Revelation 12 – Part 5

“But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” Revelation 12:14

Following Satan’s defeat and his eviction from heaven to earth (12:7-12), he directs all his rage at the nation of Israel knowing he has a short time left. Satan can read the book of Revelation too and he knows he is going to be bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years after Jesus’ return to earth (Revelation 12:13-17; 20:1-3). 1 The apostle John writes, “Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child.” (Revelation 12:13). Since Satan (dragon) could not get to the Christ Child or His church who ascended victoriously to heaven (12:5; cf. 4:1-4), he will persecute “the woman,” which represents the nation of Israel (12:1-2; cf. Genesis 37:9-11), “who gave birth to the male Child.” Satan’s goal during the last half of the Tribulation period will be to destroy Israel and thus render God’s promises to Israel false, making God a liar. 2

Hitchcock writes, Satan focuses his fury on the woman and tries to wipe out the Jewish people once and for all to thwart the promises of God. He will embark on an all-out, worldwide campaign of anti-Semitism. This will mark the culmination of Satan’s agelong war against the Jewish people. But his attempts always backfire. Have you ever noticed that every time Satan tries to wipe out the Jews, they end up with a holiday? After Pharaoh’s brutal enslavement, they got Passover. After Haman’s plot in Esther to wipe them out, they got the Festival of Purim. After the atrocities of Antiochus Epiphanes in the intertestamental period, they got Hanukkah, or the Feast of Lights. And after Hitler’s holocaust, they got May 14, 1948—the rebirth of the modern state of Israel. Satan’s final assault against Israel will also fail. It will result in the repentance of Israel, the second coming of Jesus, and the establishment of the Messianic kingdom.” 3

Swindoll says, Satan has inspired countless attempts at destroying God’s special covenant people. Throughout history, the Jews have been the special object of hatred, ridicule, and persecution. During the Middle Ages, they were looked on with suspicion and treated as outcasts in a world dominated by a form of political Christianity that viewed all Jews as Christ-killers. During World War II, the Nazis attempted to obliterate the Jewish people in a horrific holocaust driven by absolute evil. Even after the birth of the modern nation of Israel in 1948, its neighboring nations in the Middle East have often talked of driving the Jews into the sea and retaking the land. Anti-Semitism has a long and sordid history. Yet God has continued to fulfill His promise to preserve Israel, even in their spiritually blind condition of rejecting Jesus as their Messiah (Rom. 11:28-29).” 4

Just as God has preserved the nation of Israel since her birth over four thousand years ago (Genesis 12:1-3), so He will continue to sustain them during the last half of the Tribulation when all of hell’s fury is directed against them. “But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” (Revelation 12:14). During the last half of the Tribulation period, many believing Jews will obey Jesus’ command to flee Judea when the Man of Sin takes his place in the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15-16; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4) and God will give them supernatural speed (“two wings of a great eagle”) that they may quickly take refuge in the “wilderness to her place” of total security. “The comparison between a powerful “eagle,” that can “fly” very fast overhead, going wherever it chooses, and an earth-bound “serpent,” implies the superior protection of God.” 5

This hiding place was not clearly identified. Some suggest that it might be Petra, fortress capital of the Nabateans in Edom, south of the Dead Sea. This city has a narrow access which could easily be blocked but which opens up into a large canyon capable of caring for many thousands of people. Though Scripture is not specific, some believe the 144,000 of chapter 7 are to be preserved here. The Scriptures themselves speak of God’s seal of protection on them.

“The two wings probably do not refer to modern airplanes but rather to God’s delivering power, and are a figure of speech taken from such Old Testament passages as Exodus 19:4 and Deuteronomy 32:11-12. The flight of Israel to a place of safety was also indicated in Matthew 24:16; Mark 13:14; and Luke 21:21.” 6

It is at this place in the wilderness “where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time.” This refers to the three and one-half years of the Great Tribulation with ‘a time’ equaling one year, ‘times’ equaling two years, and ‘half a time’ indicating 6 months (cf. Daniel 7:25; 12:7 with the 42 months referred to in Revelation 11:2; 13:5). References to these specific time periods show that the Great Tribulation is not the entire present Age but the three and one-half years preceding the second coming of Christ.” 7

God would supernaturally feed and protect the Israelites in this place of refuge much like He fed the Israelites in the wilderness and Elijah by the brook Cherith. 8 This would take place away “from the presence of the serpent” (Satan – 12:14) who will try to destroy them by means of the armies of the Man of Sin. 9 15 So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. 16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.” (Revelation 12:15-16). When Satan (“the serpent”) realizes his enemies, the believing Jews (“the woman”), have obediently fled Judea, he sends a “flood” of armies after them who will be miraculously “swallowed up” by “the earth.”

