Revelation 22 – Part 3

“Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” Revelation 22:7

Chuck Swindoll quotes Ravi Zaharias, “Our society is walking through a maze of cultural land mines, and the heaviest price is exacted as we send our children on ahead.” 1

Swindoll continues, “Mazes, land mines, and exuberant youth who rarely watch where they’re going or look before they leap: That about sums up the present world.

“The twentieth century saw the rise of a generation that not only rejected much of what their elders held as unassailable truth but even began to doubt the concept of ‘truth’ itself! The tragic result has been a philosophical system known as ‘relativism’ or ‘postmodernism.’ It’s the belief that truth should be defined as merely the commonly held beliefs of a particular culture or society. As such, the belief systems that individuals or groups use to make sense of their world aren’t necessarily valid for another person or group.

“Through the media, academia, and other opinion formers, this idea continues to shape the thinking of most people in the twenty-first century. Younger generations are left to grope aimlessly through the relativistic maze, feeling insecure, fearful, and overwhelmed. They don’t realize that land mines await them around every turn – destructive deceptions and immoral acts that can bring calamity, even an early death.

“Paul the apostle warned his young protégé Timothy that a primary characteristic of the latter days would be the widespread rejection of truth (I Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 4:3-4). In light of this warning, the book of Revelation provides exactly what the coming end-times generation – and every generation – needs: objective, certified, reliable truth. When armed with this truth, people can face their fallen world with greater security, deeper faith, and stronger courage.” 2

All the visions that the apostle John had received from Revelation 4:1-22:5 had now ended. In the conclusion of the book of Revelation (22:6-21), the Lord Jesus Christ personally emphasizes some essential truths that He wants His listeners in the local churches to hear and embrace. 3

“Then he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true.’ And the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 22:6). Since the visions of the future ended with 22:5, the angel who now speaks to John is probably the original angel whom Jesus sent to John at the beginning of the book of Revelation (cf. 1:1). 4 This angel assures John that “the things” prophesied to “shortly take place” (4:1-22:5), which John had just seen, were “faithful and true.” 5The purpose of the book of Revelation is not to bewilder and confuse but to reveal many certainties about future events. 6

“This directly contradicts the point of view of many scholars that the Book of Revelation is an imponderable mystery for which no key is available today. This book is the Word of God and not the imaginations of John. In addition, it is intended to describe future events. When taken in its literal, ordinary meaning, this is exactly what it does… The Word of God was not given to be obscure. It was given to be understood by those taught by the Spirit.” 7

The reason why these prophecies are “faithful and true” is because “the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets,” the Lord Jesus Christ, “sent His angel to show His servants,” of whom one is the apostle John, “the things which must shortly take place.” The book of Revelation records future events, which, from God’s point of view, will come upon humankind very soon. 8

In our confused culture, believers in Jesus are to anchor their souls in what is “faithful and true.” Since the book of Revelation comes from the Lord Jesus Christ Who is “the truth” (John 14:6) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), it is very reliable. This inspired source of truth can be fully trusted. 9

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself speaks next! “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7). When the Lord Jesus says, “Behold…” He is telling us to stop what we are doing and pay attention to what He is about to say because it is extremely important. Jesus then announces, “I am coming quickly!” The Greek word translated “quickly” (tachy) means “soon, in a short time.” 10 The words “quickly” and “soon” both convey God’s perspective about His return for His church. His coming is always “soon” from “the standpoint of the saints’ foreview of the future, and when it occurs, it will come suddenly or quickly.” 11

The events of the Rapture of the church, the next event on God’s prophetic calendar (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. John 14:1-3; I Corinthians 15:50-57; I Thessalonians 4:13-18), will take place very quickly, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” the apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:52.

The Greek word for ‘moment’ is atomos, from which we get our English word atom. Atomos refers to something that is indivisible, that cannot be divided. When Paul wrote these words, no one could imagine splitting the atomos. Today, we would translate this ‘in an instant,’ ‘in a split second,’ or ‘in a flash.’

“The second phrase that describes the duration of the Rapture is ‘in the twinkling of an eye.’ The Greek word for twinkling is rhipe. This might refer to the time it takes for light to reflect in the human eye. Others believe that it refers to the time it takes to blink your eye – ‘in the blink of an eye.’ Blinking is the quickest movement in the human body. People everywhere understand what ‘in the blink of an eye’ means.

“The main point is clear. All the events of this Rapture will happen instantaneously. In a flash. It will all happen so quickly that it will be completely unobservable to the human eye. Like replaying in slow motion a split-second catch in a football game, the Lord slows down the Rapture film for us so we can see exactly what will happen” 12 in I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

A brief outline of the events of the Rapture from I Thessalonians 4 includes:

  • The Return of Christ in the air with Christians who have died– “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” (4:14)
  • The Resurrection of the bodies of Christians who have died –15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep… 16 And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (4:15, 16b)
  • The Rapture of living Christians – “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up…” (4:17a).
  • The Reunion of both living and dead believers with the Lord in the air– “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (4:17). 
  • The Reassurance from this truth – “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (4:18).

“But don’t let God’s slow-motion version of Rapture in I Thessalonians fool you. The Rapture will occur in a split second. Suddenly, corpses all over the world will be raised and reunited with perfected spirits, and living believers everywhere will be caught up to heaven [with] transformed body, soul, and spirit. The Rapture will shock the world. It will change everything.” 13

Jesus’ announcement of His soon coming in Revelation 22:7a is a message that both nonbelievers and believers must hear and respond to. For the non-Christian, he or she is to get right with God by believing in Jesus. The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). The word “believe” (pisteuō) in the New Testament means “to consider something to be true and therefore worthy of one’s trust.” 14

God is inviting all of us to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” alone to save us from the penalty of our sins because all of us have sinned against God with our thoughts, words, and actions (Romans 3:23). The penalty for our sins is “death” (Romans 6:23a) or separation from God. Because God is holy, righteous, and perfect, He cannot be around our sin (Habakkuk 1:13; Isaiah 59:2). The Bible tells us that the final punishment for our sin is death in the lake of fire (Mark 9:43-44; Revelation 20:15).

God does not want any human being to die forever in the lake of fire so out of love for us, He sent His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16), to earth to live a perfect life (since He is God – John 1:1; I John 5:20; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18), and then die on a cross in our place and rise from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6; Romans 5:8), proving His claims to be God are true (Romans 1:3-4). Jesus Christ is alive today and He invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to save you from sin’s penalty and give you eternal life so you can enter His heaven in the future (Acts 16:31; John 3:16; Revelation 21-22).

