Must I work to get to heaven?

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12

Recently I was asked what Philippians 2:12 says about working out our salvation. Some students of the Bible have referred to this verse as proof that you must work to get to heaven. However, we do not want to overlook the fact that the apostle Paul is writing to Christians as demonstrated by his reference to them as “saints” (1:1), “brethren” (1:12, 14;3:1, 13, 17; 4:1, 8, 21), and “beloved” (2:12). These are all terms that the apostle reserved for genuine Christians. Since his readers have already been saved from hell, he cannot be telling them how to get saved again.

The Greek word for “salvation” (sōtērian/sōterias) means “deliverance.” 1 What a person is delivered from is determined by the context.Paul uses this word three times in Philippians (1:19, 28; 2:12). In chapter 1 Paul spoke of his “deliverance” (sōtērian) through the Philippians’ “prayer and the supply of the Spirit” (1:19). Since Paul was in prison (1:12-14) he could be referring to his deliverance from prison. In verse 20, he spoke of Christ being “magnified in” his “body, whether by life or by death.” In 1:28 Paul explains to his readers that a lack of fear toward their “adversaries” by boldly preaching Christ to them would be to their adversaries “proof of perdition,” but to these believers it would be proof “of salvation [sōterias]. In the context, this means it would be proof of God delivering them from failing to magnify Christ amid difficulties by bolding preaching Christ.

When Paul writes, Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), clearly, he says that obedient “works” are necessary for this kind of “salvation [sōtērian].” Paul is not saying to work “for” our salvation. We are to work “out” our salvation. He has clearly taught that salvation from hell is a free gift from God that is received by faith alone (Ephes. 2:8-9). Deliverance from hell has nothing to do with our works.

But this kind of salvation must be “worked out.” It involves obedience even under the most difficult circumstances. Since Paul already said this kind of deliverance involves Christians magnifying Christ (1:19-20, 28), Paul has the same meaning in mind here. The word “therefore” (2:12) points us back to the humble and obedient example of Jesus Christ (2:6-11). Christ’s glorious exaltation was preceded by His humble obedience which led to suffering on the cross.

In a very graphic way, Jesus Christ “worked out” his salvation and we must learn to think of salvation as something more than simply getting to heaven. In Philippians 2:6-8, Christ illustrated One who “saved” His life by “loosing” it (cf. Matthew 16:25). If we live our lives according to our natural, selfish desires, then we are guaranteed to “lose” it. That kind of life will have no eternal or enduring value and it will be utterly ended as soon as it is finished. If, however, we do with our lives what Christ did with His (lose it), then we are guaranteed that it will endure for eternity and there will be eternal “reward” (exaltation) for that life (Matthew 16:27). Hence, we end up saving our life from being wasted on our natural desires and lusts.

No wonder we should “work out” this salvation with “fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). To “fear” God means to take Him seriously. We are to magnify Jesus Christ in living and in dying (1:19-20). The stakes are eternally high and once our life has been lived on earth, there is no reversing of what has been done. Every day we live for the wrong thing is a day lost in eternity.

God wants us to humbly and unselfishly serve one another like Christ served us. But there are two things that work against us from fulfilling God’s desire. First, we don’t want to and second, we cannot. Christians by nature have neither the desire nor the ability to humbly consider others as more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3-4) because their sinful hearts are selfish. Hence, Paul says, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Our responsibility is to “work out” this salvation with “fear and trembling” (2:12) because God is at work in us to give us the desire and power to do His will (2:13).

There is an important balance between Philippians 2:12 and 2:13. Our responsibility is to “work out” while verse 13 emphasizes God’s role which is to “work in” and “through” us. If we only focus on verse 12, we will become legalistic or ascetic, relying on our own strength for spiritual power. If we dwell on verse 13 only, we can become passive and complacent. We are to live a life of “discipline / dependence” – fully cooperating with God’s Spirit to work in and through us to humbly serve one another.

Philippians 2:12 is not talking about salvation from hell, but about salvation from failing to magnify Christ in any circumstance. As Christians, we are to continue to magnify Christ in any circumstance by obeying Him as humble servants as He works in and through us.

Prayer: Father God, thank You confronting us with the importance of working out our salvation from failing to magnify Jesus in any circumstance. Unlike salvation from hell which is by Your grace through faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works, this kind of salvation involves obedient works so Christ is magnified in our Christian lives. We need You to work in our hearts to make us willing and able to obey You especially when we face challenging circumstances, so Christ is magnified whether we live or die. Just as Christ’s glorious exaltation was preceded by His humble obedience which led to suffering on the cross, so our eternal rewards will be preceded by humble obedience to Christ which may lead to suffering and physical death. Oh Father, help us magnify Jesus in any circumstance by obeying Him as You work in and through us. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 985-986.

Revelation 19 – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

2. Ibid.

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

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

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

6. Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 331.

7. Swindoll, pg. 224.  

Revelation 17 – Part 4

“Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’” Revelation 17:15

After the angel explained the interpretation of “the mystery” about “the beast” (17:7-14), he addressed the meaning of “the woman” riding on the beast (17:15-18). “Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’” (Revelation 17:15). The angel interprets “the waters which” John “saw, where the harlot sits” (17:1) to be “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” indicating the worldwide evil influence Rome will have during the Tribulation period. During the Tribulation “there will be one ecumenical world religious system, embracing all nations and languages.” 1

So, the woman riding on the scarlet beast represents a worldwide religious system in the Tribulation period whose headquarters is in Rome, the city on seven hills (17:1-9, 15). Rome will be the center of the Revived Roman Empire during the Tribulation period. Rome is also home to the Vatican, the Roman papal authority whose influence reaches across the world to “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” This worldwide false religion will be brought to a sudden stop around the mid-point of the Tribulation period.

“And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” (Revelation 17:16). The “ten horns” John “saw on the beast” (17:7) represent ten kings (17:12) who will assist the beast in his worldwide kingdom during the last half of the Tribulation (cf. Daniel 7:23-24). These ten kings “will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” This complete destruction of the city of Rome will most likely take place after the beast assumes his position in the rebuilt Jewish temple and claims to be God, demanding that everyone worship him or be killed (cf. Daniel 11:36-38; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 13:8, 15). 2 The Roman papacy will not agree to embrace this so it will be brought to an abrupt end.

The reason (“For…”) for Rome’s destruction is because God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.” (Revelation 17:17). God in His sovereignty uses the sinful actions of people, in this case the ten kings and the beast, “to fulfill His purpose… until the words of God” about Rome’s destruction “are fulfilled.” 3 God has used evil people before to accomplish His purposes (cf. Judges 2:14-15; 3:7-8, 12-14; Ezra 1:1ff; Jeremiah 25:9-11; Ezekiel 38:21; Daniel 2:20-21; Haggai 2:22; Zechariah 14:13). Yet, individual sinners remain responsible for his or her own actions (cf. Ezekiel 18). 4

“And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 17:18). The angel interprets “the woman” whom John saw to be “that great city which reigns [present tense] over the kings of the earth.” In the first century context when John wrote the book of Revelation, this could only refer to the city of Rome which ruled the world at that time. 5 Just as Rome relentlessly persecuted believers in Jesus when John wrote in the first century, the revived Roman Empire in the Tribulation period will also persecute believers who refuse to submit to her evil and idolatrous practices. But this persecution will be short lived because God will use the beast and his allies to bring about the swift destruction of this evil worldwide false religion.

These events in Revelation 17 could begin to take place at any time once the church of Christ is removed via the Rapture (I Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-5:11; Revelation 4:1-4). Jesus said, 32 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” (Mark 13:32-33). Christ said no one knows the “day and hour” of His coming, yet as we see conflict between Russia and Ukraine and chaos increasing around the world, the stage is being set for the beast to arise out of the chaos. Christians are to “watch and pray,” devoting their full attention, while there is still time, to God’s agenda for themselves, their families, their churches, and their communities. 6

Nonbelievers would be wise to come to Jesus Christ in faith soon before they are left behind to face a world that will experience unprecedented judgments as never before seen. If you are not sure you will go to heaven in the future, listen to what missionaries said to a prison guard who thought he only had a short amount of time to live. They told him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

The reason a person must believe or trust in the Lord Jesus alone is because we all have a problem called sin (Romans 3:23) that separates us from God (Romans 6:23). All of us have sinned against God with our thoughts, words, and actions. And we all deserve to pay the penalty for our own sins by dying forever in a terrible place of eternal suffering called the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15) or hell (Mark 9:43-48). But God does not want any of us to die forever in hell!

So, He sent His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to earth two thousand years ago. Jesus lived a perfect life on earth (Hebrews 4:15), and then He died on the cross in our place to pay the penalty for all our sins (I Corinthians 15:3; John 19:30). The proof that He died is that He was buried (I Corinthians 15:4a). We do not bury a living person; we bury a dead person. Jesus then rose from the dead three days after He died (I Corinthians 15:4b) just as He promised He would (Matthew 16:21), proving that He is God (John 3:16; Romans 1:3-4). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead is that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8). This is more than enough evidence to stand up in a court of law.

Jesus is alive today and He has the power to save us from hell forever and give us eternal life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He now invites everyone to believe in Him alone to save them from hell forever (Acts 16:31). To “believe” in Jesus means to trust or depend upon Him alone.

Trusting in Jesus is a lot like riding on an airplane. When you ride as a passenger on an airplane, do you need to push the airplane to get it off the ground? No, of course not. Do you need to flap your arms to keep the plane in the air? No. All you must do is trust a person, your pilot, to take you to your destination.

In the same way, Jesus does not need us to help Him save us from hell forever. No amount of our good works can save us from the lake of fire because they are all stained with sin before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). All Jesus asks is that we believe or trust in Him alone to save us from hell forever (Acts 16:31) and give us everlasting life (John 3:16). Only Jesus can take away our sins because He paid the penalty of our sins in full (John 19:30) and rose from the dead. Believe in Him and the Bible guarantees “you will be saved” forever from hell (Acts 16:31).

If you just believed or trusted in Jesus Christ alone to save you from hell forever, you may tell God this through prayer. But praying this prayer does not get you to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Christ alone gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now believing in His Son to save you.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I come to You now as a sinner. I cannot save myself from hell. I believe You died for all my sins on the cross and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You Jesus (not my good life, my religion, nor my prayers), to save me from hell forever and give me everlasting life. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for the gifts of Your salvation and everlasting life that I now have. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus…

– He saved you from hell forever (Acts 16:31).

– He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29).

– He came to live inside you through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20) and He promises never to abandon or leave you (Hebrews 13:5).

Jesus wants to be your best Friend. You can get to know Him by talking to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7) and listening to Him as you read and apply the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17) together with other Christians (Hebrews 10:24-25).

