those things you do in your search for God (Isaiah 64:6). You are saved by believing or trusting in Jesus alone for His gift of salvation (John 3:16; Ephes. 2:8-9). God is inviting you to come home to Him just as you are. He is waiting to welcome you into His family and make you His beloved son or daughter forever the moment you believe in Jesus alone to save you (John 1:12; 10:28-29).

But the prodigal son can also represent a Christian who has drifted away from fellowship with God to explore the pleasures of the world. Being dissatisfied with the world’s empty pleasures, he decides to “come home” to God by confessing his sin to the Lord and claiming His cleansing forgiveness (I John 1:9). We do not have to work for this restoration. There are no hoops to jump through or obligations to fulfill. Simply come home to your Father in heaven and He will lovingly welcome you and restore your fellowship or closeness to Him.

Whether we are coming home to God for the first time for salvation from hell through faith in Jesus or for the hundredth time as a believer to restore our fellowship with God, the Father is waiting with open arms and an open heart. Will you come home to Him now?

Prayer: Oh, gracious Father in heaven, how I have longed to hear these truths about You. Much of my understanding about You has been based on my own experiences and feelings as a child and as an adult with unavailable Christians. I have thought of You as a mean old man sitting up in heaven with a big hammer waiting to strike me the moment I say, think, or do something wrong. But Your Word tells me that You are not a mean-out-of-control man. You are a tender loving Father who eagerly waits and watches for His wayward child to come home so You can run out to him and wrap Your loving arms around him and tell him he is loved and safe in Your arms. Please, Father God, heal the holes in my heart so I may experience Your love more fully and begin to see myself as You see me. I am Your beloved child who has access to all that You possess because of my relationship with Your only perfect Son, Jesus Christ. I am so glad to know that You are much more concerned about my heart than my past. My past is gone now. I am totally forgiven and loved by You. I am not a second-class Christian. I am a beloved child of God who can now enjoy all the privileges of sonship. And I am with You forever, never to be alone again. Thank You for restoring the joy of my salvation. Thank You that I am no longer defined by the darkness, but by the light of Your love. Please help me to walk in Your light and love. Please transform individual Christians and churches to respond to broken and wayward people with Your compassion and love so more people will come to Jesus in faith for His gift of salvation. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen.

Revelation 12 – Part 4

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Revelation 12:11

After Satan and his fallen angels are “cast” down to earth at the midpoint of the Tribulation period (12:9), the apostle John writes: “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.’” (Revelation 12:10). John hears “a loud voice… in heaven” praise God because the casting down of Satan and his fallen angels to earth signals that Jesus’ coming “kingdom” on earth is near and so certain that it is communicated as if it has already happened. 1 As in Revelation 11:15, this praise anticipates Christ’s coming as if it has already taken place. 2

The coming of Jesus’ kingdom to earth will result in the “salvation” of Israel. In the first half of the Tribulation the 144,000 converts are the “firstfruits” (cf. 14:4) of Christ’s saving work among the Jews, but at Jesus’ return “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). So in addition to the 144,000 Jews being saved during the first half of the Tribulation, many more Jews will be saved when Christ returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation. Nationally as well as individually, their sins will be forgiven through faith in Christ (cf. Isaiah 59:20-21; Acts 10:43; Romans 11:25-27). The kingdom will be ruled based on the “power of… Christ” and His commands (12:10a). 3

Before Satan is “cast down” to earth at the midpoint of the Tribulation, he is described as “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night.” “This indicates, first, that God has allowed Satan access to His divine presence. Second, it indicates Satan uses that access to level accusations against God’s people. He does that because he knows the Lord’s righteous character and that human sin breaks their fellowship with God. If Satan cannot prevent a person from being saved, he at least wants to steal the joy that comes from walking in fellowship with God.” 4

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, what sins can Satan accuse you of today? The Devil cannot successfully accuse you of wrongdoing before God because Christ has already paid the penalty of your sin in full when He died in your place on the cross. The Bible says, 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus… 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” (Romans 8:1, 33-34).  

All of our sins—past, present, and future—have been paid in full by the blood of Christ! No accusation from Satan can stick to us or soil our reputation, because God’s grace and mercy have washed us clean from our transgressions.” 5

When Satan and his fallen angels are cast down to earth, his relentless accusations of believers before God will have ceased, but those who are on the earth will be subject to Satan’s attacks even though he can no longer accuse them in heaven. 6

During the last half of the Tribulation, Satan, “the accuser” of believers, will attack God’s people on earth ferociously. But John informs us, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Revelation 12:11). Believers on the earth during the last half of the Tribulation will overcome Satan “by the blood of the Lamb” which cleanses them from all their sins and protects them from the accusations of Satan “and by the word of their testimony” which involves speaking the truth of God to defeat Satan’s lies, even if it means losing their own “lives” (12:11).

Satan lost access to God’s throne in heaven, but God’s people on earth had not (cf. Romans 5:1-2; Hebrews 4:16). These believers had victory over Satan because they would not bow to the image of the Beast (cf. Revelation 13:15) but openly shared “the word of their testimony” even if it meant persecution or death. These followers of Jesus “did not love their lives to the death.” Instead, they loved serving and magnifying Christ more than their own lives. 7

Every believer is saved from eternal condemnation by Christ’s blood no matter what age they live in (Revelation 12:11; cf. Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7; Genesis 3:15; 15:6; John 3:14-18; Romans 4:1-25; Revelation 1:5; 5:9; 7:14). Believers in Jesus who defeat Satan’s schemes in life and receive Christ’s eternal rewards do so by a godly public testimony. Secret agent believers, those who are saved but operate undercover, so to speak, will receive minimal (Matthew 6:19-21) or no eternal rewards from Christ (cf. Matthew 10:33; 25:18, 24-30; John 12:42-43; I Corinthians 3:15). Triumphant, conquering believers do not love their lives more than they love God, 8 and the Lord will reward them eternally for their sacrificial service (cf. Matthew 10:32-42; 19:28-30; 25:16-17, 20-23; I Corinthians 3:8-14; Revelation 2:10-11, 17, 25-28; 3:5, 11-12, 21; 22:12).

In view of Satan being cast down to earth and believers overcoming him, the voice that began speaking in verse 10 continues by saying, “Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” (Revelation 12:12). The inhabitants of heaven are called to “rejoice” or celebrate, but the “inhabitants of the earth and the sea” must beware because “the devil has come down” to them with “great wrath,” knowing he has “a short time” (three and a half years) before Jesus returns to earth to defeat him and bind him in the bottomless pit for a thousand years (cf. Revelation 20:1-3).