Those of you who are reading this article need to ask yourself, “What am I trusting to get me into God’s heaven?” Are you trusting your works to get you into His heaven? Are you trusting Christ plus your works? Or are you trusting in Christ alone to get you into God’s heaven? The Bible tells us in Acts 16:31 to “believe” or trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone (not our works or Christ plus our works) to save us from the penalty of sin so we can enter God’s heaven when we die or are Raptured, whichever takes place first.

If you have never understood and believed this before, and now you do, you can tell God this through prayer.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for showing me that You are coming soon to remove Your church from the earth. Before today, I was not prepared to hear this. I did not understand that I am a sinner who deserves to be separated from You forever. I thought if I lived a good life and treated people like I want to be treated, I might make it into Your heaven. But Your Word reveals to me that I am a sinner who deserves to be punished for my sins forever separated from You in the lake of fire. However, my sin does not keep You from loving me and wanting to be in a personal relationship with me. I now believe You died in my place for my sins and rose from the dead. Right now, as best I know how, I am trusting You Lord Jesus to save me from sin’s penalty and give me everlasting life as a free gift. Thank You for the salvation I now have and for the future home I will have with You in Your heaven. Please help me to share this good news with others who do not know You so they can be ready for Your soon return. In Your precious name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Those of us who believe in Jesus for His gift of salvation are to respond to His announcement of coming soon by keeping His commands (cf. 22:9, 14). Jesus said, “Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7b). God has given us “the words of the prophecy of this book” [Revelation], not only so we might learn about future events, but so we may also prepare (“keeps”) for them and be “blessed.”

In view of Jesus’ soon return, believers in Jesus are to take the words of the book Revelation seriously and act on them. 15 We are to anticipate what God has predicted. People today often doubt whether we can know anything for certain about the present and the past, much less about the future. 16 There is so much fake news in our world today, that we are prone to doubt nearly everything we hear. However, as believers in the God of truth, we can trust what He has said about the future: “Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:11).

We are to live in a constant state of readiness, not neglecting our duties or failing to prepare for the future, but always looking forward to the soon-coming of Christ to take us home.” 17

It is tragic that this last book of the Bible which promises a blessing to those who read it, hear it, and keep what is written in it (Revelation 1:3; cf. 22:7), is often neglected by churches and individual Christians alike more than any other book of the Bible. This is so ironic because of all the books in the Bible, the book of Revelation contains more promises of blessing than any other book. 18 Perhaps Satan is behind this avoidance of this profound prophetic book because he does not want God’s people to receive God’s blessings nor be prepared for what is coming.

Prayer: Glorious Lord God, thank You for the book of Revelation which informs us of many future certainties so we can prepare for what is coming and receive Your many blessings. Every word in the book of Revelation is faithful and true. Help us to read and keep the words of this prophetic book so we can face a world that has rejected Your truth and is spiraling out of control as a result. May we be armed with Your truth so we can face this broken world with more security, unwavering faith, and greater courage in the days ahead. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 397 cites Ravi Zacharias, Recapture the Wonder (Brentwood, TN: Integrity Publishers, 2003), pg. 27.

2. Swindoll, pp. 397-398.

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. 1588.

4. Ibid., pg. 1589.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 251.

6. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 6644 to 6649.

7. Ibid.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1589.

9. Swindoll, pg. 398.

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), pg. 993.

11. Walvoord, Kindle Location 6654.

12. 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. 129.

13. Ibid., pp. 129-130.

14. Bauer, pg. 816.

15. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2424.

16. Swindoll, pg. 398.

17. Ibid.

18. Constable, pg. 252; cf. Walvoord, Kindle Location 6656.

Revelation 21 – Part 7

“The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal.” Revelation 21:16

Thus far in our study of the final stage of heaven we have learned that the capital city of the new earth is the New Jerusalem from which King Jesus and His bride, the church (21:2, 9-10; cf. 19:7, 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27), will rule the nation of Israel and the entire new earth (21:1-14).

Next John will discover the dimensions of this remarkable City. “And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.” (Revelation 21:15). The angel who has led the apostle John on this guided tour of the New Jerusalem now “had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.” The fact that the angel’s measuring rod is “gold” suggests the dignity of the task of measuring the city’s gates and walls. It also reflects the immense value of the city. 1

John first describes the shape and then the size of the city. “The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal.” (Revelation 21:16). Its base was “laid out as a square.” The city’s exact dimensions are measured by the angel and is reported to be “twelve thousand furlongs.” The Greek word for “furlong” is stadia and is “a measure of distance of about 192 meters.” 2 Twelve thousand furlongs would be approximately 2,304,000 meters or about 1,432 miles. According to this angel, the New Jerusalem is a colossal cube that is 1,432 miles long, 1432 miles wide, and 1,432 miles high. It contains 432 quintillion cubic feet of space. How big is that?

To help us envision this, think of a map of the United States. The footprint of the city would be about the same as drawing a square from Miami, Florida up to Boston, Massachusetts then westward to Minneapolis, Minnesota then south to Corpus Christi, Texas and then back to Miami. And that is just the ground level. This colossal city rises 1,432 miles into outer space.

Since this city is cubicle, we can assume it has more than one level. 3 Given the dimensions of a 1,432-mile cube, if the city has different levels, and if each story were a generous twelve feet high, the city could have over 630,000 stories. If they were on different levels, billions of people could occupy the New Jerusalem. 4 There is no question that this colossal city would be able to house all believers in Jesus from the church age.

The cube shape of the New Jerusalem reminds us of the cube shape of the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, the dwelling place of God on earth in the Old Testament. It was a perfect cube measuring fifteen feet on every side. Likewise, the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple was a thirty-foot cube. 5 “The New Jerusalem, also a perfect cube, will be like a huge Holy of Holies, a cosmic Temple, where God dwells eternally. The parallels between the New Jerusalem and the Garden of Eden (a river, the tree of life, and God’s presence) and the Holy of Holies have led some to call the New Jerusalem the ’Edenic Temple-City.’” 6

Swindoll states that critics think these dimensions cannot be taken literally. They argue that a cubicle city of this size would send the earth wobbling in its orbit and perhaps careening into the sun. 7 But the apostle John himself understands “these measurements to be human and literal, not spiritual and symbolic. He makes a point of noting that the human measurements were the same as angelic measurements (21:17).” 8

“Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.” (Revelation 21:17). The city wall was “one hundred and forty-four cubits” thick which is about 216 feet or 72 yards.Even though an angel of God was doing the measuring, he was using human units of measurement. 9 If God did not want us to take these dimensions literally as some argue, 10 then why does the Bible give us the dimensions and then say it is according to the measurement of man which the angel was using? This emphasis on man’s measurement seems to be an appeal to believe that the New Jerusalem is truly this huge!!! 11

If God did not want us to believe the New Jerusalem is 1,432 miles wide and deep and high, how would we expect Him to say this besides what the Bible plainly says? Isn’t it possible for the God of the universe to make such a city? Isn’t it possible for people in glorified bodies like the risen and exalted Lord Jesus to inhabit such a city? 12 Absolutely!!!

