Revelation 22 – Part 7

“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14

In our verse-by-verse study of the book of Revelation, we discovered an important connection between the worship of God and eternal rewards. John explained that we can enhance our worship of God (22:10) throughout eternity by earning eternal rewards during our time on earth (22:12-14).

Right after promising to return soon and reward His people according to their work (22:12), the Lord Jesus then provides assurance that He can be trusted to fulfill those promises based on Who He is. Christ said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13). Jesus shares titles to remind us He is more than able to fulfill His promises in verse 12. “The Alpha and Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Bible teacher John MacArthur states, “An alphabet is an ingenious way to store and communicate knowledge. The 26 letters in the English alphabet, arranged in almost endless combinations, can hold and convey all knowledge. Christ is the supreme, sovereign alphabet.” 1 No one is more qualified than Jesus Christ to judge and reward people according to their work. He is the source of all truth, and He knows everything about us including our thoughts, words, actions, and motives. He knows best what rewards will motivate us to live for Him.

As “the First and the Last,” Jesus is the cause and goal of history. 2 Christ is the eternal God Who is in control of our past, present, and future. His comprehensive control over all things – including the time of His return and the giving of rewards (22:12; cf. 21:6) – makes it possible for Him to fulfill His promises in verse 12. His eternal nature guarantees He will continue to exist after the present creation is destroyed 3 by fire (cf. 22:1; 2 Peter 3:10-13) so that His promises of eternal rewards can be trusted.

The Lord Jesus is the Originator (“the Beginning”) and Terminator (“the End”) of all things, 4 and therefore He can be trusted to finish what He starts. 5

Christ then shares two eternal rewards that are reserved for overcoming believers. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14). The majority of Greek manuscripts contain the phrase “do His commandments” in place of the phrase, “wash their robes.”

Only those believers whose lives are characterized by obedience to Christ to the end of their lives (cf. 2:10, 25-27) will “have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through” one of the main “gates into the city.”

“There is a connection between the ‘tree of life’ and man’s rule over the earth. Adam in his unfallen state had access to this ‘tree,’ but when he fell, God kept him from it (Genesis 1:26-28; 3:22).” 6 The tree of life will be “in the midst of the Paradise of God” in the New Jerusalem (cf. 2:7; 22:2, 14a).

This reward is reminiscent of the original paradise in Genesis 1– 2 where Adam and Eve were allowed to eat from any tree in the Garden, including the tree of life. At the end of the Book of Revelation, the tree of life is described as bearing twelve kinds of fruit, one for each month, with leaves that bring healing to the nations (22:2). Not everyone has the right to eat from the tree of life (22:14). A person can forfeit the right to eat from the tree by adding to or taking away from the words of Revelation (22:19). Aside from this, little is known about the tree of life, but its vagueness makes this reward even more tantalizing and motivating.” 7

People love to eat! I enjoy eating food every chance I get! “From the beginning God intended people to enjoy food. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, mankind would have forever eaten from the foods God provided. While many of us don’t think of food in the life to come, we should.

“At the Last Supper the Lord Jesus indicated He wouldn’t drink of the fruit of the vine with His disciples again until He came in His kingdom. That means, of course, that He and they will enjoy drinking wine together in the kingdom.

“After the Lord rose from the dead, He ate some fish and honey in the presence of His disciples (Luke 24:41-43). He also prepared fish for them and possibly shared that meal as well (John 21:9-15). Food will not be foreign to saints with glorified bodies. Surely all will eat, but some will enjoy special delicacies reserved only for persevering saints.” 8 

The Lord Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what will motivate us to live faithfully for Him till the end of our Christian lives on earth. Christ promises the faithful believer access to “the tree of life” in the New Jerusalem in the future (22:14a; cf. 2:7). Eating the fruit from the tree of life may give faithful believers the resources to rule more effectively on the new earth (Revelation 2:7, 25-27).

Only those believers “who do His commandments” in this lifewill be able to “enter through the” main “gates into the city” of the New Jerusalem in the life to come (22:14b). The emphasis of verse 14 is not on entering the city, but on entering by “the gates” into the city. Every believer can enter the city (Revelation 21:27b), but only faithful believers will “have the honor and privilege of entering the New Jerusalem through the main gates (surely there will be other, possibly smaller, gates through which the others will enter).” 9

This is emphatic in the Greek text which literally says, “and by the gates they may enter into the city” (kai tois pylōsin eiselthōsineis tēn polin).The apostle John is emphasizing the way of entrance, that is, by the gates, and not the fact of entrance. 10

“Gates of ancient cities were for defense or honor or both. To be known ‘in the gates’ was to sit among the ‘elders of the land’ and have a position of high honor and authority (Proverbs 31:23, cf. ISBE 2:408). Since defense is not a function of these ‘gates’ into the heavenly city; they are to be regarded as places of honor and authority. The overcomer was promised ‘authority’ over the nations (Revelation 2:26). John describes them elsewhere, as memorials to the twelve tribes of Israel (21:12, 14). We are reminded of the Roman victory arches which sat astride the main thoroughfares entering into Rome. There were thousands of entry ways into Rome, but Caesar entered by these gates, by the victory arch. Through these gates, according to John, ‘the honor and glory of the nations’ will enter (Revelation 21:25-26).” 11 “As Lange has suggested, to enter by the gates means to enter ‘as conquerors in triumphal procession.’” 12

What Jesus may have had in mind when He spoke of faithful believers entering the New Jerusalem through “the gates” (22:14), are “the victory arches that towered over the main thoroughfares entering into Rome. Through these gates the triumphant Roman generals and their soldiers would march.” 13

For example, “the Arch of Titus near the Forum in Rome… was constructed after his victory over Jerusalem in AD 70.

“Engravings on it show Roman soldiers bringing back treasures from the temple in Jerusalem. Similarly, those Christians [believers] who remain faithful to their King will enter the city in victory and will be likewise honored.” 14

Wilkins writes, “When my friend Al visited the Middle East, an Israeli tour guide told him about a VIP entrance into a Middle Eastern city which only special dignitaries were permitted to use. The New Jerusalem will have twelve such entrances.

“It is quite probable that there will be more ways to enter the New Jerusalem than through its twelve gates of pearl. While all believers will be able to enter the city, only select believers will enter by the gates.

“In the Old Testament to be ‘in the gates’ was a privilege reserved for the elders of the city. Citizens would come there to ask the elders for their judgment in matters (see Ruth 4:9-10).

“To enter the New Jerusalem through one of its twelve gates will be a great honor reserved only for those believers who overcame in this life.” 15

If you are the kind of person who enjoys receiving recognition and appreciation, this eternal reward may appeal most to you. Each time you enter one of the main gates of the New Jerusalem, you will be given special honor perhaps before the angel at that gate (21:12). Jesus promised, “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8). It may be when an overcoming believer who faithfully “confessed” Christ “before men” especially in hostile contexts (Luke 12:1-12; cf. Matthew 10:16-42) during his Christian life on earth, enters one of the main gates into the New Jerusalem in the life to come, the Lord Jesus will give a good confession (special recognition) about that believer to the angel of God at that gate. Jesus wants us to know that if we testify of Him in the face of hostile persecution during our Christian lives on earth, He will testify about us before the angels of God and God the Father in the life to come on the new earth (Luke 12:8; Matthew 10:32).

This confession by Christ may include the declaration that this faithful believer is fit to rule with Him because he or she endured opposition when speaking up for Christ throughout their entire Christian lives (cf. 2 Timothy 2:12; Matthew 10:16-32). 16 Believers on the inside of the city at that gate will stop what they are doing to welcome this overcomer into the city. Since overcomers will rule with Christ in His eternal kingdom (Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21), they will be honored as royalty each time they enter the New Jerusalem.

Those believers who do not faithfully confess Christ before hostile people in this life will still be on the new earth because the only condition for that is to believe in Christ for His gift of eternal life apart from any works, including confessing Him before men (cf. John 3:5-16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 21:27b). However, Jesus will “deny” giving them a good confession before God the Father and the angels of God because they refused to testify of Him in the face of opposition during their Christian lives on earth (Luke 12:9; Matthew 10:33). Hence, they will still be on the new earth, but they will not have the honor and privilege of entering through one of the main gates into the New Jerusalem. Christ has informed us now of this reward to motivate us to speak up for Him even though the cost may include losing our lives for Him.

After talking about those who may enter the New Jerusalem through the main gates, the Lord Jesus then describes those who will not be able to enter the city at all. “Outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” (Revelation 22:15). All those who refused to believe in Jesus for eternal life during their time on earth will be “outside” the New Jerusalem forever, confined to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

Jesus describes these nonbelievers as “dogs” (kynes). This unusual term referred to male prostitutes in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 23:18) which were common among Canaanite religious cults. Jesus and the apostles in New Testament times used this term to refer to enemies of God’s Word (cf. Matthew 7:6; Mark 7:27; Philippians 3:2). 17 In John’s day, “dogs” were wild, aggressive scavengers and considered unclean by the Jews. 18 These human “dogs” were spiritual predators who fed off others.

Imagine being on the new earth in the New Jerusalem and not having to deal with people who take away or add to God’s Word!?! No more legalists who keep declaring that you must obey the law and believe in Jesus to enter God’s heaven. No more false teachers who say all religions lead to heaven. No more false religions that try to mislead us away from the one true God and eternal life, Jesus Christ (I John 5:20). No more false prophets who deny Jesus is God and reject His death and resurrection. All these human “dogs” will be cast into the lake of fire forever.

Christ also refers to unbelieving sinners who are “sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” All of them will be consigned to the lake of fire because of their unbelief toward Christ (cf. John 3:18; Revelation 20:15; 21:27). This verse is saying nothing about born again believers in Jesus who have committed such sins because they have been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ and are totally forgiven before God (Revelation 1:5; 7:14; cf. Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14). 19

Remember, King David was “sexually immoral” and a “murderer” (2 Samuel 11:14-27), yet the Bible refers to David as an example of those who are justified (declared totally righteous before God) by faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works (Romans 4:5-8; cf. Psalm 32:1-2). So, when a person in the Old Testament or in the New Testament believes in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, he, or she is covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that God no longer sees their sin, He sees the perfect righteousness of His Son (Genesis 15:6; Romans 3:21-4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21) and permits that person to enter His heaven.

Another example of God’s grace toward sinning believers is seen in I Corinthians. The Christians at Corinth were “sexually immoral” by having immoral relations with temple prostitutes (I Corinthians 6:12-7:5). They even tolerated sexual immorality among their church members (I Corinthians 5:1-13), yet the apostle Paul refers to these immoral believers “at Corinth” as “those who are sanctified [set apart positionally from their sin] in Christ Jesus” (I Corinthians 1:2a). He addresses them as “saints” positionally even though their practice was far from saintly (I Corinthians 1:2b).

Paul addresses them as “saints” so they will begin to live like the saints they are in Christ. The more believers see themselves as saints in Christ, the more they will live like saints. Nowhere in I Corinthians does Paul doubt or question the salvation of the Corinthian believers. What he does question is their understanding of who they are in Christ. For example, in I Corinthians 6:19, he writes, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” The more they understood and believed their new identity in Christ, the more they would live the way God created them to live in Christ.

When professing believers do not go on to grow toward Christlike maturity, it is important that church leaders do not automatically assume that they are unsaved. It is possible they are not saved, but not because they lack a changed life. What makes a person unsaved is their unbelief toward Christ (John 3:18, 36). Many believers lack spiritual growth in their Christian lives because they have not been discipled by older believers. Discipleship involves helping believers to see who they are in Christ, so they can begin to live like the person God created them in Christ Jesus to be (cf. Ephesians 2:10).

Only by God’s grace will all believers who have failed Him (and we all have) be on the new earth and/or New Jerusalem because God does not fail them (2 Timothy 2:13). He remains faithful to His promise of eternal life to all who believe in Jesus (John 3:15-16, 36; et al.). However, only those believers who faithfully endure in their obedience to Christ (overcome) to the end will have the special honor and privilege of accessing the tree of life and entering through the main gates of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 2:7, 25-27; 22:14). Such splendid eternal rewards are intended to motivate us to live faithfully for Christ now.

