I John 2 – Part 11

“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” I John 2:18

A few years ago, when I was at a travel agency’s office in a mall near Metro Manila in the Philippines, I met a Muslim man who was also there to purchase plane tickets. As I conversed with him, he made a statement that shocked me. He told me that America’s government leaders orchestrated the 9/11 bombings of the World Trade Center in New York City to cause the rest of the world to turn against Islam and its leaders. When he said this, I thought at first that he was joking. But he wasn’t. He was serious. He told me that there was no evidence whatsoever that the bombings of the WTC were linked to Osama Bin Laden and Islam. At that time, I did not understand how extensively Islam brainwashes its followers from an early age to believe such things.

Anderson illustrates this from the life of former NBA star Chris Jackson, now known as Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf: “He had broken the single game scoring record of Pistol Pete Maravich at LSU and went on to lead the Denver Nuggets for several years. Then he converted to Islam, changed his name, and refused to stand during our national anthem. He walked over and sat on the bench in protest. After several trades he is out of the NBA. He has built his own mosque in Louisiana where he leads prayer to Allah five times a day. In an interview he claimed there is no evidence that Osama is responsible for the New York tragedy. He said, ‘As a matter of fact, there were thirteen Jews found standing on top of a building filming the event, and I think the Jews are responsible.’ The interviewer looked at Chris Jackson and said, ‘You know, you’re crazy.’ And this American citizen said, ‘Well, that’s what they said of our great prophet Mohammed, and I am glad to identify with him.’” 1

With Islam growing in popularity around the world, we will see more people sharing Chris Jackson’s views. 2 Please understand I am not just talking about the refusal to stand for our national anthem or attributing the terrorism of 9/11 to America or the Jews. I am also speaking of Islamic teachings which reject three of the most important fundamentals of the Christian faith:

1. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God (Matt. 5:18; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). Islam teaches that the Judeo-Christian Bible is corrupt and untrustworthy except for the portions which support Islam. 3 The reason Muslims make this accusation is “because the Qur’an says it teaches the same thing as the Bible, confirming the Torah and the gospel, yet the teachings of the Bible are clearly different.” 4

2. The deity of Jesus Christ. Islam’s sacred Scripture, the Qur’an, denies that Jesus is the Son of God or God Himself. According to the Qur’an: “No son did Allah beget, nor is there any god along with Him” (Sura 23:91; cf. 25:2); it is blasphemous to say that Allah (God) is the Christ (Sura 5:19, 75); Allah cannot have a son because he has no consort or partner (Sura 4:171; 5:101). “Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.” (Sura 112:1-4). The Qur’an also teaches that anyone who says Allah has begotten a son will be driven to hell (Sura 19:86-88). According to Islam, since God cannot have a Son, He cannot be a Father. So, Islam also rejects the Trinity – one God in three Persons. 5

3. Christ’s death and resurrection. The Qur’an rejects that Jesus died on the cross and therefore rejects His resurrection. “That they said [in boast], ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no [certain] knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:” (Sura 4:157). 6

Should these Islamic teachings surprise us? Not if we have read the apostle John’s first century letter known as I John. We have already learned in our study of this epistle that there are different barriers to our fellowship with God: personal sin (1:5-2:2), an example of which is hatred for our Christian brothers or sisters (2:3-11), and the world (2:15-17). Now we will begin to look at a third major barrier to our fellowship: the Devil and his false teachers (2:18-27).

It is not surprising that John’s warning against the enticements of the world (2:15-17) is followed by a warning against the antichrists (2:18-27). These antichrists or false teachers were promoting a worldly lifestyle which would entice his readers no matter how spiritual they may have been (2:12-14).

John writes, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that theAntichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” (I John 2:18). Once again John addresses his readers as “little children” (paidia) which means “taught ones” 7 and can refer to “one who is open to instruction.” 8 His readers need to learn what he is about to reveal.

One of the signs that “the world is passing away” (2:17) is the appearance of false teaching or “antichrists” and “the Antichrist” (2:18). While the Greek word for “hour” (hōra)can refer to a part of a day (e.g., John 1:39; 4:6; 11:9), it also is used in reference to an undetermined length of time (e.g., John 2:4; 4:21, 23; 5:25, 28; 16:25; etc.). 9 The phrase “the last hour” refers to a climactic era in history between the First and Second Comings of Jesus Christ.

Throughout the New Testament the writers regarded the present inter-advent age, after the Incarnation and before the Lord’s return for His own, as the last hour or the last days. This is the final period before the Lord Himself breaks into history again and raptures the church. Then the first stage of the new era will be judgment (the Tribulation), and the second stage, blessing. In the second stage, Jesus Christ will rule directly over human beings, first in the Millennium, and then in the new heavens and the new earth.” 10

John and the other authors of the New Testament believed Jesus Christ would return for His own in their lifetime (cf. Matt. 24:36-51; Luke 12:39-40; I Cor. 1:7; 15:51-52; Phil. 3:20; I Thess. 1:10; 4:13-5:11; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28; I Pet. 1:13; 2 Pet. 3:10; Jude 1:21), thus John refers to this period of time before Christ’s return as “the last hour.” Two thousand years later Christ still has not returned for His church. Does this mean the Bible has errors because the writers of the New Testament believed Jesus would return in their lifetimes, and they were obviously wrong?

Zane Hodges points out in his commentary on 1 John, that the Bible predicted that scoffers would come “in the last days” who would deride believers for their doctrine that Christ could come at any moment 11 like “a thief in the night” (2 Pet 3:3-4, 10). 3 Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Peter notes that the coming of “scoffers” is a sign of “the last days.” This is similar to what John is saying in I John 2:18-19. The appearance of “antichrists” or false teachers is indicative of “the last hour” leading up to the manifestation of the ultimate “Antichrist” who will claim to be God and rule the world during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation period (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15-22; 2 Thess. 2:3-4; Rev. 13:1-10).

The skeptics Peter mentions erroneously assume that “all” the processes we observe in our present world are the way “things” have always been (2 Pet. 3:4). This is also known as uniformitarianism. Such false assumptions overlook the fact that God has supernaturally intervened in the past when He spoke the universe into existence (2 Pet. 3:5; cf. Gen 1-2) and judged humanity through a global flood (2 Pet. 3:6; Gen. 6-8). The “same word” that supernaturally intervened in the past will also intervene in the future when God destroys the present heavens and earth with fire (3 Pet. 3:7).

Peter responds to these skeptics who doubted Christ’s coming by saying God does not view time as we do. “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Pet. 3:8). God is not limited to our linear view of time since He created time. Time for God may be a different dimension. 12 So, when Peter refers to “the last days” and John speaks of “the last hour,” they are not in conflict with God’s view of time. An hour or day to God may be two thousand years for us.  

John and his readers knew that “the Antichrist” was destined to appear on the world stage more than three-and one-half years prior to Christ’s return to earth to set up His kingdom. His readers now needed to be aware of the “many antichrists” who had already appeared. The Greek compound word translated “antichrist” (antichristos)means “against” (anti) + “Christ” (christos). These are people who oppose Jesus Christ and His teachings, or they claim to be the Christ or Messiah. 13

“An ‘antichrist’ opposes and replaces Christ with the goal of distracting and derailing Christians from pursuing Christ.” 14

Speaking of these antichrists, John writes, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” (I John 2:19). The word “us” (hēmōn) is used four times in this verse and most likely refers to the apostolic eyewitnesses (cf. 1:4-5; 4:6). It stands in contrast to the “you” in I John 2:20-21 which refers to John’s readers. Here we see for the first time the “we”“you”“us” contrast (cf. I John 4:4-6). 15 John wants his readers to know that these false teachers defected from the apostolic churches of Jerusalem and Judea (“They went out from us”) and sought to spread deception among John’s Gentile readers.

“It does not make sense that the false teachers had left the churches to which the readers belonged. If they had, how were they still a problem? On the other hand, if, like the legalists of Acts 15, they had seceded from the apostolic churches of Jerusalem and Judea, then they were a particular threat to the readers because they came to them claiming roots in the soil out of which Christianity arose. Thus, John was eager to deny any connection with them.” 16

John wants his readers to know the antichrists were not in agreement with apostolic teaching (“they were not of us… none of them were of us”). If they had agreed (“if they had been of us”), they “would have continued with the” apostles (“us”) and their teaching. But since God’s truth could not be changed among the apostles, these false teachers departed. They were unwilling to submit to the final authority of God’s Word, so they went out to deceive John’s readers by claiming to be from the same fellowship as the apostles. John wants his readers to know this so they will not listen to them and be deceived.

Were these antichrists believers in Jesus? It is possible they were saved and then denied the truth they once believed (cf. I Tim. 1:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:17-18). A person can still be saved after falling away from the faith. We can lose our faith, but God never loses us. If He did, then Jesus would have failed to do the Father’s will (John 6:38-39).

John’s readers were not defenseless against these antichrists: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” (I John 2:20). The “anointing from the Holy One” is God the Holy Spirit since we are told that the anointing “teaches” (I John 2:27). This strongly suggests that the anointing is a Person. 17 Christ promised that the Person of the Holy Spirit would “teach” His disciples “all things” (John 14:26; cf. 16:13-14).

“’The anointing’ is not some special gift shared by only elite clergy. John is addressing spiritual ‘children’ (2:18). Every Christian has the anointing: the internal teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit who illuminates the believer’s mind to understand and apply God’s truth, as well as to detect deception. Paul refers to it as having the ‘mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2:16).” 18

When does one receive this anointing? The moment he or she believes in Jesus for His gift of eternal life (John 7:37-39; cf. Acts 10:43-45; 19:2; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:2, 26-27; Ephes. 1:13-14). God the Holy Spirit takes up residence in a person’s body when he or she comes to faith in Christ (I Cor. 6:19-20).

The result of this anointing is “you know all things.” The Holy Spirit enables believers to adequately know and understand Christian truth. The antichrists may have told John’s readers that they or their church leaders lacked a special knowledge which only they could give them.

John assures them they had adequate instruction in the truth of God. “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” (I John 2:21). John does not write to his readers because they are ignorant of the truth as the antichrists may have told them. The apostle writes to them precisely because they do “know” the truth and they know “that no lie is of the truth.” This suggests that the false teachers may have told John’s readers or the church leaders that their understanding of the truth was inadequate, and they needed to be enlightened by them. But John says, “You already know all things. You know the truth. And you know that the truth is never to be confused with a lie. So, there is no need for any of you to listen to these false teachers. Your church leaders are competent to teach the whole body of Christian truth.” 19

It is important to recognize that the word John uses for “know” (oida) in I John 2:20-21 is different than the experiential knowledge (ginōskō) he spoke of earlier (2:3-4, 12-14). In the New Testament the word oida almost always refers to “direct insight into spiritual or divine truth” although it may not be truth that has been experienced yet. 20 This truth is the result of the teaching and convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.” 21

The key to resisting false teaching is to “know the truth” of God’s Word and depend upon the Holy Spirit to do what the Word says. Jesus said, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13). God the Holy Spirit gives us direction from the Word of God. “The Spirit of truth” guides us “into all truth.” The Spirit communicates to us through the written Word which is the truth (John 17:17). Walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) means to depend on the Spirit to do what the Word says. We are to depend upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Word and obey it as we expose ourselves to it. So, as we become more familiar with the truth of the Bible, we can detect the deceptions of the antichrists by contrast.

