Revelation 12 – Part 3

“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:9

Last time in our study of the book of Revelation, we saw that the dragon, Satan (12:9), failed to destroy the Christ Child at His birth and during His life and in His death, so Jesus could ascend victoriously to heaven after His resurrection (12:3-5). Since Satan cannot get to the Christ Child who is now on His throne in heaven (12:5), he is going to go after what is dearest to the Child – His people, Israel.

The apostle John writes, “Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” (Revelation 12:6). Christ’s birth and ascension to heaven in verse 5 took place some two thousand years ago, but the events described here in verse 6will take place in the future. The nation of Israel, represented by “the woman” (cf. 12:1-2; Genesis 37:9-11), will flee “into the wilderness” immediately at the middle of the Tribulation period when the Man of Sin (the Beast or Antichrist) occupies the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and declares himself to be God (12:6a; cf. Matthew 24:15-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). 1

During the first half of the Tribulation many Jews will believe in the gospel of the kingdom proclaimed by the Two Witnesses from Jerusalem (11:1-6). This believing remnant (“our brethren” – 12:10) will need to get out of Israel as quickly as possible because Satan’s desire is to exterminate Israel so he can render God’s promises to them as false, making God a liar.

If Israel obeys Jesus’ command to flee to the mountains to the “place prepared by God” when the Man of Sin occupies the rebuilt Jewish temple (“abomination of desolation” – Matthew 24:15-16), God will “feed” or provide for her “there one thousand two hundred and sixty days” or three and a half years during the last half of the Tribulation period (12:6b). “God fed millions of Jews for forty years during their Exodus from Egypt, and He will do so again in Israel’s darkest hour.” 2

Hitchcock suggests that this place of refuge prepared by God for Israel could be the rock city of Petra in modern Jordan (cf. Micah 2:12-13; Daniel 11:41). He writes, “This place is also consistently described as being in ‘the mountains’ or ‘the wilderness’ (Matthew 24:16; Revelation 12:6, 14, NASB). Therefore, this city must be prepared by God in advance, must be in the hills and in the wilderness. The city of Petra fits all of these criteria: it is adequate to hold what may be one million Jewish people; it is both in the hills and the wilderness; and it is accessible to the fleeing remnant. Therefore, putting all these points together, it is apparent that God will provide the fleeing Jewish remnant an accessible place of refuge in the wilderness and in the hills that will be like a sheepfold and that will be outside the Antichrist’s domain. The place that best fits the clues provided in Scripture is the magnificent rock city of Petra.” 3

To protect Israel during the last half of the Tribulation, John writes, 7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.” (Revelation 12:7-8). John then sees a “war” break “out in heaven” between “Michael,” the archangel who battled with Satan over the body of Moses (cf. Jude 1:9), 4 and Satan, “the dragon.” Michael is accompanied by “his” unfallen “angels” and Satan is joined by “his” fallen “angels” or demons (12:7). The angels’ way of fighting here will be like what they do on behalf of all believers today (cf. Hebrews 1:14). The accidents we narrowly escape, and the perfect timing of various life events are not coincidences, but heaven’s divine arrangements of all things for our good. 5

As Michael fought on Daniel’s and Israel’s behalf against demons in the Old Testament era (cf. Daniel 10:13), angels fight for believers today and will fight for Israel in the last half of the future Tribulation. 6 Daniel 12:1a explains this event when it says, “Michael shall stand up,” which undeniably refers to the fact that the archangel is ready to act on behalf of Israel (cf. Daniel 10:21). This war in heaven will occur just before the time of Jacob’s “trouble” – the last half of the Tribulation (cf. Daniel 12:1b). 7

Despite all of Satan’s raging, he, and his fallen angels “did not prevail” over Michael and his angelic army (12:8a). As a result, there was no “place found for them in heaven any longer” (12:8b). Satan and his demonic cohorts are prohibited from entering heaven ever again. Since the fall of humankind, Satan used this God-given access to make relentless accusations against the people of God (cf. Revelation 12:10; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7), but near the middle of the Tribulation period, this access to God’s throne is stopped. 8 God will no longer hear Satan’s accusations against believers in His throne room. 9 In the end, Satan and his demonic armies will not be able to stop God’s plan for Israel nor His Son’s return to earth to set up His kingdom. 10

Hitchcock states,Both amillennialists and postmillennialists… view the casting of Satan from heaven in Revelation 12:7-9 as parallel with Luke 10:18-19. They point to Mark 3:27 and Matthew 12:25-29 as the fulfillment of the binding of Satan during the earthly ministry of Christ. For them, Satan’s activity and power are restricted during this present age. However, this contradicts the way Satan is pictured in the New Testament. Satan is called ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12:31; 14:30), ‘the god of this world’ (2 Corinthians 4:4), ‘an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14), ‘the commander of the powers in the unseen world’ (Ephesians 2:2), and he is ‘like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8). The devil schemes against believers (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11), hinders us (1 Thessalonians 2:18), accuses us (Revelation (Revelation 12:10), and blinds the minds of the lost (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan is anything but bound today. He is aggressively opposing the work of God. 11

“As someone once said, ‘If Satan is bound today, he must have an awfully long chain.’ Satan is characterized as the arch-deceiver in the New Testament. Yet, Revelation 20:3 says that when he is bound Satan will ‘not deceive the nations anymore.’ This does not fit the current situation. It demands a later time after the Lord’s coming.” 12

Satan’s defeat in heaven at the midpoint of the Tribulation led to his and his fallen angels’ expulsion to earth. So, the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9). God identifies “the great dragon” as “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.”

What do we learn about Satan in this verse? He is a “great dragon” who is fierce, cruel, and monstrous in nature. 13 As the “serpent of old,” he is crafty and subtle in character (cf. Genesis 3:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan is too strong and crafty for us to overcome his strategies on our own. We need God’s power and wisdom to experience victory over him in our Christian lives.

The name “Devil” (diabolos) means “Slanderer” or “Accuser.” 14 This title for “the evil one would have made a specially strong impact in the first century, for there was a well-known and well-hated figure called the delator, the paid informer. He made his living by accusing people before the authorities.” 15

In this church age the Devil focuses on accusing believers of wrongdoing. But because God has “justified” or declared believers totally righteous in His courtroom the moment we believe in Jesus apart from any works (Romans 4:5), no one can successfully accuse us of wrongdoing before God (cf. Romans 8:33), including the Devil.

The title “Satan” (Satanas) means “Adversary.” 16 Satan is not our friend. He is against us. He is our worst enemy. He hates us and wants to destroy our lives and testimony. But Jesus is our “Advocate” (I John 2:1-2) Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes before God the Father’s throne in heaven (Hebrews 7:25). Whenever Satan accuses us of wrongdoing, Christ says to the Father, “I paid for that sin, Father.”   

John writes that Satan is the one “who deceives the whole world” (12:9b). The primary strategy Satan uses to accuse and oppose us is deception. The Devil cannot win spiritual battles by exerting authority because he has been defeated on the cross (cf. Colossians 2:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-15). So, Satan must win by deception, influencing our thinking through spiritual and worldly means. We permit Satan to achieve victories in our lives when we act on that deception rather than rejecting it as a lie. 17

How can we overcome Satan’s deception? Jesus tells us in John 8. 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” (John 8:31). Christ is talking to Jewish believers who have eternal life, so He is not talking about salvation here. He is talking about the lifelong process of discipleship after we believe in Him for everlasting life.

Hence, the first way to overcome Satan’s deception is to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, so you may have eternal life in His name (John 20:31). The only condition for eternal life is simply believing in Christ for it. Obviously, then if you want to be free from the deception of the Devil, you must believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. And the moment you do, the eternal Son of God comes to live inside of you. If you don’t have Jesus Christ in your life, the only changes in your life will be superficial. You may read your Bible, pray, and go to church or counseling, but you are not going to experience lasting freedom from Satan’s lies without Christ in your life! Only Christ has the power to defeat the Devil’s deception in your life.

But overcoming deception does not stop with believing in Christ. Christ says to these believers, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (8:31b). What is the condition for being Jesus’ disciples? Abiding in His Word. To “abide” (menō) in Christ’s Word means “to continue or remain” 18 in Jesus’ teaching – literally, “to make one’s home at.”Where we make our home is where we spend our time. So, notice that you can believe in Jesus and not abide in His word. When believers “abide” or remain in Christ’s word, they “shall know the truth, and the truth shall make” them “free” (8:32).

Note two things. First, there is such a thing as truth. Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured. We live in a relativistic society that denies absolute truth, claiming, ‘What’s true for you may not be true for me.’ But truth is not based on our feelings, experiences, or desires. Truth is God’s viewpoint on every matter, and it is not subject to redefinition. Pilate would ask, ‘What is truth?’ (18:38), and the answer to that question is ‘Jesus’ (see 14:6).