In the Old Testament, overflowing waters and floods are sometimes used symbolically to represent military attack (cf. Isaiah 8:7-8; Jeremiah 47:2-3). 10 For example, this image of a flood overtaking Israel is also seen in Daniel 9:26, a prophetic reference to the Roman invasion that destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70: “And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.” 11 Soon after the Man of Sin sits in the rebuilt Jewish temple, declaring himself to be God (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4), he will discover that his enemies (the believing Jewish remnant) are escaping and will send a flood of soldiers after them. However, just as He did in the past on behalf of His people (cf. Exodus 15:12; Psalm 106:17), God will miraculously open an enormous crevice in the earth that will swallow the soldiers of the Man of Sin alive. 12 Two thirds of these Israelites will die, and one third will escape (Zechariah 13:8-9). 13

We learn an important principle from this particular prophecy: We discover God most powerfully in the context of being overwhelmed. When believers are flooded with opposition, often they are able to watch God supernaturally suck up the flood of despair and avert Satan’s plan for destruction.” (Emphasis mine). 14

Enraged by the escape of all these Israelites, Satan will now focus his attack on the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who are sharing the gospel around the world (cf. 7:1-8; 14:1-5; Matthew 24:14). “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 12:17). These evangelists are described as those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.” The 144,000 are more than believers in Jesus. They are committed followers of Christ who are supernaturally protected by God so they can make Jesus Christ known during an unprecedented time of deception and persecution throughout the world.

Revelation 12 teaches us that Israel may be blind and disobedient as a nation, but God has never forgotten them. He never will. His reputation as a promise keeper is at stake. God will remember His people and preserve them. He will protect them when persecution arises, and He will ultimately fulfill His promise to return them to their own land under the Messiah. Although most ethnic Jews have not accepted Jesus as their Messiah, God has still preserved them as a distinct people over the last two thousand years. In Romans 11:1 Paul wrote, ‘God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!’ The fact of God’s faithfulness even to faithless Israel should give us hope, too! The same God who stands by His promises to Israel stands by His promise to each of us: ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’ (Heb. 13:5).” 15

We also learn from Revelation 12, that the dragon still comes after children of God, and sometimes he gets them (12:13-17). You and I might face the dragon in different ways, but we still face him daily. For John, that is part of the true meaning of the story of Christ’s birth. The message of the coming of Christ into the world is not peace and joy for all. The world has churned on for two thousand years since the pronouncement of the angels, and there has never been lasting peace on earth or good will toward men. But then, that was never the promise, was it? Notice what it was the angels really promised to the shepherds, “Give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God” (Luke 2:14 NCV). The promise of peace is for those who please God, those who follow the Lamb. The dragon will continue to attack, but the battle belongs to the Lord. Do you belong to Him?

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, we thank You for our verses in Revelation 12 today which emphasize Your supernatural protection and provision of Your people Israel despite all the fury of hell directed against them. We are reminded that during times when we are most overwhelmed, we discover You in the most powerful ways when You seem to supernaturally suck up the flood of our despair and turn away Satan’s plan for destruction. Your faithfulness to faithless Israel gives us hope because we too can be faithless especially when we are overwhelmed. You are the same God Who keeps His promises to Israel Who stands by His promises to us. When You say, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), we can be confident You will never abandon us no matter what hardships we face. Thank You for the security this gives us. Thank You for the peace You give to us when we make it our aim to please You. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2398.

2. Ibid.

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), pp. 314-315.

4. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 240.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 138.

6. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 5718 to 5724.

7. Ibid., location 5724 to 5729.

8. Constable, pg. 138.

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. 1544.