There are some who try to cast doubt on the truth of the Bible to make the church more open to doctrinal deviations. For example, Islam does this by telling Christians that the New Testament was corrupted by the apostle Paul and therefore is no longer trustworthy. 22 The Jehovah Witnesses have retranslated John 1:1 in their New World Translation to say that the Word, Jesus Christ, is “a god” instead of “God.” 23 John would have had zero tolerance with anyone who praises a false idea as “insightful” or “worthy of dialogue” no matter how far it is from the truth of God’s Word. 24 Christians today also need to have the same zero tolerance for anyone who rejects or distorts the truth of God’s Word.

What lies will these antichrists teach? 22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (I John 2:22-23). The main lie that John has in mind is the denial “that Jesus is the Christ.” For the apostle John, belief “that Jesus is the Christ” is saving: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1a; cf. John 20:30-31).

Believing “that Jesus is the Christ” in John’s thought means to believe that Jesus is the One Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-27). The person who denies this truth about Jesus “is a liar” who undermines the very basis on which anyone is saved. 25 Hence, these false teachers were denying that John’s readers had eternal life (cf. I John 2:25). If Jesus is not the Christ, as the antichrists taught, then John’s readers had no assurance that they possessed eternal life by believing in Christ. If their assurance disintegrated, so would their fellowship with God. 26

Denying that Jesus is the Christ is also a denial of “the Father and the Son” (2:22b) because “whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (2:23). To deny One is to deny the other and to acknowledge One is to acknowledge the other because Jesus perfectly reflects God the Father. Both the Father and the Son are God.

If we apply this lie detector test to Islam, we can quickly see that Islam denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and it also denies that God is the Father (see previous comments). According to I John 2:18-23, what do we learn about any religious system that denies Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and denies God is the Father? First, we learn that it is a lie. And second, it is from the Antichrist. To put it bluntly, any religious system that denies Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and denies God is the Father is from the Devil. 27

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for providing tests to help us discern truth from error. We are living in a world that is filled with deception and false teachers who claim to be Christians but deny that Jesus is the Christ Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him. Thank You for the anointing of the Holy Spirit which enables us to understand and apply the truth of Your Word, and to detect deception. Any religious system that denies Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and denies God is the Father is a lie and is from Satan. Grant us the courage and discernment to apply these truths from I John to our daily lives. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 119.

2. An April 2, 2015, Pew Research Report entitled, “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050” at https://www.pewresearch.org states that Islam is projected to grow faster than any other religion. “Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion, a 35% increase. Over that same period, Muslims – a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates – are projected to increase by 73%. The number of Christians also is projected to rise, but more slowly, at about the same rate (35%) as the global population overall. As a result, according to the Pew Research projections, by 2050 there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8 billion, or 30% of the population) and Christians (2.9 billion, or 31%), possibly for the first time in history.”

3. See Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 117-118 and Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Islam and the Rise of Radical Islam (Christian Publishing House, 2019 Kindle Edition), pp. 7, 34.  When witnessing to a Muslim, show them that the Bible claims to be the perfect Word of God (Matthew 5:18; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21), encouraging them to read it. If Muslims say they cannot read the Bible because it is corrupted, remind them that the Quran promises, “there is no change to the word of God” (Sura 10:64). If God can preserve the Qur’an, He can preserve the Bible which the Qur’an encourages Muslims to read (cf. Sura 3:3; 5:36-38, 66; 12:111; 20:37; 29:46; 35:31; and 10:94). Surely Allah would not command his people to read the Bible if it was corrupted. In Sura 10:94, the Qur’an tells Muslims that if they are in doubt about anything in the Scriptures, they should ask those who have received the book that was given before, such as the Tauret (the books of Moses), the Zabur (the psalms of David), and the Injil (the Gospels). – See Janosik, pg. 44.

4. Qureshi, pg. 117.

5. When witnessing to a Muslim about the deity of Christ, explain to them what the term “Son of God” means in its historic and biblical context. Never does it mean that God has a wife and produces offspring as Muslims believe. “Son of God” is an analogical term that indicates the relationship that the Second Person of the Trinity has with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is not inferior to the Father; for He claims that He and the Father are one (John 10:30), as well as if they have seen the Son then they have also seen the Father (John 14:9). Jesus also performed unique miracles that confirmed that He was the Son of God (John 20:31). Thus, the Son is not “another” god, but rather the second Person of the One God. In addition, Christians should realize that the reference to Jesus as the “Christ” is a title given to the heavenly, eternal Son Who is equal to God the Father (John 5:18-24). Christians should also explain the limitations that the Son took on Himself in order to become a Man. If He did not become fully Man (John 1:14; I Timothy 2:5), then He could not truly die in our place and bring us redemption from our sins (Phil. 2:5-8) (Janosik, pg. 271).

6. When witnessing to a Muslim about the death and resurrection of Christ, Christians need to understand that from an historical point of view, the claim by Muslims that Jesus Christ was not crucified was made 600 years after the event and has no historical support from the first century. (Janosik, pg. 284). Perhaps one of the best ways to help Muslims understand the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ would be to use Dr. Gary Habermas’ “minimal facts” argument (Janosik, pg. 284 cites Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection [Kregel, 2004]). The five essential facts to relate are:

a. Jesus died by crucifixion. Most historians accept the fact that a man named Jesus Christ lived in the first century and died by crucifixion.

b. His disciples believed that He rose and appeared to them. Whether or not Jesus actually rose from the dead, His disciples were so persuaded of this fact that they spent the rest of their lives telling this story. None of them ever denied what they had witnessed firsthand.

c. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed. The apostle Paul first tried to destroy the early church, but after his encounter with the risen Jesus Christ he became the chief evangelist for the church.

d. The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed. Something transforming happened to James that turned him completely around so that he became one of the great leaders of the early church. Experiencing his half-brother, Jesus, resurrected from the dead could do this.

e. The tomb was empty. There have been many attempts to discount this fact, but they all fall far short of the simple explanation that Jesus, who had been crucified and died, had risen from the dead and exited the tomb (Janosik, pg. 284). 

7. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pp. 45, 55.

8. 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. 749.

9. 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.

10. Constable, pp. 55-56.

11. Anderson, pg. 121 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pp. 106-107.

12. Anderson, pp. 122-123 cites Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Comos (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993), pg. 76. 

13. Constable, pg. 56.

14. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2940.

15. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 593.

16. 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 3719 to 3723.

17. Ibid., Kindle Location 3728.

18. Evans, pg. 2940.

19. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 593.

20. Anderson, pg. 124.

21. Ibid.

22. Qureshi, pp. 196-198.

23. The translation of John 1:1c, “And the Word was God” (kai Theós ēn ho Lógos), is based on the Greek rule of grammar (Colwell’s rule) which states that the definite predicate nominative, “God” (Theós), in front of the verb “was” (ēn) will not have the article. See E. C. Colwell, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament,” Journal of Biblical Literature 52 (1933), pp. 12-21. In Greek, word endings determine the subject. But since both “Word” (Logos) and “God” (Theos) have the same ending, John added the article (ho) to Logos to identify it as the subject of the sentence.

24. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 593.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Anderson, pp. 124-15.

I John 2 – Part 7

“I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.” I John 2:14b

After reviewing foundational truth about their position in Christ as “little children… fathers… and young men” (2:12-13b), the apostle John repeats the same three stages of spiritual development to assure them that he is aware of their spiritual growth (2:13c-14).

“By repeating the three categories under which he here addressed his audience, John suggested not only that they possessed spiritual attainments worthy of being called children, fathers, and young men, but also that they possessed these attainments in ample measure.” 1

This is not what we would expect if John was writing to provide tests for eternal life as some suggest. Clearly, John does not doubt his readers’ salvation experience or their subsequent spiritual growth. He is writing “because” he is assured of their salvation and their deepening fellowship with God (2:12-14). His concern is that their enemies (“antichrists”) may jeopardize their fellowship with God by questioning the genuineness of their salvation experience (2:25-27; 5:9-13) and their subsequent fellowship with the Lord.

In the first series of three we learned about the minimal experience for each stage of spiritual development (2:12-13b). In the second series of three we are given a description of a more advanced spiritual experience for each stage (2:13c-14). 2

“I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father.” (I John 2:13c). As spiritually “little children” (teknion or “little born ones”), John’s readers had experienced the complete forgiveness of their sins at the moment of faith in Christ (2:12; cf. 5:13a). But now he uses a different word for “little children” (paidia) which means “taught ones” 3 and can refer to “one who is open to instruction.” 4 While it is true that all believers in Jesus have experienced the forgiveness of their sins as part of their salvation experience (cf. Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14), we learn in this second series of three that John’s readers now “have known the Father.” Forgiveness led them to know the Father more intimately. 5

Unlike newborn infants who scarcely recognize their fathers, these believers have come to know their divine Parent more intimately through spending time with Him. 6 They have grown from merely appreciating God had forgiven all their sins at the moment of faith in Christ (2:12) to knowing God as their Father in a more intimate way through shared time and experience with Him (2:13c). Not all believers advance beyond appreciating the forgiveness of their sins to knowing God more intimately as a result of spending time with Him and obeying Him (I John 2:3-4; John 2:23-25; 14:21). John’s readers had, however, and he encourages them with his awareness of their spiritual growth.

Next John writes, “I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.” (I John 2:14a). Notice that John’s second description of his readers’ spiritual experience as “fathers” is the same (2:13a, 2:14a). This suggests that nothing can be added to knowing the Eternal One (“Him who is from the beginning”) more intimately. The fact that he repeats this same description implies that they had grown much closer to Christ over time. Their intimate knowledge of God was “fully sufficient.” 7 They have persevered over the long haul. Circumstances did not dictate their actions.” 8 They kept their eyes on the Eternal One, and grew better not bitter.

John then adds to his readers’ experience as “young men” in his second description of them: “I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.” (I John 2:14b). Before repeating what he said the first time about them using the Greek perfect tense (“you have overcome the wicked one”), he adds using the present tense, “you are strong, and the word of God abides in you.” John encourages his readers by telling them they “are strong.” They are ready for spiritual battle. How did they become spiritually “strong”? The phrase “the word of God abides in you” explains how this took place. The word “abides” (menō) is one of John’s favorite descriptive terms for fellowship with God. It means “to remain, stay, dwell, continue.” 9 The reason these believers had become strong spiritually and ready for battle was because God’s Word had made its home in their hearts.

The night before His crucifixion, Christ spoke to His disciples about bearing much fruit to prove they are His “disciples” and glorify God the Father (John 15:8). Christ taught them, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7). Answered prayer was based on abiding in Jesus through obedience (cf. I John 3:24) and His words abiding in them.

