Revelation 7 – Part 2

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” Revelation 7:9

During the interlude between the sixth and seventh seal judgments, the apostle John receives two visions of God’s great mercy involving the salvation and sealing of 144,000 Jews on the earth (7:1-8) and the salvation of Gentiles and Jews from every nation who are taken to heaven (7:9-17). Even though this will be a time of trouble on the earth like never before, it will also be a time of salvation like never before—of both Jews (7:1-8) and Gentiles (7:9-17). 1

I often hear a certain religious group responding to our online videos who claim that there will only be 144,000 people in heaven. 2  Some scholars believe the 144,000 on the earth (7:1-8) are the same group mentioned in heaven (7:9-17). 3 But this is contrary to what we see in Revelation 7. There are significant differences between the redeemed group of 144,000 on the earth (7:1-8) and the redeemed group of people before God’s throne in heaven (7:9-17): 4

1. The number of redeemed on the earth is not only smaller, but definite (“one hundred and forty-four thousand” – 7:4), but the number of redeemed in heaven is not only larger, but indefinite (“a great multitude which no one could number” – 7:9).

2. People from all the tribes of the children of Israel” comprise the first group (7:4), but people from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” make up the second (7:9).

3. The first group is standing on “the earth” (7:1-3), whereas the second group is standing “before the throne” of God in heaven (7:9).

4. God prepares the first group for imminent peril on the earth (“Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads” – 7:3), but the second group is victorious, secure, and at rest in heaven (“standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands” – 7:9).

5. The first group is prepared for persecution on the earth (7:1-8), but the second group is ascended to heaven after persecution (7:14-15).

There seems to be a cause-and-effect relationship in Revelation 7between the 144,000 Jewish believers in verses 1-8 and the innumerable crowd of Gentile believers in verses 9-17. The ministry of the 144,000 during the last half of the Tribulation period brings about salvation for millions of people. 5 In spite of the turmoil all around them, the 144,000 Jewish evangelists are faithful to God and God uses them to reach many people from all over the earth during the last half of the Tribulation period (cf. Matthew 24:14). 6

Some students of the Bible have concluded that those who heard the gospel before the Rapture of the Church and rejected it, will not be able to get saved during the Tribulation. They refer to 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 for support of this view. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).

When Paul speaks of being “saved” (2:10), he is speaking of the salvation or deliverance from the Tribulation on earth by means of the Rapture of the church as seen elsewhere in his letters to the Thessalonians (cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1). 7 Verse 12 does not mean that everyone alive at the time of the Rapture who are unbelievers will be given God’s “strong delusion” and be unable to get saved during the Tribulation.

Seemingly when the Rapture occurs the Man of Sin will emerge and will give some explanation for the sudden disappearance of Christians. With this lie will surely come his claim to be God and to offer protection for all who follow him. Many will be deceived by his message. It is not known for sure what the strong delusion will be. But it is known that only unbelievers who did not “believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” will be deceived (2:12). This cannot mean that all the unsaved when the Rapture occurs will be eternally condemned since Revelation 7 states that there will be 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will lead innumerable Jews and Gentiles all over the earth to faith in Christ during the Tribulation. 8

Those who had “pleasure in unrighteousness” are people who heard and yet rejected the gospel in this Church Age. Those in tribes and people groups who have not heard the gospel will not be endangered by this delusion. It is possible that some in countries like the United States, where the gospel is accessible to all, will not have heard the clear gospel, or have not heard it enough, and so some of them will come to faith in Christ during the Tribulation. Likely, however, many people in Christian lands will be deluded when the Rapture occurs and will be hardened in unbelief. Most of the converts of the 144,000 will likely be in third-world countries and unreached areas of the world (Matthew 24:14). 9

This is a powerful reminder for unbelievers not to continue in their unbelief. They are to cry out to God to show them the truth. Their fear of the coming Tribulation is meant by God to motivate them to ask Him to reveal the truth of the gospel to them. 10 During the Tribulation it will be very difficult for those who have continually rejected the gospel to come to faith in Christ. After all, it won’t get easier to be a Christian after the Rapture, but rather more difficult, since the Antichrist will openly persecute those who receive Christ and refuse to take his mark (Revelation 13:7, 16-17). However, to say that it is impossible for anyone to receive God’s mercy during the Tribulation is expanding 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 beyond what the context allows.” 11

Let’s take a closer look now at this second group in heaven. The apostle John writes, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9). The converts of the 144,000 are from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.” Every country, tribe, people-group, and language group will be represented in heaven. This tells us that racial distinctions and uniqueness are retained in eternity. 12

Only Jesus Christ can unite all nations and ethnicities together for all of eternity! Governments, special interest groups, and well-meaning religious groups have failed to bring universal peace to the nations of the world. However, God is at work amid a world that is divided. There are churches today comprised of various ethnicities worshiping the true God, Jesus Christ (I John 5:20)! This is a preview of more to come throughout eternity.

These converts of the 144,000 will be “clothed with white robes.” Thesewhite robes” represent believers in Jesus who have been declared righteous in the sight of God through faith in Christ. One of the twenty-four elders says of this group, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14). Whereas the white robes in Revelation 3:4-5 are an eternal reward given to believers who remain faithful to Christ until they go to heaven, the robes here in 7:9, 14 are symbolic of the complete and eternal cleansing of sin that comes to every person who believes in Christ for eternal life. 13

These believers standing before the thrones of God the Father and God the Son are holding “palm branches in their hands” (7:9), which recalls John 12:13 where the Jews meet Christ at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem with joyful celebration and exalt Him as Israel’s King. (The Jews celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles by waving palm branches as they quoted Psalm 118:25-26.) In a similar manner the redeemed ones before the throne will celebrate the imminent victory of the King at His Second Advent (cf. 19:11–20:3) as well as His coming reign (cf. 20:4).” 14

This innumerable group of redeemed people are, crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:10). The word for “salvation” (sōtēria) here refers to a two-fold deliverance: first, from the Lake of Fire as seen in verse 14 where reference is made to the eternal cleansing of the blood of the Lamb. And secondly, when Christ returns to the earth there will be a deliverance from the Man of Sin (cf. Micah 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 19:15-20), physical corruption (cf. Romans 8:21-22; Isaiah 35), and the rebellion of men (cf. Psalm 2:9; Jeremiah 30:23-24; Revelation 19:11-21). 15

Verse 10 underscores that this salvation or deliverance belongs to God the Father(“our God who sits on the throne”)and God the Son(“to the Lamb”). Only God could pay the penalty for all our sins since it took a perfect sacrifice to accomplish such a feat (Hebrews 1:8; 10:1-14). And only God could overcome centuries of sin and death through His return to earth to set up His kingdom and bring universal peace and blessings to the earth (Revelation 11:15-18; 19:11-20:6; cf. Isaiah 11:1-16; 65:17-25). 

In addition to these martyred Tribulation believers (7:14) shouting praises to God the Father and God the Son, John tells us, “All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.” (Revelation 7:11). Other “angels,” in addition to the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, representing the church, “stood around the throne and worshiped God.” While the earth is subject to wrath at this time, heaven is filled with worship of God the Father and God the Son.

All the inhabitants of heaven are saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 7:12). “Blessing” (eulogia) or praise is what God deserves because of what He will do for these people (cf. Revelation 5:12, 13). 16 “Glory” (doxa) is the honor due to God because of His good reputation, specifically for delivering them (cf. Revelation 1:6; 4:11; 5:12, 13; 19:1). 17 “Wisdom” (sophia) is God’s infinite knowledge displayed in His plan of deliverance (cf. Revelation 5:12). “Thanksgiving” (eucharistia) literally means “well” and “to give freely,” but it denotes an expression of gratitude for a favor rendered (cf. Revelation 4:9). 18

“Honor” (timē) or esteem is what God deserves because He has planned and provided this salvation (cf. Revelation 4:11; 5:12, 13). 19  “Power” (dynamis) reflects God’s omnipotence that enables Him to overcome all opposition (cf. Revelation 4:11; 5:12; 19:1). 20 “Might” (ischys) or strength refers to God’s inherent power that enabled Him to deliver this multitude from their enemies (5:12). 21 God is worthy of this worship throughout eternity. “Amen” (Amēn) underlines the truthfulness of this sevenfold ascription (cf. 5:13). 22

We must not overlook the oneness of God the Father and God the Son in these verses. While their worship is directed to both God the Father and God the Lamb, we are told they “worshiped God” (7:11) and gave praise “to our God” (7:12). During His earthly ministry Jesus said, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.” (John 5:22). The Jews thought it was God alone who would judge the world, but Jesus claims that the Father has given Him that privilege. Why? “That all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” (John 5:23). The Jews believed that only God was to be honored and worshiped. Jesus claims the same right to be worshiped and honored that the Father has. This emphasizes the unity of the Father and the Son. What is done to One, is also done to the other because they are equals. They both have the same divine nature.

This is why all other religions fall short. They cannot truly honor God or worship Him apart from Jesus Christ. This is why Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, etc., all fall short because they do not worship and honor God the Father through Jesus Christ. They may say Jesus was a god or a prophet or a good moral teacher, but they do not believe He is the one true God. And by rejecting Jesus Christ as God, they are rejecting His Father because Christ is the perfect reflection of the Father.

But this will not happen in heaven. All the inhabitants of heaven will honor and worship both God the Father and God the Son because they understand the oneness of God. Jesus said, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19b). Jesus taught that God is one (“the name” is singular) in divine nature, yet eternally exists in three Persons (“Father… Son… Holy Spirit”) Who are equal in every way, yet distinct in their tasks and relations to humanity. God is one substance (Deuteronomy 6:4), yet three in Person (Ephesians 2:18; 2 Corinthians 13:14). Students of the Bible refer to this truth as the Trinity or “three in one.”

All three Persons in Matthew 28:19 share one “name,” because they are one Being. This is not self-contradiction, and here is why: Person is not the same as being. Your being is the quality that makes you what you are, but your person is the quality that makes you who you are. For example, we are humans. That is what we are. That is why we are called human beings. But what we are is not the same as who we are. If someone asks, “Who are you?” I should not respond by saying, “A human!” That answers the question of what I am, not who I am. Who I am is Jeff Ropp; that is my person. What I am is a human; that is my being. Being and person are separate.

Unlike a human being, which has only one person, God has three Persons. He is one being, Yahweh, in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Unlike a human being, which has only one person, God has three persons. He is one being, Yahweh, in three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. He is more than able to exist like that because He is God. If we say God must have only one Person, like humans, then we are making God in our image. Who are we to limit God? It is up to God to tell us Who He is. That is where the discussion should really be between Christians and non-Christians: on revelation, not on the conceptual plane of “Trinity versus _______,” as if our reason alone can dictate or even decipher the nature of God.

Christians and non-Christians should agree that God is greater than we can possibly conceive, more complex than we could ever hope to grasp. We are in no position to determine the intricacies of God’s nature. If God were to inform us that He is one being in one Person, we are obligated to believe Him. If He tells us, “I am one being in three Persons,” who are we to say “No” to God? As believers in revelation, we must turn to divine Scripture to learn about God.

Scripture is the reason why Christians believe God is triune. The doctrine of the Trinity is the best interpretation of the Bible. There are five elements found repeatedly throughout the Bible’s text that are best interpreted through the lens of the Trinity:

– There is only one God (e.g., Romans 3:30) 

– The Father is God (e.g., John 6:27)

– Jesus is God (e.g., John 20:28; Romans 9:5; 2 Peter 1:1) 

– The Holy Spirit is God (e.g., Acts 5:3–5) 

– These three are distinct Persons (e.g., John 14:16–17)

Those who reject this biblical truth of the Trinity, cannot worship God in the way He has revealed in His holy Word, the Bible. They can change their minds now and believe in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life (John 3:36a) and worship the Triune God “on earth” and “in heaven” forever (Revelation 5:13; cf. Philippians 2:9-11). But if they refuse to believe Jesus Christ for His gift of eternal life, God’s wrath “abides on him” or her forever (John 3:36b) and they will bow down before Jesus as their Lord “under the earth” in the lake of fire (Revelation 5:13; 20:15; cf. Philippians 2:9-11).  