Skeptics argue that a city of this size would alter the earth’s orbit causing it to spin out of orbit and careen into the sun. But this assumes that the new earth will be the same size as our current earth. The Bible does not tell us the size of the new earth. Isn’t it likely that God will create a new earth whose size is perfectly proportionate to the New Jerusalem? 13

Someone may argue, “But this city rises above the earth’s oxygen level.” Can’t God put oxygen 1,432 miles high in the new heaven and new earth if He wants? Or can’t God make it, so we don’t have to breathe oxygen in our resurrected glorified bodies? Such things are not impossible for the Lord. 14

One of the reasons why there is so much skepticism about taking what the Bible says about heaven literally is because of the influence of christoplatonism. Alcorn explains the origin of this term. “Plato, the Greek philosopher, believed that material things, including the human body and the earth, are evil, while immaterial things such as the soul and Heaven are good. This view is called Platonism. The Christian church, highly influenced by Platonism through the teachings of Philo (ca. 20 BD – AD 50) and Origen (AD 185-254), among others, came to embrace the ‘spiritual’ view that human spirits are better off without bodies and that Heaven is a disembodied state. They rejected the notion of Heaven as a physical realm and spiritualized or entirely neglected the biblical teaching of resurrected people inhabiting a resurrected Earth.

“Christoplatonism has had a devastating effect on our ability to understand what Scripture says about Heaven, particularly about the eternal Heaven, the New Earth… If we believe, even subconsciously, that bodies and the earth and material things are unspiritual, even evil, then we will inevitably reject or spiritualize any biblical revelation about our bodily resurrection or physical characteristics of the New Earth. That’s exactly what has happened in most Christian churches, and it’s a large reason for our failure to come to terms with a biblical doctrine of Heaven. Christoplatonism has also closed our minds to the possibility that the present Heaven may actually be a physical realm. If we look at Scripture, however, we’ll see considerable evidence that the present Heaven has physical properties.”  15

Another reason for refusing to take God’s description of heaven literally is scholasticism. Alcorn explains: “The writings of twelfth-century theologians such as Peer Abelard and Peter Lombard and thirteenth-century theologian Thomas Aquinas led to the Philosophical movement known as scholasticism, which came to dominate medieval thought and ultimately took hostage the doctrine of Heaven.

“The scholastic writers viewed Heaven in a more impersonal, cold, and scientific manner than their predecessors. They departed from the Heaven of Scripture that contains both the unfamiliar transcendent presence of God, surrounded by the cherubim, and familiar earthly objects and personages, including people wearing clothes and having conversations. They embraced Heaven entirely intangible, immaterial, and hence – they thought – more spiritual.” 16

“They ignored almost entirely – or allegorized into oblivion – the New Earth as the eternal dwelling place of resurrected humans living with the resurrected Jesus in a physical realm of natural wonders, physical structures, and cultural distinctives.

“The scholastic view gradually replaced the old, more literal understanding of Heaven as garden and city, a place of earthly beauty, dwelling places, food, and fellowship. The loss was incalculable. The church to this day has never recovered from the unearthly – and anti-earthly – theology of Heaven constructed by well-meaning but misguided scholastic theologians. These men interpreted biblical revelation not in a straightforward manner, but in light of the intellectually seductive notions of Platonism, Stoicism, and Gnosticism.” 17

Refusing to take God’s descriptions of the new heaven and new earth literally because of an anti-supernatural bias toward the Bible which scholastic theology promotes, is unfortunate and all too common today.

When faced with the decision to interpret the Bible literally or figuratively, how do we know which is correct? One way is to interpret based on what the Bible says elsewhere about the same subject. For example, the Bible tells us that Christians will possess a glorious resurrection body like that of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20-21). Was Jesus’ resurrection body visible and tangible? Yes, the risen Christ could be seen and touched (John 20:14-29). Could Jesus eat food in His resurrection body? Yes, He ate in the presence of His disciples after His resurrection (Luke 24:36-43). What this means is we will be seen and touched in our glorified bodies on the new earth. We will be able to eat food on the new earth (Revelation 2:7, 17).

The tree of life was a real tree in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8). If it was not real, why would God not allow Adam and Eve to eat from it after they sinned (Genesis 3:22-24)? Obviously, it was a literal tree in the Garden of Eden, and it will be a literal tree in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14).

God has given us many details about the New Jerusalem on the new earth. To interpret them symbolically or figuratively undermines our trust in God and His Word. If we assume the dimensions of the New Jerusalem cannot be literal, then what is to keep us from believing the city is not real either? If it doesn’t really have its stated dimensions, then it is a short step to believing it does not have dimensions at all. 18

When we interpret figuratively what God intended to be literal, we are doing what Revelation warns us not to do. 18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, may God add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, may God take away his part from the tree of life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19). We take away from God’s Word by denying its plain meaning. We add to it by adding new meanings not supported by the biblical text. 19

God wants His people to forever enjoy a resurrected life on a literal new earth in a literal New Jerusalem. We know this to be true because God plainly says it. Paying attention to the context and bringing other Scriptures into account, we need to draw God’s truth from the text, not read our preconceived ideas into it. 20

Many Christians are being deceived by Satan’s lie which says God’s Word cannot be trusted. This is what the Devil told Eve in the Garden of Eden when he said, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4) if you eat what God said not to eat. Satan planted a seed of doubt in Eve’s mind that basically said what God’s Word clearly says cannot be trusted. This is what Satan wants to do concerning our understanding of the new heaven and new earth. If he can get us to doubt God’s clear descriptions of our future home on the new earth, he can lessen our motivation to prepare for that wonderful place.

But the Bible is filled with promise after fulfilled promise about the trustworthiness of God’s Word. Jesus Himself spoke of this: “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18). Jesus guarantees that the smallest Hebrew letter (“jot”) or smallest Hebrew stroke (“tittle”) cannot change and will not pass away until they are all fulfilled. Jesus Christ is “the truth” (John 14:6) and He cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), therefore we can trust what He says.

Taking God at His Word requires faith. “Faith means believing that God keeps His promises.” 21 The author of Hebrews said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). Having faith doesn’t mean we have to see something to be convinced it is true.

For example, I can know I have an incredible home in heaven not because I have been there and seen it, but because I believe Jesus’ promise. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3). Christ has been preparing this place for me for nearly two thousand years since He returned to heaven after His death and resurrection. If I didn’t believe Christ’s Word, I would have no confidence in heaven or anything else He has promised in His Word. If Jesus does not return in the next few decades, I know I am going to die. But I am not afraid of dying because I believe Jesus’ promise to usher me into His presence in His Father’s heavenly home. My faith is in a real God Who had made real promises about heaven. 22

Prayer: Exalted Lord Jesus, Your Word is true because You say it is. We can trust what You clearly say in Your Word because You are true and cannot lie. Thank You so much for Your detailed description of the New Jerusalem with its incredible dimensions. Such a colossal city will have more than enough space for all Your redeemed people from the church age. Use us Lord God to help populate the New Jerusalem by preaching Your gospel of grace to those who are perishing without You. In Your mighty name we pray Lord Jesus. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1 Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pp. 241-242.

2. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 940.

3. David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015 Kindle Edition), pg. 100.

4. Adapted from Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 353.

5. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 455.

6. Ibid., pg. 455 cites James M. Hamilton Jr., Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches, Preaching the Word, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), pg. 393.

7. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 388.

8. Ibid., pg. 389.  

9. Constable, pg. 249.

10. Alcorn, pg. 684 cites John Gilmore, Probing Heaven (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), pg. 114, who says that taking these verses literally would dishonor God.  

11. Ibid., pg. 684.

12. Adapted from Ibid.

13. Swindoll, pg. 389.

14. Alcorn, pg. 684.

15. Ibid., pp. 90-91.

16. Ibid., pp. 675-676 cites Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang, Heaven: A History (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), pp. 80-81.  

17. Alcorn, pg. 676.

18. Ibid., pg. 685.

19. Ibid., pp. 686-687.

20. Ibid., pg. 687.

21. Tony Evans, God Can Not Be Trusted (and Five Other Lies of Satan), LifeChange Books, (The Crown Publishing Group, 2005 Kindle Edition), location 362.

22. Ibid., location 362 to 368.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 9 (Video)

WHAT MUST I DO TO GET TO HEAVEN?

This is the ninth and final video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video answers the most important question anyone could ask, “What must I do to get to heaven?” (John 20:31).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. The copyrights of the images of the movie belong to Jesus.net. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/. Other gospel of John pictures are used with permission from www.GoodSalt.com, or they are creative common licenses. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com.

What must I do to get to heaven?

30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:30-31

“What must I do to get to heaven?” This is the most important question you will ever ask. It is far more important than asking:

– “Who will I vote for in the next presidential election?”

“How much money do I make?”

“What do other people think of me?”

“How many educational degrees do I have next to my name?”

“What kind of job do I have?”

“Where do I live?”

“Am I married?”

“How many children do I have?”

“Am I successful at what I do?”

“Am I happy?”

By far the most important question you will ever ask is, “What must I do to get to heaven?” To put it another way, “What must I do to have eternal life?” If you have these questions, the most important book of the Bible for you to know and understand is the book of John. It is the fourth book of the New Testament. This book was written to non-Christians. While the rest of the Bible speaks primarily to those who know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, John’s gospel has in mind those who do not know Christ as their personal Savior.

In the gospel of John, we are told over and over again what we must do to get to heaven. Hopefully, before you finish reading this article you will at the very least know what God says you must do to get to heaven.  

Please understand that what I am going to share with you is from the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word. We are told, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The word “inspiration” (theopneustos) literally means “God-breathed.” 1

“All Scripture” includes both Old and New Testaments. Every word in the Bible is God-breathed or from the mouth of God. There are no errors in the Bible. Not on theology. Not on science. Not on history. Not on any detail. The Bible is inerrant since it is God’s Word and God does not err.” 2

So when we read the Bible we are reading the very words of God. The Scriptures did not originate from humans beings. The Bible tells us, 20 No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21). God the Holy Spirit directed these different human authors to write each word down without error.

Since all Scripture is inspired by God, then all Scripture is profitable for teaching (instructing you in the truths that you need to know), for rebuking (reproving you for what you’ve done wrong), for correcting (showing you what is right), and for training in righteousness (guiding you to approach life as God intended it to be lived)” 3 (2 Timothy 3:16). So as we look at what God says about how to receive eternal life, we need to be open to God’s Word giving us “doctrine” or truths  we need to know about how to get to heaven. His Word may give us “reproof” and show us what beliefs about salvation we have that are wrong. The Bible may also give us “correction” and show us the right way to believe. And finally, the Bible may give us “instruction in righteousness” so we may approach the way to heaven God’s way.

In John 20:30-31, the apostle John summarizes the purpose of his book. 30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31). John reports that he was selective in recording miraculous “signs” that appeared in his gospel. Many “other signs” were performed by Jesus which are not recorded in this book. The word “signs” (sēmeia) refers to Jesus’ miracles and is intended to signify something about Jesus. 4  They are intended to tell us something about His Person and His character. John selected some of the most convincing words and works of Jesus which point to Who He is. Each of these miraculous signs is a picture of salvation:

1. Turning the water into wine at Cana (John 2:1-11). This miracle pictures new birth. Christ can transform the old life into a new life.

2. Healing of the nobleman’s son at Capernaum (John 4:46-54). This sign illustrates that the life-giving word of Jesus can give spiritual life no matter what the circumstance or condition of the recipient.

3. Healing the lame man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15). We learn from this miracle that Jesus has the power to cure spiritual paralysis so we can walk spiritually.

4. Feeding the five thousand near Bethsaida (John 6:1-14). This sign shows that as the Bread of Life, Jesus can permanently satisfy our spiritual hunger for eternal life.

5. Walking on the water (John 6:15-21). This miracle demonstrates that Jesus can give peace to the person devastated by life’s storms and take us where we could never go on our own.

6. Healing of the man born blind at Jerusalem (John 9:1-41). This miraculous sign demonstrates that as the Light of the world, Jesus can give spiritual sight to the spiritually blind so they can believe in Him.

7. Raising Lazarus from the dead at Bethany (John 11:1-44). This miracle shows that as the Resurrection and the Life, Jesus guarantees a future bodily resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him even though they were once spiritually dead.

8. Raising Jesus from the dead outside Jerusalem (John 20:1-29). This last and greatest miraculous sign shows that Jesus is God and He has the ability to give us life that never ends the moment we believe in Him.  

The reasons John records these eight miraculous signs are given in John 20:31. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” John recorded these miracles to arouse faith in those who have never believedthat Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”

Through these miracles John has revealed that Jesus is the long-awaited “Christ,” the promised Messiah-God of Israel (John 1:41; 4:25-26, 29, 42; 6:69; 7:26-27, 31, 41-42; 9:22; 10:24-25; 11:27; 12:34). He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29; cf. Isaiah 53:5-10). He is “the Christ, the Savior of the world” (John 4:45). Jesus is not just a messenger or prophet. The Old Testament says of this coming Messiah, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6). This Messiah is none other than the “Mighty God.” Jesus did miracles that only God could do. No other religious leader or founder predicted they would raise themselves from the dead. But Jesus did on several occasions before His crucifixion (John 2:19-21; 10:17-18; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:27-28). And no other religious leader or founder actually rose from the dead, but Jesus Christ did, proving that He was God (Romans 1:3-4).