How can we let Jesus’ words abide in us? I will share a method I learned a couple of years ago called the SWORD Drill. 10 During your Scripture reading, select a verse(s) to focus on as you step through the SWORD Drill. Using this guided process will help you let Christ’s words abide in you so you can experience His Word in a way that changes your heart and renews your mind.

S is for Scripture. Which verse or verses stood out to you in your Bible reading? Write it/them below.

W is for Wait. Take a few minutes to wait on the Holy Spirit. Put aside any thoughts and worries of the day. Meditate on the Scripture. Read the verse(s) above aloud, slowly and attentively. Then pause to let it sink in. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

O is for Observe. What did you notice about the verse(s) from above? Was there something that the Holy Spirit spoke to you? Write your observation below.

R is for Request. Ask God to show you where and how the Scripture and observation apply to your life. Write the application below.

D is for Dedicate Yourself. Looking at how the Scripture applies to you, what is one thing that needs to change? Remember, this is not necessarily about something you need to do (or stop doing). Perhaps the change is in the way you see God, yourself, or others.  

In Ephesians 6:10-18, the apostle Paul instructed Christians in the city of Ephesus to pray and put on the whole armor of God to withstand the attacks of Satan and his demonic armies. Each piece of armor refers to the way we think (cf. 2 Cor. 10:3-5). Paul describes the armor that Roman infantrymen wore in the order they would put it on. He begins with the inner armor the soldier would put on first: their “belt” (6:14a) to hold his breastplate and sheathe for his sword in place, his “breastplate” (6:14b), and his shoes (6:15). Then he puts on the outer armor “on top of all” 11  these other pieces of armor (6:16a): his “shield” (6:16b), his “helmet” (6:17a), and his “sword” (6:17b).

This list of armor only has one offensive weapon. The rest are defensive except the shoes, which are neutral. “The sword is the only weapon that can be used for offense. And the most common shield during the time of Paul was not small and circular, but large and rectangular. If you saw a Roman soldier coming at you, about all you would see would be this shield, some feet, and the top of a helmet. So, how is the enemy to overcome this soldier? Answer: he must knock the sword out of the soldier’s hand.” 12

The sword for the Christian is “the word of God” (Ephes. 6:17b). The Greek word for “sword” (machairan) here refers to a short and two-edged weapon, used to cut and stab in hand-to-hand combat. 13 “The word of God” refers to the spoken “word” (rhēma) 14 of God rather than to the written word.

For example, God’s Word abided in Jesus so He could speak the Word to the devil when he tempted Jesus to sin, and the devil was defeated (cf. Matt. 4:1-11). This is “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephes. 6:17b)in that the Holy Spirit gives us the Scripture to speak to the devil when he attacks us on the battlefield, so that the devil will flee from us (cf. Matt. 10:19-20; James 4:7). The Holy Spirit is our Teacher and He will guide us into all truth daily (John 16:13). Learn to rely on Him and listen to His voice.

The fact that this sword was “two-edged” is significant. One edge represents God speaking to you and the other edge represents you speaking God’s Word to the enemy when he tries to attack you.

“When our enemy the devil can take the Word of God out of the hand of a believer, he is well on his way to victory. Conversely, when God’s young men and women wield God’s Word, there is good reason to expect victory over the enemy.

“Here in 1 John 2:14 John tells us what makes the young men strong. It is the Word of God abiding in them. And when we actually go into battle against the world in 2:15-17, we will see the same temptations the devil put in front of Jesus, and we will be reminded that it was through God’s Word abiding in Jesus that He found victory against the temptations of this world.” 15

First John 2:12-14 reminds us that just because a person has been a Christian many years does not mean they are older spiritually. Spiritual growth begins with us as “little children” who experience the Father’s forgiveness the moment we believe in Christ for His gift of salvation (I John 2:12; cf. Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14), and then after that as we become aware of sin in our lives and honestly confess it to the Lord to restore or maintain our fellowship with Him in the light (I John 1:5-2:2). As we share the light with the Lord it leads us to know the Eternal One more intimately as “fathers” (I John 2:13a, 14a). When we get to know Christ more intimately, we become more acquainted with His Word and allow it to abide in our hearts and minds so we can speak its truth to the devil when he attacks us on the battlefield. Hence, as vigorous “young men,” we must allow God’s Word to abide in us to experience victory over the wicked one (I John 2:13b, 14b) as we face the world and its many temptations (2:15-17).

What spiritual developmental stage are you in at this time? Are you like a little child who has recently experienced the forgiveness of the Savior for the very first time? Has your experience of God’s forgiveness led you to know God more intimately as a result of spending time with Him? Or do you identify more with a father who has come to know the Eternal One intimately over the long haul no matter what your circumstance? And you are ready to mentor other believers to do the same? Or do you see yourself as a vigorous young man who experiences spiritual victory over the evil one by allowing God’s Word to abide in you and make you strong? Whatever stage you find yourself in, it is essential to know God is on your side and no one is greater than Him.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your forgiveness which gives us a fresh start in life the moment we believe in Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to know You more intimately as we learn to spend time with You in the light by being open and honest with You about what You reveal to us. May Your Word abide in us so we have the strength to speak Your truth to the devil when he attacks us on the battlefield. Regardless of what spiritual developmental stage we are in, we need You every step of our Christian lives, Father. Thank You for never leaving us nor forsaking us. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. 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 3686.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 45.

3. Ibid.

4. 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. 749.

5. Again John uses the perfect tense of the stative verb “to know” (egnōkeite) which means to know intensely or intimately. See David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 74; cf. K. L. McKay, “On the Perfect and Other Aspects in the New Testament Greek,” Novum Testamentum, Vol. 23, Fasc. 4 (Brill: 1981), pp. 289-329.

6. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3682.

7. 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.

8. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2938.

9. Bauer, pp. 630-631.

10. Adapted from Pure Desire Ministries at puredesire.org.

11. The majority of Greek manuscripts contain the Greek words epi pasin which mean “on top of all.” See Anderson, pg. 103.

12. Ibid.

13. Bauer, pg. 622.

14. Ibid., pg. 905.

15. Anderson, pp. 103-104.

I John 2 – Part 6

“I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one.” I John 2:13b

In our study of I John, the apostle John is preparing his readers for spiritual battle (2:12-14) against the world (2:15-17) and the devil (2:18-25) after having addressed their battle with sin (1:5-2:2). To prepare them for warfare, He is reviewing fundamental truth about their position in Christ. Like “little children,” they had experienced complete and permanent forgiveness from their heavenly Father the moment they believed in “the name of the Son of God” (2:12; cf. 5:13a). As “fathers” they now know the Eternal One intimately (2:13a; cf. John 17:3a).

Today John will address the third foundational truth based on their position in Christ. “I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one.” (I John 2:13b). Their experience as “little children” (forgiveness of sins) and as “fathers” (intimate knowledge of God) renders them as vigorous “young men” who are prepared to do battle with Satan. 1

Once again John uses the Greek perfect tense to describe their position in Christ. The perfect tense describes a completed action in the past that has continuing results to the present. Hence, as “little children” they have been “forgiven” (apheōntai) of all their sins when they believed in Christ for salvation and they remain forgiven at the time of John’s writing (2:12). As “fathers” they “have known”(egnōkeite) God as the Eternal One from the moment of their salvation and they continue know Him in this way (2:13a; cf. John 17:3).

And now John uses the Greek perfect tense when he writes that as “young men” they “have overcome” (nenikēkate) Satan or “the wicked one” (2:13b). The Greek perfect tense conveys a past victory over the evil one which continues to produce fruit in the present. 2 In what sense have all believers “overcome the wicked one”?

John writes, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1). Every time a person believes in Jesus as the Christ for new birth, a definite victory is made over the world: 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (I John 5:4-5). John informs us that “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” (I John 5:19b).

Satan is actively engaged in blinding people’s minds to prevent them from believing in the gospel of God’s Son (2 Cor. 4:3-6). He uses the world system to teach many false views which desensitize people to their need for a Savior including such things as:

  • Humanity is basically good so people do not need to be saved from sin.
  • Since God is love, all people will go to heaven.
  • Jesus was just a good moral teacher or prophet who provided a good example to follow.
  • God and the Bible cannot be trusted.
  • Sin has no consequences.
  • God does not exist.

But when God breaks through these (and other) lies and a lost sinner “believes that Jesus is the Son of God” to be “born of God” (I John 5:4-5), then Satan is directly defeated (2 Cor. 4:3-6). And since the effects of new birth can never be reversed by Satan, this defeat is decisive and permanent (Luke 8:12). At the very least, John’s readers are viewed as “young men” who had experienced victory over the wicked one when they put their faith in Christ for eternal life, and the results of this victory are still there. They still have a perfect standing before God in heaven (cf. Rom. 8:33-34; Heb. 10:10, 14). This positional truth is intended by John to encourage his readers to move out into battle against this world and its ruler, knowing that their victory in Christ is secure. 3

The author of the gospel of John is the same author of I John. John uses the Greek perfect tense for the same word translated “have overcome” (nenikēka) when he records Christ’s encouraging words to His disciples the night before His crucifixion: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). There are three contrasts in the first half of this verse which have incredible significance:

1. “in Me” versus “in the world”: Jesus depicts the disciples as living in two spheres. The first is spiritual and eternal (“in Me”) and the second is physical and temporal (“in the world”).The phrase “in Me” points back to the intimacy Christ spoke of in the vine and branches imagery (John 15:1-8). Disciples of Jesus can “have peace” in Christ who never changes, not “in the world” which is ever-changing. We are not going to find peace in the world. Only Christ can give us the peace we yearn for. If our focus is on Christ, then peace can be our experience. If our focus is on the world, then we can expect “tribulation.” This word (thlipsin) refers to “trouble that inflictsdistress brought about by outward circumstances.” 4

2. “you may have” versus “you will have”: In the spiritual realm the disciples “may have” peace. The verb translated “may have” (echēte) is in the subjunctive mood which means it is possible or desirable 5 they may have peace, but Christ did not guarantee their peace in this life. If they abide in Christ (“in Me”), then they can have peace. But it is not certain they will abide in Him. But Jesus does guarantee they “will have” tribulation in the world. The verb translated “will have” (echete) is in the indicative mood which conveys certainty 6 that the disciples will experience tribulation in the world. The disciples will not be able to escape the tribulation that is in the world. Perhaps the disciples still did not believe persecution was imminent  (cf. John 15:18-16:4). They expected to rule with Jesus soon in His coming Kingdom (cf. Matt. 16:21-28; Luke 22:24-30). Their expectations kept them from receiving more truth from Christ that they found to be contrary to what they wanted – this is something all of us must guard against. 7

3. “peace” vs. “tribulation”: If the disciples (and we) abide in Christ and stay focused on Him, they can experience internal “peace” (eirēnēn) or a deep-seeded calmness that is given to obedient believers (cf. John 14:21, 23, 27a) even though they will definitely have “tribulation” in the world. This peace of Christ arises from a life of faith in God. It refers to a calmness “that would come to their hearts from trusting God and from knowing that He was in control of all events that touched their lives.8

The world cannot give this kind of peace to believers. The world gives Christians “tribulation” because the world opposes Christ and His followers (15:18-16:4). The word “tribulation” “is used in a general sense to speak of the ‘pressing affliction’ that the disciples must endure as they identify with Christ in an unbelieving world (cf. 15:18-25). This is the pressure believers experience when they take a stand for Christ or speak out on a sensitive moral issue. Yet although believers face intense pressure from the world, they can enjoy internal peace in Christ.” 9

Some teach that if you are doing God’s will everything will go smoothly. This is contrary to what Jesus promises. Even if you are living for Christ “you will have tribulation” because the world hates Jesus and those who follow Him (15:18-21). If the world does not hate a believer, it may be because that believer is being conformed to the world instead of being transformed by the Word.