“Second, knowing the truth results in genuine freedom. Don’t be confused. Truth alone doesn’t liberate; rather, the knowledge of the truth liberates. Deliverance comes when we know the truth—that is, when we hang out in what God says. When this happens, we will experience the truth setting us free from illegitimate bondage” 19 to Satan’s lies.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being a part of a discipleship relationship with other believers. We always learn from others, truths we would never learn on our own. Other people will help you see insights you would miss and help you apply God’s truth in a practical way. They can also help hold you accountable and I know I need that, don’t you? So, as we abide or remain in Christ’s word, we shall know the truth, and the truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6), shall make us free from Satan’s deception. The truth will identify the lies we have been believing that have held us in bondage to sin and will also provide the remedy to overcome those lies. It is knowing and applying the truth of God’s Word that will overcome the Devil’s deception.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for reminding us that although Satan is a powerful and aggressive foe, he will not be victorious. Your angels will defeat him at the midpoint of the Tribulation period, so he never has access to Your throne in heaven again. And while Satan accuses us before You every day and night during this current Church Age, we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ, Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes for us. Not only this, but Jesus also gives us eternal life the moment we believe in Him so we can subsequently abide in His Word and know the truth which sets us free from Satan’s lies. Please empower us, Lord, to know, believe and act on Your truth so that we may become all that You intended us to be for Your glory alone. In the mighty name of Jesus Who is the truth, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1542.

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. 378, 490 491.

4. Vacendak, pg. 1542.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2397.

6. Ibid.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1543; see also 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 5701 and Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 136.  

8. Vacendak, pg. 1543. cf. Hitchcock, pg. 314.

9. Constable, pg. 136.

10. Evans, pg. 2397.

11. Hitchcock, pp. 413-414.

12. Ibid., pg. 414 cites Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), pp. 702-703.

13. Contstable, pg. 136.

14. Ibid., see also 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. 226.

15. Ibid., cites Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 161; cf. William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 102.

16. Ibid., cf. Bauer, pg. 916.

17. Evans, 2397.

18. Bauer, pp. 630-631.

19. Evans, pg. 1779.

Revelation 12 – Part 1

“Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.” Revelation 12:1

If you are a Christian, you are familiar with God’s love for you. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). The world includes you and me. God loves us!!! The apostle Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). God showed how much He loved us by dying in our place “while we were still sinners.” God did not wait for us to clean up our lives and become “worthy” of His love. Even when we were at our worst, God loved us by giving His best for us when He took our punishment for sin on the cross.

As much as God loves us, we need to understand that Satan hates us. Swindoll writes, Never forget those three words if you love and follow Christ’s teachings. Satan wants nothing more than to sabotage our love for God and for others, to tempt us into a moral catastrophe, and to see us choose a lifestyle of sin rather than a walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. When we falter, he stands ready to accuse us before God. When we pass the tests of temptation, he looks beyond that and is already strategizing his next attack. Satan’s hatred of us is relentless.

“… Understanding that Satan is neither all-powerful nor completely powerless will help us come to terms with the real challenges we face as we do battle with Satan’s evil empire in its current form. I say ‘current form’ because it’s important to understand that Satan’s ability to unleash his fury on God’s people is limited in the present age. However, one day Satan’s empire will be allowed to strike the world in full force before crumbling at the coming of Christ.” 1

You may recall that the apostle John received instructions to“prophesy again,” a second time regarding the seven-year Tribulation “about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” in Revelation 10:11. Therefore, Revelation 11-19 surveys the seventieth week of years (Tribulation) a second timewith a view to revealing the specific characters on the stage of the drama. In Revelation 11, John reviews the first half of the Tribulation with a focus on the Two Witnesses whom God will bring directly to faith in Christ so they can proclaim the truth to the world from Jerusalem (11:1-6), resulting in the salvation of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (“firstfruits” – 14:4) who will proclaim the “gospel of the kingdom” during the last half of the Tribulation period (cf. 7:1-10) to “all the nations” (cf. Matthew 24:14).

At the end of Revelation 11, the seventh trumpet sounded to prepare the apostle John, and his readers for the seven horrific bowls of wrath (cf. Revelation 16) immediately before Christ returns to set up His kingdom on earth (Revelation 11:15-19). God now gives John and his readers more information about the forces behind the anti-God hatred during the last half of the Tribulation (Revelation 12-15), so John and his readers could understand the bowl judgments (Revelation 16) which the seventh trumpet judgment contained. 2

Beginning in Revelation 12, John will describe the conflict between God and Satan in the spiritual realm that has taken place throughout history since Satan’s rebellion against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-18) so we can understand how it will be manifested in the physical realm during the second half of the Tribulation period, especially during the bowl judgments. 3

John will now focus on five main characters in Revelation 12 that are involved in this spiritual conflict. First, we are introduced to a woman. “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.” (Revelation 12:1). The phrase “a great sign” (mega sēmeion) Walvoord says refers to “the first of a series of events called ‘signs’ or ‘miracles’ (12:3; 13:13-14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20). As signs they were symbols of something that God was about to reveal and usually contained an element of prophetic warning. Though this sign was seen in heaven, the events which followed obviously occurred on earth.” 4

Swindoll states that the Greek word for ‘sign’ (sēmeion) signifies a mark or symbol that carries a special meaning or points us to something beyond it.” 5 In this case, John indicates that the new vision contains symbolic characters that point to real people or events in history – past as well as future.” 6

Many interpretations have been offered regarding the identity of the “woman” in this verse. Some have said that John was referring to something that his original readers knew about, namely, the “mother of the gods” represented on Roman coins. 7 Others have held that this woman is the church that is laboring to bring Christ to the nations. 8 This is built on an allegorical interpretation of Scripture and must be disallowed. The church did not produce Christ, but Christ produced the church. Also, since the church is not seen on earth in Revelation 4-19, the church cannot be represented by this woman. 9

Others say the woman refers exclusively to Mary, the mother of Jesus. 10 But this is not possible because Mary was never persecuted and never fled into the wilderness where she was fed for 1260 days (Revelation 12:6, 13-14). Clearly the woman is the nation of Israel who will be intensely persecuted during the last half of the Tribulation period (Revelation 12:13-17; cf. Matthew 24:15-22).

Other reasons why the “woman” refers to the nation of Israel include:

1. The context of Revelation 12:1 reveals that John is dealing with the nation of Israel. Grant says of Revelation 11:19, “The ark, then, seen in the temple in heaven is the sign of God’s unforgotten grace toward Israel…” 11

2. The identity of the woman as the nation of Israel is supported further by the reference to “the sun… the moon… and twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1) which connects back to a similar symbolic representation of Israel in Genesis 37:9-11. In this passage, Joseph, the son of Jacob has received a dream from God. 9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, ‘Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.’ 10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, ‘What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?’ 11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.” These verses identify “the sun” and “moon” as Jacob and Rachel, Joseph’s parents, and the stars as Jacob’s twelve sons (cf. Isaiah 26:17-18; 60:1-3, 20). Compare Jeremiah 31:35-36; Joshua 10:12-14; Judges 5:20 and Psalm 89:35-37 where heavenly bodies are associated with Israel’s history. 12

3. The use of the term “woman.” Eight times the term “woman” is used in this chapter (12:1, 4, 6, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17), and thirteen additional times the pronoun “she” (12:2, 5, 6, 14) or “her” (12:1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 14, 16, 17) is used in reference to the woman. We find this term used frequently in the Old Testament to refer to the nation of Israel (cf. Isaiah 47:7-9; 54:5-6; Jeremiah 4:31; Micah 4:9-10; 5:3; Isaiah 66:7-8). While the church is called a “bride” (Revelation 21:2, 9, 17), a “wife” (Revelation 19:7; cf. Ephesians 5:22-33), or a “chaste virgin” (2 Corinthians 11:2), we never find the church referred to as a woman in the New Testament. 13

4. The use of the term “wilderness.” The “wilderness” is said to be the place of refuge afforded the woman in her flight (Revelation 12:6, 14). The “wilderness” was a common reference to Israel in her national history (Exodus 3:18; 4:27; 5:1; 7:16; 8:27-28; 13:17-18, 20; 14:3, 11-12; 15:22; 16:1-3, 10, 14, 32; et al.). Israel was taken into “the wilderness of the land of Egypt” (Ezekiel 20:36). Israel, since she refused to follow God into the promised land, was turned back into the wilderness for forty years where they would die, and a new generation would be brought forth (Numbers 14:1-35; cf. Hebrews 3:7-18). Israel’s unbelief caused Ezekiel to declare God’s purpose: “And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face.” (Ezekiel 20:35). Hosea reveals that in the long period Israel would spend “in the wilderness” God would be gracious to them (Hosea 2:14-23). 14