– He now wants you to follow Him so He can show you how to tell other people the good news of going to heaven through faith in Him alone (Matthew 4:19; Mark 16:15).

Because of your faith in Christ alone to save you from hell forever, I will not say good-bye to you. Instead, I will say, “See you in heaven!”

ENDNOTES:

1. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6133.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 191.

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. 1568.

4. Constable, pg. 191.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1568.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pp. 2410-2411.

Revelation 16 – Part 4

“And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” Revelation 16:16

As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues and the various challenges of a global pandemic linger, many people may wonder who is in control of planet earth. But those of us who believe in Jesus Christ must remember that God remains in control no matter what takes places or what others may think. The Lord is bringing events to their appointed end, and one of the important events that crowns the Tribulation period is identified by one menacing word – Armageddon! 1

When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, General Douglas MacArthur uttered these formidable words: “We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at the door.” 2 In 1971, then California governor, Ronald Reagan, told a fellow politician, “For the first time ever, everything is in place for the battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ.” 3

“Again in 1983, President Reagan said, ‘You know, I turn back to your ancient prophets in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if – if we’re the generation that is going to see that come about. I don’t know if you’ve noted any of those prophecies lately, but, believe me, they certainly describe the time.” 4

Billy Graham in his book, Till Armageddon, writes, “There is no doubt that global events are preparing the way for the final great war of history – the great Armageddon!” 5

The word “Armageddon” is found only one time in the Bible (Revelation 16:16), but it is probably one of the most familiar biblical terms associated with end times prophecy. Most people have heard of Armageddon, but like many other terms, the real meaning of the word often is lost by overuse or misuse. To help us understand end times prophecy, we are going to look at a passage that involves events leading up to Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16).

In our study of the book of Revelation, we have been looking at the bowl judgments which will take place in rapid succession near the end of the Tribulation period (Revelation 16:1-21). So far, we have looked at the first five bowl plagues that have included malignant sores (16:2), the sea becomes blood (16:3), fresh water supply becomes blood (16:4-7), people are scorched by the sun (16:8-9), and global darkness causes intense emotional anguish (16:10-11). Instead of blaming their own sinful ways for these plagues, followers of the Beast blamed God for them (16:9, 11).

The sixth bowl judgment does not involve an immediate plague inflicted upon humanity but serves instead as a preparation for the final war of the Tribulation period. “Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.” (Revelation 16:12). The “Euphrates” River has been an important part of world events since the time of Creation. It was one of four rivers that irrigated the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord (Genesis 2:14). It was designated as the northeastern boundary of the land God promised to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 15:18; Joshua 1:4). The Greek word translated “Euphrates” (Euphratēs) means “sweet water.” 6 Now we see this great river that had previously turned into blood (cf. 16:4) is “dried up so that… the kings from the east” (i.e., India, China, Japan, Korea, etc.) can cross with their armies to converge on the Middle East to join the Beast’s army and other world armies. 7

“It is very likely that the coagulation of the ocean waters (see comments on vv 3-4) will make the transport of foreign troops into the Middle East impossible by sea. When the Man of Sin sees that this 1,780-mile-long river (stretching from the mountains of Turkey to the environs of the Persian Gulf) is now dry ground, he will set out to secure the military might of the countries to the east of the Euphrates… to join him in annihilating the God of these agonizing plagues. The transport of troops by land is now a possibility.” 8

There is no reason to understand the drying up of the Euphrates River as figurative. Previously, God had dried up the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross over from the west on dry land to go to the Promised Land (Exodus 14:21-22). The Lord had also dried up the Jordan River, so His people could cross over from the east (Joshua 3:13-17; 4:23). Elijah, too, divided the waters of the Jordan (2 Kings 2:8). All these previous crossings should teach us to understand a literal fulfillment of this prophecy in Revelation 16. 9

The convergence of the world’s armies for the final war of the Tribulation was not merely a geopolitical maneuver but also a supernatural event. 10 13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” (Revelation 16:13-14). The apostle John “saw three unclean spirits” or “demons” that looked like “frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon… the beast, and… the false prophet” to deceive “the kings of the earth and …the whole world” using miraculous “signs” so that they gather together “to the battle of that great day of God Almighty,” known as the Battle of Armageddon (cf. 16:16; 19:19; Psalm 2:1-3), when they will think they can defeat this cruel Deity that caused all these terrible plagues.

Something proceeding from the mouths of this unholy Trinity suggests a proclamation of some kind.  The demons are “like frogs” in that they are unclean and repugnant (cf. Leviticus 11:10-11, 41). 11 These world leaders will probably be reminded that the Beast or Man of Sin was victorious over this Deity’s two witnesses who plagued the earth (cf. 11:7-10) and that with their help, victory over God Himself is attainable. 12

This unholy Trinity of Satan (“the dragon”), the World Ruler (“the beast”), and “the false prophet,” know that the return of King Jesus to earth is near, so they will gather the military powers of the world into the Holy Land to resist the coming of Christ Who will return to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:14). Although these nations will be deceived in entering this war in hope of gaining world political power, the satanic purpose is to defeat the armies from heaven at the Second Coming of Christ. 13

Next the Lord Jesus warns believers: “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” (Revelation 16:15). Christ is “coming” quickly and unexpectedly like “a thief” to remove believers from this church age (Matthew 24:42-44). Jesus says “blessed” at His coming “is he who watches” by remaining alert “and keeps his garments” by continuing to live a holy life. If a believer is unfaithful at the soon coming of Christ, it will be very embarrassing, like standing in Jesus’ presence “naked.” Others will “see his shame” (aschēmosynēn)which “is a euphemism for a person’s private parts” (cf. Isaiah 47:3; Revelation 3:18). 14

“The Lord wants His children to be ready for His return by holding tight to their robes of holiness no matter how difficult the circumstances may be. The only alternative is to be ashamed at His coming (I John 2:28).” 15

 “And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” (Revelation 16:16). Using deception, the demons (16:13-14) will gather the armies of the entire world “to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” to fight against the Lord Jesus Christ. The word “Armageddon” comes from the Greek word Harmagedōn which transliterates the Hebrew phrase “Har Megiddo,” meaning “Mount of Megiddo.” 16 This mountain is about forty miles northwest of Jerusalem and was the site of many Old Testament battles, 17 including Deborah and Barak’s defeat of the Canaanites (Judges 4-5), Gideon’s triumph over the Midianites (Judges 7), Saul’s death in the battle with the Philistines (I Samuel 31:8), Jehu’s slaying of Ahaziah (2 Kings 9:27), and Josiah’s death in the battle with the Egyptians (2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:22). 18 Mount Megiddo overlooks a large valley known as the Plain of Esdraelon which is twenty miles long and fourteen miles wide. 19

Some Bible interpreters have argued that the Plain of Megiddo is not large enough to contain armies from all around the world, so they conclude it must be an assembly area for a much larger deployment of troops that covers a two-hundred-mile distance from north to south and the width of Palestine from east to west. 20 However, we must also take into consideration that the many judgments of the Tribulation will have greatly reduced the world’s population by this time (Revelation 6:1-16:16) so a much smaller gathering of troops is likely.

Armageddon will be the site where the armies of the world will gather to fight against the King of kings at the end of the Tribulation period. The final outcome of this battle is recorded in Revelation 19:19-21 when the armies of Satan meet their doom against King Jesus: 19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.” (Revelation 19:19-21). The Lord Jesus Christ will utterly defeat His enemies gathered at Armageddon and leave their dead bodies to be eaten by “birds” of prey. “The beast” and “false prophet” will be taken captive and and “cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone” to suffer torment forever (Revelation 20:10). The devil and all those who rejected Christ will meet the same fate a thousand years later at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:10-15).

Now you know how this battle between God and Satan will end. Would you like to be saved from this horrible judgment? If so, you must have your name written in the Book of Life by believing in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life (Revelation 20:15). If you have not yet believed in Christ alone, then hear and believe God’s promise: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). Please understand that your works do not determine your eternal destiny. Your response to God’s Son, Jesus Christ, determines where you will be in eternity. Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life will face Him as their Judge at the Great White Throne Judgment to determine the degree of their punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Those who do believe in Christ alone, will face Him as their Judge at the Judgment Seat of Christ to determine the degree of their rewards in heaven (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12).

To believe in Jesus means to trust or depend on Him alone to give you everlasting life. For example, trusting in Jesus is a lot like trusting in an airplane. When you ride in an airplane, do you have to push it to get it off the ground? No. Do you have to flap your arms to keep it in the air? No, of course not. All you must do is trust a person, your pilot, to take you to your destination. In the same way, God invites you to trust in a Person, His Son Jesus Christ, to take you to your eternal destination in heaven (John 3:36). No amount of your good works can help Jesus take you to heaven because they are all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). And since God is holy and perfect, He cannot be around our sin. 

But God loves you so much that He does not want you to die forever in the Lake of Fire (John 3:16; Matthew 18:14; I Timothy 2:3-4), so He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment for all our sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus Christ is alive today and He now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift of everlasting life.

Let me ask you a very important question. What are you trusting to get you to heaven? 21 Some people trust in their works to get them to heaven. Some people trust in Christ plus their works to get them to heaven. And some people trust in Christ alone to get them to heaven. Those who trust in their works are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was unnecessary.” There was no need for Jesus to die for my sins if I can get to heaven trusting in my works alone. Those who trust in Christ plus their works are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was disappointing.” That is, Jesus paid for some of my sins, and I must pay for the rest. In other words, Jesus did not get the job done. Those who trust in Christ alone are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was sufficient.” Jesus did not say on the cross, “I will help you get to heaven.” No. He said in John 19:30, “It is finished!” Christ did not make the down payment for our sins. He made the full payment for all our sins. Therefore, I can trust in Him alone to get me to heaven because He has paid for my admission there.

If you have never understood this before and you are now trusting in Christ alone to get you to heaven, you may tell Jesus this through prayer. But remember, praying a prayer does not get you to heaven. Only believing in Jesus for everlasting life will get you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling Jesus you are now trusting in Him alone. You may now pray this prayer to Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I cannot save myself. I believe You died for me on the cross and rose from the dead. I am now trusting You, Jesus, alone (not my good life, my religion, or my prayers) to save me from the lake of fire forever and give me everlasting life. Thank You Jesus for the salvation and the everlasting life I now have. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus, He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He promises that you will never perish in the lake of fire (John 3:16). He wants to use you now to tell others the good news of His salvation so they also may trust in Him alone to get them to heaven.

Please share this article with those you want to see in heaven because we do not have much time left. Thank you, and may King Jesus richly bless you.

ENDNOTES:

1. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 371.