As we looked upon the inhabitants of heaven during the Tribulation on earth, we saw an innumerable gathering of people before the throne of God consisting of Jews and Gentiles from the church age (“twenty-four elders”) and the Tribulation (7:9, 14). What part of this great multitude of people in heaven will be there because of you and me? Because we were faithful to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15) and make disciples of those who believed in Christ (Matthew 28:19-20)?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for revealing Your great mercy during this unprecedented time of judgment on the earth. Thank You that by believing in Jesus we can be a part of this innumerable gathering of people worshiping You and Your Son around Your throne in heaven forever. We praise Your name and thank You that Israel will finally fulfill their covenant promise – to be a light to the Gentiles and to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom throughout the world during the last half of the Tribulation period. Thank You that by Your grace, we can also invest in helping to populate heaven by sharing the gospel with the lost and making disciples of those who believe in Christ during what time we have left on the earth. Please lead us to the people Your Spirit has prepared to hear and believe the gospel so we may share it with them. All blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might belong to You both now and forever, O Lord God. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, 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), pp. 1524-1525.

2. Jehovah Witnesses are the most common responders who adhere to this view.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 99 cites as an example Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1999), pg. 424; George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), pg. 116.

4. Adapted from Constable, pg. 99 and Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 167.  

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

6. 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. 1526.

7. 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. 1149.

8. Ibid., pg. 1150.

9. Ibid.  

10. Ibid.

11. Hitchcock, pg. 244.

12. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2384.

13. Vacendak, pg. 1526.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Constable, pg. 100.

17. Ibid., cites W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1966), pg. 158.

18. Ibid., cites George Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1950), pg. 190.

19. Ibid., cites F. C. Jennings, Studies in Revelation, (New York: Publication Office of “Our Hope,” n.d.), pg. 230.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid., cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1—7, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 491-92.

22. Ibid.

23. The last few paragraphs are adapted from former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi’s book No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 55-57.

Revelation 3 – Part 1

“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelation 3:5

Jesus now addresses the fifth church in Asia Minor. “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” ‘ (Revelation 3:1). Sardis was located a little over thirty miles southeast of Thyatira and was a glorious city in the past. In the sixth century BC it was considered one of the greatest cities on earth and was ruled by the wealthy King Croesus (called Midas by the Greeks because of his golden treasures). But by the time John wrote to the church there in the first century AD, the city’s greatness lay in the distant past. Unfortunately, the church at Sardis had the same problem—a great past but dismal conditions in the present. So, the Lord gives this church the steps they need to come alive again as well as a warning if they fail to do so.” 1

When the ascended Lord Jesus refers to Himself as “He who has the seven Spirits of God,” He is telling this church that He knows their true spiritual condition because He possesses the all-knowing Spirit of God(cf. Revelation 1:4b-5a). 2 Nothing escapes the notice of our Lord. Christ also “has the seven stars” or seven angels of the seven churches (cf. 1:20) to remind them of His Lordship over the entire church.

Although they had a good reputation among other churches for being “alive,” the Lord Jesus knew their true condition. This was the kind of church about which people today might say, “They have great music, great preaching, great outreach, a great children’s ministry, and beautiful buildings.” But because Jesus knew their “works,” He could say they were “dead” inwardly without any spiritual life (3:1b). “They were merely playing church.” 3

Like the Pharisees, their outer appearance was a facade hiding their lack of life (cf. Matt. 23:27-28).” 4

“Dr. Vance Havner has frequently reminded us that spiritual ministries often go through four stages: a man, a movement, a machine, and then a monument. Sardis was at the ‘monument’ stage, but there was still hope!” 5

The remedy for this condition is given by Jesus in the next few verses. “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.” (Revelation 3:2). The city of Sardis had fallen into enemy hands more than once, due to the carelessness of sentries who had relied too much on the town’s natural fortifications. 6 The Lord now commanded the church to “be watchful [alert] and strengthen” the areas of weakness in their church “that are ready to die.” The Lord wants His people to be diligent in protecting every element of good that remained in their church. They were not to be careless about this or allow any  more of the good that was still in existence to be cast aside as it had been in the past. 7

The Lord Jesus did not find their “works perfect [complete] before God.” The believers in Sardis tended to begin things but never finish them as God desired (cf. Acts 14:26). Do our churches resemble the church at Sardis? Does our outward appearance hide our lack of spiritual life? Did we start out strong for the Lord only to weaken over time and lose the vitality that once was so contagious? Have we held fast to the gospel of grace that transformed our lives, or have we turned away from the “faith alone” gospel to a “faith plus” gospel that promotes reformation instead of transformation?

Jesus then says, “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.” (Revelation 3:3). To overcome their spiritual deadness, these believers needed to “remember” the biblical instruction they “received and heard” from their spiritual leaders. Sound doctrine is always the foundation of a church that brings honor and glory to God (cf. Titus 2:1-15).” 8

They were also to “hold fast” to this instruction and “repent” and change their attitudes that led to their spiritual deadness. If they did not arise from their spiritual deadness, the Lord would “come upon” them “as a thief,” swiftly and unexpectedly to discipline them for their carelessness and superficial spirituality.

Jesus held out eternal rewards for the faithful “few” in Sardis. “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” (Revelation 3:4). The all-knowing Judge knew of a “few names… in Sardis who” had “not defiled their garments” and “shall walk with” Christ “in white” because they are “worthy” or deserving. This cannot refer to salvation because no one deserves to be saved from hell. The Bible clearly says that salvation is a free gift apart from any works (Romans 6:23b; 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 21:6; 22:17).  Instead, walking with Christ in white is a privilege reserved for the faithful believer who is undefiled in his Christian life.

“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” (Revelation 3:5). The risen Lord Jesus promises to the “overcomer” who is “worthy” (3:4) to be honored, the following eternal rewards:

– “Clothed in white garments.”  “White garments” are symbolic of one’s works (cf. 19:8) and are pure and free of defilement (cf. 7:9, 13; 19:14; Matthew 22:11-12). “In the ancient world, white robes also connoted festivity and victory.” 9 “Sardis boasted of her trade in woolen goods and dyed stuffs.” 10 Only the believers who remained faithful to Jesus Christ until the end of their lives on earth could enjoy His intimate fellowship in His coming Kingdom (“walk with Me”; cf. 7:14; 22:14). 11

Wilkin provides a helpful insight about this reward. “Keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Himself will be clothed in dazzling white garments that will outshine all others. His glory will be supreme.

“When at the Mount of Transfiguration He appeared in His glory, ‘His clothes became as white as the light’ (Matthew 17:2). Special clothing is not insignificant, because it honors a person. The more glorious the garments, the more honor to the wearer.

“Like the sun, the Lord’s garments will have maximum radiance. The garments of great servants like Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Deborah, Esther, and Mary will surely glow brightly. But theirs will be reflected glory, like the glory of the moon that reflects the glory of the sun.

“Would you not want to be identified as closely as possible with the Lord Jesus and glorify Him, even in your clothing? The quality of your eternal garments will be determined by what you do in this life. Once this life is over, it will be too late to influence your worthiness to walk with Christ in white.” 12

– An honored name that is supremely secure. When Jesus says He will “not blot out his name from the Book of Life,” Armenians teach that Jesus is saying a non-overcoming (unfaithful) believer can lose his salvation. 13 But this would be contrary to Jesus’ teachings in John’s writings elsewhere. For example, Jesus taught, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35). Christ guarantees that those who come to Him in faith “shall never hunger” or “thirst” for eternal life again because the need He met can never reoccur. The results of believing in Christ are permanent even if we are unfaithful to Christ (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).

Christ also said, 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:38-39). Jesus came down from heaven to do His Father’s will which was that all whom the Father had given Him should lose nothing, including their salvation. If Jesus failed to keep believers from losing their salvation, He would have failed to do His Father’s will. And that presents a moral dilemma. For if Jesus failed to do His Father’s will, then He would have sinned and could no longer be God. But Jesus Christ has never lost one believer and He never will because He is God (John 1:1; Titus 2:13) and He always does the will of His Father.

Jesus said, 2And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29). Christ gives eternal life because it is a gift from Him. We do not earn it. Secondly, He also guarantees that a believer “shall never perish.” Eternal life is God’s life. You can no more perish in hell than God can perish in hell. If a believer in Jesus could lose his salvation, then Jesus just told a lie. Jesus also promises that “neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”  Because Jesus securely holds each believer in His hand and no one – not a lion, wolf, thief, bandit, false teacher, popular speaker, demon, devil, not even you yourself – are strong enough to snatch (John 10:12) them out of His hand. The word “snatch” (harpasei) means “to snatch, seize, i.e., take suddenly or vehemently.” It is impossible for even one sheep to be removed from the hand of our Good Shepherd. And no matter how strong or persuasive they are, not one of His sheep can wriggle out of His grasp.

If you are still not convinced that a believer in Jesus is secure forever, Christ adds, “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” The hand of Jesus holding the believer is secure in the hand of God the Father. And no one is strong enough to snatch a believer from the hand of God the Father. In other words, the believer is doubly secure.

If a believer ever lost his or her salvation, Christ would have failed to keep these promises and many more. To properly understand Jesus’ words, “and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life” (Revelation 3:5), it is important to answer an important question.

What is the Book of Life? There appear to be several “books” or records that God keeps in heaven (cf. Revelation 20:12). Since God is all-knowing, “He does not need to record things in books. People keep books for later recollection, so the figure of a ‘book’ is an example of contextualization: giving revelation in terms the recipients can easily understand.” 14  

There is the “Book of the Living,” namely, those who are presently alive on the earth, including the unsaved (Exodus 32:32-33; Deuteronomy 29:20; Psalm 69:28; Isaiah 4:3). 15 To have one’s name removed from this book refers to physical death. But the “Book of Life” in Revelation refers to all those who have believed in Jesus for everlasting life (Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27). 16

It is best to understand Jesus’ words, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life” (3:5), as another litotes (cf. 2:11) 17 which is an understatement in which a positive affirmation is expressed by negating the opposite. Jesus is saying, “If you remain undefiled to the end of your life, I will reward you with the opposite of having your name blotted out of the Book of Life. You will be given an honored name that is supremely secure.”

Dillow writes, John is saying that, even if we are ridiculed and ultimately killed for our faith here on earth so that our name is dishonored and forgotten, we will, if we persevere, enjoy a heavenly reputation for all eternity. Our name will never be blotted out in heaven. No Christian will ever have his person blotted out of the book of life, even carnal ones. The overcomers are being reminded that, even though others can destroy them on earth, they cannot ruin the believer’s heavenly name.” 18

Such an honored name will be forever cherished by Jesus throughout eternity, which leads to the third reward.

– Christ said, “I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (3:5 cf.Matthew 10:32-33; 25:21, 23; Luke 12:8; 19:17, 19). Only worthy or faithful believers will have their name publicly confessed or honored before God the Father and His angels.

Only those Christians who acknowledge Christ now will be acknowledged by Him then. Only those Christians who are overcomers now will have their names acknowledged before the Father and His angels (Revelation 3:5). But having one’s name ‘acknowledged’ [confessed] is not the same as being declared saved. Rather, it refers to the public testimony by the Son of God to the faithful life of the obedient Christian. Conversely, not having one’s name acknowledged is to forfeit the Master’s ‘Well done.’” 19

This confession is functionally the positive idea implied in the litotes (no erasure of his name means a magnifying of his name, i.e., magnification by Christ’s personal acknowledgement before the Father and His angels).” 20

The Bible teaches that believers in Jesus during this church age will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive rewards according to their works (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12) during the Tribulation period. Believers who lived in disobedience and failed to grow spiritually, like the believers in Sardis, “will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (I Corinthians 3:15). Although they have eternal life by believing in Jesus, they will suffer the loss of rewards and be denied the praise that Christ could have given them before His heavenly Father and the holy angels if they had been faithful to the Lord’s calling in their lives.

