Revelation 19 – Part 2

“And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For our Lord God Omnipotent reigns!’” Revelation 19:6

Following the first three outbursts of praise toward God in heaven for the destruction of Rome (19:1-4; cf. 18:1-24), the apostle John now records a fourth outburst of praise for the coming rule of God on the earth (19:5-6). “Then a voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!’” (Revelation 19:5). John hears an authoritative “voice,” probably an angel’s, “from the throne” in heaven calling “all” God’s “servants,” both angelic and human, to “praise our God,” including the “small and great” saints and prophets (cf. 18:20, 24; 19:2). 1

As a result of this call to praise, John writes, “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For our Lord God Omnipotent reigns!’” (Revelation 19:6). Together “a great multitude” of all God’s servants in heaven, angelic and human, praise the Lord God with “the voice” that sounded like both the roar of huge waterfalls (“many waters”)and loud cracks of “mighty thunderings” announcing the soon arrival of the all-powerful Messiah’s reign(“our Lord God Omnipotent reigns”) on the earth. 2 This praise is not for the judgment of Rome that just took place (18:1-24) but is prophetic for what is about to happen. 3 The eternal reign of the Lord Jesus Christ is about to replace the rule of sinful humankind on earth. 4

“There are two ways in which God can reign: in blessing and in judgment. Either way, it is an awesome thing when the Lord manifests His presence and establishes His rule in an open and visible way.” 5

We can join with that heavenly multitude in anticipation of what God will do in the future. As believers in Jesus, we do not have to wait until the events of Revelation 19 come to pass to praise God for His coming kingdom on earth. Until Jesus Christ returns to earth and defeats His enemies and establishes His rule on the earth, God will permit people the freedom to live their own way. But at any moment, God could begin to take back the kingdoms of the world. One day the dominion that Adam surrendered to Satan through sin will be returned to the perfect Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. Then all people around the world can sing together the lyrics of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” not in anticipation of what God will do one day but in celebration of its arrival: “Hallelujah for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!” 6

During His earthly ministry, Jesus encouraged His disciples to pray, 9 Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10). Although Christians have faithfully prayed this prayer since the first century, most of this ancient prayer has not been answered literally. If we are honest with ourselves when we look at world affairs, none of us would conclude that God’s kingdom has literally come to earth where His will is “done on earth as it is in heaven.” As a matter of fact, when we turn on the news, it seems more like Satan’s kingdom has come and his will is done around the globe. 7

Jesus not only wants us to pray for His coming kingdom on earth, but to live for it as well when He said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33). Christ wants us to live for His coming kingdom by putting Him first in our lives. When we do, He promises to take care of all our needs.

During this church age, believers in Jesus are commanded to make disciples of Jesus by preaching the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection to a lost world (Mark 16:15; I Corinthians 15:3-6), followed by baptizing those who believe the gospel as the first step of discipleship, and then teaching them obedience to all Christ’s commands (Matthew 28:19-20). But the day when King Jesus rules on the earth so that the Father’s will is “done on earth as it is in heaven” will not take place until at the end of the seven-year Tribulation when Jesus returns to earth (Revelation 11:15-19; 19:11-20:6).

What a glorious day that will be when King Jesus sits on His throne in Jerusalem and rules with a rod of iron so that all His subjects will obey Him, and universal peace will be established (Isaiah 2:4; 9:6-7; 11:6-9; Psalm 2). Do you know for sure you will be in Jesus’ glorious kingdom on earth? If not, you can be certain if you hear and believe Jesus’ invitation when He said:

 5 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit… 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:5-6, 14-15). Christ tells us we must have two birthdays to enter His kingdom: physical birth (“born of water… that which is born of the flesh is flesh”) and spiritual birth (“born of… the Spirit… that which is born of the Spirit is spirit”). If you are reading this article, you have the first birth. But if you do not know you have eternal life and a future home in heaven, then you need the second birth which is spiritual.

Why do we need to be born of the Spirit? Because the Bible tells us that all of us have sinned against God with our thoughts, our words, and our actions (Romans 3:23). The penalty for our sins is “death” or separation from God (Romans 6:23a). The final punishment for sin is death in a terrible place of torment and suffering called hell (Mark 9:43-48) or the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

God does not want any human being to suffer forever in the lake of fire, so He provided the solution to our sin problem when He sent His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to earth over two thousand years ago to live a perfect life, die for our sins on the cross, and rise from the dead three days later as He promised (John 3:16a; I Corinthians 15:3-6; Hebrews 4:15), proving His claims to be God are true (Romans 1:3-4).