2. Ibid., pg. 372.

3. Ibid., cites Daniel Schorr, “Reagan Recants: His Path from Armageddon to Détente,” Los Angeles Times, January 3, 1988, articles.latimes.com/1988-01-03/opinion/op-32475_1_president-reagan.

4. Ibid., cites “Reagan: Is Apocalypse Now?” Atlanta Journal and Constitution, October 29, 1983, www.ramsheadpress.com/messiah/PDF/CHAPTER26.pdf.

5. Ibid., cites Billy Graham, Till Armageddon (Minneapolis: World Wide, 1981), pg. 15.

6. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 300 cites M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), see “Euphrates.”

7. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2407.

8. 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. 1560.

9. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 174.

10. Evans, pg. 2407.

11. Constable, pg. 175.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1560.

13. Adapted from John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 6009 to 6014.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1560.

15. Ibid.

16. Evans, pg. 2408.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1561.

18. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 337.

19. Hitchcock, pp. 372-374.

20. Constable, pg. 177 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 270-271; John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), pp. 238-239; and William Sanford Lasor, The Truth about Armageddon (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982), pg. 146.

21. Adapted from EvanTell’s three circle illustration.  

Revelation 16 – Part 3

“And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” Revelation 16:9

After the inhabitants of heaven praise God for His righteous and just judgments toward rebellious humankind who shed the blood of His servants (16:5-7), the fourth angel arrives to pour out his bowl of wrath. Instead of the beast-worshippers on the earth receiving a much-needed drink of rainwater to quench their parched throats, they got the exact opposite. Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” (Revelation 16:8-9). The definite article before “men” (tous anthrōpous) refers specifically to those whose allegiance was to the Beast (cf. 16:2). It is possible that those who refused to worship the Beast and receive his mark were not struck with this judgment. Likewise, the Israelites also escaped some of the plagues on Egypt’s land, water, animals, people, leaders, and even Pharaoh (Exodus 8:20-9:7; 9:13-35; 10:21-12:36). 1

This “fourth… bowl” judgment used “the sun” to “scorch men” who followed the Beast “with fire” and “great heat” that will leave their human flesh charred. This was “more than an oppressive heat wave that weakens and withers people, this judgment will involve the blistering and charring of human flesh by the sun.” 2

Swindoll writes, “Instead of catching soothing drops of rain, the people of earth were burned with searing rays from the sun! Scientists have long been concerned about the possibility of massive, unexpected solar flares, which could increase the number of harmful rays that penetrate our atmosphere. It seems that by the end of the Tribulation, the atmosphere will have been so damaged that the rays of the sun will no longer be filtered or deflected, causing all sorts of catastrophic climatic changes. This end-times global warming will make today’s hot-earth hysteria resemble nothing more than a warm spring day.” 3

One would think that after all these horrific judgments on the earth that left people painfully afflicted, starving, dying of thirst, and severely burned, that humankind would fall to their knees and beg God for His mercy, right!?! Wrong!!! “And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” (Revelation 16:9). Instead of turning to the Lord in repentance and giving “Him glory,” they “blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues.” Instead of letting the scorching sun melt their hearts, they let it harden their hearts toward God, much like Pharaoh hardened his heart after each of the plagues on Egypt.

Surely a loving God would relent of His judgments if people sought to get right with Him. The prophet Joel addresses this part of God’s character when he writes, 4 “’12 Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. 13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. 14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him— a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?” (Joel 2:12-14).

Instead of humbly repenting before the Lord God Whom they know has the power over these plagues to lovingly bring them to a stop, the people of the earth increased the hardness of their hearts during the last part of the Tribulation. Why? Because they have taken on the character of the Beast who blasphemes God and indoctrinates the citizens of his worldwide kingdom to do the same (Revelation 13:1, 5-6; 17:3; cf. Daniel 11:36; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10). Instead of blaming their own sinfulness for these first four plagues, they blame God for them. 5

The first four bowl judgments targeted the natural realm (the earth, sea, fresh waters, and the sun), but the next two bowl judgments target the Beast and his worldwide kingdom. “Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain.” (Revelation 16:10). The fifth bowlof God’s wrath was “poured out… on the throne of the beast and his kingdom.” Since the beast’s kingdom was worldwide,this was a global darkness that will cause such intense emotional anguish that beast-worshippers will engage in self-mutilation (“they gnawed their tongues because of the pain”). 6

This darkness is reminiscent of the plague God brought upon Egypt. 21 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.’ 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.” (Exodus 10:21-23). This darkness in Egypt was so deep, oppressive, and complete, that the Egyptians did nothing during those three days.The chaos caused by the darkness in Egypt may explain the intense pain this global darkness will cause to the citizens of the Beast’s kingdom during the Tribulation period.

Keep in mind that the effects of these first five bowl judgments are cumulative. “The sores brought on by the first bowl will continue to fester as the darkness closes in around them. The water that would have soothed their sun-scorched flesh will stand in stinking, stagnant pools; once-clean water will be polluted with decaying blood.” 7

Nevertheless, people will still refuse to humble themselves before the God Who could bring a stop to these severe bowl judgments. “They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 16:11). Instead of blaming their rebellious ways for these plagues, the followers of the Beast choose to blaspheme God for “their pains and their sores.” But they don’t stop there. They choose to abide in their wicked ways that caused them to be oppressed by these horrific plagues – they do “not repent of their deeds.” 8

As in 16:9, this scene is reminiscent of a child cursing his parent while he is being spanked. Such a reaction to punishment inevitably triggers more punishment.” 9

We have learned in our study of the seven-year Tribulation on earth in the book of Revelation, that this will be a time that is filled with heightened deception (12:9; 13:14; 18:23; 19:20). One of Satan’s oldest strategies which will be implemented in full during the Tribulation is to blame God for all the pain that exists in the world to deceive people into thinking that the true God is an out of control, vengeful deity who can be defeated if everyone comes together to fight against Him. The truth is pain and suffering did not exist in the world God created (Genesis 1-2). Pain and suffering were the result of Satan, who sinned first against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19), tempting Adam and Eve to sin (Genesis 3:1-6) which resulted in sin and death entering the entire world (Romans 5:12). The effects of sin will culminate in the Tribulation period when humanity’s rebellion against God will reach an all-time depth of depravity resulting in God’s in-kind judgment (Revelation 6-16).

When we look back at the chaos and pain the global pandemic has caused the past two years, do we blame God for this? Or when we observe the loss of innocent lives during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, do we shake our fists at God and hold Him responsible for this? How do we respond to God when we or those close to us experience suffering and pain? Do we harden or humble our hearts toward the Lord?

Satan wants to convince us that God is to blame for all our problems and pain so we will not come to the Lord in faith and be saved forever from Satan’s destiny in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10). Please understand that God is the One Who loves us, not Satan. Satan doesn’t care about you or me. He knows his destiny is in the lake of fire and he selfishly wants to take as many people with him as possible. He will go to any length of deception to help populate hell. He has no guilt or shame for his actions because he is evil to the core.

But Jesus Christ is selfless to the core. Instead of holding on to His glory in heaven, He veiled His glory with human flesh when He left heaven and came to earth knowing He would be rejected by the world and His own Jewish people who would condemn Him to die on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). The Bible tells us, 9 God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (I John 4:9-10 NLT). “Real love” gives instead of takes. God’s love gave His best (His Son) when we were at our worst (in bondage to our sins) so we “might have eternal life through” Jesus if we would do one thing: BELIEVE IN HIM.

Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). The word “believe” in the New Testament means to be persuaded that something is true and then trust or depend upon. Do you believe Jesus was speaking the truth when He said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life”? If so, do you now trust Christ (not your good life, religion, or prayers) to give you His gift of eternal life? If you do, Jesus guarantees you now have everlasting life which can never be taken away from you (John 10:28-29). God is now your Father in heaven, and you are His child forever (John 1:12; 6:35). Everyone who believes in Jesus for eternal life is your brother or sister in Christ.

Christ wants you to grow in your relationship with Him. Jesus said to those who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31b-32). The opposite of truth is falsehood or lies. Jesus wants you to “abide” or continue in His Word, the Bible, so you can “know the truth” which “shall make you free” from Satan’s lies that keep you enslaved to sin and shame. God’s truth will identify the lies you have been believing that have held you in bondage to sin and will also provide the remedy to overcome those lies. It is the truth of God’s Word that will break the shackles of Satan’s lies that have kept you from leaning into the Lord when you face pain and suffering.

Below are some examples of Satan’s lies that can keep us from drawing near to the Lord. I have included God’s truth to replace those lies and the Scriptures to go with them.Take some time to read through these lies and then identify the ones that you have believed to be true. The lie will feel true to you if you believe it. Then read the corresponding truth statements repeatedly until they feel true to you. As you do that the corresponding lies will feel less and less true. Ask the Lord Jesus to deliver you from bondage to these lies (cf. Psalm 119:28-29). We do not have the power in ourselves to overcome them, but Jesus Christ does. Let Him renew your mind as you meditate on God’s truth.  

Lie: God is to blame for all your pain and suffering.

Truth: Pain and suffering were the result of Satan (who sinned first against God), tempting Adam and Eve to sin which resulted in sin and death entering the entire world.

Scripture: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12; cf. Genesis 3:1-6; Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19.

Lie: God cannot be trusted.

Truth: God can be trusted because He is good and faithful to His promises.

Scripture: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

“In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” Titus 1:2

Lie: God is holding out on you.

Truth: God wants to give you, His best.

Scripture: “The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

Lie: You can be like God by disobeying Him.

Truth: Since there is only one true God, and I am not Him, I must live in total dependence on Him.

Scripture: God said, I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me.” Isaiah 45:5

“’But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;’ I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand.’” Psalm 31:14-15

Lie: God is against me.

Truth: God is for me and not against me.

Scripture: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Lie: God has or will accuse me.

Truth: God has declared me totally righteous in Christ.

Scripture: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Romans 8:33

Lie: God has or will condemn me.

Truth:  God will not condemn me because Christ took my condemnation on the cross and He now defends me and intercedes for me in heaven.

Scripture: “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

Lie: I am going to be separated from the love of Christ because I’m so unworthy.

Truth: No one and nothing can separate me from Christ’s love.

Scripture: 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35, 37-39

Lie: God would never love me as I am.

Truth: In Christ, I am totally loved by God as I am.

Scripture: “Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose us to be His very own through what Christ would do for us; He decided then to make us holy in His eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before Him covered with His love.” Ephesians 1:4 TLB

Lie: I am alone and unloved.

Truth: I am not alone or unloved. I am loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe.

Scripture: “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.” Psalm 27:10

Lie: I could never be forgiven.

Truth: I am totally forgiven in Christ.

Scripture: 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

Lie: I am an unacceptable person.