Christ concludes, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:6). Not all Christians will be overcomers by remaining faithful to Jesus to the end of their lives. Only those 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 glorious eternal rewards.

Imagine being on the new earth with King Jesus in the future, and He publicly honors you by acknowledging your name before God the Father and His angels throughout eternity. If you are the kind of person who likes to receive approval, praise, and recognition before others, this acknowledgement or confession of your eternally honored name in the future by the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, will greatly motivate you to persevere in faithfulness to the risen Lord Jesus now, no matter what the cost. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He understands our hearts and what will motivate us to live faithfully for Him, even when people dishonor or forget our names on earth now.

In summary, Christians who watch expectantly for Christ’s return and live undefiled Christian lives will receive a three-fold reward consisting of dazzling eternal clothes, an eternally honored name, which will be publicly praised before God the Father and His angels throughout eternity (3:1-6).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, only You are qualified to judge Your church. Thank You for warning the church in Sardis (and us) of the danger of looking good on the outside to hide the lack of spiritual life on the inside. Thank You for warning us of the loss of reward and for giving us the remedy for our spiritually immature condition. Lord Jesus, we do not want to compromise our faith and waste our Christian lives by living selfishly. Please help us to stay spiritually alert and remember what we have been taught by godly teachers in the past. Thank You for offering us eternal rewards in the future that consist of dazzling eternal clothes and an eternally honored name which will be publicly praised by You before God the Father and His angels throughout eternity to motivate us to remain faithful to You now no matter what the cost. To hear Your praise, Lord Jesus, in eternity, is far greater than any praise we could ever receive on earth. May we hear and practice what Your Spirit says to us so You will receive maximum honor and glory in eternity. In Your mighty and most honorable 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), pp. 1509-1510.

2. Ibid., pg. 1510.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2374.

4. 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.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 46 cites, Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 577.  

6. Constable, pp. 46-47.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1510.

8. Ibid.

9. Constable, pg. 47 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 1, (The Daily Study Bible series. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 155.

10. Constable, pg. 47 cites R. H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John Vol. 1, International Critical Commentary series (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), pg.  78.

11. Constable, pg. 47.

12. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 46.

13. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 684 cites J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ (Scottsdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1961), pp. 329-331.

14. Constable, pg. 48.

15. Ibid.

16. Dillow, pg. 685.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1511; Constable, pg. 49; Dillow, pg. 687 cites Martin Loyd-Jones, Romans Chapter 8:17-39: The Final Perseverance of the Saints (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), pp. 314ff.

18. Dillow, pg. 687.

19. Ibid., pp. 687-688.

20. Vacendak, pg. 1511.

Living Life Today in Light of Tomorrow (Video)

This video looks at Bible prophecy in the book of Revelation to bring stability and hope to our lives when so many things seem out of control in the world today.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site: http://www.revelationillustrated.com. Other digital images are used with permission from Digital Globe / www.FreeBibleimages.org, GoodSalt / www.goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses. The video scenes in this video are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

Revelation 1 – Part 4

“And in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.” Revelation 1:13 

While on the island of Patmos, the apostle John heard a trumpet-like voice instruct him to “write in a book” the visions he sees and “send” them to “the seven churches which are in Asia” Minor (1:10-11). Then he writes, “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands.” (Revelation 1:12). As he slowly turned toward this booming voice, the first thing John sees are “seven golden lampstands,” “each holding an oil-burning lamp.” 1 These “seven lampstands,” represent “the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20). God intended local churches to illuminate their communities with the light and life of Jesus Christ. 2

“And in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.” (Revelation 1:13). John’s eyes now focus on the source of this mighty and majestic voice. Standing “in the midst of the seven lampstands” was “One like the Son of Man.” The phrase, “like the Son of Man,” is an expression used in Daniel 7:13-14 referring to the Messiah-God, the Lord Jesus Christ.3 “Son of Man” was a favorite title Jesus used of Himself in the gospels (Matthew 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40; 13:41; 16:13, 27-28; 17:9, 12, 22; 18:11; 19:28; 20:18, 28; 24:27, 30, 24:37, 39; Mark 13:26; 14:21, 41, 62; et al.). This magnificent “voice” (1:10) that John heard belonged to none other than Jesus Christ, God’s ultimate and final voice to mankind” (cf. Hebrews 1:2). 4

It is extremely noteworthy that the messianic title “Son of Man” is used here in light of the fact that it is a title connected to Jesus in His role as Judge. Jesus said, The Father… has committed all judgment to the Son… and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” (John 5:22, 27). This title portrays Jesus as “the Son” (God) and as “Man.” Christ is best qualified to judge humanity because He is the God-Man.

 Seeing Christ in His role as Judge is a key element in understanding Revelation.” 5 First, He is seen judging the seven churches in Asia Minor (Revelation 1:12-3:22) and then He is seen judging the whole earth during the Tribulation (Revelation 6-16). He will also judge Babylonianism (Revelation 17-18), world rulers at Armageddon (Revelation 19:19-21), Satan (Revelation 20:1-3, 10), the whole earth during the Millennium (Revelation 20:4-6), the rebellious earth at the end of the Millennium (Revelation 20:7-9), and all unbelievers at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15). Then King Jesus will live with His people forever on the new earth (Revelation 21-22).

John now sees Jesus in a much different way than He was portrayed in the gospels. This is not the Baby born in Bethlehem Who grew up to preach to the multitudes, heal the sick, and then suffer and die on a cross, and rise from the dead to eventually ascend to heaven. No, this depiction of Jesus is similar to when Christ was transfigured on the mountain before John, Peter, and James (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36). It was there that this apostle briefly witnessed the unveiling of Jesus’ glory. Now, near the end of John’s life, he was given a vision of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory. 6

We learn what Jesus, the Judge, will be like as John attempts to describe His attributes using symbolism. Jesus was standing amid the churches “clothed” like a Judge with a long robe (“a garment down to the feet”) and a “golden band” around His chest. His robe is “girded” perhaps because the Judge is ready to take action (cf. Luke 12:37; Ephesians 6:14), the “golden band” “possibly foreshadowing His judgment via the golden-banded angels possessing the bowls of wrath” (cf. Revelation 15:6-7). 7

John tells us, “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire.” (Revelation 1:14). “His head and hair” were very white “like wool” and “snow,” signifying His wisdom and longevity as an eternally preexistent Person like the Ancient of Days (God the Father) described in Daniel 7:9. 8 By describing “His eyes like a flame of fire,” John referred to His piercing judgment and all-seeing assessment of the saved and unsaved (cf. Revelation 2:18, 23; 19:12). 9

Next, we learn, “His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters.” (Revelation 1:15). “His feet” looked “as if refined in a furnace,” so He could walk among the seven churches to purify and correct them (Revelation 2:1), and then trample down the unbelieving when He returns to earth (Revelation 14:19-20). “The figure of heated, glowing bronze feet also connotes strength and stability (cf. Daniel 2:33, 41).” 10 “The brass itself stands for strength, for the immovable steadfastness of God; and the shining, glittering rays stand for speed, for the swiftness of the feet of God to help His own or to punish sin.” 11

Keep in mind that John was living on the island of Patmos at this time. The sound of the ocean waves roaring and beating against the shore would never have been very far from him. 12 When John says Jesus’ “voice” sounded like the mighty rushing “waters,” this meant that the Judge’s authoritative and powerful voice conveyed irresistible orders.

“He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” (Revelation 1:16).  In Christ’s “right hand” He held “seven stars” which later He tells us represent the angelic messengers to the seven churches (Revelation 1:20). Significantly, Christ held them “in His right hand,” indicating sovereign control and possession. 13 “The hand of Christ is strong enough to uphold the heavens and gentle enough to wipe away our tears.” 14

“Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword” by which His judgments are carried out (cf. Revelation 19:11-15; Hebrew 4:12). This type of sword (rhomphaia, also referred to in 2:12, 16; 6:8; 19:15, 21) was used by the Romans in a stabbing action designed to kill. Jesus Christ was no longer a Baby in Bethlehem, or a Man of sorrows crowned with thorns. He was now the Lord of glory.” 15

“His countenance” shown like the unclouded “sun shining in its strength,” a portrait of His holiness as the Judge.Just as the physical sun lights the earth and all its inhabitants, so also does Christ in a spiritual sense. John 8:1-11 records the divine Judge driving the adulterous woman’s accusers away because He has implicitly exposed them. Then in v 12 He calls Himself ‘the light of the world’ for the first time (a reference to the physical sun, as John 11:9 makes clear). As the Judge there is nothing at all He does not bring into the ‘sunlight’ of His countenance.” 16

These brilliant features of Jesus’ appearance all pointed to Him as God (Revelation 1:12-16)! John writes, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.’ ” (Revelation 1:17). Previously during Jesus’ earthly ministry, John laid His head on Jesus’ chest (John 13:25). But now when he sees Jesus’ unveiled glory as the Judge, John “fell at His feet as dead,” depleted of all his strength. This was not an encounter with another man. John was instantly reduced to a trembling sinner lying powerless before the God of the universe! 17

But in all His glory, Jesus had not lost His gentle and kind demeanor. The Lord of glory “laid His right hand on” John to console him. Then He commanded him “not [to] be afraid” because He is the eternal God (“the First and the Last”). He continued, I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” (Revelation 1:18). Another reason John did not need to fear was because Jesusis the resurrected One (“I am He who lives, and was dead, and … I am alive forevermore”), Who possesses all authority over death and the dwelling of the dead (“I have the keys of Hades and of Death”). “Keys” in Scripture are symbols of authority. Therefore, those of us who believe in Jesus do not need to be afraid of hell or even the experience of death itself because Christ holds the keys. For the believer, death is a momentary experience that leads into God’s eternal presence (2 Corinthians 5:8). 18

Three times Jesus uses the words “I am” in Revelation 1:17-18. “I am” recalls Christ’s claims in the gospels (cf. Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20, 35; 8:12, 58; 10:9, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1) and connects Him with Yahweh in the Old Testament (Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 48:12). The title “the First and the Last” (cf. Isaiah 44:6; 48:12) is essentially the same as “the Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 1:8), or “the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13). All three titles stress the eternal sovereignty of God. 19

Jesus instructed John, “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” (Revelation 1:19). This verse provides a divine outline of the entire book of Revelation involving the past, present, and future:

 – “Write the things which you have seen.” This refers to the past vision of Jesus in all His glory (Revelation 1).

 – “And the things which are.” This includes the messages to the seven churches about their present conditions (Revelation 2-3).

“And the things which will take place after this.” This section includes the future Rapture of the Church (Revelation 4-5), the Tribulation (Revelation 6-18), the return of Christ to earth with His Church (Revelation 19), the 1000-year reign of Christ on the earth (Revelation 20:1-9), the final judgment of Satan (Revelation 20:10), the final judgment of all the unsaved (Revelation 20:11-15), and the new heaven and new earth where King Jesus will live with His people forever (Revelation 21-22).

This outline harmonizes beautifully with the concept that most of Revelation (beginning in chap. 4) is future, not historic or merely symbolic, or simply statements of principles. It is significant that only a futuristic interpretation of Revelation 4-22 has any consistency. Interpreters following the allegorical approach to the book seldom agree among themselves on their views. This is also true of those holding to the symbolic and historical approaches.” 20

Jesus then interpreted some of the symbolic things John had seen: “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20). These symbols were a “mystery” or previously unclear revelations” 21until the Lord Jesus interpreted them for John. Christ explained that “the seven stars” in His right hand “are the angels of the seven churches.” Most likely these are guardian angels over individual assemblies of believers. “Given the data in the Book of Daniel about angels being associated with individual countries (cf. Daniel 10:13, 20-21), the words of Jesus regarding angels and children (cf. Matthew 18:10), and the response to Rhoda about Peter’s angel (cf. Acts 12:15; cf. Hebrews 1:14), local churches probably have angels that guard them and represent them” (see also I Corinthians 11:10). 22

Then Christ tells John that “the seven lampstands” he saw were “the seven churches.” Christ intends for local churches to shine for Him. To do that, Christ will purify and chastise churches to make them more like Him. Otherwise, He may remove their lampstand or witness for Him (cf. Revelation 2:5). How many churches no longer exist today because they failed to repent and get right with God? I am afraid the numbers would be staggering.