Jesus is alive today and He has the power to save us from hell and give us eternal life so we may enter His kingdom when He returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation period. All we need to do to be born of God’s Spirit and enter His kingdom is believe in Jesus. Christ said to a religious leader named Nicodemus who was trusting his good life to get to heaven, “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15).

In Numbers 21, the people of Israel were on the way to the Promised Land. They were complaining against God and were dissatisfied with the manna He sent them. To discipline them, God sent poisonous snakes among the people, resulting in many physical deaths (Numbers 21:4-6). Moses then asked God to remove the snakes. God told Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten when he looks at it, shall live” (Numbers 21:8).

In a similar fashion, all of humankind has been struck down by sin. Sin has sunk its fangs in our spiritual souls and the venom has made its way to our hearts and we are dying in our sins. But God saw our hopelessness and “lifted up” His Son on the cross to die for our sins. To be born of the Spirt and enter God’s kingdom, we must simply “look and live,” just as in Numbers 21 one had to “look and live.”Jesus explained their “look” as simply believing in Him when He said, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” We must look to Jesus alone for entrance into His kingdom, not our own righteousness or human efforts.

I think we underestimate Satan’s strategy. Satan is a deceiver. You won’t recognize him by his dress or conduct. He might even wear the suit of a preacher. He will probably encourage you to be as much like God as possible without being related to God. Satan is on the side of religion; he is not opposed to it if religion leaves out a Christ-alone salvation. That way, he can deceive people into an eternal hell.

God takes us to heaven based on His Son’s performance on the cross, not ours. He offers eternal life only based on His grace – favor we do not deserve. Grace with anything added to it ceases to be grace (Romans 11:6). If we trust in anything in addition to Christ for salvation, then we have fallen victim to Satan’s deception. Christ and Christ alone saves us from an eternity in hell and grants us entrance into His eternal kingdom.

Do you have religion without Christ? Why not turn from religion to a relationship with Jesus? Jesus invites you to believe in Him for eternal life. The word “believe” in the New Testament means to be convinced that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead and then trust or depend upon Christ.

Several years ago, a friend of mine visited the Houston Astrodome. Suspended three hundred feet above the playing field was a twenty-seven-thousand-pound gondola. That gondola was held in place by five cables which are each 5/8 of an inch thick. When a newscaster sat in that gondola, he was trusting the cables to hold him. Everything he has done and everything he is means nothing. He must depend on those cables to hold him.

Christ paid for all our sins by dying on the cross in our place. God now comes to you and asks you to depend upon Christ as your only way to heaven. It doesn’t matter if you are a child who is nine or an adult who is ninety. It matters not if you are a morally good person or if you have spent more time inside a jail than outside, you must trust in Christ alone to save you. Perhaps you can identify with Nicodemus – you have always believed the way to heaven was by living a good life or by believing in Christ plus something else. But now you understand you were mistaken, and you want to trust Christ alone to get you to heaven. Again, the promise is “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:15). The moment you believe this, Christ guarantees you will enter His eternal kingdom on earth in the future. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, for centuries Christians have prayed for Jesus’ kingdom to come to earth. Thank You for reminding us today that all of heaven praises You for Your coming kingdom. May each of us pray for this coming kingdom and live for it by putting You first in our lives (Matthew 6:9-10, 33). For anyone who has been deceived by Satan’s lies to think they can enter Christ’s coming kingdom by living a good life or by believing in Christ plus something else, please persuade them to know and believe the truth that Jesus Christ alone grants entrance into His eternal kingdom to those who believe in Him alone. Thank You Father for hearing our prayers. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 205.

2. Ibid.

3. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6212.

4. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1572.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2414.

6. 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. 331.

7. Swindoll, pg. 224.  

How do I overcome doubt? Part 3

“The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I WILL NOT BELIEVE.’ ” John 20:25 (Emphasis added)

In John 20:24-29, we are learning how to overcome doubt. So far we have discovered we can overcome doubt when we…

– Restore our fellowship with other Christians (John 20:24).

– Readjust our unrealistic requirements for belief (John 20:25a).