Truth: I am totally accepted in Christ.

Scripture: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1a

“To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:6

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we come to You now realizing that we can be a lot like the people in the Tribulation period who will be deceived into blaming You for their suffering and pain instead of their own rebellion against You. When bad things happen to us, help us O Lord to humble our hearts before You instead of hardening them. Lord, we cannot overcome Satan’s lies on our own. The Devil wants to take as many people with him to hell as possible. He will go to any length of deception to populate the lake of fire. Lord, please make us the kind of people who will do whatever it takes within the boundaries You have given us to populate Your heaven through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We desperately need You and Your Word to help us identify the lies we believe and replace them with Your truth so we can live the abundant life You came to give us. We pray for those whose hearts and minds have been deceived by Satan into believing You are responsible for all their pain and suffering. Help them to see that You love them and gave Your best for them when they were still undeserving sinners. And You want to save them forever from the lake of fire and give them eternal life if they would simply believe in You, Lord Jesus. Please use our lives and lips to communicate Your love to a lost and broken world so they can hear and believe the good news of Jesus’ gift of eternal life. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 172.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1559.

3. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 296-297.

4. Ibid., pg. 297.

5. Constable, pg. 172 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 257.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2407.

7. Swindoll, pg. 298.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1559.

9. Evans, pg. 2409.

Revelation 15 – Part 3

“And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands.” Revelation 15:6

After the apostle John saw believers who were martyred during the last half of the Tribulation standing victoriously on a sea of glass before God’s throne in heaven praising the Lord for His awe-inspiring Person and works (15:1-4), he sees preparations in heaven for the upcoming horrific bowl judgments (15:5-8). 

“After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.” (Revelation 15:5). While martyred believes praised the Lord God in heaven, preparations were being made to severely judge rebellious people on the earth. John “looked” and saw the heavenly “temple of the tabernacle of the testimony.” In the Old Testament, God’s Law was often called the “Testimony” (cf. Exodus 25:16-22; et al.) and was stored in the ark of the covenant in the room called the Holy of Holies (cf. Hebrews 9:2-4). During the Tribulation, people on earth had rejected God’s law and thus His judgments will proceed from the very place where His Law was stored. 1 God’s Law will now judge these rebellious earth-dwellers.

For believers in Jesus, the heavenly temple is open for them to access God’s presence, but for nonbelievers on earth, that same heavenly temple will be the source of terrible judgments. As John’s vision continues, he writes, “And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands.” (Revelation 15:6). John sees a procession of “seven angels” coming out of the heavenly “temple” from God’s presence. Each angel had received a “plague” or judgment from God (16:6a). 2

The ”golden bands” girding “their chests” represent the majesty of God. As agents of God’s wrath, their attire is like Christ’s (cf. 1:13). Their clothing is “pure” and “bright” because God was perfectly holy and just (15:3-4) in these final judgments which will purify the world of lawless humanity (15:6). 3 Hence, the attire of these seven angels fits their purpose which was to purify the earth. 4

“Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever.” (Revelation 15:7). Remember that “the four living creatures” of Revelation 4:6-9 are angelic beings who offer constant worship to God and assist Him in the outpouring of His wrath.One” of these angelic “creatures” gave each of the seven angels a golden bowl “full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever” (15:7).

The Greek word translated “bowls” (phialē) “refers to a shallow, saucer-like dish used for boiling liquids as well as for ‘drinking or pouring libations.’” 5 It is interesting that God also described the “prayers of the saints” as being held in“golden bowls” in Revelation 5:8. Those prayers may relate to the outpouring of these judgments, that is, the prayers of the saints are being answered through these bowl judgments. 6 This cause-and-effect relationship between the prayers of God’s people and these coming bowl judgments begins “to answer the age-old question of why the wicked seem to go unpunished while the righteous suffer injustice. The truth is that God’s mercy during the Tribulation delayed the full measure of judgment to give people an opportunity to repent (2 Peter 3:9)” 7 or change their mind about whatever is keeping them from believing in Jesus, so they may believe in Him for His gift of eternal life.

While the Mosaic Law was given to humankind from God through angels (cf. Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19), now God’s judgments for lawbreakers are poured out on humankind through angelic messengers. The fact that God is described as One “who lives forever and ever” emphasizes the seriousness of these bowl judgments. 8 These judgments are from the one true God who has no beginning and no end.” 9

“The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.” (Revelation 15:8). As John continued to look into the opened heavenly temple, he saw it “filled with smoke” because the bowl judgments represent the intense wrath of God burning fiercely against the rebellion of humanity on the earth (15:8a). When the Lord descended on Mount Sinai at the giving of the Law (Ex. 19:18), it was “completely in smoke.” The smoke in the heavenly temple is “from the glory of God and His power,” signifying that God is present manifesting His glorious power. 10

Why does John tell us, “No one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed” (15:8b)? Because this is God’s work and His alone. Just as God wanted to be alone when His wrath burned hot against the nation of Israel on Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:10), during the outpouring of His wrath during the bowl judgments God will be alone in the heavenly temple until the bowl judgments are finished. 11

What this tells us is that God alone is worthy to carry out these terrible judgments on humankind who violated His holy Word (15:5-8). Hence, Christians must not be judgmental of nonbelievers or fellow believers, but merciful toward them as God has been merciful to them (cf. Titus 3:4-7; James 2:12-12; 5:7-9).

There are three important contrasts from this scene involving God’s heavenly temple: 12

1. As the temple in heaven is filled with God’s glory and power the earth is filled with God’s wrath. Believers in Jesus can enjoy God’s glorious presence (John 3:36a; 14:1-3), but nonbelievers will suffer from His wrath both temporarily on earth and eternally in the lake of fire (John 3:36b; Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14: 16:1-21; 19:15-21; 20:15).

2. In the past, God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus Christ when He hung on the cross to save sinners (Mark 15:33-34; 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Timothy 1:15; I Peter 3:18), but in the future God’s wrath will be poured out on unbelieving sinners to judge them (John 3:36b; Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14: 16:1-21; 19:15-21; 20:15).

3. While believers in heaven celebrate the triumph of good (Revelation 15:1-4), nonbelievers on earth will agonize with the destruction of evil (Revelation 15:5-16:21).

Of which of these two groups will you be a member? Believers in Christ who will be in heaven enjoying the presence of God or nonbelievers who will be subject to the agonizing wrath of God? Please understand that God loves you and wants you to live with Him forever in His heaven (John 14:1-3; I Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9). But the Bible tells us we all have a problem that separates us from God called sin (Romans 3:23; 6:23a). Because all of us have sinned against God with our thoughts, words, and actions, we deserve to be separated from Him forever in the lake of fire (Isaiah 59:2; Revelation 20:15).

Thankfully, since God does not want us to suffer under His wrath forever, He sent His one-of-a-kind Son, Jesus Christ to earth to live a perfect life and then die on a cross for our sins and rise from the dead three days later (I Corinthians 15:3-6), proving His claims to be God are true (Romans 1:3-4; 9:5). Jesus Christ is alive today and He has the power to save you from the lake of fire and give you everlasting life so you can live forever in God’s heaven.

The Bible tells us, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). According to this verse we see two very different eternal destinies. Those who “believe in the Son” have “everlasting life” both now and forever with God in His heaven. Those who do “not believe the Son shall not see life.”

What does it mean to believe? It means to be persuaded that Jesus’ death for your sins and resurrection from the dead are true, and then believe or trust in Christ alone to give you everlasting life. What Jesus is asking us to do is trust Him alone so we can experience “life” with Him both now and forever.

A while back, I spoke with a friend’s neighbor. He told me that several months ago they discovered a massive tumor attached to his heart and the doctor recommended surgery. Did he accept as true that the doctor could remove the tumor? Yes. But he did not trust the doctor to remove the tumor until he climbed up on the operating table. Christ is asking us to come to Him as sinners, recognizing that He died for our sins and rose again, and believing or trusting in Him alone to get us to heaven. Christ is not asking us to depend upon our good life… our prayers … or our religion to get us to heaven, but in Him alone for eternal life.

Think about this incredible gift that Christ wants to give us – this eternal life. This is life with God that never ends. What makes eternal life so amazing is that it is absolutely free because Jesus Christ paid the full price for it when He died in our place on a cross and declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Trusting Christ, we are forever accepted by God, not based on what we have done or will do for Him but based on what He has done for us. This concept of a free gift is often compromised today. Some say God only gives eternal life to those who obey God or promise to obey. Others say eternal life is given only to those who prove they are Christians by their works. These faulty concepts about eternal life rob God of all the glory because if we can get to heaven based on our obedience or works, then we have something to boast about. But if eternal life is absolutely free (and it is), then all the glory goes to God, which is where it belongs.

This gift is eternal, and it is absolutely free. So, if my wife, children, close friends, co-workers, and neighbors have believed in Christ, we are going to live together forever! What could be a better message than the one surrounding this gift!?!

The Bible is telling us that Jesus Christ is the only One Who has the ability to give us the greatest gift imaginable – eternal life. Therefore, we must do whatever it takes to tell others about Christ and what He has done for them so they can believe in Him to get them to heaven and escape God’s coming wrath on the earth. After all, since eternal life is the greatest gift, why not pass it on to others?

According to John 3:36b, what happens to those who do not believe in Jesus? They “shall not see life.” They won’t be with Jesus in heaven because the wrath of God abides on“ them foreverin a terrible place of suffering called the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). 

If you had the cure for cancer and didn’t share it, would that be criminal? Yes! If you had the cure for COVID and didn’t share it, would that be criminal? Yes! If you knew the only way to get to heaven and you didn’t tell it to the people in your life, would that be criminal? Yes!

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all.” Circle “Christ’s love.” God has never made a person that He didn’t love. Everybody matters to God. And because God cares about people, we must care, too. Doesn’t this compel you to tell others? It does me. How much more should we want to share the greatest gift of all with others? But you may say, “Well I don’t know how or I’m afraid.”

In Matthew 4:19, Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” About a year after believing in Jesus (cf. Matthew 4:12; John 1:35-4:35), Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew, are casting their fishing net into the sea when Jesus approaches them (Matthew 4:18). Christ invites them to follow Him and promises that He will make them fishers of men. How could Jesus use these men with no formal education or ministry experience to make a difference for eternity? Simple. Their responsibility was to follow Jesus. Christ’s responsibility was to make them fishers of men.

Do you feel inadequate to evangelize the lost? Do you ever think that you do not know enough to share the gospel with non-Christians? Ask the Lord Jesus to help you follow Him daily and He will teach you all you need to know about evangelism. The best way to learn to talk to unbelievers is to walk and talk with Jesus.

