I John 3 – Part 3

“Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” I John 3:9

Barry Bremen, an insurance and novelty salesman and marketing executive became known as The Great Imposter in the the sports world. From 1979 to 1986, the 6’ 4” athletic Bremen concealed his true identity and posed as a Major League Baseball umpire in the 1980 World Series, a player in the 1979 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, a player in the 1981 National Basketball Association All-Star Game, a National Football League referee in 1981, a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader in 1979, and a professional golfer in 1979-1980 and 1985. He also posed as an Emmy Award accepter in 1985 on behalf of actress Betty Thomas who was awarded the best Supporting Actress statue for her role on the police drama “Hill Street Blues.” Later Bremen apologized to Thomas, informing her he had really thought she was not there to accept her award. 1

Bremen’s stunts landed him on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, the David Letterman Show, and the Today Show. Bremen died of cancer in 2011 but that’s where the story begins in many ways. More than three dozen people have now learned that Bremen is their biological father, through sperm donation. They found out about each other – and Bremen – through genetic testing and the painstaking efforts of one of the children to track their lineage. 2

While Bremen was skilled at concealing his identity outwardly, his biological children discovered his true identity through genetic testing and tracking their lineage back to him. Bremen’s life is comparable to Christians who conceal their true identity as children of God by sinning, but inwardly they all possess the righteous nature or spiritual DNA of their heavenly Father.

The apostle John does not want his Christian readers to be deceived by the teachings of the antichrists (2:18-27) which said you could commit sin and still be close to God. 3

“Perhaps the antichrists felt free to sin while at the same time denying their guilt and claiming to behave righteously.” 4

He writes, “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.” (I John 3:7). John’s point is that “he who practices righteousness,” not sin, is what manifests that a person has an inward “righteous” standing before God through faith in Jesus (2:29; cf. Rom. 4:5). Only “righteousness” arises from a “righteous” nature.

John wrote “that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1:5). This is God’s nature – perfect holiness and perfect righteousness. God has absolutely no sin or “darkness at all.” Since God’s divine nature “is righteous,” when someone “practices righteousness,” you can know that it must be coming from God’s “righteous” nature inside that person (3:7). That is, that person must be born of God. 5

In I John 2:29, we learned that the phrase, “he who practices righteousness” is not referring to humanistic kindness or morality which even non-Christians can manifest. This “righteousness” (“what is right” translates tēn dikaiosynēn) 6 is not possible apart from believing in Christ for new birth and loving one’s fellow Christians. 7 John writes, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (I John 3:23). When someone practices Christ’s “righteous” behavior it means two things: they are born of God through belief in Jesus Christ and they are loving one another as Christ commanded.

John is telling us in I John 3:7 that a person “who practices righteousness” has been given a part of God’s divine “righteous” nature. Peter states something similar when he writes, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Pet. 1:3-4).

Commenting on these verses, Anderson writes, “Having His divine nature does not mean that we are exactly like God. We are not omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable, and so on. But we have some of His nature, a nature given to us when we were born again, born of God. Some of His attributes cannot be passed along to us, as mentioned. But some of them we can share and He can produce through us: love, truth, holiness, and so on. His divine love (agapē) is produced by His Spirit (Gal 5:22) in our new, born-again-with, divine nature.

“The principle should be clear: Divine roots produce divine fruits. This is what should characterize the child of God.” 8

The apostle John is saying to us, “Do not rationalize sin!” Rationalizing sin has been around since the fall of mankind in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-7). It is a lie for Christians to think we can remain close to Christ and deliberately sin without confession or repentance. Because God is righteous and we are His children who possesses His righteous nature, we are to live righteously. We are not to be deceived into thinking we can express our born-again nature by sinning because all sin is sourced in Satan.

“He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (I John 3:8). Satan’s sinful career dates from “the beginning” of creation. This is not a reference to eternity past since the Devil is a created being like all the angels (Gen. 2:1; Ex. 20:11; Psalm 104:4; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:7) and therefore is not eternal. 9 Sin originated with the Devil when he introduced sin into (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:11-15) God’s perfect creation (Gen. 1:31), and sin is his constant practice. 10

To be “of the devil” (ek tou diabolou) does not mean a Christian “who sins” is not saved (3:8a). John is saying that all sin, whether a Christian or non-Christian does it, is sourced in Satan. 11 Just as all genuine righteousness is sourced in God (“of God”) Who is righteous, so all sin is sourced in the devil (“of the devil”) who sinned from the beginning. To believe anything less is to prepare the grounds for tolerating sin. John wants us to understand that all our behavior either flows from heaven or hell.

“When a Christian is ‘of the devil,’ John means that, when he commits even one sinful act, in the doing of that act, even though the ultimate source was his sin nature, he has yielded to satanic influence. Or, more simply, he is acting like Satan would want him to act; according to his values. Christ exhorted us to pray that we might be delivered from the ‘evil one’ (Matthew 6:13), and Paul warned us that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against ‘principalities and powers of darkness,’ and the flaming darts of ‘the evil one’ (Ephes. 6:12, 13). Even though the source of all sin is the heart and our own lusts (James 1:14), it is possible for Christian behavior to be inspired and enabled by Satan who pours gasoline on the flame.

“For example, Ananias’ and Sapphira’s hearts were ‘filled’ by Satan. They were ‘of the devil’ when they lied to the Holy Spirit. When Jesus told Peter, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan’ (Mark 8:33), it was evident that Peter’s behavior was ‘of the devil’ (characterized by Satan’s influence) in that one act.” 12

If we are honest with ourselves, we have all tried to rationalize specific sins in our lives. We may try to justify sin by saying to ourselves, “God made me this way.” “It is only a weakness.” “It won’t hurt anyone.” “No one has to know.” “Everyone is doing it.” “This is the only way I can endure stress or face pain.” “I cannot change.” No matter how we attempt to rationalize our sin, John wants us to realize that when we do sin, we are imitating the devil who sinned from the beginning.

“How, then, can a believer do what is right (3:7b) and commit sin (3:8a) in the space of a few seconds? Consider Peter. He boldly confessed that Jesus is the Christ, and Jesus blessed him because God had revealed it to him (see Matt 16:13-17). However, in no time, Jesus told Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan,’ when he denied that Christ must suffer (Matt 16:21-23).

“Throughout each day, your actions will either be influenced by God or the devil. Satan can’t make you sin, but he can entice you. So, to whom will you listen? Will you be ‘of the devil’ so that he gets credit for your deeds? Or will you live by the truth, come to the light, and do works for which God gets the credit (see John 3:21)? Turn to Christ who can render powerless the devil’s works in your life (1 John 3:8). To avoid living a life that is not of God takes more than merely carrying your Bible and saying, ‘hallelujah.’ It requires doing what is right and loving fellow believers in submission to the Holy Spirit (3:10).” 13

John also wants us to realize that when we sin, we are opposing Christ’s work: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (3:8b). What are “the works of the devil”?  In the context, we are told that “he who sins is of the devil” (3:8a) and the person “that does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother” (3:10b). Hence, Satan’s works include all sin, especially refusing to “practice righteousness” by loving one’s Christian “brother.”

The primary way Christ destroys the works of the devil is seen in the next verse: “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” (I John 3:9). The way that Christ destroys the work of the devil (3:8) is to give believers a new sinless self (“seed”) which cannot sin. Since God cannot sin, the divine nature He places inside His children cannot sin either. A sinless Parent cannot beget a sinful child. So, sin is never an act of the born-again nature inside us because it is incapable of sinning (3:9) and because all sin is sourced in the devil (3:8).