Prayer: Holy Lord Jesus, thank You for Your amazing love which led You to die in our place on the cross for all our sins and rise from the dead so whoever believes in You has everlasting life and a future home on the new earth no matter how much they have failed You in the past. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for disclosing to us the incredible eternal rewards that await us if we faithfully obey You till the end of our lives on earth. As the Alpha and Omega, You have complete knowledge of us, including what will motivate us to live for You during our time on earth. Thank You for giving us different persevering rewards that appeal to our different likes and preferences. Some of us love to eat food more than anything else, so we are more motivated to live for You so we can enjoy special delicacies throughout eternity such as eating the hidden manna and the fruit from the tree of life. Others of us received little recognition or attention growing up, so we especially like the prospect of receiving special honor and recognition from You by entering through the main gates of the New Jerusalem on the new earth. Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for knowing us so thoroughly and yet loving us so deeply. Such amazing love motivates us to live for You more than anyone or anything else. In Your majestic name we pray, Lord Jesus. 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. 400 cites John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 1993.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 255.

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), Kindle Location 6675.

4. Constable, pg. 238.

5. Ibid., pg. 255 cites Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), pg. 238.

6. Ibid., pg. 33.

7. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1504.

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

9. Vacendak, pg. 1590.

10. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 974-975. 

11. Ibid., pg. 975.

12. Ibid., cites John Peter Lange, “The Revelation of John,” in A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, ed. John Peter Lange, et al. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 12:446.

13. Dillow, pg. 975.

14. Ibid.

15. Wilkin, pg. 47.

16. Hal Haller, Jr., 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. 58.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1590.

18. Constable, pg. 255 cites Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 6 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 485; and Alan Johnson, “Revelation,” in Hebrews-Revelation, Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pg. 602.

19. Walvoord, Kindle Location 6684.

Revelation 22 – Part 2

3 But the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” Revelation 22:3b-4 

For many of us, there are times when we are not too excited about heaven. We are much more interested in earth than we are about heaven. One of the reasons for this is because we have been misinformed about heaven. We have heard that when we get there, it will be all white with no other colors. We will all have wings and look like chubby little cherubs. We have heard that we will all float around on clouds playing a harp. Every thousand years or so we will float by one another. Few things sound more boring to me than being in a colorless place having to play a harp! No wonder we don’t get excited about going to heaven!

Today we are going to learn in our study of the book of Revelation that we will all have responsibilities in heaven. As the apostle John continues to focus on the interior of the New Jerusalem on the new earth in the final stage of heaven (22:1-5), he writes, “But the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” (Revelation 22:3b). The greatest thing about heaven is “the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in” the New Jerusalem where believers from the church age live. As we saw last time (22:1b), there is one “throne” that is shared by “God” the Father and God the Son (“of the Lamb”). What makes the new earth heaven is the fact that God rules from His “throne” there over His people.

But notice that God is not ruling the new earth alone. “And His servants shall serve Him” (22:3c). Near to God on His throne are “His servants” who “shall serve Him.” These “servants” are overcoming believers who remained faithful to Christ until the end of their lives on earth (cf. 2:7, 10, 25-27; 3:10-11, 21; et al.). While all believers in Jesus will be on the new earth with Christ and serve Him to varying degrees corresponding to their rewards (22:12), 1 overcoming believers will have special privileges and authority because of their faithfulness to Christ.

For example, we saw in Revelation 3:12, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” Christ guarantees the overcomer who perseveres in obedience to Him (3:10-11) that He “will make him a pillar in the temple of My God.” This refers to a position of permanent honor and intimate association with Christ. Since God the Father and God the Son will be the temple in eternity (cf. 21:22), this reward is an especially magnificent experience of nearness to God as well as a key position of support and prominence in God’s eternal kingdom. 2

The phrase “he shall go out no more,” describes the permanence of these rewards. Once these positions of honor and authority are given to the overcomer, they shall never be withdrawn. He is firmly set as a “pillar” in Christ’s eternal kingdom and as such will never be separated from this intimate relationship with God. 3

According to 3:12, the overcomer will also have “the name of” God, the name of God’s city, “the New Jerusalem,” and the Lord’s “new name” written on him, stressing a permanent place of prominence in God’s spiritual temple in the eternal state. This is like the promise in Revelation 22:4 which says, “His name shall be on their foreheads.” Since these faithful believers honored the Lord Jesus on earth, He will honor them as His victorious ones forever on the new earth.

“Writing one’s ‘name’ on something indicated ownership in John’s day, as it does now. In the ancient world, columns often bore the names of conquerors. In the pagan world, devotees of certain gods often wrote the name of their god on their forehead (cf. Exodus 28:36). Scripture does not reveal Jesus Christ’s ‘new name’ elsewhere. Perhaps this new name is a symbol of His character, which overcomers can only appreciate when they see Him (cf. 2:17; 3:5).” 4

“On earth, the role of a servant to a king is generally reserved for those who play a special role in the king’s administration. The Lord Jesus stated that His elite servants in eternity will be those believers who serve Him well during their lives. For their earthly service they will be abundantly rewarded in eternity (cf. Matthew 16:24-27; 19:27-30; Luke 9:23-27; 12:31-34; 14:12-14; 18:28-30; 22:28-30; John 4:35-36; 12:24-26).” 5

These overcoming believers will have the opportunity to serve God up close before His throne. “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” (Revelation 22:4). It is true that in one sense all believers in Jesus from the church age will stand before Him and see His face (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; I John 3:2), 6 but the implication here is that these “servants” of God are under His good favor and in His “inner circle.” 7

At this juncture it is important to understand the concept of a king having an inner circle of friends or companions. The book of Hebrews develops this theme involving “partakers” (metochoi) or “companions” of “the heavenly calling” (Hebrews 1:9; 3:1, 14; 6:4; 12:8) which culminates in the heavenly realities associated with participation in the New Jerusalem (Hebrews 11:16). 8 This includes sharing in the dominion and inheritance of God’s King-Son, Jesus Christ. 9

In the Old Testament, it was common for a new king to have around him close associates and friends. For instance, Rehoboam turned for counsel to “the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him” (I Kings 12:8). Moses had his personal attendant, Joshua. King David had Hushai who is described as “the king’s companion” (I Chronicles 27:33). 10

Other examples of this can be seen in the Hellenistic world. Jeremias said of the first century Herodian Court: “In the royal apartments, among the King’s associates are to be found his intimate friends, the ‘cousins and friends,’ and ‘cousins’ does not necessarily mean relations. These ‘cousins and friends’ constitute the highest rank we meet in all Hellenistic Courts.” 11

Suetonius said of Caesar: “Moreover, when he came to power, he advanced some of his friends to the highest positions; even though they were of the huhn blest origin; and when he was taken to task for it, flatly declared that if he had been helped in defending his honor by grigands and cutthroats, he would have requited such men in the same way.” 12

With this background in mind, it would be clear to the readers of Hebrews that Christ’s reign on earth (Hebrews 1:6-8) would include His own circle of friends or “companions” (Hebrews 1:9). Since Jesus obtained His joy and rulership through a life of consistent righteousness (“You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness” – Hebrews 1:9a), it is obvious that the readers of Hebrews would understand that for them to share in His joy and rulership as His “partners” or “companions,” they will have to do the same. 13

So, when a person believes in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life, he or she begins a partnership with Christ involving their journey to His Kingdom and the New Jerusalem. Only believers who remain faithful to Christ to the end of their lives will be able to rule with Him in His eternal kingdom on the new earth (Hebrews 3:14; 10:23, 35-36; cf. Luke 22:28-30; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:10, 26-27; 3:10-11, 21). Failure to remain faithful to Christ does not result in the loss of eternal life and a place in His kingdom (2 Timothy 2:13), but it does mean the loss of eternal reward, particularly losing the privilege of reigning with Christ from inside the New Jerusalem. 14

When the apostle John refers to God’s “servants” being up close to God’s throne where they “shall serve Him” (Revelation 22:3b-4), I believe this is a reference to the “partakers” or “companions” of King Jesus that is developed in the book of Hebrews. This is a privilege reserved only for believers who remained faithful to Christ till the end of their lives on earth.

Next John writes, “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5). In this final stage of heaven in the New Jerusalem, “there shall be no night there” nor need of a “lamp nor light of the sun” because the radiant presence of “the Lord God gives them light” (22:5a).

The greatest privilege of overcoming believers is “they shall reign forever and ever” (22:5b). The exalted Lord Jesus Christ said, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21). Again, this is a privilege that awaits believers who remain faithful to Christ to the end of their lives (Matthew 25:21, 23; Luke 19:15-19).

Some Christians are not interested in ruling with Christ. Such an eternal reward does not appeal to them. They do not care to be in a position of authority over other people because they don’t want to deal with all the problems that entails. But having a position of rulership with King Jesus on the new earth will be a much different experience than being in a position of authority over people in this fallen world. 15

In Christ’s eternal kingdom on the new earth there will be no more sinners. Hence, reigning with Christ will be much more enjoyable and fulfilling than managing sinful people in this life. 16

We probably don’t think very often about being an overcoming believer or companion who shares in Christ’s reign on the new earth. A co-ruler with Christ will have special tasks to perform. They will have more authority and opportunity than other believers who were not faithful to Christ to the end of their lives. Overcoming believers will glorify King Jesus more than those who are not. As a result, their eternal experience will be filled with more joy (Hebrew 1:9). 17

Wilkins suggests several different ways overcoming believers will reign with Christ:

“Some will hold positions of authority in the new world government: Presidents, Governors, Mayors, City Council members, Judges, Legislators, and the like. Others will have authority within commerce. Surely the kingdom will have transportation companies, publishers, architectural firms, developers, utilities, entertainment, and sports companies, and so on. All of these businesses will need people in various levels of management.

“The more authority a person has, the more he or she will be able to glorify the Lord Jesus.” 18

Oglesby writes, “A group of retired Marines gathers on Sunday mornings at a local Jack’s for biscuits, coffee, and Marine solutions to the country’s problems. To them it’s straightforward: adapt, improvise, and overcome. They are friendly, but it’s clear that if you’re not a Marine, you’re not a Marine. They have a special bond forged by Marine history, warrior ethos, core values, tradition, and sheer toughness. The Marine Corps motto is Semper Fidelis, Latin for ‘Always Faithful.’ Their caps, coats and sometimes their lips say, ‘Semper Fi!’” 19

King Jesus has a special place and role reserved for His servants who are always faithful. They will be companions at His side when He rules the new heavens and new earth from the New Jerusalem. 20

Are you putting yourself in a position to be among those who will rule with King Jesus on the new earth? To be among this privileged group you must first receive Jesus’ gift of everlasting life simply by believing in Him alone for it. Christ said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). The moment you are convinced Jesus was speaking the truth here and is therefore trustworthy, you have eternal life and can begin a partnership with Christ involving your journey to His Kingdom and the New Jerusalem. Only believers who remain faithful to Christ to the end of their lives will be able to rule with Him in His eternal kingdom on the new earth (Hebrews 3:14; 10:23, 35-36; cf. Luke 22:28-30; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:10, 26-27; 3:10-11, 21). Position yourself to be among those who will rule with Christ by obeying His Word, drawing near to Him, seeking His rewards, maturing through adversity, and living a life of faith. 21

One of my favorite movies is “Rudy.” It is about a young man who wants a better life than the steel mill life of his father and older brother. He dreams of going to Notre Dame to play football. Rudy endures all kinds of adversity to finally get there. Initially, he becomes the water boy for the football team. This small guy has no special talents. For four years Rudy is on the practice squad getting the tar beat out of him by the starting football players, some of whom were nearly twice his size.  

Rudy comes to the last game of his senior year. A few seconds are left in the game. Players on the sideline begin to chant, “Rudy… Rudy … Rudy…” Then the crowd starts to join in and soon the entire stadium is chanting for Rudy. Finally, the head coach gives in and lets Rudy go into the game. On the next play, Rudy makes the tackle. After four years of faithfulness in the background, he made a play at the end of the game and was carried off the field by his teammates. You may think that is no big deal. But none of the other Notre Dame players got a movie made about them!

You may feel like you are a nobody faithfully serving God behind the scenes. But the day is coming when the Lord Jesus Christ will give you a name that everyone will know in heaven. He will give you a special position of authority to rule with Him forever on the new earth. This promised reward assures you of close fellowship with Christ forever by receiving the honor of sharing His royal throne.

Prayer: Lord God, please empower those of us who believe in Christ to remain faithful to You until the end of our lives so we may receive Your eternal reward of ruling with You on the new earth and enjoying a special intimacy with You. In Your glorious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen. 

ENDNOTES:

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

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. 1513.

3. Ibid.

4. Constable, pg. 54 cites Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John. 2nd ed.

(London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pg. 58.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1588.

6. Ibid.

7. 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 6640.

8. Paul Tanner, 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. 1250.

9. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 313.

10. George Lang, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary (Miami Springs: Conley and Schoettle Pub. Co., 1985), pg. 71.

11. David O’Farrell, “The Metochoi of the Book of Hebrews,” Dallas Theological Seminary ThM Thesis, 1984, pp. 29-31 cites Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Times of Jesus, pg. 89.