5. The references to the period of three and a half years (“one thousand two hundred and sixty days” – 12:6 and “a time and times and half a time” – 12:14) in Revelation 12 connect to the last half of the week of Daniel’s seventieth week prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27) which was specifically addressed to “your people and for your holy city” (Daniel 9:24). Since this prophecy was given to Daniel it could only refer to Israel and the city of Jerusalem. Each time this period is mentioned in Scripture, whether as a “one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Revelation 11:6; 12:3), “forty-two months” (Revelation 11:2; 13:5), “time, times, and half a time” (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 12:14), or three and a half years, it always refers to Israel and a period in which God is dealing with that nation. 15

6. The reference to the angel, “Michael” (Revelation 12:7). In Daniel 12:1 the archangel Michael is called “the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people.” Michael is united with the destiny of the nation Israel by this word of the Lord to Daniel. In Revelation 12:7 Michael appears again in reference to the warfare in heaven. The fact that Michael appears on the scene here indicates that God is again dealing with the nation Israel, and Michael is a character here because the destiny of Israel is involved. 16

Pentecost quotes Moorehead regarding Revelation 11:19, And the temple (sanctuary) of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of the covenant.’ This is strictly Jewish ground; the temple, the ark, the covenant belong to Israel, represent Hebrew relations with God and Hebrew privileges. The Spirit now takes up Jewish things, Jewish standing, covenant, hopes, dangers, tribulations and triumph.” 17

Clearly the people of Israel are in view here, so the woman in Revelation 12 represents the nation of Israel.

Next John writes, “Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.” (Revelation 12:2). Since the woman is Israel, the “child” is the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 12:5). The Bible tells us that Christ would come from the nation of Israel. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” (Romans 9:3-5).

The “labor” and “pain” in giving “birth” to Jesus (Revelation 12:2) are pictures of the grief and sorrow that the nation of Israel experienced in Old Testament days at the hand of Satan in his attempts to prevent the Messiah from coming. This agonizing struggle between Satan and Israel has been going on from the very beginning (cf. Genesis 3:15). 18

Israel’s founding father, Abraham, was promised a son (Genesis 12:1-7). Instead of waiting on God’s timing, Abraham took a shortcut and slept with his maidservant, Hagar, who gave birth to Ishmael (Genesis 16:1-16). Later Abraham’s wife, Sarah gave birth to Isaac (Genesis 21:1-7). The result of these two births has been a source of conflict between the Arabs and the Jews ever since (Genesis 21:8-21; 25:12-16). Israel faced terrible pain while in exile in Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria.In the days that Jesus was born, Israel was under the oppression and taxation of the Roman government.

God used many imperfect people to bring His Son into the world through the nation of Israel. When you examine the genealogies of Christ (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-37), these lists of names contain broken sinners like you and me. They include Jacob (Matthew 1:2; Luke 3:34) who was a deceiver. David (Matthew 1:6; Luke 3:31) who committed adultery and murder. Solomon (Matthew 1:7) who took an abundance of wives and concubines. Manasseh (Matthew 1:10) was one of Judah’s most wicked kings.

Moreover, and while women do not normally show up in biblical genealogies, the women in Jesus’s line were particularly questionable. Tamar (Matthew 1:3) was a Canaanite who posed as a prostitute and committed incest with her father-in law Judah. Rahab (Matthew 1:5) was a prostitute; Ruth (Matthew 1:5) was from Moab, a non-Israelite people that worshiped false gods.

Another observation about Jesus’ genealogies is that they are mixed racially, including both Jews and Gentiles which indicates that Jesus’ kingdom identity and rule includes all races of people. All of this points to God’s sovereign grace. He accomplishes His glorious purposes despite difficult circumstances and the character of the people involved. If God can use the imperfect people listed in these genealogies to bring Jesus, the Messiah-God, into the world, God can surely use you and me to accomplish His purposes. 19

Evans writes, Notice also that of the five women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy, four are of Hamitic descent: Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Ruth. That doesn’t mean that Jesus was black. To assert such, as some black theologians and religious leaders do, is to fall into the exclusionist perspective of many whites, who would make Jesus an Anglo-European, blue-eyed blond with little relevance to people of color. It would also fail to respect the distinct Jewish heritage of Christ. Jesus was a person of mixed ancestry.

“It blesses me to know that Jesus had black in His blood because this destroys any perception of black inferiority once and for all. In Christ we find perfect man and sinless Savior. This knowledge frees blacks from an inferiority complex, and at the same time it frees whites from the superiority myth. In Christ, we all have our heritage.

“Black people, as all other people, can find a place of historical, cultural, and racial identity in Him. As Savior of all mankind, He can relate to all people, in every situation. In Him, any person from any background can find comfort, understanding, direction, and affinity—as long as Christ is revered as the Son of God, a designation that transcends every culture and race and one to which all nations of people must pay homage.” 20

In conclusion, God wants us to remember that His faithfulness to His promises is not contingent upon our character, but upon His. We see this throughout history when God promised to bring the Messiah through the nation of Israel despite the nation’s unfaithfulness. The genealogies of Christ underscore God’s faithfulness in using imperfect Jews and Gentiles to fulfill this promise. As a nation, Israel had to endure much pain to usher the Messiah into the world. Likewise, we may have to endure much pain to fulfill God’s purposes. Whether we are faithful or not, God remains faithful to what He has promised.

The Bible tells us, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13). I have heard many Christians and churches insist that going to heaven is based on our faithfulness to God, instead of His faithfulness to His promises. Where is the assurance in such an assertion? If our assurance of going to heaven is based on our faithfulness to God, then we are all in a heap of trouble.

Why? Because like the nation of Israel, we also have sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Our good thoughts, words, and actions cannot make us right before God because they are all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). This is why God sent His only perfect Son into the world through the imperfect nation of Israel (Romans 9:3-5) so He could pay the penalty for all our sin once and for all by dying in our place on a cross and rising from the dead (John 19:30; Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3-6; Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10-14). All God asks us to do to enter His heaven is believe in Christ and His finished work on the cross.

Jesus said, “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15). Just as Moses “lifted up” the bronze serpent in the wilderness so that all the dying Israelites could look at that serpent in faith and live physically (Numbers 21:1-8), so Jesus Christ was lifted up on the cross so “that whoever believes in Him” or looks to Him “should not perish but have eternal life.” Nowhere does Jesus say, “Whoever remains faithful to Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Repeatedly, Jesus and His followers tell us to “believe” 21 or have “faith” 22  in Christ alone as the only condition for entering God’s heaven.

Have you been looking to your own faithfulness as the way to Christ’s heaven? If so, Satan has deceived you to trust your own faithfulness instead of God’s. This is an expression of the Devil’s hatred toward God and humanity. Satan is a liar, a thief, and a murderer (John 8:44; 10:10a). He wants to deceive people to miss God’s heaven by distorting the gospel message lest people believe it and are saved (Luke 8:5, 11-12).

If you have believed the gospel, that Christ gives eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 3:14-18), but now you are trusting your own faithfulness as the basis of your assurance that you will go to heaven, then Satan, being the thief that he is, has successfully robbed you of your assurance of going to heaven. You still have eternal life because of your faith in Jesus, but your assurance of going to heaven is lost by looking to your own faithfulness instead of Christ’s. Our faithfulness to God can vary from moment to moment. So, when we are unfaithful to God with our thoughts, motives, words, or actions, we are prone to doubt our salvation if our assurance is rooted in our own faithfulness.

God makes it clear in the Bible that He does not want any of His children to doubt that they have eternal life and a future home in heaven with Him. “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). God wants you to know that you “have eternal life” the moment you believe in the name of the Son of God.” So, if you lack assurance of going to heaven, why not ask God to show you the truth and to make His Word understandable to you? 23

The key to assurance of salvation is looking to Jesus’ promise that all who simply believe in Him have everlasting life (John 3:14-18; 5:24; 6:35-50, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-26; et al.). It is also important to remember, that we do not get to heaven through the promises we make to God, but through the promises He makes to us! 24

If you have been trusting your own faithfulness or anything else besides Jesus and His finished work on the cross to get you to heaven, Christ invites you right now to stop and look to Him and His finished work on the cross as Your only way to His heaven. When you do this, God gets all the glory and the only boasting in heaven will be in our gracious and loving Savior Who got us there (I Corinthians 1:18-31; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Prayer: Father God, we give You praise for the first main character in Your description of the conflict between You and Satan. The nation of Israel is central to Your redemptive purposes. It was through this imperfect nation and imperfect individual Gentiles that You brought Your only perfect Son into the world the first time to be our one and only Savior. If any of us struggle with shame and not feeling worthy to be used by You, may Your Holy Spirit use today’s Bible verses to silence our shame so we can present ourselves to You as Your available servants. You are a faithful God Who remains faithful to His promises even if we are faithless. Thank You, Lord, for this powerful reminder that can embolden us to faithfully proclaim Your saving message no matter what our past. Please use us to accomplish Your purposes so all the glory belongs to You. And Lord, if there is anyone reading this article right now who is trusting in someone or something other than Christ alone as their only way to heaven, please persuade them to stop and believe in Jesus for His free gift of eternal life. Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 234-235.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 132.