As we conclude today’s message, let’s remember that there are two ways we can overcome the schemes of Satan:

LOOK TO JESUS AND HIS DEATH IN FAITH FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF ALL YOUR SINS. We can overcome Satan’s hateful accusations through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ – “they overcame him by the blood of the lamb” (12:11a). Have you placed your faith in Christ Jesus alone for His complete forgiveness? Christ was born into this world despite all the opposition of hell some two thousand years ago (Revelation 12:4-5). What Jesus did for you and me was not easy.He went to war for us and paid for all our sins when He died on the cross (John 19:30; Colossians 2:13-14). He now offers you the greatest gift ever given, and He invites you to take it by placing your trust in Him and His death on the cross

The Bible tells us, “All the prophets say it is true that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins through Jesus’ name.” (Acts 10:43 NCV). Does the word “all” include you and me? Absolutely! It includes the best and the worst of people, and everyone in between. It is up to you whether you will receive His gift or not. Will you believe or trust in Jesus alone to forgive all your sins – including past, present, and future sins? If you do, you can be free of the accusations Satan brings against you.

Perhaps you have already believed in Christ for your salvation, but you may be struggling to feel that He has truly forgiven you. Maybe you have trusted Him as your Savior, but you are still living under condemnation, and it is time to let go of the guilt and shame. The devil is defeated every time you refuse to listen to his lying accusations. He may whisper, “What you did was too bad, too wicked for God to forgive!” Or“You can’t change! You’ll never be any different!“ Instead of paying attention to Satan’s lies, you reach out and believe that Jesus really did die to bring you and me a new life! When Christ died for your sins, how many of them were future?ALL OF THEM. Ignore Satan’s lies and receive the hope and transformation that only God’s forgiveness brings! 

The second way to overcome the devil’s schemes is: LET JESUS RULE YOUR LIFE NO MATTER WHAT THE COST – “they overcame him… by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” In other words, they overcame him by speaking the truth and living the truth even if it cost them their lives. We give the devil a black eye when we seek to live a life of integrity. When the person at church is the same person at work or in the home, Satan is defeated. Don’t let anything or anyone intimidate you from living for God, even the threat of death!

If we have believed in Jesus for His gift of forgiveness and eternal life, there is no need to be afraid of death. Christ has overcome death through His victorious death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. His resurrection and ascension to heaven guarantees our own in the future.

The Bible tells us, 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Through His death, Jesus conquered death to free people from the fear of death.

Evans writes, If the Son has set you free, then, the only power the devil has over you is what you permit him.

“Satan is ‘the father of lies’ (John 8:44), so he’ll try to trick you into giving him permission to exercise authority over you. But the devil no longer has the power of death (2:14). The gun he’s been intimidating you with has no bullets. Jesus Christ emptied its chamber into Himself. Thus, all Satan can do is deceive you into thinking the gun still has ammunition. But the fear of death should no longer make you a slave (see 1 Cor 15:51-57).” 9

Prayer: Father God, thank You so much for the incredible victory Jesus has already won through His shed blood on the cross for the sins of the world! Thank You that the penalty of sin, Satan, death, and hell are overcome through believing in the forever cleansing blood of the Lamb, Who died and rose again on our behalf so we should never die eternally, but be raised from the dead to live forever with our King. Please enable us to live each day for Jesus without fear, knowing He has already conquered our greatest fear which is death. Use us, Lord, to testify with our lives and lips to what Jesus has already done so multitudes may receive His forgiveness by believing in Him and live a life that is free from fear. In the life-giving name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. The word translated “have come” (egeneto) is the aorist tense, signifying a past event.

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. 1543.

3. Ibid.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2398.

5. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 241.

6. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 137.  

7. Vacendak, pg. 1543.

8. Adapted from Evans, pg. 2398. 9. Ibid., pp. 2243-2244.

Revelation 3 – Part 3

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Revelation 3:16

Jesus now speaks to the last of the seven churches. “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.’ ” (Revelation 3:14).

Laodicea was a large and prosperous city forty miles southeast of Philadelphia where many wealthy people retired, thereby establishing it as a renowned banking center. A medical center specializing in eye salve and a prominent wool industry famous for its glossy black garments added to its material prosperity. Because they lived in the midst of this affluent city, the believers dwelling there also became affluent. Unfortunately, these believers allowed their wealth to ruin their effectiveness for Christ, and they did not even know it! Because of their outward wealth they had no clue as to their inward poverty. Therefore, the Judge of the churches sends a stern rebuke in their direction to move them to repent as well as an invitation to open the door to close fellowship with Him once again.” 1

“Ancient pagans had hundreds of false gods to choose from, but modern pagans who may have rejected the worship of idols still have one false god that controls their lives: self. Self-expression, self-confidence, self-worth, self-reliance—these concepts all revolve around the myth that human beings have an inexhaustible source of strength within themselves. Such worthy people, of course, have trouble attributing all worth to God, which is the very definition of worship!

“Sadly, Christians aren’t immune to the disease of self-reliance. When believers in Christ rely on their own strength for good works, operating by the power of the flesh rather than by the power of the Spirit (Gal. 3:3), they produce ineffective and useless works. When believers think their own resources are sufficient, they glow with pride. And when believers look to themselves to provide for their own needs, they shine with self-sufficiency. Christ’s messages to the seven churches in Asia come to a close with a tragic letter to the self-sufficient, self-righteous, self-serving church in Laodicea. In their inexhaustible wealth and independent spirit, the Laodiceans were severely rebuked by the One who knew them better than they knew themselves. In fact, the Lord didn’t state a single word of commendation—only stinging reproof. That church suffered from pervasive self-reliance, hypocritical works done in their own strength, and an apathetic attitude toward the authority of Christ. Sadly, Christ’s hard words for Laodicea resonate with relevance for many churches and Christians today.” 2

Jesus refers to Himself as “the Amen” (lit. truly)3 because the Laodicean church needed the truth. As “the Faithful and True Witness,” Jesus would provide a faithful and true assessment of their spiritual condition (3:14a). “The Laodiceans had a reputation for saying and doing whatever was necessary to preserve their own well-being. In contrast with them, Jesus spoke the truth.” 4

Christ also refers to Himself as “the Beginning of the creation of God” because this church was self-sufficiently wealthy, and they needed to be reminded that everything they possessed was from their Creator God (3:14b). When churches forget this truth, they can begin to feel entitled to whatever they want. They can easily seek to be in control instead of yielding to God’s control.  

Non-Trinitarians think this phrase (“the Beginning of the creation of God”) means Jesus is a created being. But the Greek word translated “Beginning” (archē) means the “First Cause” of God’s creation. 5Jesus is the Creator or originating source of creation (Revelation 1:18; 2:8; 3:21; 5:13; cf. John 1:3; Colossians 1:15-16; Hebrews 1:2), not the first creature to be created. 6

Laodicea had suffered a severe earthquake that destroyed it, but its prosperous citizens had subsequently rebuilt it, without the aid of Rome. The Laodiceans were creative, but Jesus Christ alone was the Creator (cf. John 1:3; Colossians 1:15-16). 7 Jesus could also give them the spiritual wealth they so desperately needed in their current state of spiritual impoverishment. 8

Jesus then rebukes this church for being indifferent. 15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16). These believers in Jesus wereneither refreshing (“cold”)nor soothing or stimulating (“hot”). They were “lukewarm.”  

