Revelation 17 – Part 4

“Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’” Revelation 17:15

After the angel explained the interpretation of “the mystery” about “the beast” (17:7-14), he addressed the meaning of “the woman” riding on the beast (17:15-18). “Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’” (Revelation 17:15). The angel interprets “the waters which” John “saw, where the harlot sits” (17:1) to be “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” indicating the worldwide evil influence Rome will have during the Tribulation period. During the Tribulation “there will be one ecumenical world religious system, embracing all nations and languages.” 1

So, the woman riding on the scarlet beast represents a worldwide religious system in the Tribulation period whose headquarters is in Rome, the city on seven hills (17:1-9, 15). Rome will be the center of the Revived Roman Empire during the Tribulation period. Rome is also home to the Vatican, the Roman papal authority whose influence reaches across the world to “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” This worldwide false religion will be brought to a sudden stop around the mid-point of the Tribulation period.

“And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” (Revelation 17:16). The “ten horns” John “saw on the beast” (17:7) represent ten kings (17:12) who will assist the beast in his worldwide kingdom during the last half of the Tribulation (cf. Daniel 7:23-24). These ten kings “will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” This complete destruction of the city of Rome will most likely take place after the beast assumes his position in the rebuilt Jewish temple and claims to be God, demanding that everyone worship him or be killed (cf. Daniel 11:36-38; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 13:8, 15). 2 The Roman papacy will not agree to embrace this so it will be brought to an abrupt end.

The reason (“For…”) for Rome’s destruction is because God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.” (Revelation 17:17). God in His sovereignty uses the sinful actions of people, in this case the ten kings and the beast, “to fulfill His purpose… until the words of God” about Rome’s destruction “are fulfilled.” 3 God has used evil people before to accomplish His purposes (cf. Judges 2:14-15; 3:7-8, 12-14; Ezra 1:1ff; Jeremiah 25:9-11; Ezekiel 38:21; Daniel 2:20-21; Haggai 2:22; Zechariah 14:13). Yet, individual sinners remain responsible for his or her own actions (cf. Ezekiel 18). 4

“And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 17:18). The angel interprets “the woman” whom John saw to be “that great city which reigns [present tense] over the kings of the earth.” In the first century context when John wrote the book of Revelation, this could only refer to the city of Rome which ruled the world at that time. 5 Just as Rome relentlessly persecuted believers in Jesus when John wrote in the first century, the revived Roman Empire in the Tribulation period will also persecute believers who refuse to submit to her evil and idolatrous practices. But this persecution will be short lived because God will use the beast and his allies to bring about the swift destruction of this evil worldwide false religion.

These events in Revelation 17 could begin to take place at any time once the church of Christ is removed via the Rapture (I Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-5:11; Revelation 4:1-4). Jesus said, 32 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” (Mark 13:32-33). Christ said no one knows the “day and hour” of His coming, yet as we see conflict between Russia and Ukraine and chaos increasing around the world, the stage is being set for the beast to arise out of the chaos. Christians are to “watch and pray,” devoting their full attention, while there is still time, to God’s agenda for themselves, their families, their churches, and their communities. 6

Nonbelievers would be wise to come to Jesus Christ in faith soon before they are left behind to face a world that will experience unprecedented judgments as never before seen. If you are not sure you will go to heaven in the future, listen to what missionaries said to a prison guard who thought he only had a short amount of time to live. They told him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

The reason a person must believe or trust in the Lord Jesus alone is because we all have a problem called sin (Romans 3:23) that separates us from God (Romans 6:23). All of us have sinned against God with our thoughts, words, and actions. And we all deserve to pay the penalty for our own sins by dying forever in a terrible place of eternal suffering called the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15) or hell (Mark 9:43-48). But God does not want any of us to die forever in hell!

So, He sent His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to earth two thousand years ago. Jesus lived a perfect life on earth (Hebrews 4:15), and then He died on the cross in our place to pay the penalty for all our sins (I Corinthians 15:3; John 19:30). The proof that He died is that He was buried (I Corinthians 15:4a). We do not bury a living person; we bury a dead person. Jesus then rose from the dead three days after He died (I Corinthians 15:4b) just as He promised He would (Matthew 16:21), proving that He is God (John 3:16; Romans 1:3-4). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead is that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8). This is more than enough evidence to stand up in a court of law.

Jesus is alive today and He has the power to save us from hell forever and give us eternal life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He now invites everyone to believe in Him alone to save them from hell forever (Acts 16:31). To “believe” in Jesus means to trust or depend upon Him alone.

Trusting in Jesus is a lot like riding on an airplane. When you ride as a passenger on an airplane, do you need to push the airplane to get it off the ground? No, of course not. Do you need to flap your arms to keep the plane in the air? No. All you must do is trust a person, your pilot, to take you to your destination.

In the same way, Jesus does not need us to help Him save us from hell forever. No amount of our good works can save us from the lake of fire because they are all stained with sin before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). All Jesus asks is that we believe or trust in Him alone to save us from hell forever (Acts 16:31) and give us everlasting life (John 3:16). Only Jesus can take away our sins because He paid the penalty of our sins in full (John 19:30) and rose from the dead. Believe in Him and the Bible guarantees “you will be saved” forever from hell (Acts 16:31).

If you just believed or trusted in Jesus Christ alone to save you from hell forever, you may tell God this through prayer. But praying this prayer does not get you to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Christ alone gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now believing in His Son to save you.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I come to You now as a sinner. I cannot save myself from hell. I believe You died for all my sins on the cross and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You Jesus (not my good life, my religion, nor my prayers), to save me from hell forever and give me everlasting life. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for the gifts of Your salvation and everlasting life that I now have. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus…

– He saved you from hell forever (Acts 16:31).

– He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29).

– He came to live inside you through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20) and He promises never to abandon or leave you (Hebrews 13:5).

Jesus wants to be your best Friend. You can get to know Him by talking to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7) and listening to Him as you read and apply the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17) together with other Christians (Hebrews 10:24-25).

– He now wants you to follow Him so He can show you how to tell other people the good news of going to heaven through faith in Him alone (Matthew 4:19; Mark 16:15).

Because of your faith in Christ alone to save you from hell forever, I will not say good-bye to you. Instead, I will say, “See you in heaven!”

ENDNOTES:

1. 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 6133.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 191.

3. 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. 1568.

4. Constable, pg. 191.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1568.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pp. 2410-2411.

Revelation 17 – Part 1

1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters.’” Revelation 17:1

Swindoll writes, “In 1844 Karl Marx famously described religion as ‘opium of the people.’” 1 Marx viewed “all religion as man-made – a crutch that helped people escape the hardships of this world system by resting their hopes, confidence, and comfort on something other than the heartless world around them. The cure for humanity’s need for religion, Marx argued, was to overcome the conditions of oppression and inequality that had forced people to seek psychological succor from outside themselves. Marx’s solution? Communism – an atheistic system that invoked as much religious zeal in the twentieth century as any of the man-made ‘religious’ systems Marx had criticized…

“Marx was right that all man-made religion is useless – merely a deceptive psychological crutch to distract people from the real conditions of the world. However, his unforgivable errors were to lump Christianity into the same category as a man-made religion and to propose atheistic communism to replace it.” 2

In Genesis 11:1-9, God gives us a picture of man-made religion that provides us with a heavenly perspective on the topic. After the global flood and Noah’s death, we travel to the land of Shinar which is the birthplace of man-made religion. Instead of the descendants of Noah obeying God’s command to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1), they moved east away from God to the land of Shinar. The people made a declaration of independence from God Himself, saying, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4). To avoid spreading over the face of the whole earth as God commanded, the people wanted to make a name for themselves by building a city and a tower that reached to the heavens.

The ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, observes that the people built the tower out of “burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water.” 3 Swindoll concludes that the people must have disbelieved God’s promise to never flood the whole world again (Genesis 9:11-17), so they made their tower waterproof to keep from drowning. Plus, the entire building project was focused on constructing a physical way to gain access to heaven – something only God could freely grant to them. 4 From this we learn three fundamentals of man-made religion:

  • “Rejection of God’s promises – faithlessness.
  • Rebellion against God’s commands – disobedience.
  • Refusal of God’s grace – legalism.” 5

God judged these people who were united by one language by dividing them into different languages so they would be “scattered … abroad from there over the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:8-9) which is what the Lord originally commanded them to do (Genesis 1:28; 9:1). So, the city was called “Babel,” which means confused (Genesis 11:9a).

Walvoord writes, “Later the name was applied to the city of Babylon which itself has a long history dating back to as early as 3,000 years before Christ. One of its famous rulers was Hammurabi (1728-1686 B.C.). After a period of decline Babylon again rose to great heights under Nebuchadnezzar about 600 years before Christ. Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (605-562 B.C.) and the subsequent history of Babylon is the background of the Book of Daniel.

“Babylon was important not only politically but also religiously. Nimrod… had a wife known as Semiramis who founded the secret religious rites of the Babylonian mysteries, according to accounts outside the Bible. Semiramis had a son with an alleged miraculous conception who was given the name Tammuz and in effect was a false fulfillment of the promise of the seed of the woman given to Eve (Genesis 3:15).

“Various religious practices were observed in connection with this false Babylonian religion, including recognition of the mother and child as God and of creating an order of virgins who became religious prostitutes. Tammuz, according to tradition, was killed by a wild animal and then restored to life, a satanic anticipation and counterfeit of Christ’s resurrection. Scripture condemns this false religion repeatedly (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-19, 25; Ezekiel 8:14). The worship of Baal is related to the worship of Tammuz.

“After the Persians took over Babylon in 539 B.C., they discouraged the continuation of the mystery religions of Babylon. Subsequently the Babylonian cultists moved to Pergamum (or Pergamos) where one of the seven churches of Asia Minor was located (cf. Revelation 2:12-17). Crowns in the shape of a fish head were worn by the chief priests of the Babylonian cult to honor the fish god. The crowns bore the words ‘Keeper of the Bridge,’ symbolic of the ‘bridge’ between man and Satan. This handle was adopted by the Roman emperors, who used the Latin title Pontifex Maximus, which means ‘Major Keeper of the Bridge.’ And the same title was later used by the bishop of Rome. The pope today is often called the pontiff, which comes from pontifex. When the teachers of the Babylonian mystery religions later moved from Pergamum to Rome, they were influential in paganizing Christianity and were the source of many so-called religious rites which have crept into ritualistic churches. Babylon then is the symbol of apostasy and blasphemous substitution of idol-worship for the worship of God in Christ.” 9

With this background in mind, let’s return to our study of the book of Revelation. Revelation 16 recorded the seven bowl judgments leading to the battle at Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation. But before Armageddon is described in detail and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ takes place, one final event must be addressed – the destruction of Babylon the Great (Revelation 17-18). In the book of Revelation, one of out of every ten verses deals with Babylon. Two whole chapters address this city and its demise. It it clear that Babylon holds an important place in God’s final plan for the ages. 7

In the final climatic section of the book of Revelation (17:1-22:5), two cities will be contrasted, both being depicted as women. The first is evil and temporary: the city of Rome is referred to as “the great harlot” (17:1) or “MYSTERY BABYLON” (17:5). The second city is holy and eternal: the New Jerusalem which is described as “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (21:9). For John’s original readers, seeing the judgment of the corrupt city that ruled over them as well as the splendor of the city they would one day experience as home would motivate them to remain faithful to God amid the difficult trials they would face. 8