3. Ibid., pp. 132-133 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 117.

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), locations 5656 to 5662.

5. Swindoll, pg. 235 cites Eugene Nida and Johannes P. Louw, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, §33.477.

6. Swindoll, pg. 235.

7. Constable, pg. 133 cites as examples Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), pg. 337; and Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars (London: SCM, 1965), pp. 151-152.

8. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 288 cites as an example Ford C. Ottman, The Unfolding of the Ages (New York: Baker and Taylor, 1905), pg. 280.

9. Pentecost, pg. 288.

10. Ibid., cites F. C. Jennings, Studies in Revelation (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, [n.d.].), pp. 310-311.

11. Ibid., cites W. Grant, The Revelation of Christ (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, [n.d.]), pg. 126. There is extensive biblical evidence showing that the woman of Revelation 12 is best identified as the nation of Israel (see Pentecost, pp. 288-291).

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid., pg. 289.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid., pg. 290.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid., pp. 290-291 cites William G. Moorehead, Studies in the Book of Revelation (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: United Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1908), pg. 90.

18. 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. 1541.

19. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1480-1481.

20. Ibid., pg. 1481.

21. Matthew 18:6; 21: 32(3); 24:23, 26; 27:42; Mark 1:15, 9:42; 15:32;16:16(2), 17; Luke 8:12, 13; 22:67; John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:39, 41, 42, 48, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 45, 46, 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64, 69; 7:5, 31, 38(2), 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:25, 26, 27(2), 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:12; 16:9, 27; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:29, 31(2); Acts 2:44; 4:4, 32; 5:14; 8:12, 13, 37(2); 9:42; 10:43, 45; 11:17, 21; 13:12, 39, 41, 48; 14:1, 23, 27; 15:5, 7; 16:1, 31, 34; 17:4, 5, 12, 34; 18:8, 27; 19:2, 4, 9, 18; 21:20, 25; 22:19; 26:27(2); 28:24(2); Romans 1:16; 3:3, 22, 4:3, 5, 11, 17, 24; 9:33; 10:4, 9, 10, 11, 14(2), 16; 13:11; 15:31; I Corinthians 1:21; 3:5; 7:12, 13; 9:5; 10:27; 14:22(2); 15:2, 11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 2:16; 3:6, 9,

22; Ephesians 1:13, 19; Philippians 1:29; I Thessalonians 1:7; 2:10; 4:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:12,13; I Timothy 1:16; 3:16; 4:3, 10; 6:2(2); 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 3:8; Hebrews 11:31; I Peter 1:21;2:6, 7; I John 3:23; 5:1, 5, 10(3), 13.

22. Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 7:50; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 6:7; 14:22, 27; 15:9; 16:5; 20:21; 24:24; 26:18; Romans 1:17; 3:3, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30(2), 31; 4:5, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16 (2); 5:1, 2; 9:30, 32; 10:6, 8, 17; 11:20; 16:26; I Corinthians 15:14, 17; Galatians 2:16 (2); 3:2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26; 5:5; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 3:9(2); Colossians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:2; 2 Timothy 3:15; Titus 1:4; Hebrews 6:1;11:31; James 2:1, 23, 24; I Peter 1:21; 2 Peter 1:5; I John 5:4.

23. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 7.

24. Ibid.

Revelation 9 – Part 1

3 Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power… 5 And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man.” Revelation 9:3, 5

The Devil and his demons have been at work tempting and attacking humans since their sneak attack in the Garden of Eden thousands of years ago (Genesis 3). They have never stopped pursuing their ultimate goals of destroying humankind’s dignity and driving a wedge between people and their Creator God. But Revelation 9 shows us that a time will come when the invisible spiritual warfare that people experience today will seem pale compared to the visible assault of the enemy’s army during the last half of the Tribulation period. As we study John’s vision and observe the armies of darkness battling in the future, we can better understand how similar spirits of wickedness try to plague us today. 1

Following the announcement of three woes warning that the next three trumpet judgments would be worse than the first four (8:13), John continues by recording the fifth trumpet judgment (9:1-12). “In this chapter, there are more occurrences of the words ‘as’ and ‘like’ than in any other chapter in the Bible, which shows how difficult it was for John to describe the scene which he saw in the vision.” 2

John writes, “Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit.” (Revelation 9:1). When “the fifth angel sounded” the trumpet blast, John “saw a star fallen from heaven.” This is not an actual “star,” but either the Devil (cf. Isaiah 14:12-14) or a fallen angel (Revelation 12:3-4a) because “to him was given the key to the bottomless pit.” Just as a key grants us access to a home, office, or car, this key grants this angelic being access to the shaft “to the bottomless pit” or abyss. The abyss is the abode of the demons, according to Luke 8:31, in which demons begged Jesus “not to banish them.” 3

The “bottomless pit” (lit. “shaft of the abyss”) is the future abode of Satan (cf. Revelation 20:1-3), some demons (cf. Luke 8:31; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6), and the beast (Revelation 11:7; 17:8). It is evidently a preliminary prison, not their final abode, which is the lake of fire (or hell – Revelation 19:20; 20:10; cf. Matthew 25:41), from which this angel is about to release some of them temporarily. 4

During the tribulation, this angelic being will be granted authority to unlock this bottomless pit. A principle illustrated in this verse is that Satan and his demons only have as much authority as God grants them. Nowhere in Scripture is that principle more prominently revealed than in Job 1:12 and 2:6, in which Satan cannot harm Job without God’s permission. But what the devil intends for evil, God intends for good. 5

“And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit.” (Revelation 9:2). When this angelic being uses the authority given to him to open “the bottomless pit,” so much “smoke arose” that “the sun and the air were darkened.” This may refer to some type of volcanic eruption of a magnitude never experienced on earth. 6

Next John writes, 3 Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. 6 In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.” (Revelation 9:3-6). That these “locusts” are demonic creatures who appeared in the form of locusts is confirmed by the fact that they came from the Abyss, the home of demons (Luke 8:31). 7 These creatures were given the “power” of “scorpions” to “torment” people who did not have “the seal of God on their foreheads” with intense pain (9:3-4). These demons will not be able to harm followers of Jesus.

They could not “kill” unbelieving people, but for “five months” they could inflict such severe pain on them like a scorpion’s sting that these nonbelievers “will seek death,” instead of repenting, but would not even be able to commit suicide (9:5-6). They will be forced to live through a period of prolonged, demonic suffering intended for those who do not know Jesus as their Savior.” 8

Swindoll writes, We can marvel at the overwhelming number and startling appearance of these supernatural locusts, but we shouldn’t miss the limitations placed on them. First, note that their power will be ‘given’ to them (9:3). The word ‘power’ (exousia), means ‘authority’ or ‘permission.’ It may appear at first that this swarm is completely out of control, but we must remember that they can do nothing apart from God’s permission.

Second, they will not be permitted to harm the things that locusts usually devour—vegetation, crops, or grass (9:4). These aren’t your average hungry locusts! Their target will not be plants but people.

Third, although they will be told to harm humans, they can only inflict their torment on certain people— ‘men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads’ (9:4). This recalls the remnant of Israel, sealed for protection in 7:2-3. Those saints will be spared from the suffering inflicted by the locusts.

“Fourth, they will be given authority to torment, not to kill (9:5). This torment will be similar to the torment of a scorpion sting—excruciating, burning, even debilitating, but in this case, not deadly.

Finally, God will place a limit of five months on their mission of torment (9:5). But in those five months the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual agony these people will experience will drive them mad. Some of the most haunting words in all of Scripture describe the desperate situation: ‘And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them’ (9:6).” 9

Having just explained what these demonic creatures will do, John now describes what they will look like from head to tail. John’s vision here is a primarily symbolic vision as the word “like” is used eight times, pointing to a figurative rather than literal interpretation. 10 “The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle.” (Revelation 9:7a). Locusts resemble “horses” when viewed through a magnifying glass, 11 but this sentence emphasizes the ferociousness of these demonic locusts and their intimidating looks.