12. Ibid., pg. 45 cites Suetonius, Deified Julius, 1:14.

13. Robert Govett, Govett on Hebrews (Miami Springs: Conley and Schoettle Pub. Co., 1981), pg. 24.

14. Tanner, pp. 1253-1254.

15. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 42.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid., pg. 43.

18. Ibid., pg. 45.

19. Rick Oglesby, Among the King’s Companions: Position Yourself Today to Be Among Those Who Rule With Christ (Rick Oglesby, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 138.

20. Ibid.

21. Adapted and condensed from Ibid., pp. 4-5.

Revelation 22 – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

2. Ibid., cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 5 (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), pg. 1075.

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

4. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 230548.

5. Constable, pg. 246.

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

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

8. Evans, pg. 2423.

9. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 6622.

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

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

12. Vacendak, pg. 1587.

13. Constable, pg. 247.

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

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

16. Alcorn, pp. 377-378.

17. Ibid., pg. 378.  

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid., pp. 379-380.

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

21. Dillow, pg. 679.

22. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

28. Ibid., pg. 95.

29. Ibid., pg. 96.

30. Ibid.

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

Revelation 21 – Part 10

“And the nations shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor of the nations to Him.” Revelation 21:24

Last time we saw that there will be no need of the sun or moon to shine because the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ will illuminate the entire New Jerusalem on the new earth (21:22-23). This Celestial City is so bright that it will also provide light for the entire new earth. “And the nations shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor of the nations to Him.” (Revelation 21:24). Notice that there will be “nations” on the new earth, perhaps much like we have today. Since the New Jerusalem is inhabited by King Jesus and believers from the Church Age (21:2, 9-10; cf. 19:7, 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27), these “nations” consist of believers in Christ from before and after the Church Age who live outside the city on the new earth. These other believers will also have access to the New Jerusalem because of their faith in Christ (21:27b).

Vacendak writes, “God will create human beings to live on the new earth just as He created Adam and Eve – sinless people whose status and condition will be similar to Adam and Eve’s before the Fall… More likely, believers who are alive on earth at the end of the Millennium will be brought into the new heavens and earth in their unresurrected bodies to populate it. These bodies will be transformed into sinless bodies, but will not have been resurrected. They will be like Adam and Eve before they sinned, but without the ability to sin. As such, they will procreate and populate the new heavens and the new earth, and so they will form the nations.” 1

It is likely then that the nations will be comprised of resurrected and unresurrected believers from before and after the Church Age who “shall walk in” the brilliant “light” of the New Jerusalem. The “kings” (basileis) or rulers 2 are “overcomers” who remained faithful to Christ to the end of their lives (21:24b; cf. 2:10b, 25-27; 22:5; cf. 2 Timothy 2:12).

These “kings of the earth bring their glory and honor of the nations to Him” (21:24b). This suggests that there will be human government and economy on the new earth. The leaders of these nations will reenact what the wise men did over two thousand years ago when they brought their gold and other treasures to the Baby Jesus (cf. Matthew 2:1-11). 3 In eternity on the new earth, the kings of the earth are going to bring their “glory and honor” or treasures to King Jesus year after year in the New Jerusalem to worship and glorify Him. Everyone on the new earth will bring glory to God.

Next the apostle John informs us, Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).” (Revelation 21:25). In John’s day, cities closed their gates to keep their enemies out, especially at night. But on the new earth there will be no need to shut the gates of the New Jerusalem because King Jesus will have no enemies on the new earth and there “shall be no night there” because the light of His glory illuminates everything. The phrase “shall not be shut at all” (ou mē kleisthōsin) is emphatic and literally says “shall no not ever be shut.” 4 Since the gates of the New Jerusalem will never ever be shut, the rulers of the nations will have continual access into the city.

“And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations so that they may enter it.” (Revelation 21:26). The kings “shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations“ into the New Jerusalem “so that they” themselves “may enter” (21:26b) through “its gates” (21:25a). Only overcoming or faithful believers will enter through the main “gates” of the New Jerusalem. This is seen in Revelation 22:14: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” The majority of Greek manuscripts contain the phrase “do His commandments.” Only those believers whose lives are characterized by obedience to Christ to the end of their lives (cf. 2:10, 25-27) will be rewarded with this special honor. The emphasis of verse 14 is not on entering the city, but on entering by “the gates” into the city. Every believer can enter the city, but only some will come in through the gates. This is emphatic in the Greek text which literally says, “and by the gates they may enter into the city” (kai tois pylōsin eiselthōsineis tēn polin).The apostle John is emphasizing the way of entrance, that is, by the gates, and not the fact of entrance. 5

“Gates of ancient cities were for defense or honor or both. To be known ‘in the gates’ was to sit among the ‘elders of the land’ and have a position of high honor and authority (Proverbs 31:23, cf. ISBE 2:408). Since defense is not a function of these ‘gates’ into the heavenly city; they are to be regarded as places of honor and authority. The overcomer was promised ‘authority’ over the nations (Revelation 2:26). John describes them elsewhere, as memorials to the twelve tribes of Israel (21:12, 14). We are reminded of the Roman victory arches which sat astride the main thoroughfares entering into Rome. There were thousands of entry ways into Rome, but Caesar entered by these gates, by the victory arch. Through these gates, according to John, ‘the honor and glory of the nations’ will enter (Revelation 21:25-26).” 6 “As Lange has suggested, to enter by the gates means to enter ‘as conquerors in triumphal procession.’” 7

So what John probably had in mind when he speaks of the kings of the nations entering into the New Jerusalem through “its gates” (21:24-26), are “the victory arches that towered over the main thoroughfares entering into Rome. Through these gates the triumphant Roman generals and their soldiers would march.” 8

Arch of Titus

For example, “the Arch of Titus near the Forum in Rome… was constructed after his victory over Jerusalem in AD 70.

“Engravings on it show Roman soldiers bringing back treasures from the temple in Jerusalem. Similarly, those Christians [believers] who remain faithful to their King will enter the city in victory and will be likewise honored.” 9

Whether you are an overcoming believer who enters through one of the main gates of the New Jerusalem or a non-overcoming believer who enters the city through another entrance, everyone will have a desire to bring honor and glory to God Who reigns over the new earth from that city. Not one person will be unwilling to do this because every citizen on the new earth will be a sinless believer. The eternal state will have rules and laws, but no one there will want to disobey them. 10

After mentioning who may enter the New Jerusalem, John now tells us what cannot enter the city. “But there shall by no means enter it anything profane, nor one who causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Revelation 21:27). Nothing that is “profane” (koinon) or impure 11 can enter the New Jerusalem, “nor one who causes an abomination” (bdelugma)which refers to “something that causes revulsion or extreme disgust… in the sight of God.” 12 Nor will anyone enter the city “who causes… a lie” (pseudos) or falsehood. 13

Even though the city gates will continually be wide open, nothing that is evil or leads to evil will ever be part of the New Jerusalem. This does not mean there will be people on the new earth outside the New Jerusalem who are evil. In the context of these final chapters in the book of Revelation, unbelieving people and all their evil ways have been confined to the lake of fire forever (cf. 20:11-15; 21:8). 14 This part of the verse is saying nothing about born again believers in Jesus who were evil or led people to do evil during their lives on the old earth because their sins are now gone forever since they are forgiven, immortal, and sinless (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14; I Corinthians 15:35-57; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 5:26-27; I John 3:1-3).

Only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (21:27b) will be able to enter or inhabit the New Jerusalem. It is important to observe that it is the absence of one’s name “in the Lamb’s Book of Life,” not the absence of good works, that determines one’s eternal destination. Evil works are not the issue for entrance into the New Jerusalem. Many of the earth’s greatest sinners’ names are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life because they received God’s free offer of eternal life through faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9). 15

Alcorn states that many Americans believe going to heaven is their “default destination.” 16 But this optimism is contrary to what Jesus warned when He said, 13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). Christ makes it clear that “few” people find the way that leads into eternal life. This is probably because few people are being told that faith alone in Christ alone is the only way into God’s heaven (John 10:9; 11:25-26; Act 4:12; I Timothy 2:3-5).

What would keep all of us out of heaven is failure to believe in Christ alone for His gift of eternal life. This is the one sin that cannot be forgiven. All other sins are forgivable (Colossians 2:13-14; Psalm 86:5; 103:2a, 3a; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19b; Acts 10:43). 17

Jesus said God the Holy Spirit was sent to 8 convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” (John 16:8-9). The word “sin” (hamartias) means “to miss the mark or standard.” 18 All people fall short of God’s perfect righteousness because “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) against God through their thoughts, words, actions, and motives. Our sin separates us from God because He is holy and righteous and cannot allow sin into His presence: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; You cannot tolerate wrongdoing.” (Habakkuk 1:13 NIV; cf. Isaiah 59:2). Because we are all sinners, we deserve eternal death or separation from God forever in the lake of fire (Romans 6:23a; Revelation 20:15). We are not able to enter God’s heaven as we are. Hence, heaven is not our default destination. The lake of fire is our default destination. 19

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

But the ultimate proof of the world’s sinfulness, Jesus says, is that “they do not believe in Me” (John 16:9). A court of law can convict someone of murder or theft, but only God the Holy Spirit can convict someone of unbelief toward Christ. The Holy Spirit can convict people of their individual sins they have committed, but people can clean up their own lives and still go to the lake of fire. It is the sin of unbelief toward Jesus Christ that condemns people to an eternity in the lake of fire. Jesus said, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18).That is why the Bible says that “Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). Those who refuse to believe in Jesus will not have their names written in the Book of Life.

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

Because faith in Christ and His full payment for sin on the cross (John 19:30) is the only solution to our sin problem, the Holy Spirit wants to convict people of their sinful condition, so they can see their need to believe in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life (John 3:14-16). The Holy Spirit is the prosecuting attorney who presents God’s case against sinful humanity. He creates an awareness of sin so that it cannot be dismissed or excused or evaded by taking refuge in the fact that “everybody is doing it.” When we are convicted of our sin, we admit to God that we have been wrong in our unbelief toward Jesus and then we believe or trust in Him alone, so we can live with Christ forever in the New Jerusalem on the new earth.

Do you know for sure your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Don’t wait and see, just hoping that your name will be in the Book of Life. You can know for sure right now by taking God at His Word. The apostle John who wrote Revelation and the gospel of John, also wrote First John. He writes, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13). This one verse is written to “you who believe in the name of the Son of God.” Do you believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, Who died for all your sins and rose from the dead, proving His claims to be God are true (cf. John 20:31; Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:3-6)?

If you do, the Bible guarantees “you may know that you have eternal life.” It does not say you may “think” or “hope” you have eternal life. It says you may “know” with absolute certainty that eternal life is yours right now. Because Jesus Christ is “the truth” (John 14:6) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), we can be confident He will keep His promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him (cf. John 3:15-16). Do you now know for sure you have eternal life and a future forever home in the New Jerusalem on the new earth? If you do, you can tell God this through prayer.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for persuading me that I am a sinner whose default destination is in the lake of fire. I believe You took my place on the cross to die for all my sins and then rose from the dead, proving You are God. As best I know how, I am now believing in You for Your gift of everlasting life. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and for the future forever home I will have in the New Jerusalem on the new earth. Please use me now to tell others how they can know for sure they will live forever with You in Your heaven. Help me remain faithful to You so I may honor and worship You more with the rewards You give for faithfulness. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:  

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1586.

2. 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. 169-170.

3. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 40.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 245.

5. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 974-975.  

6. Ibid., pg. 975.

7. Ibid., cites John Peter Lange, “The Revelation of John,” in A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, ed. John Peter Lange, et al. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 12:446.

8. Dillow, pg. 975.

9. Ibid.

10. Vacendak, pp. 1586-1587.

11. Bauer, pg. 552.

12. Ibid., pg. 172.

13. Ibid., pg. 1097.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1587.

15. Adapted from David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015 Kindle Edition), pg. 21 who cites William R. Newell, The Book of the Revelation, 9th ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1935), pg. 334.

16. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 54 cites K. Connie Kang, “Next Stop, the Pearly Gates… or Hell?” Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2003.

17. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32) is not unforgivable, it is unforgiven because those who commit this sin are too hard of heart to seek God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 12:33-37). See “Can a Christian commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?” at www.seeyouinheaven.life.

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

19. Alcorn, pg. 54.

Revelation 21 – Part 4

“And He said to me, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.’” Revelation 21:6 

After the apostle John begins to describe the new heaven and new earth, and the New Jerusalem (21:1-5), the apostle John designates three categories of people (21:6-8). 1 The first category is seen in verse 6: And He said to me, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.’” (Revelation 21:6). The promise in this verse refers to all who believe in Christ. They will all enter the new earth and New Jerusalem (21:1-5).