After the disciples forsook the Lord at the time of His arrest (cf. Matt. 26:56; Mark 14:50), they may have felt ashamed and uneasy whenever they thought of Jesus. But Jesus predicted their desertion in the very saying where He also assured them of the peace He would give them (John 16:32-33). Christ loved them despite their shortcomings. In the future when they looked back on their desertion, they would reflect that Jesus predicted it. And even though He knew full well they would abandon Him, He had promised them peace. That is grace. Christ would give them peace even though they did not deserve it.

The world would definitely bring the disciples distress, but they could “be of good cheer.” The word translated “be of good cheer” (tharsaeite) means “to be firm or resolute in the face of danger or adverse circumstances, be enheartened, be courageous.” 10

Why could the disciples face these upcoming challenges with courage? Christ explains, “I have overcome the world.” As mentioned previously, this is the same Greek perfect tense verb John used in I John 2:13b. The word “overcome” (nikaō) means “to win in the face of obstacles, be victor, conquer, overcome, prevail.” 11 So, Jesus speaks of His victory over the world as though it is an accomplished fact with continuing results to the present!

It was no accident that Jesus spoke these triumphant words, “I have overcome the world” even as the Roman soldiers were buckling on the weapons for His arrest. That is confidence, isn’t it!?! But this is a confidence that would be lacking in the disciples that night. At first, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter, the ring leader of the disciples, pulled out a sword in Jesus’ defense (Luke 22:50-51; John 18:10). But by the next day, all Eleven disciples had lost faith. Those triumphant words from the previous night must have haunted the disciples as they watched from a distance as Jesus agonized on the cross. It appeared to them that the world had overcome Jesus. But on Sunday morning, their faith would be reignited and strengthened by the resurrection of their Lord.

To an unbeliever, the cross of Christ seems like total defeat for Him. But Jesus sees it as a complete victory over all that the world is and can do to Him. Christ goes to the cross, not in fear or in gloom, but as a Conqueror! Because Jesus won the victory over the hostile world and Satan through His death and resurrection (cf. John 12:31-32; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Colossians 2:13-15; 1 John 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4-5), we can also win against this hostile world and its ruler as we face difficulties with His courage! Because Jesus has already won the battle, we can claim the victory as we face trials triumphantly.

In John 16:33, John wants us to see that victory begins when, through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, we find peace in living life for Him. In I John 2:13b, the apostle wants us to realize that the moment we believe in Christ for our new birth (5:1), it was our faith that permanently defeated Satan’s and the world’s opposition towards saving faith (5:4-5). Knowing this can give us much courage as we face intimidating challenges.

When we were serving the Lord in the Philippines, I sometimes liked to watch NBA basketball. One of my favorite teams at that time was the Dallas Mavericks. Since we were fourteen hours ahead of CST in Dallas, Texas, I was not available to watch their games in the mornings in the Philippines when they were televised live. So, I watched the replay of their games in the evenings. Before I would do that, I liked to check the final score on ESPN, so I would know if the Mavericks had won before I sat down to watch them. Knowing my team had already won the game, gave me confidence even though I may watch my team make several mistakes and fall behind in the score. I did not give up on them though because I already knew they would win the game.

The same is true in our Christian lives. We already know the outcome of this battle between Jesus and the world and the ruler of the world. Knowing Christ has already won the victory over the world and the devil can enable us to have courage when we face intimidating challenges (John 16:33). Knowing that our faith in Christ at the time of our conversion permanently overcame the world and Satan, gives us confidence going into spiritual battle (I John 2:13b). At times it may seem that the world and Satan are winning the battle when we fail, or other believers fail, but the truth is Christ has already won the war through His death and resurrection! The truth is we can move out into battle against this hate-filled world based on our complete victory in our position through Christ. We can fight “from” the victory Jesus and our faith have already won, not “for” the victory as though it was completely dependent upon us alone.

Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, thank You so much for preparing us for spiritual battle by reminding us of our position in Christ. As Your little children, we have permanent forgiveness of all our sins so the enemy cannot successfully accuse us or condemn us. As fathers, we know You as the Eternal One and it is this intimate knowledge of You that delivers us from the enemy’s lies. As young men, we have permanently defeated the world and its ruler with our faith when we believed in the Son of God for our new birth. This permanent victory over their hostility toward saving faith encourages us to move out into battle knowing the war has already been won. Thank You for this confidence You have given to us, Lord, based on our position in Christ. In the matchless name of our Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. 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.

2. Ibid.

3. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 102.

4. 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. 457.

5. https://www.blueletterbible.org/help/greekverbs.cfm.

6. https://www.blueletterbible.org/help/greekverbs.cfm.

7. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane C. Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 224.

8. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 440.

9. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 297.

10. Bauer, pg. 444.

11. Ibid., pg. 673.

I John – Part 5

“I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.” I John 2:13a

Since the book of I John is primarily about fellowship with God (1:3-4), the apostle John’s main concern is that his readers’ fellowship with the Lord continues. With that said, he knows that believers in Jesus have three enemies which can jeopardize their fellowship with God: sin (1:6-2:2), the world (2:15-17), and the devil (2:18-25). John also understands and believes that our position in Christ is foundational for victorious Christian living. To prepare his readers (including us) for spiritual warfare, the apostle reviews basic truth about our position in Christ.

Last time John addressed his readers as “little children” who had experienced complete and permanent forgiveness from their heavenly Father (2:12) the moment they “believed in the name of the Son of God,” Jesus Christ (5:13a). This positional forgiveness provides the basis for practical or fellowship forgiveness (1:9). While all who believe in Jesus have positional forgiveness which includes past, present, and future sins (Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14), they still need practical forgiveness which is based on the confession of their known sin to maintain or restore their fellowship with God (I John 1:9; cf. Matt. 6:12, 14-15).

For example, when parents decide to have children, they already know their children will commit sins. They are aware that their children will be imperfect. But this does not prevent the parents from choosing to have the children. And when the child is conceived, an eternal relationship begins. Nothing, including death, can change the fact that this child will always be the child of his or her parents. So, in a sense, since this relationship will last forever, the child has positional forgiveness for all his or her future sins. And based on this positional forgiveness, the parents are predisposed to fellowship-forgiveness whenever their child sins against them but also chooses to come back to them and seek their forgiveness. God gave us positional or relationship forgiveness when we became His forever children through belief in Jesus Christ (John 1:12; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). Based on that, He will always be “faithful” to grant us fellowship-forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him (I John 1:9; cf. Matt. 6:12, 14-15) to restore our closeness to Him. 

Next John reminds his readers of what he just wrote about in I John 2:3-11: “I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.” (I John 2:13a). As “fathers,” John’s readers “have known Him who is from the beginning.” The words “Him who is from the beginning” could refer to either God the Father or Christ; “the distinction was not important to John. His readers knew both.” 1 John uses a verb and tense (egnōkeite) we saw earlier in 2:3-4. When the perfect tense is used with a stative verb like “to know,” it means to know intensely or intimately. 2 What this suggests is that as “fathers” his readers have come to know God more intimately which implies they have reached the stage of keeping His commandments (cf. 2:3). 3 There is a big difference between knowing about a person and knowing him intimately.

Why does John use the term “fathers” to describe this experience? As “fathers” they “have known” the Eternal One (“Him who is from the beginning”). Older people know people that go way back. In this case, all the way back to eternity past. God’s “beginning” really has no beginning. It will take all of eternity for us to begin to get to know God because He is infinitely greater than us.

Notice the progression: “little children” (teknia) or “little born ones” experience complete forgiveness from their heavenly Father (2:12). Experiencing God’s forgiveness is one of the first things a new believer appreciates about his or her salvation. 4 This complete forgiveness invites the new believer to get to know God more intimately (2:13). “We all begin as children—both physically and spiritually. And babies get to know their daddies. New Christians come to know God as Father.” 5

One of the most important weapons a Christian can have going into spiritual battle is knowing Christ more intimately. We get to know Christ better by spending time with Him and obeying Him. Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21). Observe the progression in this verse – “has… keeps… loves Me.” Before we can “keep” Christ’s commandments, we must “have” them. To “have” Jesus’ commandments, we must spend time with Him to be aware of what He has said. When a believer “keeps” or obeys the Lord’s commandments, God the Father and God the Son will “love” him or her more intimately and Jesus will “manifest”or reveal more of Himself to them.

In Revelation 2, the same author who wrote I John writes to a church whose members had lost their initial love for Jesus. Christ commends this church for their hard work, perseverance, and discernment of false teaching and teachers (2:2-3). But the one thing He had against them is stated in the next verse. “Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4). The order of words is emphatic in the original language; the clause could be translated, “Your first love you have left” (tēn agapēns sou tēn prōtēn aphēka). 5

While this church had excelled in their service for Christ and their orthodoxy, they had left their “first love.” This refers to their original love and devotion to Jesus. They were doing the right things now, but not with the same love and devotion for Jesus that they had in the beginning of their Christian lives.

This can happen to any church or individual Christian. We start out passionate in our love for Jesus considering all He did for us in saving us from all our sins. But as the years pass by, we can easily shift from passionate love for our Savior to more of a program mentality whereby we function out of duty instead of devotion to Christ. We go through the motions, but our heart is not connecting to the Lord like it was in the beginning of our Christian lives. We can become so familiar with the teachings of the Bible that we become less sensitive to what God is saying to us. Familiarity can produce apathy in our Christian lives.

What was Jesus’ counsel to these Christians who lost their initial love and devotion for Him? Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works…” (Revelation 2:5). Christ is telling them (and us) to go back and do the things we were doing when we were passionately in love with Jesus. For me that would mean spending time alone with Him, listening to His still small voice as I read and meditate on the Bible. Or going on walks through the woods and reciting memory verses from the Bible. When I stop doing these life-giving works with Jesus, my love for Him lessens and can grow cold.

This is especially dangerous when I am serving Christ because Satan does not want me to do that. So, he intensifies his attacks. If am not spending time alone with Christ, I am more vulnerable to failure because I have lost the intensity of my love for the Lord and can be easily led astray.