“In the Old Testament, locusts were instruments of judgment, as in the eighth plague God brought upon the Egyptians (Exodus 10:1-20) and in the judgment envisioned by the prophet in Joel 1:2-12.” 12 As horses prepared for battle, the demons from the abyss will be extremely swift (cf. Joel 2:4).” 13

“On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men.” (Revelation 9:7b). Their “crowns” (stephanos) represent their victory over the people they oppressed. 14 The fact that “their faces” resembled “men” points to their intelligence. They are intelligent creatures, perhaps even alluring, utilizing deception and persuasion to attract people. But their goal will be to torture, to tear apart, and to destroy.” 15

Next John writes, “They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth.” (Revelation 9:8). These demonic creatures possessed an initial allurement with “hair like women’s hair.” Since one of the attractive qualities of a woman is her hair, it is possible that there is something about mankind’s experience of this plague that is similar to sexual attraction. The conjoining of this with ‘teeth…like lions’ teeth’ may indicate that though there is an initial allurement pulling people to this experience, in the end, the experience is like the bite of a lion in its painfulness. In ages past (as well as in contemporary society), sinful people have involved themselves in matters concerning sexual relations with demonic entities (who if they became visible might be beautiful indeed). Yet it is clear that the description given here by John paints their true character—they will be like hungry lions that ravage peoples’ lives.” 16 (emphasis mine)

9 And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. 10 They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months.” (Revelation 9:9-10). Their “iron . . . breastplates,” which covered both chest and back in John’s day, 17 gave them appearance of indestructibility by humans. People will not be able to overcome this demonic army. The “sound of their wings” was terrifying “like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle.”

The fact that this army sounded to John like chariots with many horses running into battle indicates the terror that they will inspire in the hearts of those who have given in to their seductive allure. It can be compared to the terror in the hearts of ancient soldiers who suddenly and without warning find themselves facing a rush of chariots and horses (cf. 2 Kings 7:6-7; Jeremiah 47:3). People overcome by this deception will not experience physical pleasure, but torment similar to the stings of scorpions.” 18

This plague will afflict unsaved people for a period of “five months” (cf. Rev 9:5, 10), which emphasizes that God is in control of the spirit world and over the events of the Tribulation. 19 “Unlike the previous judgments which apparently were short in time this judgment extended for five months… This is important as it refutes clearly the notion that all these judgments will occur in a brief span of time immediately before the second coming of Christ.” 20

The leader of this demonic army is addressed next. “And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.” (Revelation 9:11). “The names ‘Abaddon’ in Hebrew, and ‘Apollyon’ in Greek, both mean ‘Destroyer.’ Only the apostle John supplied information bilingually in the New Testament (cf. John 1:38, 42; 4:25; 6:1; 9:7; 11:16; 19:13, 17, 20; 20:16; Rev. 1:7; 3:14; 12:9). The objective of these demons, like their leader’s name implies, is to destroy people. God grants this lead ‘angel-king’ creature permission, here in this judgment, to carry out his objective against unbelievers, as part of God’s outpouring of wrath on earth-dwellers (cf. Job 2:6).” 21 (emphasis mine)

Some suggest that this “king over” this demonic army is Satan, 22 but this is unlikely because the text only calls him an “angel.” Also,Satan’s abode is not in the “bottomless pit” or abyss —at least not until he is cast down into it at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 20:1-3). In contrast, this king’s authority seems to be limited to the demonic army that comes from the abyss itself. 23 

In two passages in Revelation Satan is spoken of by alternate names (12:9 and 20:2). In both places John clearly states that he is speaking of Satan. If the angel of the bottomless pit is Satan, John would have clarified it here as well.” 24

So, who is this “angel of the bottomless pit”? He is probably a high-ranking fallen angel (cf. Ephesians 6:12) serving his master, Satan. 25

Finally, John states, “One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.” (Revelation 9:12). This verse is transitional, and clarifies that the fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpet judgments are the same events as the first, second, and third “woes” announced by the eagle earlier (8:13). The third woe, then, would be the seven bowl judgments. Although the release of this demonic locust army may seem sufficient from a human vantage point, God says He is only getting started. 26 The second and third woes will be worse.

You may be wondering, “How does the five-month demonic attack in the last half of the future Tribulation relate to us today?” Swindoll shares several insights:

“Although they are invisible, demons are real and aggressive. Not all demons are confined to the abyss (see Luke 8:31). Countless spirits of wickedness roam freely, and as long as they do, they are in search-and-destroy mode. They’ll pounce at any opportunity to strike both believers and unbelievers. Sometimes we’d rather pretend these beings don’t exist—or that they are so limited in power that we don’t need to worry about them. Not true! Ignorance of our enemies gives them an advantage over us. Don’t be naive!

“We are reminded that demons are organized and committed to our destruction. Like a battle-hardened army, Satan’s forces know how to wage an efficient war to conquer the hearts and minds of all people. From subtle tricks to a full-blown spiritual blitzkrieg, they are ready to use whatever means necessary to win. Take a close look at 1 Peter 5:8: ‘Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.’ How can you be more ‘sober’ and ‘alert’ in light of this warning? Peter gives us some hints in 1 Peter 1:13-16: ‘Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

“In light of this passage, are you prepared for inevitable spiritual attacks?

We should be encouraged that, although these demons are powerful, they have limitations. We see that even during the Tribulation these wicked angels can only do what they are allowed to do. Today—in the age of the Spirit’s restraining power through the church—their abilities are even more limited (2 Thes. 2:6-8). But don’t underestimate the deceptive and destructive powers of the enemy (Jude 1:8-10). As soon as we drop our guard, we’re liable to crumble under his attacks. We can’t neglect our spiritual lives, forsake our assembling with other believers, or trust in our own strength.

“Finally, we must never forget that these aggressive and insidious creatures flee at the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. At His matchless name they cower in fear, run for cover, and scramble for survival. With a single syllable of rebuke, Jesus Christ can flatten Satan’s entire army. They are no match for Him (Luke 8:26-31). Let Christ handle your spiritual battles for you. Submit to Him. Release all your anxieties to Him through prayer (1 Pet. 5:6-7). Resist the devil in faith, resting in Christ and trusting that He alone can shut the mouth of the roaring lion and quench the flaming arrows of the evil one.” 27 (emphasis mine)

While spiritual warfare today is very real, believers in Jesus can experience the victory Christ has already won in the spiritual realm by wearing the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-19). Please join me in putting on the whole armor of God by praying these Scriptures in Ephesians 6:10-19 back to our victorious God.

Prayer: O Father God, since Satan and his servants are far wiser and stronger than us, please grant us strength in the power of Your might to put on the whole armor of God so we may stand against the schemes of the devil.

Protect us O God with the Belt of Truth. You are truth, Jesus, and in You and in Your Word we find truth. You are the foundation for all of life. We cannot overcome the father of lies (John 8:44) apart from Your truth (John 8:31-32). Please replace Satan’s lies with the truth of Your Word. Please empower us to be truthful and honest.

We pray the protection of the Breastplate of Righteousness over us. Knowing we are covered with Christ’s righteousness at the moment of our salvation (Romans 4:5) can protect us from Satan’s accusations and motivate us to live out that righteousness as we yield to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1, 4-5).  Help us not to believe the lies from Satan that say we are no good or that we can be good enough to earn Your acceptance. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been declared totally righteous before You the moment we believed in Jesus. We are completely covered by the righteousness of Your Son so there are no grounds for our condemnation. Please manifest Your righteousness in our motives, words, thoughts, and actions.

We pray the Shoes of the Gospel of Peace over our lives.Protect us from anything that would rob us of Your peace. Please enable us to be prepared to always share the gospel of grace with those who need Your peace. Give us Your compassion and alertness for those who do not know Jesus as their Savior. Help us to see the lost through Your eyes of compassion. As the God of peace, please crush Satan under our feet (Romans 16:20).

Please help us to take up the Shield of Faith as needed.Protect us from the flaming arrows of the evil one. Lead us into a time of praise and worship that invites the Holy Spirit to anoint our faith, so it is kept from becoming rigid and brittle. As we worship You, may the water of the Holy Spirit pour over us, so all the flaming arrows of Satan are extinguished. Help us to place our faith in the promises of Your Word. Enable us to realize who we are in Christ and to appropriate faith in all situations. We can trust You, Father, because You are good, and You are faithful to keep Your Word. You are in control of all things. Thank You, Father, for reminding us of this.

We pray the protection of the Helmet of Salvation on our heads. Satan is out to trick us into doubting our salvation, but we are Your children, Father, by grace through faith in Christ alone and Jesus is more powerful than Satan (I John 4:4). Please protect our minds from doubting Your promises to save us from the penalty of sin in hell, from the power of sin now, and from the presence of sin in the future. Help us remember that we are fighting from victory, not for victory! Please enable us to get God’s Word in our hearts and minds so we can confront Satan in the Spirit as Jesus did (Matthew 4:1-11).

Enable us to be protected and have all power through Jesus Christ and through the Sword of the Spirit, the Bible. Holy Spirit, please enable us to speak Your Scripture to the devil and his servants on the battlefield so their lies and deceptions are exposed and defeated (Matthew 4:1-11). Enable us to submit to You, God, and resist the devil, so the devil will flee from us (James 4:7). We pray the power of the Holy Spirit is ignited in our lives, so that Christ may live His life through us today and every day.