Much has been written about the identity of Babylon. Some believe it refers to the literal city of Babylon on the Euphrates River in modern Iraq that will be rebuilt in the last days. 9 But this is not possible because God said Babylon would become like Sodom and Gomorrah due to the conquest of the Medes (in 539 BC) and become an everlasting desolation never to be inhabited again (Isaiah 13:17-20; Jeremiah 25:11). 10

I understand “Babylon” in the book of Revelation to refer to the city of Rome (17:1-18:21; cf. 14:8; 16:19). That “Babylon” is to be taken symbolically is the use of the qualifying word “mystery” (Revelation 17:5). Compare this with Revelation 11:8 where Jerusalem is referred to as “the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” Likewise, since the apostle Peter was writing from Rome, he refers to the city using the common code name “Babylon” in I Peter 5:13. 11

Since the apostle John wrote Revelation while a Roman prisoner on the island of Patmos, he could not make any derogatory remarks about Rome in his writings, so he used the name “Babylon,” emphasizing that it was a code name by referring to it as “Mystery Babylon” (Revelation 17:5). 12

That John had Rome in mind when he wrote about “Babylon” is his reference to it as the city of “seven mountains” or hills 13 (Revelation 17:9). In the context of the first century, this could only refer to Rome which was known as “the city of the seven hills.” 14

Beginning in Chapter 17, John receives an invitation from one of the seven angels of the bowl judgments.  “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters.” Revelation 17:1 The apostle John is invited by “one of the seven angels” that executed the bowl judgments, to “come” and see “the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters.” As discussed earlier, this “great harlot” refers to “Babylon” (16:19), another name for the city of Rome. When John wrote the book of Revelation, the Roman Empire ruled the world, and the great harlot represents the capital city of that empire – Rome. This is confirmed in Revelation 17:18 which says “the woman whom you saw is that great city [Rome] which reigns [present tense] over the kings of the earth” at the time John wrote this book.

This great harlot “sits on many waters” which the angel interprets in 17:15 to mean “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” (17:1b; cf. 17:15). The fact that she “sits” suggests enthronement. 15 This great harlot will lead the world in the pursuit of false, man-made religion. Rome is a lot like Hollywood – it represents both a city and an industry or lifestyle that has impacted the whole world throughout history with its evil influence, but the peak of its influence will be during the Tribulation period (cf. 17:16; 18:11-19). 15

Next the angel says of the great harlot, “with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” (Revelation 17:2). Because of Rome’s affluence and beauty, “the kings of the earth committed” spiritual “fornication” or immorality with Rome by adopting her sensual, materialistic, and idolatrous lifestyle (17:2a). From the Lord’s viewpoint, Rome’s influence was tragic, causing “the inhabitants of the earth” to be “made drunk” or controlled “with the wine of her fornication.” Rome’spagan and idolatrous false religion caused the world to sink deeply into its decadence and unbiblical views of a relationship with God. 17

“This will be a satanic spiritual ‘high’ like nothing Karl Marx could have imagined when he called man-made religion ‘the opium of the people.’ For this reason, judgment of demonic false religion will mean judgment of its devoted practitioners.” 18

One of the primary reasons the Lord will have this great harlot wiped out by the ten kings near the end of the Tribulation is because she had insistently “corrupted the earth” (19:2) in a variety of ways. 19

Like the first man-made religion that tried to access heaven through self-reliance and human effort (Genesis 11:1-9), all man-made religions continue to attempt to do the same today, though unsuccessfully like their predecessor. The culmination of such attempts will take place in the future Tribulation when “the great harlot” (Rome) will mislead the entire world away from the true God with its decadent false religion.

Considering man-made religions today, I must ask you, “What are you trusting to get you to heaven?” 20 Some people are trusting their works to get them to heaven. Non-Christian religions comprise this group such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism. They believe that through human effort and/or self-reliance they can access heaven. Others trust in Christ plus their works to get them to heaven. This group consists of those who front-load the gospel with works such as Roman Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and Seventh Day Adventists. It also includes those who back-load the gospel with works such as Calvinistic or Reformed churches. Both groups say faith in Christ is necessary, but such faith must be accompanied by works either at the beginning of your profession of faith or at the end of your Christian life to have eternal life.

However, some people are trusting Christ alone to get them to heaven. They believe Jesus’ promise when He said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). This is biblical Christianity, not man-made religion.Christ never said,“He who does good works has everlasting life.” Nor did Jesus say, “He who believes in Me and produces good works has everlasting life.” Christ did all the work when He died in our place on the cross for all our sins and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6). All Jesus asks of us is to believe or trust in Him alone for His gift of eternal life.

When a person trusts his works to get him to heaven, he is telling God that His Son’s death was unnecessary. If I can trust my works alone to get me to heaven, then there was no need for Jesus Christ to die on a cross for my sins. In other words, Jesus failed to pay for my sins, so I must pay for my own sins.

When a person trusts Christ plus his works to get him to heaven, he is telling God that His Son’s death was disappointing. That is, Jesus died for some of my sins, but I must pay for the rest of my sins. Both responses are saying that Jesus Christ did not finish paying the penalty for all my sins so I must pay for some or all my sins.

But when a person trusts Christ alone to get him to heaven, he is telling God that His Son’s death was sufficient. It was enough. When Jesus was dying on the cross, He shouted, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The Greek word that is translated “finished” is tetelestai. Receipts in New Testament times were stamped with this word which meant that the debt had been paid in full.

All people have sinned against God with their thoughts, words, and actions (Romans 3:23) and deserve to be separated from Him forever (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15). But God so loved the world that He gave His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment for our sin when He was crucified in our place on the cross (John 3:16; Romans 5:8) and rose from the dead, proving He is God and had finished the work of paying our sin debt in full (Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:1-8; I John 2:2).

No amount of our good works can change the fact that we are sinners before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:1-20, 23; 4:5; Galatians 2:16). Christ did not make a down payment for our sin when He died on the cross so that we must pay the remainder of our sin debt to God. God does not accept us based on our good life, our keeping of His commandments, our religion, our prayers, our self-discipline, our knowledge, our water baptism, or the sacraments we have taken. We are accepted by God based on the full payment for our sin debt to God when Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf. God was completely and forever satisfied with Jesus’ full payment for our sin. The verb tetelestai is in the perfect tense. This means Christ made the full payment for our sin debt when He died on the cross and it remains paid in full to the present.

When we communicate the gospel with non-Christians, we must be clear that all people have sinned against God and deserve to die forever in the lake of fire (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). No amount of our good thoughts, words, or actions can change the fact that we are sinners before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). Because Jesus finished paying the penalty for our sins when He died in our place, that means we do not have to work for our salvation (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). All God asks of us is to believe in Jesus and His finished work on the cross as sufficient payment for our sins (John 3:14-15; 19:30). When we do, He gives us everlasting life and forgives all our sins (John 3:16; Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14). And then we can have the assurance that “It is finished!” Our sin debt is paid in full.

Will you believe or trust in Jesus alone to do for you what you could never do on your own? He is waiting for you to come to Him in faith just as you are and then He will forgive all your sins and give you life that never ends (Acts 10:43; John 3:15-16; 11:25-26).

Prayer: Lord God, some of us have been entrenched in man-made religion trying to gain access to heaven through our own efforts and self-reliance. Thank You for exposing us to the origin of this deceptive religion which leads people away from You. Thank You for sending the Lord Jesus Christ to earth to die in our place for all our sins and rise from the dead. Thank You that Jesus is alive today to give us eternal life and forgive all our sins the moment we believe in Him alone. Please open the eyes and hearts of those blinded by man-made religion so they may see their need for our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Persuade them to believe in Christ alone to give them eternal life and a future home in heaven so they can help others find the same freedom in Christ. In Jesus’ mighty name, 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. 308 cites Karl Marx, “Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechts-Philosophie,” Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher 1 (1844): 72.

2. Swindoll, pg. 308.

3. Ibid., pg. 309 cites Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 1.116.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

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), locations 6075 to 6097.

7. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 361.

8. 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. 1562.

9. Hitchcock, pp. 362-366; Charles H. Dyer, The Rise of Babylon: Sign of the End Times (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1991), pg. 182; Henry M. Morris, Revelation Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Prophetic Book of the End Times (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1983), pp. 348-349; J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Vol. 5 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 1, 039.

10. Dr. David R. Reagan’s article, “Mystery Babylon” at www.christinprophecy.org.

11. Gary Derickson; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; Bob Vacendak, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1370, 1400; cf. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 223503. 

12. Reagan’s “Mystery Babylon.”

13. The Greek word for “mountains” is orē which can also mean “hills” – 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. 724.

14. Reagan’s “Mystery Babylon”; cf. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2410.

15. Constable, pg. 183 cites David E. Aune, Revelation 17—22, Word Biblical Commentary series (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), pg. 930.

16. Vacendak, pg. 1563.

17. Ibid.

18. Swindoll, pg. 313.

19. Vacendak, pg. 1563.

20. Adapted from EvanTell’s 3-circle illustration.

Revelation 16 – Part 3

“And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” Revelation 16:9

After the inhabitants of heaven praise God for His righteous and just judgments toward rebellious humankind who shed the blood of His servants (16:5-7), the fourth angel arrives to pour out his bowl of wrath. Instead of the beast-worshippers on the earth receiving a much-needed drink of rainwater to quench their parched throats, they got the exact opposite. Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” (Revelation 16:8-9). The definite article before “men” (tous anthrōpous) refers specifically to those whose allegiance was to the Beast (cf. 16:2). It is possible that those who refused to worship the Beast and receive his mark were not struck with this judgment. Likewise, the Israelites also escaped some of the plagues on Egypt’s land, water, animals, people, leaders, and even Pharaoh (Exodus 8:20-9:7; 9:13-35; 10:21-12:36). 1

This “fourth… bowl” judgment used “the sun” to “scorch men” who followed the Beast “with fire” and “great heat” that will leave their human flesh charred. This was “more than an oppressive heat wave that weakens and withers people, this judgment will involve the blistering and charring of human flesh by the sun.” 2

Swindoll writes, “Instead of catching soothing drops of rain, the people of earth were burned with searing rays from the sun! Scientists have long been concerned about the possibility of massive, unexpected solar flares, which could increase the number of harmful rays that penetrate our atmosphere. It seems that by the end of the Tribulation, the atmosphere will have been so damaged that the rays of the sun will no longer be filtered or deflected, causing all sorts of catastrophic climatic changes. This end-times global warming will make today’s hot-earth hysteria resemble nothing more than a warm spring day.” 3

One would think that after all these horrific judgments on the earth that left people painfully afflicted, starving, dying of thirst, and severely burned, that humankind would fall to their knees and beg God for His mercy, right!?! Wrong!!! “And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” (Revelation 16:9). Instead of turning to the Lord in repentance and giving “Him glory,” they “blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues.” Instead of letting the scorching sun melt their hearts, they let it harden their hearts toward God, much like Pharaoh hardened his heart after each of the plagues on Egypt.

Surely a loving God would relent of His judgments if people sought to get right with Him. The prophet Joel addresses this part of God’s character when he writes, 4 “’12 Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. 13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. 14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him— a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?” (Joel 2:12-14).