The Book of Revelation, instead of being a hopeless jumble of symbolic vision, is a carefully written record of what John saw and heard, with frequent explanations of its theological and practical meanings. Revelation, with assistance from such other symbolic books as Daniel and Ezekiel, was intended by God to be understood by careful students of the entire Word of God. Like the Book of Daniel, it will be better understood as history unfolds. Though timeless in its truth and application, it is a special comfort to those who need guidance in the days leading up to Christ’s second coming.” 23

Only Jesus Christ is qualified to judge all of humanity in the future (Revelation 1:12-20). As the Judge of all the earth, Jesus is also active among local churches today to purify them and prepare them for His return. Are you prepared to face Jesus Christ as your Judge?

The most important way to prepare to face Him is to believe in Him for His gift of everlasting life. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24). Christ promises three things to those who “hear” His promise and “believe” it:

“has everlasting life.” Notice this is present (“has”) tense. The moment a person hears and believes Jesus’ promise of eternal life, he or she “has everlasting life.” You do not have to wait until you die to enjoy eternal life. You can start to experience a personal relationship with the God of the universe forever (John 17:3) the moment you believe in Christ. You can enjoy eternal life twenty-four hours a day for three hundred sixty-five days a year! This gives Christians reason to be filled with joy all the time!

“shall not come into judgment.” Christ guarantees you will never be judged for your sins in the future because you now have eternal life. Christ was already judged for your sins when He died in your place on a cross nearly two thousand years ago. So, there is no need for you to be judged or condemned. You are now God’s beloved child. You bring Him joy when He sees you. He is delighted to be with you.

“has passed from death into life.” Notice that this is past tense. That means death is behind the believer, not before him. It is past, not present or future. Before we believe in Christ, we are living in the sphere of “death.” When God looks at our lives before Christ, all He sees are the evil things we have done (Isaiah 64:6). There is no hint of righteousness in us without Jesus in our lives. Our condemnation by God is total. So, when God looks at our lives before we believe in Jesus, all He sees are the bad things we have done.

But when we believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life, we are translated into the sphere of “life.” When God looks at our lives now, He only sees the good things we have done, not the evil. How can this be? Because God has no charge against the believer (Romans 8:33). The believer is justified (“declared totally righteous”) of all things based on his or her faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 4:5). All our sin has been covered by the goodness of Jesus Christ. We are seen by God as completely holy and perfect because of His grace.

If you have believed in Jesus, then you will NOT have to face Him at the Great White Throne Judgment to determine the degree of your punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). After believing in Jesus, you can face Him in the future at the Judgment Seat of Christ in heaven to determine what if any rewards you will receive from Him (Revelation 22:12; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10). I think you will agree that this is GOOD NEWS!!!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am astounded by the vision John received of You in all Your glory. Words cannot adequately express the brilliance of Your holiness and majesty. Like John, all of us would fall to the ground like dead people in the presence of Your unveiled glory. You alone, Lord Jesus, are worthy to judge all of humanity in the future. Oh precious, Lord, please remove the veil that blinds the hearts and minds of those who do not believe in You for Your gift of everlasting life. Please persuade them to trust in You alone so they will not experience the same eternal judgment as Satan in the lake of fire. Use me to share the good news of Your salvation with those Your Holy Spirit has prepared to hear and believe it. Prepare me to face You as my Judge at Your judgment seat to determine what if any rewards I will receive from You. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for hearing my prayers. In Your glorious name I pray, Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1.  Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 40.

2. Tony Evans, Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2369.

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), pg. 164.

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. 1499.

5. Ibid.

6. Swindoll, pg. 40.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1499-1500.

8. Ibid., pg. 1500; Walvoord, pg. 164; cf. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 23.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1500; Constable, pg. 23.

10. Constable, pg. 23.

11. Ibid. cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 1, The Daily Study Bible series (2nd ed. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 62.

12. Ibid., pg. 24.

13. Ibid.; Walvoord, pg. 164.

14. Ibid., cites Barclay, pg. 63.

15. Walvoord, pg. 164.

16. Vacendak, pg. 1500.

17. Swindoll, pg. 40.

18. Vacendak, pg. 1501.

19. Constable, pg. 25.

20. Walvoord, pg. 164.

21. Constable, pg. 26.

22. Vacendak, pg. 1501.

23. Walvoord, pg. 164.

Revelation 1 – Part 2

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” Revelation 1:7

In the opening verses of the book of Revelation, the apostle John explains that the message of this book is from and about Jesus Christ, especially as it relates to end-time events (1:1-2). The promise of a special blessing is given to encourage readers to prepare for what is going to take place in the future (1:3).

John then addresses his readers. 4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 1:4-5). John sent this letter (all of Revelation) “to the seven churches” which are addressed in chapters 2 and 3. The number “seven” signifies completion or fullness in the Bible which can be taken to mean this message is for the “whole” church throughout history, including all of us today. These seven churches were in the Roman province of “Asia” Minor or western modern Turkey.

Notice that John extends “grace” before “peace” to his readers (1:4b). Why does he do this? Before undeserving sinners can experience “peace” with God, they must be saved by God’s “grace” or undeserved favor. “God doesn’t save us because of any good thing we have done, will do, or even promise to do. God saves us solely by His grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is God’s gift to undeserving sinners—we must never forget that! The result of this precious grace is a relationship that offers us true peace that overcomes any trials and tribulations the world can bring. What a reassuring greeting to the members of the persecuted church! Though John will later describe judgment and distress that will overtake wicked unbelievers in the future, God’s own people receive grace and peace.” 2

What about you, my friend? Have you found peace with God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ? The Bible says, 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are saved from hell “through faith.” Not through religion or regulations. Not through our good works or morality. It is through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

Too many churches are saying we are saved through faith plus… I believe this must break God’s heart. Because when we say it takes more than faith in Jesus to save us from hell, we are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was disappointing. Jesus paid for some of my sins, but I must pay for the rest of my sins.” In other words, we are telling God that Jesus did not get the job done, so we have to help Him. But listen: Jesus does not need our help to save us from our sins. He did not make a down payment for our sins when He died on the cross. He made the full payment for our sins. That is why He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). He finished paying the penalty for all our sins when He died in our place. He simply asks us to humbly accept His free gift by faith. And when we do, we are saved forever!

This wonderful salvation is “the gift of God.” Do you ever have to pay to receive a gift? No. Why? Because a gift is already paid for. Salvation is free to you and me because Jesus Christ already paid for it all when He died for our sins and rose from the dead. The hand that receives the gift of salvation is our faith in Jesus Christ. The moment we believe in Jesus for His gift of salvation, “we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1).

John tells us that “grace” and “peace” are from the Triune God. First, he refers to God the Father when he writes, “from Him who is and who was and who is to come” (1:4c; cf. Revelation 4:8; 11:17; 16:5). This brings to remembrance the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14-15. God the Father transcends all of time – past, present, and future. He was in control of our past. He is in control of our present. And He will be in control of our future no matter what we face. This is important to remember when we read through the series of judgments in the book of Revelation. God’s abiding presence in our lives enables us to experience His peace which surpasses human understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Next, we see that “grace” and “peace” are also from God the Holy Spirit. John writes, “and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne” (1:4d). Remember the number “seven” represents completion or fullness in the Bible. In Revelation 4:5, we read, “Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” (cf. Zechariah 4:2-7; Isaiah 11:2-3). The Holy Spirit gives “perfect illumination and insight concerning all that transpires everywhere. By this perfect wisdom God rules the universe. The imagery of God’s throne is used throughout the rest of the book (the word throne is used forty-two times). The believers of the seven churches undoubtedly received great encouragement from this greeting as it emphasizes that God is at work in their lives with complete awareness as well as perfect insight.” 3

We may think that God is distant or doesn’t care about us when we face difficult times. God wants to remind us that He is fully aware of our needs and circumstances, and He is at work in our lives. In fact, the Bible tells us that when are in so much pain that we do not know how to pray, the Holy Spirit will intercede for us to God the Father (Romans 8:26-27). He fights for us before the throne of God.

John introduces God the Son last in this acknowledgment perhaps to emphasize His importance: “And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth” (1:5a). The Lord Jesus is described as “the faithful witness.” Throughout His entire earthly ministry, Jesus was faithful to share the truth He had received from His Father in heaven (John 3:11, 32; 4:44; 7:7; 8:14-18; 18:37). This would be especially true concerning the future events He would disclose in this letter. As “the firstborn from the dead,” Jesus was the first to rise from the dead and remain alive forever, making Him superior to all others. When John says that Jesus is “the ruler over the kings of the earth,” he is looking ahead to Christ’s future ministry after His Second Coming to earth (see Revelation 11:15; 19:15-20:6). 

John is so overtaken with joy at the mention of the glorious and majestic Lord Jesus Christ, that he breaks forth into praise: 5 To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and He made us into a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5b-6 NKJV NASB). John gives glory to God the Son since this is the primary purpose of the book of Revelation. John ascribes “glory and…  dominion” to Jesus who has always “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” In giving glory to Jesus, John first “draws our attention back to the cross where he had once stood as an eyewitness to the sufferings of his Savior (John 19:26-27, 35). By the shedding of His blood, Christ paid the debt in full for the sins of the world and thereby released believers from the guilt and penalty of their sins. On our behalf, He conquered death and gave new life to all who believe.” 5

No one loves us as much as Jesus. How do I know this? Because He “washed us from our sins in His own blood” the moment we believed in Him. Another evidence of His love for us is that “He made us into a kingdom, priests to His God and Father.” The moment you and I believe in Jesus for His gift of salvation, we are placed in His “kingdom” (corporately) as “priests” (individually) “to His God and Father.” This emphasis on God’s love at the beginning of this book would be a great source of comfort for his readers considering the following revelation of much judgment to come on humanity (Revelation 6-19). Everything God does is because He loves His people. 6

The first prophetic utterance in the book of Revelation is given in the next verse: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” (Revelation 1:7). In verses 5 and 6 John focused on how worthy Jesus is of eternal “glory” and “dominion.” But now he sees Christ coming back to earth to obtain this “glory” and “dominion.” This verse announces the climactic event in Revelation, namely, the return of Jesus Christ to the earth at His Second Coming (Revelation 19:11-16).  All that takes place between this verse and Revelation 19:11-16 leads up to that event.

The word “Behold” (Idou) draws attention to what follows. 7  To put it in our own vernacular – “Stop whatever you are doing and pay attention to what I am about to say! You don’t want to miss this!”

This Jesus Who washed us from our sins in His own blood at His First Coming is coming back to earth again this time “with clouds.” Just as Jesus ascended physically and visibly to heaven with a cloud (Acts 1:9-11), so He will return from heaven to earth physically and visibly with clouds. As Christ gradually descends out of the sky to destroy His enemies at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 19:11-21), “every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him.” “All mankind will have the opportunity to witness the return of Christ to earth, including Jews, Who will mourn their crucifixion and prolonged rejection of the Messiah (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:37). The phrase ‘all the tribes of the earth (gēs)’ is a reference to every nation on the planet (the same Greek phrase is used in the LXX in Genesis 12:3; 28:14; Psalm 72:17; and Zechariah 14:17 in reference to the entire earth). John is elated that both Jews and Gentiles will believe in Christ and mourn over their mistreatment of Him. Thus, he proclaims, ‘Even so, Amen. (Emphasis added)’ ” 8

This Second Coming of Christ to earth (Revelation 1:7) is in in contrast to the future Rapture or sudden removal of the Church which will probably not be visible to everyone (I Corinthians 15:51-52; I Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 4:1-4) because it will take place suddenly. Only those who are “in Christ” (believers in Jesus) will hear “the trumpet of God” sound (I Thessalonians 4:16) when the Rapture takes place.