In closing, I want to share some thoughts from Dr. David Anderson: “One of my favorite paintings of Jesus is called ‘The Good Shepherd.’ It pictures Christ as a shepherd out in a pastoral setting, surrounded by sheep. But what interests me most about this painting is not the Shepherd as much as the sheep. The Shepherd is holding one little lamb in His arms; a couple more are nudging up against His robe. Others are lying in a cluster not far away. Further back in the scene we see some sheep grazing. But it’s the sheep far from the Shepherd who concerns me. Some are looking this way and others that way. They are not at all close to the Shepherd. These are the sheep which are in danger of the wolf and the lion. These are the sheep which could fall off a cliff and break their bones. If you were doing a self-portrait to touch up this painting, where would you place yourself in the picture?” 7

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for John’s words of encouragement in his epistle which prepare us for spiritual battle with our enemies. Like little children, we have experienced Your complete and permanent forgiveness through faith in Christ alone as our Savior so we can approach You now as our Father. Because of Your amazing forgiveness, we can get to know You and Your Son more intimately as we spend time with both of You and learn to obey Your commandments. Knowing You on a deeper level is one of the most important weapons against spiritual attacks. Some of us are like the sheep in the painting who are young or hurting and so we have drawn close to You to be held in Your arms close to Your heart. Others of us are close to You and nudging You to focus on our needs. There may be those of us grazing on the riches of Your grace while being close to You. Some of us are resting in green pastures or being refreshed by the stilled waters You have led us to. There are those of us who have wandered farther away from You. We can still see You and take glimpses of You at times, but we are more captivated by our surroundings. We want to explore the world unaware of its many temptations and dangers. And then there are those of us who have wandered so far from You that we have lost sight of You. Little do we know the hidden dangers that are waiting to pounce on us and devour us. Wherever we may see ourselves in this image of You as our Good Shepherd, may each of us know You are always available to help us if we will take that first step toward You. It may be a cry for help or a simple, “Please forgive me, Lord.” You are waiting to hear from us, and You are eager to be our Good Shepherd. Thank You Lord God. In the mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. 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 3677.

2. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 74; cf. K. L. McKay, “On the Perfect and Other Aspects in the New Testament Greek,” Novum Testamentum, Vol. 23, Fasc. 4 (Brill: 1981), pp. 289-329.

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. 591.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 44.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2938.

6. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 4950. 7. Anderson, pp. 101-102. While I do not believe the picture I have shared with this article, is the exact painting Anderson had in mind, its similarity serves as an adequate substitute.

I John 2 – Part 4

“I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” I John 2:12

Weapons of warfare have changed considerably since the day the apostle John wrote his first epistle. While Romans soldiers in the first century fought with swords and spears, they would be no match for our Special Ops today that use the M4 carbine rifle, a shortened version of the standard U.S. M16 with a detachable 40mm grenade launcher mounted beneath the barrel. The weapon can also mount a night-vision sight, and some troops carry night-vision goggles with them. A soldier on sniper duty might lug a heavy Barrett .50 caliber rifle that can hit targets a mile away with a bullet stout enough to pierce armor. Some soldiers carry the M3 Carl Gustav reusable launcher, a bazooka that fires antipersonnel and antitank rockets. 1

But a Christian’s weapons have not changed. Our enemy remains the same in spiritual warfare and so do our weapons regardless of what century we live in. But the tactics of the enemy can vary from situation to situation, but the weapons that bring us victory remain unchanged.

The book of I John is primarily about having fellowship with God, not about going to heaven; it is about our practice, not our position. But understanding and believing our position in Christ is foundational for victorious Christian living. For example, in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians in the city of Ephesus, he first presents the truth about our position in Christ (Ephes. 1-3) before addressing our practice of that truth (Ephes. 4-6). Paul knows that it is essential to know and believe our position in Christ if we are to effectively live it out. 2

The apostle John is preparing his readers for spiritual warfare. Christians face three primary enemies: the devil (Ephes. 2:2b; 6:12; I Pet. 5:8; Rev. 12:9), the world (John 15:18-19; Ephes. 2:2a), and our sin (Ephes. 2:3; James 1:14-15). John addressed our sin in I John 1:5-2:2. He is about to deal with our other two enemies: the world (2:15-17) and the devil (2:18-25). To get us ready to deal with these two enemies, he is going to review some basic truth about our position in Christ (2:12-14). 3

In 2:12-14, the terms “children… fathers… young men” refer to all the readers in each case since John addressed all his readers as “little children” (cf. 2:1, 18, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21). If John was referring to different chronological age groups or differences in spiritual maturity, we would expect the sequence: “little children, young men, and fathers.” But instead, we see the sequence: little children, fathers, and young men. 4

“It seems best… to view the terms of address as referring to all the readers in each case. Then each experience ascribed to them is appropriate to the category named.” 5

Anderson writes, “But the words are switched up to look back at ground already covered and look forward to the battle ahead:

Little Children—Forgiveness; ground covered in 1:5−2:2.

Fathers—Intimacy (deep knowledge of God); ground covered in 2:3-11.

Young Men—Victory over the Evil One; ground covered in 2:15-28.” 6

In verses 2:12-14, it is also noteworthy to observe the phrase, “I write to you… because…” “Clearly John does not regard his readers as ‘false professors.’ Viewing this epistle as presenting ‘tests’ by which to determine the genuineness of a person’s salvation misreads the epistle.” 7

John is not writing this epistle to provide tests for eternal life. He is not questioning whether his readers are saved or not. He is writing because he is assured of their salvation and their deepening fellowship with God. His concern is that their enemies may jeopardize their fellowship with God by questioning the genuineness of their salvation experience (2:25-27; 5:9-13) and their subsequent fellowship with the Lord.

John begins with his readers’ experience as “little children.” “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” (I John 2:12). Like “little children” (teknia = “little born ones”) 8 John’s readers had experienced the forgiveness of their heavenly Father. That John is referring to his readers’ position in Christ is underscored by using the Greek perfect tense of the word “forgiven” (apheōntai) which refers to a completed action in the past with continuing results to the present. 9 When John’s readers believed in Christ for His gift of eternal life in the past (5:13a), they were forgiven of all their sins – past, present, and future (Col. 2:13-14) – and they remain forgiven in the present when John writes to them.

The word for “forgiven” means “to release or cancel” a debt owed. 10 This is judicial or positional forgiveness whereby God cancels our sin debt to Him the moment we believe in Jesus for His complete forgiveness of all our sins so we can become His forever children (cf. Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14; John 1:12; 6:37). We are declared totally righteous before God in His courtroom at the moment of faith in Christ (Romans 3:21-4:5; 8:33). This not only includes our past sin debt, but our present and future sin debt to God as well (Col. 2:13-14). Nothing is more important for a believer in spiritual battle than his secure standing before God. Satan will accuse the believer of wrongdoing, but he cannot do so successfully because Christ has canceled that believer’s sin debt in full and declared him to be totally righteous in God’s courtroom the moment he believed in Jesus (Rom. 8:33-34). This is positional forgiveness.

Another feature in this verse that points to a believer’s position in Christ is the phrase “for His name’s sake.” Why did God grant complete forgiveness to John’s readers? It was “for His name’s sake.” This phrase looks back to the first time John’s readers believed in Jesus’ name. 11 John writes, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13). God wants people to know that complete forgiveness is connected to believing in “the name of the Son of God,” Jesus Christ. Christ forgives us not because we deserve it but because He wants His name as a forgiving God to become more well known among people all around the world. If Christians lost their positional forgiveness in Christ, it would tarnish Jesus’ name as a forgiving Savior.

First John speaks of two types of forgiveness. One is the forgiveness we receive because of our position in Christ. This is the forgiveness spoken of in I John 2:12 (cf. Ephes. 1:7). The only condition for positional forgiveness is belief in Christ (Acts 10:43). The extent of this forgiveness is past, present, and future sins (Col. 2:13-14). It is permanent as the prefect tense suggests in 2:12 and is therefore unrepeatable. The second type of forgiveness is practical or fellowship forgiveness which was addressed in I John 1:6-2:2. The condition for this forgiveness is confession of sin (I John 1:9). The extent of this forgiveness is the confessed sin. It is temporary and needs to be repeated whenever the believer becomes aware of his unconfessed sin (Matt. 6:12, 14-15). It is important to understand that this practical forgiveness is based on our positional forgiveness.

Anderson illustrates: “When my oldest daughter started to drive, she took Driver’s Ed. She was a good student and did well, but on the day she got her license, she was quite nervous. That night she wanted to go to Young Life, and she borrowed our brand-new family car to do so. I was out that evening myself, so when I got home, I happened to notice that the left side of the car was smashed in, and the left rear-view mirror was missing. I walked into the house and didn’t say a thing. Because I have an eternal relationship with my daughter, she has advanced forgiveness for anything she might do to injure herself, me, or our family. We had insurance on the car, so it was no big deal, but I knew she was going to be feeling very badly.

“I just sat downstairs and turned on the TV, waiting for her to come to me. Well, an hour went by. She didn’t come. She knew I was home because she could hear the TV. But it wasn’t until her older brother called out, ‘Christie, Dad’s home. Don’t you have something to tell him?’ that she came down the stairs. It was hard for her to get up the courage to tell me. But she finally did so and started crying.

“I said, ‘Christie, don’t worry. You are not hurt, you didn’t hurt anyone, and the car can be fixed. But even if we didn’t have insurance on the car and you were hurt, I would forgive you. You’re my daughter. My love for you will last forever. Come here.’

“She came over and I gave her a big hug. Then I said, ‘Hey, why don’t we go out and practice some more.’ So, with me at her side, we went out driving.

“Christie was still somewhat shaken by her first mistake, so she made a second. She drove at thirty miles per hour right through a four-way stop. A policeman saw and stopped us. As he walked up to the car, he had his head cocked with a curious expression on his face. He said, ‘You just didn’t see it, did you, honey?’

“You see, most stop signs are run out of defiance (in which case the car is often accelerating) or with a ‘roll stop.’ But Christie just cruised right through at the accepted speed limit for the area. From this the policeman deduced that she had not seen the stop sign at all. He was merciful and only gave her a warning. Now her second mistake wasn’t as bad as the first, and she learned even another lesson. Slowly she developed her confidence as a driver and hasn’t had any more wrecks (to my knowledge) since then. She is now thirty-one years old.

“But in order for Christie to relax and become a better driver, she had to know that she was forgiven for her mistake. And not only the first big mistake, but she had to know that I wasn’t going to revoke my forgiveness for the first mistake when she made the second mistake. Because of our father/daughter relationship, because of her position in our family as my daughter, she already has advanced forgiveness for any mistake she may make in life. That’s what we call positional forgiveness, forgiveness because of our relationship. But in order to feel close to me, she needs forgiveness not only in her position, but also in her condition. That’s why she needed to tell me what she had done, and that’s why I reassured her of my love and forgiveness and gave her a big hug. It is very important to see that our fellowship is based on our relationship.

“My daughter and I have an eternal relationship. As such, she has advanced forgiveness for anything she might do to hurt me. This is relationship forgiveness. But when she does do something wrong, she needs to come to me and confess that wrong in order to be reassured of my love and forgiveness. This is fellowship forgiveness. The latter is based on the former. Any child needs the assurance of relationship forgiveness over and over!