Instead of humbly repenting before the Lord God Whom they know has the power over these plagues to lovingly bring them to a stop, the people of the earth increased the hardness of their hearts during the last part of the Tribulation. Why? Because they have taken on the character of the Beast who blasphemes God and indoctrinates the citizens of his worldwide kingdom to do the same (Revelation 13:1, 5-6; 17:3; cf. Daniel 11:36; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10). Instead of blaming their own sinfulness for these first four plagues, they blame God for them. 5

The first four bowl judgments targeted the natural realm (the earth, sea, fresh waters, and the sun), but the next two bowl judgments target the Beast and his worldwide kingdom. “Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain.” (Revelation 16:10). The fifth bowlof God’s wrath was “poured out… on the throne of the beast and his kingdom.” Since the beast’s kingdom was worldwide,this was a global darkness that will cause such intense emotional anguish that beast-worshippers will engage in self-mutilation (“they gnawed their tongues because of the pain”). 6

This darkness is reminiscent of the plague God brought upon Egypt. 21 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.’ 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.” (Exodus 10:21-23). This darkness in Egypt was so deep, oppressive, and complete, that the Egyptians did nothing during those three days.The chaos caused by the darkness in Egypt may explain the intense pain this global darkness will cause to the citizens of the Beast’s kingdom during the Tribulation period.

Keep in mind that the effects of these first five bowl judgments are cumulative. “The sores brought on by the first bowl will continue to fester as the darkness closes in around them. The water that would have soothed their sun-scorched flesh will stand in stinking, stagnant pools; once-clean water will be polluted with decaying blood.” 7

Nevertheless, people will still refuse to humble themselves before the God Who could bring a stop to these severe bowl judgments. “They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 16:11). Instead of blaming their rebellious ways for these plagues, the followers of the Beast choose to blaspheme God for “their pains and their sores.” But they don’t stop there. They choose to abide in their wicked ways that caused them to be oppressed by these horrific plagues – they do “not repent of their deeds.” 8

As in 16:9, this scene is reminiscent of a child cursing his parent while he is being spanked. Such a reaction to punishment inevitably triggers more punishment.” 9

We have learned in our study of the seven-year Tribulation on earth in the book of Revelation, that this will be a time that is filled with heightened deception (12:9; 13:14; 18:23; 19:20). One of Satan’s oldest strategies which will be implemented in full during the Tribulation is to blame God for all the pain that exists in the world to deceive people into thinking that the true God is an out of control, vengeful deity who can be defeated if everyone comes together to fight against Him. The truth is pain and suffering did not exist in the world God created (Genesis 1-2). Pain and suffering were the result of Satan, who sinned first against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19), tempting Adam and Eve to sin (Genesis 3:1-6) which resulted in sin and death entering the entire world (Romans 5:12). The effects of sin will culminate in the Tribulation period when humanity’s rebellion against God will reach an all-time depth of depravity resulting in God’s in-kind judgment (Revelation 6-16).

When we look back at the chaos and pain the global pandemic has caused the past two years, do we blame God for this? Or when we observe the loss of innocent lives during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, do we shake our fists at God and hold Him responsible for this? How do we respond to God when we or those close to us experience suffering and pain? Do we harden or humble our hearts toward the Lord?

Satan wants to convince us that God is to blame for all our problems and pain so we will not come to the Lord in faith and be saved forever from Satan’s destiny in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10). Please understand that God is the One Who loves us, not Satan. Satan doesn’t care about you or me. He knows his destiny is in the lake of fire and he selfishly wants to take as many people with him as possible. He will go to any length of deception to help populate hell. He has no guilt or shame for his actions because he is evil to the core.

But Jesus Christ is selfless to the core. Instead of holding on to His glory in heaven, He veiled His glory with human flesh when He left heaven and came to earth knowing He would be rejected by the world and His own Jewish people who would condemn Him to die on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). The Bible tells us, 9 God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (I John 4:9-10 NLT). “Real love” gives instead of takes. God’s love gave His best (His Son) when we were at our worst (in bondage to our sins) so we “might have eternal life through” Jesus if we would do one thing: BELIEVE IN HIM.

Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). The word “believe” in the New Testament means to be persuaded that something is true and then trust or depend upon. Do you believe Jesus was speaking the truth when He said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life”? If so, do you now trust Christ (not your good life, religion, or prayers) to give you His gift of eternal life? If you do, Jesus guarantees you now have everlasting life which can never be taken away from you (John 10:28-29). God is now your Father in heaven, and you are His child forever (John 1:12; 6:35). Everyone who believes in Jesus for eternal life is your brother or sister in Christ.

Christ wants you to grow in your relationship with Him. Jesus said to those who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31b-32). The opposite of truth is falsehood or lies. Jesus wants you to “abide” or continue in His Word, the Bible, so you can “know the truth” which “shall make you free” from Satan’s lies that keep you enslaved to sin and shame. God’s truth will identify the lies you have been believing that have held you in bondage to sin and will also provide the remedy to overcome those lies. It is the truth of God’s Word that will break the shackles of Satan’s lies that have kept you from leaning into the Lord when you face pain and suffering.

Below are some examples of Satan’s lies that can keep us from drawing near to the Lord. I have included God’s truth to replace those lies and the Scriptures to go with them.Take some time to read through these lies and then identify the ones that you have believed to be true. The lie will feel true to you if you believe it. Then read the corresponding truth statements repeatedly until they feel true to you. As you do that the corresponding lies will feel less and less true. Ask the Lord Jesus to deliver you from bondage to these lies (cf. Psalm 119:28-29). We do not have the power in ourselves to overcome them, but Jesus Christ does. Let Him renew your mind as you meditate on God’s truth.  

Lie: God is to blame for all your pain and suffering.

Truth: Pain and suffering were the result of Satan (who sinned first against God), tempting Adam and Eve to sin which resulted in sin and death entering the entire world.

Scripture: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12; cf. Genesis 3:1-6; Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19.

Lie: God cannot be trusted.

Truth: God can be trusted because He is good and faithful to His promises.

Scripture: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

“In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” Titus 1:2

Lie: God is holding out on you.

Truth: God wants to give you, His best.

Scripture: “The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

Lie: You can be like God by disobeying Him.

Truth: Since there is only one true God, and I am not Him, I must live in total dependence on Him.

Scripture: God said, I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me.” Isaiah 45:5

“’But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;’ I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand.’” Psalm 31:14-15

Lie: God is against me.

Truth: God is for me and not against me.

Scripture: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Lie: God has or will accuse me.

Truth: God has declared me totally righteous in Christ.

Scripture: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Romans 8:33

Lie: God has or will condemn me.

Truth:  God will not condemn me because Christ took my condemnation on the cross and He now defends me and intercedes for me in heaven.

Scripture: “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

Lie: I am going to be separated from the love of Christ because I’m so unworthy.

Truth: No one and nothing can separate me from Christ’s love.

Scripture: 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35, 37-39

Lie: God would never love me as I am.

Truth: In Christ, I am totally loved by God as I am.

Scripture: “Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose us to be His very own through what Christ would do for us; He decided then to make us holy in His eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before Him covered with His love.” Ephesians 1:4 TLB

Lie: I am alone and unloved.

Truth: I am not alone or unloved. I am loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe.

Scripture: “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.” Psalm 27:10

Lie: I could never be forgiven.

Truth: I am totally forgiven in Christ.

Scripture: 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

Lie: I am an unacceptable person.

Truth: I am totally accepted in Christ.

Scripture: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1a

“To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:6

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we come to You now realizing that we can be a lot like the people in the Tribulation period who will be deceived into blaming You for their suffering and pain instead of their own rebellion against You. When bad things happen to us, help us O Lord to humble our hearts before You instead of hardening them. Lord, we cannot overcome Satan’s lies on our own. The Devil wants to take as many people with him to hell as possible. He will go to any length of deception to populate the lake of fire. Lord, please make us the kind of people who will do whatever it takes within the boundaries You have given us to populate Your heaven through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We desperately need You and Your Word to help us identify the lies we believe and replace them with Your truth so we can live the abundant life You came to give us. We pray for those whose hearts and minds have been deceived by Satan into believing You are responsible for all their pain and suffering. Help them to see that You love them and gave Your best for them when they were still undeserving sinners. And You want to save them forever from the lake of fire and give them eternal life if they would simply believe in You, Lord Jesus. Please use our lives and lips to communicate Your love to a lost and broken world so they can hear and believe the good news of Jesus’ gift of eternal life. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 172.

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. 1559.

3. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 296-297.

4. Ibid., pg. 297.

5. Constable, pg. 172 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 257.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2407.

7. Swindoll, pg. 298.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1559.

9. Evans, pg. 2409.

First Things First

“Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land.” Leviticus 25:9

During my morning time with the Lord, I was impressed with God’s instructions to the nation of Israel concerning special years they were to observe in Leviticus 25. The Israelites were to give their land a Sabbath rest every seventh year as the Lord provided a Sabbath rest every seventh day (25:1-7). It may seem risky to those who are agriculturally dependent to cease from farming for a year, but God intended for this to deepen His people’s dependence upon Him to provide for them.

After seven Sabbatical years, the nation of Israel was to observe the fiftieth year called the Year of Jubilee (25:8). Interestingly, this observance began with “the Day of Atonement” (25:9). The Day of Atonement was observed once a year by the Israelites so they could get right with God through an atoning sacrifice involving the shedding of blood (cf. 16:1-34; 23:26-32). This animal sacrifice foreshadowed Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29; Hebrews 10:1-18).

What this communicated to the nation of Israel was that before they could enjoy God’s involvement with their agricultural economy, society, and politics (Leviticus 25:10-55), they must first get right with the Lord spiritually by approaching Him on His terms to be forgiven of their sins. Failure to observe the Day of Atonement, would not enable the Israelites to receive God’s blessings for their families, neighbors, communities, economy, and government leaders.

The same is true for us in America. Before we the people of America can enjoy God’s blessings in our families, economy, society, and politics, we must first get right with the Lord spiritually through the Lord Jesus Christ. We may want God to do things for us without first coming to the Lord for atonement for our sins. Sadly, some of us may not even recognize our need to address our sin. We may cry out to God for justice, or ask Him to fix this or provide this, or avenge the wrongs done to us, while omitting the very thing that inaugurated God’s Jubilee for the people of Israel – addressing our personal and corporate sins through an atoning sacrifice. 1

We cannot enjoy the supernatural favor of God individually or corporately as a nation without first addressing our problem with sin. God is a holy and righteous God who hates sin and demands that sin must be punished (cf. Leviticus 10:1-3; 24:10-23; Psalm 5:5; 11:5; 45:7; Proverbs 6:16-19; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:23; 6:23; Hebrews 1:9). God’s wrath toward sin must be dealt with first before we can experience God’s blessings. This is only possible through Jesus Christ Whose perfect sacrificial death and resurrection paid the penalty for the sins of the world (John 1:29; 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18) so “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

If we want to experience the blessings of God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ, as individuals or even as a nation, we must first be rightly related to Him by grace through faith in Him alone for His gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). If you are not in a relationship with Jesus Christ, would you like to begin that relationship right now? To do so, simply come to Jesus as you are – an underserving sinner who needs forgiveness and eternal life. Christ loved you and died in your place for you on the cross. He then rose from the dead three days later as He promised (Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19), and He is alive today so He can give you complete forgiveness and everlasting life the moment you believe in Him (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14; John 3:16).