Let’s remember that Thomas was already a believer in Jesus for everlasting life (cf. John 2:11; 11:15 13:10; 14:5) when he struggled with doubts about Jesus’ resurrection. Likewise, as believers in Jesus, we will all have doubts in our lives. There are many different kinds of doubts that we will face. 1

One kind of a doubt is what is called the sudden kind of doubt. You are driving down the highway and all of a sudden this thought jumps into your mind that says, “None of these things about Jesus are real.” Or, “No one is really going to heaven. What if this is all a lie?”  Have you ever had those kind of thoughts? Where do those thoughts come from?  They come from Satan, the evil one. These kind of thoughts will just pop into your mind. You can just throw them out like trash as quickly as possible. Don’t be concerned about these. 

But another kind of doubt is called circumstantial doubts. These doubts come into our lives because of certain circumstances that we face. Doubts that come because of certain relationships or disappointments. These are longer lasting doubts. They come into our lives when circumstances do not turn out like we expected God was going to do.

When these circumstantial doubts take place, we have to decide how we are going to deal with them. How are we going to trust God in this? The way to do this is the same way Thomas needed to do it.

Thomas was not among the disciples the first time Jesus appeared to the ten disciples the day He rose from the dead (John 20:19-23). After Jesus’ appearance to them, the disciples came to Thomas, saying, “We have seen the Lord.” Thomas then said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25). The disciples are encouraging Thomas to have faith that Jesus is alive. But Thomas says, “I will not believe.”

Thomas is telling us, “I am choosing not to believe.” He is making a choice not to believe Jesus is alive. It is a matter of his will. Those who deny that faith is a choice are ignoring the truth of the Scriptures. God makes it very clear that faith is a matter of the will.

Jesus amplifies this when He comes to His disciples eight days after His resurrection. 26 Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ 27 Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ ” (John 20:26-27). Although the doors were locked, Jesus materialized in front of the disciples and said, “Peace to you.” Then Christ turned directly to Thomas, as if He had come for his sole benefit. Knowing full well the struggles going on in Thomas’ heart, Jesus invites him to explore with his hands (“Reach your finger here”) and his eyes (“look at My hands”) the reality of His resurrection body.

When Jesus said, “reach your hand here, and put it into My side,” he was referring to a literal hole in His side that was left by the spear. It had healed over but it left an obvious impression. Jesus did not condemn Thomas for his unbelief. He didn’t say, “You should not ask questions like that Thomas!” Christ gave Thomas undeniable evidence that He rose from the dead to answer his objection and then invites him to believe.

Christ began with Thomas’ objection and then gave him evidence. Peter taught the same thing in principle when he wrote, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (I Peter 3:15).

When sharing the gospel with an intellectual skeptic, they may say to you, “Where did Cain get his wife?” The answer is he married his sister. But we can go beyond that and show the reasonableness of that answer. Granted, there are some problems with that answer. The first problem is we know that Adam had sons – Cain, Abe, and Seth (Genesis 4:1-2, 25), but we cannot name any of his daughters. Now if Adam did not have any daughters, how could Cain marry his sister? The answer to that difficulty is that Adam did have daughters. Genesis 5:4 says, “After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters.”

But this brings up a second problem. Today we cannot marry a sister because if a brother marries his sister the mathematical possibilities of the weakness of their genes coming up in their children is great. That is why this is called incest and is forbidden today.

The only way to solve that problem is to have genetically perfect parents. That is exactly the case with Cain and his sister. Adam and Eve were created directly by God so Cain and his sister had perfect heredity. Their children would have had few harmful mutations. When sin entered the world at the fall (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12), it brought with it mutations in the DNA resulting in disease, death, and destruction. The gene pool would gradually become corrupt. At first no harm would result from marrying a brother or sister, but as generations passed harmful genetic mutations along, those harmful mutations and defective genes would increase and accumulate. Eventually, it became too dangerous to marry a close relative because of the increased likelihood of inherited disease. This is why God forbid marrying a close relative in the time of Moses, about 2,500 years after the creation of Adam and Eve (Leviticus 18:6-8).

But there was no prohibition against marrying a close relative in the beginning because there was no need for it. So the point is that there is a reasonable answer to the question, “Where did Cain get his wife?”

Some of us may conclude that we could never witness because we will not be able to come up with all those intellectual answers. But often times, non-Christians do not ask the questions Christians ask. Those of us who are believers in Jesus hear the Bible discussed and explained and we expect non-Christians to ask the same questions we do. But more and more non-Christians in the world are biblical illiterates. They usually don’t ask the questions we do.