John also showed through these miracles “that Jesus is the … Son of God.” Not only did Jesus claim to be the Son of God or God Himself (John 5:21-23; 8:58-59; 9:35-37; 10:25-36; 17:3, 5),but His followers also claimed that Jesus was the Son of God or God Himself (John 1:34, 49; 6:69; 11:27; 19:7; 20:28, 31). His miracles confirmed He had the same divine nature as God. To be “the Son of God,” does not mean Jesus was the result of God having sexual relations with the virgin Mary as some mistakenly conclude. 5  It means that Jesus has the same divine nature as God the Father. For example, when I say, “I am the son of …,” I am saying I have the same human nature as my earthly father.

Throughout the gospel of John, Jesus claimed to be God by using “I AM” statements. Jehovah or Yahweh (YHWH) is the special name given by God for Himself in the Old Testament. It is the name God gave to Moses when He said, “I AM WHO I AM… Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you…’ Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord [Jehovah] God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’” (Exodus 3:14-15). “While other titles for God may be used of men (Adonai [Lord] in Gen. 18:12) or false gods (elohim [gods] in Deut. 6:14), Jehovah is only used to refer to the one true God. No other person or thing was to be worshiped or served (Exod. 20:5), and his name and glory were not to be given to another.” 6  The prophet Isaiah wrote, “I am the Lord [Jehovah], that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.” (Isaiah 42:8).

Yet Jesus claimed to be Jehovah several times in the gospel of John. Jesus said, “Before Abraham was I AM” (John 8:58; cf. John 6:35; 8:12; 10:9, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1). But Jehovah of the Old Testament referred to Himself as “I AM” (Exodus 3:14-15). Jesus referred to Himself as Jehovah when He said this. Jesus also prayed, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:5). But Jehovah of the Old Testament said, “My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8). Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), but the Old Testament says, “The Lord [Jehovah] is my shepherd.” (Psalm 23:1).  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), but the Old Testament says, “The Lord [Jehovah] is my light” (Psalm 27:1). 7

Jesus also claimed to be equal with God in the gospel of John by claiming to have the same prerogatives as God. Jesus claimed to have the power to give life, raise the dead and judge them. Jesus said,21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will… 2Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His [the Son’s] voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. 30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” (John 5:28-30). Yet the Jehovah of the Old Testament also claimed to be the Giver of life, raise the dead and judge them: “The Lord [Jehovah] kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up” (I Samuel 2:6), and, “Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I [Jehovah – Joel 2:19, 27, 32] will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.” (Joel 3:12). Jesus also claimed that He is to be honored as God when He said,22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” (John 5:22-23).  Jesus boldly assumed for Himself powers and honor that only belong to God. 8 The apostle Thomas announced that Jesus was God near the end of John’s gospel when he said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Why does John want his readers to understand and “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”? That “believing” they “may have life in His name” (John 20:31b). Ninety-nine times John uses the word “believe” in his gospel. 9 It is interesting that God never uses the words “repent” or “repentance” in a book that was written to tell people how to obtain eternal life and get to heaven. Why?

One reason is because when one changes from unbelief to belief, he has changed his mind or repented in order to possess eternal life. Dr. Tom Constable states: “Repentance and faith are not two steps in salvation but one step looked at from two perspectives. Appeals to repent do not contradict the numerous promises that faith is all that is necessary for salvation (e.g., John 1:12; 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:47; 20:30-31; Rom. 4; et al.). The faith that saves includes repentance (a change of mind). One changes from unbelief to belief (Acts 11:17-18). Sometimes the New Testament writers used the two terms, repent and believe, together (e.g., Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21; Heb. 6:1). Sometimes they used repentance alone as the sole requirement for salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 26:20; 2 Pet. 3:9). Nonetheless whether one term or both occur, they are as inseparable as the two sides of a coin.” 10

A second reason repentance is not mentioned in the gospel of John is because the words “repent” and “repentance” are easily misunderstood to mean something like “turning from sins” or “penance” which involve works. If a non-Christian is told to turn from his sins, he is going to ask, “How often must I do this and from what sins must I turn?” The word “believe,” however, communicates such simplicity that it is less likely to be misconstrued to include a works-oriented response. Believe means to believe or trust. 11

When the verb “repent” (metanoeō) and its noun form “repentance” (metanoia) are used in evangelistic contexts, they refer to changing one’s mind about whatever is keeping you from believing in Christ, and then believing in Him for eternal life. For example, in Mark 1:15, Jesus said, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Jesus was speaking to Jews who believed that eternal life could be earned through good works. Christ commands them to change their minds or “repent.” In other words, Christ commands them to change their minds about doing good works and come to God on the bases of faith alone in Christ alone.  

God could have used any word He wished. He could have said it in any language. But He chose the word “believe” (pisteuō), and He used it emphatically in the gospel of John. Almost every chapter contains an invitation to believe and a reason to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. But what does it mean to “believe”? The word “believe” means to be persuaded that something is true, and then trust or depend upon. 12  Often the New Testament emphasizes this idea of trust or depend upon by adding a preposition after the word “believe”:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.’ (John 1:12)

“Whoever believes in Him…” (John 3:16).

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 16:31

What are we to believe or trust in Christ for? John tells us that the reason we are to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” isthat believing you may have life in His name.” We are to believe or trust Christ alone to possess eternal life. John defines this “life” as “eternal” throughout his gospel (John 3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; et al.). Notice that “eternal life” is a present possession for those who believe in the name of Jesus. A name in the Bible represents a person. To believe in the name of Jesus is to believe in His Person.

Jesus defines eternal life in John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” So eternal life is knowing God the Father and God the Son forever in a personal relationship. Getting to heaven does not mean trusting Christ to get you through the day or through your problems. Getting to heaven means trusting Jesus Christ alone to give you His gift of eternal life.

Not all facts about God are saving facts. For example, believing there is one God does not get you to heaven. Demons believe God is one but you will not see them in heaven (James 2:19). Many world religions believe God is one, but you will not see them in heaven. God is telling us in the gospel of John that to get to heaven, we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing we may have life in His name. These are the saving facts we must believe to get to heaven.

You may ask, “What if a person stops believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Will he or she lose eternal life?” The answer is “NO.” The results of believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life are permanent. If eternal life could be lost, it would not be eternal.

Saving faith is like a single drink of living water which never needs to be repeated. Jesus said, “But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst” (John 4:14a), and, “he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35b). Saving faith is like a single look at Jesus, the Savior, much like the Israelites who looked at the bronze serpent in the desert and lived, 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). Saving faith is a decisive moment of spiritual hearing in which the voice of God’s Son effects an irreversible spiritual resurrection, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.” (John 5:25).