Will you take Jesus at His word when He said, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)? If you do, Christ guarantees you will never “perish” in hell and you now “have everlasting life” which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). Jesus now lives inside you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39; Galatians 2:20) and He wants to give you the power to live for Him now, and not for yourself (Romans 8:11; 2 Corinthian 5:15). You can get to know Jesus more intimately as you spend time with Him talking to Him through prayer (Philippians 4:6-7) and listening to Him as you read and apply the Bible to your life both individually and corporately with other like-minded Christians (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 10:24-25).

God also wants us to pray for our country and its leaders so the gospel of Jesus can spread unhindered throughout our land (I Timothy 2:1-8) and bring His blessings upon us as a nation. Would you join me in praying for our country now?

Prayer:  Gracious heavenly Father, the only way we can approach You is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Thank You for reminding us of this in Leviticus 25 today. Before the Israelites could enjoy Your involvement in their families, economy, society, and politics, they had to address their sin problem before You by offering an atoning sacrifice. Likewise, Lord, before we can approach You to bless our individual and corporate lives, we must get right with You spiritually through Jesus Christ. Lord God, You know how broken our country is because we have turned away from You and Your ways. Please, oh please, heavenly Father, bring us back to You. Bring to our awareness our need for You and Your forgiving grace. Use those of us who believe in Jesus to spread the good news of His grace with our lives and lips so people may get right with You holy Father through faith in Your only perfect Son. We need You gracious God. Our families, our neighbors, our economy, our society, our political leaders – all of us deeply need You to restore our relationship with You through Jesus. Thank You our Lord and our God for hearing our prayers. In the atoning 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. 298.

Thank God for His highlight reel of Jesus

“And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.” John 21:25

When we were living in the Philippines, I was not able to watch my favorite sports teams in America play their games live on TV because of the time difference. But I always tried to watch the highlight reels of their games so I could see the most significant plays.

The apostle John has given us a highlight reel of Jesus Christ in his book. He did not include all that Jesus said and did, but he included the most significant things we need to know to fulfill his evangelistic purpose (John 20:31).

As we come to the end of the gospel of John, the apostle John concludes with an afterthought of his book that affirms the truthfulness of his gospel. He writes, This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:24). The author of this gospel is none other than “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20). 1 The phrase “these things” refers to the entire gospel. 2 John is testifying that what he “wrote” is “true.” All that we read in the gospel of John is based on his eyewitness testimony.

Some believe that the phrase “we know that his testimony is true” was written by someone other than John. There are scholars who view the “we” as the elders of the Ephesian church where John traditionally served late in his life. 3  Others think that they were influential men in John’s church, though not necessarily in Ephesus. 4  Another view states this is an indefinite reference similar to “as is well known.” 5

It is better to see this phrase referring to John as he uses the editorial “we” to affirm the accuracy of what he has written. The editorial “we” is a rhetorical device used to refer to the author’s self. Using the first person plural, as authoritative people sometimes do, is something the apostle John does with regularity (cf. John 1:14; 3:2, 11; 20:2; 1 John 1:2, 4, 5, 6, 7; 3 John 1:12). 7  In favor of this view is also the use of the first person singular in the next verse (“I suppose…”).

Before we look at the last verse of this incredible book, let’s glance at the prologue of this gospel (John 1:1-18). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.“ (John 1:1). John began his gospel with “the Word,” Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14-17), Who is “God.” He informs us that all things were made through Him” (John 1:3; cf. Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2). The Person of Jesus Christ cannot be contained in this world because He is its Creator God. As God, He is independent of creation. He is not dependent on anyone or anything to sustain Him.

But John also wants us to know that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). Jesus humbled Himself by becoming a human being without ceasing to be God (John 1:1; 14; Philippians 2:6-8). This is why John refers to Jesus as “the only begotten Son” (John 1:18). The phrase “only begotten Son” does not mean Jesus had a beginning like a baby that is birthed by his parents, as many false religions teach today. The compound Greek word translated “only begotten” is monogenḗs, which literally means “one (monos) of a kind (genos)” or “unique kind.” 8Jesus Christ is the only one of His kind. He is fully God (John 1:1-3) and fully Man (John 1:14). This is the message of the gospel of John.

The writer of this gospel, the apostle John, goes to great lengths to show Jesus’ deity (John 1:1, 34, 49; 5:16-47; 6:69; 8:57-59; 10:30-33; 11:27; 20:28; et. al). Jesus was unlike any other Person who has walked on this earth. In the Old Testament, the phrase “I AM” is how Jehovah God identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-14). “I AM” is also how Jesus identified Himself to the people of Israel. He makes several “I AM” statements in the gospel of John: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), “I am the door” (John 10:9), “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:14), “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25), “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), “I am the true vine” (15:1). Each one of these staggering statements attested to the fact that Jesus was and is God.

Jesus also claimed to be equal with God and to be God Himself (John 5:17-18; John 10:10-33). This is why His enemies wanted to kill Jesus for blasphemy (Leviticus 20:10; cf. John 5:18; 8:59; 10:31-33; 11:8). For example, when Jesus said, “He and the Father are one” (John 10:30), the Jews understood Him to claim to be God. They said, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:33).

Did Muhammed, the founder of Islam, orBuddha, the founder of Buddhism, or Confucius, the founder of Confucianism, or Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, or Charles Taze Russell, the founder of Jehovah Witnesses, or Ellen G. White, the co-founder of Seventh Day Adventist, claim to be equal with God? No!Jesus Christ not only claimed to be God, He proved He was God through His works (John 1-12), the greatest of which was His resurrection from the dead (John 20:1-18; cf. Romans 1:3-4)!

John also goes to great lengths to show Jesus’ humanity (John 1:14; 4:6; 11:35; 12:27; 19:28; et. al). Jesus had brothers and sisters like you and me (John 2:12; 7:3, 5; cf. Mark 6:3). Christ ate food and got thirsty just like you and me (John 19:28; 21:12, 15; cf. Matthew 9:11; 11:19; Mark 2:16; Luke 7:34). He experienced physical fatigue and even slept (John 4:6; cf. Matthew 8:24; Mark 4:38; Luke 8:23). Why? He became a man without ceasing to be God so He could understand what it is like for you and me to have family, food, and fatigue. The God of the Bible is not some distant uncaring deity like the religions of the world. He understands our needs and He came to earth to meet our most fundamental needs to be seen, safe, soothed, and secure.

When John says that Jesus was “is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18b), he is referring to Christ’s very close and intimate relationship with God the Father. The word “bosom” (kolpos) refers to the upper part of the chest where a garment naturally folded to form a pocket. The picture here is that of a son resting his head on the chest of his father, experiencing a very close and intimate relationship with him. Jesus had the closest and most intimate relationship with God the Father. He knows the heart of God the Father better than anyone because His head often rested upon His Father’s chest in eternity past.

Who better to tell others what a Person is like than the One who is closest to that Person and has known Him the longest in an intimate relationship!?! There is no one more qualified to tell us what God is like than the only begotten Son of God who has known God the Father forever in the closest of relationships with Him.

This is why John then says, “He has declared Him” (John 1:18c). The word “declared” (eksēgéomai) is where we get our English words, “exegete” and “exegesis” from. It means “to set forth in great detail, expound.” 10  In seminary, we learned to “exegete” or explain God’s Word, the Bible. We were taught to “read out” of the Bible God’s intended meaning through a grammatical, historical, and literal interpretation instead of “reading into” the Bible our own biases and assumptions.

God the Son, Jesus Christ, has “exegeted” or “explained, interpreted, or narrated” what God the Father is like. Jesus is more qualified than anyone else to explain what God the Father is like because He, being God, knows God the Father longer and more intimately than anyone else.

Understanding the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the God-Man, will help us understand why John concludes his book with the following words: “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.” (John 21:25). John is telling us that he did not record everything “Jesus did.” He wrote selectively about the life and ministry of Jesus on earth. 11In other words, John gave us “a highlight reel” of Jesus!12  This highlight reel makes all others look pale in comparison.

Take for example a highlight reel of the greatest sports figures in history. None of them – whether it be Mohammed Ali, Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Jim Brown, Tom Brady, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Pele’, Florence Griffith Joyner, Usain Bolt, Serena Williams, or Ronda Rausey – can come close to what Jesus Christ has done.

The Lord Jesus has loved people perfectly, giving His life for the sins of the world (John 1:29; 3:16; Romans 5:8). By His grace He has forgiven people perfectly no matter how badly or often they have sinned (John 4:1-29; Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14; I Timothy 1:14-16). He has given eternal life freely to all who believe in Him (John 3:16). He has granted a forever relationship to the religious (John 3:1-18). Christ has saved from hell forever all who have trusted in Him (Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). He has transformed sinners into saints the moment they believed in Him (I Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:1, 13-14). Jesus has given hopeless people a purpose for living (Romans 8:28). He has granted contentment to those who could not find satisfaction (Philippians 4:11-13). He has given those who have greatly failed a second chance (John 21:15-17). He has bestowed peace upon the troubled (John 14:27; 16:33; Ephesians 2:14-15). And Christ Jesus has never lost one person He has saved, and He never will (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29).

No sports figure, politician, Hollywood celebrity, or philanthropist can do what Jesus Christ has done and continues to do. His life and ministry make Him unique. His highlight reel is superior to all others even though it does not include all that Jesus ever did.

“But God providentially determined that what we have in Scripture is enough. You don’t need to know everything that Jesus did and said. But, John says, you do need to ‘believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’ (20:31). Amen.” 13  

But John did say if all that Jesus did on earth “were written one by one… the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” To date, countless books have been written on what little was actually recorded in the gospels about Jesus Christ. “Jesus is surely the most written-about person of all time—and rightly so!” 14 When you consider the thousands of historical books, theological books, religious books, scholarly books on the gospels, testimonial books, and articles about Jesus Christ, the numbers are endless! Isn’t that what we would expect from Someone Who is uniquely God and Man!?!

There is no end to the books written about Jesus Christ because He is still working in peoples’ lives today – giving them His life freely through believing in Him (John 3:16; 10:10b) so they can experience His life abundantly as they learn to follow Him as a disciple (John 10:10c; cf. 8:31-32; 13:34-35; 15:1-8; 21:15-23).  

For me, the gospel of John is one of the greatest books of the Bible because it repeatedly shows God’s grace and truth through the Person of Jesus Christ. It also tells us over and over again what one must do to have eternal life now (John 3:16; 17:3) and a future home in heaven (John 14:2-3). It tells us to simply believe in Jesus alone for His free gift of eternal life (John 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 7:37-39; 9:35-38; 10:24-29; 11:25-27; 14:1; 20:31; et al.). Jesus did not say, “whoever behaves.” He said, “whoever believes…” (John 3:16). Believe in Him alone and He will give you His never-ending life so you can experience it abundantly in your daily life.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for the gospel of John which gives us all we need to know to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing we may have life in His name. There is no one like You, Lord Jesus. There is no one who forgives and loves us like You do. Thank You for revealing Yourself to us through the gospel of John. Please enable us to share this life-changing book with a lost world so they may discover the radical love you have for them and come to believe in You alone for Your gift of eternal life. Getting right with You, Father God, is based upon believing, not behaving. May Your Holy Spirit convict people of this profound and simple life-changing truth. And may those of us who have eternal life through Jesus, experience His abundant life as we learn to follow Him as His disciple. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Archibald Thomas (A. T.) Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in Six Volumes, (The Ephesians Four Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 78628-78629).

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 705.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 402 cites Brooke Foss Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John: The Authorised Version with Introduction and Notes 1880 (London: James Clarke & Co., Ltd., 1958), pg. 306. .