When we examine the gospels, we see that Jesus did not have one standard approach to evangelism. He simply started wherever people were at. When He was with the Samaritan woman at the well, He talked about living waters (John 4:1-26). When He was with the fishermen, He talked about fishing for men (Matt. 4:18-20). When He was with farmers, He talked about sowing seed (Luke 8:4-15). In other words, Jesus was being relevant to the people He was with. He used methods and words they would understand and value.

If you have ever fished for an entire day, you know that sometimes you must change bait as the day progresses. What bait worked in the morning may not attract the same fish in the afternoon or evening. Likewise, some Christians and churches are failing to reach the unsaved in the twenty-first century because they are using the same bait that worked in the 1950s and 1960s. The problem is the unbelievers are not biting on that bait any longer. We cannot expect to reach the lost if we are not using methods that best ministers to their needs.

God wants to see all people escape His coming wrath. He wants to see more people believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. God may be placing something on your heart right now that He wants to use to expose more people around the world to His gospel message. Your first response may be, “Lord, I can’t do that.” You are right, you cannot, but God can do it through you if you will respond in faith instead of fear. Remember, with God, all things are possible.

Prayer: Lord God, thank Youfor the contrast between believers in heaven and nonbelievers on earth in Revelation 15. Thank You for reminding us that this world is not all there is. The day is coming when those of us who believe in Jesus will be enjoying Your incredible presence in heaven while nonbelievers on earth will be agonizing with the destruction of evil. Use us Almighty God to expose more people on earth to Your life-giving gospel before it is too late for them to escape Your coming wrath during the Tribulation period and eventually in the lake of fire forever. Thank You for hearing our prayers. In the matchless name of 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), pg. 1556.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 168.

3. Vacendak, pg. 1556.

4. Constable, pg. 168 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 242-243.

5. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 285 cites H. G. Liddell and Robert Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), pg. 861.

6. Constable, pg. 168.

7. Swindoll, pg. 285.

8. Vacendak, pp. 1556-1557.

9. Ibid., pg. 1557.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Adapted from Swindoll, pg. 286.

Revelation 14 – Part 6

“And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, ‘Thrust in your sickle and reap, for the time has come to reap for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’” Revelation 14:15

Growing up in the Midwest, I can remember singing the stirring words of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in elementary school. Since the writing of this song by Julia Ward Howe in 1861, many people have sung this song unaware that its inspiring word pictures originated from the book of Revelation. Some of the powerful words contained in this song are based in part on Revelation 14:14-20. These words summon God’s people to spiritual battle to spread the gospel around the world and at the same time they also warn nonbelievers of coming judgment when God’s wrath will be poured out upon the wickedness of the earth. 1

After receiving revelation about Satan’s two wild beasts (the World Ruler and the False Prophet) who will triumph during the last half of the Tribulation period (13:1-18), the apostle John receives revelation that describes both what happens to those who refuse the mark of the beast (14:1-5) and what happens to those who receive the mark of the beast (14:6-20). Following the four announcements that will provide motivation for believers to remain faithful to God and resist the beasts during the last half of the Tribulation period (14:6-13), John receives a vision (14:14-20) that provides background information about the final judgments to be recorded in the last chapters of the Tribulation period (Revelation 15-19). These coming judgments are compared to a grain harvest (14:14-16) which preview God’s bowl judgments (Revelation 15-16)and a grape harvest (14:17-20) which previews the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-21; 19:19-21). 2

“Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat one like the Son of Man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.” (Revelation 14:14). The phrase “And I looked” (kai idou) introduces a new scene, and a transition to another subject. 3 John sees someone “like the Son of Man” sitting on “a white cloud.” Many interpreters understand this to be the Lord Jesus Christ because “Son of Man” is a Messianic title for Him (cf. Daniel 7:13-14; Mark 13:26). 4 However, it is better to understand the identity of this being as an angel who represents “the Son of Man” because he is Christ’s agent in this judgment. In addition, verse 15 refers to “another angel” and the closest antecedent for “another” is the previous character mentioned here in verse 14. 5

The “white cloud” upon which this angel sits represents heaven’s purity of the judgments about to take place on the earth. This judgment is fair and just because “the harvest of the earth is ripe” (cf. 14:15). 6 The “golden crown” on this angel’s head signifies that this angel cannot fail in carrying out this judgment on Christ’s behalf. 7 Since the “sickle” in his hand is “sharp,” the angel will be able to do his work speedily and fully in carrying out the bowl judgments. 8 The “sickle” here is an instrument to inflict judgment and death on those who received the mark of the beast and rejected God. The word “sickle” is mentioned seven times in these verses (14:14-19) to emphasize the impending doom for those who reject the Lord during the last half of the Tribulation period. As a tool used to harvest grain in an agrarian culture, the sickle is a very appropriate image for God’s judgment because a “harvest” of people’s wickedness during their lives on earth is in view (14:15). 9

“And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, ‘Thrust in your sickle and reap, for the time has come to reap for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’” (Revelation 14:15). A second “angel” comes out of the heavenly “temple,” urgently “crying with a loud voice” to the first angel “who sat on the cloud,” to “thrust in” his “sickle and reap… the harvest” which was “ripe” or past its peak because the earth-dwellers were withered and spiritually lifeless, and ready for the bowl judgments. The use of the Greek word for “ripe” (exērainō), which means to become “dried up” or “withered,” 10 suggests that the condition of the wicked world during the last half of the Tribulation had become “overripe” with evil. 11 Three previous angels had announced that judgment was coming (14:6-11). This angel says it is time to execute the judgment without delay. 12

“So, he who sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.” (Revelation 14:16). Like grain being cut down by the harvester, “the earth was reaped” with swift and devastating judgments during the bowl judgments. The conciseness of this verse emphasizes the suddenness of this judgment. 13 Like an overripe grain field that requires an immediate response by the harvester, the evil of humankind will call for quick and decisive justice. While God is patient and merciful in giving people an opportunity to get right with Him, the time will come near the end of the Tribulation when the world experiences the agony of His “terrible, swift sword.” 14

The fact that God waited until the harvest of humanity’s wickedness was overripe (14:15-16), reminds us that God is patient, and in His mercy, He has postponed judgment for as long as possible. The Bible tells us, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). God has delayed His coming for His church, so people in this Church Age may have the opportunity to get right with Him. The word “repentance” (metanoia) means “a change of mind.” 15 God is giving people the opportunity to change their minds about whatever is keeping them from believing in Jesus Christ for His gift of eternal life, so they can then believe in Him, because the Lord is “not willing that any should perish” in hell.

What about you, my friend? Do you know where you will go after death? God does not want you to “perish” forever in hell. Please keep in mind that hell is a real place. Jesus described “hell” as a place “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:47b-48). In this brief statement by God the Son, we learn three things: 16

1. Jesus considered hell to be a real place, not a figment of one’s imagination. Many people today deny the existence of hell, but their claims are contrary to the authoritative teaching of Jesus Christ.

2. Hell is a place of agonizing suffering, both inwardly and outwardly. The “worm” signifies the source of the internal pain – like the gnawing of a parasite within one’s body. The “fire” symbolizes the source of the external suffering, whereby one’s flesh burns forever without any decrease in the excruciating pain.

3. Christ also teaches that hell is eternal. Some teach that nonbelievers are “annihilated” after death, but Jesus says their “worm does not die” and “the fire is not quenched.” The torment of hell, therefore, is never-ending. What makes the good news of Jesus Christ so good is that the bad news of hell is so bad!

What is the good news of Jesus? Through His death and resurrection nearly two thousand years ago (cf. I Corinthians 15:3-6), Christ made it possible for us to receive eternal life as a gift and escape future judgment for our sins in hell if we would simply believe in Him alone. Christ 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). What does Jesus say you must do to have eternal life and be delivered from God’s future judgment of our sins? He says you must “hear” and “believe.” All that Jesus requires for everlasting life is believing, not behaving.

Some of you have been brought up in religion which says you must do this or not do that to earn God’s eternal life and forgiveness. But this is contrary to the authoritative word of Jesus Christ. According to Jesus, when a person “hears” His Word and “believes” what He says, Jesus says he or she “has everlasting life.” That means right now, not after you die. How long is everlasting life? It is forever! It cannot be lost or taken away from you (John 10:28-29).

Next, Christ guarantees that you “shall not come into judgment.” That is a promise and God does not break His promises. A believer in Jesus Christ will not be judged for his or her sins in the future because Christ was already judged for our sins when He died in our place on the cross. Such a one has “passed from death into life.” That means death is behind us, not before us. It is past, not present or future.

If you have not yet believed Jesus’ promise of eternal life and a judgment-free future, you can simply take Him at His word right now when He says, “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.” If you believed Jesus promises in this verse, you now have “everlasting life” and “shall not come into judgment” for your sins.

Notice that John 5:24 affirms the equality of the Father and the Son. He who hears Jesus’ Word and believes in the Father who sent Christ, has everlasting life. To believe in the Father, you must hear and believe in Christ since the Father sent Jesus that people might believe in Him. To believe in the Father was to believe in Christ because Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father. Believing in the Son is one way to honor the Father who sent Him (cf. 5:23).

God wants to use you now to share this good news with your family and friends before it is too late for them to get right with God (Mark 16:15; Acts 10:24-48; 16:23-34). When you believed in Jesus, God gave you His Holy Spirit to live inside you and help you grow in your new relationship with Christ (John 7:37-39; Romans 8:11). The Holy Spirit will give you the power or ability to tell others the truth about Jesus so they can believe in Him and have everlasting life both now on earth and in the future with Him in His heaven forever (Acts 1:8; cf. Revelation 21-22).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise You for this graphic description of Your upcoming bowl judgments at the end of the Tribulation period which are compared to a grain harvest. These terrible judgments remind us that You are holy and just, and You will one day pour out Your terrible wrath upon those who have rejected You during the last half of the Tribulation period. Right now, we want to express our eternal gratitude for Your mercy which led You to postpone this judgment so we could come to faith in Jesus and receive His gift of eternal life. Thank You, Lord God, that Your word guarantees we shall not come under Your judgment for our sins in the future because Christ already did when He died in our place on the cross. Please open doors for us to share this good news of Jesus with those who are perishing without Him, before it is too late for them. To You Lord God be all the glory for the great and mighty things You have done and are going to do. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 270.

2. Ibid., pg. 271.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 162.

4. Ibid.; Swindoll, pp. 271-272; John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 5895 to 5901.

5. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1553; Constable, pg. 162 cites David E. Aune, Revelation 6-16 World Biblical Commentary series (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), pg. 849.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1553.

7. Ibid.

8. Constable, pg. 162.

9. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2404.

10. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp.684-685.