People are not saved by drinking and drinking and drinking Jesus’ living water. They are saved by taking one drink of His living water (John 4:14; 6:35). People are not saved by staring at Christ. They are saved by taking one simple look at Him in faith (John 3:14-15)! People are not saved by hearing Jesus’ voice over and over and over again. They are saved by hearing His voice once (John 5:24-25). People are not saved by eating and eating and eating the bread of life. They are saved simply by eating the bread of life once (John 6:35, 51).  

What if you only had five minutes to live, what does the gospel of John say you must do to get to heaven? Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing you may have life in His name. What if you only had five years to live, what does the gospel of John say you must do to get to heaven? Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing you may have life in His name. What if you only had fifty years to live, what does the gospel of John say you must do to get to heaven? Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing you may have life in His name. What if you are an abortionist, an adulterer, a blasphemer, a false teacher, a homosexual, a murderer, a rapist, or a thief? What does the gospel of John say you must do to get to heaven? Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing you may have life in His name. The issue is believing or trusting in Christ alone to give you His gift of eternal life.

Years ago I remember reading an article on the front page of the Pratt Tribune when we lived in Medicine Lodge, Kansas. It was about a seventh grade boy named, Sam Abrams, who packed his bags and took off on an adventure that took him halfway around the world to Australia. Some people from Pratt were afraid to travel to Wichita by themselves, let alone across the state. But Sam Abrams is no ordinary thirteen year old from Pratt. He raised money for his airfare by delivering newspapers, mowing lawns, and working at Dillons. And finally on December 27, 1992, with his tickets, passport, and visa in his hands, his parents took him to the Wichita airport. From there, Sam flew to Los Angeles, then to Sydney, and on to Brisbane, Australia where he was reunited with an old friend, Dylan Cross, who used to live in Pratt.

Getting to heaven is like getting to Brisbane, Australia, from Wichita, Kansas. You cannot make it on your own. You must depend on a person, a pilot to fly your jet airplane to your destination. You cannot get there depending on your own ability. You must depend on your pilot. In the same way, you must trust or depend upon a Person, Jesus Christ, to get you to heaven. Unlike Sam, who had to work to earn the money to pay for his travel expenses, your trip to heaven is free because Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, has already paid for your trip in full by dying in your place on the cross and rising from the dead. All He asks is that you believe or trust in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life.

One morning at the breakfast table, a worried husband said to his wife, “We must think of the future. We ought to economize more. If I were to die, where would you be?” His wife replied, “Why, I would be right here. The question is, where would you be?”

If you were to die, where would you be? Are you certain you would go to heaven? If not you can be certain by hearing and believing Jesus’ promise when He said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). This is so simple that children often believe it long before adults.   

When it comes to getting to heaven, Jesus is not asking you if you keep God’s commandments, because He never said, “he who keeps God’s commandments has everlasting life.” He is not asking you if you pray every day because He never said, “he who prays every day has everlasting life.” Jesus is not asking you if you go to a place of worship every week because He never said, “he who goes to a place of worship every week has everlasting life.” Nor is Jesus asking you if you have lived a good, moral life because He never said, “he who lives a good, moral life has everlasting life.” Jesus is asking you, “Do you believe in Me?” because He said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.”

If you have never understood and believed this before, but now you do, you can tell God this through prayer. Keep in mind that praying this prayer is not what gets you to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Jesus alone gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, all my life I thought I had to work to get to heaven. Thank You for showing me today that You have already done all the work. All I must do is believe or trust in You alone for Your gift of eternal life. As best I know how, I come to You now as a sinner who is unable to save himself. I believe You died in my place on a cross for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now believing or trusting in You alone Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion), to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and for the future home I will have in heaven. In Your precious name I pray Lord Jesus. Amen.

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, please go to our website at www.seeyouinheaven.life and download our Pressing On digital discipleship materials to go through with those you care about. Thank You and may Jesus Christ give You His abundant life as you learn to follow Him as His disciple.

ENDNOTES:

1. 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. 1121. 

2. Ibid.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2217.

4. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 370 cites Merrill C. Tenney, “Topics from the Gospel of John: The Meaning of the Signs,” Bibliotheca Sacra 132 (April 1975): 145-146.

5. This is the common misunderstanding of Muslims. See Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), pg. 249 where they write, “There are two Arabic words for ‘son’ that must be distinguished. The word walad denotes a son born of sexual relations. Jesus is definitely not a son in this sense. However, there is another Arabic word for son, ibn, that can be used in a wider figurative or metaphorical sense. A traveler, for example is spoken of as a ‘son of the road’ (ibnussabil). It is in this wider sense that it make sense to speak of Jesus as the ‘Son (ibn) of God.’”  

6. Ibid., pp. 249-250.

7. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 250.

8. Ibid., pp. 251-252.

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

10. Tom Constable, Expository Notes On Acts (Garland, TX.: Sonic Light, 2010), pg. 67.

11. These ideas were shared with me by Dr. Earl Radmacher during a phone conversation on June 11, 2011.

12. 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. 816-817.

How can we overcome fear in evangelism? Part 3

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” John 16:13

After Jesus forewarned His disciples of the world’s coming hostility and persecution of them (15:18-16:4), He began to encourage them with the Holy Spirit’s ministry that would take place while He was gone (John 16:5-15). From Christ’s instruction, we are learning how to overcome fear in evangelism. We can do this when we…

– Grasp that we are not alone when we witness (John 16:5-7).

– Give unbelievers the truth of the gospel and let the Holy Spirit convince them it is true (John 16:8-11).

The third and final way to overcome fear in evangelism is when we GET GOD’S GUIDANCE THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT (John 16:12-15). Jesus now focuses on the Holy Spirit’s ministry to His disciples. He says to His disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12). Christ had more to teach them, but they were not ready to understand or apply the remaining teaching that Jesus had for them apart from the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit. Thankfully, the Lord does not reveal all His truth to us at once. He reveals things to us gradually. He knows what we can handle better than we do.

Then Jesus said, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13). Jesus would eventually tell them things through the ministry of Holy Spirit Who “will guide” them “into all truth.” The word “guide” (hodēgēsei) consists of two words, “to lead” (hēgeomai) and “way” (hodos). This word conveys the idea that “the Holy Spirit, who is a source of truth, will lead the way into truth as a guide.” His guidance is into “all truth.” There are no errors or mistakes in the truth the Spirit communicates.