“This rebuke would have been especially meaningful to this church, for water was piped to the city from Hierapolis, a few miles north. By the time the water reached Laodicea, it was lukewarm!” 9

Nobody orders a lukewarm drink. They want iced tea or hot coffee. In the spiritual realm, God finds tepidness unappealing as well.” 10

Because the Laodicean Christians had no cool water for the spiritually thirsty people around them (cf. John 4:13-14) and they were not hot enough spiritually to stir up one another’s faith, 11 God was disgusted with them. He said, “I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Christ’s response to this self-reliant, self-righteous, and self-serving church was about the least flattering response you could receive, especially from the only Person in the universe Whose opinion matters the most. Essentially Jesus was saying,“You make me sick!”12

The phrase “I will vomit you out of My mouth, cannot be a reference to the loss of salvation because that would contradict John’s other writings (cf. John 3:15-16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 11:25-26; I John 5:1, 13). The Bible tells us that the gifts of God are irreversible. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29). God promises eternal life as a free gift to all who believe in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Romans 6:23). Since “the gifts … of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29) and eternal life is a “gift of God” (Romans 6:23), then eternal life is “irrevocable.” When a person believes in Christ for His gift of eternal life, it cannot be given back to God nor taken back by God no matter how the believer lives because it is irreversible or permanent (John 3:16; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 11:25-27; Romans 8:31-39; et al.). God did not save us from hell because of our goodness (cf. Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7), and He will not abandon us because of our sinfulness (cf. John 6:37; Hebrews 13:5).

One of my mentors, Zane Hodges, thought it possible that the Lord is referring here to the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). The Lord Jesus will be so disgusted with the indifference and self-reliance of Christians at the end of the Church age (Laodicea is the last church listed during this age), that He will vomit them up to heaven through the Rapture (Revelation 4:1-4). Then He will start all over in the Tribulation with the Two Witnesses preaching the gospel of the kingdom during the first half of the 7-year Tribulation (Revelation 11:1-13) followed by the worldwide witness of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists in the second half of the Tribulation (Revelation 7:1-17; 14:1-5).

Not only does Jesus give these seven local churches warnings and encouragements that are as applicable today as they were in the first century, these letters also “prove to be prophetic of the history of Christianity following their writing. Most Christians in the first century may not have seen this, but one can hardly deny it now. It has become increasingly obvious as church history has unfolded. Chapters 2 and 3 are therefore prophetic, as are the rest of the chapters of Revelation.” 13

This is known as “the Historico-Prophetical View.” Proponents of this view understand the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 existed in the first century, and what characterized each of them has represented other local churches in various locations throughout church history. However, they also reveal the history of the church from the time John wrote to the Rapture in seven successive periods. 14

Constable writes, “A general scheme of the periods of western civilization that correspond to the conditions described in each of the letters to the seven churches is as follows: 15

Prior to the Rapture of the church (Revelation 4:1-4), Jesus gives some serious advice to this self-reliant church: 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” (Revelation 3:17-18). Because the Laodiceans had become materially wealthy they thought they “had need of nothing,” including God (3:17a). The Laodiceans were materially “rich”; Christ says they are “poor” spiritually (3:17b). Laodicea had a world-famous medical center that was known for treating eye disease; Jesus informs them that they are “blind” spiritually (3:17c). Laodicea was a center for manufacturing clothing; Jesus declares that they are “naked” spiritually (3:17d). These believers were spiritually destitute, and they did not even know it.

“Here Jesus debunks a prominent lie of prosperity theology: being materially successful means God has blessed you. Not so. The Laodiceans said, I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing. But the external appearance of prosperity was not indicative of the condition of their hearts or their level of fellowship with God. They were spiritually uncommitted, carnal, and compromising. As Jesus put it, they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked spiritually.” 16

Because their self-estimate was so deeply flawed, the Lord gave them counsel as to exactly what they needed to do. Their ability to pull out of their disastrous spiritual condition rested on their paying the price they needed to pay spiritually.” 17

If someone told us that everything about us makes him want to vomit, we would not expect to hear from that person again. 18 But as “the Faithful and True Witness,” the Lord Jesus also continues to extend love and grace to His church no matter how unappealing her spiritual condition is. Christ counsels them to be faithful by instructing them to “buy” three things (3:18). Obviously, this is not talking about our salvation because Christ has already bought that through His sacrificial death on the cross (cf. I Corinthians 6:20; 2 Peter 2:1). 19 In addition, salvation is a free gift which cannot be bought (Revelation 21:6b; 22:17b; cf. Romans 4:5; 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9). But in Revelation 3:18, Jesus is speaking figuratively when He counsels them to “buy” three things that these complacent and carnal Christians need:

“gold refined in fire” which represents eternal rewards that stand the test of the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. I Corinthians 3:11-15). They were to be faithful to Jesus by having faith that is tested by fire (I Peter 1:6-7).

“white garments.” Their shameful nakedness was to be clothed, not by purchasing the sleek black wool that was made in Laodicea, but by buying “white garments,” which refer to being faithful to Christ through righteous conduct and serving God (Revelation 19:8), not out of selfish motives, but in a way that pleases the Lord (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:3, 9-10).

“eye salve.” Instead of purchasing the eye salve that was produced and sold in Laodicea, they were to buy a spiritual “eye salve” that would enable them to see more clearly on a spiritual level and remain faithful to Christ. For this to happen, they must see their desperate need to get into the Word of God and to ask God’s Spirit to help them understand and apply it to their lives (cf. John 9:6; James 1:22; 1 John 2:20, 27). 20

The church of Laodicea is typical of the modern church which denies its spiritual needs and is content with its beautiful buildings and all the material things money can buy. Notice that verse 18 does not tell us the purchase price for these items. We are not told how much the refined gold, white garments, and eye salve will cost us. The Lord Jesus will tell us this in the next verse.  

The believers at Laodicea may have felt Jesus was being overly harsh with them, so Christ reminds them, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” (Revelation 3:19a). Jesus’ rebuke of them is evidence of His love. If He did not love them, He would not rebuke them in their spiritually lukewarm condition. But Christ wants the best for them (and us), so He tells them what they need to hear, even though it may be painful for them.

If the Laodiceans did not listen to Jesus, His love for them would lead Him to “chasten” them. The word “chasten” (paideuō) literally means “child-training.” 21 It refers to correcting or instructing a child. 22 It is always an activity of God toward Christians, not non-Christians (cf. Hebrews 12:5-11). 23

“The church at Laodicea is typical of a modern church quite unconscious of its spiritual needs and content with beautiful buildings and all the material things money can buy. This is a searching and penetrating message.” 24

Jesus then says, “Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19b). How does a church or individual Christian buy gold refined in fire, white garments, and eye salve? That is, how does an indifferent church become spiritually healthy and earn eternal rewards? By being “zealous” for good works and “repenting.”

All Christians are to be known in the church and in their community as people who are zealous for good works – who are eager to please God. What do you have zeal for in your Christian life? A nice house? A car? A well-kept home? A large retirement plan? An attractive appearance? A bigger church building? These things are not wrong in and of themselves. But the number one aim in our lives should be to please God – to love Him above all else and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).