However, some Bible teachers and translators interpret the Greek present tense of 3:9 to mean no Christian sins continually or habitually (see discussion of 3:6). According to this view, prolonged continuation in sin does not take place if one is truly born again. The NIV translation reflects this view inserting the words “will continue” and “go on” in front of the present tense verbs: No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” (I John 3:9 NIV). As pointed out previously in 3:6, this view is not plausible because habitual or continuous action is not inherent in the Greek present tense.The translators have added these additional words based on their theological point of view, not a careful study of the Greek grammar. 14

J. P. Louw has demonstrated convincingly that the present tense in John’s first epistle does not mean continuous or habitual action. 15  It is best to understand the present tense in I John 3:9 in an absolute sense (“Whoever has been born of God does not sin… he cannot sin”) because the present tense (“does not sin… cannot sin”) in the New Testament never bears the habitual meaning (“will continue to sin… cannot go on sinning”) without the assistance of qualifying words like diapantos (“continually”- Luke 24:53; Heb 9:6; 13:15); eis to diēnekes (“continually”- Heb 7:3; 10:1); 16 or pantote (“always”). First John 3:9 has no qualifying words.

This use of the absolute present tense is consistent with John’s refutation of the antichrists’ tolerance of sin. John has already said there is absolutely no sin in God (1:5), in Jesus (3:5), and in the born-again nature of the believer (3:9). 17

In 3:9, John states that the person “born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him.” “His seed” refers to God’s nature.

“His divine nature is passed down through His divine seed. The new birth places His seed in us. Just as my physical seed cannot produce something outside its genetic code, so God’s seed cannot produce something contrary to His nature, that is, sin. God’s nature cannot produce sin. God’s nature in us (His seed) cannot produce sin.” 18

It is important to realize that sin is never an act of the true born-again nature that a person receives from God when they believe in Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:12-13) because it is incapable of sin (I John 3:9) and because all sin is sourced in the devil (I John 3:8). The apostle Paul refers to this born-again nature as the “new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephes. 4:24; cf. Col. 3:10), “the inward man” (Rom. 7:22), or “the law of the mind” (Rom. 7:23).

Many have wondered how this understanding can harmonize with John’s statement in I John 1:8 that Christians who say they have no sin are self-deceived. Hodges explains:

“In 1:8 John warns, ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.’ But in 3:9 he says, ‘whoever has been born of God does not sin.’ As total persons, believers do sin and can never claim to be free of it, but their ‘inward self’ that is regenerated does not sin.

“In describing his struggle with sin Paul notes that two diverse impulses are at work. So, he can say, ‘For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members’ (Rom 7:22-23). Previous to this he had concluded, ‘Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells in me’ (v 20). His conclusion is simple; ‘So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin’ (v 24). At the core of his being (in his inward man) he does not and cannot sin. The inward man (the ‘regenerate self’) is absolutely impervious to sin, fully enslaved to God’s will. If sin occurs, it is not the inward man who performs it.

“Sin does exist in the Christian, but it is foreign and extraneous to his regenerated inner self, where Christ dwells in perfect holiness. Since Christ is eternal life (1 John 5:20), the one who possesses that life cannot sin because he is born of God. The divine seed (sperma) of that life remains (menō, ‘abides,’ ‘stays’) in him who is born again, making sin an impossibility at the level of his regenerate inward self.” 19

Comparing John’s statements to Paul’s in Romans 7:14-25, Anderson writes, “The evil which I do is done by me, but not really; it is done by my sin(ful) nature. So, the divine good which I do is not done by me; it is done by my divine nature. Both of these Natures dwell in the child of God simultaneously. However, even though the sin(ful) nature from our ‘B.C. days’ stays with us after we are born again (as does our physical body, our personality, our core intelligence, et cetera), the addition of God’s divine nature with the indwelling Holy Spirit changes our identity forever. We are radically, fundamentally different from the Old Man (all we were before we met Christ or were born-again). We now have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). ‘For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man’ (Rom 7:22). When I obey the lusts of the flesh, my new inner man (the divine nature) is disgusted and repulsed. I can only cry out with Paul, ‘Oh, wretched man that I am!’ when I choose to follow the lead of my sinful side.

“This inner disgust was not present in my Old Man. Conviction from the Holy Spirit, yes; disgust and anguish such as Paul was reeling from in Rom 7:24, no. The new creature in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) knows that when the believer knowingly sins, he is not acting in accordance with this fundamental change which has taken place within him when he was born-again. He longs with the mind of Christ to act in harmony with his new identity. In fact, that is the only way he can manifest or make visible who really is a child of the King.” 20

After years of studying the New Testament, I have not been able to find any verses which explicitly say our new, regenerate self needs to be transformed into the likeness of Christ before being translated into God’s presence at death or the Rapture of the Church. Why? Because our regenerate self is already sinless (I John 3:9; cf. 2 Cor. 5:8; Ephes. 4:24; Phil. 1:21-23). But our physical bodies in which our born-again self dwells are still unredeemed and will not be transformed into the glorious likeness of Jesus’ resurrection body until He returns for His Church (I John 3:2; cf. Rom. 8:23; I Cor. 15:51-54; Phil 3:20-21; I Thess. 4:14-17). Then and only then will our bodies fully manifest our regenerate self.

The apostles John and Paul want us to understand that sin is foreign to who we are in Christ (I John 3:9; cf. Rom. 7:17-20; Gal. 2:20). But Satan wants to convince us that we are sinners. Why? Because sinning is accepted as natural and normal. But if we realize we are children of God at the core of our being (I John 3:1-9), then we will conclude that sinning is abnormal and unnatural to our Christian lives. Sin is inconsistent with who we are at the core of our being. It conceals our true identity in Christ which is what John addresses in the next verse.

“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God.” (I John 3:10a). This part of the verse makes the most sense if we understand it to be the conclusion of what John said previously. Hence, the words “in this” refer back to I John 2:29 – 3:9 where John talks about expressing or manifesting our born-again nature by practicing righteousness. The last part of verse 10 looks forward to expressing our born-again nature by loving our Christian brother (3:11-4:19). Both discussions are intended by John to motivate his Christian readers to prepare to have more confidence and less shame at the time of Christ’s coming (2:28).

The key word in 3:10a is the word translated “manifest” (phanera) which means to be “visible” or “plainly…seen.” 21 According to I John 2:29-3:9, a Christian can “manifest” or make visible the “righteous” born-again nature given to him or her at new birth by practicing righteousness. On the flip side, a Christian can conceal his or her born-again nature by not practicing righteousness. 

Hodges writes, “Because a child of God is sinless at the core of his being, he can never be ‘manifest’ through sin as can a child of the devil. While an unsaved person can display his true nature through sin, a child of God cannot. When a Christian sins, he conceals who he really is rather than making it manifest. If the readers perceive someone doing real righteousness, then-but only then-can they perceive this action as a true product of new birth (2:29) and can thus behold God’s love (3:1). This consideration is crucial to John’s advancing argument” 22 whereby he defines “righteousness primarily in terms of Christian brotherly love and to show how such love properly expresses itself.” 23

John is saying to Christians in 3:10a, “Express your true self!” The phrase “children of the devil” can refer to both saved and unsaved. Nowhere does the Bible say one is “born of the devil,” “for ‘the devil begets none, nor does he create any; but whoever imitates the devil becomes a child of the devil by imitating him, not by proper birth’ [Augustine, Tract, 4. 10].” 24

“Those who are of the devil, either saved or unsaved, do the devil’s work by opposing the truth (cf. Matt. 13:38; 16:23; John 8:44; Acts 13:10; 2 John 9). One form of opposing the truth is disregarding it. Saved people are of the devil in the sense that sometimes they follow the devil’s leading and do his work, though they no longer belong to the devil. An example of those who are of the devil is the antichrists (plural) that John previously warned about (2:22-23). Jesus called the unbelieving Jews the children of ‘your father the devil’ (John 8:44)” 25 because they opposed the truth Jesus revealed to them about their sinfulness and His identity as the Son of God Who can set them free from bondage to sin (John 8:32-47).