The Lord Jesus says to John, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (21:6a). “The Alpha and Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and signify here, Jesus’ eternality. Christ is the Originator (“the Beginning”) and Terminator (“the End”) of all things, 2 and therefore He can be trusted.

Because Jesus exists eternally, He can offer eternal life freely to whoever thirsts. “I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.” (21:6b). The phrase “water of life” is like the imagery Jesus used with the Samaritan woman at the well. 10 Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water… 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:10, 14). The “water of life” is eternal life.

Jesus offers eternal life “freely” (dōrean) or “without payment” 3 or cost to “him who thirsts” (21:6b). The book of Revelation offers eternal life “freely” or without cost (cf. 1:5; 7:14; 21:6; 22:17) 4 because it has already been paid for by Jesus Who “washed us from our sins in His own blood” when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (Revelation 1:5; cf. 7:14; I Corinthians 15:3-6). This is also the case throughout the New Testament where eternal life or salvation is presented as a free gift that is received through faith alone in Christ alone (John 4:10-14; Romans 3:24; 4:5; 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 22:17; et al.). Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ alone for “the water of life” (eternal life) acquires it the moment they believe (cf. John 3:15-16, 36; 4:13-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; et al.).

While eternal life is offered freely in the New Testament, the next verse informs us that the reward inheritance is costly (cf. Matthew 19:27-30; Colossians 3:23-24). It is in this verse that John addresses the second group of people: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” (Revelation 21:7). The word “overcomes” comes from the Greek word nikaō which means to “be victor, conquer, overcome, prevail.” 5 The Lord Jesus is challenging those who received eternal life as a free gift by believing in Jesus (21:6), to remain faithful to Christ until the end of their lives so they may “inherit all things” (21:7a; cf. 2:10b, 25-27; Colossians 3:23-24), including wearing special white garments (3:4-5), ruling with Christ (2:26-27; 3:21; cf. 2 Timothy 2:12), eating the fruit of the tree of life (2:7), eating hidden manna (2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (21:7a; cf. 22:14). 

Dillow observes that the book of Revelation repeatedly contrasts the faithful overcoming believer in Jesus with the unfaithful believer in Jesus. For example, Revelation 2:16 versus 2:7; 2:14-16 versus 2:17; 2:18-23 versus 2:24-29; 3:1-3 versus 3:4-6; 3:11 versus 3:12; 3:14-19 versus 3:21. 6

Jesus promises the overcoming believer that He “will be his God and he shall be My son” who will co-rule with the Davidic King (21:7b; cf. 2 Samuel 7; Psalm 2; Romans 8:14, 17b). 7 The phrase “I will be his God and he shall be My son” is “defined elsewhere as a statement of special honor, not regeneration. The Davidic Covenant promised to David’s Son, Solomon, ‘I will be a Father to him, and he will be a son to Me’ (2 Samuel 7:14). The intent of the phrase was to signify installation as the king.

“On His resurrection from the dead, Jesus was invested with the title ‘Son’ (Acts 13:33), and this was because His humility involved total obedience to the Father’s will (Philippians 2:5-10). Similarly, we arrive at the state of full sonship (Greek huioi, not tekna, ‘children’) by a life of obedience. Our union with Him, according to the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, means our path to glory is the same as His. Because of His obedience He was entitled to the designation ‘Son of God,’ King of Israel. ‘Thou has loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy companions’ (Hebrews 1:9).

“A similar thought regarding sonship is expressed in Hebrews 11:16, ‘Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.’ Of course, in the heavenly city God will be the God of all, both faithful and unfaithful Christians (Revelation 21:3), but it is apparently possible for us to live life in such a way that God is proud to be called our God. Evidently the writer has the title ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’ in mind. This sense fits well [with] the conditional aspect of sonship in Revelation. John’s meaning is simply, ‘Because you have lived a life of constant fellowship with Me,’ God will say, ‘I am proud to be known as your God.’

“The idea here is that God is ‘proud’ to be known as ‘our God,’ because we have persevered to the final hour in contrast to other Christians who are sons but not obedient sons, and who will draw back from Him in shame at His coming (I John 2:28) and lose what they have accomplished (Mark 4:25; Revelation 3:11).” 8

This is the only time in John’s writings where he uses the term “son” (huios) to refer to a person other than Christ (Revelation 21:7b). The normal term in John’s writings for a Christian is “children” (tekna). 9  So, this is a unique relationship inherited by overcomers in the Christian life whereby “God will dwell with him at an increased level of intimacy like a father with his son.” 10

Hence, in the world to come, overcomers or “heirs” would be treated as God’s adult “sons” (Revelation 21:7). In John’s society, a child could not obtain his inheritance until he reached the age of civil responsibility as established by the law. He might be potentially wealthy through all the years of his youth, but when the “child” became a full grown “son,” his potential wealth would become actual wealth, and he could enter into legal possession of his inheritance.

The New Testament doctrine of co-heirship supports this as a distinction is made between “entering” the Kingdom of God (new earth) through childlike faith alone in Christ alone for His free gift of eternal life (Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:14-15; Luke 18:16-17; John 3:5-16; Revelation 21:6) and “inheriting” the new earth through faithful trust and obedience to Christ until the end of one’s life on earth (Matthew 5:3; 19:27-30; Romans 8:17b; 2 Timothy 2:12; James 2:5; Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21; 20:4, 6; cf. Exodus 12:48-49; Numbers 18:20-24; 36:7-9; Deuteronomy 21:15-17; I Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5-6). 11

All who freely drank of the water of life (21:6), John called “children” or “born ones” (tekna; cf. John 1:12; I John 2:12), but those who became full-grown and matured through faithful obedience he called adult “sons” (huios). 12 In the day of the new heaven and new Earth, and the New Jerusalem, only those believers who overcame through faithful obedience could say not merely “I am here,” but “these are mine.”

The first two groups of people in these verses included believers in Jesus, but the third and final group of people refers to nonbelievers. “But the cowardly, sinners, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8). This verse is simply saying that in the new heaven and earth, and New Jerusalem, there are no more “cowardly, sinners, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” because they are all confined to “the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.”

This verse is saying nothing about born again believers in Jesus who have done such things because their sins are now gone because they are forgiven, immortal, and sinless (Acts 10:43; 2:13-14; I Corinthians 15:35-57; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 5:26-27; I John 3:1-3). For instance, King Solomon ended his life as an idolator (I Kings 11:1-10), yet he will still be with God on the new earth. God used Solomon to author three books of the Bible: Proverbs (Solomon was the principal author), Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes. The Bible says that the human authors of the Bible were “holy men of God” who “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Even though Solomon was an idolater, the Bible says he was a “holy” man of God. How can this be? He is “holy” in God’s eyes because he has been set apart from his sin and shame by virtue of his faith in the coming Messiah who would die for all his sins – including the sin of idolatry (cf. Isaiah 53; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 10:10, 14).

Likewise, eventhough King David had committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11:14-27), the Bible refers to David as an example of those who are justified (declared totally righteous before God) by faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin’” (Romans 4:5-8; cf. Psalms 32:1-2). Paul quotes David (Romans 4:7-8) who wrote in Psalm 32:1-2 of the blessedness of forgiveness as he looked ahead to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which would pay the penalty for the sin of the world (John 1:29), including David’s adultery and murder (cf. Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 2:24-36; Colossians 2:13-14).

Paul is saying that the righteousness of Jesus Christ was credited to David and all who believed in His coming death and resurrection in the Old Testament (Romans 4:5-8; cf. Genesis 15:6; Isaiah 61:10; John 8:56; Hebrews 11:26). So, when a person in the Old Testament or in the New Testament believes in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, he or she is covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that God no longer sees their sin, He sees the perfect righteousness of His Son (Genesis 15:6; Romans 3:21-4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

By God’s grace, all believers who have failed Him, will be on the new earth and/or New Jerusalem because God does not fail them (2 Timothy 2:13). However, only those believers who faithfully endure (overcome) to the end will “inherit all things” such as prominence, rulership, the joy of the Messiah’s rule, and commendation (cf. Matthew 25:20-23).

Since “the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (21:8b) still exists after the passing away of the present heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1; cf. 2 Peter 3:10-13), this reaffirms that hell is eternal, and there is no such thing as the annihilation of nonbelievers. All those who rejected Christ will suffer torment in the lake of fire forever and ever (Revelation 20:10-15). Constable understands this also to mean that the lake of fire “is probably not in the center of the present earth, nor is it connected to this earth spatially. Therefore, it will exist separately from the new heaven and new earth and the New Jerusalem.” 13

Which of these three groups of people will you be among? Believers in Jesus who are unfaithful yet on the new earth (21:6), believers who are faithful and greatly rewarded (21:7), or those who did not believe in Jesus and are confined to the lake of fire forever (21:8)? We are not promised tomorrow on earth. Decide today which of these three groups you want to be among.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for revealing these three groups of people who will exist in the eternal state so we may prepare for what is coming. For those of us who believe in Jesus, please help us rely on Your Holy Spirit to remain faithful to You till the end of our lives on earth so we may be able to inherit all Your promised rewards with which to honor You for all eternity. For those who do not believe in Jesus, please remove the Satanic blinders that keep them from seeing You are the eternal God who freely offers them eternal life as a gift for them to receive by believing in You alone. Use those of us who believe in You to spread Your good news to those who are perishing without You so they can believe in You Lord Jesus and possess eternal life. Also use us to teach new believers to follow You as Your disciple so they may receive Your inheritance rewards. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1.Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 676.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 238.

3. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 266.

4. Dillow, pg. 676.

5. Bauer, pg. 673.

6. Dillow, pp. 677, 1058.

7. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1584.

8. Dillow, pg. 677.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1584.

10. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2421.

11. Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse: A Study on Eternal Rewards (Grace Evangelical Society, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 99-118.

12. Dillow, pg. 729 cites William R. Newell, Romans: Verse by Verse (Chicago: Moody Press, 1938), pg. 314; Henry Alford, “Romans,” in Alford’s Greek Testament: An Exegetical and Critical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 2:391; Frederic Louis Godet and A. Cousin, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 2 Vols.(Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), pg. 311.

13. Constable, pg. 239 cites Robert A. Peterson, “Does the Bible Annihilationism?” Bibliotheca Sacra 156:621 (January – March 1999), pp. 25-26.

Revelation 20 – Part 2

“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for the thousand years.” Revelation 20:4

There is a lot of confusion about heaven today. Ask the average Christian and you will get a variety of answers. Yet the Bible clears up a lot of this confusion when we take time to study it. For example, did you know that the Bible says believers in Jesus will experience heaven in three stages?

First, believers will experience heaven with Christ after the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth before the Tribulation starts (I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11). At any moment the Lord Jesus could come for His church to snatch it off the earth to be with Him in the third heaven where God now dwells (Revelation 4:1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:1-4). Following the removal of the church, there will be seven years of terrible tribulation on the earth (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 6-19).

Second, following the seven-year Tribulation period, the Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth and establish His thousand-year earthly kingdom (Revelation 20:1-6).

Third, at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth, there will be a new heaven and new earth where believers in Jesus will be with Christ for eternity (Revelation 21-22).

By far, the most is said in the Bible about the second stage, the earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ that precedes the new heaven and new earth. We call this earthly reign of Christ the Millennial Kingdom.

In our study of the book of Revelation, the Lord Jesus Christ returned to earth from heaven with His heavenly armies to cast the beast and false prophet into the lake of fire and destroy all His human enemies who had gathered to war against Him at Armageddon (19:19-21). Then a mighty angel bound Satan in the bottomless pit so he could not deceive the nations “till the thousand years were finished” (20:1-3).

Next the apostle John writes, “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for the thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4). Once His enemies have been defeated and Satan has been bound, King Jesus finishes His descent to the earth with His heavenly armies to reign on the earth. The “they” (20:4a) refers to the only ones left after John’s vision of the beast, false prophet, and human armies being defeated and Satan being bound – King Jesus and His heavenly armies who accompanied Him from heaven to earth (19:19). 1

The King of kings and Lord of lords is now sitting on His throne in Jerusalem (cf. Psalm 2:6-9; Zechariah 14:1-21). But the Lord Jesus will not be reigning alone for these thousand years. Two groups of people are mentioned reigning with Him in Revelation 20:4. The heavenly armies accompanying Christ to earth (19:14) consisted of angels (Matthew 16:27; 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9) and faithful church age saints (19:7-8; cf. 2:10, 17, 25-27; 3:5, 10-11; 17:14). These church age believers comprise the first group seated on “thrones” to whom “judgment was committed” (20:4a; cf. I Corinthians 6:2). They have already been resurrected and glorified at the Rapture of the Church (cf. Revelation 4:1-4; I Thessalonians 4:15-17). 2

Jesus told His original disciples, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28). Notice Christ says, “you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones.” Following Christ was necessary for Christ’s disciples to rule with Him in His kingdom. Believing in Jesus for eternal life was necessary to enter Christ’s kingdom (John 3:5-6, 15-16), but following Jesus was necessary to reign with Him in His kingdom.