The word “repent” (metanoeō) refers to a change of mind or way of thinking. 25 The Laodiceans needed to change their minds and realize they did not have it all together spiritually and that their lives were not pleasing to the Lord. Whatever we are doing that is not pleasing to the Lord is to be corrected. We are to confess that it is wrong to God (I John 1:9) and start doing what we know is pleasing to Him.

The Laodiceans are to repent of their self-sufficient, half-hearted service, and remain faithful to Christ, fervently serving Him. Hence, when Christians are zealous for good works and repent of wrong attitudes and actions, they will…

– lay up refined gold or eternal rewards that stand the test of the Judgment Seat of Christ (3:18a; I Corinthians 3:8-15).

– be clothed with the proper white garments or righteous conduct that will glorify Christ in eternity (3:18b; cf. 3:5; 19:8).

– be able to see properly on a spiritual level (3:18c; cf. Matthew 5:8; Hebrews 12:14).

Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” (Revelation 3:20a). Many Christians have mistakenly understood this verse to refer to salvation. But we have already seen that the “churches” in Revelation 2 and 3 refer to genuine Christians. In the context, the Lord Jesus has been talking about works, not faith; He has been addressing service, not salvation; He has exhorted us to be zealous for good works and repent of works that sicken the Lord.

The Lord is now saying if a church invites Christ in for dinner, He will come, and they will have fellowship together (3:20a). This verse is not to be taken literally. This is not a literal “door,” just as verse 18 was not to be taken literally. Amid their self-sufficient attitude, the Laodiceans had shut the Lord Jesus out from their church. The word “stand” (3:20a), literally means “I have taken My stand.” 26 It emphasizes a persistent dealing with the church. Christ persistently seeks intimate fellowship with this self-reliant church that has shut Him out. Hence, He asks permission to enter the church and re-establish fellowship with them.

Christ then says, “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20b). Notice that Jesus says He will come “in to” (two words) the person, not “into” (one word) the person. The Greek verb translated “come in” (eiserchomai) accompanied by the preposition translated “to” (pros) means “to come or go to someone.” This construction occurs eight times in the New Testament (Mark 6:25; 15:43; Luke 1:28; Acts 10:3; 11:3; 17:2; 28:8; Revelation 3:20) and each time it means to enter into a building and stand in front of a person. 27 Whenever “come in” (eiserchomai) is used of entrance into a person it is followed by the Greek preposition eis (Mark 9:25; Luke 8:30; 22:3; John 13:27) and refers to demon possession. The preposition eis deals with “the idea of entry, whereas pros tends to stop short of going up to (without entry).” 28 The result of Christ’s entrance “to” the person is a common meal shared – “I will… dine with him, and he with Me.” The Greek verb “dine” (deipnēsō) indicates that this is the main meal of the day, the one to which an honored guest would be invited. 29

This verse is speaking of entrance into a building toward a person, not entrance into a person. Jesus will not force His way into a church. Christ is saying that He will come in the church toward the believer who repents (hears His voice and opens the door of the church) and eat dinner with him, that is, have intimate fellowship with him.

How does one open the door so that Christ can come and fellowship with him? By being zealous for good works and repenting of the works that made the Lord Jesus vomit (3:19b).

Christ’s invitation here is not for lost sinners to believe in Him for the free gift of eternal life, but for His disobedient children to get close to Him once again. If any of these lukewarm believers did open the door to Him, Christ promises, ‘I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.’ This is a promise that they will enjoy close fellowship with Him once again.” 30

With Christ on the outside, there can be no fellowship or genuine wealth. With Christ on the inside, there is wonderful fellowship and sharing of the marvelous grace of God. This was an appeal to Christians rather than to non-Christians. This raises the important question concerning the extent of one’s intimate fellowship with Christ.” 31

Christ then promises, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21). The believer who “overcomes” by humbly and zealously submitting to Christ in fellowship and service until the end of his life, will be able to “sit with” Him on His throne, as Jesus was humble and zealous in submitting to His Father’s will and was rewarded with sitting down with His Father “on His throne.” This promised reward assures the overcomer of close fellowship with Christ forever by receiving the honor of sharing His royal throne. This is a conditional reward because it is dependent on overcoming as Christ did. 32 Just as Christ overcame death by humble and dependent submission to His Father’s will, the Laodiceans can overcome their self-sufficiency and enjoy ruling with Christ by humbly and dependently submitting to Christ in fellowship and service.

The use of αὐτός (“to him”) in Revelation 2:17, 17, 27 and 3:21 indicates a restrictive kind of reference to the overcomer. It is a specific and restrictive way of showing that ruling with Christ applies only to the victor or overcomer, 33 not to every believer in Jesus.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:22). Only those Christians who “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” will be able toappropriate Jesus’ promise and live as “overcomers” so they may receive this ultimate reward of reigning with Christ in His coming Kingdom on earth. If they are lukewarm and then repent of the works that sickened the Lord Jesus and are zealous for good works, then they can receive the privilege of reigning with Christ in His future Kingdom on earth. The Lord Jesus uses rewards here, as with the other six churches, as a motivation to conquer sin and slackness—not as a motivation to salvation. 34

At the outset these faithful believers will rule with Christ on earth for a thousand years during the millennial kingdom (cf. Revelation 20:6). Throughout eternity they will reign with Christ on the new earth (cf. Revelation 21:10-11; 22:1-2). 35

As we read about the possibility of ruling with Christ in the future, we may not be very motivated by the thought of reigning with Christ or having rulership in the future world. Joseph Dillow has some key things to say about this.

“Those who have not persevered in faith, who have denied their King now will have feelings of deep shame and regret because they took Him for granted and wasted their lives. The pain will be acute, and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“…Some may not find the motivation of rewards as significant in their walk with God as the other motivations… That said, it seems to me, that all of us should consider this biblical emphasis to live with the end in view.

“Furthermore, the notion of reigning with Christ… should not be trivialized as if it means various administrative positions in a kingdom or being a mayor of a city. The theme is much broader, and the vision more glorious. What is signified by these expressions is not so much administrative positions as the joy of participating with the Messiah in the final destiny of man, to serve Him and minister with Him in the millennium and the future world. We aspire to higher position because we can then be more effective in the service of our King… We will have greater opportunity to serve Him, to demonstrate our love and gratitude to Him, and to extend the knowledge of His love and goodness throughout the cosmos. To miss that is to miss much.” 36

If we find ourselves indifferent toward the things of God like the Laodicea Christians, it is not too late for us to change. Even if we haven’t been doing well in our service for Christ thus far, we can start today. The Laodiceans were not doing well, yet the Lord holds out the possibility that they might rule with Him in the future if they will be zealous for good works and repent of the works that sickened the Lord Jesus. 

In recovery programs like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics), while not perfect programs, they do have a lot to commend them. One of their slogans is very appropriate for this passage. It says, “Denial is not a river in Egypt.”