4. Ibid., cites Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Translated by G. R. Beasley- Murray, R. W. N. Hoare, and J. K. Riches. Oxford: Blackwell, 1971), pp. 717-718.

5. Ibid., cites C. H. Dodd, “Note on John 21, 24,” Journal of Theological Studies NS4 (1953):212-13.

6. 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. 570.

7. Constable, pg. 402.

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. 658.

9. Ibid., pp. 556-557.

10. Ibid., pg. 349.

11. Wilkin, pg. 570.

12. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1834.

13. Ibid.

14. Wilkin, pg. 570.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 8 (Video)

This is the eighth video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the eighth and greatest miraculous sign recorded in the gospel of John involving the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead (John 19:1-20:31).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from www.GoodSalt.com, Brooklyn Museum / FreeBibleimages.org, www.fishnetbiblestories.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, or they are creative common licenses. The copyrights of the images of the movie belong to Jesus.net. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 12

“After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.” John 19:38

We are learning lasting lessons from the last day in Jesus’ life found in John 19. So far we have discovered…

– Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

– The cross is the total expression of God’s grace to us in Christ (John 19:17-18a).

– The two crosses teach that God gives each of us the freedom to choose (John 19:18b).

– There is no person or language God will not use to proclaim who Jesus is (John 19:19-22).

– Jesus’ garments were removed so we could wear the garments of salvation (John 19:23-24).

– Though Jesus died for the world, He also cares deeply for me (John 19:25-27).

– Jesus became thirsty to save us from an eternal thirst (John 19:28-29).

– We cannot work our way to heaven because we cannot pay a debt that is already paid (John 19:30).

– Jesus’ legs were not broken and His side was pierced so we may believe Jesus is our Passover Lamb Who died for us (John 19:31-37).

Today the final lesson is AS DISCIPLES OF JESUS, WE ARE TO OPENLY IDENTIFY WITH HIM NO MATTER WHAT THE COST (John 19:38-42). John now gives an account of Jesus’ burial to substantiate further that Jesus actually died. “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.” (John 19:38). We do not bury a living person. We bury a dead person. The proof that Jesus died was that He was buried.

“Normally the Romans placed the bodies of crucified offenders, whose bodies they did not leave to rot on their crosses, in a cemetery for criminals outside the city.” Family members could not claim the bodies of people who had undergone crucifixion as punishment for sedition.” 2 But two of Jesus’ friends intervene to give Christ a proper burial.

The other gospel writers inform us that “Joseph of Arimathea” was “a rich man” (Matthew 27:57) “waiting for the kingdom of God,” who was also “a good and just man” (Luke 23:50). Although he was a “prominent… member” of the Jewish Supreme Court called the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43), “he had not consented to their decision” to crucify Christ (Luke 23:51).

Only John tells us he was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews,” particularly the unbelieving Jewish leaders. Despite his fears, Joseph courageously “asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission.” So Joseph “came and took the body of Jesus” down from the cross to give Him a proper burial.

But Joseph was not alone in doing this. He was accompanied by another member of the Sanhedrin. “And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.” (John 19:39). Unlike disciples of Jesus who fled for fear of the Jews, both Joseph and Nicodemus now boldly identified themselves with Jesus. But they were not always willing to do this.

John mentions that Nicodemus “first came to Jesus by night.” John emphasizes this each time he mentions Nicodemus in his gospel (cf. John 3:2; 7:50). Earlier John wrote, 42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43). Prior to asking Pilate for Jesus’ dead body, it appears that both Joseph and Nicodemus had been secret disciples who were reluctant to openly confess Jesus because they feared what the Pharisees would do to them if they did. Openly identifying with Christ could result in both these men “losing their seats in the Sanhedrin and, worse yet, being refused the right to worship in the synagogue (cf. 9:22; 12:42).” 4

Although they had probably believed in Jesus for His gift of salvation earlier (John 12:42), they were not willing to walk in the light of fellowship with Jesus by openly confessing Christ among their religious colleagues. Why? Because “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). They cared more about what people thought of them instead of what God thought of them. They were people-pleasers, not God-pleasers. They chose to walk in the darkness by refusing to confess Christ before others. They wanted the approval of men more than the approval of God.

Does this sound familiar to you? We do not want to speak up for Christ because we are afraid of what people will think or do to us. When we refuse to openly tell others about Jesus’ saving grace, we are no longer walking in the light. We are hiding in the darkness because we are ashamed of the precious cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. When we turn away from God to please people, we are telling God, “I don’t want Your praise, Father. I don’t need it!” In other words, we are out of fellowship with God (cf. I John 4:15).

But now John presents both Nicodemus and Joseph in a favorable light as they openly identify with Jesus in the daylight by asking permission to give Christ a proper burial. It took a lot of courage for them to do this. What had changed in their lives for them to have such courage? Based on John’s discipleship theme in his gospel, I would suggest that these men had grown in their relationship with Jesus to the point of caring more about what Christ thought of them than what people thought of them. “The death of Jesus so moved Nicodemus and Joseph that they cast aside their fears and boldly claim Jesus’ body, prepare Him for burial, and bury Him.” They had come out of the darkness into the light of fellowship with Jesus Christ (cf. John 3:19-36; I John 1:5-9).

The same is true for us. We may begin our Christian lives afraid of what people may think or do to us if we openly identify with Jesus Christ. But as we grow in our relationship with Jesus, our boldness for Him will also grow (cf. John 7:26; Acts 4:13, 29-31; 9:27; Philippians 1:20-21; I Thessalonians 2:1-10; I John 4:17). The courage that the Holy Spirit gives to us will overcome our fears (Acts 4:23-31). Christ’s radical love for us will squelch our fears (cf. I John 4:18). More and more we will seek to please Jesus rather than people (Colossians 3:23-24; I Thessalonians 2:4).

John tells us that Nicodemus brought “about a hundred pounds” of “myrrh and aloes” to prepare Jesus’ dead body for burial (John 19:39). ‘Myrrh’ was a fragrant resin that the Jews turned into powder, and then mixed with ‘aloes,’ which was powdered sandalwood.” 6  “The purpose of covering a corpse with this aromatic powder was to dry it out and to lessen the foul odor that putrefaction caused.” 7

The amount of aromatic spices is significant for such a large quantity was commonly used only for kings. 8  This amount of burial spices reflects Nicodemus’ great love and respect for Jesus. Isn’t this amazing!?! Even though Christ was dead, Nicodemus’ love for Him was very much alive.

“Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.” (John 19:40). Because it was almost the Sabbath (which began at sundown) the burial had to take place quickly. Jewish burial customs did not involve mummification or embalming, which took out the blood and body organs. Their normal process was to wash a body and cover it with cloth and aromatic oils or spices.” 9

John mentions the “strips of linen” wrapped around Jesus’ body to emphasize that Christ was truly dead. The use of “strips of linen” argues against the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, which is often associated with Jesus’ burial. 10  As long as there were no graveclothes, no tomb, and no coroner, there was hope. But the arrival of the graveclothes signified the departure of any hope. 11

This is amazing to think about from Joseph’s and Nicodemus’ perspective. Earlier in the week, Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem with shouts of joy from the great multitude. The people who praised Jesus as their King days earlier then called for His death on Friday. These linens were a physical reminder that their Friend and His future were wrapped in graveclothes and sealed behind a rock. These two brave men did not know on that Friday what we now know. They didn’t know that Friday’s calamity would become Sunday’s celebration! 12  Yet, they remained loyal to Jesus even in His death.

If that had been you or me, what would we have done? After all, the crowds were pleased with Jesus’ crucifixion. What was to keep the religious leaders from calling for more executions? Let’s be honest. If we were in Joseph’s or Nicodemus’ sandals, we would have left town as quickly as possible!

But Joseph and Nicodemus did not flee. Why? Because Jesus was their Friend and they loved Him. You don’t abandon a dear Friend, even when He is dead.This seems to be what these two men are thinking. The manner in which Jesus lived and died deeply impacted their lives.

Next John tells us, “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” (John 19:41). Jesus’ body was placed in a new tomb in a private “garden,” not in a public cemetery. 13

“In Palestine, bodies were buried in natural caves or tombs that were carved out of the limestone. Niches or shelves were prepared where the bodies could be laid. The tomb was customarily sealed with a disc-shaped stone that could be rolled across the entrance. The tomb was usually a family tomb, and the niches would be reused as necessary. The bones of the previous occupant would simply be collected and placed in a bone-box, or ‘ossuary,’ that remained in the tomb.” 14

John is the only gospel writer to mention that Jesus was buried in a “garden.” “Why would he mention this? This may well be an illusion to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden and away from the tree of life. But Jesus, the second Adam, dies on a tree to redeem man and re-open paradise (cf. Rev 2:7).” 15

Matthew tells us that this tomb belonged to Joseph. He laid Jesus’ body “in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.” (Matthew 27:60). The placement of Jesus’ body in Joseph’s tomb fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah, Who would be “with the rich at His death.” (Isaiah 53:9).

John includes a very significant detail when he writes, “a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” (John 19:41b). When Jesus’s body was gone after His resurrection, “no one was able to point to any bones in the tomb to claim them as Jesus’s remains. His was the first corpse to lie there.” 16

John concludes this section when he writes, “So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.” (John 19:42). Christ’s burial was somewhat of a hasty measure because the “Jews’ day of preparation” before the Sabbath (i.e., Friday) was about to end with the fast approaching sunset.

Joseph and Nicodemus were not expecting the resurrection, yet they were willing to risk their riches, their reputations, their religious privileges, and possibly their own lives out of love and respect for Jesus. Their sacrifices will be greatly rewarded in eternity.

For the Bible promises that when we invest our riches in what is eternal while we live here on earth, we will store up permanent treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). When we risk our reputations and even rejection for Christ by publicly confessing Him before our enemies, Jesus will give us a good confession before God the Father and His holy angels in heaven (Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8; Revelation 3:5b). When we sacrifice religious privileges and even our own lives here on earth for Christ, He will give us greater authority and privileges in heaven (Mark 10:29-31; Revelation 2:7, 17, 25-27; 3:11-12, 21).

When I ran track in high school, I trained hard because I wanted to win a medal in my race. Even though I had failed to win a medal in previous races, I still prepared for the next race thinking I could win. Keeping the thought of winning a medal in the front of my mind as I trained and eventually competed in the race, motivated me to do my very best and not give up.

The same is true in our Christian lives. There are certain eternal rewards that require us to live faithfully for Jesus to the end of our Christian lives. To do this, it is important to train our minds to imagine Jesus rewarding us at the Judgment Seat of Christ, saying to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:21). Like an athlete who visualizes himself winning a race, visualizing ourselves remaining faithful to Christ and receiving this reward from Him will actually create new neurological pathways in our brain. And our brains respond the same way to mental rehearsing of a task and actually performing the task.

I believe Isaac Watts captured the impact that God meant for the cross to have on our lives when he wrote the song, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” The first stanza reads:

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of Glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Prayer: Precious heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Joseph and Nicodemus who sacrificed so much to ensure that Jesus received a proper burial. Even though their sacrifices were costly, dangerous, and without personal gain, they did this out of love and respect for their dear Friend, Jesus Christ, Who deeply touched their lives. They started out hesitant to associate with Jesus, but the more they grew in their relationship with Him, the more their boldness grew. The same can be true for us. Help us to focus on the cross so that no sacrifice will seem too great for us in light of the wondrous love of Jesus my Savior. In His matchless name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 363 cites Josephus, Antiquities, 5:1:14.