John expands this idea further in the book of Revelation to include all faithful followers of Christ from the church age. 25 But hold fast what you have till I come. 26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations— 27 ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’— as I also have received from My Father.” (Revelation 2:25-27). Remaining faithful to Jesus till He comes or “until the end” of one’s Christian life is necessary to reign with Him in His kingdom (cf. 2:25-27; 3:21; 2 Timothy 2:12).

Not all true believers in Jesus keep Christ’s works till the end of their lives, including Jacob’s sons (Genesis 37:20-35), the 250 well-known community leaders (Numbers 1:16; 7:1-9:14; 16:2-3, 11, 30-32; Deuteronomy 1:11-15; Exodus 14:31), King Saul (I Samuel 10:1, 6-11, 24; 116; 12:14, 25; 13:13-14; 15:24-25; 18:21, 29; 19:9; 22:17-18; 24:16-21; 26:21, 25; 28:3, 6, 15; I Chronicles 10:13-14), King Solomon (I Kings 1:1-12:33), the kings of Israel and Judah (Rehoboam – I Kings 12:6-14:24; 2 Chronicles 11:13-17; 12:1-14; 13:7; Jehu – 2 Kings 9:1-10:36; Joash – 2 Kings 12:2; 2 Chronicles 24:1-24; Amaziah – 2 Kings 14:3-4; 2 Chronicles 25:2-27; Azariah – 2 Kings 15:3-5; Uzziah – 2 Chronicles 26:4-20; Asa – 2 Chronicles 14:1-16:12), Balaam (Numbers 22:7-24:16; 31:16; Deuteronomy 23:4-5; Joshua 13:12; Micah 6:5; Nehemiah 13:2; 2 Peter 2:14-16; Jude 1:5-12), the carnal wilderness generation of Israelites (Deuteronomy 1:35; Exodus 4:31; 14:31; Jeremiah 2:1-3; Psalm 78:8; I Corinthians 10:1-11; Hebrews 3:7-11), Lot (2 Peter 2:7-9; cf. Genesis 13:12-13; 18:23-32; 19:8, 33), Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24), the carnal Corinthian believers (I Corinthians 1:1-11:30), the carnal Christian readers of Hebrews (Hebrews 5:11-6:8), and the carnal Christian readers of James (James 1:1-5:20). 3 They will be “in” Christ’s kingdom, but they will be “the least” in His kingdom (Matthew 5:19) 4 in that they forfeited ruling with Christ (cf. Matthew 22:1-14; 24:45-50; 25:18-19, 24-30; Luke 19:20-26; 2 Timothy 2:12).

The apostle Paul refers to carnal Christians as those who practice “the works of the flesh” and “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). The New Testament distinguishes “entering” the kingdom from “inheriting” the kingdom. We “enter” the kingdom of God by faith alone in Christ alone (Matthew 18:3; 19:14; Mark 10:15; John 3:5, 15), but we “inherit” the kingdom of God through faithful, sacrificial service and suffering for Christ (Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; Hebrews 1:2, 5, 9, 13-14; 6:12, 17; 9:15).

For example, “entering” my house is different than “inheriting” my house. Entrance into my house is free. But if you want to inherit or possess my house, you must pay for it. When you pay for it, then you are entitled to certain privileges or authority. When you inherit my house, you can decide how to arrange the furniture and what colors to paint on the walls. But if you just enter my house, you don’t have those privileges. The same is true in the spiritual realm. You enter the kingdom of God through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. But you will not have all the privileges or authority that come with inheriting the kingdom. You must earn those privileges through faithful service to Jesus.

Just because Christians have eternal life now which can never be lost (cf. John 3:16; 10:28-29), does not mean they can live however they want on earth without facing any consequences. God wants believers to live like the “saints” that they are (I Corinthians 1:2) by virtue of their position in Christ lest they experience grief and shame because of the loss of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. Matthew 25:24-30; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 6:9-10; I John 2:28).

The second group of believers in Revelation 20:4 consists of martyred Tribulation saints “who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands” (20:4b). During the Tribulation period, these believers were not afraid to confess Christ before the beast and his followers (cf. Matthew 10:32-33) and therefore they lost their lives because of “their witness to Jesus and for the word of God” which they obeyed rather than men (cf. Acts 5:29; Revelation 15:2). 5

They obeyed God by refusing to worship “the beast or his image” or by not receiving “his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.” Their devotion to Christ “will be so great that they will choose death over disobedience.” 6 When Jesus returns to earth, these Tribulation martyrs will be resurrected (“they lived”), and because they kept Christ’s works until the end (cf. 2:26-28), they will receive authority over the nations and will “reign with Christ for a thousand years” (20:4 c). The Bible clearly teaches that bodily resurrection and kingdom entrance will be experienced by all Old Testament, Church-Age, and Tribulation believers in Christ (both faithful and unfaithful) according to John 6:39-40. But the Bible is also clear that only faithful believers in Jesus will reign with Christ 7 (Revelation 2:25-28; 3:5, 21; cf. Matthew 24:45; 25:16-17, 20-23, 31, 33a, 34; Luke 19:15-19; Romans 8:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:12).

These faithful followers of Christ will be the only rulers over the earth with King Jesus. None of them will be corrupted by deception, “money, greed, pride, or power. Imagine what that would be like. No more political conspiracies in the headlines! No more scandals exposed on the news! No more bribery, quid pro quo, filibustering, waffling, or broken campaign promises!

“The corruption of all earthly governmental systems will be gone forever… The righteous, not the wicked, will be in the majority, and a holy Leader will be in authority.” 8

Those who are subject to their rulership will be unfaithful believers from all periods of history leading up to the Millennium Kingdom along with the offspring of the mortal Tribulation saints who did not die in the Tribulation (Matthew 25:31-46).

“But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” (Revelation 20:5). This verse implies that all who have not been resurrected physically by the time the Tribulation martyrs are resurrected physically, will “not live again until the thousand years” are over. Jesus’ words in John 5:28-29 demonstrate that by this time all who have died possessing eternal life through faith alone in Christ alone are now resurrected bodily and physically. When John states, “This is the first resurrection,” he is explaining what the first resurrection is about without going into specifics. 9

“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6). The phrase “has part in” (ho echōn meros en) can mean “possesses a portion in” and refers to an inheritance reward in the first resurrection that is conditioned on obedience (Revelation 20:4; cf. Colossians 3:23-24), as the remainder of verse 6 attests. 10 

The phrase “the second death has no power” or authority over them is best taken as a litotes (an understatement in which a positive affirmation is expressed by negating the opposite) and is clarified by the statement that “they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” 11 These resurrected co-rulers with Christ “are as far from being under the authority of the second death as they could possibly be since they themselves have authority as king-priests with Christ.” 12

The thousand-year reign of King Jesus with His faithful followers will be the paradise for which the world longs. There will be no war (Isaiah 2:3-4). The lion will lie down with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6-9). There will be topological changes to the earth. Jerusalem will be changed with new mountains and valleys. A river will flow from Jerusalem to both the Mediterranean and Dead Seas (Zechariah 14:3-9). Deserts will be transformed into gardens; the territory of Israel will be transformed into a place of remarkable beauty reflecting God’s glory (Isaiah 35:1-7). The lifespan of people will increase exponentially as in the early years of the Old Testament (Isaiah 65:20). 13

There will be industry and development (Isaiah 65:21-22). After the terrible Tribulation and Armageddon, much rebuilding will need to be done. There will be time to do things you have wanted to do: other careers, exploring, developing relationships. A renewed earth will more than adequately provide for the world’s population. There will be perfect government and swift justice as King Jesus rules with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:6-9), making no allowance for rebellion. Faithful believers from all ages will have many opportunities to rule with Christ. Since they will have glorified bodies, each person will be perfectly suited to carry out his or her responsibilities. 14 Some will hold positions of authority like Presidents, Governors, Mayors, City Council Members, Judges, Senators, Representative, and the like. There may also be transportation companies, publishers, developers, utilities, entertainment, and sports companies, etc. All these businesses will need people in various levels of management. We can have one of those positions of authority if we live faithfully for the Lord Jesus until we go to be with Him.

The Christian life is like a long, grueling race (Hebrews 12:1-2). You may be running that race God has set before you now. But what about 10 or 20 years from now? Will you keep living for the Lord even when life gets tough? Will you finish strong for Him? Knowing what God has in store for us in the Millennial Kingdom, should motivate us to live for Him until we go to heaven to be with Him. Together, we can finish our Christians lives well for Jesus if we keep our eyes on Him.

Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, thank You that Jesus Christ is coming back for His church at any moment to snatch us off the earth to be with Him in Your heavenly house. Following the removal of the church, many more people will be saved during the terrible Tribulation period. Together, church age believers and Tribulation believers in Jesus will reign with King Jesus for a thousand years on earth following His return to at the end of the seven-year Tribulation. With great anticipation, we pray and live for Your coming Kingdom on earth when much of the curse will be lifted and life on earth will be what the world has longed for. Please use us to share Your gospel of grace so many more people can enter Christ’s kingdom through childlike faith in Him. In Jesus’ mighty name 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. 355.

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. 1578.

3. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 503-536.

4. Ibid., pg. 520.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1579.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Swindoll, pg. 356.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1579.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid., pp. 1579-1580.

12. Ibid., pg. 1580.

13. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2418.

14. Ibid.

Revelation 14 – Part 5

“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” Revelation 14:13

In another of the apostle John’s visions on earth (Revelation 14:6-13), he hears four announcements that provide motivation to remain faithful to God and resist the beasts during the last half of the Tribulation period. We have looked at God’s angels who will make the first three announcements (14:6-12), and we are now ready for the fourth announcement (14:13).

In Revelation 14:9-11, nonbelievers who have not yet bowed to the beast nor taken his mark during the last half of the Tribulation period are warned not to do so lest they be subject to “the full strength” of God’s wrath in time and eternity. The apostle then encourages believers to persevere in their faithfulness to Christ during this extremely difficult time (14:12). In the next verse he gives them incentive for remaining faithful to God.

“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” (Revelation 14:13). This “voice from heaven” may belong to the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (1:10-11, 19; cf. 10:4, 8; 11:12; 14:2; 18:4; 21:3). 1 His voice announces that many believers “in the Lord” who live during the last half of the Tribulation will be “blessed” to “die” as martyrs. These believers in Christ who stand firmly against the Beast and refuse to worship him or take his mark, and die as a result, will be “blessed” both now and forever. 2 The phrase “from now on” means “from this time on during the Tribulation,” specifically during the persecution of the Beast and the bowl judgments. Through their martyrdom, these believers will escape the intense judgments and sufferings of the last half of the Tribulation. 3

God the Holy “Spirit” then adds that these faithful believers will be “blessed” beyond the grave in heaven where “they may rest from their labors,” which is the opposite of what will be experienced by those who receive the mark of the beast (14:9-11). 4 Nonbelievers will receive “no rest” and “shall be tormented with fire and brimstone … forever and ever” because of their unbelief toward Christ (14:10-11). But the good “works” of these faithful believers will “follow them” into heaven where they will be rewarded forever by the Lord Jesus Christ (14:13b; cf. Matthew 10:42; Mark 9:41).

“God does not save anyone for his works, but He does reward us for our works. Our works (good or bad) are like tin cans tied to a dog’s tail; we cannot get away from them. They will follow us to the bema seat of Christ.” 5

While we cannot take our material possessions with us when we die, the Bible does teach that we can send eternal wealth ahead of us. Jesus said,19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20). Christ instructs us not to lay up treasure on earth because it is temporary. Perhaps you have had a “moth” eat holes in your clothes or “rust” destroy your possessions made of metal, or “thieves” break in your house and steal your valuables. These earthly treasures are perishable.

But notice Jesus says to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Why? Because it is permanent. In heaven, a “moth” or “rust” cannot destroy your heavenly treasure, nor can a “thief… steal” it.

We usually miss those words “for yourselves.” Jesus makes it clear that there IS a way to “take it with you.” We can send treasure ahead of us by using the time, treasure, and talent God has entrusted to us on earth as a steward for God’s kingdom and glory (cf. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-26).