Whenever we sin, we are behaving like children of the devil, since all sin is sourced in him (3:8). The phrase “children of God” can only refer to saved people because the Bible does say only those who believe that Jesus is the Christ are born of God (I John 5:1). Children of God can only express who they really are when they live righteously.

This does not mean, however, that when a Christian sins he is not a child of God regardless of how long or often he sins. But when he does sin, he is only revealing what he was before he was born again through faith in Christ. It does not mean he was never born again with a divine nature. But it does mean he is keeping the divine nature hidden. 26

“A psychiatrist thought he would do an experiment on self-image, so he got ten volunteers, brought them into his office one at a time, and briefed each on his assignment. He explained to them, ‘I want to see how people will respond to someone with a hideous, ugly deformity.’ Then the psychiatrist brought in a make-up artist who put an ugly scar on the right cheek of each volunteer. Before sending the volunteer out, they got a chance to look at themselves in a mirror. After the volunteer had gotten a good look, the mirror was taken away and the make-up artist was told to put the final touches of make-up on the scar. But, unknown to the volunteer, the makeup artist was instructed to pull the scar away before sending the volunteer out. The volunteer did not look any different when he left than when he had come in.

“Each volunteer was told to sit for twenty minutes in the waiting room with other patients to observe their reactions to the phantom deformity of the volunteer. Then their job was to come back into the psychiatrist’s office after observing the reactions and report how people had treated them. Ten different volunteers, with ten different perspectives resulted in reports that were all the same. According to the volunteers who thought they had ugly scars on their cheeks, the other patients in the waiting room were rude to them. People shunned them, and worst of all, if you can believe it, the other patients stared straight at the scars—the scars that weren’t actually there.

“The point of the experiment was to demonstrate that other people react to us in response to how we see ourselves. When you look inside yourself, what do you see—a big, hideous scar, or the Lion of the Tribe of Judah? When you look into the mirror, do you see a prairie chicken or a golden eagle?” 27

How we see ourselves determines how we live. The apostle John wants his Christian readers, including you and me, to see themselves as children of God who possess a sinless born-again nature (God’s “seed”) at the core of their being so they will manifest this righteous nature by living righteously. This type of Christian is represented by the image on the left. He or she is visibly manifesting God’s righteous nature inside them by doing what is right. However, this is not what gets them to heaven. Only believing that Jesus is the Christ makes us born of God (I John 5:1). But manifesting our true identity by practicing Christ’s righteous behavior will give us more confidence and less shame before Jesus when He returns for His church (2:28).

On the other hand, a Christian who is yielding to his or her sinful flesh is hiding their new born-again nature inside them. This type of believer is represented by the drawing on the right. He is behaving like a child of the devil when he sins, since all sin is sourced in Satan (3:8). Failure to manifest their new nature through their actions does not jeopardize their salvation, but it does disrupt their fellowship with God and other believers. It will also reduce their confidence and increase their shame before Christ when He returns for His church (2:28).

Remember Barry Bremen? He concealed his identity from others by wearing disguises. But he was unable to hide his identity from his children who possessed the same genetic code as his. Likewise, Christians can conceal their born-again nature from others by sinning. But this in no way erases the spiritual genetic code or divine nature God gave them the moment they believed in Jesus for His gift of eternal life. Such a nature cannot be lost; but it can be hidden from others when we fail to live righteously for our Lord.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the righteous born-again nature You gave us the moment we believed in Jesus for His gift of eternal life. Please help us manifest this nature by living life on Your terms and not our own so others can be drawn to Christ living in us. Too often we can yield to our sinful nature instead of relying on the Holy Spirit to express our new nature through righteous living. When this happens, the evil one would like to trick us into thinking that we are not really Your children after we have sinned, thus leading us into more sin. Help us to know and embrace the truth found in 1 John 3:1-10 – that we are Your children at the core of our being – so we can avoid the devil’s deception and rise from our confession to You knowing we are the same inwardly holy children we were before we sinned. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Retrieved on January 20, 2023, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Bremen.

2. Episode 221 of the Sports Media Podcast entitled, “The Amazing, Incredible Story of Barry Bremen, The Sports Imposter. As told by guests ESPN’s Russell Dinallo and Jeremy Schaap” at https://podcasts.apple.com/de/podcast/the-amazing-incredible-story-of-barry-bremen/id1366264191?i=1000569498767.

3. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 595.

4. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3824.

5. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 156-157.

6. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3771.

7. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 594.

8. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 157.

9. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 595.

10. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3827.

11. The Greek phrase ek tou diabolou is an ablative genitive of source which is the use of the genitive throughout verses 3:8-10. Hence, the genitive phrase “is not of God” (ouk estin ek tou Theou) in 3:10b means that a Christian who does not practice righteousness nor love his brother does not have actions that are sourced in God – see Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3855 and Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 500.

12. Dillow, Final Destiny, pg. 500.

13. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2943.

14. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 146, 151. 

15. Ibid., pg. 151 cites J. P. Louw, “Verbal Aspect in the First Letter of John,” Neotestamentica 9 (1975): 99-101); cf. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3804 to 3809 who cites Sakae Kubo, “1 John 3:9: Absolute or Habitual?” Andrews University Seminary Studies 7 (1969):47-56; C.H. Dodd, The ]ohannine Epistles, Moffatt New Testament Commentary series (New York: Harper and Row, 1946), pp. 78-81; I. Howard Marshall, The Epistles of John, New International Commentary on the New Testament series, Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 80.

16. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 151; Dillow, Final Destiny, pg. 493 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary (Irving, TX; Grace Evangelical Society Theological Society, 1999), pg. 143.

17. Dillow, Final Destiny, pg. 491.

18. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 159.

19. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pp. 595-596.

20. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 159-160.

21. 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. 1047.

22. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3844 to 3849.

23. Ibid., Kindle Location 3849.

24. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 76 cites Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset; and David Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961), pg. 1504.

25. Ibid., pg. 81.

26. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 160-161.

27. Ibid., pp. 162-164.

I John 3 – Part 1

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” I John 3:2

The apostle John has just spoken about how a born-again person can make himself visible by practicing righteousness (2:29). The thought of new birth brings an exclamation of wonder from John: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore, the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” (I John 3:1). When John uses the word for “Behold” (Idete), he is saying to “stop whatever you are doing and pay attention” 1 to or “look with wonder at the amazing love that God has toward us in that we should be called His children.” The Greek word for “what manner of” (potapēn) sometimes conveys a sense of intensification, like “how great,” “how wonderful,” or “how glorious.” 2John wants us to pause and focus on how glorious the love of God toward us is. 3

God “the Father” expressed His “love” toward us by placing us in His family the moment we believed in Jesus “that we should be called children of God!(cf. John 1:12). Believers in Jesus are “called children of God” because they are born-ones (tekna) of “the Father.” 4 If we see a child of God manifesting Christ’s righteous behavior (2:29), we can look at him as the recipient of God’s marvelous love (3:1a).