Grant all boldness to us so we may speak Your gospel message to all who need to hear it. Redeem this time O Lord for Your honor and glory. Thank You for what You are going to do. Please make the name of the Lord Jesus more well known. In the name above all names, 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), pp. 184-185.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 109 cites Charles C. Ryrie, Revelation, Everyman’s Bible Commentary series (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), pg. 61.  

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2388.

4. Constable, pg. 110.

5. Evans, pg. 2388.

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. 1530.

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), pg. 164.

8. Evans, pg. 2388.

9. Swindoll, pp. 186-187.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1531.

11. Constable, pg. 112.

12. Evans, pg. 2388.

13. Vacendak, pg. 1531. 

14. Ibid., pg. 1532; Constable, pg. 112.

15. Swindoll, pg. 187.

16. Vacendak, pg. 1532.

17. Constable, pg. 113 cites Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. 6 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 364.

18. Vacendak, pg. 1532.

19. Ibid.

20. Walvoord, pg. 164.

21. Constable, pg. 113.

22. Evans, pg. 2389;  Walvoord, pg. 164.

23. Swindoll, pg. 188.

24. Vacendak, pp. 1532-1533.

25. Ibid., pg. 1532; Swindoll, pg. 188 cites Grant R. Osborne, Revelation Verse by Verse, Osborne New Testament Commentaries (Bellingham WA: Lexham Press, 2016), pg. 373; Constable, pg. 113 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 38-39.

26. Evans, pg. 2389.

27. Swindoll, pp. 189-190.

A Cosmic Christmas (Video)

This video is about the birth of Christ from heaven’s perspective as described in the book of Revelation. The message of this video will help you learn how to experience the joy and peace you were meant to have.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site: http://www.revelationillustrated.com. Other digital images are used with permission from Arabs for Christ / FreeBibleimages.org, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, www.LumoProject.com, GoodSalt / goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.

How can I live above average? Part 4

“Oh, … that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” I Chronicles 4:10d

God created us to live above average. To learn how to do this, we are looking at a simple, yet profound prayer of a man named Jabez. Even though Jabez got off to a painful start as his name suggests (“Jabez” means “Pain”), he did not let that determine his destiny. He chose to live a life that was honoring to God, despite his painful beginning. And we can do the same.

You and I can live above average for God’s glory by following the same principles found in Jabez’ prayer. The first three principles we have looked at are…

– Seek God’s blessing in our lives (I Chronicles 4:9-10a).

– Ask God to increase our territory or influence for Him (I Chronicles 4:10b).

– Ask God for power to accomplish His dream for our lives (I Chronicles 4:10c).

As God gives each of us His blessings, and as He grants us more influence and power to impact more people for Him, guess whose territory we will be invading? Satan’s. And the devil hates it. He will do whatever he can to mess things up. That is why Jabez prayed, “And that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.” (I Chronicles 4:10d).

Jabez “knew Satan would try to use coming blessings as an opportunity to tempt him to become independent from God.” 1 Do we understand this? Our tendency when we experience great success, is to depend less on God and more on ourselves. When our lives or ministries are endowed with God’s supernatural blessings, influence, and power, this can dull our sense of dependency upon the Lord.It is during these timeswhen we are most vulnerable to the devil’s attacks. When influential Christian leaders fall into sin, it causes great pain and even disillusionment for believers who looked up to them as godly examples.

The fourth and last way to live above average is to ASK GOD FOR PROTECTION OVER OUR LIVES (I Chronicles 4:10d). Why did Jabez do this? Because in those days, the more land you had, the more influence you had, and the better-known you were.

It is still true today. The more successful we are, the more critics we have. The closer we grow to the Lord and the stronger we become as Christians, the more the devil will harass us, because he does not want us to grow and impact more people for Jesus Christ. If the devil is not attacking us, that should cause us concern. It may suggest we are no threat to him because our lives are conforming more to the world’s ways than to God’s will.

But when we are sharing God’s blessings with more and more people, Satan is not going to ignore us. The devil will use different strategies to set us up for a fall. He may use carelessness, complacency, distractions, discouragement, fear, opposition, oppression, or even pride to make us less effective for Jesus. He may even attack our families to bring us down!

I have discovered in my own life that I need to pray this way especially before and after a success. In the Philippines when I returned home from a fruitful mission trip, I was most vulnerable to defeat. I was exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This made me more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. I was more prone to holding a dangerous view of my own strengths. It is during those times that I needed to cry out to God, “Keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.”

Jesus understood the schemes of the devil. This is why He taught us to pray, “And do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13). When was the last time we asked the Lord to lead us away from the temptation to do evil? Just as God wants us to ask Him for more blessings, influence, and power, He also wants us to ask Him for protection from the evil one, so we won’t yield to sin, and cause pain to God, ourselves, and others.Since Satan is much wiser and stronger than us, we desperately need God’s supernatural protection over our lives every day.

Too often, Christians wait until Satan starts to attack them before they pray for protection. Imagine what would happen if we prayed for protection before the devil opposes us? What if we prayed for God to lead us away from temptation before it ever happens?

Without a temptation, we would not sin. Most of us face too many temptations—and therefore sin too often—because we don’t ask God to lead us away from temptation. We make a huge spiritual leap forward, therefore, when we begin to focus less on beating temptation and more on avoiding it… As we move deeper into the realm of the miraculous, the most effective war against sin that we can wage is to pray that we will not have to fight unnecessary temptation. And God offers us His supernatural power to do just that.” 2

If we live by these four principles that Jabez prayed for, we are going to live above average. Do we want to break out of mediocrity? Do we want to see God work in our lives? Are we tired of drifting through life not knowing where we are going? Then we need to pray and live as Jabez did.

When we pray in faith, as Jabez did, we will live above average. How do I know that? Look at these verses:9 Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers10 So God granted him what he requested.(I Chronicles 4:9a, 10e). Jabez had a painful beginning and a prosperous ending. Why? Because he prayed the way God loves to hear His children pray. Jabez got what he sought from God because he asked for it. He was like Jacob who said as he wrestled with God: “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” (Genesis 32:26). Do we pursue God until we see a transformation in our hearts and/or situation? 3

God honors those who ask. He opens the floodgates of heaven for those who diligently seek what He wants. What do you want God to do in your life? Heal a broken relationship? Ask Him. Help you with a problem? Ask Him. Help you with some goals? Ask Him. Lead more people to Christ and disciple them? Ask Him. God is not some policeman up in the sky waiting for you to mess up so He can pounce on you! God wants to bless your life. He wants you to live above average for His glory.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for these powerful insights from the prayer of Jabez. It is Your will that we seek countless blessings from You with which to bless others. It is Your profound desire to take more territory from Satan through the preaching of the gospel and the making of disciples of Jesus Christ. But when You bless us, Satan attacks us. Knowing this, can help us be on the alert for the devil’s deceptions. Father, please keep us safe from Satan’s temptations that pull at our emotions and our physical needs, that call out to our sense of what we deserve, what we have the “right” to feel and enjoy. Because You are the true Source of all that is really life, guide our steps away from all that is not of You. Please protect our families and communities from the evil one. We know that Jesus Who is in us is far greater than the evil one who is in the world, so we have nothing to fear. At the name of Jesus Christ all other powers on earth will bow or flee. Thank You so much for surrounding us with Your protective hand, Lord. We love You and trust You, Mighty God. In the name that is above all other names – Jesus Christ – we pray. Amen. 4

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 711.

2. Bruce Wilkinson, The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life (Breakthrough Series Book 1, The Crown Publishing Group, 2010 Kindle Edition), pp. 67-68.

3. Evans, pg. 711.

4. Portions of this prayer were adapted from Wilkinson, pp. 72-73.

Finding Completeness in Christ

“And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Colossians 2:10

The apostle Paul was writing to Christians in Colossae to encourage them to continue to embrace God’s Word and the Lord Jesus Christ so they would not be led away from Christ through the instruction of false teachers. Paul told these believers to beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8). The teachings of these false teachers were not “according to Christ” in God’s Word, but were rooted in “philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men.”

If any philosophy, religion, or science contradicts the clear teachings of Scripture, then it is wrong. The false teachers in Colossae were contradicting God’s Word with their teachings on spirituality, angels, self-abasement, and Christ. They were leading believers astray because their perverse teachings were not according to Christ. Many false teachings abound today on how to become ‘spiritual,’ and the best remedy has always been to rely on God’s Word alone to learn what is pleasing to God.” 1

Next Paul explains how to remain strong in Christ against the false teachings of others. He writes, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9). This is an amazing statement about Jesus Christ. What Christians have in Jesus Christ is completely adequate because “in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Jesus was not a spirit-form as some erroneously teach. He was fully God (“fullness of the Godhead”)and fully human (“bodily”). The word “fullness” (plḗrōma)means “that which is brought to fullness or completion, full number… sum total, fullness, even (super) abundance… the full measure of deity.” 2  Christ did not cease to be God when He became a man. Everything that God is Jesus Christ is. Nor did Jesus give up His humanity at His resurrection. He remains fully God and fully human in His resurrection body.