Other contrasts in the Bible between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ to earth include the following:

a. The Rapture is imminent – it could happen at any moment (Matthew 24:36-51; I Corinthians 15:51-52; I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11), whereas the Second Coming is preceded by numerous signs (outpouring of Spirit, prophesy, dreams, visions, blood, fire, columns of smoke, warfare, darkening of sun and moon, unprecedented suffering, etc. (Matthew 24:4-35; Joel 2:28-32; Revelation 6-18).

b. The Rapture removes believers (Matthew 24:40-41; I Thessalonians 4:13-18) whereas in the Second Coming, Christ returns with believers to the earth (Jude 1:14; Revelation 19:8, 14).

c. The Rapture results in the removal of the church and the start of the Tribulation (I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11), whereas the Second Coming results in the return of the church to earth and the start of the 1000-year-rule of Christ on earth (Revelation 19:8, 11-20:6).

d. The Rapture brings a message of hope and comfort (I Thessalonians 4:13-18), whereas the Second Coming brings a message of judgment (2 Thessalonians 1:3-9; Revelation 19:11-21).

e. The Rapture of the church was previously unknown (“mystery,” I Corinthians 15:51-58) to the Old Testament writers, whereas the Second Coming is predicted in both Old and New Testaments (Joel 2:28-32; Zechariah 14; Matthew 24:4-30; Mark 13:24-26).

f. At the Rapture, the Lord takes believers from earth to heaven “to the Father’s house” (John 14:3); at the Second Coming, believers return from heaven to the earth (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 19:8, 11-21).

g. At the Rapture, Christians are judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 4:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 4:4), but at the Second Coming, Gentile nations are judged (Matthew 25:31-46).

h. The Rapture is before the day of wrath (I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11), but the Second Coming concludes the day of wrath (Revelation 11:15-18; 19:11-20).  

i. At the Rapture, Christ comes in the air (I Thessalonians 4:16-17), but at the Second Coming Christ comes to the earth (Zechariah 14:4).

j. At the Rapture, Christ claims His bride (John 14:2-3; I Thessalonians 4:13-18), at the Second Coming, Christ comes with His bride (Revelation 19:8, 14).

k. At the Rapture, Christ gathers His own (I Thessalonians 4:16-17), but at the Second Coming, angels gather the elect (Matthew 24:31).

l. At the Rapture, Christ comes to reward (I Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 22:12), at the Second Coming, Christ comes to judge (Matthew 25:31-46).

m. At the Rapture, Christ comes as the Bright Morning Star (Revelation 22:16), but at the Second Coming, Christ comes as the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2).

Next Jesus confirms the preceding prophetic forecast of His return to earth (Revelation 1:7) with a solemn affirmation of His eternality and omnipotence: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8). “The Alpha and Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and signify here, Jesus’ comprehensive control over all things—including time (cf. Revelation 21:6; 22:13). He is in control of the past (“who was”), the present (“who is”), and the future (“who is to come”). Christ is the Creator of all things (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2), and He will bring history to its conclusion. Christ is yesterday, today, and tomorrow because he exists eternally. 9

Jesus is “the Almighty.” The Greek word for “Almighty” is pantokratōr, “the all-powerful One.” It is used ten times in the New Testament, nine of them in Revelation (2 Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22). 10  Because Jesus is the all-powerful God, He has the ability to bring to pass the promise of His Second Coming to earth. 11

In conclusion, the fulfillment of Jesus’ visible and bodily return to earth to defeat His enemies (Revelation 19:11-21), is based upon the Triune God’s power to fulfill His promises and plans (Revelation 1:4-8). Since God has the power to bring His prophetic predictions to pass, He also has the power to fulfill His individual plans for each of us. His power cannot only save us from an eternity separated from Him, but it can also give us peace which surpasses human understanding during times of distress. Therefore, we can trust Him to take care of us.

Prayer: Father God, thank You so much for giving us Your grace which saves underserved sinners from hell forever the moment we put our faith in Christ alone. This same grace can also give us peace as we face tribulation and distress in our modern world. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for washing us clean of all our sins with Your shed blood the moment we believed in You. No one loves us like You do, Lord. Because You are in control of our past, present, and future, we can trust You to take care of us during these uncertain times. Nothing is too hard for You, Lord God Almighty. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), g. 2368.

2. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 35.

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. 1496-1497.

4. Ibid., pg. 1497.

5. Swindoll, pg. 36.

6. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 16.

7. 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. 468.

8. Vacendak, pp. 1497-1498.

9. Evans, pg. 2369.

10. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

11. Vacendak, pg. 1498.

Is Jesus Christ Alive Today? (Video)

This video is about the everlasting hope that is found in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Why do millions of people around the world celebrate Easter? What evidence is there that Jesus Christ is alive today? Discover the answers to these questions and much more. Please share this video with those you want to see in heaven.

Scripture are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted. The song “Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow” by Jesusman, is Public Domain Mark 1.0 and is therefore not subject to copyright. Pictures are used with permission from Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing/ www.Freebibleimages.org, www.Goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.

Lesson 1 Part 2 – Sharing the Gospel (Video)

This video provides practical instruction on how to share the good news or gospel of Jesus Christ with those who do not have Christ in their lives. If you are eager to introduce people to the Savior of the world, this video will equip you to do just that! This video is also great for those who do not know for sure they will go to heaven when they die. The contents of this video will clearly show them from the Bible what they must know and believe to go to heaven.

How can we overcome fear in evangelism? Part 2

“And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16:8

After Jesus forewarned His disciples of the world’s coming hostility and persecution of them (15:18-16:4), He began to encourage them with the Holy Spirit’s ministry that would take place while He was gone. Last time we learned that we can overcome fear in evangelism when we GRASP THAT WE ARE NOT ALONE WHEN WE WITNESS (John 16:5-7) because God the Holy Spirit permanently indwells every believer in Jesus.

The second way for us to overcome fear in evangelism is to GIVE UNBELIEVERS THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL AND LET THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVINCE THEM IT IS TRUE (John 16:8-11). In John 15:27, Jesus told His disciples to “bear witness” about Him. However, He also told them it would not be easy. Some would put them out of the synagogues and even kill them (John 16:2). In the midst of this distressing news, He offers them encouragement by introducing them to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says of the Holy Spirit, “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (John 16:8). What does the word “convict” (elegchei) mean? It means to “convince someone of something.” 1  John is using this word in a legal sense here. When a prosecuting attorney presents his case in such a way that demonstrates that something is true, he convicts his listeners. However, this does not mean that the Holy Spirit forces someone to believe something is true. A person can hear compelling evidence that something is true and still reject it. 2

The Holy Spirit assists people in coming to faith in Christ. It is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to convince non-Christians in three areas. What are they? “Of sin… righteousness and judgment.” Notice the implied tenses of these nouns: past “sin,” present “righteousness,” and future “judgment.” 3  When the gospel is preached, it is the Holy Spirit Who convicts people of their “sin,” and that they need God’s “righteousness” through faith in Jesus, because without it, they will face certain “judgment” without hope of anything but eternal condemnation.

Beginning in verse 9, Jesus explains why the Holy Spirit convicts the world in these three areas. “Of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” (John 16:9). The word “sin” (hamartias) means “to miss the mark or standard.” 4  All people fall short of God’s perfect righteousness because “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) against God through their thoughts, words, actions, and motives.

Yet the world tries to persuade people that they are not sinners. Many secular scientists and psychologists seem bent on destroying peoples’ awareness of sin. They may say that all people are inherently good. As a result, many people have a difficult time admitting they are guilty of sin. Oh, they may admit that they make mistakes or have failures and vices, but it is very difficult for them to admit that they have sinned against God. Even some churches say that people are not that bad and because God is love, He will accept everyone into heaven. 

But the ultimate proof of the world’s sinfulness, Jesus says, is that “they do not believe in Me.” A court of law can convict someone of murder or theft, but only the Holy Spirit can convict someone of unbelief toward Christ. The Holy Spirit can convict people of their individual sins they have committed, but people can clean up their own lives and still go to hell. It is the sin of unbelief toward Jesus Christ that condemns people to an eternity in hell (John 3:18). 5  That is why the Bible says that “Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast in to the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). Those who refuse to believe in Jesus will not have their names written in the Book of Life.

Unbelievers are judged according to their works to determine their degree of punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-13; cf. Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40), not their eternal destination. But their condemnation and placement in the lake of fire is because of their unbelief toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:15; cf. John 3:18).

So we see first, that the Holy Spirit wants to convict non-Christians of their sinfulness because they refuse to believe or trust in Jesus Christ alone as their only way to heaven. Because faith in Christ and His full payment for sin on the cross (John 19:30) is the only solution to our sin problem, the Holy Spirit wants to convict people of their sinful condition, so they can see their need to believe or trust in Jesus alone. The Holy Spirit is the prosecuting attorney who presents God’s case against sinful humanity. He creates an awareness of sin so that it cannot be dismissed or excused or evaded by taking refuge in the fact that “everybody is doing it.” When we are convicted of our sin, we admit to God that we have been wrong in our unbelief toward Jesus and then we believe or trust in Him alone, so we can approach God the Father in heaven.

The reason why the Holy Spirit convicts the world in the area of “righteousness” is explained in the next verse. “Of righteousness, because I go to the Father and you see Me no more.” (John 16:10). The Holy Spirit convicts the world “of righteousness,” because Jesus would suffer and die for our sins and rise from the dead and “go to” His “Father” in heaven, proving that He was the perfect Son of God. Had Jesus not been the perfect Son of God, the Father would not have received Him in heaven. Because God has no sin, Jesus could not enter into His presence in heaven if He were not righteous. For people to be accepted by God and able to enter into His heaven, they must measure up to Christ’s righteousness. No human being can accomplish this on their own. 6

This is why the Holy Spirit wants to convict the world that their righteousness before God depends not on their good works, but upon the finished work of Christ on the cross for them. Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven prove that He was the perfect Son of God. Christ’s righteousness is what satisfied God’s holy demand to punish sin, not our own righteousness. 

When sharing the gospel with the unsaved, they may respond by saying, “I’m not as bad as him or her” or “I have not murdered anyone or committed adultery like so and so…” But God is not measuring our righteousness based on what other people have done or not done. He is measuring our righteousness based on what His Son, Jesus Christ, has done, and all of us fall short of Jesus’ perfection (Romans 3:23). Jesus never, ever told a lie. But we lie to ourselves and others daily. Christ never had one unkind thought. But we average a minimum of five a day. God’s Son never hated His enemies. But sometimes we can’t even stand the person we are married to or live with. So when it comes to behavior, in God’s eyes, we do not measure up. All of us fall short of Jesus’ perfection. Christ is the only Person Who never sinned (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Therefore, we must trust in Christ alone to be declared totally righteous before God.

“But to him who does not work, but believe on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). When you trust in Christ alone for His gift of righteousness, God looks at your sin as covered by Jesus’ shed blood on the Cross. He takes the righteousness of His Son and places it on you. Therefore, you can stand before a holy God with the perfect righteousness of Jesus.

Henry Ironside shares a helpful illustration about what it means to be justified before God. One morning on his way to a sheep ranch, he noticed a very peculiar sight. He saw an old ewe loping across the road followed by the strangest looking lamb he had ever seen. It seemed to have six legs, and the last two were hanging helplessly as though paralyzed. When one of the sheep ranchers caught the lamb and brought it over to Ironside, the rancher explained that the lamb did not really belong to that ewe. She had a lamb that was bitten by a rattlesnake and died. This lamb that Ironside saw was an orphan and needed a mother’s care. But at first the ewe refused to have anything to do with it. She sniffed at it when it was brought to her, then pushed it away, saying as plainly as a sheep could say it, “That is not my lamb!” So the ranchers skinned the lamb that had died and covered the living lamb with the dead lamb’s skin. When the covered lamb was brought again to the ewe (see above photo), she smelled it once more and accepted the lamb as her own as if to say, “That is Mine!”