11. Swindoll, pg. 273.

12. Constable, pg. 162.

13. Ibid., pg. 163 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 221.

14. Swindoll, pg. 274.

15. Bauer, pg. 640.

16. These three observations from Mark 9:47-48 are adapted from Tony Evans, pp. 1611-1612.

Revelation 14 – Part 4

Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘11… And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’” Revelation 14:9, 11

I learned in the last two years that some of my family’s ancestors rejected the clear teachings of the Bible that hell is a real place of eternal torment and suffering for those who refuse to believe in Jesus Christ for His gift of salvation. Like many people today, including some Christians, they reasoned that since God is love, He would never punish someone for eternity.  

However, this teaching ignores the clear teachings of the book of Revelation (Revelation 14:9-11; 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; 21:8) and Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 13:37-42, 49-50, 18:8-9; 23:15, 33; 25:41, 46; Mark 3:29; 9:43-48; Luke 12:5; John 3:18, 36). And not only that, it also neglects to realize that God is also a holy God (Hebrews 1:8-9; I Peter 1:15-16; Revelation 3:7; 4:8; 6:10; 15:4) Who hates sin (Hebrews 1:8-9; Proverbs 6:16-19; Psalm 5:4-5; Zechariah 8:17), and therefore, He will punish forever those who reject His provision for sin in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16-18; 19:30; I Corinthians 15:1-8; Revelation 20:14-15; Romans 6:23a).  

We do not have the freedom to change the truth of God’s Word just because we do not like it or fully understand it. 1 As Hitchcock quotes Walvoord, saying, “There either is or is not a future of eternal punishment. Whether we agree with it or not has very little bearing on the issue. The vote against it could be unanimous, and still hell might be a reality. God did not consult us when planning His righteous judgment of the sinful human race. The ultimate question is whether the Bible, which is our only source of information about what happens after death, teaches a doctrine of eternal conscious punishment.” 2

In our study of the book of Revelation, we are looking at a stark contrast between the Lamb of God and His 144,000 faithful followers who will be triumphant at the end of the Tribulation period (14:1-5), and those who will bow to the Beast and take his mark (14:6-20; cf. 13:11-18).

After recording the announcements of the first two angels, John writes, 9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:9-10). This “third angel” warns nonbelievers who have not yet bowed to the beast nor taken his mark during the last half of the Tribulation period, that “if anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand,” he or she will experience “the wrath of God” in “full strength” during the bowl judgments just before Jesus returns to the earth (14:9-10a; cf. 16:1-21).

Receiving the mark of the beast (“666”) may seem like a harmless requirement to enable someone to participate in commerce during the last half of the Tribulation period (cf. 13:16-18), but God is warning those who receive this mark that it designates them as the recipients of the “full strength… of His indignation” 3during the upcoming bowl judgments (14:9-10a) and forever in the lake of fire (14:10b-11). 4 Normally people added water to wine to dilute it, but God will not weaken “the wine” of His “wrath,” He will give beast-worshippers the “full strength” 5 of it in time and eternity.

That God’s judgment of beast-worshippers is eternal is seen next: 10 He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:10b-11). God’s Word clearly tells us that beast-worshippers will “be tormented with fire and brimstone… forever and ever” and will “have no rest day or night.”  The Greek word for “tormented” (basanizō) means “to subject to punitive judicial procedure, torture, severe distress, torment, harass.” 6 Hell will not be a pleasant place of existence for those who have rejected God’s mercy through faith in Jesus Christ. Nonbelievers will not just die and pass into unconsciousness. They will not be partying with their unsaved family or friends in the lake of fire as some suggest.

They will experience excruciating pain, being consciously tortured “forever and ever.” The endless trail of ascending “smoke” will be the constant reminder of the permanent agony of beast-worshippers 7 and anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ. They will “have no rest day or night.” Remember, the lake of fire is separation from God, and God is the One who gives eternal rest to people (Matthew 11:28). 8 Evans writes, “So picture the unpleasantness of battling insomnia for a week. Then extend that into eternity. Then contrast that potential future with heaven, which is depicted in Scripture as a place of eternal rest (Hebrews 3:7-4:11). Consignment to hell is a free choice, a penalty men and women bring on themselves, as when they elect to receive ‘the mark of’ the beast (14:11). 9

No one in hell will want others to join them there. In fact, Jesus tells us that the inhabitants of hell will want to warn others who are still alive on earth not to share in their agonizing fate (cf. Luke 16:27-28).

The phrase, “in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb” (14:10) simply means that the eternal suffering of nonbelievers will be in the view of the Lord Jesus (“the Lamb”) and God’s “holy angels.” 10 The Lord Jesus does not desire that any human being suffer or perish eternally in the lake of fire (John 3:16-18; I Timothy 3:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9).

Jesus tells us, 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). God does not want anyone to experience eternal condemnation in the lake of fire. So, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die in our place on the cross and rise from the dead, “that the world” (including you and me), could “be saved” from hell by believing in Jesus. Please understand, however, that God does not send anyone to hell. People send themselves to hell by refusing to believe in Jesus.

God’s love allows people to choose between heaven and hell. Christ goes on to say, “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 believe in Christ alone for the 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 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.

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

Therefore, the Bible puts the responsibility where it belongs when it says, “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). Why would someone reject Christ’s free offer of everlasting life? Why would someone choose hell instead of heaven?

The answer is in John 3:19-20: “19 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. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” People reject Christ because they love their sin more than the Savior. 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 free offer of eternal life is because they love their sin more, and they want to stay in the darkness because it hides their sinfulness (3:19).

Whether you are a Christian or non-Christian, we all (“everyone”) dislike being shown that we are wrong (3:20a). We don’t want to be around the “light” of God’s Wordbecause it exposes our sinful “deeds” (3:20b; cf. Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:22-24). 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 is why nobody wants to change. Nobody wants to admit he 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.

For those of you who do not believe in Jesus, God is inviting you right now to come out of the darkness into the light and admit your need for the Savior, Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The word “wages” refers to what we receive for the work we have done.  In other words, wages are earned. The Bible is telling us that eternal “death” in hell is earned (6:23a). Because all of us have sinned against God with our thoughts, words, and actions (Romans 3:23), we deserve to be separated from God forever in the lake of fire.

But notice that heaven is not earned. It is “the gift of God… in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23b). Eternal life is not found in your religion or good works. It is found “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Why? Because only Jesus Christ can give you everlasting life since He is God, and He finished paying for eternal life through His perfect sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from the dead (John 1:1; 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6).

All Jesus asks of you is to believe in Him for His free gift. Christ said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). The moment you believe in Jesus, He guarantees you shall “not perish” in hell, “but have everlasting life” both now and forever. Do you believe this? If you do, Christ promises you will “not perish” in hell, “but have everlasting life,” which can never be lost (John 10:28-29).

How would knowing the eternal destiny of unbelievers who worship the beast and take up his mark motivate believers during the Tribulation period? The apostle John writes, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12). The reality of eternal punishment for nonbelievers (14:9-11) is intended to motivate believers (“saints”) during the last half of the Tribulation period to have “patience” or endurance so they may “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”The faith” refers to the New Testament (cf. Jude 1:3).

This verse is not saying that Tribulation believers who fail to keep God’s commandments and the faith will lose their salvation and perish in the lake of fire. This would contradict John’s other writings which assure the believer in Jesus that he or she “shall never perish” in hell (John 10:28a) nor ever be snatched out of the hands of God the Son and God the Father (John 10:28b-29). By God’s grace, all believers in Jesus will be supernaturally enabled to resist worshiping the beast and taking his mark during the Tribulation period (cf. I Corinthians 10:13). 11 I agree with Vacendak when he writes, “Should a believer somehow fail to take advantage of God’s grace in this matter, God may remove him from the temptation or even take his life. But no believer will succumb to worshiping the Beast and receiving his mark! Only the lost destined for the lake of fire will yield to this deception.” 12

How does knowing the eternal destiny of unbelievers impact your life today? The more Christians in this Church Age believe in the reality of heaven and hell (i.e. the lake of fire), the more eager they will be to go wherever Jesus goes to share the gospel message with the lost, namely that whoever believes in Jesus Christ, the God-Man who died for their sins and rose from the dead, has everlasting life (John 3:15-16; 20:31; I Corinthians 15:3-6). Sadly, the less Christians believe in the reality of heaven and hell, the less they will share Jesus’ gospel with the lost.

This reminds me of something Charles Peace once said. Charles was sentenced to die for being a career criminal. On the morning of his execution, a group of prison officials met at Charles’s cell to take him on his final walk to the gallows. Among them was a sleepy prison chaplain whose job it was to prepare the condemned man’s soul for the hereafter. But the chaplain didn’t say a word to Charles. He just yawned and mumbled as he read a religious book. Charles then tapped him on the shoulder and asked him, “What are you reading?” “The Consolations of Religion,” the chaplain replied. Charles said, “Do you believe what you are reading?” Hesitantly he said, “Well, yes, I guess I do.” Charles stared at the chaplain stunned. Here Charles was going to his death, knowing that his earthly deeds utterly condemned him before God, and this chaplain was mouthing words about heaven and hell as if they were a boring chore.

Charles said to the chaplain, “Sir, I do not share your faith. But if I did – if I believed what you say you believe – then although England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would crawl the length and breadth of it on hand and knee and think the pain worthwhile just to save a single soul from this eternal hell of which you speak.” 13

If we believe what the Bible says about heaven and hell, what are we willing to do to take the good news of Jesus to a lost world that is perishing without Christ? Are we willing to do whatever it takes to enable the unsaved to hear Christ’s promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 3:15-18)?

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for this graphic description of the eternal destiny of all who reject Your Son, Jesus Christ. Please make us willing to do whatever it takes to get the gospel of Christ to those who don’t know You yet so they can enjoy eternity in Your presence forever and escape the horrible eternal punishment reserved for those who do not believe in Jesus. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 442.

2. Ibid., pg. 442 cites John F. Walvoord in “Literal,” in Four Views on Hell, gen. ed William Crockett (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), pg. 167.

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

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. 1552.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 159.

6. 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. 168.

7. Constable, pg. 160.

8. Evans, pg. 2403.

9. Ibid.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1552.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Roy B. Zuck, The Speaker’s Quote Book (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), pg. 251.

Revelation 14 – Part 2

“Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.” Revelation 14:6

After receiving revelation about Satan’s two wild beasts (the World Ruler and the False Prophet) who will triumph during the last half of the Tribulation period (13:1-18), the apostle John receives revelation that describes both what happens on earth to those who refuse the mark of the beast (14:1-5) and what happens to those who receive the mark of the beast (14:6-20).