Few verses in the Bible are as beautiful as this one. For believers to experience victory in their Christian lives, they need to know Who their Daddy is! God is their perfect heavenly Father, and He does not share any of the failures or weaknesses of their earthly fathers. In addition, He is the King of creation which makes us royalty. 5

“John is slowly getting around to the new nature we have in Christ. He is saying that God’s nature is righteous. So, we can be born of God and share in His nature. We can be righteous. It stupefies John that God would love us enough to let us share in His nature. This is the same nature that came into Mary in the form of Jesus and was born on Christmas. Part of this same divine nature was passed along to us at new birth. It has changed our entire character and make-up. Now we are truly the children of God. That’s who we really are.” 6

It is an awesome privilege to be called God’s child. When we stop to ponder our new identity in Christ – that we are God’s children – it will take our breath away. When you believe in Christ, you are born of God and share in His divine righteous nature (cf. John 1:12; I John 2:29; 3:9; 5:1). At the core of your being you are God’s child no matter what you or others do, say, or think.

Many of us may believe the lie that says, “I am what I do.” We tell ourselves that what I do determines who I am. So, if I sin, I must be a sinner. What Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), tries to do is deceive us to believe this lie. Hence, when I sin, he whispers the lie that I am a sinner so I will perceive that sin is the normal and natural outgrowth of who I truly am at the core of my being. But listen to what God says: “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him” (I John 5:18).

Our born-again self (“whoever is born of God”), John tells us, “does not sin.” Sin can never be traced back to my new identity in Christ. At the core of my being, I am now God’s dearly beloved child through faith alone in Christ alone (I John 5:1; cf. John 1:12). I am defined by what God says about me, not by what I do. Satan cannot “touch” or defeat our born-again nature (I John 5:18). This is important to remember especially after being humbled by our sinful failures.

The evil one would like to trick us into thinking that we are not really God’s children after we have failed, thus leading us into more failures. But if we know and embrace the truth found in I John 3:1 and 5:18, we can avoid the devil’s deception, and rise from our confession of sin to the Lord (cf. I John 1:9) knowing we are the same inwardly holy children we were before we sinned.

God is righteous and we can now share in His righteousness. This new birth has changed who we are. We are now God’s child having been begotten by Him. However, it should not take us by surprise when the world looks at us and fails to perceive that we are children of God. Why? Because the world did not “know” (ginōskō) Christ (or God the Father) experientially, 7 they cannot recognize His children either (I John 3:1b). Since they do not know the Divine Parent, they do not know His children either. 8

The world does not know what it is like for a Christian to be given a new righteous nature from God because the world has not experienced God in this way. Anderson explains, “Until someone has experienced the new birth, it’s even hard to explain what it is like to have this new nature within. But in verse two John goes on to explain that one day this new nature is the only nature that we will manifest.” 9

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2). The word “Beloved” (agapētoi) connects back to the thought of verse one where Christians are described as the recipients of the glorious love of God the Father who regards them as His children. 10 Verse two informs us that believers in Jesus now have a new spiritual nature (“now we are children of God”) that is invisible to the world (“it has not yet been revealed what we shall be”).This suggests that there is no physical transformation from the new birth.

Believers in Christ will not undergo a physical transformation which outwardly manifests their spiritual birth until Jesus “is revealed.” The word translated “revealed” (phaneróō) twice in this verse is also the same word translated “appears” (phanerōthē) in I John 2:28. When Jesus “appears,” what believers “shall be” will “appear” too. Since “we shall be like” Christ physically when He returns for His church (cf. Phil. 3:20-21),Christians do not want to “be ashamed before Him” now (2:28; cf. 4:17-19). 11

The reason we “shall be like” Jesus physically when He appears is because we shall see Him as He is.” The moment we see the Lord Jesus in all His glory when He returns in the air for His church, our sinful nature will be taken away and Christ will automatically transform our physical bodies into the likeness of Christ’s glorious resurrection body (Phil. 3:20-21; I Cor. 15:51-54). 12

Could anyone but God miraculously transform a person physically into His own glorious likeness who looks at Him? This argues for the deity of Jesus Christ. If Jesus were a mere human, how could He miraculously transform another human being into His glorious likeness!?! It would not happen. But the fact that Christ is God (I John 5:20; cf. John 1:1; Titus 2:13) explains how seeing Him when He returns in glory can change us physically into His own glorious likeness.

Looking at a mere human being does not change our physical bodies. If I was to behold President Biden or evangelist Franklin Graham in person, my physical body would not be changed into their likeness. There is no human being on earth that could do that to us. But Jesus Christ can and will when He returns for His church at any moment because He is Lord of all!

Such a transforming look agrees with what Paul taught about our present spiritual transformation which takes place as we behold Christ’s glory in the Scriptures: 13 “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18). In the context, the “mirror” Paul has in mind is the Scripture (2 Cor. 3:12-16; cf. James 1:21-25). As a Christian approaches the Bible openly with the eyes of faith (“with unveiled face”), he or she sees the reflection of Christ’s glory in the “mirror” of the Bible which transforms him or her “from” one stage of Christ’s “glory to” to the next stage of Christ’s “glory” through the power of God’s “Spirit.” 14

“Can you think of anything more wonderful than seeing Jesus? We have sung about Him, talked about Him, studied about Him, communicated with Him, but the grand climax will be when we see Him.” 15

The prospect of being physically transformed into the glorious likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ when we see Him at the time of His appearing can have a purifying effect on a Christian’s life now. John writes, “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (I John 3:3). One of the best ways for Christians to purify themselves from sin now is to focus on “this hope” of Christ’s return at any moment and the accompanying physical and spiritual transformation that will occur with it. 

Anderson writes, “That John speaks of this hope as a purifying hope is one of the reasons we believe the rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins. If the rapture takes place after the Tribulation, as many teach, I could wait until the middle of the Tribulation to start cleaning up my act. I could just wait around until the Man of Sin reveals himself, and then I could start getting serious about my Christian life. After all, I could count the days until His appearing. It will be 1260 days from the revelation of the Antichrist.

“No, we believe the NT teaches Christ can come for His bride at any moment. We don’t know when that will be.” 16

To illustrate this, let’s say you are a close friend of President Biden and he said he planned to drop in to see you on one of his frequent trips to Delaware. You ask, “Do you know when that will be?” “Why?” he asks, “Well, I want to make sure the house is clean when you come.” “Oh,” he says, “Well I want to surprise you. Just keep it clean.” 17 That’s what the apostle John is saying in I John 3:2-3.

The promise that Jesus Christ could return for His church at any moment is one of the greatest reasons for us to live for Jesus now. Focusing on Christ’s any-time-return “purifies” us inwardly so we can have confidence and not be ashamed before Him when He appears.

Prayer:  Precious heavenly Father, thank You for the amazing way You have given Your love to us by declaring that at the core of our being we are Your dearly loved children no matter what we or others say, think, or do. Since we are Your children, we have all we need (Your nature, Your Spirit, and Your Word) to manifest Your righteous and loving nature. The world does not know what it is like for us to be given a new spiritual nature because they have not experienced You in this way. The day is coming, however, when we will undergo a physical transformation which outwardly manifests our spiritual birth at the time of Christ’s coming for His church. Help us focus on this hope of Christ’s return at any moment which purifies us inwardly from sin now so we can have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. Lord God, please lead us to those without Christ so we may share the gospel with them so they may believe in Him for His gift of eternal life. Then they too can prepare to face Christ with confidence at His coming. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.   