Most non-Christians ask very basic questions: What about those who have never heard? Is Christ the only way to God? How can you be sure Jesus is God? Why do the innocent suffer? How can miracles be possible? Isn’t the Bible full of errors? Isn’t the Christian experience psychological? Won’t a good moral life get me to heaven?

Rather than worry about non-Christians asking difficult questions, simply share the gospel with those who will listen. If you do not know the answer to their questions, be honest and tell them you do not know. I find it helps to say to them, “Thanks so much for a great question. I do not have an answer to that right now, but I will do some research and get back to you with an answer.” The internet has many helpful Christian websites that can help you answer tough questions. 2 Ask your pastor for some help if you don’t find any on the internet.

When an intellectual objection is given to you by someone, start out by giving a reasonable answer to the stated objection. Some people do have honest intellectual questions. They want answers. They will usually accept reasonable answers, or at least the reasonableness of an answer.

But when a person objects to Christianity and does not accept the reasonableness of an answer, his or her problem is moral, not intellectual. These people tend to argue rather than listen to the reasonableness of your answers. So pursue the moral issue.

Perhaps they are struggling with guilt. For example, an evangelist was having a rap session with high school teenagers. One girl who sat in the back had been quiet. Near the end of the session, she said, “The Bible says God loves everyone. Then it says God sends people to hell. How can a loving God do that?” The evangelist gave reasonable answers but she kept coming back with arguments. He didn’t convince her nor did she convince him. Soon the session was dismissed.

Afterward, the evangelist approached the girl and said, “I owe you an apology. I really should not have allowed our discussion to become so argumentative.” Then he said, “May I share something with you?” “Yes,” she said. So he began to present the gospel to her. When he got to Romans 3:23, he said, “We are all sinners.” Then she began to cry. She then admitted to having an affair with a married man. The one thing she needed was forgiveness. After the gospel presentation, she trusted Christ alone for the forgiveness of all her sin and received the gift of eternal life. The reason she had not believed in hell was because she was going there. Rather than face her guilt, she denied there was any future hell.

Others we may witness to may struggle with bitterness. Many non-Christians have been turned off by Christians or Christianity. They have had Christianity crammed down their throats or they have been stabbed in the back by a Christian. Their response was bitterness. They have been wounded and they are hurting. They need to hear and see the grace of Jesus Christ.

Another moral issue that can hinder a non-Christian from hearing reasonable answers to their questions is a sinful self-will. After hearing the gospel presentation, one student said, “I can’t answer your presentation, but it is reasonable. It is just that I refuse to accept it.”

This is what kept many religious leaders from believing in Jesus when Christ walked the earth. Christ said to those who refused to believe in Him as the Christ, the Son of God, 39You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40). These religious leaders devoted their lives to studying the Scriptures “which testify of” Jesus, but they never found Him. Why? Because they were “not willing to come to” Him that they “may have life.” They were unwilling to believe in Jesus even though the Bible testifies of Him from cover to cover.

When witnessing to intellectuals, we must avoid two extremes:

1) Anti-intellectualism which says, “Don’t bother me with intellectual questions. Just let me present the simple gospel.” The result is the thinking non-Christian will conclude that his honest questions have no answers and he won’t listen to the gospel.

2) Intellectualism that says answers will win the person to Christ. So we rely on intellectual answers and not on God. Keep in mind that it was not the disciples who convinced Thomas (John 20:25a), it was Jesus Himself who convinced this skeptic. Giving people the gospel will often do what all the intellectual arguments fail to do – break down the barriers. There is only one way to God – the gospel or good news of Jesus and His death and resurrection. But there are many ways to the gospel. The road may be straight, or it may contain curves. You have to travel the road the person is on when you find him or her. No matter where you find him or how many roads he takes, or how many rest stops he insists on, guide him gently toward the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rely on the Holy Spirit instead of reasonable answers to persuade the person to believe in Christ alone as his or her only hope of heaven.

After Jesus gave Thomas the evidence to answer to his objection, Christ commands him, Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 3  It is a matter of the will. It is a choice to stop doubting and to believe.