There is no “fullness”in the philosophies of this world or in the traditions of men (Colossians 2:8). The only fullness is found in Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ there is no fullness. Only emptiness. 3

When Satan—the once glorious angel—rebelled, God judged him (see Isa 14:12-14; Ezek 28:12-16). Then God created man, a creature made ‘lower than the angels’ and ‘subjected everything under his feet’ (Heb 2:7-8). Man was to rule over creation on God’s behalf (Gen 1:26-28). God planned to show what he could do with ‘less’ (when less was devoted to him) in contrast to ‘more’ (when more was in rebellion against him). But Adam abdicated his role as manager of creation (Gen 3:1-19), turning rule over to Satan—’the god of this age’ (2 Cor 4:4) and ‘the ruler of the power of the air’ (Eph 2:2). But the ‘last Adam’ (1 Cor 15:45), Jesus Christ, succeeded where the first Adam failed. He came to solve the problem. As the Second Person of the Trinity, he possesses ‘the entire fullness of God’s nature’ (Col 2:9). But he also became a man, because God the Father intended that man would rule over his kingdom on earth and defeat Satan. Through his sinless life, atoning death, and resurrection, Jesus defeated Satan’s legal authority and reclaimed the earthly kingdom.” 4

This is why Paul then writes, “And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Colossians 2:10). Since Christ is fully God and fully Man (Colossians 2:9), believers in Jesus are “complete in Him.” The word “complete” (plēróō) means “to make full, fill… persons with powers, qualities.” 5  A Christian’s fullness or completeness is found in Christ “who is the head of all principality and power.” Jesus has all authority (“is the head of”) over Satan and his followers (“all principality and power”), including false teachers who try to mislead believers away from Jesus Christ and His Word. Christians partake of Christ’s “fullness,” not in His deity. Believers are not gods.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, we receive God’s righteousness so we are “complete in Him.” (cf. Romans 4:5). All our essential needs are met in Christ. Therefore as a believer in Jesus, I can know I am “complete” in Him, lacking nothing. False teachers were telling Paul’s readers that they needed more than Christ to be complete. They told these Christians to practice asceticism or self-abasement, and adhere to their secret knowledge (Colossians 2:8, 18, 20b-23) and legalism or self-made religion (Colossians 2:16-17) to find their fullness.  

Satan wants to deceive us into believing that we are not complete in Christ. He wants to lead us away from Christ because he knows when he does, he can control us. He may use philosophy, religion, science, technology, or a compassionate teacher to accomplish his purpose. He may use infatuation or a TV program to lead us away from Jesus. Satan has been around for thousands of years and he knows how to deceive people. The Devil is an expert at twisting the truth to lead someone away from Jesus who is “the truth” (John 14:6).

But apart from Christ, we cannot find fulfillment or completeness. We may try to find it in the things of this world or in the traditions of people, but all of these things fail to satisfy the longings of our souls.

Only Jesus can meet our deepest needs. Only in Christ can we find the fullness and completeness that satisfies our souls. Because in Christ we are complete, we do not need to seek something more to complete us. We can be content with what we have in Jesus. This is foundational to growing in our Christian lives.  

Prayer: Lord Jesus, because You are fully God and fully Man, I can find completeness in You. Only You can satisfy my deepest needs. Forgive me for looking outside of You to find that completeness that only You can provide. Right now, I ask You to restore my union with You, Lord. I give everything in me for union with You. I need more of You, God. Please fill me with more of You, Jesus. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Shawn Leach, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1104.

2. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 829.

3. Norm Geisler,  The Bible Knowledge Commentary Acts and Epistles, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, Kindle Edition, 2018), pg. 436.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 2146-2147.

5. Walter Bauer, pg. 828.

How can we overcome fear in evangelism? Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

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

5. Constable, pg. 300.

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

How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world? Part 1

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” John 15:18

Today, just like in the book of Acts, believers are persecuted all over the world for following Jesus. According to Open Doors USA, “A woman in India watches as her sister is dragged off by Hindu nationalists. She doesn’t know if her sister is alive or dead.

“A man in a North Korean prison camp is shaken awake after being beaten unconscious; the beatings begin again.

 “A woman in Nigeria runs for her life. She has escaped from Boko Haram, who kidnapped her. She is pregnant, and when she returns home, her community will reject her and her baby.

 “A group of children are laughing and talking as they come down to their church’s sanctuary after eating together. Instantly, many of them are killed by a bomb blast. It’s Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.

“These people don’t live in the same region, or even on the same continent. But they share an important characteristic: They are all Christians, and they suffer because of their faith. While Christian persecution takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Jesus Christ. From Sudan to Russia, from Nigeria to North Korea, from Colombia to India, followers of Christianity are targeted for their faith. They are attacked; they are discriminated against at work and at school; they risk sexual violence, torture, arrest and much more.” 1

Do you realize that in just the last year (2020 World Watch List reporting period), there have been:

– Over 260 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution

– 2,983 Christians killed for their faith

– 9,488 churches and other Christian buildings attacked

– 3,711 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned 2

While Christians are not suffering extreme persecution in the USA, there is an increasing lack of tolerance for Christian beliefs and practices in our country. During COVID-19, certain government leaders in America are trying to use this pandemic to try to shut down churches. For example, on July 1, 2020, the governor of California banned singing and chanting in places of worship in the name of a pandemic. Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) states, “Banning singing in California churches is an unconstitutional abuse of power. And to do it in the name of a pandemic is despicable. This ban is clearly targeted at religion. It is clearly a violation of the First Amendment and a direct violation of religious liberty.” 3

Have you ever been falsely accused or betrayed by a friend? Have you had people plotting against you? Or have you ever experienced some other form of personal hostility? Jesus experienced all these things and so will we as we follow Him.

For the next few days, we are going to receive instruction from Jesus Christ about how to be effective witnesses for Him in a hostile world. Earlier in John 15, the Lord Jesus spoke to His eleven believing disciples about their relationship to one another – they are to love each other as He loved them (John 15:12-17). Now He speaks to them about their relationship to the world (15:18-16:4). Jesus wanted to prepare His disciples (and us) for the opposition they would face after He ascends to the Father in heaven. How can we be effective witnesses to a hostile world?  

The first way is to REALIZE THAT YOU WILL FACE THE SAME CONFLICT WITH THE WORLD THAT JESUS DID (John 15:18-19). Christ never said that following Him as a disciple would be easy. Earlier, when Jesus had sent the Twelve disciples on a special mission, He warned them that they would be as sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16).

Now He was sending them into the world on a mission, and again Christ warned these men of conflict with the world. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18). “The world” in John’s gospel is “the system of organized society hostile to God, which is under Satan’s power (John 14:30).” 4

In anticipation of the world’s hatred, Jesus warned His disciples that they would experience the same hostility from the world that He had experienced. He did not promise a painless, effortless experience as a disciple. He says, “If the world hates you [and it does], then it should come as no surprise to you because it hated Me first.” From His birth when king Herod sought to kill Him, to His death on the cross, Jesus experienced opposition from the world. Therefore, a person cannot be intimately related to Christ without being hated by His enemies. The main issue here is not whether we will experience rejection and persecution as Christ followers, but how we will respond to it.

Disciples of Christ are known by their love (cf. John 13:34), but the world is known for its hatred toward God. Followers of Christ are unpopular in the world today because of the world’s hatred toward Christ who lives in every believer through the Holy Spirit. Jesus now gives a reason why the world hates His followers. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19). The world hated Jesus’ disciples because they were chosen out of the world by Jesus to follow Him. Christ says, “If you were of the world [and it’s doubtful that you are], 6  the world would love its own.” They were once a part of the world as unbelievers, but now they are set apart from it as committed followers of Christ.

Perhaps some of you were rejected or even persecuted for beginning to follow Christ as a new believer. When I first got saved, I stopped drinking alcohol with my non-Christian friends and they got mad at me. They no longer called me their friend. They made fun of me and avoided me. This should not surprise us in light of what Jesus is saying here.

Some churches teach that when you become a Christian, you will have no more problems or difficulties. Is that true? Of course not. If Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, experienced rejection and persecution for perfectly following God’s will, why would we think we are exempt from such treatment as we imperfectly follow the Lord?!

Christ wants us to adjust our expectations about following Him as His disciples. Discipleship is costly, but eternal life is absolutely free. Discipleship involves rejection and persecution from Satan’s world system which is hostile toward God. After all, the Bible says, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29). This is not a popular message today. But it is a needed message, isn’t it?! If we don’t adjust our expectations so that they line up with what Jesus taught, we are going to become very discouraged when we experience opposition for following Christ.