ENDNOTES:

1.Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 720.

2. Ibid., pg. 856.

3. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 137.

4. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3780.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2941.

6. Anderson, pp. 137-138.

7. The Greek word translated “know” (ginōskō) refers to experiential knowledge (see Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 205650 to 205667.

8. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 69.

9. Anderson, pg. 138.

10. Zane C. Hodges, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 594.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. See Zane C. Hodges’ helpful discussion on 2 Corinthians 3:18 in his book Six Secrets of the Christian Life (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 15-19.

15. Constable, pg. 70 cites J. Allen Blair, The Epistles of John: Devotional Studies on Living Confidently (Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux Brothers, 1982), pg. 92.

16. Anderson, pp. 138-139.

17. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 139.

I John 2 – Part 14

“If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” I John 2:29

During the first quarter of the Monday night NFL game on January 2, 2023, between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills, twenty-four-year-old Damar Hamlin of the Bills made a tackle and hopped up to his feet only to collapse to the ground a second later. Immediately, Bills’ assistant athletic trainer, Denny Kellington, jumped to action after Hamlin’s heart stopped beating and began administering CPR on the football field while players from both teams formed a wall around Damar. Eventually Hamlin’s heartbeat was restored after a defibrillator was used on him on the field.

Physicians at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where Damar was taken after his collapse Monday night, stated on January 6th that his “breathing tube was removed overnight” and that “he continues to progress remarkably in his recovery. His neurologic function remains intact, and he has been able to talk to his family and care team.” 1

At a recent press conference Bills head coach, Sean McDermott, said, “For an assistant to find himself at that position and needing to take the action that he did and step up and take charge like he did … is nothing short of amazing… The courage that that took … talk about a real leader, a real hero, in saving Damar’s life, and I just admire his strength.” 2

McDermott also praised the Bills entire medical team for their quick response. “Our medical team, they go through mock exercises for things like this, but we are never around to see that when they do that,” he said. “As they say, practice pays off, and it did in this case.” 3

Wellington’s quick response is truly amazing. One of the doctors treating Hamlin at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Dr. William Knight IV, states, “There are injuries occasionally that happen on sports fields, be it in football or others, but it is incredibly rare to have something be this serious (and) that quickly recognized. Meeting the standard of what we would expect in that scenario is what has allowed us to be able to discuss these good outcomes today.” 4

Another of Hamlin’s doctors, Dr. Timothy Pritt, also said, “had Hamlin’s care on the field been delayed by minutes or even seconds, his prognosis could’ve been quite different.” 5

Praise for Kellington’s life-saving actions has been overflowing on social media. Several fans are calling for him to be formally honored by the NFL. 6

Denny Kellington manifested that he was a hero through his actions. He, along with the Bills’ entire medical team, had practiced mock exercises for scenarios like Hamlin’s but it was Kellington who experienced this training at a much deeper level when he stepped up in the time of crisis. No doubt, the Bills have many athletic trainers on their team with impressive credentials, abilities, and knowledge regarding medical emergencies like Hamlin’s, but it was this specific trainer who manifested heroic character through his quick decisions and actions.

Why do I draw attention to this? Because I believe the author of I John would appreciate such a perspective. In our study of the book of I John, the apostle John introduced a new theme of having “confidence” or boldness before the Lord Jesus “at His coming” to motivate his Christian readers (2:12-14; 5:13) to continue to cultivate fellowship or intimacy with Christ (2:28). He uses one of his favorite terms for fellowship with God (“abide”) in verse 28 to emphasize the importance of cultivating intimacy with Christ in preparation for His return. Starting with verse 29, John begins to tell us how to prepare to have boldness at the prospect of Christ’s coming at any time (2:29-4:19). More specifically, in I John 2:29-3:10, John wants to talk about how to manifest with our actions that we are children of God. 7

John writes, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” (I John 2:29). Some students of the Bible conclude that John is saying a true Christian will always practice righteousness. But let’s be clear. John does not say this.

“We must not make this verse say more than it does. John certainly does not say, ‘Whoever does not do righteousness is not born of Him.’ That would be an inference in no way justified by John’s statement. He is not talking here about how we can decide if a person is saved. If we know that a person believes (cf. 1 John 5:1 …), we can know he is saved. But here, John is clearly concerned with the deduction which we can make if we know that God is righteous. If that is known, it follows that one who to any extent reproduces His righteous nature is actually manifesting that nature and can rightly be perceived as born of Him.” 8

“This verse does not say that everyone who is born of God practices righteousness. Believers can walk in darkness and sin (1:6, 8; 2:1). The point here is that when a child exhibits the nature of his or her father, he or she is perceived as the child of the father.” 9

John first says, “If you know that He is righteous” (Ean eidēte hoti dikaios estin). This is a third-class condition in the Greek language which conveys probability. 10 The first Greek word translated “know” (eidēte) in this verse refers to intuitive or absolute knowledge. 11 The second word translated “know” (ginōskete) refers to experiential knowledge. 12 Hence, John is saying, “If you know intuitively or absolutely from the Scripture that Christ is righteous, and you probably do, then you know from experience that everyone who practices or does righteousness is born of Him.”

The only way children of God can be manifested is through Christ’s “righteous” behavior. When we see someone exhibit Christ’s righteous behavior, we can be sure they are born of God. This righteous behavior is not referring to humanistic kindness or morality which even non-Christians can manifest. This “righteousness” (“what is right” translates tēn dikaiosynēn) 13 is not possible apart from believing in Christ for new birth and loving one’s fellow Christians. 14 John writes, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (I John 3:23).

“John is not talking about how one can decide if a person is regenerate. John is clearly concerned with the deduction one can make if a person knows that God is righteous. If that is known, it follows that one who reproduces His righteous nature is actually manifesting that nature and can rightly be perceived as born of Him.” 15

Does I John 2:29 mean that all children of God will manifest Christ’s righteous behavior or that all people manifesting Christ’s righteous behavior are children of God? Perhaps it would be helpful to illustrate using the NFL motif. Since our opening illustration involved a Buffalo Bills football player, let’s talk about Buffalo Bills football fans. Are all football fans Buffalo Bills fans? No. But are all Buffalo Bills fans football fans? Yes. Hence, are all Christians practicing Christ’s righteousness? No. But are all those practicing Christ’s righteousness Christians? Yes.

First John 2:29 does not say, “Everyone who does not practice righteousness is not born of Him.” John has already stated that Christians can walk in darkness and sin (1:6, 8, 10-2:1). John’s emphasis here is that when a child manifests the righteous nature of his or her father, he or she is perceived as a child of the father.

Getting back to the Damar Hamlin story involving the athletic trainer. I think we can safely assume that all the athletic trainers for the Buffalo Bills had a thorough knowledge of how to treat a player in Hamlin’s situation. But Denny Kellington manifested or experienced that knowledge when he sprang into action and helped save Damar’s life. The other trainers were still trainers even though they did not share Kellington’s experience. But Kellington manifested his trainer’s knowledge through his actions. And he has become a hero in the eyes of many people.

Not all Christians manifest Christ’s righteous behavior to the same degree. Practicing Christ’s righteousness is not automatic for Christians. We must choose to abide in Christ, to walk in the light as He is in the light to manifest His righteous behavior (1:5-2:6, 28). Those believers in Jesus who do will have more confidence and less shame when they stand before the Lord Jesus at His Judgment Seat (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; I John 2:28; 4:17-19). It is there they will hear Jesus say to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matt. 25:21).