When Thomas said, “I will not believe” (John 20:25b), in the Greek language he used a double negative. 4  Literally, he is saying, “I will no not believe.” We might translate it, “I will positively not believe.” At least Thomas is being honest. He is making it clear that the reason he will not believe Jesus is alive is because he has made the choice not to believe it. He is choosing not to believe.

Some people think that having faith is a matter of the intellect or logic. Others view faith as being based on emotions. So which is it? Logic or feelings? Neither is true. Faith is volitional. It is not based upon the intellect or feelings. It is based upon the will.

There are people who are waiting for their mind to inform them or their emotions to lead them into the kind of faith in God that they see other people having. It is not going to happen. Yes, information or emotions can influence our decisions. But simply having enough information in our minds or enough emotions in our hearts is not going to automatically give us faith in God. Faith is a matter of the will.

When I choose to believe, then my emotions will follow and my mind will start to understand more and more of Who God truly is. It is a matter of the will.

When Jesus told Thomas, Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27b), He was telling him to choose to stop moving in the direction of unbelief and to decide to start moving in the direction of belief. So the third way to overcome doubts is to REDIRECT OUR WILLS TOWARD BELIEVING (John 20:25b-27). We are either moving in the direction of belief or we are moving in the direction of unbelief. We either decide to accept God’s Word is true or we decide to reject His Word is true. We either decide that God is a Promise-Keeper or God is a Promise-Breaker. We decide that God is either a Truth-Teller or a Liar.

Please understand that Thomas still had eternal life even though he had doubts. When you believe in Jesus for eternal life, you can never lose eternal life. That is why Jesus says you “shall never perish” after you believe in Him (John 10:28a). The word “never” means forever. If you could “perish” in hell after believing in Jesus, then Christ told a lie in John 10:28a. But Christ will not break His promise of eternal life to those who believe in Him because He is “full of truth” (John 1:14) and is “the truth” (John 14:6). He always keeps His promises.

But you may ask, “If I doubt my salvation, does that mean I am not saved?” It is possible. Those who doubt their salvation fall into one of three categories: 5

– You may be a doubter at heart. In other words, some people doubt everything. They doubt whether their mates love them or whether their children respect them. They doubt they will reach the age of retirement, or that their plane will reach its destination. Such people have issues they must deal with that are far different than eternal salvation.

– You may not understand the gospel and are not saved. Perhaps you are trusting in Christ plus your works or just your works alone, instead of trusting in Christ’s finished work on the cross (John 3:15-16; 19:30). Therefore, you don’t have any certainty of going to heaven. Or you may have been taught that if you cannot remember the date you became a Christian, then you are not saved. So you wonder, “Could that mean I’m not saved?” Let me ask you, did Jesus say, “Whoever believes in Him and knows the date they were saved has everlasting life?” No. The real question is, “Whom am I trusting right now to give me eternal life?” Our salvation is established by Whom we place our trust in, not when we trusted Him.

– You have trusted Christ and are saved, but you have confused entering the Christian life (John 3:16; 5:24) with living it (I John 1:4-10; 2:3-6; 3:6-15; 4:20:21). When a believer takes his or her focus off of Christ and His promise of eternal life, he or she may begin to doubt their salvation. When you listen to teaching that confuses entering the Christian life with living it, you are going to have doubts that you are saved.

For example, a few years ago I listened to a famous preacher on the radio in America say that the book of I John was written to provide tests to see if you are saved. He said to ask yourself, “do I have fellowship with the Father?… am I abiding in Him?… do I keep God’s commandments?… do I love other Christians?…  am I overcoming sin?” If you couldn’t answer “yes” to all these questions, then he said you cannot be certain you are saved.

But this preacher failed to observe the purpose of I John is not to tell you how to become a Christian or how to know you are a Christian. First John was written to tell us how to have fellowship (closeness) with Christ or how to know you have fellowship with Christ. The author of I John, the same author of the gospel of John, writes, 3 That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”  (I John 1:3-4).

The gospel of John tells you how to receive the gift of eternal life, mentioning the word “believe” ninety-nine times. 6  The book of I John tells us how to get close to the One you have believed in, using the word for “abide” (menō) twenty-three times. 7

Therefore, closeness to Christ is discussed in I John, not salvation. People who don’t act like a Christian or a disciple may not be a believer. But to use characteristics of a disciple to determine if you are a Christian is not helpful. Some people might live a good moral life without being a Christian. It could be that those people are trusting in their works instead of Christ’s finished work on the cross to get them to heaven.