2. Ibid., cites Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991, pg. 629.

3. 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. 562. 

4. Ibid., pg. 561.

5. Ibid., pg. 562.

6. Tom Constable, Notes on John, pg. 363 cites Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991, pg. 629.

7. Tom Constable, Notes on John, pg. 363.

8. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pg. 121.

9. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 694.

10. Ibid., pg. 695; cf. Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: Revised Edition, New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pg. 730.

11. Adapted from Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails, pg. 121.

12. Ibid.

13. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 695.

14. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 354; cf. Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago: Moody, 1987), pp. 72-74).

15. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 562.

16. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1826.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 11

“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” John 19:34

Since Jesus died on the cross, there have been many attempts to deny this historical fact. Why? Because it would explain the empty tomb of Jesus. For example, near the end of the first century, the false teachings of Docetism and Gnosticism were on the rise. Both of these groups denied that Jesus was a real man. “Docetists claimed that Jesus only seemed (Gr. dokeo, ‘to seem,’ therefore the name ‘Docetist’) to be fully human.” 2  Since Jesus only seemed to be a man, it only seemed that He died.

The word ‘Gnostic’ refers to secret knowledge, as the Gnostics believed that people needed secret knowledge to be freed from the material world, which is inherently evil.” 3  One second-century Gnostic writer, Basilides, wrote the Gospel according to Basilides. Since gnosticism teaches that the material world is evil, Basilides concluded that “Jesus must not have had a material body, and therefore he could not have been crucified.” 4

An early church leader named “Irenaeus records what Basilides taught about the death of Jesus on the cross: ‘He [Christ] did not himself suffer death, but Simon, a certain man of Cyrene, being compelled, bore the cross in his stead; so that this latter being transfigured by him, that he might be thought to be Jesus, was crucified, through ignorance and error, while Jesus himself received the form of Simon, and, standing by, laughed at them.’ ” 5

The founder of Islam, Muhammad, was influenced by such false teachings when he traveled on trade routes with his uncle.  6  His primary knowledge of Christianity came from docetic sources. Muhammad later testified in the Qur’an, That they rejected Faith; that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge; 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 4:156-157) 8

A former Muslim convincingly argues that this Quranic teaching that says Jesus did not die by crucifixion originated from the second-century Gnostic teaching. 9  Three of the main views concerning Jesus’ death among Muslims today include that Allah supernaturally preserved Jesus’ life so He did not die on the cross. 10  Jesus simply “swooned” or fainted on the cross and later recovered in the tomb. 11 And Allah miraculously made someone else to look like Jesus and this person (perhaps Judas, Pilate or Simon of Cyrene) was mistakenly crucified in Jesus’ place. 12

How sad that over a billion Muslims have been misled to believe such a destructive lie. For you see, if Jesus did not die, He did not rise from the dead and there is no payment for sin. And if there is no payment for sin, there is no hope of forgiveness and eternal life. The Bible says, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (I Corinthians 15:17).

With this in mind, let’s pay close attention to the next picture that the apostle John presents as he makes it very clear that Jesus Christ really did die on the cross. From this picture we will learn that JESUS’ LEGS WERE NOT BROKEN AND HIS SIDE WAS PIERCED SO WE MAY BELIEVE JESUS IS OUR PASSOVER LAMB WHO DIED FOR US (John 19:31-37).

“Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” (John 19:31). It sometimes took crucifixion victims days to die. Normally, then, the Romans would have left the men on the crosses.” 13  But because this was was “the Preparation Day” on a Friday when the Jews had to prepare for the Sabbath, work was forbidden after sunset when the Sabbath would begin according to the Jewish reckoning of time. Also, this was going to be a special Sabbath (“high day”) because in addition to it being the seventh day, it would also be the day when the Jews celebrated the Passover. 14

“The Jews” did not want the bodies of these criminals to “remain on the cross on the Sabbath” because according to the Mosaic Law if you leave a man hanging on a tree overnight it would defile the land (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).So “the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken” so that they would die and could be buried. Victims hanging on a cross had to put weight on their legs in order to lift themselves to breathe. Without the use of their legs, they would die of asphyxiation.” 15

32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.” (John 19:32-33). The soldiers “broke the legs” of the criminals hanging beside Jesus because they were still alive.But why didn’t the Roman soldiers break Jesus’ legs? Pilate had given the order to break His legs. They would not have disobeyed Pilate’s command if they were not certain Jesus was already dead. Keep in mind these professional executioners were accustomed to this form of execution and were very familiar with the signs of death. It was their professional opinion based upon years of experience that Jesus Christ was dead. He had not fainted or swooned as some mistakenly teach.

These soldiers also recognized this man was “Jesus,” not some other man posing as Jesus. The apostle John, an eyewitness to this event, also concluded that this Man Who died was “Jesus “ (John 19:33-37), not some impostor. So both the Swoon Theory or Substitution Theory are not plausible.

In case you are still not convinced that Jesus died, John then tells us, “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” (John 19:34). This piercing of Jesus’ side confirmed that He was dead. In order for “blood and water” to come out of such a wound, the heart would have had to stop beating. 16  The sac around the heart, the pericardium, had filled with water and burst. Contrary to the heresies which arose in the second century that taught Jesus was solely divine and not human, this eyewitness testimony from John confirms that Jesus really did die and that He is fully human and fully God (cf. John 1:1, 14).

Someone may ask, “How can God die? Isn’t He eternal so He cannot die?” Think about this for a moment. When humans die, do our souls stop existing? No, our souls do not die. So even when we die as humans, it is our body that dies. We do not stop existing altogether. So it was with Jesus: He was killed with respect to His earthly body, but as God He did not stop existing. Sometimes, though, when people ask, “How can God die?” they are really asking “Who was ruling the universe when Jesus died?” For the Christian, the answer is simple. God the Father was ruling the universe when Jesus died. God the Father is not the Son, and the Father did not die on the cross. God the Son died on the cross. 17

Those who deny that Jesus died are telling a complete lie. Think of how much faith it takes to believe that Jesus did not die. Consider Christ, Who received thirty-nine lashes, hung on a cross for six hours, fainted on the cross according to skeptics, had a spear thrust into His side with water and blood coming out, and then later He woke up in a tomb and somehow crawled to that large stone that weighed over a ton and rolled it out of the way while all the Roman soldiers were out there guarding the tomb? Then He snuck by all the Roman guards? So when Jesus appeared to be resurrected, He was really lying? It takes a lot more faith to believe such a tale than to believe that Jesus really did die.

Even if you believe Jesus did not die, John says, And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.” (John 19:35). John is saying, “I was there. I saw with my own eyes what happened at the cross. I’m telling you the truth so you may believe Jesus did die as the promised Messiah!”

This is not just historical details. John testified “so that you may believe.” John recorded these details to enable us to believe that Jesus did die for our sins; that He did shed His blood for us; that He did pay our sin debt in full. When John testified of what happened at the cross, the result that is intended to take place in our lives is not pity for Jesus. It is not a deeper interest in history. It is belief or trust. Belief in the One Who demonstrated His infinite love toward us by shedding His own blood so we could be completely forgiven the moment we believe in Him (Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7).

John tells us that all that happened at the cross fulfilled Old Testament Scripture. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken.’ 37 And again another Scripture says, ‘They shall look on Him whom they pierced.’ ” (John 19:36-37). “He quotes from Psalm 34:20 and Zechariah 12:10, proving it was no accident that Jesus was pierced rather than having his legs broken. Our sovereign God was fulfilling his Word.” 18

The fact that Jesus’ legs were not broken not only fulfilled Psalm 34:20, it also points to Jesus as our Passover Lamb of God (John 1:29; I Corinthians 5:7) since the Israelites were not to break the bones of their Passover lambs (cf. Exodus 12:5, 46; Numbers 9:12). Passover lambs had to be killed to apply their blood to the door posts and lintel of Israelite homes so God’s judgment would pass over each family (Exodus 12:3-13). Likewise, Jesus, our Passover Lamb, had to die so His blood would cause God’s eternal judgment to pass over every person who believes in Jesus.

Think about this for a moment. Who has more credibility? A follower of Jesus named, John, who was an eyewitness of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and lived in the same vicinity as Jesus’ community or a man named, Muhammad, who lived six hundred years after Jesus and over six hundred miles removed from where Jesus lived and ministered? 19  Would an objective observer consider John or Muhammad to have presented reliable historical evidence? The answer is obvious. John was there. John was an eyewitness. To say that Muhammad’s message is true and John’s is false simply because the Quran is inspired is not plausible to an objective observer.

“The basis of any historical case must be the primary sources, and in this case, the sources are unanimous, diverse, early, and plentiful: Jesus died by crucifixion. Starting almost immediately after Jesus’ death, over a dozen authors and traditions recorded the death of Jesus by crucifixion, including Christian, Jewish, and Roman sources, and their testimony was unanimous. For more than one hundred years, no record even suggests that Jesus survived death on the cross or otherwise circumvented his execution. This coheres well with what we know of crucifixion practices, in that there is no person in recorded history who ever survived a full Roman crucifixion. Positing that Jesus did not die on the cross would have served the agenda of the early Christians and those opposed to their message, but such a suggestion appears inconceivable. For those who study Jesus’ life in academia, the idea that Jesus did not die by crucifixion remains, to this day, outside the realm of possibility” 20

What gets you really excited in life? What are you extremely passionate about? For me, I am extremely passionate about the cross of Jesus Christ. It was there that we see the amazing love of Jesus Christ for all of us, regardless of our skin color, social class, or sin (Romans 5:8; I John 4:9-10). The cross is our source of faith (Galatians 2:20). It is our source of complete forgiveness (Colossians 2:13-14). It is our source of hope (Colossians 1:5). It is our source of life (John 3:14-15; I John 4:10). It is our source of power (I Corinthians 1:18). It is our source of victory over sin, death, and the devil (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-15).

When you read about the impact of the cross, you may say to yourself, “But you don’t know what I have done. How can Jesus love me in view of all the terrible things I have thought, said, and done? How can He possibly forgive me?” The power of the cross is not dependent on your behavior. The power of the cross is based on the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, our Passover Lamb of God, Who was innocent and without sin. God has nailed the entire list of all your sins – past, present, and future – to the cross, and they have all been canceled as if they never happened or will happen (Colossians 2:13-14). That’s the power of the cross. That’s the power of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.

For you to experience the power of Jesus’ love and forgiveness, you must believe. Jesus invites you right now to believe in Him for His forgiveness and eternal life if you have never done so. Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up [on the cross], that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15). The power of the cross is not based on your behavior, but upon belief. Do you believe in Jesus Who died in your place on that cross to pay your sin debt in full? If you now do, you can tell Him this through prayer.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for the cross. Before today, I believed a lie that said You never died on that cross. Thank You for revealing the truth to me today that shows it was really You Who died on that cross. It was You Who paid for all my sins when Your blood poured out of Your side. Your legs were not broken so my brokenness could be healed. As best I know how, I am now believing in You Jesus to forgive all my sins and give me everlasting life. Thank You for the forgiveness and eternal life I now have. Please teach me more about the power of the cross to change my life for the better. In Your name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, please visit www.seeyouinheaven.life or www.knowing-Jesus.com.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 360.

2. Ibid.

3. Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pg. 179 .