Last time we discovered that the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, was standing triumphantly on Mount Zion in Jerusalem on earth at the end of the Tribulation period along with the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who faithfully proclaimed Jesus’ gospel message to the ends of the earth during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation when the beast ruled without mercy over the earth (14:1; cf. 7:1-8; Matthew 24:14). Because of their faithfulness to Christ to the end of the Great Tribulation, these evangelists will be richly rewarded by King Jesus in His eternal Kingdom (14:2-5; cf. Romans 8:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21).

In another scene of John’s vision on earth (14:6-13), the apostle hears four announcements that provide motivation to remain faithful to God and resist the beasts during the last half of the Tribulation period. God’s angels will make the first three announcements (14:6-12), and a voice from heaven will declare the fourth (14:13). 1

John records the first angel’s proclamation: “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.” (Revelation 14:6). This first angel is “another angel” like the archangel Michael (12:7), the closest specific angel in the context. 2 The phrase, “flying in the midst of heaven” (πετόμενον ἐν μεσουρανήματι), literally says, “flying in mid-heaven,” meaning in the sky between heaven and earth. 3

This first angel proclaims, “the everlasting gospel” to all earth-dwellers (14:6a). Unlike the message of the Beast and the False Prophet, which is evil and temporary, this message will be good (euangelion = God’s good news for humans 4) and eternal. It is “everlasting” because “it has eternal significance.” 5 “The ‘new’ [and false] religion of the Beast and False Prophet just described in Chapter 13… will blaspheme the God of the Two Witnesses as a vengeful, evil deity that is out to destroy earth’s environment and inhabitants. The angelic message will counteract these deceptive lies.” 6

This gospel proclamation is also universal in extent. It is not just for one nation, one people group, one ethnicity, or one language group, but for “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (14:6a). Why? Because the judgments of God are impacting the entire world during the Tribulation, so the inhabitants of every nation need to hear the truth about what is happening to them instead of the lies of the Beast and the False Prophet.

The content of this “everlasting gospel” is given in the next verse. “Saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’” (Revelation 14:7). It is important to understand that this gospel message is not the same as the saving message the apostle John gave us in his gospel. That message said all anyone must do to have everlasting life is believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31; cf. 1:12; 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:29, 35-40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-27; et. al).

This gospel message being proclaimed by the angel during the last half of the Tribulation period will counter the falsehood and deception of the Beast and False prophet who will blaspheme God, saying He is an unfair and vengeful god who delights in punishing people (14:7a). The gospel message of this angel will call unbelievers to “fear God and give glory to Him” because the reason for all this worldwide death and disaster is that “the hour of His judgment has come” (14:7b). 

When people on the earth understand why all the calamities are taking place during the Tribulation, they may be more likely to believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life. 7 These earth-dwellers are also to “worship” God because He “made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (14:7c). God is worthy of worship because He is the Creator, and He has the right to judge what He has created (cf. Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 33:6-9; 146:6). “When people refuse God’s authority and set themselves up as God, He has the right to judge them.” 8

However, if people will worship and give thanks to their Creator, God is more inclined to give them more truth (Romans 1:18-23),including the gospel of Jesus Christ which saves them from eternal judgment (Romans 1:15-16; cf. John 3:36; I Corinthians 15:1-8). This also relates to those who have never heard the gospel before.

I sometimes get asked, “What about those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ? How could God punish them in hell if they have never heard about Jesus?” I believe the best answer is no one is without excuse because God has given every human being some degree of revelation from Him. He has given us general revelation in creation (Psalm 19:1-6) and special revelation in the Bible (Psalm 19:7-14). God has given all humankind evidence that He exists through the things He has made, so no one is without excuse. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Those who respond positively to general revelation by worshiping their Creator instead of His creation, will receive more specific revelation concerning God’s Son, Jesus Christ, because God “is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

An example of this is seen in Acts 10. A man named Cornelius had never heard of Jesus, but he was seeking God. 1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion… 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” (Acts 10:1-2). God answered Cornelius’ prayers and sent the apostle Peter to him to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to him and to those close to him (Acts 10:9-48).

Cornelius’ piety (“a devout man …who feared God”), generous giving (“who gave alms generously”), and persistent prayer (“prayed to God always”) did not save him. His fear of God and righteous works did not give him “peace” with God (10:35-36). All his devotion to God, prayers, and alms giving were expressions of his restlessness to be right with God. The apostle Peter correctly perceives this, so he speaks of Christ “preaching peace” (10:36). After declaring Jesus’ death and resurrection to Cornelius (10:39), Peter invites this religious man to “believe” in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins (10:43). And Cornelius did along with his relatives and close friends, and then they were all baptized (10:44-48). What Cornelius could not find in fearing God, prayers, and alms giving, he found in the name of Jesus Christ! Only the name of Jesus Christ has the power to save and forgive all our sins.

There are many people in the world today like Cornelius. They do not know about Jesus Christ, but they are responding positively to what God has revealed to them. They want to know the true and living God Who created the universe. And God is sending people like Peter to them, no matter where they live, so they can hear and believe the good news of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection and live forever with Him in His heaven!

In the future Tribulation period, God will send this first angel to point the unsaved world to the true God and Creator of the universe. If people will respond positively to this message, and fear God, the Lord will send His Jewish evangelists to them to preach the gospel of Christ’s coming kingdom so they can enter His eternal kingdom by believing in Jesus alone (cf. Mark 1:15; Matthew 24:14; John 3:5-16).

What you think or believe about what might happen to those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ does not mean you are not responsible to God on judgment day. Since you are reading this article, you are now responsible for how you respond to God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Someone once said, “Many things in the Bible I cannot understand; many things in the Bible I only think I understand; but there are many things in the Bible I cannot misunderstand.”

For example, a verse we cannot misunderstand is John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” We can live forever with God in His eternal kingdom if we believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. Or we can experience the wrath of God forever if we do not believe in God’s Son. For those who have not heard of Jesus yet, if they respond positively to the revelation God has given them, God will make sure to send a messenger to them to explain the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). To Him be all the glory both now and forever!

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, Creator of the heavens and the earth, we praise You for Your eternal plan of redemption through Jesus Christ! No matter what age we live in, salvation has and always will be through faith alone in Your only perfect Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for telling us You will send this first angel to proclaim the everlasting gospel to the world during a time of horrific judgments on the earth. Even amid the outpouring of Your wrath, You still desire that people will be rescued from eternal condemnation. O Lord, please lead us to those like Cornelius, who are responding positively to what You have already shown them, so we may share the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection with them before it is too late. Your Word tells us that You desire all people to be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4) and that none should perish in hell (2 Peter 3:9). Because Jesus is “the way” to heaven (John 14:6), not one of many ways, we must go wherever You lead us to reach those who are perishing without Christ. Thank You for entrusting us with Your gospel. May we be found faithful to share it wherever You lead us. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 157.

2. Ibid.

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), pp. 1530, 1551.

4. 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. 402.

5. Constable, pg. 158.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1551.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

Revelation 13 – Part 4

“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.” Revelation 13:11

When Jesus spoke on the Mount of Olives of the sign of His coming to earth to set up His Millennial Kingdom, He described the future seven-year Tribulation period in Matthew 24:4-26. After expounding upon the first half three and a half years of the Tribulation period containing worldwide deception and agony (24:4-8), Christ then focused on the last three and a half years which would be characterized by even more deception and pain (24:9-26). He said, 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many… 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.” (Matthew 24:11, 23-25).

Christ is warning His audience that “false christs” and those who announce them, “false prophets, will rise up and deceive many” by showing “great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” chosen people of God who are believing Jews living during the last half of the Tribulation period (24:24). Christ shares this “beforehand” to prevent His people from being deceived by satanically inspired teaching that misleads people away from the true God. In our study of Revelation today, the apostle John describes the ultimate fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words.

After seeing the vision of a beast coming up out of the sea representing the Antichrist (Revelation 13:1-10), John now sees a second beast. “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.” (Revelation 13:11). John saw “another beast” of the same kind come “up out of the earth. Both men are called beasts to emphasize their cruel and vicious natures. 1 The word “earth” (gēs) literally means “land” and is most likely a reference to the land of Israel. 2 So, in contrast with the first beast who was a Gentile (from the sea; cf. 17:15; Isaiah 60:3-5; Daniel 7:2-4, 17; Matthew 13:47-50), we see that this beast may be a Jew (cf. 1:7). In view of the endless conflict between Arabs and Jews, this is a masterful arrangement by Satan himself. The union of an Arab (first beast) and a Jew (second beast) to lead the world into political, economic, and religious harmony is an ingenious answer to the world’s problems. 3

We learn that this second beast “had two horns like a lamb,” depicting his humble and gentle conduct. No one is afraid of a harmless “lamb.” But his speech will reveal his true character (13:11b; cf. Matthew 12:33-37). He will speak “like a dragon,” promoting Satan’s teaching that the first beast is God (13:11c; cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4). He will be the Devil’s mouthpiece speaking lies to persuade the world to worship the World Ruler. No wonder God refers to this second beast three times in the book of Revelation as the “false prophet” (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10).

The deceptive and deadly approach of the second beast is summarized well by John Phillips: “The dynamic appeal of the false prophet will lie in his skill in combining political expediency with religious passion, self-interest with benevolent philanthropy, lofty sentiment with blatant sophistry, moral platitude with unbridled self-indulgence. His arguments will be subtle, convincing, and appealing. His oratory will be hypnotic, for he will be able to move the masses to tears or whip them into a frenzy…. His deadly appeal will lie in the fact that what he says will sound so right, so sensible, so exactly what unregenerated men have always wanted to hear.” 4

This second beast “is the final person in the unholy trinity of the end times (Revelation 16:13; 19:20-20:2, 10). Just as the Holy Spirit gives glory to Christ and points men to Him, the false prophet will glorify the Antichrist and lead people to trust and worship him.” 5

“As Donald Grey Barnhouse says, ‘The devil is making his last and greatest effort, a furious effort, to gain power and establish his kingdom upon the earth. He knows nothing better than to imitate God. Since God has succeeded by means of an incarnation and then by means of the work of the Holy Spirit, the devil will work by means of an incarnation in Antichrist and by the unholy spirit.’” 6

“In hell’s trinity, Satan is a counterfeit Father (antiFather), the Antichrist is a counterfeit Son (antiChrist), and the false prophet is a counterfeit of the Holy Spirit (anti-Spirit). This is the infernal trinity.” 7

Whereas the first beast will primarily be a military and political figure, the second beast will primarily be a religious figure who prepares the way for the World Ruler, much like John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, the Messiah (cf. John 1:6-9, 19-36; Acts 19:4). The apostle John writes, “And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” (Revelation 13:12). This false prophet will have worldwide “authority” to cause all unsaved people “who dwell” on the earth to “worship the first beast” who died and rose from the dead (“whose deadly wound was healed”). “Like Joseph Goebbels with Hitler, the false prophet will be inspired by the same authority and will share the same diabolical agenda as the Antichrist.” 8

Commenting on this verse, Tony Evans says, “This second beast, the false prophet, completes the unholy trinity, which imitates the work of the Holy Trinity. Within the Godhead, the Father seeks worship; the Son gives glory to the Father; and the Holy Spirit gives glory to the Son. Here, Satan seeks worship for himself; the first beast glorifies Satan; and the second beast compels the earth and those who live on it to worship the first beast. Additionally, he will heal the Antichrist’s fatal wound, imitating the Holy Spirit’s work of raising Christ from the dead (see Romans 8:11).“ 9

How exactly does the false prophet deceive the unsaved world to worship the Antichrist? The same way Jesus predicted he would (cf. Matthew 24:23-24).13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. 14 And he deceives my own people who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.” (Revelation 13:13-14). Like Pharaoh’s magicians, only with greater effectiveness, the second beast will have authority to perform supernatural miracles (cf. Exodus 7:11, 22; 8:7). These will be genuine “great signs” or supernatural wonders, not just tricks (13:13a; cf. Revelation 16:13-14; 19:20; Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 23-25; 2 Thessalonians 2:9). 10 God is not the only One who can do supernatural miracles. Satan can also perform miracles, and he uses this power to deceive people to worship his substitute for Christ, the Antichrist.