This truth is without error because the Spirit “will not speak on His own authority” and teach something contrary to what Jesus taught. Instead, “whatever He hears” from the Father and Son, “He will speak.” “This points to the interdependence of the Persons in the Trinity. The Father would tell the Spirit what to teach the apostles about the Son.” 2  

Specifically, the Spirit “will tell them things to come” in the future. This future revelation from the Spirit is what the apostles would record in the New Testament canon. This is why the Bible is without error in the original manuscripts. “The Spirit would ensure that the apostles’ writings were true, guaranteeing that they wrote Scripture, the very words of God.” 3  In a similar way today, the Holy Spirit continues to enable believers to understand the meaning of the biblical text (cf. I John 2:27).

Next Jesus said, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14). The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to “glorify” Christ by “taking what is” Christ’s from the word of truth. The Holy Spirit wants the spotlight to be on Jesus Christ, not on Himself, His spiritual gifts, or other people. The Holy Spirit wants the focus to be on the Person and work of Jesus Christ and nothing else. This verse provides insight on discerning what ministries are genuinely of the Holy Spirit. If a ministry is not glorifying the Person and work of Jesus Christ, we must be cautious about supporting such a work because the Holy Spirit does not glorify someone or something other than Jesus Christ and His work on the cross.

Most people have a special item which they place on the top shelf or on a prominent wall in their house for everyone to see. It may be a picture of your family or a favorite Bible verse. It is placed on the shelf all by itself so that nothing else will challenge its prominence. In the same way, we are to put Christ on the shelf of our lives to show Him off. We are not to place anything else there, including ourselves so that all people may see any or all of Jesus’ attributes.

The reason the Holy Spirit finds Christ worthy to be glorified is seen in the next verse. “All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:15). Christ is worthy of being glorified because “all things that the Father has” are His. This would include the Father’s glory. Hence, the glory that belongs to the Father also belongs to the Son. The last part of this verse implies that “all things” of the Father and Son are also the apostles’ (and ours today) in that they will be disclosed to them through the Holy Spirit. 

“Once again we see the Trinity in action in that the Son took revelation from the Father and would declare it to His disciples through the Holy Spirit (16:15).” Clearly the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all involved in the writing of the Old and New Testaments (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 3:15-16). 5

Evans writes, “Though the Spirit provided the apostles with perfect revelation in order that they might write Scripture, this does not mean that we are excluded from His ministry. This text applies to us in two ways. First, we are recipients of the Scriptural revelation that the apostles received. Second, the Holy Spirit provides us with personal illumination, enabling us to understand Scripture and to see how it applies in the details of our lives. This work of the Spirit in the life of the believer is called “the anointing” (see 1 John 2:20, 27).” 6

These truths about the Holy Spirit in John 16:13-15 also apply to us today especially as we focus on evangelism. Knowing that we have an ever-present Teacher in the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth about the Person and work of Jesus Christ can give us boldness as we share the gospel with the unsaved. Instead of being afraid of not knowing what to say, we can be confident that God’s Spirit will guide our conversations with unbelievers.

For example, a few years ago, when my wife and I were shopping for pearls in Metro Manila, we met a Muslim vendor who showed us her pearls. During our conversation with her, the Holy Spirit led us to share Matthew 13:45-46 where Jesus said,  45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” We explained to her that Jesus Christ was the merchant who found one pearl of great price. When it says He sold everything to buy the pearl, we told her that Jesus sees her as a precious pearl. She said, “That is true.” After we explained to her the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection with her, we invited her to believe or trust in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life. She then told us she was now trusting Jesus alone for His free gift.

The Holy Spirit knew what this woman needed to hear. He will guide us as we seek His leading in our lives when we tell others the good news of Jesus Christ. Remember, however, if we are not witnessing about Christ, the Holy Spirit cannot be convicting. I believe the gospel of John is the primary source of truth that the Holy Spirit wants to use to convict people of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11) since it was written to persuade non-Christians to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing they may have life in His name (John 20:31). The Holy Spirit uses the spoken word to convict people about their need for the Savior.

Prayer: Father God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, thank You so much for bringing to the apostles’ remembrance all that Christ taught and did during His earthly ministry so we now have an accurate record of all that Jesus said and did. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for continuing to give us understanding with regard to the Bible and how it applies to our daily lives. Thank You for bringing it to life so that we are transformed from the inside out into the likeness of Christ. Thank You for the boldness and guidance You give to us in our conversations with non-Christians. You know their hearts better than anyone and You can lead us to share what they need to hear so they can be persuaded to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, so they may have everlasting life in His name. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You are truly amazing! Thank You for never abandoning us. I praise You for giving us all we need to represent You on earth. May all the glory go to You.  I pray this in Your Triune name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 291.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 668.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1810.

4. Ibid.

5. 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. 540.

6. Evans, pg. 1810.

How can we calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world? Part 1

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:26

Fear is a normal human response. It is a part of every person’s life – perhaps more so in some people than others – but still everyone has to deal with fear at some time. There are many things that can cause unexpected fear to grip our hearts. The nuclear build up in North Korea has caused nations to fear the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. Parents fear for the safety of their children with so many reports in the news of people who would want to harm them. We are afraid to leave our homes unlocked, or to walk in the dark at night. We fear failure so we scramble to meet our tight schedules, duties and obligations. Many people are afraid of COVID-19 which may take their health, their job, or a loved one. And where there is fear, there is no peace.

Earlier in John 14 Jesus told His disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1a). The word “troubled” (tarássō) in the Greek is a picture of a stormy sea. Has that ever happened to you?  Have you ever had a heart that just feels like there is a storm surging inside of you? You talk to it, you tell it things, you read it Scripture, and you bring it to church. But the storm just keeps stirring inside of you.

Jesus understood that a storm was surging in the hearts of His disciples. Their hearts were troubled. Why? The same reasons our hearts are often troubled. They had troubled hearts because of failure. Remember what Jesus had said just before this? He had just looked at Peter and said, “Peter, you think you are going to follow Me even if you have to lay your life down for My sake?! No. You are going to deny knowing Me three times” (John 13:38). Christ had also told them that one of them would betray Him (13:21). So their hearts were troubled.

The disciples were also troubled by confusion. Not knowing what God is going to do next can be very troubling to us. Or not knowing why the circumstance is happening. Jesus was talking about going somewhere else and His disciples not being able to go with Him (John 13:33, 36). That was confusing. The disciples’ world was turning into chaos.

It was also very disappointing. They had a dream. When they marched into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday they waved palm branches, dreaming that Jesus was going to stay in Jerusalem to sit on the Davidic throne to rule over Israel and the entire world. And they would sit next to Jesus as His right-hand men, right? But Jesus was saying, “I’m going somewhere, and you can’t go with Me.”What does that mean?” the disciples must have wondered. “Is Jesus not going to be our King? Or He is going to be King and we are not going to be His right-hand men?” So they are very disappointed. Their dream is being shattered this very night. God’s got a different dream than their dream. Their dream seemed to be turning into a nightmare.