The Lord Jesus does not want us to be in denial. He wants us to acknowledge when we fall short and be zealous for good works. He wants us to aim to please Him in all that we do or say. If you want to be an overcomer, you will have to go all the way with Jesus Christ. You may say, “But it is too hard, and I am not getting any credit now.”  

Let me tell you about Henry Morrison, a missionary to Africa. He was coming home from Africa on a ship which was also carrying former President Theodore Roosevelt. When the ship docked in New York City, thousands of people were there to greet Roosevelt. But no one was cheering for Morrison.

Henry Morrison had served the Lord for forty years in Africa. As he watched the crowds greet Theodore Roosevelt, he became dejected to think he had served the Lord all those years and yet no one was there to greet him.

Morrison said that as he walked down the gang plank in a depressed mood, a voice whispered to him, “Henry, don’t worry. You are not home yet.” Then he said he saw a vision of multiplied thousands of Africans standing at the gates of heaven, those whom he had reached for Christ, applauding as he entered the pearly gates.

So if people are not recognizing you down here, if you are not getting any applause right now, don’t worry. You are not home yet. Remember what Jesus Christ has waiting for you if you remain faithful to Him. He will richly reward you with intimate fellowship with Him forever by giving you the honor of sharing His royal throne.

In summary, Christians who repent of their self-sufficient and half-hearted service for the Lord, and humbly and zealously submit to Christ in fellowship and service until the end of their lives, will be richly rewarded with a share in Christ’s glorious reign in His coming Kingdom (3:14-22).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Faithful and True Witness Who alone is qualified to judge the self-reliant and self-serving church. You know that much of the modern church in America is a lot like the church of Laodicea. We have become lukewarm with complacency and self-reliance. We no longer seek to preach the gospel of grace to all people. Instead, we are captivated by our big, beautiful buildings and all the things that our money can buy. We are driven by our own desire for comfort instead of compassion for those who are perishing without You. This lukewarmness will eventually cause You to remove Your church from the earth via the Rapture so You may start over with the Two Witness at the beginning of the Tribulation. Lord Jesus, forgive us for the areas in our lives that have become lukewarm with apathy and complacency. Please enable us to repent of the works that disgust You and empower us to do good works for and with You until we go to be with You in heaven. We pray that we would keep the door of our hearts open to You so we may enjoy intimate fellowship with You now and be the channels through which Your blessings overflow to all with whom we come into contact. Thank You for reminding us that our eternal life is secure in Your finished work on the cross, but our eternal rewards depend on how we live the Christian life now on earth. No matter what the spiritual health of other believers or churches may be, You call us to be faithful and to keep You at the center of our lives if we are to receive the ultimate reward of sitting with You on Your throne in Your glorious Kingdom. In Your mighty and majestic name, Lord Jesus, we pray. 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. 1514.

2. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 109-110.

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. 53. 

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 56.

5. Bauer, pg. 138.

6. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!), 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2017 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 214976-214978.

7. Constable, pg. 56.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1514.

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), pg. 164.

10. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2376.

11. Vacendak, pg. 1514. 

12. Swindoll, pg. 113. 

13. Constable, pg. 61 cites M. J. Brunk, “The Seven Churches of Revelation Two and Three,” Bibliotheca Sacra 126:503 (July- September 1969), pp. 240-46.

14. Constable, pg. 63 cites John Peter Lange, ed. Commentary on the Holy Scriptures. 12 vols. Reprint ed., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960. Vol. 12: James-Revelation, by J. P. Lange, J. J. Van Oosterzee, G. T. C. Fronmuller, and Karl Braune. Enlarged and edited by E. R. Craven. Translated by J. Isidor Mombert and Evelina Moore), pg. 139; Arno C. Gaebelein, The Revelation (New York: Publication Office “Our Hope,” 1915), pg. 33; J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ Edited by J. Otis Yoder (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1971, pp. 61-62; William Kelly, Lectures on the Revelation, New ed., (London: A. S. Rouse, 1897), pg. 24; Frederick A. Tatford, The Patmos Letters (By the Author, 1969; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, n.d.), pg. 106;  F. W. Grant, The Prophetic History of the Church (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Publishers, n.d.);  Joseph A. Seiss, The Apocalypse (Charles C. Cook, 1900; reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), pg. 64; C. I. Scofield, ed., Scofield Reference Bible (1917 ed.), pp. 1331-32; Harry A. Ironside, Lectures on the Revelation (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1946), pp. 35-36; John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), pg. 51; J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. 5 Vol. 5 (Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), pp. 900-926.

15. Constable, pg. 63.

16. Evans, pg. 2376.

17. Vacendak, pp. 1514-1515.

18. Swindoll, pg. 114. 

19. The word “buys” (agorazō) is the same word used to refer to Jesus’ payment for sin on the Cross (I Corinthians 6:20; 2 Peter 2:1).

20. Vacendak, pg. 1515.

21. Robertson, Kindle Location 215197.

22. Bauer, pg. 749.

23. EvanTell’s The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2014), pg. 1387.

24. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, pg. 164.

25. Bauer, pg. 640.

26. The Greek verb, hestēka, is a perfect indicative which means I took My stand in the past and continue to take My stand in the present.

27. Mike Cocoris, Evangelism: A Biblical Approach (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984, pp. 82-82.

28. Ibid, pg. 83 cites C.F.D. Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek, (Cambridge at the University Press, 1953), pp. 67-68.

29. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pg. 98.

30. Vacendak, pg. 1515.

31. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, pg. 164.

32. William Ross, “An Analysis of the Rewards and Judgments in Revelation 2 and 3,” Dallas Theological Seminary ThM Thesis, 1971, pg. 50.

33. Richard Benedict, “The Use of Νικάω in the Letters to the Seven Churches of Revelation,” Dallas Theological Seminary ThM Thesis, 1966, pg. 42.

34. Evans, pg. 2377.

35. Vacendak, pp. 1515-1516.

36. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 1039-1040.

Revelation 3 – Part 2

“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” Revelation 3:12

Jesus now speaks to the sixth church: “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.” (Revelation 3:7). The city of “Philadelphia” (lit. “brotherly love”; cf. Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; et al.) was located about 28 miles southeast of Sardis. “A Pergamenian king, Attalus II (159-138 B.C.), founded it. The town received its name from his nickname, “Philadelphus” (“brother lover”). This king had a special devotion to his brother, Eumenes II. The city stood in a wine-producing area and was the so-called ‘gateway’ to central Asia Minor. The modern name of this town is ‘Alasehir.’” 1

Philadelphia “was… afflicted with earthquakes which destroyed the city several times, most recently about A.D. 37.” 2 The church there had to deal with the uncertainty this entailed and also with the persecution of those of ‘the synagogue of Satan.’ In spite of the problems it faced, this church was faithful to the Lord and along with the church in Smyrna it received praise from Christ and no rebuke.” 3

Jesus describes Himself to “the church in Philadelphia” as “He who is holy,” set apart from everything and everyone else.Being holy, He is qualified to judge the spiritual life of this church. As “He who is “true,” the Lord Jesusis not just a likeness of God, He is God Who is infinitely distinct from all false gods who represent a lie. 4 When Christ says He “has the key of David,” this is a reference to Isaiah 22:22, where the key of the house of David was given to Eliakim who then had access to all the wealth of the king.5Like Eliakim, Jesus has the authority to distribute (“He who opens and no one shuts”) or not to distribute (“He who… shuts and no one opens”) all of God’s resources as He chooses (3:7). He wants the believers in Philadelphia to know that their rewards in His coming kingdom will be based on His royal prerogative alone. 6

The Lord Jesus then says, “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” (Revelation 3:8). The Lord Jesus gave this church an “open door” of opportunity for blessing because even though they “have a little strength” in numbers, they have obeyed God’s Word and boldly refused to deny his “name.” Although they were small in numbers, they were great both in their commitment to God’s Word and in their boldness to confess His name despite opposition and persecution.