4. Ibid. pg. 180.

5. Ibid., pg. 179 cites Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenaeus against heresies,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, Vol. 1, (Buffalo: Christians Literature Company, 1885), pg. 349.

6. Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Islam and the Rise of Radical Islam (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2019 Kindle Edition), pg. 15.

7. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017, pg. 360 cites F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition and Notes (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), pg. 382, footnote 38.

8. The Qur’an: English translationby Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Goodworks Books, Kindle Edition), pg. 90.

9. Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, pp. 179–181.

10. Ibid., pp. 170-173.

11. Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM, pg. 282.

12. Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), pg. 67.

13. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1825.

14. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 350-351.

15. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1825.

16. Ibid.

17. Adapted from Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, pp. 89-90.

18. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1825.

19. Adapted from Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, pp. 176-177.

20. Ibid., pg. 169.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 4

17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified Him…” John 19:17-18a

We are learning from John 19:4-42 that what happened to Jesus on the last day of His life also applies to us today. The apostle John has several images he wants to make sure that we see in the life of Jesus Christ. So far we have discovered that…

Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

The fourth lasting lesson we learn from Jesus’ last day is that THE CROSS IS THE TOTAL EXPRESSION OF GOD’S GRACE TO US IN CHRIST (JOHN 17-18a). Before we look at today’s verses, let’s review what has happened to Jesus so far on His last day before His dead body is sealed in a tomb. Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus had already suffered a great deal. In Gethsemane, He was under such emotional distress that tiny capillaries in His sweat glands broke and mixed blood with His sweat (Luke 22:44). After He was arrested and bound, He was unjustly tried before civil and religious authorities (Matthew 26:57-68; 27:1-2; Luke 23:6-12; John 18:12-14, 19-23, 28-40). During these trials Christ was falsely accused, insulted, rejected, and physically abused. Pilate then had Jesus scourged or beaten with a short whip made of braided leather thongs to which were attached small iron balls and sharp pieces of bone (John 19:1). This scourging left Jesus’ body tattered and torn. Christ was then beaten and mocked by Roman soldiers who placed a crown of thorns on His head and a purple robe on His severely wounded back (John 19:2-3; cf. Matthew 27:27-30).

This brings us to the next image the apostle John presents to us. “And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.”  (John 19:17). Before the soldiers had Jesus carry His cross, they removed the purple robe from Christ (Matthew 27:31) which had become adhered to the clots of blood and serum in His wounds. This would have been very painful, much like carelessly removing a surgical bandage.

When John tells us that Jesus was “bearing His cross,” we see the fulfillment of “two Old Testament symbols or types. Isaac carried his own wood for the sacrifice (Gen. 22:1-6) and the sin offering used to be taken outside the camp or city (cf. Heb. 13:11-13).” 1  So the sin of the world was placed on the innocent Lamb of God (John 1:29).

The reference to Jesus “bearing His cross” refers to the crossbeam that prisoners had to carry to their place of execution. The upright part of the cross would have been out at the place of crucifixion. This crossbeam strapped to Jesus’ back would have weighed 100-150 pounds. This weight would have been similar to a couple of sacks of cement.

It was a very heavy load especially for Jesus who had lost so much blood from the beating and flogging. Since Christ was very weak and faint, He could not carry this load all the way out to the place of execution. John does not tell us this because He is wanting to stress Jesus’ deity, but Luke informs us that “Simon a Cyrenian,” carried Jesus’ crossbeam for Him (Luke 23:26). 

The place where Jesus would be crucified was “called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.” It was most likely called this because the hill’s rock formations looked like a skull. 5

John continues to describe his eyewitness picture of this when he writes, “where they crucified Him…” (John 19:18a). To help us understand the significance of John’s words, it would be beneficial for us to look at the history of crucifixion. 6

The Romans did not invent crucifixion. It was probably invented by the Phoenicians.  The Phoenicians invented the cross for a very particular reason. They had a god that they served who was a god of the earth. They felt that for someone to die on the earth it would defile their god. So they ingeniously came up with a way to execute their prisoners lifted up off the earth so that they would not defile the earth. That is where it is believed crucifixion began. 

Jesus made reference to His crucifixion when He said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32). The interesting thing is when you look at the real cross of Christ, the God of the universe was lifted up on a cross (John 1:1-3), not the god of the earth. Jesus did not defile or condemn the earth. He came to save the world (John 3:17). That is what actually took place.

The Romans looked at the cross in a different way. Through the Egyptians and then the Romans, this idea of a cross came. The Romans saw the cross as a tool. They expertly used it as a tool of torture and punishment. They also used it as a tool to tell people if you rebel against Rome, you are going to face the cross and be put out in front for the world to see. Their suffering and their pain would endure for a long time so that when they punished their prisoners, many people would be brought under their control. That is what the Romans saw it as. 

The Jewish people saw the cross as the most disgusting form of death because Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says, “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.” When God put these verses in the Bible, He knew that Jesus would be cursed for our sins on the cross.

So to the Phoenician, the cross was a means of death that satisfied their belief in a god of the earth. To the Romans, the cross became an expertly used instrument of torture and control. To the Jewish people, crucifixion represented the most disgusting form of death. But to the God of the Bible, the cross reveals the glory of Christ. To the Christian, the cross reveals Jesus’ glory, especially His amazing grace and love.

When the Bible talks about Jesus dying, it simply says, “they crucified Him.” (John 18:18a). John doesn’t go into great detail. The reason for that is he did not need to because everyone in his day understood what crucifixion was all about. If I told you that somebody died by lethal injection, you would probably understand what that means. You can visualize the table and the room and the witnesses because you may have seen it on television or in an online video. We have also heard news reports about it. In John’s day, everyone would know the truth of what the cross was all about.

The Romans had refined crucifixion to such an art, we can know what happened. 7 They had executioners whose sole job it was to carry out crucifixion time after time. So as Jesus was brought up to that hill, to the place where that standing post was, the executioner would lay the cross beam behind the victim and would jerk them to the ground across the beam. The executioners wore leather aprons. And in these leather aprons there were pouches with five-inch nails and a hammer off to the side. These were the tools of their trade.

The executioner would kneel first on the right arm of the victim of the one who would be crucified. His knee would rest on the inside of the elbow. His hand would be placed on the arm of the victim so it was flat against the cross. He would feel for the hollow spot in the wrist between the bones so that no bones would be broken or arteries broken so the prisoner would be tortured as long as possible. Then he would take one of those five-inch nails and place it against that hollow place and in one sharp blow drive it into the wood through the flesh.

They would do the left hand in the same way. Then two soldiers on each side would grab the two ends of the cross beam and on the signal, raise it up and place it into the notch of the upright post. When that crossbeam was set firmly, the executioner would reach up and set the sign that described the crime this person had committed. This was very important to the Romans because they wanted to discourage others from rebelling against Rome. 

Then the executioner would kneel before the cross and take the right foot of the criminal and place it over the left foot, bending it slightly upwards and nail the feet to the cross.  Remember, Romans were experts at this. They had devised a means to know the exact angle at which to put the feet so the prisoner could live the longest possible time so they could endure the greatest possible agony as an example to the watching world of why not to commit this crime. 

As Jesus’ feet were nailed on the cross, we become aware of two sources of pain. First, the pain in His shoulders, His arms, and His forearms of being in a “V” position. If you tried to do this for any length of time your arms would begin to cramp. This pain would begin to be greater than the pain of the nails that were in His hands and in His feet. Then the pain of the pectoral muscles – the muscles in His chest – beginning to constrict so He could breathe in but not breathe out.

John was there. He was an eyewitness. He saw what they did to Jesus Christ. But there is something that John (and other eyewitnesses) did not see. Something, however, that Jesus did see. Max Lucado shares this insight as the soldiers were nailing Jesus’ arms to the crossbeam. “Jesus turns his face toward the nail just as the soldier lifts the hammer to strike it….

“Couldn’t Jesus have stopped him? With a flex of the biceps, with a clench of the fist, he could have resisted. Is this not the same hand that stilled the sea? Cleansed the Temple? Summoned the dead?

“But the fist doesn’t clench… and the moment isn’t aborted. The mallet rings and skin rips and the blood begins to drip, then rush. Then the questions follow. Why? Why didn’t Jesus resist?

“’Because he loved us,’ we reply. That is true, wonderfully true, but – forgive me – only partially true. There is more to his reason. He saw something that made him stay. As the soldier pressed his arm, Jesus rolled his head to the side, and with his cheek resting on the wood he saw … between his hand and the wood there was a list. A long list. A list of our mistakes: our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins.8

The Bible tells us, 13 God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14 NIV).

Lucado continues, “The list God has made, however, cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by his hand; those down the list are covered by his blood. Your sins are ‘blotted out’ by Jesus (KJV)…

“This is why he refused to close his fist. He saw the list! What kept him from resisting? This warrant, this tabulation of your failures. He knew the price of those sins was death. He knew the source of those sins was you, and since he couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without you, he chose the nails.” 9

Out of love for you and me, Jesus chose the nails that not only attached Him to that wooden crossbeam, but also the list of all our sins. The word “canceled” (eksaleíphō) in Colossians 2:14, was a technical term in the apostle Paul’s day when he penned this. It refers to washing a piece of parchment clean for reuse. 10  Not only was the parchment clean enough to be written on again, it showed no evidence of ever having been written on in the first place.

Jesus’ blood washed away any record of our past, present, or future sins and charges against us. This is called positional forgiveness which we receive the moment we believe in Jesus for it (Acts 10:43). That is why the cross of Christ is the total expression of God’s grace. It is through the cross that “Jesus destroyed the foundation of Satan’s strategies… 11  Satan’s methodology is one of accusation, always to increase our sense of shame which increases his control over us.” 12

The truth is, no one can successfully accuse us of wrongdoing in God’s courtroom because Jesus Christ finished paying our sin debt in full when He died in our place on that cross (John 19:30; Romans 8:31-34). When we believe in Jesus, God justifies us or declared us totally righteous in His courtroom (Romans 8:33). If God pronounced that we are not guilty, then no one – not the devil, an ex-spouse, or an unforgiving boss – can reverse His verdict. No one can successfully accuse any Christian of wrongdoing in God’s courtroom because God does not even accuse us. He justifies us the moment we believe in Jesus alone (Romans 3:28, 30; 4:5; 5:1). This is what sets us free from the shame Satan wants to control us with.

As you read this, you may be thinking, “But you don’t know how badly I have sinned or how often I have sinned.” You are correct, but Jesus Christ does. Before Jesus hung on that cross, all of your sins were yet future. At the cross, God took every sin that you would ever commit and placed them all on Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus paid the penalty for all of your sins so you could be totally forgiven the moment you believed in Christ. Forgiveness means God has removed the barrier of all your sins so you can now enjoy closeness with God.

What this means is that you can never lose your relationship with your heavenly Father. Just as you are born into your earthly family and can never cease to be your parents’ child no matter what you do, so too, when you are born into God’s family through faith in Jesus alone (John 1:12), you can never cease to be His child no matter how you live. You can sin as God’s child without ever ceasing to be His child. But your sin will break that closeness with God just as disobeying your parents breaks your closeness with them. When you sin (and we all do), you must daily confess your sins in order to maintain fellowship or closeness with Christ (I John 1:9).