“In the passage before us, John is reassuring his little children of God’s forgiveness because of their eternal relationship with Him. A knowledge and assurance of this forgiveness is absolutely essential for them to feel confident as they go into battle against the world and the devil. A good soldier cannot operate at his best with the fear that a mistake or two will take him off the front lines.” 12

The challenge for many Christians is they don’t believe they have positional forgiveness. Charles Stanley illustrates this with an experience from his seminary days:

“One of my most memorable seminary professors had a practical way of illustrating the concept of grace for his students. At the end of his evangelism course, he would hand out the exam with the caution to read it all the way through before beginning to answer it. This caution was written on the exam as well.

“As we read through the exam, it became unquestionably clear to each of us that we had not studied nearly enough. The further we read, the worse it became. About halfway through, audible groans could be heard throughout the lecture hall. By the time we were turning to the last page, we were all ready to turn the exam in blank. It was impossible to pass.

“On the last page, however, there was a note that read, ‘You have a choice. You can either complete the exam as given or sign your name at the bottom and in so doing receive an A for this assignment.’

“Wow! We sat there stunned. ‘Was he serious? Just sign it and get an A?’ Slowly, the point dawned on us, and one by one we turned in our tests and silently filed out of the room. It took the rest of the afternoon for me to get over it. I had the urge to go back and check with him one more time to make sure he was serious.

“When I talked with him about it afterward, he shared some of the reactions he had received through the years as he had given the same exam. There were always students who did not follow instructions and began to take the exam without reading it all the way through. Some of them would sweat it out for the entire two hours of class time before reaching the last page. Their ignorance caused them unnecessary anxiety.

“Then there were the ones who would read the first two pages, become angry, turn in their paper blank, and storm out of the room. They never realized what was available. As a result, they lost out totally.

“One fellow, however, topped them all. He read the entire test, including the note at the end, but he decided to take the exam anyway. He did not want any gifts; he wanted to earn his grade. And he did. He made a C+, which was amazing considering the difficulty of the test. But he could have easily had an A.

“This story vividly illustrates many people’s reaction to God’s solution to sin. Many are like the first group. They spend their lives trying to earn what they discover years later was freely offered to them the whole time. They spend years sweating it out, always wondering if God is listening to their pleas for forgiveness, always wondering if they have finally pushed Him too far. They hope God has forgiven them; they suppose He has. They do all they know to do to get forgiven. But insofar as God is concerned, they do not want to be presumptuous. So, they live their lives with doubts.

“Many people respond like the second group. They look at God’s standard—moral and ethical perfection—and throw their hands up in surrender. Why even try? they tell themselves. I could never live up to all that stuff. They live the way they please, not expecting anything from God when they die. Often, they decide there is no God. Their acknowledged inability to live up to His standard drives them to this conclusion. Instead of living under constant pressure and guilt, they choose to completely abandon the standard. What a shock it will be for them when they stand before God and understand for the first time what was available had they only asked!

“Then there is the guy who took the test anyway. I meet people like him all the time who are unwilling to simply receive God’s gift of forgiveness. Striking out to do it on their own, they strive to earn enough points with God to give them the right to look to their own goodness as a means of pardon and forgiveness. They constantly work at ‘evening the score’ with God through their good works. ‘Sure, I have my faults,’ they say. ‘But God does not expect anyone to be perfect.’

“When it comes to forgiveness, there is no room for boasting in one’s own ability. As we will see, forgiveness is not a team effort. It is not a matter of God’s doing His part and us doing ours. Unlike my professor’s test, in God’s economy anything less than 100 percent is failing.” 13

When Christians go into spiritual battle, our enemy, the devil, will accuse us of wrongdoing to get us to focus on our past. He wants to persuade us that our past sins cannot be forgiven. Satan knows that focusing on our past will make it difficult for us to face the enemy in front of us. This will also weaken us when we face the world with its various temptations.

John reminds us that we have been completely forgiven in Christ the moment we believed in Him (I John 2:12; cf. Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). In Christ, God sees in us absolute holiness… purity… righteousness… and goodness. Everything He sees in Jesus Christ He now sees in us (Rom. 4:5; 8:33; Ephes. 1:4; Heb. 10:10-14). Our relationship with God is eternal and therefore can never be lost (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 17:3). This is the first unchanging weapon that all Christians possess going into battle.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise You because we are Your little children whose sins are all completely forgiven forever the moment we believed in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. There is no other name given under heaven by which we could be saved and forgiven forever (Acts 4:10-12). Thank You for this assurance and security that gives us sure footing as we prepare to go into battle against the devil and his world system with its many temptations. Knowing we have an eternal relationship with You strengthens our resolve to stand firm against the schemes of the evil one. No matter what we face, You remain our heavenly Father and we Your children forever. Thank You for this blessed assurance! In the mighty name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 95.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

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 3669 to 3673.

5. Ibid., Kindle Location 3673.

6. Anderson, pg. 96.

7. 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. 591.

8. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3558.  

9. Anderson, pg. 96.

10. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 156.  

11. Anderson, pg. 96.

12. Ibid., pp. 97-98.

13. Ibid., pp. 98-100 cites Charles Stanley, The Gift of Forgiveness: Put the Past Behind You and Give… (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987), pp. 43-45.

Revelation 19 – Part 5

“Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” Revelation 19:15

For centuries believers have prayed for Christ’s return to earth to set up His kingdom (cf. Matthew 6:10; Revelation 6:10; 22:20) and now the apostle John records the answer to their prayers (Revelation 19:11-21). Last time we saw that King Jesus is “Faithful” and “True” in contrast to the unfaithfulness and deception of the beast who leads the armies of the world to fight against Christ at Armageddon when Jesus returns with His church to the earth (19:11, 19; cf. 13:1-18; 16:12-16). The apostle John continues his description of Jesus Christ before he records His return to earth.

“His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had names written and a name written that no one knew except Himself.” (Revelation 19:12). Reference to Jesus’ “eyes” being “like a flame of fire” emphasizes His penetrating and all-knowing judgment of sin, that takes all things into account (cf. 1:14; 2:18). 1 Jesus has an instinctive “ability to render perfect judgment of every person and every situation (Hebrews 4:13).” 2 His gaze will be able to pierce the darkness of the kingdom of the beast and the very center of the souls of its citizens, exposing their deepest thoughts and motives. 3

Likewise, Christ is fully aware of all our thoughts, words, actions, and motives which is meant to motivate us to live holy lives before Him (cf. Hebrews 4:12-13). Only Jesus is qualified to judge us at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is why the apostle Paul writes, 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” (cf. I Corinthians 4:3-5). Sin-scarred Christians cannot accurately judge the lives and ministries of other Christians let alone their motives. 4 This is why Paul told the Corinthians it really didn’t matter if they judged him. In fact, he didn’t even judge himself because “He who judges” Paul “is the Lord.” At the Judgment Seat, Jesus “will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts.” Only the Lord Jesus knows all the facts and can render a perfect and righteous judgment. So, it is time for Christians to stop playing God and start preparing for the Judgment Seat of Christ.

The fact Jesus had “many crowns” on “His head” (19:12) suggests He will not only defeat the beast or Man of Sin at His Second Coming, but all the world’s rulers and will acquire their crowns, as it were, upon Himself, 5 signifying His right to rule over the entire world (cf. I Chronicles 20:1-2; Psalm 47:8). 6 This image of Christ wearing “many crowns” inspired Matthew Bridges to write a majestic hymn that believers still enjoy singing:

“Crown Him with many crowns,

The Lamb upon His throne:

Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns

All music but its own!

Awake, my soul, and sing

Of Him who died for thee,

And hail Him as thy matchless King

Thro’ all eternity.” 7

Even though Christ’s glory will be openly manifested at His Second Coming, some aspects of His Personhood will remain beyond human comprehension 8 as implied by the phrase “He had names written and a name written that no one knew except Himself.” 9In John’s vision, he saw crowns having many “names” and one crown having “a name written that no one knew except” Jesus. Vacendak explains that this is like Isaiah 9:6 which describes Jesus the Messiah who will rule on the earth. Christ has multiple aspects to His nature and Person that are knowable: “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). However, not all facets of Christ’s Being are understandable to people; hence, Jesus possesses a name that is known only to Him – a name that reflects qualities beyond human understanding! 10

“Throughout the ancient world a name revealed the nature of an individual, who he is and what he is. The unknown name of the Christ comports with the fact that His nature, His relationships to the Father, and even His relationship to humanity, transcend all human understanding.” 11

“It is possible that there is another thought. Those who practiced magic in the first century believed that to know a name gave power over him whose name it was. John may well be saying that no-one has power over Christ. He is supreme. His name is known only to Himself.” 12

Swindoll writes, “Why would John bother to mention that Jesus had a secret name? Perhaps the secret name indicates a unique relationship with God the Father that nobody else shares.” 13Christ also extends the promise to overcoming (faithful) believers that He will give them a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it”(2:17). This demonstrates the deep personal and inseparable relationship that faithful believers will enjoy with Christ in His coming kingdom. What Christ is by nature (unique, eternal, divine Son of God), faithful believers will reflect in a limited way by grace (adopted, finite, glorified children of God). 14

Next John writes, He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.” (Revelation 19:13). In the context, the reference to Christ being clothed with a robe dipped in blood” foreshadows His bloody judgment of His enemies – the beast and the armies of the world (19:19-21). In this vision, John did not see a meek and mild Savior who would shed His blood for the sins of the world, instead he saw a Warrior-King Who would establish His reign on earth by force. 15 His robe would be soaked in the blood of His enemies (Isaiah 63:3-4). 16

“His name is called The Word of God” because every thought, word, and action of Christ expresses God’s mind, words, and actions 17 even in events such as the bloody destruction of His enemies at Armageddon. 18 Not only does this title “The Word of God” represent the manifestation of God’s revelation, but it also signifies the manifestation of God Himself (cf. John 1:1). The “Word of God” is always “Immanuel… God with us” (Matthew 1:23). 19

Christ did not return to earth alone at the end of the Tribulation period. “And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.” (Revelation 19:14). The clothing (“fine linen”) of these “armies in heaven” connects them with the Lamb’s faithful followers from the church age (19:7-8; cf. 2:10, 17, 25-27; 3:5, 10-11; 17:14). Since Christ’s troops are faithful believers from the church age, the fact that they are following King Jesus “on white horses” which symbolize victory, is an incredible testimony to their victorious lives. 20

Other Scriptures also inform us that God’s angels will accompany Christ to earth as well (cf. Matthew 16:27; 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). But it is not likely that angels will be riding on horses since Revelation 17:14 tells us that those who are with King Jesus when He returns to earth are called, chosen, and faithful,” a reference to resurrected, glorified, and rewarded church age believers 21 (cf. Matthew 20:1-16; 22:1-14).

Only King Jesus will have a weapon with which to defeat His enemies when He returns. “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” (Revelation 19:15). You may recall in Revelation 6:2 that Jesus sat on “a white horse” carrying “a bow” in contrast to Him using a “sword” herein 19:15.