Losing your assurance of salvation is not the same as losing your salvation. As we have seen in the gospel of John, when you believe in Christ for eternal life, you are eternally secure at the moment of faith because of Christ’s performance and promise (John 3:14-18; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 10:28-29; 11:25-27; 19:30), not your performance or feelings.

However, being certain of your salvation can waver if you start looking to someone or something else other that Christ and His promise of eternal life. If you doubt your salvation, ask yourself: 8

Do I understand the simplicity of the Gospel? Since Christ paid the full penalty for my sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6), God can now forgive me based on what He has done for me, not what I do for Him (Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:13-14).

– Have I trusted Christ alone for my salvation? We appropriate Christ’s death on the cross by coming to Him as sinners, recognizing that He made the full payment for sin on our behalf, and “believing.” Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). The word “believe” means to place our trust in Christ alone as our only basis for living eternally with God. If you are trusting Christ alone to get to heaven, you are forever God’s child regardless of when or where that occurred.

Am I taking God at His Word? Once you trust in Christ, you must trust His Word. That means accepting God’s promise that, having trusted Christ, we are forever His. Jesus assures us: “And I give them  eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28).

If I were to ask you whose child you are, you would say, “I am the child of …” You have proof that would stand up in a court of law – a birth certificate. A piece of paper assures you that you are their child. God has given us a piece of paper – the inspired Word of  God, the Bible. It assures us that once we have believed in Christ, we have everlasting life. We are His forever. If you could lose your salvation, then Jesus just lied to us in John 3:16 when He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Our salvation is based upon a promise that cannot be broken. It comes from a God who cannot lie.

In closing, Jesus looked at Thomas and said, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27b). This meant it was a matter of Thomas’ will. This was something he could choose. And Thomas did. His decision teaches us our next way to overcome doubt. But that is for our next time together.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for showing me that it is my decision to move toward doubting or believing. I cannot blame my doubts on my circumstances, my past, my parents, my personality, or my peers. I am responsible for whether or not I choose to doubt or believe. Simply having more information in my mind or more emotion in my heart is not going to automatically give me faith in You. It is a matter of my will. This day I am deciding to move in the direction of believing, not doubting. Whether I feel like believing or not, I will choose to move toward believing. Whether I have more or less information, I will decide to move toward believing. When I doubt my salvation, I will refocus upon You and Your unchanging promises. Please help those who doubt Your resurrection to realize it is their choice to do this. Just as You gave Thomas evidence to answer his objection, please give others what they need to come to faith in You. They can choose to believe or not believe. The choice is theirs. But that choice has eternal consequences. In Your name I pray, my Lord and my God. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s August 28, 1996 sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

2. See www.answersingenesis.org ; www.josh.org ; www.probe.org ; www.carm.org ; www.christiananswers.net .

3. The verb (ginou) in the phrase, “do not be unbelieving” (mē ginou apistos) is a present imperative.

4. Ou mē pisteusō.

5. Adapted from R. Larry Moyer, 21 Things God Never Said: Correcting Our Misconceptions About Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004) pp. 79-81.

6. In the Greek Majority Text John uses the word for “believe” (pisteuō) ninety-nine times: John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 22, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36; 4:21, 39, 41, 42, 48, 50, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 46(2), 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47,  64(2), 69; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:18, 35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:15, 25, 26(2), 27, 40, 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:1(2), 10, 11(2), 12, 29; 16:9, 27, 30, 31; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29(2), 31(2).

7. In the Greek Majority Text, John uses the word for “abide” (menō) twenty-three times: I John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 24(3), 27(2), 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17, 24(2); 4:12, 13, 15, 16 (3).

8. Moyer, 21 Things God Never Said, pp. 81-83.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 5

“…Where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.” John 19:18

Currently, I am reading a great book by Max Lucado entitled “He Chose the Nails: What God did to win your heart.” In one of the chapters, Lucado asks, “Ever wonder why there were two crosses next to Christ? Why not six or ten? Ever wonder why Jesus was in the center? Why not on the far right or far left? Could it be that the two crosses on the hill symbolize one of God’s greatest gifts? The gift of choice.

“The two criminals have so much in common. Convicted by the same system. Condemned to the same death. Surrounded by the same crowd. Equally close to the same Jesus. In fact, they begin with the same sarcasm: ‘The two criminals also said cruel things to Jesus’ (Matt. 27:44 CEV).