Well-meaning Christians have asked me, “Isn’t it selfish to seek eternal rewards? My answer is, “Not according to Jesus.” Since Christ commands us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, it is selfish not to obey His command to pursue eternal rewards. Plus, a believer cannot afford to be selfish in nature, for to do so would disqualify him or her for the eternal rewards he or she seeks. Pursuing eternal rewards is one of the strongest motivations for an unselfish and merciful lifestyle (cf. James 2:1-13).

When we get to heaven, the treasure we have sent ahead of us will be reserved there for us to use to bring glory to God throughout eternity. The more treasure we lay up in heaven now, the more we can use to honor Christ in His coming Kingdom.  

Bob Wilkin shares some helpful insights: “While many think of this treasure as a figure of speech for some unspecified blessings, I see it as an eternal trust fund that believers will use to glorify God. The more we have stored up, the more we can give away in service to the Lord.

“What? Who would need money in the kingdom? Well, no one, if the kingdom of God were going to be some ethereal experience, consisting of floating on clouds and strumming harps. However, the description of the eternal kingdom on the new earth in Revelation 21:24 strongly suggests the existence of an economy: ‘The kings of the earth [will] bring their glory and honor into it [the New Jerusalem].” Actually, the majority of manuscripts read, ‘The kings of the earth [will] bring the glory and honor of the nations to Him.’

“In any case, the point is clear. The three wise men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus were types of rulers who, in the age to come, will forever bring gold and other treasures to the Lord Jesus.” 6

Why is it so important to focus on storing up treasures in heaven instead of treasures on earth? Jesus tells us, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21). What we value the most is what directs our hearts. Wherever our treasure happens to be, that is where our hearts will be focused. God wants our hearts to be focused on Him and the life to come. This is why we are commanded to invest in heavenly rewards. God knows better than we do what will motivate our hearts for Him. If we set our hearts on accumulating the things of this earth, then the pursuit of earthly possessions will guide our hearts. But if we focus on the things of God and the life to come, then that is what will direct our hearts. We cannot focus on laying up treasures on earth and at the same time concentrate on laying up treasures in heaven.

Wilkins writes, “A few years ago, world-class athletes were asked the following question: ‘If you could take a drug that would cause you to win a gold medal, but it would kill you in ten years, would you take it?’ Amazingly, the majority said yes. They’d sacrifice fifty or more years of life for a gold medal.

“What would you give up to have treasure in heaven? Would you drive a lesser car than you could otherwise afford? Live in a more modest home? Have a less expensive wardrobe? Enjoy simpler or fewer vacations? Give up fifty years of life (if called upon to be a martyr, for example)? The answer you give to these questions will depend on where your heart is.” 7

Heavenly treasure is a type of reward that cannot be lost once it has been earned. So, when a believer gives a cup of cold water to one of God’s servants (Matthew 10:42) or does a charitable deed in private (Matthew 6:3-4), prays in private (Matthew 6:6), or fasts in private (Matthew 6:17-18) with the proper motive, a deposit is made into his or her eternal bank account in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). The more deposits you make, the more heavenly treasure you will have with which to honor Jesus Christ in His coming kingdom.

A second type of reward is called a perseverance reward. Believers who remain faithful in their service to Jesus to the end of their lives will be given rewards that include wearing a special white garment (Revelation 3:4-5), ruling with Christ in His kingdom (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21), eating the fruit from the tree of life (Revelation 2:17; 22:14), eating hidden manna (Revelation 2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (Revelation 2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:14).

A third type of reward has to do with crowns. Believers can earn a crown of rejoicing for making disciples of Jesus (I Thessalonians 2:19), a crown of righteousness for loving the coming of the Lord Jesus (2 Timothy 4:8), a crown of life for enduring trials and temptations until death (James 1:12), a crown of glory for faithfully shepherding others as a servant leader (I Peter 5:4), and an imperishable crown for living a disciplined life (I Corinthians 9:25).

By focusing on eternal rewards, believers in Jesus will develop a greater desire to please God rather than men. Because Christ is first in the life of a disciple and could come back at any moment for His church, a disciple should seek to win as many people to Christ as possible and become more like the Judge who will evaluate his or her life at the Judgment Seat (2 Corinthians 5:9-11; I John 2:28-3:3).

Prayer: Loving heavenly Father, we thank You for Your perspective given to us in Revelation 14:13 which involves encouragement for believers in the last half of the Tribulation period who may suffer physical death for taking a stand against the Beast and refusing to take his mark. You promise them that their good works will follow them into heaven where they will receive eternal rewards from the Lord Jesus. Thank You Father for reminding us that this life is not all there is to live for. As believers in Jesus, we are commanded to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven by living a godly life for You. Please help us to keep our focus on You and the life to come so we may have more treasure in heaven with which to honor You throughout all of eternity. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 161.

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. 1553.

3. Constable, pg. 161.

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

5. Constable, pg. 162 cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 5 Vols., (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), 5:1011.

6. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 39-40. 7. Ibid., pg. 40.

7. Ibid., pg. 40.

Revelation 14 – Part 1

“Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1

A couple of days ago, my wife and I went to the movie theatre to watch a film after we saw its preview the week before. That’s what previews are meant to do. They show exciting scenes from an upcoming movie to entice viewers to come see the film in its entirety. Sometimes, however, the preview of an upcoming movie leads us to expect one thing, but the producer of the film delivers something entirely different. 1 Fortunately for my wife and me, the movie lived up to the excitement the preview generated in us the week before.  

One thing we can be sure of about God’s previews of the future in the book of Revelation is they will not disappoint us. “Not only does He know the future, but He also controls it. He’s not simply the leading actor in the coming end-times drama; He’s the writer, producer, and director! So when He gives us previews of things to come, we should pay close attention. These scenes aren’t meant to satisfy our curiosity but to warn the rebellious and to encourage the righteous.” 2

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), John now 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). You may recall in Revelation 7, we learned that God would save two groups of people during the first three and a half years of the Tribulation period: He will save and seal 144,000 Israelites (7:1-8) through the preaching of the Two Witnesses (11:1-12), and He will take to heaven a multitude of people from all nations who will die during that time (7:9-17).

Beginning in Revelation 14, John now fast forwards to the end of the Tribulation period where he sees the following: “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Revelation 14:1). 3 John saw “the Lamb,” the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:29), “standing” victoriously “on Mount Zion,” the earthly Jerusalem,at the end of the Tribulation period. Many prophetic Scripture predicted that at the end of the Tribulation period Jesus the Messiah will return to Jerusalem from which He will rule His kingdom on earth (Isaiah 2:3; 24:23; Micah 4:1, 7; Zechariah 14:1-21; cf. Acts 1:9-12; Revelation 19:11-20:6). 4

Standing with Christ at the end of the Tribulation are the “one hundred and forty-four thousand” 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 (14:1a; cf. 7:1-8; Matthew 24:14). Some religious groups, like the Jehovah Witnesses, teach that these 144,000 people are the sum total of all people who will be saved.  This is not true! We already saw in Revelation 7 that there are an innumerable number of people saved during the Tribulation period (7:9-17) in addition to the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (7:1-8). These evangelistic Jews will prepare the way for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth. 5

Because they refused to worship the beast and take up his mark, these 144,000 Jews will be rewarded with the Lamb’s “name” and “His Father’s name written on their foreheads” (cf. 3:12) in contrast with the mark placed on nonbelievers’ foreheads by the False Prophet (cf. 13:16). Because of their faithfulness to Christ to the end of the Great Tribulation, they will rule with King Jesus from Mount Zion in His eternal Kingdom (14:1b; cf. Romans 8:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21). 6

Notice at the end of the Tribulation that John does not see 143,800 Jewish evangelists. He sees all the 144,000 are supernaturally preserved by the Lord. Not one of them was killed. They have endured all the horrors of the seven-year Tribulation and are still standing victoriously with the Lamb on the earth because God faithfully protected them. 7

So, in this preview, we see in place of the beast from the sea, the Lamb of God. And in place of the beast’s followers with the mark of the beast on their foreheads, we see the Lamb’s followers with His and the Father’s name on their foreheads. In addition, we also observe in place of the pagan-controlled earth we see the God-controlled Mount Zion or Jerusalem. 8  This contrast in scenes is meant to encourage believers in John’s day and ours. While our journey on earth will contain trials and tribulation (John 16:33), it will end with a glorious mountaintop experience. This is intended to motivate us to remain faithful to Christ to the end of our Christian lives.

Next John writes, “And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps.” (Revelation 14:2). Some Bible students think this verse means that “Mount Zion” (14:1) is the heavenly Jerusalem (cf. Hebrews 12:22) since John speaks of this scene in heaven. 9 But the text says John “heard a voice from heaven.” This does not necessitate that the Lamb and His 144,000 followers are in heaven. Since the 144,000 are the same group described in Revelation 7:1-8, they are specifically said there to be sealed and preserved safely through the Tribulation on earth. This preview of their future indicates that they will be kept safe on earth into the Millennial Kingdom without going to the third heaven (Paradise) since this is the meaning of the seal in Revelation 7:3-4. 10

The “voice” John heard “from heaven” was loud like “many waters” roaring at a waterfall or like “loud” claps of “thunder.” We are not told who this voice belongs to. It could be “the voice” of the Tribulation martyrs (7:10), an angel (cf. 6:1; Daniel 10:6), or many angels (cf. 5:8, 11: 7:11; 19:6). But it cannot refer to the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders (14:3). I believe this voice represents the inhabitants of heaven consisting of the Tribulation martyrs and God’s angels.

John also tells us he “heard the sound of harpists playing their harps” (14:2b). In the book of Revelation, we are told that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders (5:8), and the victorious believers from the Tribulation period (15:2) will all have harps along with those mentioned in Revelation 14:2. The “voice” and “harps” most likely represent the singing and music of the inhabitants of heaven (cf. 19:6). 11

“They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.” (Revelation 14:3). The “new song” this heavenly group sang “before the throne” in heaven could only be learned by “the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth” (14:3). Please understand that the biblical text does not say the 144,000 were standing before the throne in heaven. It simply says they “could learn that song” which was being sung in heaven by this heavenly choir.

It is quite possible that being able to learn this new song was in itself a reward for these 144,000 faithful evangelists. Vacendak writes, “Since the emphasis here is not on the contents of the song but on the fact that only the 144,000 could learn it, this could very well be a special reward for their dedication to God like the reward of the ‘new name’ in 2:17 that is known only to Christ and the victorious one receiving it. Because these faithful witnesses will have an utterly unique experience in their service to Christ on earth, it is fitting that they enjoy a unique experience with Christ in eternity.” 12

After all, they had earned such a reward. “These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed by Jesus from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:4). These 144,000 evangelists “were not defiled with women, for they are virgins” who avoided both sexual immorality and spiritual adultery with the Satanic world system led by the Man of Sin or the beast (14:4a; cf. James 4:4; I John 2:15-16). 13

It is likely these servants of the Lord were unmarried in view of the strenuous times the last half of the Tribulation would bring. This brings to remembrance the apostle Paul’s admonition to singles (“virgins”) who were engaged to remain single in view of the “present distress” or persecution under Nero’s rule (I Corinthians 7:25-26). 14  

The 144,000 followed Jesus “wherever He goes” being forever grateful for the incredible price He paid (“redeemed by Jesus”) for their sins (14:4b; cf. Matthew 16:24-27; Luke 9:23-26). These evangelists were willing “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). 15

They were “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” in that they were the first converts of the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11) during the first half of the Tribulation period who were saved and sealed (cf. 7:3-4). Following their conversion, they were discipled by the teaching of the Two Witnesses before fleeing Judea to begin their worldwide gospel ministry during the second half of the Tribulation (14:4c; cf. Matthew 24:13-22). 16

“And in their mouth was found no falsehood, for they are without fault.” (Revelation 14:5). Even though deception will abound under the reign of the beast, there will be “no falsehood” found in the mouths of the 144,000 evangelists because they boldly shared the truth of the gospel and “are without fault” in that their lifestyle was one of faithful obedience to the Lord, not perfection. By God’s grace, they knew the will of the Lord and faithfully pursued it without stumbling into sin (Titus 2:11-13; Jude 1:24). 17

What do we learn from these 144,000 Jewish evangelists? First, if we are to be effective witnesses for Christ, we must be pure in our relationships with others. The 144,000 Jewish evangelists “were not defiled with women, for they are virgins” (14:4a). If we love the world more than the Lord Who created the world, people will not be as likely to listen to us if we claim to be followers of the one true God. If we are impure like the world around us, we will not have a credible message for those who are confused or lost in the world’s corruption. 18 Ask yourself, “Do I keep myself pure in my relationships with others – especially those who are of the opposite sex? Or do I blur the lines between appropriate and inappropriate behavior and questionable speech? Do I pursue worldly desires and lusts, or do I make it my priority to pursue the things of God (James 4:4; I John 2:15-17)?” 19

Secondly, like the 144,000 evangelists, we must faithfully “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (14:4b). The Lord Jesus came to earth “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He promised,Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Our responsibility is to follow Jesus. Christ’s responsibility is to make us fishers of men. Do you feel inadequate to share the gospel with 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. He will lead you to the unsaved people His Holy Spirit has prepared to hear and believe the gospel (John 16:7-11). Believing this will give you boldness as you go to share Christ with a lost world. Ask yourself, “Do I practice immediate obedience to Jesus or delayed obedience? What keeps me from practicing immediate obedience?”