Even though you may have a small church, you can still please the Lord with your obedience to His Word and your boldness to openly confess His name. The size of a church is not nearly as important as it’s commitment to Jesus and His Word. Too many churches today focus on size and outward appearance without paying enough attention to their inner spiritual life. Christ is most glorified when churches are most committed to Him and what pleases Him.

Jesus promises the following to these faithful believers at Philadelphia: 9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere.” (Revelation 3:9-10a). Christ guaranteesthat their professing Jewish antagonists (“the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not”) would have to acknowledge these believers as the true followers of God (“I will make them know… that I have loved you”) whom He has “loved” because they persevered in obeying His commandments (3:9-10a).

Connecting these two verses fits well with the Biblical teaching that Christ expresses His love in special ways toward believers who obey Him and take a stand for Him (cf. John 14:21-24). In Rev 3:8, Christ had just commended this church for obeying His word and now He is rewarding them because they obeyed His command to persevere.” 7

When we persevere in obedience to Jesus, He will reward us by overruling our Satanic enemies who come against us. 8 There are religious groups today who “lie” by saying they are true followers of God, and they think they are serving God by persecuting Christians (cf. John 16:2). But the truth is, they have rejected Jesus Christ and one day Christ will judge these impostors when He returns to earth (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Jude 1:12-15; Revelation 19:11-21) and at the Great White Throne Judgment where all who refused to believe in Jesus will be judged according to their works to determine their degree of punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

God promises that the day will come, when all opponents to the Christian faith will have to acknowledge the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord (cf. Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:9-11). 9 The Bible says, 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11). For example, every atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jehovah Witness, Mormon, and Muslim who has rejected Jesus Christ in this life, will bow “under the earth” in the lake of fire at the name of Jesus Christ and confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This need not be the case if these living unbelieving people on earth would change their mind about Christ now, and believe He is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing they may have eternal life in His name (John 20:31). Then they will be able to bow in the future at the name of Jesus “in heaven” and confess that He is Lord.

Then the ascended Lord Jesus promises, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10). Because these believers have faithfully persevered in obedience to Christ’s command, He “will keep” or protect them “from the hour of trial [time of trouble] which shall come upon the whole [Roman] world” during the readers’ lifetimes “to test” or trouble the unsaved “who dwell on the earth” (3:10b).

Some believe this verse teaches that only Christians who persevere in obedience to Christ will be delivered from the Tribulation period through the Rapture (Partial Rapture view). This view acknowledges that some Christians are unfaithful and will not be raptured. 10 A similar view (Puritan Dispensational Rapture) states that all Christians will persevere in obedience to the end of their lives and therefore, all Christians will be raptured. 11

But this verse is not referring to the Tribulation Period because all” Church-Age believers will be protected from that period of God’s wrath on earth through the Rapture or sudden removal of the church, whether they are spiritually “awake” or “asleep” (cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:16-17; 5:9-10; cf. I Corinthians 15:51-52). In Revelation 3:10, Jesus assures the obedient believers in Philadelphia that they would have His protection during this time of turmoil sent to trouble “those who dwell on the earth” (i.e., the unsaved; cf. 6:10; 11:10; 13:14; 14:6; 17:8). 12 It is better to understand verse 10 historically as referring to deliverance from the ten years of persecution during Trojan’s reign. This deliverance came about by the Roman Emperor’s fear of sending troops to an area known for its devastating earthquakes. 13

“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” (Revelation 3:11). Jesus reminds the readers that He is “coming quickly,” therefore they should “hold fast” to their obedience to Christ amid trials to the end of their lives (Revelation 2:26). To stop following Christ because of persecution and opposition is to permit the enemies of Jesus to “take your crown,” and allow them to cause you to lose the ultimate eternal reward of ruling with Christ forever in His coming kingdom (cf. Revelation 2:25-27; 2 Tim 2:12-13). “Eternal life is a free gift and cannot be lost but the reward of ruling with Christ forever requires faithfulness to the end (cf. 2:10).” 14

Jesus promises several different rewards for the overcomer who endures in obedience to Christ until he dies. “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” (Revelation 3:12). Christ guarantees the overcomer that He “will make him a pillar in the temple of My God.” This refers to a position of permanent honor and intimate association with Christ. Since the Father and the Son will be the temple (cf. Revelation 21:22) in eternity, this reward is probably an especially magnificent experience of nearness to God as well as a key position of support and prominence in God’s eternal kingdom. The phrase “he shall go out no more,” describes the permanence of these rewards. Once these positions of honor and authority are given to the overcomer, they shall never be withdrawn. He is firmly set as a “pillar” in Christ’s eternal kingdom and as such will never be separated from this intimate relationship with God. 15

The overcomer will also have “the name of” God, the name of God’s city, “the New Jerusalem,” and the Lord’s “new name” written on him, stressing a permanent place of prominence in God’s spiritual temple in the eternal state. Since these faithful believers honored the Lord Jesus on earth, He will honor them as His victorious ones forever in heaven.

“Writing one’s ‘name’ on something indicated ownership in John’s day, as it does now. In the ancient world, columns often bore the names of conquerors. In the pagan world, devotees of certain gods often wrote the name of their god on their forehead (cf. Exod. 28:36). Scripture does not reveal Jesus Christ’s ‘new name’ elsewhere. Perhaps this new name is a symbol of His character, which overcomers can only appreciate when they see Him (cf. 2:17; 3:5).” 16

Jesus closes with His familiar appeal: He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:13). Only those believers in Jesus who have “an ear” and “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” will be able toappropriate Jesus’ promises and live as “overcomers” so they may receive these magnificent rewards listed above.  

In summary, Christians who persevere in obedience to Christ through difficult and uncertain times will be rewarded a permanent place of prominence and close association with Christ in God’s spiritual temple in the eternal state (3:7-13).