10. Ibid.

11. Swindoll, pg. 240.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1544.

13. Constable, pg. 138.

14. Evans, pg. 2399.

15. Swindoll, pg. 241.

How can we endure difficult times? Part 6

“Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him.” John 18:12

In the first twelve verses of John 18, we are learning how to endure difficult times. So far we have discovered we can do this when we…

– Learn about the love of Christ (John 18:1a).

– Look to the Lord in prayer (John 18:1b).

– Lean on the power of Christ (John 18:2-8a). 

– Listen to the command of Christ (John 18:8b).      

– Let Christ protect us now (John 18:9-11).

The sixth and final way to endure difficult times is to LET CHRIST HAVE YOUR BURDENS BECAUSE HE UNDERSTANDS (John 18:12; cf. Hebrews 4:15). The apostle John writes, “Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him.” (John 18:12). Although the disciples were not arrested, Jesus was “arrested… and bound.” The word “arrested” (synelabon) means “to grasp together or seize.” 1 Since Jesus offered no resistance, it is not clear why they “bound” the Lord. Perhaps they were afraid Jesus might use His supernatural powers and attempt to escape.

This verse is especially powerful for those who are incarcerated. They have been arrested. Jesus was also arrested. Christ was arrested even though He was innocent. There are some in prison today who were arrested even though they were innocent. Jesus was falsely accused. Some prisoners may have also been falsely accused. Christ has much in common with those in jail or prison. As some of you reading this article know, being arrested is not a pleasant experience, especially if you are innocent. Christ understands what it is like to be arrested. He knows what it is like to be falsely accused. He understands how you feel, and He wants to help you. He has a greater capacity to care for you because He understands what you have gone through (cf. Hebrews 4:15).

The Bible says, 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:6-7). Christ cares more for you than any other person in the universe. Let Him have your burdens and worries. 

John wrote his gospel so non-Christians “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31). As you read this, you may not know for sure that you will go to heaven when you die. We have learned several truths from John 18:1-12 about Jesus that compel us to believe in Him for everlasting life:

1. Believe in Jesus because He loves you and paid the full penalty for your sins (John 18:1a; 1:29; 19:30). When Christ crossed over the Brook of Kidron which was soaked with the blood of the Passover Lambs, He was reminded that as the Lamb of God, He would be sacrificed on a cross for the sin of the world (John 1:29). Christ could have turned around and run to safety. But He did not. Why? Because of His great love for you and me. Jesus continued up to the Garden of Gethsemane knowing that He would be arrested and crucified for you and for me. That’s how much He loves us! Christ loves you and me whether we are a good moral person or a person who has spent more time in jail than out of jail. Even when we are at our worst, God still gives us His very best. The Bible tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Jesus loves us and wants to begin a forever relationship with us. Believe in Him.

2. Believe in Jesus because He has prayed for you (John 18:1b; cf. 17:20-26; Luke 22:39-43). When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was thinking of our sins being placed on Him when He would die on the cross. This is why the Bible tells us that  “He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.” (Matthew 26:37). Christ was overwhelmed by the thought of being separated from His Father in heaven as our sins would be placed upon Him. Yet Jesus prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup [of suffering] away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Through prayer, Jesus submitted to His Father’s will which included dying for our sins in our place.

3. Believe in Jesus because there is power in His name to give you eternal life and keep you secure forever (John 18:2-8a; cf. 10:28-29; 20:31). Since Jesus has the power to make an army fall down before Him, He also has the power to give us eternal life which can never be lost. The Bible tells us, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). “No other name” – not Muhammed (Islam), Buddha (Buddhism), Confucius (Confucianism), Joseph Smith (Mormonism), Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah Witnesses), Ellen G. White (Seventh-Day Adventist), Theophilus Lindsey (Unitarianism), Rubin Ecleo (PBMA), Apollo Carreón Quiboloy (Restoration Church/ Kingdom of Jesus Christ), Felix Manalo (Iglesia Ni Cristo), Eli Soriano (Ang Datin Daan) – nor any other religious founders can save us from our sins. Only Jesus Christ can save us from our sins because He paid our sin debt in full when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:1-8), proving that His claim to be God is true (Romans 1:3-4). Believe in Him.