Like that orphan lamb, all people are born as outcasts, separated from God because of their sin. But God’s only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead, so that when we believe or trust in Him alone, we are clothed with His righteousness. God can accept us into His family now because He sees the righteousness of His Son instead of our sin. He can say, “That is Mine!”

“Of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:11). The reason the Holy Spirit convicts the world “of judgment” is “because the ruler of this world [Satan] is judged” already in heaven by God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19), and will shortly be judged at the cross (cf. John 12:31; Colossians 2:15), and later confined to the lake of fire at the end of the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:2, 7-10). The word “judged” (kekritai)is in the perfect tense and passive voice which means Satan was judged by God in the past and remains condemned today. Like a convicted criminal, Satan awaits his execution when he will be cast into the lake of fire to “be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:7-10).  

The Holy Spirit wants to convince people that if they refuse to believe in Jesus for His gift of righteousness, then they will experience the same eternal “judgment” as the Devil. His judgment is fixed and permanent. Satan’s eternal judgment guarantees that all who are in his kingdom through unbelief will also be condemned. If a person dies without believing in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life, their condemnation cannot be lifted. It is permanent (cf. Hebrews 9:27). There are no second chances after you die.

Many people today, including Christians, do not believe in hell or eternal punishment even though Jesus and the apostles taught about its reality (cf. Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 13:40-42, 47-50; 18:9; 23:33; 25:46; Mark 3:29; 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; 16:19-31; John 3:18, 36b; James 3:6; 2 Peter 2:4, 17; Jude 1:7, 13; Revelation 14:9-11; 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; et al.). But it is not our responsibility to convince them of the reality of hell. The Holy Spirit will do this as we preach the gospel to a lost world.

It is the Holy Spirit Who can convince a typical non-Christian who has no sense of his own sinfulness, who sees no need for God’s righteousness, and who pays no attention to the warnings of coming judgment. It is not our responsibility to convince people of the truth of the gospel; that responsibility belongs to the Holy Spirit. Our job is to clearly and effectively communicate the truth of the gospel and let the Holy Spirit convince them that it is true.

In February 2017 when I was flying to Northern Samar for a mission trip in the Philippines, I sat next to a Filipino law school student who visited with me about President Trump. She made it clear to me she did not like President Trump and nor could she understand how I could like him. She was getting very angry as I shared my supporting views about the President and his policies. As our conversation progressed, I began praying for the Lord to give me wisdom on shifting the focus from politics to the gospel.

A few minutes later, I said to her, “I really would like to share with you about something far more important than politics.” “Really?!” She exclaimed. “What could that be?!” I said, “How you can know for sure from the Bible how you can go to heaven when you die.” “Oh,” she said quietly. Then I asked her, “May I share from the Bible how you can know for sure you will go to heaven when you die?” She said, “Yes.” I then shared the bad news (Romans 3:23; 6:23) good news (I Corinthians 15:1-6; John 3:16) approach with her. Afterward, she indicated she was now trusting in Christ alone as her only way to heaven. Her whole demeanor softened as the gospel was shared with her. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit convicted her of her sin and her need for the Savior, so she could escape the eternal judgment that awaits those who refuse to believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of salvation.

When we realize that the Holy Spirit is already at work in the hearts and minds of unbelievers around us to persuade them of their own sinfulness and their need for Christ’s righteousness to escape the eternal judgment of God, we will have more confidence to share the gospel with the unsaved world. Knowing of the Holy Spirit’s convicting work among the unsaved can also give us a greater sense of expectancy as we proclaim the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, inviting the unsaved to believe in Jesus alone as their only hope of heaven.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, it is with a heap of gratitude that I approach You right now. Without the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in the world, there would be no reason to expect a bountiful harvest when we share the gospel with the lost. But because the Spirit of God is already at work persuading non-Christians of their sin so they may see their need to believe in Jesus for His gift of righteousness to escape the same eternal judgment as Satan, we can boldly share Christ with them. Please enable us to clearly communicate the truth of the gospel to the lost as we rely on the Holy Spirit to convince them that it is true. In Your precious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pg. 249.

2. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 453.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 298-299.

4. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 267.

5. Constable, pg. 300.

6. The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), pg. 1187.

How can a loving God send anyone to hell?

“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

As I have shared the gospel with others one of the disturbing questions among non-Christians is how can a loving God send anyone to hell? To many people this seems like a major contradiction. One minute, preachers will talk about God’s love and forgiveness. Then they turn around and talk about hell – a terrible place of torment and unending fire where people want to die but they are unable to. How can God claim to be loving and forgiving and then turn around and send someone to such a terrible place of agony and suffering?

How do you respond to this question? Let’s look in our Bibles at John 3:16-21 where Jesus is having a conversation with a religious leader named Nicodemus. We have been doing a verse-by-verse study of the gospel of John. This book helps us see the major emphasis of Jesus’ ministry. While Christ was on earth, He was not scaring people out of going to hell with bad news; instead, He was inviting people to heaven with good news. Jesus spoke more about hell more than anyone else in the Bible, but that was not the major emphasis of His ministry. He did not earn His reputation as a “friend of sinners” (Matthew 11:19) by being harsh. He earned it by being loving and kind and extending His love and forgiveness to people like all of us. Jesus’ message and ministry were not trying to scare people out of hell; but inviting them to receive the gift of eternal life so they could live with Him forever in heaven.

God’s love wants all people to live with Him in heaven. Jesus said to Nicodemus (and us), “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). God loves the entire world – over 7.8 billion people at the time of writing this article. How do we know this? Because He gave His only Son to die on a cross (I Corinthians 15:1-8). Why did Jesus have to die? Because God is holy and perfect (Leviticus 19:2; Isaiah 6:1-5; Matthew 5:48; Romans 3:23; I Peter 1:16). The fact that God is holy and perfect demands that He must punish sin (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 6:23a; Revelation 20:15; 21:8). A “slap on the wrist” is not enough. Due to its awful nature, sin is punishable by death (Romans 6:23a). Not physical death – but eternal death or separation from God (Matthew 25:41, 46b; Revelation 20:15; 21:8).

Fortunately for us, God let His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, who never knew any sin – no wrong thoughts, bad words, unkind attitudes, or evil actions – die on a cross where you and I should have been punished (2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). Christ took our place on a cross. The nails that should have been driven through our hands and feet, were, instead, driven through His. Keep in mind, Christ didn’t have to suffer for your sin – He loved you enough to do it. When God brought His Son up from the grave on the third day, He was providing proof that He could now extend forgiveness and eternal life to anyone who believes in Jesus. There is no sin that Christ cannot forgive and no person that He will not accept if he or she comes to Him on His terms.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17). This is the heart of God. Some people confuse Christianity with religion. They think God sent Jesus to earth to make us miserable. They think Christianity is a bunch of dos and don’ts. “Don’t drink… don’t cuss… don’t smoke… don’t chew…  and don’t run around with girls who do.” They perceive God to be sitting up in heaven just waiting to hit them with His holy hammer when they mess up. But this verse tells us the very opposite. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn us, but to cleanse us. He did not come to rub our sin in, He came to rub it out.

Imagine for a moment… one of your children when they were small, playing in the road. You see a fast-moving car approaching. You know you can’t reach him in time. Running toward him you yell, “Get out of the road and come here!” It is important at that moment that your child trusts you and responds. Are you trying to ruin his fun? No, you are trying to save his life! God knows that we are all in danger. We are in danger of spending eternity separated from Him. The Bible calls it the second death and it is racing towards all of humanity (Revelation 20:6, 11-15). For that reason, God sent His Son to die on a cross, as a sacrifice for our sins. He’s paid our penalty. All He asks in return is that we believe or trust in Christ for eternal life (John 3:16).

God doesn’t want any human being to spend eternity in hell. In fact, Jesus tells us that hell was intended for the devil and his angels: “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41).  Since God did not want us to spend eternity in hell, He sent His Son to die in our place so that whoever believes in Him should not perish in hell but have everlasting life.

Since God loves us so much, then why would He send anyone to such a horrible place as hell? Please hear this – GOD DOESN’T SEND ANYONE TO HELL. PEOPLE SEND THEMSELVES THERE.

God’s love allows people to choose between heaven and hell. Jesus said, “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). When a person refuses to believe in Jesus Christ they are rejecting God’s offer. They are condemning themselves. When a person refuses to trust Christ alone for the free gift of eternal life they are in essence saying to God, “I reject what Jesus Christ did in my place as my Substitute.” Therefore, God has no choice but to let us pay for our own sin, through eternal separation from Him in what the Bible calls hell. Those who go to hell are going there of their own choosing because they have rejected Christ and His free offer. God has not rejected them; instead, they have rejected God.

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

This is why the Bible puts the responsibility where it belongs when it says, “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 3:18b). Why would someone reject Christ’s free offer of everlasting life? Why would someone choose hell instead of heaven? The answer is in the following verses.

People love their sin more than the Savior. Jesus says to Nicodemus (and to us), “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19). The presence of God’s light – His truth- forces people to make a choice – to either believe in Christ or reject Him. The reason people reject Christ’s offer of a free gift is because they love their sin more, and they want to stay in the darkness because it hides their sinfulness.

Let’s be honest, sin is fun. Sin feels good. Sin initially appears attractive. But sin is like a black widow spider. The bite of the female black widow spider can be deadly to humans. But the black widow gets its name because after the male has mated with the female, she kills and eats him. Sin has somewhat of the same effect on us. It is initially attractive and pleasurable, but in the end, it can devour us forever.

For example, suppose a person is unwilling to come to Christ because he is afraid of what God might do with the sins he enjoys? If that man so enjoys his immorality or drug abuse or overeating and, in fear of what God might do, is unwilling to come to Christ, he needs to examine Matthew 5:29-30: 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (cf. Matthew 18:8-9; Mark 9:43-45). What does Jesus mean here?

Let me explain where I’m at in my understanding of this passage. Alcoholism, drug abuse, pornography, and sexual addiction are examples of sins which dominate the lives and thinking of millions upon millions today. People turn to such things to medicate their inner pain. The sinful addiction provides a temporary distraction or relief. However, it does not eliminate the pain. In fact, it takes more and more of the addictive behavior to keep masking the pain.

People can also turn to things like sports, work, home decorating, shopping, recreational activities, and hobbies to distract them from inner pain. These things, morally neutral in moderation, can so dominate a person’s time and attention as to become idolatrous and sinful. Evangelist Larry Moyer writes: “Have you ever met a man whose hand was so involved in business that there was no time to think about spiritual things? Or a woman whose eyes were so focused on a neat or new home that she neglected spiritual matters? Christ’s warning to a person in that position was: None of those are worth eternal separation from God [bold letters mine]. Such a person would be wise to cut off the hand with which he works or to pluck out the eye with which she focuses on a new home.” (from Larry Moyer, The Toolbox, Aug-Oct 1989).

No one can come to faith in Christ unless they see their need for Him. People with sinful addictions often cannot see that need unless they hit bottom and give up the addiction. Turning from sins is not a condition of salvation. However, for some it may be a practical necessity – not to clean up their lives, but to be able to see their need and come to faith in Christ. Jesus is telling us in Matthew 5:29-30, that nothing is worth going to hell over. What our hands touch and what our eyes see – does it keep us from trusting in Christ for eternal life? We would be wise to cut off the hand or pluck out the eye. It is better to be here with one hand or eye than separated from God in hell with two hands or eyes.

Some people won’t let God love them because they will be exposed for what they really are – sinners in need of God’s love and forgiveness. This is especially true with church people. They live their lives being basically good, but if an invitation to trust Christ for salvation is given, they won’t respond because they are afraid their image will be shattered. They will be exposed and that is just too much to risk. But friends, love is risky. We take a risk receiving God’s love through Jesus Christ and we take a risk expressing our love back to Him.