The more we appreciate what Christ has done for us (“redeemed by Jesus”), the more grateful we will be to represent Him as His ambassadors to a lost world (14:4c; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15-21). We will be more willing “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29).

Thirdly, like the Jewish evangelists who were discipled by the Two Witnesses after their conversion (Revelation 7:1-8; 11:1-12), we must also be trained by older believers to effectively live for Christ now (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:2). Ask yourself, “Have I been taught by an older believer how to live for Jesus? If not, am I willing to place myself under a more mature believer to learn how to follow Jesus? If I have been discipled, am I now discipling others? If not, what is keeping me from doing this?”

Fourth, like the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, we must live a life of integrity, speaking the truth with our lips (“in their mouth was found no falsehood”) and living the truth with our lives (for they are without fault”) (14:5). If our mouths and lives are full of lies, people will not believe us when we tell them the gospel is true. Ask yourself, “Do I compromise the truth to avoid rejection or disapproval? Do I speak half-truths, white lies, and deception to avoid conflict with others? Do I live with integrity in public and in private? Am I hiding any secret sins?” If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions in this paragraph, turn to the Lord, confessing these sins to Him. The Bible promises “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

When we remain faithful to Christ and preach the truth of the gospel amid an array of false gospels and deceptions in this world, we will be richly rewarded in eternity by the Lamb of God Who redeemed us (Revelation 14:1-5; cf. Matthew 16:24-27; I Corinthians 3:5-14; 4:1-5; 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; I John 2:18-3:3, 24-4:6; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21; 22:12).

Prayer: Precious Lord God, thank You for these encouraging verses that describe the victory of the Lamb and His faithful followers at the end of the Tribulation period. After reading Chapter 13 which is filled with horrific deception and destruction under the Antichrist’s and False Prophet’s regime, our hearts are filled with hope to see Jesus and the 144,000 Jewish evangelists standing triumphantly on Mount Zion in Jerusalem at the end of the Great Tribulation. By Your grace Lord God, we ask You to enable us to be faithful witnesses to the truth of the gospel with our lives and our lips. May Jesus live in and through us so those who are confused and perishing without Christ in this corrupt world, can find the healing and hope that only Jesus can give them. We ask You to remove the Satanic blinders from the hearts and minds of the unsaved so multitudes will believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life which can never be lost. In the mighty name of the Lord 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. 263.

2. Ibid.

3. The majority of Greek manuscripts read “the” (τὸ) Lamb in place of “a” Lamb, and “His name and” (τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ καὶ) before “His Father’s name.”

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. 1549.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), 2402.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1549.

7. 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. 291.

8. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 154 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 188-189.

9. Constable, pg. 154 cites Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton: Scripture Press Foundation, Victory Book, 1986), pg. 88; J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ, Edited by J. Otis Yoder (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1971), pg. 208; Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 607.

10. Constable, pp. 154-155 cites John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), pg. 214.

11. Vacendak, pp. 1549-1550.

12. Ibid., pg. 1550.

13. Ibid.

14. Constable, pp. 156-157.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1550.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Swindoll, pg. 267.

19. Ibid., pg. 268.

Revelation 13 – Part 5

“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” Revelation 13:18

Chuck Swindoll writes, “Imagine that you live in an oppressive regime in which professing to be a Christian is outlawed and punishable by death. You cower in a small apartment at night while the heavy boots of soldiers can be heard on sidewalks and streets and people in the neighborhood are arrested, suspected of being Christians. As you pray that the soldiers will pass you by, they force themselves through the door. Lights flash around the room, boots stomp across the floor, and you suddenly find yourself looking into the barrels of automatic weapons.

“’Tell me,’ barks the man pointing his rifle at you, ‘are you a Christian?’

“You have a choice to make. Either deny Christ and live, or confess Him and die on the spot.

“Chances are, most believers reading this would think, ‘I’d confess Christ. Of course I would. That soldier can’t threaten my faith in Jesus as my Lord!’

“Now let’s intensify that scene.

“Imagine that you aren’t alone. Instead, when the soldiers barge through the door they point their weapons not at you but at your spouse and your three small children. ‘Reject Christ or they die!’

“Dying for your faith is one thing. Letting others die for your faith is quite another. Yet this is just the kind of sickening scenario Satan will inspire in the dreadful future John is describing. Because of the impact of earthly disaster, food will be scarce. Yet people will still need to buy and sell food to provide for their families. The alternative to participation in the Antichrist’s economy is a long, slow death by starvation. The book of Revelation tells us that the Antichrist’s regime will force believing parents to choose between feeding their families and defending their faith! As a father and grandfather, I can’t imagine a crueler test of faith than this.” 1

Let’s look at the last three verses of Revelation 13 in detail. In addition to the False Prophet using his persuasive words and profound works to deceive people to worship the first Beast out of the sea (Antichrist) during the last half of the Tribulation period (13:11-15), he will also require people to receive an identifying mark to signify allegiance to the Beast. “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads.” (Revelation 13:16). This second beast “causes all” unbelievers from various social (“small and great”), economic (“rich and poor”), and cultural (“free and slave”) groups “to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads.”

What exactly is this “mark”? This “mark” will be a brand-like logo, possibly like a tattoo, that will identify beast-worshippers. 2 The word “mark” occurs throughout the Bible. “For example, it is used many times in Leviticus as a reference to a mark that renders the subject ceremonially unclean, usually related to leprosy. Clearly, in these cases the ‘mark’ is external and visible.

“Interestingly, Ezekiel 9:4 uses mark similarly to the way Revelation uses it: “He said to him, ‘Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city.’” Here the mark preserved the righteous, similar to the way the blood on the doorposts spared the Hebrews from the death angel in the Exodus. In Ezekiel, the mark is placed visibly on the forehead, which anticipates the practice described in Revelation.” 3

The Greek word translated “mark” (charagma) in Revelation 13:16-17, means “a mark that is engraved, etched, branded, cut, imprinted, mark, stamp.” 4 The same Greek word is used to refer to a brand left by a branding iron. It also described the seal attached to legal documents, the logo of which bore the name of the emperor and the date. 5 Sometimes Roman soldiers branded themselves with the “mark” of their general if they were particularly fond of him.

Some believe this could be an implanted radio “microchip” under the skin of the person that can be used to track billions of people worldwide. But the text says it is “on” their hand or forehead, not “in” (en) their hand or forehead to identify the person as a beast-worshipper. The Greek word for “on” (epi)means “upon” in this context. 7 It will be on the outside of the skin, where it can be seen. Its placement on the skin will make it easy to identify those who are loyal to the Antichrist.

Without this mark of allegiance to the Beast or Antichrist, a person will not be able to buy or sell: And that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (Revelation 13:17). Without this “mark” upon one’s right hand or forehead, a person will not be able to participate in commerce (“buy or sell”) of any kind during the last half of the Tribulation period.So, there will be a penalty if a person chooses not to receive the “mark of the beast.” There will be no buying or selling for that person. That means no groceries, clothing, medicines, or shelter for you and your family.

In the day of the apostle John, Roman coins bore the stamped “image” of the head, and the inscription of, the emperor. Likewise, those who bear the “stamped image,” or “mark of the beast,” will show by this that they belong to him. When a person burned a smidgeon of incense to “worship” Caesar, he received a certificate attesting that he had done so. This certificate protected him from death by persecution and enabled him to buy and sell. 8

Please understand that it will be far better to refuse the mark of the beast and starve or be beheaded (cf. 20:4) than to receive it and receive eternal condemnation. The Bible tells us, 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. 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). God will only allow unbelievers to take the mark and those who do will be hardened in their unbelief. Though they may live during the entire Tribulation period, their eternal destiny will be in the lake of fire because of their continued unbelief. 9

However, believers in Jesus will not face eternal judgment because they have been guaranteed not to come into judgment (John 5:24). They possess eternal life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). God’s grace will enable believers in the Tribulation not to take the mark or worship the beast. But some unfaithful believers will succumb to the worldwide lawlessness and not be delivered from the Tribulation judgments (cf. Matthew 24:10-12). But those believers who faithfully endure for Christ during the Tribulation will be saved from physical death, except for those whom God allows to be martyred (cf. Revelation 20:4).

Notice in Matthew 24:22, that if the Tribulation period had lasted any longer, no human flesh would have been saved physically. “But for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” The implication of these verses is that some of the elect will die during the Tribulation because they will fail to persevere. This is supported further by Revelation 16:15: “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.” “The garments” refer to the “righteous acts” of believers (cf. Revelation 19:7-8; cf. 3:4-5, 18; 4:4). The consequence of failing to be watchful for Christ’s return is a lack of righteous acts (loss of garments) and “shame.” This verse teaches that believers can be unfaithful, especially if they have lost sight of Christ’s return. The idea of this verse is that the saints have the garments (faithfulness) but can lose them if they lose their hope of the Lord’s coming.

We learn from Jesus’ judgment of the sheep and goats at the end of the Tribulation period (Matthew 25:31-46), that some Gentile believers (“sheep”) during the last half of the Tribulation period will find ways to help Christ’s Jewish “brethren,” the 144,000 Jewish evangelists. These evangelists will preach the gospel during the last half of the Tribulation period resulting in large numbers of Gentiles getting saved (Revelation 7:1-14). These believing Gentiles in turn will minister to these evangelists by giving them “food, drink,” shelter, clothing, medical care, and comfort when they are in prison (Matthew 25:35-36). Jesus will reward them at this judgment of the sheep and goats for risking their lives to help these faithful Jewish evangelists who will not be able to buy or sell. Christ says they “inherit” the kingdom which refers to reigning with Christ in His Millennial Kingdom on earth (Matthew 25:34; cf. 19:27-29; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21).

John informs us that the “mark of the beast” will consist of “name of the beast, or the number of his name” (13:17b). “The interchangeability of the beast’s ‘name’ and the ‘number of his name’ evidently indicates that the name, written in Greek letters, has a numerical equivalent.” 10

“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” (Revelation 13:18). Believers will need “wisdom” during the last half of the Tribulation period to understand and “calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man,” not God: “His number is 666.” Believers during the Tribulation will understand the connection between the mark of the beast and the beast himself and will refuse to worship the beast and take his mark by the grace of God since those who do take the mark will experience eternal damnation (cf. 14:9-11).