But those believers who do not manifest Jesus’ righteous behavior in their Christian lives “will be saved, yet so as through fire” at the Judgment Seat of Christ where they “will suffer [the] loss” of eternal rewards (I Cor. 3:15). They will hear Jesus say, “’26 You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed… 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 25:26, 28-30).

Notice the contrast of rewards between the faithful believer and the unfaithful believer in Matthew 25:14-30:

Faithful Believer’s Rewards Unfaithful Believer’s Loss of Rewards
Commendation – “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matt. 25:21aReprimanded – You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.” Matt. 25:26
Promotion – “you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” Matt. 25:21bDemotion – So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents… but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” Matt. 25:28-29
Included in the joy of co-ruling with Christ – “Enter into the joy of your lord.” Matt. 25:21cExcluded from the joy of co-ruling with Christ – “And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matt. 25:30

In a manner of speaking, faithful Christians will be perceived as heroes because they manifested the righteous character of God their Father and God the Son through their actions on earth. These overcoming believers will receive special recognition throughout eternity when they enter the main gates of the New Jerusalem on the new earth (Rev. 22:14b). Each time they enter one of the main gates of the New Jerusalem, they will be given special honor perhaps before the angel at that gate (Rev. 21:12).

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

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

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

Prayer: Gracious Father in heaven, we thank You for the gift of eternal life that we received the moment we believed in Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. It was our faith in Christ that resulted in being born into Your forever family. We praise You today for explaining how we can prepare to have more confidence and less shame before the Lord Jesus when He returns for His church. Please help us manifest Your righteous nature through our actions – especially loving one another – so others can perceive we are Your children, and You are our Father. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Lindsay Lowe’s January 6, 2023, article originally published on Today.com entitled, “Fans want the trainer who saved Damar Hamlin’s life with CPR in the Football Hall of Fame” at www.news.yahoo.com.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3767 to 3775.

8. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 edition, pp. 67-68 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, Tex.: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pg. 127.

9. Constable, pg. 68 cites The Nelson Study Bible, Edited by Earl D. Radmacher (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), pg. 2144.

10. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 205650.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid., Kindle Location 205650 to 205667.

13. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3771.

14. Zane C. Hodges, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 594.

15. Ibid.

16. Hal Haller, Jr., Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 58.

I John 2 – Part 13

“And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” I John 2:28

In I John 2:28, the apostle John introduces a new theme of having “confidence” before the Lord Jesus “at His coming” to motivate his readers to continue to cultivate fellowship or intimacy with Christ despite the increase in false teachers or “antichrists” (2:18-27). 1 The Greek word translated “confidence” (parrēsia) refers to a state of boldness and confidence, courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness, especially in the presence of persons of high rank.” 2 John will focus on how to have boldness at the prospect of Christ’s coming throughout the body of this epistle (2:29-4:19). 3

Verse 28 is known as “a Janus that looks in two directions: backward to summarize the preceding section” 4 “and forward to introduce the following section. Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and endings who supposedly guarded portals. He had two faces, one on the front and the other on the back of his head. The month of January gets its name from him. It is the month in which we look backward on the past year and forward to the new year.” 5

John has looked back at his readers’ spiritual advancement (2:12-14), and he has warned them of enemies to their fellowship with God: personal sin (1:5-2:11), the enticements of the world (2:15-17), and the Devil and his false teachers (2:18-27). Now John looks forward at how to prepare to have boldness before Jesus at His imminent coming (2:28-4:19). The Greek phrase translated “that when He appears” (hina nean phanerōthē), is a third-class condition about the coming of Christ which could take place at any time. 6Itemphasizes the fact of Christ’s coming, even though the time of it is indefinite. 7  

The apostle John expected the return of Christ in his lifetime when he writes, “that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (2:28). This expectation of Jesus returning at any moment in one’s life is called imminency and is common throughout the writings of the New Testament authors (Matt. 24:42-44; Luke 12:37-39; John 14:1-3; Acts 20:31; 1 Cor. 1:8; 4:5; 15:51-52; 16:22; Phil. 3:20; 4:5; 1 Thess. 1:10-12; 4:15-17; 5:2-10; James 5:7-9; I Pet. 1:13; Jude 1:21; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:2-3, 11; 16:15; 22:7, 12, 17, 20).

As we look back at the Year 2022 and prepare for the New Year tonight, those of us who believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life can also expect Him to return at any moment in our lifetime. Even though eternal life is a free gift which can never be lost (John 4:40-14; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; Rom. 6:23b; Ephes. 1:13-14; 2:8-9), the New Testament makes it clear that every believer must give an account of his or her Christian life at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10-12; I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10) which takes place after the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth.

It is important to understand that the New Testament speaks of two different judgments separated by the Millennium or one-thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ on earth. The first judgment is for believers in Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ which takes place in heaven after the Rapture of the Church (Rev. 4:1-4; cf. Rev. 22:12; John 14:1-3; I Cor. 15:51-52; 2 Cor. 5:10; I Thess.1:10; 4:13-5:11). The second judgment is for nonbelievers after the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-10), and it is called the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).

Those who appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12) and the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) are judged “according to their works,” not according to their faith or the lack thereof. Since every person is judged “according to their works” at both these judgments, there will be differing degrees of punishment for nonbelievers in the lake of fire as determined by the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15; cf. Matt. 11:20-24; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47), just as there will be varying degrees of rewards for believers as determined at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 2:25-27; 4:1-4; 22:12).

In I John 2:28, the apostle John has the Judgment Seat of Christ in mind when he writes, “that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” It will be possible for transformed Christians (3:2-3) to experience shame before the Lord Jesus when He evaluates both the “good or bad” things we have done in our Christian lives (2 Cor. 5:10). Keep in mind that Revelation 21:3-6 which speaks of their being no more more death, nor sorrow, nor pain, takes place after the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rev. 4:1-4) and the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-10). In our transformed bodies (Phil. 3:20-21; I John 3:2), we will probably be more sensitive to sin because our sin nature will be gone along with its excuses and rationalizations for sin (I John 3:2-3). We will have a greater capacity to feel holy shame over sins that we committed on earth.

How can we reduce our shame and increase our boldness (“confidence”) before the Lord Jesus at His Judgment Seat? John instructs us to “abide in Him” (2:28a). Again, John refers to fellowship with God using the Greek verb menō (“abide”) which has already occurred 10 times in 2:6-27. “(John used menō 66 of the 112 times it occurs in the New Testament: 40 in John, 23 in 1 John, and 3 in 2 John.) In accord with his basic theme about fellowship (1 John 1:3), John once more enjoined the ‘abiding’ life.” 8

The believer who abides in fellowship with God, who seeks to walk in the light as God is in the light and obey His commands (1:5-9; 2:3-11; 3:24) during his or her Christian life, will “have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” But for the Christian who has not been abiding in Christ during his or her Christian life, there will be less confidence and more shame before the Judgment Seat of Christ.