One of his great miracles will be making “fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men” (13:13b). Even the apostle John himself had at one time wanted to “command fire to come down from heaven” on some Samaritans who rejected Jesus (Luke 9:54). 11 Now John sees the false prophet calling fire down to the earth to deceive people into rejecting the true Christ in favor of Satan’s Antichrist.

As Christ predicted (cf. Matthew 24:24), even God’s own “elect” covenant people, Israel (“my own people who dwell on the earth”) will be deceived by these miraculous “signs” that the false prophet performs, the greatest of which was raising the Antichrist from the dead (“the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived”) after he had been fatally wounded (13:14; cf. 13:3; 17:8). As we mentioned in a previous lesson, by mimicking Jesus’ death and resurrection, Satan is attempting to persuade the nation of Israel to believe that the Antichrist is their long-awaited messiah so he can lead them to eternal destruction with him in the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 15), thus rendering God’s promises to Israel false and making God a liar.

Those who are deceived by the False Prophet will be instructed to build “an image to” honor “the beast” who died and supernaturally came back to life (13:14b). This fulfills Jesus prophetic teaching on the Mount of Olives when He said, Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand).” (Matthew 24:15). The “image” or statue in honor of the beast (13:14b) is the “abomination of desolation” that will be placed in the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem at the midpoint of the Tribulation period.

Like the image of Nebuchadnezzar on the plain of Dura (Daniel 3), everyone must bow to this image or die. 12 “He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” (Revelation 13:15). This image or statue will be unlike any ever created. This inanimate object will become animated. The false prophet will “give breath to the image of the beast” so that “the image of the beast” will come to life and “speak” (13:15a).

People have come up with many theories about this “image of the beast.” Some suggest that since Satan does not have the power to give life to an inanimate object, he only gives this image the “impression of breathing and speaking mechanically, like computerized robots today.” 13When the television set first came on the scene, some people thought that might be the image of the Beast. People made the same suggestion about computers connected to the Internet. Some folks, bewitched by sci-fi movies, tossed around the idea that the image might be a supercomputer that gains consciousness – or a 3-D hologram – or a subhuman clone of the Antichrist.” 14

I prefer to take the biblical text literally. The Greek word for “image” (eikona) means “an object shaped to resemble the form or appearance of something, likeness.” 15 The image of the beast will not be a robot, or a clone, or a supercomputer, it will be some type of idol that visually represents the Antichrist. 16 It is likely that Satan and his demons will indwell or possess the idol to be the direct recipients of the world’s worship. This should not surprise us. Throughout history, demons have attached themselves to idols so that when people worship an idol, the demons can receive the adoration and worship that they long for. 17

For example, the apostle Paul writes to Christians at Corinth who were not only participating in the Lord’s Supper with believers at church, but they were also eating with unbelievers who sacrificed to idols in pagan temples. Paul says to them, 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry… 19 What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? 20 Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.” (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:14, 19-20). A sacrifice that was offered to a false god, was actually being offered to a demon (cf. Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:16-17; 2 Chronicles 11:15; Psalm 106:36-38; Revelation 9:20).

Anyone who refuses to “worship the image of the beast” will be “killed” by it (13:15b). Believers worship Christ because He rose from the dead (cf. Acts 17:30-31), and unbelievers will worship the beast because he will have done a similar thing (13:14-15).

Many people during the last half of the Tribulation will assume a person who can give life to a statue must be a divine person, but the Bible teaches otherwise. Just because someone can work a miracle doesn’t make him worthy to be followed or worshiped. God does miracles in a righteous way and in accordance with biblical truth. Even if someone can call down fire from heaven and raise the dead, he is working for Satan if he does not point people to the Lord Jesus Christ. 18

In view of Satanic deception (Revelation 13:11-15), believers must always test what teachers say against God’s Word no matter how godly and persuasive they may appear (cf. I Thessalonians 5:21; I John 4:1-3). For example, Jesus warned, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15). Like the False Prophet of Revelation 13, Jesus says false prophets today will look like genuine believers (“come to you in sheep’s clothing”).

They will even confess the Lordship of Christ. Christ says of them, 21 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23). They confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ by referring to Him as “Lord, Lord.” These are people who have some understanding of the greatness of the Person of Christ. They sincerely believe Jesus is “Lord,” that is, Master, Ruler, and King. Because of this belief, they look like followers of Christ outwardly and do wonderful works for His glory – prophesy in His name, cast out demons in His name, and do many wonders in His name (7:22), but inwardly they are “ravenous wolves” (7:15). Christ says they will not be in heaven (7:23).

Like the False Prophet of Revelation 13, these modern-day false prophets exhibit great power. They will claim to have “prophesied… cast out demons… and done many wonders in” in Jesus’ name (7:22b). Notice that Jesus does not deny their claim. These people wanted Jesus to get the glory by doing these incredible things in His name. They want the glory to go to the Lord, not themselves. These are all things that Jesus did. These false prophets appeal to Jesus to let them into the kingdom of heaven based on their Christ-like works. Even though they openly confessed the Lordship of Christ and did wonderful works for His glory, look at what Jesus says about them: “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (7:23). Christ refers to their religious works as “lawlessness.” All sin is lawlessness (I John 3:4). Even sin that looks good on the outside is lawless before a holy God because it is not done in the context of a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus explains that we will know these false prophets by their words, not their works: 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:16-20). The way to discern if they are false prophets is by their “fruits.” Since the Lord has just told us that these false prophets look like sheep, we can conclude that their “fruits” have nothing to do with outside appearances.

Jesus helps us understand that their “fruits” refer to their words, not their works in Matthew 12:33-37 where He uses the same imagery. 33 Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Just as “fruit” reveals the nature of a “tree,” so one’s “words” reveal the nature of one’s “heart.” What the “heart” is filled with (“abundance of the heart”) and values the most (“treasure of his heart”) cannot be concealed. The “mouth speaks” what is in a person’s “heart.” The “words” that a false prophet “speaks” are windows into his “heart.” So, the way to discern a false prophet is by listening to his message.

Jesus said if you want to “enter the kingdom of heaven,” you must do “the will” of His “Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). What is the Father’s will as it relates to entering His heaven? Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40; cf. John 3:5-16). The will of God the Father as it relates to entering the kingdom of heaven is to believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, for eternal life. Anyone who teaches a different way to heaven is a false prophet or teacher.

In the context of Matthew 7, true prophets are standing in front of the “narrow gate” that “leads to life” (Matthew 7:13-14). They are preaching that the way that “leads to life” eternal is “narrow” (John 10:9; 14:6; cf. Acts 4:10-12). Only believing in Jesus Christ alone leads to eternal life (Matthew 21:31-32; cf. John 3:16; 6:40, 47).

However, false prophets are standing in front of the “wide” gate that “leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13-14). These false prophets are preaching many ways to heaven except faith alone in Christ alone. Those who believe the false prophet’s message and never believe Christ alone for eternal life, will be surprised in the day of judgment when the Lord Jesus says to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23)!

It doesn’t matter what you have said or done, because you are still a sinner and need a Savior to take away your sins. Your words and works cannot take away your sins. This is why Jesus said these false prophets practiced “lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). They were relying on their sin-stained words and works to get them to heaven (Isaiah 64:6), instead of the finished work of Jesus Christ (John 3:14-15; 19:30). Only Jesus can take away our sins because He is God and took our place and punishment for sin when He died as our Substitute on the cross and rose from the dead (John 1:1, 14, 17; I Corinthians 15:3-6). When it comes to getting to heaven, it is not the will of God that you confess the Lordship of Christ, or surrender to the Lordship of Christ, or do good works for His glory. It is the will of God that you believe in Christ alone for His gift of eternal life (John 3:14-16; 6:40).

Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus’ warnings about false christs and prophets who will try to mislead us away from the truth about Christ with the use of their persuasive words and profound works. Thank You, Father, for giving us Your word so we may know the truth which can set us free from Satan’s lies. We need Your spiritual discernment, Father, especially in an age of deception and manipulation so we are not led away from You and Your Son, Jesus Christ. May Your Word have such deep roots in our hearts and minds that we can easily identify and avoid a false prophet who stands in front of the wide gate that leads into eternal destruction. Please enable us to clearly communicate the gospel of grace so unsaved people can know and believe that Jesus Christ alone is able to save them and give them everlasting life the moment they believe in Him. We ask Your Holy Spirit to open the spiritual eyes of those who have been blinded by Satan’s deceit so they can realize that the Jesus of the Bible is the only Savior Who can rescue them from the lake of fire and give them an eternal home in Your heaven. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 269.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1547; J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 333; Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2401.

3. Vacendak, pg. 1547.

4. Hitchcock, pg. 272 cites John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), pg. 171.

5. Hitchcock, pg. 270.

6. Ibid., cites Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), pg. 240.

7. Ibid., pp. 270-271.

8. Ibid., pg. 273.

9. Evans, pg. 2401.

10. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 148 cites Gregory H. Harris, “Satan’s Deceptive Miracles in the Tribulation,” Bibliotheca Sacra 156:623 (July September 1999): 308-324.

11. Constable, pg. 148.

12. Hitchcock, pg. 274. F

13. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 5820 to 5825.

14. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 253.

15. 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. 281.

16. Swindoll, pg. 253.

17. Ibid.

18. Evans, pg. 2401.