4. Believe in Jesus because He has the power of command (John 18:8b). When the Roman soldiers and temple guards came to arrest Jesus, Christ tells them what to do and they follow His orders. They don’t arrest any of His disciples because He has the power of command. If we are going to go to heaven when we die, we must listen to and obey the command to believe in Christ for everlasting life. “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ…” (I John 3:23). There are many religious leaders commanding us what to do to go to heaven – pray toward the east five times a day. Go to church. Turn from your sins. Confess your sins. Meditate. Pray every day. Be baptized with water. Give to the poor. Keep the Sabbath. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do to others as you would have them do to you. But none of these are things Jesus commanded us to do to have everlasting life. What did Jesus say to do to have everlasting life? “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Do you believe this? If you do, Jesus guarantees that you now have everlasting life.

5. Believe in Jesus Who will protect you forever (John 18:9-11). Just as Jesus protected Peter and the other disciples physically from the well-armed soldiers and guards, He will also protect us spiritually forever the moment we believe in Him (John 10:28-29). No one will be able to overpower Christ and take His eternal life away from us. We are secure in His hands forever.

6. Believe in Jesus because He understands your need for eternal life (John 18:12; cf. Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). All of us deserve to be in a spiritual prison forever in a place called hell because all of us have sinned against God (Romans 3:23; Revelation 20:15). Our sin separates us from God because He is holy and righteous and cannot be around our sin (Isaiah 59:2; 64:6; Romans 6:23). Just as Jesus understands what it is like to be arrested and falsely accused, He also knows how it feels to be separated from God because the sin of the world was placed on Him when He died on the cross, causing Him to be temporarily separated from His heavenly Father (cf. Matthew 27:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Christ does not want you to die forever in hell (I Timothy 2:3-4). This is why He died in your place and rose from the dead – so you could live with Him forever in heaven. All He asks is that you believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift of eternal life. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47; cf. John 4:10-14; 11:25-26; Romans 6:23b).

When you believe in Jesus for His gift, Christ gives you everlasting life starting at that moment of faith (John 6:47). How long does everlasting life last? Forever! Does eternal life ever end? No. So even if you sin tomorrow, next month, or next year, do you still have everlasting life? Yes, because Jesus remains faithful to His promise of everlasting life (John 3:16; 6:47) even if we are unfaithful to Him (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).

The Bible also says that when you believe in Jesus for eternal life, you become a member of God’s family forever. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” So if you believed in Jesus for eternal life, God is now your Father and you are His child forever. If God is your Father and He is my Father, what does that make you and me? Brothers and sisters in Christ because we now have the same Father in heaven. It does not matter what color of skin you have or what culture you are from. If you believe in Jesus, we are family because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The color of His blood is the same as yours and mine.

And when you believe in Jesus, He comes to live inside you (Galatians 2:20) through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 1:13-14). And He promises never to leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). So if Jesus always lives inside you, do you ever have to feel lonely? No. You may feel lonely at times, but your feelings can lie to you. Focus on the truth of God’s Word instead of your feelings.

The Bible also says that when you believed in Jesus, you now have a future home in heaven (John 3:16; Revelation 21-22). So there is no need to be afraid of death. Even if people threaten to kill you for sharing Christ, you do not need to be afraid because Christ guarantees to take you to heaven the moment you take your last breath (John 11:25-26; 14:2-3; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-23).

If you have never understood and believed this before today, but now you do – you can tell God this through prayer. Praying this prayer is not what gets you to heaven. Only believing in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life gets you to heaven. This prayer is simply a way to tell God you are now trusting in His Son. If you would like, you can say to God:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I come to you now as a sinner. I cannot save myself. I believe You died in my place on a cross and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my prayers, my religion, or my good life), to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You, Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have and for the future home I will have in heaven. In Your powerful name I pray. Amen.”

Diagram 1

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please download our free digital discipleship materials on this website (see diagram 1) to go through with other people who are seeking to know Jesus. Thank you, and may Jesus richly bless you.

ENDNOTES:

1. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pg. 776; Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 286.