The number “666” is one of the most familiar numbers even among the most biblically illiterate people in the world. “In the 1976 horror movie The Omen, Damien is born on June 6, at six o’clock (666) to symbolize his identification as the coming Antichrist.” 11

Throughout history, people have tried to calculate the identity of the man behind this number. “In Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, letters stand for numbers, so anyone with a calculator and a good dose of creativity can slap the ‘666’ label on a number of prominent personalities.” 12

The following people have been proposed to be the Antichrist by the misapplication of numerical calculations: Nero Caesar, the emperor Constantine, Mohammed, the popes, Martin Luther, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Mikhail Gorbachev, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, 13 Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. 14

Figuring the identity of the Antichrist by calculating the numbers of his name is not to be applied by those of us living today. It is to be applied by believers who will be living during the Tribulation period. The Bible tells us that the Man of Sin or Antichrist will not be revealed until the middle of the Tribulation period when he takes his place in the rebuilt Jewish temple: Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). It is at this time that believers in Jesus will be able to identify the Man of Sin or Antichrist because the number of his name will be 666. It is quite possible that the Two Witnesses will have disclosed the identity of this first Beast through their teachings before they ascend to heaven (cf. Revelation 11:1-12). So, believers will wisely make the connection between the Beast and the number 666 and avoid taking his mark and worshiping him. 15

We may wonder why God planned for the Antichrist’s name to equal 666? Several Bible prophecy students have taught that the triple six equals man’s number, which is the number six or one short of God’s perfect number, seven. After all, man was created on the sixth day (Genesis 1:26-31). 16

Hitchcock quotes M. R. DeHaan, the founder of the Radio Bible Class: “Six is the number of man. Three is the number of divinity. Here is the interpretation. The beast will be a man who claims to be God. Three sixes imply that he is a false god and a deceiver, but he is nevertheless merely a man, regardless of his claims. Seven is the number of divine perfection, and 666 is one numeral short of seven. This man of sin will reach the highest peak of power and wisdom, but he will still be merely a man.” 17

Adam, the first man, was created on the sixth day, while Jesus, the Second Adam, “was raised from the dead on Sunday, the ‘eighth day’ of the week (the second first day of the week).” 18 Interestingly, “the number of the name Jesus in Greek is 888, and each of His eight names in the New Testament (Lord, Jesus, Christ, Lord Jesus, Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, Lord Christ, and Lord Jesus Christ) all have numerical values that are multiples of eight.” 19

Jesus Christ is complete perfection because He is God (John 1:1; I John 5:20), while man is a complete failure. The number 666 is God’s way of showing that Satan’s masterpiece, the Antichrist, is a fallen man who is completely inferior to God and is under God’s sovereign control. 20

The technology is available today to accomplish the purposes of the mark of the beast by regulating world commerce and controlling people’s transactions. There are also many remarkable new means of locating, identifying, and tracking people’s lives that foreshadow the global scenario depicted in Revelation 13. This is one more indicator pointing toward the nearness of end time events. 21

Instead of the world getting better and better as some argue, the world will get much worse before Jesus returns to earth. As Christians observe world events today moving rapidly toward a one world government and economic system which will enable the rapid rise of the first Beast and his False Prophet to take place, they are to be motivated to make the most of their time before the Rapture of the Church or death brings an end to their ministry on earth.

Prayer: Loving Father, thank You for revealing Satan’s future strategies for deception and destruction regarding the first and second beasts who will seek to mislead people away from the true and holy triune God to worship a false and unholy triune god. Although the Antichrist and False Prophet will manifest themselves during the future Tribulation period, we know that the spirit of the antichrist is already at work to deceive and destroy people in the present. Please equip each of us who believe in Jesus for spiritual battle today with accurate knowledge, acute discernment, and heavenly wisdom. Empower us to make the most of our time on earth to reach lost people with the gospel of grace and train believers to multiply disciples of Jesus Christ. In the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords, 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. 254.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 150.

3. 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. 336.

4. See 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. 1077.

5. Constable, pg. 150.

6. Ibid., cites Plutarch, Pericles, 26; Herodotus, 7.233.

7. Hitchcock, pg. 342.

8. Constable, pg. 151 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John, 2nd Ed., Vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 130.

9. 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. 1548.

10. Constable, pg. 151 cites R. H. Charles, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, International Critical Commentary series, Vol 2 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), pg. 364; Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 6 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 406.

11. Hitchcock, pg. 337.

12. Swindoll, pg. 255.

13. Ibid.

14. Hitchcock, pg. 338.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1549.

16. Hitchcock, pg. 339.

17. Ibid., pp. 339-340.

18. Ibid., pg. 340 cites Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, Tyndale; and San Diego: Creation-Life, 1983), pg. 256.

19. Ibid.

20. Hitchcock, pg. 340.

21. Ibid., pg. 342.

Revelation 13 – Part 3

9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear. 10 He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” Revelation 13:9-10

After the beast’s death and resurrection (13:3-4), Satan will give him great speaking ability as he takes his place in the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem. “And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.” (Revelation 13:5). The beast will use his profound speaking abilities to utter “great things.” He will inspire the whole world with his charisma and eloquence. When he speaks, everyone will listen. 1

“He will have a mouth speaking very great things. He will have perfect command and flow of language. His oratory will not only gain attention but respect. Revelation 13:2 declares that his mouth is ‘as the mouth of a lion’ which is a symbolic expression telling of the majesty and awe-producing effects of his voice. The voice of a lion excels that of any other beast. So the Antichrist will outrival orators ancient and modern.” 2

The Antichrist will also speak “blasphemies” against God by “claiming that he himself is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4; cf. Daniel 7:24-25; 11:36). 3 Walvoord writes, “It has always been Satan’s purpose to receive the worship due to God alone, as stated in Isaiah 14:14: ‘I will make myself like the Most High.’ This is Satan’s final form of counterfeit religion in which he assumes the place of God the Father, and the beast or the world ruler assumes the role of King of kings as a substitute Christ.” 4

John also informs us that Satan gave him “authority to continue” this blasphemous assumption of the role of God 5 “for forty-two months” which would be the last three and a half years of the Tribulation period.

“Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.” (Revelation 13:6). Satan will deceive the beast to think that all the world’s problems are because of God and His followers 6 so he will “blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven,” namely, the church, which will be residing there via the Rapture 7 (cf. Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-18) and God’s angels.

Since James 3:6 says the unbridled tongue is metaphorically “set on fire by hell,” we cannot begin to imagine the hellish words that will spew from the mouth of the Antichrist against God, His heaven, and His people who dwell there. His motives and manner of deception will be fueled by the unrestricted power of Satan himself. 8 Since Satan had been cast down from heaven to earth (12:9-10), no longer able to accuse believers before God’s throne in heaven, he would now use the mouth of the beast to speak horrible things against God and His heavenly inhabitants for the next three and a half years on earth.

Not only did the beast use his words against God’s people in heaven, but he would also use his military might against God’s people on earth. “It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” (Revelation 13:7). Remember how the Two Witnesses were killed by the Antichrist after he rose from the dead at the midpoint of the Tribulation (11:7)? Their murders would mark the beginning of a three-and-a-half-year bloodbath of believers being martyred (“overcome”) by the Antichrist’s regime. 9 Although the beast appears to be victorious during this time, the true overcomers are these martyred believers who will rule and reign with Christ throughout eternity (13:7a; cf. Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21; 20:4; 2 Timothy 2:12).

Because of his persuasive speaking abilities and military success, the beast will become a worldwide dictator with “authority… over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” As Daniel predicted, the Antichrist “shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces” (Daniel 7:23).

In addition to the beast obtaining political and military dominion over the entire world, he willalsoabolish all other religions and demand that everyone worship him. “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8). Only unbelievers who dwell on the earth(“whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb”) will worship the Antichrist during the last half of the Tribulation.

“If the thought of a world ruler with such sweeping authority seems farfetched, think of Hitler. If not for a series of providential interventions, he might have achieved the goal of world domination. For example, a snowstorm kept the Germans from conquering Russia, and America’s entrance into World War II pushed them back on the western front. Hitler wasn’t the Antichrist, but he was an antichrist. And his near conquest of the world makes an actual conquest by this future leader seem less implausible.” 10

When the apostle John refers to Jesus as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” he “is emphasizing that Christ’s atoning death for man’s sin from God’s perspective actually is timeless, occurring even before the world was ever created.” 11

Evans states, “The only cause for anyone’s consignment to hell is his or her own personal sin, including rejection of Jesus as Savior. That’s why children who die in infancy and people born with severe mental disabilities go to heaven. They have no conscience, personal sin, or spiritual rejection of the Savior for which to be condemned. Yet when a person knowingly sins and rejects the revelation of God in creation, his or her name is erased from the book of life and only reinserted should he or she place faith in Jesus as Savior.” 12

Finally, God and the apostle John appeal to the readers of the book of Revelation, especially those who will be living during the Tribulation period, to “hear” or pay attention to what God has to say to them. “If anyone has an ear, let him hear.” (Revelation 13:9). It is important to realize that John makes no reference “to the churches,” as he did in similar exhortations in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation (cf. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). This confirms the fact that believers living during the Church Age will not be present on the earth during the Tribulation period because they have been removed via the Rapture (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11). 13

“The dream of many today, of a universal church and a universal religion, will be realized in the end time, but it will be satanic and blasphemous instead of involving worship of the true God. In such a situation, appeal can only be made to individuals who will turn from it to God.” 14

The last half of the Tribulation period will be a very difficult period for followers of Jesus. The cost of discipleship will be much greater during this time than it is now, making it less desirable for people to want to be saved. Everyone who refuses to worship the beast will be under a sentence of captivity and death. 15

Believers in Jesus (those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life) “will have the spiritually enlightened eyes to see through the polished politics and not be intimidated by military might of the Antichrist. They will see him for the monster he really is. But resistance to his regime will have its dreadful consequences.” 16

John seeks to encourage these believers with the following words: “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” (Revelation 13:10). Those who are willing to listen are told that their obedience to the Lord Jesus may lead to their “captivity” (imprisonment)or to their martyrdom “with the sword.” Beheading of believers will be the primary form of execution by the Antichrist during this time: “Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.” (Revelation 20:4).

John is reminding these faithful believers that their persecutors will pay for the wicked acts they have committed against them: “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword” (13:10). As followers of the Lord Jesus, their response to their possible imprisonment or martyrdom is “patience” (endurance or perseverance) and unwavering “faith” in the Lord, knowing that He will judge those who mistreat them (cf. Revelation 19:19-21; cf. Matthew 26:52; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10). 17

John also encourages these followers of Jesus with the prospect of receiving the eternal reward of ruling with Christ in His kingdom on earth: “Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4). After Christ returns to earth with His church (19:7-21), He will resurrect (“lived”) martyred believers in Jesus from the last half of the Tribulation period who “had not worshiped the beast or his image” and “had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.”

What this tells us is when believers in Jesus are convinced that God will bring to justice their persecutors (13:9-10), they will be able to persevere and be victorious for Christ now and receive the ultimate reward of sitting with Him on their thrones in His kingdom (Revelation 13:1-10; cf. 2:26-27; 3:21; 2 Timothy 2:12).

Recently I received an email about the persecution of Christians today in other parts of the world. “Sixteen Christians are murdered every single day because of their faith. A devastating new report details just how explosive and deadly the persecution of Christians has become around the globe… In Nigeria, Christian pastors are beheaded. In India, Christians are jailed and discriminated against. In Pakistan… Christians [are] on death row for their faith… This new report shows that Afghanistan has become the absolute worst place on earth for Christians. The persecution is excruciating… ‘Men, women and children are subjugated, beaten, and executed for their beliefs that differ from the tyrannical Taliban.’ The Taliban is going door to door looking for Christians to kill and unmarried women to take captive. Christians are hiding in their homes and fearing what the Taliban will do to them – a genocidal persecution.” 18

Let’s pause for a moment and imagine what it will be like in the Tribulation. The kind of persecution described in this new report will be commonplace in the Tribulation. All believers in Jesus around the world will be in danger of imprisonment or martyrdom because the Antichrist will have worldwide authority. What would it be like for us to be among faithful believers during those days when Satan’s power and deception will be unleashed like the world has never seen before? We may huddle together for mutual defense and sometimes we may stand alone before our persecutors. How would we endure such satanic opposition and oppression?

Revelation 13:9-10 tells us when believers in Jesus are convinced that God will bring to justice their persecutors, they will be able to persevere and be victorious for Christ amid persecution so they can receive the ultimate reward of sitting with Jesus on thrones in His kingdom and share a special intimacy with Christ. Some believers will receive greater authority for being faithful than others who have not been as faithful (cf. Matthew 25:20-30; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). This is intended to motivate believers facing persecution to faithfully endure for Christ to the end of their lives.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your Word that points us to Christ whether we are living in the future Tribulation or the current church age. Even though we are not living in the Tribulation, the spirit of the antichrist is already at work in the world promoting opposition to God and His people. We need Your spiritual discernment, Father, in an age of deception and manipulation so that Jesus Christ alone is given our allegiance and the Bible remains our final authority. May the gospel of salvation by grace, through faith alone in Christ alone, be at the center of our lives so more unsaved people discover the hope of everlasting life that can only be found in Jesus. When we face persecution, please grant us the grace to believe You will bring justice our persecutors so we can faithfully persevere and receive the ultimate reward of sitting with Jesus on thrones in His kingdom and share a special intimacy with Him. In Jesus’ mighty name, 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. 261.

2. Ibid., cites Arthur W. Pink, The Antichrist, (Swengel, Pennsylvania: Bible Truth Depot, 1923), pg. 81.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 144.

4. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 5763.

5. Ibid., location 5769.

6. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1546.

7. Constable, pg. 144.

8. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 249.

9. Ibid., pp. 249-250.

10. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2400.

11. Vacendak, pp. 1546-1547.

12. Evans, pg. 2400.

13. Constable, pg. 145.

14. Walvoord, location 5786.

15. Evans, pp. 2400-2401.

16. Swindoll, pg. 260.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1547.

18. Taken from a February 2, 2022, email from Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.