Jesus said, “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” (John 3:20). I believe this verse can apply to Christians and non-Christians (“everyone”). We all dislike being shown that we are wrong. I feel that way myself. I don’t like to admit I am wrong. This verse is saying that this normal human reaction is part of our sinful nature. That’s why nobody wants to change. Nobody wants to admit he or she is wrong. When the Republicans are in power they try to convince the Democrats they have been wrong, but they won’t admit it. When the Democrats are in power they try to convince the Republicans they have made the wrong choices, but they won’t admit it either. Nobody wants to admit they are wrong. That is why it is so hard to change.

If you are a Christian and you have drifted away from God, you don’t like to be around believers who are walking with the Lord because it exposes your sinfulness and you start to feel uncomfortable. That is the Holy Spirit convicting you. It is not the committed Christian doing that. It is God inside of you nudging you to come back into the light. So, what do we do? We withdraw from committed believers and hang out with those who have no commitment to Christ. One of the ways we can tell that we are walking in darkness is by our lack of time with committed Christians. At first, we miss a Sunday. And then another and another. We don’t want to be exposed to the light of God’s Word because then we will have to face our sinfulness and shame.

“But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:21). The phrase “comes to the light” refers to the person “who does the truth.” He comes to the light “that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God,” meaning that they have “been produced by God.” This verse is referring to Christians. Verse 20 referred to both Christians and non-Christians. But this verse refers specifically to believers. And it is saying that if we will do (not just say the right words but start doing) the right things, despite our dislike of being shown to be wrong – if we are willing, in other words, to begin to obey the truth even though it means we have to admit we have been wrong – then we will find ourselves being drawn to Jesus, for He is the Light. And if we are doers of the truth of God’s Word, then we will openly identify with the light of Jesus Christ so that our works can be seen as being produced by God’s grace working in our lives.

When we are living the way God wants us to live, we will have more boldness to openly confess Jesus Christ before others whether they know the Lord or not; whether they are receptive to Christ or not. But when we are not living in a way that pleases the Lord we are less likely to openly identify with Him because we are feeling guilty and ashamed.

John the Baptist is a believer who “does the truth and comes to the light” by boldly expressing his convictions about the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:15-18, 29-34; 3:22-36). Jesus is warning Nicodemus who came “by night” (3:2) to come to Him “by day” now by boldly confessing Christ which would be contrary to many of the other believing Pharisees (John 12:42-43).

To summarize: How can a loving God send anyone to hell? He doesn’t. People send themselves to hell by rejecting God’s free offer of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Why? Because they love their sin more than the Savior.

You may be afraid to come to Jesus Christ because of mistakes in your past that still haunt you. You are afraid He will condemn you instead of cleanse you. There is no wrong too great for Jesus Christ to forgive. When I came to Christ as a filthy sinner back in 1979, I was met with compassion, not condemnation. Christ forgave me and accepted me as His own when I trusted in Him alone. And He helped me to put all my wrongdoings behind me. For the last forty-one years, I’ve been living in forgiveness. If He forgave me, He will forgive you, too. One of the most exciting things about the Christian life is not simply knowing I have been forgiven and I am going to heaven, although that is enough. But since I’ve come to Christ, I know He is with me all day every day. Disappointments do not seem nearly as big, and bad days do not seem nearly as bad with Him in my life.

Jesus Christ came to earth to remove the condemnation all of us deserve and made it possible to come freely and openly to Him. If you have never come to Christ in faith, will you come to Him now just as you are? God does not want any human being to spend eternity in hell. He loves us too much to send us there. But we send ourselves to hell by refusing to believe in Christ to get us to heaven. We can run every stop sign, ignore all the warnings, discount all the pleas to change our minds about whatever is keeping us from trusting Christ and we can choose the path toward destruction. Sunday School teachers can tell us, TV evangelists can preach to us, pastors can warn us, but it is our choice to ignore every warning or we can take them to heart. My friend, it is still not too late. You can settle this issue right now. Simply take God at His Word when He says, “He who believes in the Son is not condemned.” (John 3:18).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I know I deserve to be separated from You forever in the Lake of Fire because I have sinned against You with my thoughts, words, and actions. You detest and hate sin, but amazingly You still love me and came to earth to cleanse me of my sins, not condemn me. You took my place on the cross to die for all of my sins. Three days later You rose from the dead and You are alive today offering eternal life as a free gift to all who believe in You. Right now, Lord Jesus, I am trusting You alone for Your everlasting life so I may live with You forever in heaven. Thank You, Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have and for the future home I will have in heaven. Please use me to share this good news with others so they may receive Your everlasting life and escape the eternal fires of hell which You intended for the devil and his angels. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

What happens to your spirit and soul at death?

SPIRIT, SOUL, AND BODY

The Bible clearly tells us that every human being is comprised of three parts: spirit, soul, and body. The apostle Paul is writing to Christians, and he says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:23). The spirit and soul are the immaterial or invisible part of human beings and the body, of course, is the physical part of us. God wants to “sanctify” or transform our spirit, soul, and body into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18). But this transformation starts with our “spirit,” not our soul or body. Our spirit is the inner most part of us.

THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN SPIRIT AND SOUL

The Bible makes a distinction between the spirit and soul. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit…” (Hebrew 4:12). What is the difference between our spirit and soul? Our spirit is the inner most part of our being. This is why the spirit is mentioned first in I Thessalonians 5:23. Our spirit connects with God Who is Spirit (John 4:23-24; cf. Romans 1:9; I Corinthians 6:17, 20; 14:14-15; Galatians 6:18; Ephesians 4:23; 2 Timothy 4:22; Philemon 1:25). God, who is Spirit, transforms our spirit. Our spirit is what animates our physical body. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). When our spirit leaves our physical body, our body dies (cf. Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:45; John 19:30; Acts 7:59-60). Our soul also departs from our body at death (cf. Genesis 35:18; I Kings 17:21-22).

According to I Thessalonians 5:23, our spirit has been implanted in our soul, and our soul has been implanted in our physical body. The Greek word for “soul” in the New Testament is psychḗ which is where we get our English words “psyche” or “psychology.” It has to do with a person’s distinct identity or life. The soul is actually one’s self. Your soul is conscious of self. As God’s Spirit communicates with our spirit, our spirit then communicates what God’s Spirit said to our soul or self. Then our soul communicates this to our body. Then our body communicates this to our environment and the people who are aound us.

WHERE DO OUR SPIRIT AND SOUL GO AFTER DEATH?

When physical death occurs, the spirit and soul are separated from the physical body. According to the Old Testament the spirit of believers returns to the Lord at death. “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The physical body is buried in the ground (“the dust will return to the earth”), but the spirit of the believer “returns to God who gave it.” When Rachel died, the Bible says, “And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni” (Genesis 35:18). Based on other verses in the Bible, the departing of Rachel’s soul implies her soul (and spirit) departed to go be with the Lord in Abraham’s bosom or Paradise (Luke 16:22; 23:43).

Just before Jesus died on the cross, He cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Then “He breathed His last’ (Luke 23:46). John writes, “bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). Jesus’ spirit went to His Father in heaven when He died, and so does a believer’s spirit after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For example, while he was being stoned in Acts 7, Stephen prayed, “ ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Now Saul was consenting to his death.” (Acts 7:59-8:1). It is clear that when Stephen died, he understood that his spirit would go to be with the Lord.

When the Bible says Stephen “fell asleep” (Acts 7:60), it is referring to Stephen’s “death” (Acts 8:1). The words “asleep” or “sleep” are common metaphors for death of the physical body in distinction from the spirit or soul (Acts 7:60; cf. John 11:11-13; I Thess. 4:14-16). John 11:11-13 makes this very clear. Jesus tells His disciples, “ ‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.’ Then His disciples said, ‘Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.’ However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.” John 11:11-13. Death is not a state of unconsciousness as some teach. A dead body appears to look like a person who is sleeping.

Similarly, in I Thessalonians 4:13-17, the apostle Paul writes about the sudden removal of the church from the earth called the Rapture which could take place at any moment. 13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (I Thessalonians 4:13-17). When Paul speaks of “those who have fallen asleep” he is referring to Christians who have died. Their physical bodies are asleep in the grave (cf. John 11:11-14), but their spirit and soul have gone to be with the Lord Jesus in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21-24; Revelation 6:9; 20:4; cf. Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 19:30).  

This is why Paul writes, 6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:6-8. Paul refers to death as his spirit and soul being “absent from the body” and “present with the Lord” in heaven (5:8). There is no intermediate existence. We are either “at home in the body” (5:6) or “present with the Lord” (5:8). There is no mention of some other kind of existence in between being at home in the body or present with the Lord.

In Philippians 1:21-24, Paul writes, 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” For Paul, death “is gain” because he (his spirit/soul) will “depart and be with Christ, which is far better” than living “on in the flesh.” Where is Christ right now? He is in heaven at the right hand of God the Father (Acts 5:31; 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrew 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; I Peter 3:22).

We also see that the souls of believers also go to heaven. “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.” Revelation 6:9. When Jesus opened the fifth seal judgment, the apostle John says he saw under the altar in heaven the “souls” of believers who were martyred during the Tribulation on earth.

At the beginning of the Millennium, the thousand year reign of Christ on earth, the apostle John writes, “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Revelation 20:4. The “souls” of martyred believers from the Tribulation are seen reigning with Christ during His Millennial Kingdom on earth.

A DETAILED ACCOUNT OF WHAT HAPPENS AFTER DEATH IN LUKE 16:19-31

We are going to look at a factual account that Jesus shared in Luke 16:19-31 to discover more details about what happens when we die. Some people believe this is a parable – (a made up story to illustrate spiritual truth) because they do not like what it teaches about the afterlife. But here are some compelling reasons why Luke 16:19-31 is not a parable:

1. It would be the only parable in the Bible that describes certain things that are outside of the realm of human experience. All the other parables talk about things that we are familiar with such as birds, seed, fields, pearls, wheat, barns, leaven, fish, etc. (see Matthew 13, etc.). This passage is different because it talks about what happens to two men after death, and this is a realm where none of us have had any personal experience. A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly or spiritual significance, but Luke 16 transcends the realm of the earthly.

2. It would be the only parable in the Bible that uses a proper name (“Lazarus”).

3. It would be the only parable in the Bible that makes mention repeatedly of an historical person – “Abraham.” Moreover, this historical person actually carries on a dialogue with the rich man! Indeed, mention is also made in this parable of “Moses,” another historical character.  What other parable speaks of real, historical persons? 

4. It would be the only parable in the Bible that describes the places where the dead go (“Torments in Hades,” and “Abraham’s bosom”).

5. It would be the only parable in the Bible that makes mention of angels. Compare Matthew 13 verses 24-30, 36-43, 47-49 where angels are mentioned in the explanation of the parable but not in the parable itself.

6. If Hades is not really a place of torment then this would be the only parable in the Bible where the Lord Jesus taught error instead of truth. This is not possible because Jesus is “the truth” (John 14:6). This passage is factual, not fictional.

Before we go any further, I want to clarify one more thing. This passage is not talking about the final destination of people. The place of unbelievers we will consider in Luke 16 is not the Lake of Fire (Revelation 14:10; 20:10-15) or the everlasting fire of Hell (Matthew 10:28; 23:33; 25:41, 46b; Mark 9:42-48; Luke 12:5; Revelation 14:10; 20:10, 15). The Lake of Fire or Hell is where people who don’t believe in Jesus will go for eternity after the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:10-15). The place in Luke 16:22b-26 is “Torments in Hades” where lost people go when they die. It is a temporary holding area of torment and suffering for the Old and New Testament unbeliever. But it is not purgatory.

Before Jesus died on the cross, believers in Jesus went to a place called “Paradise” or “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22; 23:43) and unbelievers went to a place called “Torments” in Hades (Luke 16:23). When Jesus died on the cross, He released the souls and spirits of believers in Abraham’s bosom (Ephesians 4:8-10) to go to God’s home in the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4; cf. John 14:2).

Prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, Old Testament believers could not go to the third heaven because Jesus’ blood had not removed all their sins yet. The Old Testament sacrifices had only covered their sins, not removed their sins (cf. Hebrews 9:9-10; 10:1-4, 11). Only the blood of the Lamb of God could take away their sins forever (John 1:29; Ephesians 1:7; 2:13-18; Hebrews 9:11-15; 10:10-22). After Christ’s death and resurrection, when a believer in Jesus dies, his spirit and soul go to the third heaven to be with Jesus while his physical body sleeps in the grave (cf. John 11:11-13; I Thessalonians 4:14, 16). 

But when an unbeliever dies, his or her spirit and soul go straight to Torments in Hades where they stay until they are called out to face God at the Great White Throne Judgment where they are judged according to their works to determine their degree of punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-14). Then they will be confined to the Lake of Fire or Hell forever with Satan and his fallen angels (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10, 15)!

Back to Luke 16. There are two main characters in Jesus’ factual account. The “rich man” (Luke 16:19) who represents unbelievers and a poor man named “Lazarus” (Luke 16:20) who represents believers. Let’s look at what happened to them when they died.

How was Lazarus greeted at death? Even though Lazarus had been alone much of his life, he “was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” or “Paradise” (Luke 16:22a; cf. Luke 23:43) where he would enjoy fellowship with Old Testament believers such as “Abraham” who were there. So God’s angels received Lazarus and took him to dwell in Paradise with the Lord. Lazarus did not die alone. He died in the presence of God. Lazarus’ spirit and soul did not linger on earth for a period of days or weeks. His spirit and soul were taken immediately to Paradise to be with the Lord. There was no unconscious sleep as some religious groups teach.

Lazarus’ experience after death was the opposite of his experience on earth. In Abraham’s bosom or Paradise, Lazarus experienced intimate fellowship with Abraham – “Lazarus” was “in his bosom” or close to him (Luke 16:23). But on earth Lazarus was all alone (Luke 16:20-21). On earth he received “evil things,” but in Paradise he was “comforted” (Luke 16:25b).

How was the rich man greeted at death? “The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:22b-23). The rich man was alone at death – no family or friends. When he died, his spirit and soul went immediately to “torments in Hades.” Let’s look at his experiences there after death.

1. He experiences sensation. “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:23). The rich man is not unconscious. He  can see (“he lifted up his eyes and saw…”), he can hear as shown in his conversation with Abraham, he can speak (“he cried and said…” – Luke 16:24a), he can feel (“I am tormented in this flame” – Luke 16:24b). The rich man still has desires, he still has needs, and he still has the ability to think and express himself. He was able to see into Paradise and realize what he was missing out on. Did he feel pain? “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame’” (Luke 16:24). Yes, he begged for relief from the torment of the flames. People will not party in torments, they will cry out for relief from their pain. Even though his body is in the grave in which it was buried, this man has some sort of a spiritual form that allows him to continue to live in this place called torments in Hades.

2. He experiences separation. We also notice that the rich man found himself separated from Lazarus and Abraham by a great gulf. Abraham said to the rich man, “between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us” (Luke 16:26). The Bible says that this gulf is “fixed.” That is, it will never be taken away. This separation from God and unbelievers is eternal! The rich man found himself separated from everything that Lazarus enjoyed. Could he cross over this gulf or could anyone come visit him? No. Once you go to torments, no one can get you out. There is no second chance after death. The Bible makes this clear. “Everyone must die once, and after that be judged by God.” Hebrews 9:27 [GNT]. So there is no halfway house between heaven and torments. There is no intermediate state. There is no limbo. There is no purgatory. Purgatory is a theory that was created during the Middle Ages. It is not found in the Bible.

In torments you will be all alone without family, friends, and worst of all – you will be without  God. Torments or Hell is total separation from God. If you go through all of life saying, “I don’t want God in my life” He will give you that wish forever in torments and the Lake of Fire. Second Thessalonians 1:9 says, “These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” Torments and the Lake of Fire are the exact opposite of everything God is.

Since “God is love” (I John 4:8b), without God, Hell is a terrifying and lonely place. You are all alone! So there’s no love there. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment” (I John 4:18). The opposite of love is fear. You know what it means to live without love in your life? It means you are scared to death all the time. That is hell. It means you are lonely all the time. That is hell. One of the big myths about hell is that in hell it is just going to be a big party for all the people who like to party. Friends, no one will see anybody else in hell. It is total separation from God and everybody else. There are no relationships in hell. There are no friends in hell. It is total aloneness.

Since God is light (I John 1:5), hell is complete darkness (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 1:13). Since God is good (Psalm 34:8), there will be absolutely nothing good in hell. Since God is eternal life (John 1:1, 4, 14; 14:6; I John 5:20), that means hell will be eternal death. Since God is gracious (Psalm 145:8), that means there is no place for grace in Hell.

3. He experiences intense suffering. The noun torments (basanos) means to be tested or examined by means of torture (Luke 16:23). The rich man is in a place of extreme pain and torture. The verb tormented” (odynáō) is in the present tense (Luke 16:24) and means to cause intense pain. This teaches us that the intense pain and suffering in this dreadful place do not cease. People do not simply burn up and no longer exist as some false religions teach, but they endure this intense pain and torture forever. The rich man wants to die or at least lose consciousness, but he cannot.

Of all the agonies of torments, perhaps the worst one of all is described in verse 25. “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented’ ” (Luke 16:25).  The word “remember” tells us that people in torments have the capacity to remember the events of this life and that they are forced to deal with those memories eternally. They will remember every gospel message they heard and rejected. They will remember how God manifested Himself in thousands of ways to draw them to Himself. They will remember and they will know that they have no one to blame for their situation but themselves!

If you have never trusted in Jesus as your Savior to give you everlasting life, I wonder what you will remember when you arrive in torments? Will you remember this message? Will you remember all the Christians who witnessed to you and prayed for you? Will you remember how you wasted your life on temporary things and condemned your own spirit and soul to the torment and torture of hell forever? Will you remember how good and gracious God was to you and how you rejected His great love for you?

The rich man said to Abraham, I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment (Luke 16:27-28). The rich man wanted Lazarus to be sent back to his family to warn them of the terrible suffering of torments. Nobody in torments wants their family and friends to join them there because the suffering and pain is so great. In fact, those in torments want to do all they can to warn those they care about not to join them there. Yet there is nothing they can do about it! This, too, is a form of suffering in torments.

4. He experiences stubbornness. Amazingly torments is filled with stubborn people. Abraham said to the rich man regarding his family, 29 They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:29-31).  Jesus us is teaching us that people have all the truth they need in the Bible (“Moses and the prophets”) to avoid going to hell, so sending someone back from the dead would be useless. Even in torments, the rich man still hasn’t figured out what it takes to keep a man from that awful place. He stubbornly begs for the salvation of his family, and won’t hear the truth that they must hear God’s word and “repent” which means to change their mind about whatever is keeping them from trusting in Christ, and then trust in Him to take them to heaven. Even in torments, the rich man is totally unchanged. There is still no willingness to do things necessary to leave – the rich man does not even ask to get out. These verses tell us that even when people find themselves in the pain and suffering of hell, they are still lost and they still have no room for God in their lives.

SPIRIT AND SOUL REUNITED WITH THE BODY AT THE RESURRECTION

Old and New Testament unbelievers’ souls and spirits will re-enter their resurrected bodies at the end of the thousand years reign of Christ on earth to stand before the Great White Throne Judgment. 11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:11-15. 

The apostle John “saw the [unbelieving] dead [of all ages], small and great, standing before God [in their resurrection bodies which are eternal], and the books [containing all their works] were opened” so they could be “judged according to their works” to determined their degree of punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12; cf. Matt. 11:20-24; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47). Those like the Devil, the Beast of Revelation, the False Prophet, and other false teachers will no doubt experience greater punishment for misleading people away from God (Revelation 20:10; cf. Matthew 11:20-24; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47; 2 Peter 2:1-17; Jude 1:2-13).

“The sea … Death and Hades [temporary holding place of the spirits and souls of dead unbelievers until the great white throne judgment] delivered up [resurrected] from the dead [unbelievers] who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works” before the great white throne (20:13). Notice that whether their bodies are decomposed in the sea or in the ground or cremated or vaporized, God will raise up their bodies to stand before His Great White Throne.

As a result of this Great White Throne judgment, all the unsaved dead [“Death”] and “Hades” will be “cast into the lake of fire” which “is the second death” (20:14). Everyone who dies without believing in Christ alone for everlasting life is “not found written in the Book of Life” and will “be cast into the lake of fire” where they will be tormented forever along with Satan and all his fallen angels (Revelation 20:15; cf. 20:10; Matthew 25:41).

The resurrection of Old and New Testament believers in Jesus Christ will take place at different times. The first time, will be at the Rapture or sudden removal of the church at any moment when the spirits and souls of Christians who have died will return with Jesus from heaven in the air to re-enter their resurrected bodies permanently. The apostle Paul writes, 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” I Thessalonians 4:14-16.

Christians who are alive at the time of the Rapture will receive their glorified bodies as the are reunited in the air with Jesus. “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” I Thessalonians 4:17. Paul alludes to this in I Corinthians 15. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” I Corinthians 15:52-53. The phrase “we will be changed” refers to living Christians at the time of the Rapture who will receive their glorified bodies.

The next time when believers’ spirits and souls are reunited with their resurrection bodies will be at the beginning of the Millennium, the thousand year reign of Christ on the earth after the Tribulation period (Revelation 20:4-6). At the beginning of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom, all who possess eternal life through faith in Christ are all resurrected by this time including Old Testament believers (Daniel 11:45-12:2) and Tribulation believers who died (Revelation 20:4). In Matthew 25:31-46 we are told that when Christ returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation period, He will judge the Gentile nations. In this judgment, those believers who survived the Tribulation, will enter the Christ’s Millennial Kingdom in their mortal bodies (Matthew 25:34-40, 46b).

Conclusion:

Where will you live after you die? The Bible tells us that all people will live forever after death in one of two places: either in Heaven with Jesus Christ (John 14:2-3) or in the Lake of Fire (Hell) separated from Jesus forever (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:15). Do you want to live forever in Heaven with Jesus? If so, you need to realize the Bible says you have a problem called sin (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is death or separation from God forever in a terrible place of agonizing suffering called the Lake of Fire or Hell (Matthew 10:28; 23:33; 25:41, 46b; Mark 9:42-48; Luke 12:5; Revelation 14:10; 20:10, 15).

Please understand that God loves you and He does not want you to suffer forever in Hell (John 3:16; I Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9). This is why He sent His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to die in your place on a cross and rise from the dead, proving that He is God (Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:3-8). Jesus is alive today and He offers you everlasting life as a free gift (Romans 6:23b). Christ invites you to “believe in Him” to “have everlasting life” both now and forever (John 3:16; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26).

Jesus promises that the moment you “hear” and “believe” His promise of everlasting life, you now have “everlasting life” and “shall not come into judgement” for your sins because you have “passed from death into life” (John 5:24). Christ also guarantees that when you die, your soul and spirit will go immediately to heaven to live with Him forever (John 14:2-3; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21, 23) and eventually be reunited with your resurrection body when Jesus returns for His Church (I Corinthians 15:35-57; I Thessalonians 4:14-17).

The person who never believes in Jesus “is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). God’s wrath abides on him now and forever. “He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). When the unbeliever dies, his soul and spirit go to torments in Hades (Luke 16:23) until he is resurrected to stand before the Great White Throne Judgment where he will be judged according to his works to determine the degree of his punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). And then he (spirit, soul, and body) will be confined to the Lake of Fire where he will be tormented forever (Matthew 10:28; 23:33; 25:41, 46b; Mark 9:42-48; Luke 12:5; Revelation 14:10; 20:10, 15).