How can we endure difficult times? Part 2

“When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.” John 18:1

We are learning in John 18:1-12 how we can endure difficult times. Last time we discovered the first way is to learn about the love of Christ (John 18:1a). The second way to endure difficult times is in the last half of verse 1. “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.” (John 18:1b). Christ crossed over the Brook Kidron to go to “a garden.” This is not necessarily a reference to a place where flowers or vegetables are grown, but to an orchard where olive trees are growing on the side of the Mount of Olives. 1 

John is referring to the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Matthew 26:36; Mark 14:32). The word “Gethsemane” (Gethsēmani) means an “oil press” 2  or a place where the olives are pressed and pressured so that the oil would come out. Jesus was pressured spiritually like never before in the garden that night. John leaves out the agony of Gethsemane where Jesus fervently prayed to the Father concerning the cross (cf. Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-43). His sweat became like blood (cf. Luke 22:44). Why does John leave this out? Because his purpose is to show Jesus in complete control over the situation. Christ is presented as the Victor in John’s account, not the Victim.

This garden was probably something some wealthy citizen of Jerusalem owned. They didn’t just have free land outside of Jerusalem in those days. All the gardens that were around Jerusalem were owned by wealthy citizens in Jerusalem. They didn’t have big gardens in Jerusalem for two reasons: there wasn’t enough land and the law forbid them from putting manure or fertilizer on the ground in Jerusalem. So even if you did have a garden in Jerusalem, it would not grow anything. So all the wealthy citizens would buy these gardens outside of town and they would go out there to relax. 3  We don’t know the name of the person who owned this garden. But whoever he or she was, they lent this garden to Jesus during the hour of His greatest need. I find it intriguing that God does not tell us the name of this significant person who ministered to our Lord at this time. Perhaps the Lord Jesus will reveal this person to us in heaven.

Nonetheless, the main observation here is that Jesus went to Gethsemane to prepare for Calvary. He prepared for His suffering (arrest, trials, and crucifixion) by spending time in prayer with His heavenly Father. So the second way to endure difficult times is to LOOK TO THE LORD IN PRAYER (John 18:1b; cf. Luke 22:39-42).

Do you have a quiet place where you can get alone with the Lord to pray? Dr. Tony Evans said, “Pain is always an invitation to pray.” God allows pain in our lives to cause us to depend more on Him in prayer. Where do you go when you are in pain? Do you go to the internet? To a bottle of booze? To drugs? To a boyfriend or girlfriend? To the Lotto (lottery)? To your job or ministry? Where do you go? Jesus turned to His heavenly Father in prayer.

John tells us that “Jesus often met there with His disciples” (18:2b). Christ went there often with His disciples to pray. This is where He got His endurance. If we are going to endure trials in a way that honors Jesus Christ, we must make it a habit to talk to Him in prayer.

The Bible tells us when we face tough times, to “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8). When God allows pain in our lives, He invites us to trust Him and pour out our hearts before Him. Why? Because “God is a refuge for us.” He is a safe Person to share our hurts and struggles with because He understands and sympathizes, having gone through similar struggles (Hebrews 4:15). He will not tell others what we share with Him. He will not mock us or betray us. He has our best interests in mind. Go to Him in prayer because He loves you and cares for you more than any other person in the universe. As we give Him our burdens, He will give us renewed strength to endure the trials we are facing.

Prayer: Father God, there is no better way to face Calvary (suffering) than to spend time in Gethsemane talking to You in prayer. Thank Youthat we can talk to You anytime, anywhere, about anything. And You are always available to listen and understand. Lord Jesus, no one understands our hurts and struggles better than You. You know what it feels like to be abandoned, alone, misunderstood, rejected, unfairly accused, and unloved. You are our Refuge. Our secrets and struggles are safe with You. Thank You for reminding us that You also know what it is like to endure suffering victoriously. Please lead us to face our difficulties victoriously with Your strength as we lean into You through prayer. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 316.

2. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pg. 153.

3. William Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, Commentary on John, 1956-1959, vs. 18:1-14. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/john-18.html.