“Yes, there will be shame at this time for His children who have lived their lives for the flesh and in the flesh. Does this threaten their eternal destiny? No. No more than you may be more proud of some of your children than others. Maybe one of your children has taken the gifts he has been given, worked hard to develop them, and is doing something productive with his/her life. You are proud of that child, and rightly so. Perhaps another child even more gifted has buried his gifts in the sand, has not worked hard to develop his God-given abilities, and is not doing anything productive with his life. Of that child you may be ashamed. Is he still your child? Yes, but you probably would not wish to reward him for his slothful life.” 9

The Christian who lacks the “abiding” life will still be in heaven because that was already determined the moment he or she believed in Jesus for eternal life (John 5:24). But they will have less rewards because they did not abide in Christ. That is why John says to confess your sins now. Abide now. 10

Prayer: Father God, as we close out this year (2022) and begin a new year tonight (2023), we pause to confess our many sins to You because You are faithful and just to forgive the sins we confess to You. We want to begin the new year with a clean slate and a clear conscience. We look forward to the day when You come to meet us in the clouds at any moment to be with You forever. May You find us abiding in You at that time so we may have confidence and not be ashamed before You at Your judgment Seat.  Please use us to share Your gospel of grace with those who are currently alive and destined for the lake of fire due to their unbelief.  May Your Holy Spirit prepare them to hear and believe the gospel so they may also enjoy an eternal life of fellowship with You and receive eternal rewards with which to honor You. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 65.

2. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 781-782.

3. Zane C. Hodges, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 593; Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3752 to 3762.

4. Constable, pg. 65 cites Henry Alford, The Greek Testament, Vol. 4, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, and Co., 1883, 1881, 1880, 1884), pg. 457.

5. Constable, pg. 65.

6. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 205608 to 205629.  

7. Constable, pg. 66 cites Gerald B. Stanton, Kept from the Hour, ch. 6: “The Imminency of the Coming of Christ for the Church,” Fourth ed., (Miami Springs, Fla.: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1991), pp. 108-37.

8. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3757.

9. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 135-136.

10. Ibid., pg. 136.

I John 2 – Part 10

“And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” I John 2:17

We began this section of I John (2:15-17) talking about investing our lives in something that is safe and secure. John has instructed us not to invest our lives in the world because it is not possible to love God the Father and the world at the same time (2:15) since the world promotes standards and values that are hostile toward God (2:16). John then gives a final reason not to invest our lives in the world: “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (I John 2:17). John reminds us that “the world is passing away,” and therefore, it is a totally unworthy object of our sinful lusts and longings. Often when a Christian indulges in some worldly lust, he or she discovers that its gratification is short-lived and must be renewed again and again in more intensive forms to get the same amount of pleasure as before. The “addicted” believer is reminded of the highly transient nature of the world and all its lusts. 

“Worldliness makes the ‘now’ more important than eternity. But you are passing through, and the world is passing by. It’s transient.” 1

The world often bases one’s identity on the type of vocation or skills they possess. But did you ever stop to think that your skills will pass away with the world? If you are an architect, a biologist, an electrician, a farmer, a musician, a physician, a scientist, a secretary, a teacher, etc. – however skilled you may be at any of these activities – none of these designations will survive the present. The Bible tells us, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” (2 Pet. 3:10).

How can a believer in Jesus establish an identity that outlasts this present world system? John tells us: but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (2:17b). The believer who is doing God’s will possesses a lifestyle that is in stark contrast with the world and all its lusts. His or her obedient lifestyle will not be interrupted by the passing away of this world. He or she experiences uninterrupted fellowship (“abides”)with God. 2

Hodges writes, “It [‘abides’] suggests, as almost always in this epistle, the ‘abiding life’ of fellowship with God. But here is obviously the additional thought that the life lived in God’s fellowship, rejecting the sinful things of this passing world, is a life that has no real ending. A person whose character and personality are shaped by obedience to God will not be affected by the passing away of the world and its vain desires. It is a Johannine way of saying, ‘Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.’” 3

“The one who does the will of God is inseparable from the Christ likeness which such a person has achieved. Likeness to Christ can give boldness at the Judgment Seat of Christ” 4 (cf. I John 2:28; 4:17; cf. 1 Cor 3:11-15; 2 Cor 5:10) where the eternal worth of his or her earthly Christian life will be assessed.

You may ask, “What is God’s will?” We know from the book of I John that God’s will is keeping His commandments (2:3-6; 3:24). Here are some examples of commands God wants us to keep: love one another (John 13:34-35; I John 3:23b; 4:21), go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15), make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:19-20), abstain from sexual immorality (I Thess. 4:3) and fleshly lusts (I Pet. 2:11), obey governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-7), warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all (I Thess. 5:14), rejoice always (I Thess. 5:16), pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17), in everything give thanks (I Thess. 5:18), forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven you (Ephes. 4:32), do not be drunk with wine, be filled with the Spirit (Ephes. 5:18), honor your parents (Ephes. 6:2-3), put on the whole armor of God (Ephes. 6:11) to name a few.

But the believer who lives out of fellowship with God does not “abide” forever in that his or her worldly lifestyle will be radically interrupted when he or she goes to heaven. Their worldly lifestyle will not abide forever. It stops at heaven’s gates. They are likely to experience “shame” instead of boldness before Christ at the Judgment Seat (2:28; cf. 4:17-19) because they did not live the way Christ lived (2:6).

Not everyone agrees with this understanding. There are some who believe I John 2:17 is saying that you cannot go to heaven if you give your life to the world. 5 Those who take this view fail to understand that the book of I John was written to encourage Christians (2:12-14; 5:13) to develop greater intimacy with God (1:3-4). The greater our intimacy with Him, the greater our fellowship with Him and the better we will know God experientially and experience His life abundantly both now and in eternity. In the context of I John 2:17, John is not talking about going to heaven. He is talking to believers (2:12-14) about how to maintain their fellowship with God in a world that is hostile towards Him (cf. I John 2:15-17). 

Believers who fail to do God’s will and do not possess an abiding life will still be in heaven. They will be with Christ not because they lived the way Jesus lived or did not love the world, but because they did the Father’s will as it relates to entering His heaven. What is the Father’s will when it comes to getting to heaven? Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40). The only thing we can do to enter the kingdom of heaven according to the will of the Father, is to believe in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life.

Getting to heaven is not a matter of what or who you love or don’t love because Jesus never said, “Everyone who does not love the world may have everlasting life.”Nor did He say,“Everyone who loves the Father may have everlasting life.”Going to heaven isa matter of whom you are believing or trusting to get you there (John 6:40). It doesn’t matter if you have loved the world or not, because you are still a sinner who needs a Savior to take away your sins. Your lifestyle cannot get you to heaven because it is all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). Only Jesus Christ can take away our sins because He was the only perfect sacrifice. Christ was without any sin (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15) since He was fully God (John 1:1) and fully Man (John 1:14). When He died on the cross for all our sins, He satisfied God’s holy demand to punish sin forever as demonstrated when He raised Jesus from the dead (John 19:30; I Cor. 15:1-6; I John 2:1-2).

When it comes to getting to heaven, it is not the will of God that you abide in Christ or do not love the world. It is the will of God that you believe in Christ alone Who died for your sins and rose from the dead so He may give you His gift of eternal life (John 6:40). If you have never understood and believed this before, and now you do, you can tell God this through prayer.