Prayer: Holy Lord Jesus, You alone are worthy to judge the spiritual life of the church. You are true because You are God and You are infinitely distinct from all false gods who represent a lie. You alone have authority to distribute Your rewards in Your coming Kingdom as You choose. So much of what we have here on earth is temporary and changing. But You offer us rewards that are permanent and eternal. Although we may face religious persecution and opposition in this life for Your sake, our commitment to remain faithful to You is far more important in light of Your promises to give us a permanent place of prominence and close association with You in God’s spiritual temple in eternity. Thank You Lord Jesus for offering to honor us in heaven if we will honor You here on earth. In Your holy name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 50.

2. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John

F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

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. 1511.

4. Ibid.

5. Walvoord, pg. 164.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1512. 

7. Ibid.

8.  Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2375.

9. Walvoord, pg. 164.

10. Retrieved on October 26, 2021 from John H. Niemelä’s March 1, 2017 Grace Evangelical Society’s journal article at www.faithalone.org entitled, “Revelation 3:10 and the Rapture: A New Departure,” where he cites Robert Govett, The Saints’ Rapture to the Presence of the Lord Jesus (London: Nisbet, 1852), pg. 310.

11. Ibid., cites John F. MacArthur, “The Final Generation, Part 1 (Mark 13:28-37),” on Grace to You, April 3, 2011. Transcript at https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/41-69/the-finalgeneration-part-1. Accessed August 9, 2016.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1513.

13. William Ross, “An Analysis of the Rewards and Judgments in Revelation 2 and 3,” Dallas Theological Seminary ThM Thesis, 1971, pg. 52.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1513.

15. Ibid.

16. Constable, pg. 54 cites Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John. 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pg. 58.

How can I overcome loneliness? Part 3

“At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.” 2 Timothy 4:16

In 2 Timothy 4, the apostle Paul is writing to his dear friend named Timothy. Paul was a dying old man as he wrote from prison in Rome to Timothy. He urged the younger man to visit him because he was lonely. We are learning from Paul some different causes and cures for loneliness. So far we have discovered that loneliness can be caused by transitions in life (2 Timothy 4:6-8) and separation from loved ones (2 Timothy 4:9-12, 21). The cures for these are utilizing our time wisely (2 Timothy 4:13) and recognizing God’s presence in our lives (2 Timothy 4:17a).

The third cause of loneliness is OPPOSITION (2 Timothy 4:14a). Although Demas had merely abandoned Paul (2 Timothy 4:10), Paul writes that “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm.” (2 Timothy 4:14a).It’s likely that this is the same Alexander in Ephesus who was a false teacher and whom Paul ‘delivered to Satan’ (1 Tim 1:19-20) because Paul warns Timothy, who was ministering in Ephesus, to watch out for him and his opposition to sound teaching (2 Tim 4:15).” 1

Paul is saying, “Not only am I getting old and sitting here alone in prison separated from my dear friends, but I have also been attacked.” We don’t know exactly what Alexander did. He may have vigorously opposed Paul at his trial. Maybe he slandered Paul’s name or attacked his reputation. Maybe he was turning people against Paul – we don’t know for sure. But to be vigorously opposed creates a very lonely feeling inside of us.

Remember when you were a little kid on the playground at school and everybody ganged up on you? “You are not our friend anymore!” they said.You felt opposed and you felt all alone, didn’t you? It is a painful experience to face opposition when everyone else is having fun. It is lonely to be misunderstood, to be embarrassed, and humiliated. The temptation is to build walls of protection around ourselves. But doing that only makes us lonelier.

We may harbor resentment toward those who have opposed us. We may want to get back at them and make them pay for the hurt they have caused us. The way Paul responds to the opposition in his life provides the third way to deal with loneliness: RELEASE THE HURT (2 Timothy 4:16). Don’t exaggerate your loneliness and don’t rehearse it over and over: “I’m so alone. I’m so alone.” Also, don’t allow the loneliness to make you bitter and resentful.

Paul said, “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.” (2 Timothy 4:16). Paul’s words are reminiscent of Jesus’ and Stephen’s words toward their enemies before they died (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60).

Paul had a lot of time on his hands, but he did not have any time to become bitter and resentful. He chose to forgive those who wounded him. Paul knew that bitterness only makes you lonelier and builds a wall around your life because no one likes to be around a cynic – someone who is always resentful and complaining.

Paul is saying, “I want to be a better person, not a bitter person, so I will utilize my time, recognize God’s presence, and release my hurt.” Each of us has a choice as to how we respond to our circumstances. We can choose to focus on our feelings, or we can choose to focus on the truth. The truth is forgiveness frees us from past hurts.

All of us have been hurt and wounded by others, especially those we trusted. From beginning to end, the Bible emphasizes the importance of forgiveness. God even commands us to forgive (Ephesians 4:32). Therefore Jesus taught us to pray, 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors… 14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:12, 14-15). Forgiveness is so important because it is connected to God’s forgiveness of us. I cannot enjoy fellowship or closeness with God the Father if I am not willing to forgive those who have hurt me. Being unforgiving connects us to our past hurts and makes it difficult to fully enjoy the blessings of our relationship with God and with other people.

One of the ways we can know we have not forgiven someone is we keep rehearsing bitter and defensive thoughts toward those who have hurt us. We keep going “back to court” in our minds with all the things we wish we had said or want to say to them. 2 God invites us to release the hurt others have caused to us. Forgiveness requires the cancelling of a debt (cf. Matthew 18:21-35). Perhaps the person who has hurt us owes us an apology, justice, money, repentance, restoration, suffering, understanding, etc. God wants us to cancel the debt they owe us.

I am learning that there are three things that can hinder me from forgiving others: judgments, vows, and false beliefs. 3 When someone hurts us, we can hold on to judgments about them out of fear. We may judge their motives and try to read their minds. We tell ourselves, “He or she is evil, selfish, and does not care about me or love me.” Christ warns us about making such judgments (Matthew 7:1-2). These judgments can cause heart wounds that keep us from healing and growing. When we refuse to forgive that person, we can bind ourselves to the person we are judging and become more like that person.It is important to repent of our judgments and ask God to release the person and ourselves from the consequences. 4

Not only do judgments about our offenders hinder us from forgiving them, but so do the vows we make. Jesus opposed the practice of distorting vows so they could convey or conceal a lie (Matthew 5:33-35). We can make inner vows to survive the hurts we have suffered. For example, when a person I trusted hurts me, I may make an inner vow that says, “I will never trust anyone again!” Or “If I need others they will take advantage of me!” These types of vows can become self-curses that result in isolation and loneliness, which cause us even more pain. These inner vows can often become subconscious and do not disappear with time. They are like a contract that must be renounced or broken.  It is important to ask God to forgive us and break these vows we have made. 5

False beliefs or lies can also prevent us from forgiving others. We may tell ourselves, “If I forgive them, they will get off the hook and there will never be any justice.” But the truth is, only God knows what is just (Romans 12:19). Or “If I forgive, I will become vulnerable to them again.” The truth is that just because you forgive them does not mean that they are safe, and you must trust them again (Matthew 18:15-18).