4. Tony Evans, March 10, 2019 post on Facebook.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 5 (Video)

This is the fifth video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the fifth miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving His miraculous walking on water (John 6:15-21).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from www.GoodSalt.com, Sweet Publishing / www.FreeBibleimages.org, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing / www.FreeBibleimages.org, David Padfield / www.FreeBibleimages.org, The Edge Group and Lion Hudson Ltd. / www.FreeBibleimages.org, or they are creative common licenses. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

Why does the Lord allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it? Part 8

“Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him, and let him go.’ ” John 11:44b

Today we will look at the final reason why the Lord may allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it. It is to GET CHRISTIANS TO HELP ONE ANOTHER DISPOSE OF THEIR GRAVE CLOTHES (John 11:44b). Jesus had just commanded a dead man to come out of his grave (John 11:43). And a living Lazarus walked out of his tomb wrapped from head to toe in burial clothes. Only Jesus can bring life to dead churches, marriages, families, and individuals. That is Jesus’ job. But look at the end of verse 44:  “Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him, and let him go.’ ” (John 11:44b). Could Jesus have caused the grave clothes of Lazarus to drop off? Absolutely! If He could raise Lazarus from the dead, He could certainly cause his grave clothes to drop off. But why didn’t He do this?

That would have left Lazarus naked and caused him a lot of humiliation and shame. By having those around him unwrap Lazarus, Jesus was providing an opportunity for people close to Lazarus to help him lose his grave clothes without losing his dignity. Likewise, Christians need to help one another get free from their spiritual and emotional grave clothes.

Jesus gives life to people. That is His job. But it is our job, the people of God, to help one another get out of the grave clothes that keep reborn people from acting alive. We may still have the grave clothes of shame and self-righteousness. We may view ourselves and God in a way that keeps us from experiencing His resurrection life. There may be deeply ingrained habits or thought patterns that prevent us from living resurrection lifestyles. Or we may have the grave clothes of unconfessed sin or an unforgiving spirit which keep us from experiencing true freedom in our Christian lives.

The church needs to be a safe place where we begin to peel away the grave clothes that keep born again people from experiencing the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. We cannot live victorious Christian lives in isolation from other believers. We need each other to experience the resurrection power of Christ in our lives.

How can churches become a safe place for believers to remove their grave clothes?

1. Ask others to help you remove your own grave clothes. Instead of jumping in like a spiritual superior to help remove the grave clothes of others, church leaders are to give others permission to help them remove what is keeping them from experiencing Christ’s resurrection power more fully. After all, how can church leaders expect others to be vulnerable about their struggles if they are not vulnerable about theirs? This kind of mutual vulnerability conveys the gospel message that we are all imperfect sinners in need of God’s grace (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). If Christians will live in humble vulnerability with one another, they will create an atmosphere that gives every believer in the church the safety and freedom to shed their grave clothes on the pathway to experiencing Christ’s resurrection power.

2. Extend the same grace to others as Christ has given to you (Ephesians 2:8-9; 4:32). None of us deserved salvation, but God freely gave it to us by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. We must create an atmosphere of this grace that invites imperfect sinners to come out of the darkness into the light of Jesus’ love. I have attended Christian churches and/or ministries where believers were treated harshly for having grave clothes that kept them from experiencing Christ’s resurrection power. They were belittled and bullied for having struggles, which only increased their fear and shame. They were viewed as an embarrassment to the church or ministry. According to them, since “true Christians” have no serious problems, no provisions were made to help them.

This is the exact opposite of what Jesus did with those who were broken and wounded. Christ fulfilled the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 42:3 which says, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” (cf. Matthew 12:20). Jesus did not deal harshly with those who were already hurting nor did He extinguish what little hope a broken heart possessed. He came along side of them to strengthen them with His presence rather than step on them to advance His own plans. He wants to rekindle our love and passion for Him. Unlike the religious leaders of His day, Jesus had compassion for the weak and vulnerable. He extended gentleness and humility to the harassed and helpless (Matthew 9:36) as well as to the weary and burdened (Matthew 11:28). He gave forgiveness to the fallen (John 8:11). Likewise, the more churches have this Christlike mindset, the more they will expect “true Christians” to have obvious problems and provide ministries that provide the safety and security to promote transparency, healing, and growth.