“The bow is the weapon of long-range warfare, whereas the sword is the weapon used in close combat with the enemy. If the rider of 6:2 represents Christ as the Initiator of all God’s judgments upon His enemies, it is clear that throughout the Tribulation He fights with them, so to speak, at long range. For the judgments of the Tribulation are such as fall from heaven to earth while the King is absent. But in chapter 19, the King comes personally to earth and now the conflict with the forces of evil is waged at close quarters and, with the sword, the last battle is won. And just quite naturally the sword is thought in connection with His Word – for it proceeds out of His mouth – so also may the bow be linked with the same Word. As the prophet Habakkuk has written, 22

“Your bow was made quite ready; oaths were sworn over Your arrows.” (Habakkuk 3:9). Hence, the judgment-bringing Word of God is seen first under the figure of a “bow” foreshadowing Jesus’ conquests over His enemies from long range in heaven (6:2) until the final battle when He returns to earth in Chapter 19 as the last, white-horse Rider fighting and winning at close range with a “sword” (19:11-21). 23

Instead of King Jesus using physical weapons of mass destruction, the “sword” He will use will come “out of His mouth” to “strike the nations” who have gathered with the beast at Armageddon (cf. 16:12-16; 19:19). This “sword” is the powerful and supernatural Word of God (cf. Hebrews 4:12). 24 Just as Jesus spoke and the universe was created (Genesis 1; John 1:2-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:1-2), so He will speak, and the nations of the world will be demolished (Revelation 19:15; cf. Psalm 2:5; Zechariah 14:12). 25

This stern judgment King Jesus will bring against His enemies will characterize His reign as King over all the earth during the Millennial Kingdom as He “will rule” the nations “with a rod of iron” (cf. Psalm 2:8-9). Under King Jesus’ reign, there will be inflexible righteousness. All who live on planet earth during His one-thousand-year reign will be commanded to live according to the laws and decrees of the King. Believers in Jesus who already have glorified bodies will obey Him perfectly because they will be “like Him” (I John 3:2). 26

So strick will King Jesus’ rule be during the Millennium that those who do not believe in Christ could be in danger of “hell fire” for calling someone a “fool.” During Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He applied the fulfillment of the Law to the Millennial Kingdom when He would rule with a rod of iron. 27 Christ said, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:22). Christ’s reign during the Millennial Kingdom will be so strict that a person could go on trial (“judgment”) for unjustified anger (“angry… without a cause”) with his brother. Whoever bullies his brother and calls him “Raca,” which means“numskull” or “empty one,” 28 would go on trial before the “council” or Supreme Court. If worse language is used (“You fool”), the offender may be thrown immediately into “hell.” The decision will be up to King Jesus, the Judge, to determine if they go to hell during the Millennial Kingdom.

This severe of punishment is reserved for nonbelievers since a believer in Jesus cannot lose eternal life (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29). Amazingly, there will be many nonbelievers who will rebel toward the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ (Revelation 20:7-10). But for believers in Jesus, both then and now, this picture of kingdom righteousness challenges us to live like kingdom subjects by refraining from inappropriate expressions of anger.  

King Jesus will punish His enemies gathered at Armageddon like the trampling of grapes in a “winepress” which portrays “the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (19:15b). Ruling includes destroying the wicked, not just reigning over the righteous. 29

“The treading of this winepress by Christ will result in the blood of His enemies flowing like a river for two hundred miles at a depth of about four or five feet” (14:19-20). 30

Once King Jesus tramples His enemies under His feet, His reign will be absolute and worldwide and He will bear a name that only He deserves. 31 “And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:16). This title for Jesus identifies Him as the supreme human Ruler over all the earth (“KING OF KINGS”) and also as God Almighty (“LORD OF LORDS”)! Jesus Christ is King over all who call themselves “king,” and Lord above all who call themselves “lord.” 32

Because Jesus is “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS,” “conquering every enemy on earth will be a matter of relative ease. It will be a matter of speaking.

“This is nothing new, though. From Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is pictured as possessing an authoritative Word. John 1:1 says of Jesus, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ At creation Jesus spoke the words, ‘Let there be light’ (Genesis 1:3), and by His Word light came about. It was by that same authoritative Word that Jesus caused the devil to flee in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1-11) and sent a legion of demons out of a demon-possessed man and into a herd of pigs (see Mark 5:1-13). In each of these instances, the way He brought out powerful results was by speaking His Word. And it shall be at the end of time.

“Likewise, for followers of Jesus, we must not simply know God’s Word or study it, but also verbally quote it. So, when was the last time you actually quoted God to another person or even to the devil in order to handle a specific situation? If you have truly received authority from God – which all believers have – and you quote the Word accurately to people or forces of Satan, it carries intrinsic authority to accomplish God’s purposes. In some cases, it draws a person to salvation. In others, it causes a hardened sinner to be without excuse for his or her conduct. In no situation, however, will a child of God verbally quote and obey the Word of God and have that Word return empty (see Isaiah 55:11).” 33

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we watch the world increase in chaos and conflict as evil continues to increase, we are deeply grateful for this vision John receives of King Jesus before He returns to earth to defeat His enemies at close range using His sword – the powerful Word of God – to establish His universal reign on the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords! Thank You Lord God Almighty for entrusting the Word of God to those of us who believe in Jesus to share with a lost world so that same Word may persuade them to cross over from eternal death into eternal life simply by believing in Jesus for His gift of salvation. Lord of lords and King of kings, we not only look to You to conquer evil and sin in the future Tribulation period, but we also trust You to lead us into victory over evil and sin in our own lives. Help us not only to know and study Your Word, but to speak it to others including Satan and his followers, so Your purposes will be accomplished for Your glory. May we never underestimate what Your spoken Word can do in any situation we may face. Please bring Your Word to our hearts and minds especially in times of spiritual battle so we may speak it to our enemies whether they be physical or spiritual. In Your mighty name we pray, King Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 210.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1574.

3. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 342.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 1980.

5. Constable, pg. 210.

6. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6275 to 6280.

7. Swindoll, pg. 343 quotes Matthew Bridges, “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” in The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration (Dallas: Word Music, 1986), no. 234.

8. Evans, pg. 2415.

9. The majority of Greek manuscripts add the phrase “names written, and” (onomata gegrammena kai).

10. Vacendak, pp. 1574-1575.

11. Constable, pg. 210 quotes George Raymond Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation New Century Bible Commentary series, revised ed. (London: Morgan & Scott, 1974); reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1983), pp. 279-280; cf. Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan and Co., Let., 1907), pg. 252; William Barclay, The Revelation of John, Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 232.

12. Constable, pg. 211 quotes Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 230.

13. Swindoll, pg. 343.

14. Adapted from Ibid. Swindoll thinks Revelation 2:17 applies to all believers, but I believe this promise is limited to overcoming believers who are faithful to Christ to the end of their lives on earth (cf. 2:10b, 25-27).

15. Evans, pg. 2415.

16. Swindoll, pp. 343-344; Constable, pg. 211.

17. Constable, pg. 211.

18. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

19. Swindoll, pg. 344.

20. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

21. Swindoll, pg. 344; cf. Constable, pg. 211.

22. Zane C. Hodges, “The First Horseman of the Apocalypse,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 119:476 (October 1962), pg. 333.

23. Ibid., pp. 333-334.

24. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Zane C. Hodges, Grace In Eclipse: A Study On Eternal Rewards (Grace Evangelical Society, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 36-38.  

28. 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. 903.

29. Constable, pg. 212.

30. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

31. Ibid., pg. 1576.

32. Swindoll, pg. 345.

33. Evans, pp. 2415-2416.

Revelation 13 – Part 5

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

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

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

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

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

“Now let’s intensify that scene.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please understand that it will be far better to refuse the mark of the beast and starve or be beheaded (cf. 20:4) than to receive it and receive eternal condemnation. The Bible tells us, 9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’” (Revelation 14:9-11). God will only allow unbelievers to take the mark and those who do will be hardened in their unbelief. Though they may live during the entire Tribulation period, their eternal destiny will be in the lake of fire because of their continued unbelief. 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 254.

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

3. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 336.

4. See Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 1077.

5. Constable, pg. 150.

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

7. Hitchcock, pg. 342.

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

9. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1548.

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

11. Hitchcock, pg. 337.

12. Swindoll, pg. 255.

13. Ibid.

14. Hitchcock, pg. 338.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1549.

16. Hitchcock, pg. 339.

17. Ibid., pp. 339-340.

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

19. Ibid.

20. Hitchcock, pg. 340.

21. Ibid., pg. 342.

Revelation 13 – Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

1. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 261.

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

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

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

5. Ibid., location 5769.

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

7. Constable, pg. 144.

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

9. Ibid., pp. 249-250.

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

11. Vacendak, pp. 1546-1547.

12. Evans, pg. 2400.

13. Constable, pg. 145.

14. Walvoord, location 5786.

15. Evans, pp. 2400-2401.

16. Swindoll, pg. 260.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1547.

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

Revelation 13 – Part 2

“And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” Revelation 13:3

Last time (see diagram below) we were introduced to the three members of the unholy Trinity: Satan, pictured as the dragon (Revelation 12:3-17); the World Ruler or Antichrist pictured as the beast from the sea (Revelation 13:1-10); and the False Prophet pictured as the beast from the earth (Revelation 13:11-18). 1 In contrast to the unholy Trinity are the three members of the holy Trinity: God the Father (Revelation 1:6; cf. Ephesians 1:2); God the Son (Revelation 2:18; cf. I John 5:20); and God the Holy Spirit (Revelation 4:5; 22:17; cf. Acts 5:3-4).

While standing on the seashore, the apostle John saw a monstrous beast come up out of the sea, having “seven heads and ten horns” (13:1). The apostle then tells us, “And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” (Revelation 13:3). John sees “one of the heads” be “mortally wounded, and… healed.” Some interpreters believe that the head wounded and restored refers to the myth that Nero had not really died, but was alive, and would return to continue his monstrous atrocities as the Antichrist. 2 Others thinks that this refers to Judas who is restored to life. 3 Some believe this event refers to an empire not a person, concluding that it refers to the fall of the Roman Empire in AD 476 and its resuscitation in the end times. 4

I believe the biblical text is referring to the literal death and resurrection of the Antichrist for the following reasons:

1. The language in Revelation 13 describes an individual, not a nation or empire. The pronouns “he,” “his,” and “him” are used repeatedly (13:1-8). The second beast builds an idol to the first beast (Revelation 13:11-18). Such an idol would be peculiar if it refers to an empire instead of a person. 5

2. The Greek phrase translated “as if it had been mortally wounded” (hōs esphagmenēn eis thanaton – lit. “as having been slain to death”) in 13:3 is the same phrase John uses to describe the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. “And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain [hōs esphagmenon].” (Revelation 5:6). Again, in Revelation 13:8 John uses this same phrase when he refers to Christ as, “the Lamb slain [tou esphagmenou] from the foundation of the world.” Christ’s death was clearly real and resulted in a literal bodily resurrection. 6

Regarding resurrection, the Greek word used of Christ’s resurrection from the dead in Revelation 2:8 (who was dead, and came to life”) is ezēsen, and this same word is also used in Revelation 13:14 where it says that the Beast “who was wounded by the sword and lived [ezēsen].” 7 So in both cases, John is describing the literal death and resurrection of the Beast.