Prayer: Dear God, for much of my life I thought going to heaven was based on how I lived my life on earth. Thank You for revealing to me that going to heaven is not based on how I live, but on how Jesus lived, died, and rose again. God, I come to You now as a sinner who cannot save himself. I believe You died in my place on the cross for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now believing in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my love, or my prayers), to give me everlasting life and a future home in Your heaven. Thank You for the eternal life I now have and for the future home I will have in heaven. Please help me to know and do Your will now so my lifestyle will continue after I leave this world which is passing away. In mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

The moment you believed in Jesus for His gift of eternal life, you became God’s child forever (John 1:12). God is now your Father (Matt. 6:9) and you now have many brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world. God wants you to know Him more intimately now as you learn how to spend time with Him studying His Word (John 8:30-31) and talking to Him through prayer (John 15:7). He wants you to love Him and other Christians who last forever, not this world which is passing away (I John 2:15-16) so you can have a godly lifestyle that is permanent and greatly rewarded (I John 2:17, 28; 4:17-19). Knowing and doing God’s will is the safest and securest way to invest your life during your time on earth.

I wonder how much you and I will miss the world and its vain desires when we go to heaven to be with Jesus? Will our love for the world be greater than our love for the Lord? Like Lot’s wife (Gen. 19:16), will it be difficult to leave the things of this world behind us? The Lord Jesus told us to “remember Lot’s wife” in Luke 17:32a. Then He said, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33b). Lot’s wife sought to save her worldly lifestyle. She loved her earthly things so much that she could not leave them all behind. They were more valuable to her than her own life. The bottom line was she did not take God seriously! She was bent on doing her own thing rather than what the Lord wanted her to do.

The same thing can happen to us as Christians. The Lord saves us, and we begin walking with Him. But as we encounter difficulties, we begin to wonder if our old life would be better. Eventually we can turn to a pillar of salt spiritually. When you have a chance, lick some salt today and ask yourself, “What are some things in my life that God has asked me to leave behind? Things that keep me from following Christ?” Purpose in your heart not to be like Mrs. Lot. Seek the Lord Jesus first (Matt. 6:33) and rely on Him to live a life of love toward Him, not toward this world (I John 2:15-17).

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2939.

2. The Greek word for “abides” (menō)is one of John’s favorite terms for fellowship with God (I John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 19, 24 [3], 27 [2], 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17 24 [2]; 4:12, 13, 15, 16 [3]; cf. John 8:31; 15:4-7, 9-10) and it means “to remain, stay, dwell, continue.” See Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 630-631 and Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 616-619.

3. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3710.

4. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 592.

5. When referring to I John 2:17, the authors of the discipleship course entitled Rooted go so far to say that “if we give our lives to the world, we will pass away and be separated from God for all eternity” (pg. 98). See Kenton Beshore, Muriithi Wanjau, Peter Kasirivu, Samuel Metelus, Camille and Esther Ntoto, Daniel Nunez, Adrian De Visser, Rooted: Connect with God, the Church, Your Purpose (China: Rooted Network, 2020).

Revelation 21 – Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

4. Dillow, pg. 676.

5. Bauer, pg. 673.

6. Dillow, pp. 677, 1058.

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

8. Dillow, pg. 677.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1584.

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

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

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

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

HOW CAN I OVERCOME CONDEMNATION? (Video)

This is the fifth video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible several transforming principles for overcoming condemnation.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images areused with permission from Arabs for Christ / FreeBibleimages.org, Goodsalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, LumoProject.com, or they are creative common licenses.

How Can I Overcome Loneliness (Video)

This is the fourth video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible several transforming principles for overcoming loneliness.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from FreeBibleimages.org, Goodsalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org or they are creative common licenses.

The Darkness is Gone because the Son is Risen!

“Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” John 20:1

As early as she could get up on Sunday while “it was still dark,” Mary Magdalene went down to the tomb where Jesus’ corpse had been laid on Friday. This reference to it being “dark” may refer to both the physical darkness of the morning and the emotional and spiritual darkness that Mary was probably experiencing. Mary no doubt was stricken with grief by Jesus’ sufferings and death. After all, this was the Messiah-God who had healed her from demon possession (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). He wasn’t supposed to die like this! Mary had no idea what had already happened that Sunday morning. So, this was a very dark morning for her emotionally and spiritually.

What about you? Is this a dark day for you? Is your life filled with doubt and uncertainty considering the coronavirus? Are you struggling with negative attitudes this week? You may not admit it to anyone else, but you may be thinking, “Where is God amid all this chaos and pain in my life? I hear other people talk about faith and how great faith can be and how it makes a difference in their lives but if I was really being honest, I’d have a lot of question marks about it. I’m not a very trusting person.”

As Mary arrived at the tomb “she saw that the stone had been taken away.” The word for “taken away” (ērmenon) means “to lift up and carry away.” 1 It conveys the idea of being “tossed aside.” It was not slowly rolled away. It was thrown aside by the angel of God when he arrived (cf. Matthew 28:2). The power of God tossed this stone aside! This is probably why Matthew tells us the Roman guards shook with fear and became like dead men (cf. Matthew 28:4). I would have done the same!

When the stone was thrown aside, it was not so Jesus could come out of the tomb. I believe Jesus had already come out of the tomb before the stone was tossed aside. The stone was removed so the disciples could come into the tomb and see that it was empty. This is what makes Christianity distinct from all other religions. The founders of all other religions are still dead in their graves, but Christians worship a Jesus Christ that left an empty tomb behind Him! We worship a Jesus Christ who rose from the dead and remains alive today! A Jesus Christ who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-26).

If we are struggling in the dark with bad attitudes, doubts, or our faith – the resurrection power of Jesus Christ can change all of that. The same power that brought Jesus back to life can also resurrect a joyful attitude in us and replace our doubts with an unwavering confidence in Jesus and His promises. His resurrection power can revitalize our faith so that all fear is gone, and His joy can overflow in our lives once again. The darkness is gone because the Son is risen indeed!

If part of your struggle in the dark is with sin and shame, please know that Jesus’ resurrection power guarantees unlimited forgiveness in Christ to all who believe in Him. You may think your sin is too great for God to forgive. You may believe shame-based lies that say no one could accept or love you as you are. This is not true. Listen to God’s voice of truth: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loved you so much He sent His Son to die in your place when you were still an ungodly sinner. God loved you at your worst. He did not wait for you to clean up your life. He loved you just as you are. God loves you regardless of what you have done or what others say or think of you.

The risen Lord Jesus now invites you to come to Him just as you are to receive His forgiveness. The Bible says, “Everyone who puts his trust in Christ will have his sins forgiven through His name” (Acts 10:43). The word “everyone” includes the worst and the best of people. It includes people of all faiths. It does not matter if you are a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, or Universalist, Jesus invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to receive His unlimited forgiveness.

The Bible says the moment we believed in Jesus alone, “He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). No one can successfully condemn you now because Christ was condemned to death for your sins, removing your guilt (Romans 8:34b). Jesus was raised to life, satisfying God’s demand to punish your sins (Romans 8:34c). Jesus is now at the right hand of God the Father defending you against all accusations (Romans 8:34d). And Jesus intercedes for you that your faith won’t fail, you won’t give up, so that you can encourage others (Romans 8:34e; cf. Luke 22:32).

Hallelujah! Jesus is alive, and we who believe in Him are forgiven of all our sins – past, present, and future! The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! Oh, let us worship our risen Savior together!!!

Prayer: My risen Lord Jesus, I worship You this day because You have conquered sin, death, and the devil through Your death and resurrection. The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! You alone are my risen Savior, Lord Jesus! There is none like You. Even when I have dark days filled with doubt, fear, and shame, You are still alive and You are with me and love me more than I could ask or imagine. Thank You for dispelling the darkness on that first Sunday after Your death and burial. And thank You for continuing to dispel the darkness in this world through Your gospel of grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 28.  

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.