3. Focus more on the heart instead of behavior. God is not uptight about our sin and shame. People are the ones who are uptight about our sin and shame. God still loved us even though we were undeserving, ungodly sinners without any strength to reconcile ourselves to Him. He did not wait for us to clean ourselves up before He loved us and died in our place. The Bible says, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). “Christ died for the ungodly,” not the godly. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ died for us “while we were still sinners,” not saints. Christ looked beyond our sin to our hearts. He loved us no matter how often or badly we sinned.

Do our churches communicate this same kind of love to those the Lord brings to us? No matter how stinky a believer’s grave clothes are, do we love and accept that person as Jesus loves and accepts him or her? Do we take time to get to know the person, or do we stay preoccupied with their behavior and avoid them or judge them? It is Christ’s love that will embolden believers to remove their grave clothes and be transparent with one another, not focusing on behavior. After all, God’s “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). And fear and shame are two of the most common obstacles that keep people from being vulnerable with one another. But when we experience God’s incredible love for us through other believers who love and care for us no matter what we have done, we will respond with love toward our Lord and toward His children (I John 4:19).

4. Define believers by what God says about them, not by what they do. Christians are not defined by their grave clothes. They are defined by what God says about them. For example, the apostle Paul wrote the book of Ephesians to Christians who were living in the city of Ephesus, a sex-saturated society that was the home of the temple Diana. Christians were enticed by temple teachings to live without restraint. Paul countered this godless culture by emphasizing the Christian’s new identity in chapters 1-3, followed by a call to live in a way that is consistent with who they are in chapters 4-6.

An example of this is seen in Ephesians 5:8-10. Paul writes,  “8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” Notice that Paul starts with who they now are in Christ – “you are light in the Lord” (5:8a). The light of Jesus Christ now defined who they are, not the darkness of their sin. Paul then concludes, “walk as children of light” (5:8b). Jesus is the “light of the world” (John 8:12) and His followers are defined by His light.  

Christian speaker and author, Dr. Tony Evans, writes, “His followers must reflect Him the way the moon reflects the sun—not as crescent-moon Christians but as full-moon Christians. And we can’t reflect His light unless we’re in the light. So, if you want to reflect Christ, you have to be absorbing Christ through cultivating an intimate walk and relationship with Him (see John 15:1-16).” (Dr. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. pg. 2110).

As we grow closer to Jesus and learn how He sees us, we will begin to live like children of light who produce “goodness, righteousness, and truth” as we discover what is “acceptable to the Lord” (5:9-10).  

If we want to see believers shed their grave clothes and experience the resurrection power of Jesus more fully, we must focus on what God says about them instead of on what they have done. Why? Because the more they see themselves as God sees them, the more He will transform their lives. After all, we act in the way we perceive ourselves to be. The Bible says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7). Our behavior does not determine who we are. At the very core of our being we are God’s children and God wants us to learn to start acting in a way that is consistent with who you are.

For example, if you see yourself as an addict at the core of your being, what will be the most natural thing for you to do? To stay sober or practice your addiction? Practice your addiction. What will be the most unnatural thing for you to do? Stay sober. But if you see yourself as a child of God at the core of your being (John 1:12; I John 3:1-2), what is the most natural thing for you to do? Stay sober. Satan wants to convince you that you are a sinner. Why? Because sinning is accepted as natural. But if you realize and believe you are a child of God at the core of your being, then you will come to the conclusion that sinning compromises who you are. Sin is inconsistent with who you are in Christ. The more a believer sees themselves as God sees them, the more they will realize their grave clothes no longer define who they are. In fact, wearing their grave clothes will seem unnatural and restrictive to them.

Prayer: Wow, Lord Jesus! Many times I have read the raising of Lazarus from the dead, but I had not noticed the last part of verse 44. What a powerful application this is for the church today. Yes, You gave life to Lazarus as only You can do. But You want Your people to help him remove his grave clothes so he can experience his new life more fully. Oh Lord, please awaken Your church to see their role in helping other believers remove their grave clothes in a way that preserves their dignity and enables them to more fully experience Your resurrection power in their lives. In Your life-giving name I pray. Amen.