They also faced fear. The fear of not knowing what would happen next. The fear of the Roman Empire persecuting them. They knew that the Jews were plotting to kill Jesus. The disciples were afraid of losing their beloved Shepherd.

All of these things combined to give them troubled hearts. Jesus could see this in their eyes and in their hearts. He then begins to share truths with them to calm their troubled hearts. Jesus can also see what is troubling us.

How do you deal with what is troubling your heart? Do you ignore it? Do you pretend it is not there and that everything is going to be okay? Do you hide from the storm that is stirring in your heart? There are many ways to hide from it. We can hide from our troubled hearts in alcohol, drugs, and sexual relations. We can even hide from our heart trouble by staying busy at work. Or we bury ourselves in a book, in the computer, or in the television. We hide from our heart trouble because we do not want to face it. But is that the best strategy?

No, for the next few days Jesus will teach us truths to calm our troubled hearts. We can calm our troubled hearts by focusing on THE PROMISE OF INSIGHT FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT (John 14:25-26). Christ said to His eleven believing disciples, “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.” (John 14:25). The phrase “these things,” refers back to Jesus going away to a place where the disciples could not follow now (John 13:33). He would go prepare a place for them in heaven (John 14:1-3) and while He was gone the Holy Spirit would permanently indwell them (John 14:16-17). The idea in verse 25 was that Jesus was physically “present with” them now, but that would soon change because of His departure. Christ now speaks about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26). This verse identifies “the Helper,” the One called alongside to help, as the “Holy Spirit.” We observe in this verse that the Holy Spirit is closely related to God the Father and God the Son. The Father had sent Jesus to reveal Himself and now He is sending the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ “name.” The phrase “in My name” means in Jesus’ place and for Him. In this one verse we see all three Persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 28:20; John 14:16; 15:26).

The Holy Spirit will continue the teaching and work of Jesus Christ after Christ’s departure. Jesus promises that the Spirit “will teach you all things” that you need to know. We see that the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. He is a Person because He teaches. The Holy Spirit would provide insight into the meaning of Jesus’ teaching. He would cause Christ’s disciples to understand those aspects of Christ’s instruction that had remained beyond their comprehension. The disciples did not fully understand all of Jesus’ teaching at this time, especially concerning His going away, that is, His death and resurrection.

In addition, Jesus promised that the Spirit will “bring to” their “remembrance all things that” He taught them. It is likely they would forget the things they did not understand. We do that, too, don’t we? If we don’t understand something, we tend to let it slip away from our memory. But God wants us to rely on the Holy Spirit to give us understanding and remembrance. Jesus is telling us that the Holy Spirit will supply what we lack.

Did you ever wonder how John remembered all those things that Jesus said in the Upper Room? The Holy Spirit reminded him. The Holy Spirit would remind the disciples of the precise things Jesus had spoken to them. The Spirit would not start teaching something contrary to what Jesus taught. He would cause the disciples to recall Christ’s exact teaching, so they could write it down years later to form the New Testament Scriptures. The Holy Spirit would not only bring to their remembrance exactly what Jesus said, but He would also teach them what Jesus meant. When the apostles wrote the New Testament, the Holy Spirit empowered them to remember precisely what Jesus had said so that it was without error in the original manuscripts (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21; 3:15-16). These verses provide a strong argument for the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.

This truth was not limited to the apostles back then. “The Spirit also helps believers today, enabling us to recall Scripture at the appropriate time and helping us to understand its meaning and its application to our lives, as He activates ‘the mind of Christ’ in us (1 Cor 2:10-16).” 1 There is comfort, strength, and hope in the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us when we are troubled.

The Holy Spirit continues His teaching ministry today by enlightening Christ’s followers as they study Jesus’ teachings. The Spirit of God knows and understands the deep things of God (cf. I Corinthians 2:10-16). He is to be the true Guide and Teacher of every believer, with human teachers serving in a secondary role (cf. 1 John 2:27). 2

Before I got saved, the Bible did not make much sense to me. It seemed like a boring text book. But when I came to faith in Jesus Christ at the age of nineteen, the Bible came alive because of the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life. God’s Spirit provides direction for His church through His Word. He will not contradict God’s Word. If we let Him, He will lead us into a better understanding of the Bible. So many times, I come to God’s Word not knowing what is meant and I ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand and He does. Sometimes He uses other believers to give me more insight into His Word and sometimes He fills my mind with insight as I study.

We are told in I John 2:27, “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”“The anointing” or Holy Spirit is a sufficient Teacher. As we grow in our spiritual lives, we become less dependent on human teachers. Do not always take what a pastor or teacher says as truth without checking it out in the Bible. Learn to depend on the Holy Spirit for insight, not human teachers. Many times, churches have a pastor or teacher move on and as a result, God’s people flounder because they were depending too much on that pastor or teacher for insight instead of the Holy Spirit. When our hearts are troubled, we must depend more on the Holy Spirit for comprehending and applying God’s Word to our lives. The Spirit’s insight into the Bible can calm the storm in our hearts.

I heard one preacher say that “the Holy Spirit is like a personal trainer in our lives. He’s not some video that you watch on TV where you find out how. He actually comes into our lives to be a personal, spiritual trainer. You know how you want to have discipline and do it on your own but if you could just get a personal trainer to come alongside you to encourage and tell you what to do? Wouldn’t that make it easier? Jesus is saying, that’s what the Holy Spirit is. So when you’re trying to pray and it’s like push-ups – You can’t do any more. The Holy Spirit comes alongside and says, ‘I’ll help you out. I’ll even pray for you.’ And He does” (cf. Romans 8:26-27).3 

When we feel so discouraged to the point of wanting to quit living for Christ, the Holy Spirit comes along side and He helps us and He encourages us in our hearts where we most need Him. Jesus said that is Whom My Father will send to you (John 14:26a).

May I suggest that you take time this week to read John 14:1-31 right before going to sleep. Then set your Bible aside, turn off the light, and go to sleep. Review the verses in your mind as you fall asleep. See what the Holy Spirit does for your heart the next morning as you put His word in your heart.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank You that You understand us. You know what it is like to have a troubled heart. You did the night before Your crucifixion. And we praise You, Jesus, for giving us answers when we talk to You in prayer. We are so grateful we can talk to You about anything. Father God, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit so we are not left alone. Holy Spirit, we praise You for helping us remember Scripture at the appropriate time and for giving us understanding so we can apply Your Word to our lives. Lord God, when we look at the trouble in our lives and what it does to our hearts, the storms that it brings, there is part of us that thinks nothing can calm them. But we put our faith in You and Your Word right now. Thank You in advance, Holy Spirit, for the insight You will give to us that can calm our troubled hearts. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans; CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1804.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition, pp. 253-254.

3. Tom Holladay’s message, “Calming Your Troubled Heart” – John 14:1-27, May 29, 1996.