“But one changed.” 1

This leads us to the fifth lasting lesson that we learn from the last day in Jesus’ life before His dead body is sealed in a tomb. So far in our study, we have discovered the following lessons:

Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

– The cross is the total expression of God’s grace to us in Christ (John 17-18a).

Today we discover that THE TWO CROSSES TEACH THAT GOD GIVES EACH OF US THE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE (JOHN 19:18b). This has been the case throughout human history. When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden, He gave them the freedom to obey or disobey (Genesis 2:8-25), and they chose to disobey (Genesis 3:1-24). And God permitted them.

Abel and Cain were both sons of Adam, but Abel chose to worship God His way with an animal sacrifice and Cain chose his own way (Genesis 4:1-5; cf. Hebrews 11:4). God allowed them to do this.

Abraham and Lot were both travelers in Canaan (Genesis 13). Abraham chose God and Lot chose Sodom. God let them make their own choices.

David and Saul were both kings of Israel (I Samuel 9:1-I Kings 2:11). David chose to follow God and Saul chose to go his own way. And God lets them.

Peter and Judas both deny Jesus. But Peter seeks restoration (John 20:15-17) and Judas seeks death (Matthew 27:5). God permits them to make these choices. 2

Jesus also gave people choices. He gives us the choice of belief or unbelief when He says, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18).

Christ gives us the choice of eternal life or eternal punishment when He says, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46). The choice is ours.

One of the two thieves hanging on a cross next to Jesus chose eternal life, but the other thief did not. Luke tells us about this in his account: 39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’ 40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’ 42 Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ 43 And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’ ” Luke 23:39-43

Both these thieves next to Jesus heard and saw the same things, but they reached different conclusions about the Man in the middle of them. The unbelieving criminal hurled insults at Jesus, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” (23:39b). But the believing criminal recognizes that he and the other thief are guilty of wrongdoing (“Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds”), but he acknowledges that Jesus “has done nothing wrong” and is about to enter His “kingdom” (23:40-42).

Both these men also differ on what they think they need to be saved from. The unbelieving criminal wants to be saved from his present earthly circumstances (“If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” (23:39b). But the other criminal understood there was something far more significant to be delivered from than their present circumstances. Perhaps when he heard Jesus pray, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34), he had a change of heart and placed his saving faith in Christ alone.  So he says to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (23:42). Jesus responds to this man’s faith by saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (23:43).

“And later that day, though his physical body died, his spirit and soul went to paradise with King Jesus, awaiting his future bodily resurrection from the dead. This affirms that believers go immediately into God’s presence at death.” 3

Does Jesus try to persuade the unbelieving thief to change his mind? Wouldn’t a personal invitation be timely for this other criminal? We might think so, but Jesus remains silent. He honors those who have the freedom to choose where they spend eternity.

Granted there are some choices we do not have the freedom to make: where we were born, who our parents are, our own DNA, etc. But where we spend eternity is a choice God has given us to make. Aren’t you glad for that?

Although we know little about the thief who came to faith in Christ on the cross, what we do know is he was deserving of condemnation. He chose the wrong crowd, the wrong morals, and the wrong behavior. But is he spending eternity reaping the fruit of his rebellious life? No, the exact opposite. He is reaping the fruit of one good choice he made hanging on a cross next to Jesus Christ.

You and I have made some terrible choices in life, haven’t we? Perhaps we have chosen the wrong crowd, the wrong morals, and the wrong behavior. We may look back over our lives and conclude, “If only I could take back those awful decisions.” You can’t take them back, but you can offset them. 4

Notice that this believing criminal did not have the opportunity to get baptized, or live a life of obedience to Christ as His disciple when he got saved on that cross. But he did do what is required of any person to be saved from eternal punishment: he believed in Jesus to save him (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). And one believing choice for eternity offsets a million bad ones on earth. The choice is yours.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the two crosses next to You on Golgotha that remind us that You have given us the freedom to choose. Why people choose differently about eternity, I do not know. But what I do know, is that You love those who believe in You enough to give them everlasting life. And when others do not believe in You, You love them enough to permit them. Please enable us by Your Spirit and Your truth to make God-honoring decisions that bring You more glory. In Your precious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pp. 53-54.

2. Ibid., pp. 52-53.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1737.

4. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails, pp. 55-56.