Christ said to His half-brothers, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.” (John 7:7). Jesus called sin, sin. He came to tell the truth and that is why the world hated Him. And if we are going to be like Him, we must do the same. If we find ourselves fully accepted by the world it is cause for concern. We are to be loving, kind, sensitive, and understanding. But if our lives do not challenge the wickedness of the world around us, if our lives do not provoke some persecution, criticism, and opposition – something is probably wrong. We have probably become too friendly with the world around us.

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves, “Does the world hate me? If it does not, why not? Is it because the world has become more Christian or because Christians have become more worldly?” If we are not experiencing opposition from the world, it may be because our lifestyle is no different than the world’s lifestyle. James 4:4 says, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4). If the world is our friend, then God is our enemy.

James likens friendship with the world to spiritual adultery with God. It is like a married man who decides to engage in immorality with a woman to whom he is not married. In that very decision he chooses to reject faithfulness to his wife. When Christians crave for worldly acceptance and living, they have committed spiritual adultery and have rejected friendship with God. On the other hand, if God is our friend, the world will be our enemy. We cannot be a friend of God and the world at the same time.

How do we become friends with Jesus? We saw this when Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). If we are going to be Jesus’ friend, we must keep Christ’s commandments. Not all Christians are Jesus’ friends because not all Christians are obeying Christ. But if we are Jesus’ friends through obedience to Him, then we can expect more hostility and opposition from the world.

Younger Christians may mistaken the world’s hatred toward them as a reproach for not being more Christ-like. So they conclude that if they were more gentle, generous, loving, or compassionate, then they would receive more favor from unbelievers. But the truth is, the more we become like Jesus, the more the world will hate us. Christians are not mistreated or shunned by the world because they are superior, but because they are servants of their Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, Whom the world has rejected. 7

Prayer: Father God, as I look at the hostility in the world toward those who follow Jesus, I am reminded of these important words Christ gave to His disciples. Knowing the world’s hatred for Jesus empowers me to endure its hatred toward Christ living in me. Please help me to adjust my expectations so they align with Jesus’ teaching. Opposition from the world will happen when we follow Christ because the world hates Jesus Who lives inside us. By Your grace and love, Lord God, I choose to follow my Lord Jesus no matter what the cost. Use me to be Your voice of grace and truth to a hostile world so millions may come to know Jesus as the Giver of life everlasting. Please be with my brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world who are suffering for Jesus’ sake. I ask that You give them abundant grace to love their enemies and to boldly make Christ known to them. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Taken from  https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/ on December 13, 2020.  

2. Ibid.

3. Taken from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/aclj-files-lawsuit-challenging-california-ban-on-singing-in-church-301094471.html on December 13, 2020.

4. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition.), pg. 664.

5.The phrase in the Greek language, Εἰ ὁ κόσμος ὑμᾶς μισεῖ, is a first-class condition and means that the world does actually hate the disciples. See J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 279.

6. The phrase Εἰ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ἦτε is a second-class condition expressing improbability. See Laney, pg. 279.

7. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 294.

How can we calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world? Part 4

“But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” John 14:31

In our study of John 14:25-31, we have learned so far that we can calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world by focusing on…

– The promise of insight from the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26).

– The peace of Christ (John 14:27).

– The prophetic word of Christ (John 14:28-29).

Finally, we can calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world by focusing on THE PRESCRIBED WILL OF GOD (John 14:30-31). The night before His crucifixion, Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.” (John 14:30). Jesus was not going to teach them much longer because Satan, “the ruler of this world,” was moving his forces against Christ through Judas.

Tony Evans explains how Satan became “the ruler of this world”: “When Adam and Eve sinned [Genesis 3:1-7], they gave up their role as king and queen, ruling creation on God’s behalf, and turned it over to Satan. Therefore, the devil is appropriately called ‘the ruler of this world,’ ‘the god of this age’ (2 Cor 4:4), and ‘the ruler of the power of the air’ (Eph 2:2). He holds ‘the power of death’ and keeps people in slavery by ‘the fear of death’ (see Heb 2:14-15). But Satan had no power over Jesus (14:30) because Jesus is without sin. The Son of God became a man so that he might defeat the devil as a man and restore God’s kingdom rule.” 1

As the “ruler of this world,” Satan seeks to desensitize people to their need for God through the world system’s human governments, economies, educational systems, media, entertainment industries, and false religious systems. He will use these systems to manipulate peoples’ thoughts and feelings so they are drawn away from the true God and led down a path toward self-destruction.

When Jesus says that Satan “has nothing in Me” (John 14:30b), He is saying that the Devil has nothing in common with Him. There was no sin in Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18) for Satan to take hold of like there is in us. Because Jesus was and is God (John 1:1; 5:18-47; 8:58; 10:30; 14:9; 20:28-29; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:20), Satan could not deceive Christ to yield to temptation (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:15). There had to be a perfect sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world, and Jesus was that sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). “Satan thought Jesus’ death was a victory for him, but actually it was Jesus’ victory over Satan (John 16:11; Colossians 2:15).” 2 One day Jesus Christ is coming back to earth to restore His perfect rule on the earth (Psalm 2; Revelation 19:11-20:6). What a glorious day that will be!!!

Then Christ said, “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” (John 14:31). Jesus would enter this conflict with Satan not because He would be overpowered by the evil one, but because He was always obedient to His Father in heaven. Jesus’ death on the cross would show “the world” that He loves His Father. It shows His submission to His Father’s will (cf. Philippians 2:8). Christ could have avoided His enemies and the cross, but instead He was willing to face them as He says, “Arise, let us go from here.” Jesus could have said, “Arise, let us flee to the mountains for refuge while we still can!” But He does not. Instead, He calmly went to Gethsemane and the cross (cf. Luke 22:39-23:47; John 18:1-19:30) because He knew that He was doing the “commandment” that His Father “gave Him.

Likewise, if we know that we are doing what God has commanded us to do, we can calm our troubled hearts even when we face fierce opposition or difficult circumstances. But if we are deliberately living in disobedience to God’s commands, we cannot expect to calm our troubled hearts. In fact, we can expect to have more trouble and anxiety because we are not living as God wants us to live. His discipline may cause our hearts great anguish and pain (Hebrews 12:5-11).

Two artists set out to paint a picture representing perfect peace. The first painted a canvas depicting a carefree boy relaxing in a boat on a little placid lake without a ripple to disturb the surface. The second artist painted a raging waterfall with winds whipping the spray about. But on a branch of a tree overhanging the swirling waters a bird had built its nest and it sat peacefully brooding over her eggs. Here she was safe from her predatory enemies, shielded and protected by the roaring waterfall. This is real peace – the result of remaining calm in the midst of raging trials and difficulties in life. And this is the peace and calm that Jesus can give to us in a chaotic world when we focus on the promises of insight from the Holy Spirit, the peace of Christ, the prophetic word of Christ, and the prescribed will of God.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) Who can calm our troubled hearts amidst great stress in our chaotic world. Some of the stress we face is due to our disregard for God’s will in our lives. The more we disobey the Father’s will, the more chaos we will experience in our own lives as we try to live life independently of Him. Satan has designed the world system to mislead us away from You. Thank You for bringing me back to You, my Lord and my God. You are not only a perfect Savior, You are also a perfect Friend Who wants to calm our troubled hearts. But we are responsible to create space for You in our lives so we can focus our hearts and minds on Your promise of insight from the Holy Spirit, Your peace which surpasses human understanding, Your prophetic word about the future, and Your prescribed will for our lives. Thank You for helping us center our lives around You once again. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1805.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pg. 325.

3. Many students of the Bible interpret Jesus’ words, “Arise, let us go from here” (John 14:31b), as an indication that Jesus ended His teaching here, and that He and the Eleven left the upper room immediately (see Brooke Foss Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John: The Authorized Version with Introduction and Notes, [1880 London: James Clarke & Co., Ltd., 1958], pg. 211; Robertson, Archibald Thomas Roberston, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V. [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932], pg. 256; J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV., Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983, pg. 464.) They view the teaching and praying that we find in John 15-17, as happening somewhere on the way to Gethsemane – before Jesus’ arrest (cf. John 18:1). Some Bible students see this phrase referring not to a change in location but to a change in anticipation especially in view of John 18:1, “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.” Constable writes, “Anyone who has entertained people in their home, knows that it is very common for guests to say they are leaving, and then stay quite a bit longer before really departing. Why would John have recorded this remark if it did not indicate a real change of location? Perhaps he included it to show Jesus’ great love for His followers that the following three chapters articulate.  Another view is that when Jesus got up from the table, He prefigured His resurrection, and what follows in this discourse deals with post-resurrection realities: ‘There must be resurrection-life before there can be resurrection-fruit.’ The time of departure from the upper room is not critical to a correct interpretation of Jesus’ teaching. (see Dr. Tom Constable’s Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 279; cf. Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John [Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991], pg. 479; Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, Vol II, [Swengel, Pa.: I. C. Herendeen, 1945; 3 vols. in 1 reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973], pg. 393).