If you are struggling with loneliness because of unforgiveness, take some time today to ask God to reveal to you the people who have hurt you. 6 You may want to start with those closest to you (e.g., a parent, spouse, sibling, child, close friend, etc.). What wound did he or she cause to you? (e.g., abandoned, abused, betrayed, criticized, lied, neglected, rejected, etc.).

What are the judgments or things you believe about them? (e.g., they are evil, lazy, selfish, stupid, weak, didn’t love me, didn’t care for me, etc.). Repent of these judgments and ask God to release the person and yourself from the consequences (Matthew 7:1-2).

What vows did you tell yourself to survive the wound? (e.g., “I don’t need or trust anyone,” or “whatever I do, it won’t be enough,” or “all men/women are ______,” etc.). Renounce and repent of these vows, asking God to forgive you and to break them.

What effect did the wound have on you (How did you cope)? (e.g., anger, addiction, codependency, depression, food, isolation, stress, workaholism, etc.).

What debt do they owe you? What would they have to do for you to trust them again? (e.g., apologize, change their behavior, justice, make restitution, money, repent or seek your forgiveness, etc.). Talk to the Lord, asking Him to make you both willing and able to cancel their debt.

What false belief or lie is keeping you from forgiving them? Say the following false beliefs below to yourself to see if they feel true. If they do, then focus on the true beliefs until the false beliefs no longer feel true.

False belief: If I forgive them, they will get off the hook and there will never be any justice.

True belief: Only God know what is just (Romans 12:19).

False belief: Forgiveness means I must pretend that nothing ever happened.

True belief: Forgiveness is not denial. You must tell yourself the truth about what they did and how it affected you to really be able to forgive from the heart (Matthew 18:35; John 8:32).

False belief: If I forgive, I will become vulnerable to them again.

True belief: Just because you forgive them doesn’t mean that they are safe, and you must trust them again (Matthew 18:15-18).

False belief: My unforgiveness punishes them and is justified because I am right; they will never see their wrong and repent if I let go.

True belief: The truth is, it is God’s mercy and kindness that leads us to repentance. Only He knows what will change them (Romans 2:4; Ephesians 4:24-32).

If you are ready, insert the name of the person you have chosen to forgive into the following prayer of forgiveness:

Father God, Your Word says that to be forgiven, I must forgive. And so, I come to You in the name of Jesus, in obedience and love, and I bring (name) _____ before You. I cancel _____ debt to me (e.g., apology, change of behavior, humiliation, repentance, suffering, etc.). I choose to forgive this hurt against me, and I ask that You would not hold these sins against _____ on my account. I release _____ from any desire on my part to see _____ punished. In fact, as You have told me to do, I bless _____ in Your Son’s name, Jesus. You know _____ desires, needs, and hurts. You know what would bless _____. And so, I ask that You would pour out Your love and healing to _____ and bring _____ Your highest good, because Your name is Good and Love, and You are not willing that any should perish. Now also, Father, please heal my heart and set me free to love _____ as You do. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 2220-2221.

2. Michael Dye, The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Books 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 123-124.

3. Ibid., pp. 126-131.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. The following steps are adapted from Ibid., pp. 129-132.

7. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 132.

How do I climb out of the pit of discouragement? Part 5

“So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.” I Kings 19:8

We are learning from the prophet Elijah, how to climb out of the pit of discouragement. For this to happen, we must …

– Focus on the facts, not our feelings (I Kings 19:1-4a).

– Not compare ourselves with others (I Kings 19:4b).

– Take care of our physical needs (I Kings 19:5-7a).

– Accept God is not done with us yet (I Kings 19:7b). 

After the angel of the Lord awakened Elijah again and informed him that God had a “journey” for him to take,he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.” (I Kings 19:8). Just as Elijah needed food and rest, he also needed time in God’s presence.

Moses and the Israelites had traveled in that wilderness for 40 years, sustained by the manna God had provided for them and learned lessons of His faithful care and provision. Now Elijah would traverse the same desert for 40 days and … nights, sustained by the bread God provided and would learn the same lessons. A direct trip from Beersheba to Mount Horeb (the ancient name for Mount Sinai; cf. Ex. 3:1; 17:6; 33:6; Deut. 5:2; 1 Kings 8:9; Ps. 106:19; Mal. 4:4) would have taken Elijah only about 14 days on foot (a distance of ca. 200 miles). God was reminding him and teaching him during those 40 days and nights. Finally He went to the mountain of God, the very place where God had revealed Himself to Moses and the Israelites and where He had entered into a covenant with His Chosen People.” 1

Remember Elijah’s attitude in verse 4? He was ready to die, but now we see him doing what God wants him to do. He moves toward God. This is the fifth step to take to climb out of the pit of discouragement – PURSUE THE LORD (I Kings 19:8). Pursuing the Lord is one of the hardest things to do when we are overwhelmed with discouragement, but it is an important part of climbing out of this pit.

The Bible tells us, Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8). We must take the first step. God will not force His way into our lives without an invitation. We must open our hearts to Him. People are opening their hearts to all kinds of false hopes instead of to the Lord, our true source of hope.

We can draw near to God through prayer, praise, and obedience. The key is to be open and honest with the Lord. The apostle John writes, “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 that this verse says, “If we walk in the light.” Only God is light (I John 1:5); but we are called to walk “in” the light. We must be willing to let God expose the sin in our lives. And when He does, we are to agree with Him by confessing our sin to Him (I John 1:9). Believers who “walk in the light” are not sinless, but the light reveals their sin to them so they can confess it to the Lord. When that happens “we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

When holy people see themselves in God’s light, they see their dirt. And when they see the dirt, they want God to deal with it—something he is delighted to do. Only as we live fully exposed to the truth of God is the ongoing cleansing work of the blood of Christ activated to reveal, cleanse, and empower us to address the sin that has been exposed. Then fellowship with God is maintained and expanded.” 2

God has pursued us all our lives, but He also wants us to pursue Him. Let’s take some time to do that, especially when we are discouraged. It may not feel comfortable at first, but the Lord will not disappoint if we will take that first step toward Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, when I think about Elijah’s decision to move toward You by taking his journey to Mt. Horeb, I wonder what lessons You taught him as he traveled 40 days and nights? Did Elijah take time to observe the birds of the air in the wilderness? Was he reminded by those birds that You care far more for him than the birds You daily feed (Matthew 6:26)? Was he refreshed by the cool breeze under the shade of the trees? Did he feel the warmth of Your presence along the way? You gave Your prophet the strength he needed to make this trip. Giving Elijah this journey must have renewed his sense of purpose and usefulness. Perhaps his sense of anticipation of good from You increased with each step he took along the way toward Mt. Horeb. Lord God, please help each of us to take that first step toward You; to open our hearts and minds to You knowing that You are the God of second chance Who delights in spending time with His children no matter how discouraged they have been. Our discouragement is no surprise to You. You love us regardless of our emotional condition. And like You did with Elijah, You also give us the strength to pursue You when we choose to do so. Thank You, Father, for being so good and gracious to us. In the mighty name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, The Bible Knowledge Commentary History, Editors John F. Walvoordand Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Locations 6218-6223.  

2. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2334.