3. Would the whole world really be awestruck by the revival of the Roman Empire? When the Beast is killed and brought back to life, “all the world marveled and followed the beast” (13:3b). John Phillips describes the importance of such an event: “With this master stroke of miracle, the devil brings the world to the feet of his messiah…. It is this miracle of resurrection that is given as the reason for the popularity of the Beast. No doubt the whole thing will be stage-managed by Satan and the false prophet to make the greatest possible impact upon men. Their propaganda machine will see to it that the miracle is magnified and elaborated to the fullest extent.” 8

Hitchcock writes, “This resurrection is the event that propels the Beast to popularity and compels the world to fall at his feet. This response would be much more likely if it refers to a man. If a great world leader were assassinated with a fatal head wound and then came back to life a few days later, this response would be understandable.” 9

4. It is more reasonable to apply the wording of Revelation 13:3 to a man rather than a kingdom. As Warren Wiersbe says, “it would be difficult to understand how a kingdom could be slain by a sword. It is best, I think, to apply this prophecy to individual persons.” 10

Many Bible interpreters do not believe the resurrection of the Beast is literal because they conclude that Satan does not have the power to give life. 11 While I agree that only God has the power to resurrect the dead, I believe that the biblical text teaches that God gives this power to Satan to raise the Beast from the dead as part of the strong delusion.

In support of this, is the increase in Satan’s power during the Tribulation period. Currently, the Holy Spirit is restraining the Devil from certain activities (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). But once the Restrainer, the Holy Spirit, is removed via the Rapture of the Church (2 Thessalonians 2:7; cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11), Satan’s powers will be unbridled during the Tribulation period in ways never seen before. The coming of the Beast or “lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9). The Bible tells us that God will permit this activity. 11 God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). Since Satan will have increased power and freedom during the Tribulation, it is reasonable to conclude that he will have the ability to raise the Beast from the dead to accomplish this “strong delusion.” 12

Revelation 13 also tells us that the false prophet “causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed” (13:12b),  “performs great signs” (13:13a), “deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast” (13:14), and “granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak” (13:15).If Satan has the power to give life to a dead idol, then why is it not possible for him (with God’s permission) to resurrect a man from the dead?” 13

In addition, Revelation 17:8 also speaks of the Beast’s death and resurrection. It says, “the beast that you saw was, and is not” (17:8a). This is a reference to the assassination of the Beast (cf. 13:1-3). Then we are told that the beast “will ascend out of the bottomless pit” (17:8b; cf. 11:7). This is most likely a reference to a demon that ascends out of the bottomless pit to resurrect and indwell the Beast. 14 When John says the Beast will “go to perdition” (17:8c), he is telling us that the Beast will not go back to the bottomless pit forever, but to eternal “perdition” (apōleian)or destruction in the lake of fire at the end of the Tribulation period (Revelation 19:20). 15

John adds, “And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” (17:8d). When the unsaved people of the world(“whose names are not written in the Book of Life”) see the death and resurrection of this Beast who then kills the Two Witnesses in Jerusalem near the midpoint of the Tribulation (11:7), they “will marvel,” realizing this is no ordinary human being. It is at this point that the Beast will take his place in the rebuilt Jewish temple where he will declare himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). 16

How will the unsaved people of the world respond? John tells us, 3And all the world marveled and followed the beast. 4  So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’” (Revelation 13:3b-4). The Beast imitates Christ’s death and resurrection to astound the unsaved world and gain its political and religious devotion. 17

After three and a half years of terrible judgments, the world will be easily deceived by the miracles they see and will wholeheartedly follow the beast. Much of the world will give their worship to “the beast” and to Satan (“the dragon”) “who gave authority to the beast,” making him seem invincible (13:4).

Let’s not forget that Satan is also seeking to destroy the nation of Israel knowing that he has a short amount of time before he is bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years (Revelation 12:12-13; 20:1-3). By mimicking Jesus’ death and resurrection, Satan is attempting to persuade the nation of Israel to believe that the Antichrist is their long-awaited messiah so he can lead them to eternal destruction with him in the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 15), thus rendering God’s promises to Israel false, making God a liar.

It is important to remember that “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). We see this exemplified at the midpoint of the future Tribulation when he will mimic Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection through the Antichrist to trick the world into giving him its economic and religious devotion. It is at this time that Satan will deceive the world with his unholy version (Satan, Antichrist, False Prophet) of the true Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit) to trick people into worshiping and following him (Revelation 12:3-13:18). Since the potential for spiritual deception will be even greater during this future Tribulation period because of the many worldwide judgments, political upheavals, and widespread suffering and death, the Beast’s death and resurrection will offer false hope to a starving world.

While Satan is not able to unleash the full force of his attacks and deception today like he will in the future Tribulation, he is still using the same deceptive strategies today to lure people away from worshiping the true Triune God of the Bible. Satan uses many false teachers and churches today to oppose God and mislead people away from the truth (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 11-15). Satan’s churches teach many false things like the Bible is not true, God is not three in one, Jesus is not God, Jesus did not die or rise from the dead, salvation is by works or faith plus works, plus many more lies.

Remember when the Bible describes the Beast in Revelation 17:8? It said, “the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” Compare Satan’s imitation Christ with the true Christ, Who said “’I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” (Revelation 1:8).  “The Alpha and Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and signify here, Jesus’ comprehensive control over all things—including time (cf. Revelation 21:6; 22:13). He is in control of the past (“who was”), the present (“who is”), and the future (“who is to come”), and He will bring history to its conclusion. Christ is yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8) because He exists eternally. 18

And because Jesus exists eternally, He wants us to exist forever with Him in His heaven. But Satan wants to trick us into thinking he is in control. He wants to instill fear in us because we give control to whatever we fear. Our greatest fear is physical death and Satan has used this fear to control people for centuries. But when Jesus Christ, the Creator God of all things (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2), came to earth in the form of a man without ceasing to be God two thousand hears ago (John 1:1, 14), He destroyed Satan’s power regarding the fear of death. The Bible tells us, 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Satan’s strategy to get humankind to sin and suffer death was to instill fear in them, especially the fear of death. But the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ removes the power of this fear, because His resurrection and victorious ascension to the right hand of the God the Father assures us of our own resurrection and victorious ascension to the Father in heaven when we believe in Jesus, so we no longer need to fear death.

Do you know for sure where you will live after you die physically? If not, would you like to know for certain you will live with Jesus in His heaven? If so, here is how. The apostle John not only wrote the book of Revelation, but he also wrote the book of I John.

John tells us, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” (I John 2:18). Although the Antichrist will appear in the future Tribulation to lure people away from the true Christ, there are many little “antichrists” or false teachers in the world today who oppose Christ and want to replace Him with an imitation Christ so people will not believe in the true Jesus of the Bible. These antichrists deny “that Jesus is the Christ,” the Messiah God (I John 2:22). For John, the belief that “Jesus is the Christ” is what saves us from hell and gives us eternal life (cf. I John 5:1; cf. John 20:31). To believe that Jesus is the Christ means we believe Him to be the One Who guarantees eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-27).

But these little “antichrists” or false teachers deny that Jesus is the Christ (I John 2:22) and deny that eternal life is available only through Jesus alone. John writes, 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life. 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.” (I John 2:25-26). Satan wants us to doubt God’s promise of eternal life to all who believe in Jesus. This is one reason why so many preachers tell us it is not enough to believe in Jesus for eternal life. People are being told to do everything but believe in Jesus for eternal life. They are taught they must confess their sins, obey the commandments of God, surrender to the Lordship of Christ, sell all your possessions, and give the proceeds to the poor, ask Jesus into their heart, give their life to Christ, or commit to follow Jesus as His disciple, and many other substitutes in place of belief in Christ alone.

Perhaps you have been told to do these things and you still lack the assurance that you will go to heaven when you die. You are still afraid of dying. Satan has tricked you into believing his lies.

Please listen carefully. John tells us in I John 5:1: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” Do you believe Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah-God, Who died for your sins and rose from the dead, proving He is God (John 20:31; Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:3-6)? If you do, the Bible says you are “born of God.” God is now your Father, and you are His child forever!

Later in the same chapter, John also tells us, 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 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 5:11-13). Eternal life is a gift that God gives to us (5:11a). We do not have to work for this gift. It is free. This eternal life is only found “in His Son,” Jesus Christ (5:11b). Do you have God’s Son through faith in Him alone? If you do, then you have eternal life (5:12). God wants us to be certain of this. “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.” If you believe in the name of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, then you can “know” (not think or hope) with absolute certainty that you “have eternal life.” Because Jesus is “the truth” (John 14:6) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), we can be confident He will keep His promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him.

Therefore, if we believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life, we do not need to fear death any longer because we are guaranteed a future home with Jesus in His Father’s house in heaven (John 14:1-3; Revelation 21-22). No longer do we need to give control to the Devil because Jesus has conquered him and his lies through His death and resurrection. As believers in Jesus now, we are to “abide” or continue in Christ’s word so we may know “the truth” of God which sets us free (John 8:31-32) from Satan’s lies and the fears they produce.  

Prayer: Father God, thank You for showing us Satan’s strategies of deception that he will implement in full force during the future Tribulation period on earth. As an angel of light, he will mimic Jesus’ death and resurrection through the first beast to lure people away from worshiping and following the true God. Satan is using similar tactics of deception today to mislead people away from the true Christ and the eternal salvation He freely offers. We pray that the eyes of millions, who have been tricked by Satan’s lies, can come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ Who guarantees never-ending life to all who believe in Him alone. Please enable those of us who believe in Jesus to abide in His Word so we may know the truth which sets us free from Satan’s lies and the fears they produce. In the name of the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty God, the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2399.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 143 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John, 2nd Ed., Vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pp. 115-119.

3. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 331 cites Arthur W. Pink, The Antichrist (Swengel, Pennsylvania: Bible Truth Depot, 1923), pp. 50-55.

4. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days

(Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 322; also see Pentecost’s discussion, pp. 331-332.

5. Hitchcock, pg. 322.

6. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 248; Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1545-1546.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1546.

8. Hitchcock pp. 322-323 cites John Phillips, Exploring Revelation: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001), pp. 166-167.

9. Hitchcock, pg. 323.

10. Ibid., cites Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament, Vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1989), pg. 605.

11. Pentecost, pg. 332; Hitchcock pp. 323-324, 486-487 cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, vol. 5 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983), pg. 1000 and Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code: Find Out What the Bible Really Says about The End Times and Why It Matters Today (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), xix-xx, and Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer, The Last Disciple (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2004), pg. 394 as examples of those who hold this view.

12. Adapted from Hitchcock, pg. 324.

13. Ibid., cites Wiersbe, pg. 605.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1565. 

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.

17. Swindoll, pg. 311.  

18. Evans, pg. 2369.

Revelation 12 – Part 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

2. Ibid.

3. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pp. 314-315.

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

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

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

7. Ibid., location 5724 to 5729.

8. Constable, pg. 138.

9. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1544.

10. Ibid.

11. Swindoll, pg. 240.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1544.

13. Constable, pg. 138.

14. Evans, pg. 2399.

15. Swindoll, pg. 241.