Knowing that all of your sins are positionally forgiven “in Christ” is essential for experiencing victory over the devil and the world (I John 2:12-14). A good soldier cannot do his best with the fear that a mistake or two would take him off the front lines. Satan tries to get believers to focus on their past sins or worry about their future sins to weaken them when facing the world’s temptations. By focusing on Christ’s complete positional forgiveness, a believer is able to focus on knowing Christ more intimately by abiding in His Word and experiencing victory over the devil and the world (I John 2:12-14).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, there is no greater expression of Your grace than the cross. When you spread your arms out on that crossbeam, You were showing the world how wide Your love truly is (John 3:16). It is wide enough for the worst of sinners and the best of sinners to be totally forgiven forever. Your love is wide enough for the whole world which includes every one of us. Sadly, others may exclude us but You never will if we come to You on Your terms (John 6:37). Thank You for demonstrating how much You loved us when You stretched one hand to the right and the other to the left and permitted the soldiers to nail them in that position so we would know that You died loving us. Thank You for canceling the list of all our sins which was between Your hands and the wooden crossbeam through the shedding of Your blood. Please use us now to proclaim Your forgiving love and grace to a lost and dying world. In Your matchless name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 690.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 345; Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 351, cited Darrell L. Bock, Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House; and Leicester, England: Apollos, 2002), pg. 535.

3. Tom Holladay’s July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”

4. Tom Constable, Notes on John, pg. 351.

5. 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. 559; cf. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 690.

6. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s discussion in his July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”

7. Ibid.

8. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pp. 33-34.

9. Ibid., pg. 34.

10. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. IV (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 494.  

11. Ted Roberts, Seven Pillars of Freedom Workbook (Gresham, OR: Pure Desire Ministries International, 2014), pg. 72.

12. Ted Roberts, Pure Desire (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), pg. 83.

How will you respond to Christ crucified? Part 4

2 And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. 3 Then they said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they struck Him with their hands.” John 19:2-3

The Bible tells us, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18). The cross of Christ does not make sense to the unbeliever.

“What would you think if a woman came to work wearing earrings stamped with an image of the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima?

“What would you think of a church building adorned with a fresco of the massed graves at Auschwitz? . . .

“The same sort of shocking horror was associated with the cross and crucifixion in the first century.” 1

We are learning from John 18:28-19:3 how various people respond to Christ crucified. Some of us are…

– Like the Jewish leaders, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because of our self-righteous religious pride (John 18:28-32).

– Like Pilate, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because we are too busy with life to truly live (John 18:33-38a).

Similar to Barabbas, we believe in Jesus’ death for our freedom (John 18:38b-40).

There is a fourth possible response to Christ crucified and it is seen at the beginning of John 19. LIKE THE ROMAN SOLDIERS, WE MAY REFUSE TO BELIEVE IN JESUS BECAUSE WE ARE NOT CONCERNED ABOUT ETERNAL THINGS (John 19:1-3). Although the Jewish leaders sought the death penalty for Jesus (John 18:31), Pilate recognized Jesus had done nothing deserving of execution (John 18:38). In Chapter 19, John continues the account of Jesus’ trial before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Pilate wanted to release Jesus but he did not want to offend the Jewish leaders who were determined to put Jesus to death. The trial of Jesus before Pilate was rapidly reaching a crisis that Pilate wanted to avoid. In an effort to satisfy the Jews, Pilate ordered that Jesus be flogged. “So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.” (John 19:1).

Pilate may have done this thinking that once the Jews saw Jesus in such a beaten state, they would ask for His release. But what is a scourging? Is it merely a beating with a whip? To make such an association is like comparing an electric shock to a lightning bolt.

“Scourging was a standard preliminary to a Roman execution. Only women, Roman senators, or soldiers (except in cases of execution) were exempt. The victim was stripped, bound to a post, and then beaten with a short whip, or flagellum, made of braided leather thongs to which were attached small iron balls and sharp pieces of bone. Jewish law limited scourging to thirty-nine strokes (M. Makkoth 3:10). Because this was a preliminary to execution, care was taken not to kill the victim. Yet suffering under the scourge was intense. Josephus tells of a man whose bones were laid bare by scourging (Jewish Wars 6.303-4). Eusebius reports of how veins, arteries, entrails, and organs were exposed to sight by the scourge (Historia Ecclesiastica 4:15).” 2

The scourging should have satisfied the bloodthirsty mob, but it only incited them to greater demands. “And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe.” (John 19:2). The soldiers decided to enjoy a few laughs at Jesus’ expense. Because He claimed to be King of the Jews (John 18:33-37), they decided to mock Him. They “twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head.” These thorns remind us of “the curse of thorns caused by human sin” 3 (Genesis 3:18). Christ would bear this curse as He hung on the cross.

The soldiers also placed a “purple robe,” normally worn by military officers or men of high rank, on Jesus. “Then they said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they struck Him with their hands.” (John 19:3). They mocked Jesus as they greeted Him with the words, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they became physically abusive and struck Jesus with their hands. Matthew and Mark also report that they hit Jesus on the head with a stick and knelt before Him and spat on Him (cf. Matthew 27:30; Mark 15:19). Though Pilate and the soldiers no doubt thought they were merely exercising the might of Rome over a simple Jew, they were actually fulfilling biblical prophecy about the Messiah in detail” 4 (cf. Isaiah 50:6; 53:5).

While this mistreatment of Jesus is repulsive to us, we have also observed similar experiences in the news where prisoners in America are brutally treated by law enforcement officers or prison guards. But before we condemn them, we need to ask ourselves what we would do if we were in a similar situation. For example, if someone had killed our co-workers, would we want to avenge their deaths? Or if someone sought to kill us, would we be all calm and collected or would we want to retaliate?

These Roman soldiers did not deliberately reject Jesus like the Jewish leaders did. They probably were not familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures that pointed to Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel. Like a lot of people today, they were not religious. Their job required them to scourge and crucify prisoners often. Perhaps they were simply having fun to decrease the monotony of their profession. Or maybe they were trying to distance themselves from the human suffering they were causing to their prisoners much like a doctor or nurse that works in an emergency room dealing with constant trauma. They must distance themselves emotionally from those for whom they provide medical care.

Perhaps you can identify with Roman soldiers who were not interested in eternal matters, but who were simply living for their jobs and trying to have some fun at the same time. It is important to understand “that the issue is not, ‘Is there a hereafter?’ The real issue is, ‘Is Jesus Christ the One He said He was?’ Why? Because Jesus Christ is the One who spoke more about heaven and hell than any other man in the Bible.

“He spoke about heaven when He said, ‘Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also’ (John 14:1-3). He spoke about hell when He said, ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell’ (Matthew 10:28).” 6

So if you do not believe there is a hereafter, please realize that Jesus Christ believed there was a hereafter and the Bible explains that Jesus is “the way” to that hereafter (John 10:9; 14:6; Acts 4:12). But if Jesus Christ was not who He said He was, what He taught about the hereafter does not matter.

“Once again, we are brought face to face with the resurrection – the one thing on which Christianity stands or falls. The challenge anyone faces, therefore, who denies there is a herafter is the challenge of disproving the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Only if the resurrection is disproved can the teachings of Christ about the hereafter be ignored.” 7

But the resurrection of Christ is the most attested fact of history. A former persecutor of Christianity writes in the Bible, 3 That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once.” (I Corinthians 15:3-6). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses. This is more than enough evidence to stand up in a court of law.

Just as history proclaims that George Washington was the first President of the USA, so history proclaims that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. Just ask former atheists, Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel, who set out to disprove the resurrection of Christ only to be persuaded by the historical evidence that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. You can check out the evidence that persuaded them to believe in Jesus in their books (McDowell – The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict 1999/The Resurrection Factor 1981; Strobel – The Case for Easter Revised 2013).

You may not care about the hereafter because you do not view heaven as a very exciting place. For example, George Bernard Shaw, once explained, “Heaven as conventionally conceived, is a place so inane, so dull, so useless, and so miserable that nobody has ever ventured to describe a whole day in heaven, though plenty of people have described a day at the seashore.” (~ Harlan D. Betz, Setting the Stage for Eternity) 8

Don’t go by your perception of heaven. Go by the explanation the Bible gives. 1 Then I saw a new earth (with no oceans!) and a new sky, for the present earth and sky had disappeared. 2 And I, John, saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven. It was a glorious sight, beautiful as a bride at her wedding. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, ‘Look, the home of God is now among men, and He will live with them and they will be His people; yes, God Himself will be among them. 4 He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever. 5 And the One sitting on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new!’ And then He said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true: 6 It is finished! I am the A and the Z—the Beginning and the End. I will give to the thirsty the springs of the Water of Life—as a gift!” (Revelation 21:1-6 TLB).

Every molecule, atom, proton, and neutron in existence today will disintegrate only to be replaced by a glorious new creation… The idea that God will make everything new may seem too spectacular to be true, but He says this promise is indeed faithful and true (21:5). His people will experience complete satisfaction in the new creation, symbolized here by the metaphor of thirst being quenched from the spring of the water of life (21:6). The refreshing satisfaction of downing a cold glass of water when you’re parched is nothing compared to the spectacular satisfaction to come.” 9

Would you like to live forever in a perfect, problem-free place called heaven? If so, understand that Jesus Christ is the only way to get there (John 10:9; 14:6). You may ask, “Why?” Because only Jesus Christ has paid the price of admission into His heaven when He died in our place on a cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30).

You may ask, “Why did Jesus have to die for me?” Because the Bible tells us that our sin – the wrong things we do, say and think – separate us from God (Romans 3:23; 6:23). In fact, if we were to pay the price for our own sin, we would spend eternity in a terrible place called the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). But Jesus loved us so much that He took our place and punishment on the cross, was buried, and then rose again (Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3-6).

The Lord Jesus now invites you to trust in Him alone for His gift of eternal life. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). This requires faith and humility on your part. Faith to believe that God really loves you and will give you eternal life, and humility to admit that He is God and you are not.

As a drowning person must trust a lifeguard to save them through no effort of their own, so you must place your trust in a Person – Jesus Christ – as your only way to heaven. The good things you have done will not get you to heaven. Only Jesus can save you from your sins. The moment you place your trust in Him for eternal life, you can be certain that you will live with Jesus forever in His glorious heaven.

Prayer: God, some of us reading this today may have thought that this life on earth is all there is. Like the Roman soldiers, we may not have cared about Jesus Christ or the hereafter. We were more interested in living for our jobs and having a good time. But now we are beginning to wonder if that is the best way to approach life on earth. What if this person called Jesus of Nazareth really did claim to be God? What if it is true that He loves me and died in my place on a cross and rose from the dead, proving that He really is God? What if He is preparing an incredible place for those who believe in Him to live with Him for all of eternity? Do I really want to risk missing out on all of that? As best I know how, God, I am asking You to show me if Jesus Christ is the real deal? Thank You.

To learn more about Jesus, please explore this website or www.knowing-Jesus.com.

ENDNOTES:

1. Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: New International Commentary on the New Testament series, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), pg. 68.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 337-338; cf. William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel, Floyd E. Hosmer, “On the Physical Death of Jesus,” The Journal of the Amerian Medical Association 255 (March 21, 1986): 1457.

3. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. pg. 688.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1821.

5. Adapted from Steve J. Cole’s message on June 7, 2015 entitled, “Lesson 95: What Will You Do With Jesus? (John 18:28-19:16)” at www.Bible.org.

6. EvanTell’s The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2014), pg. 1108.

7. Ibid.

8. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publication, 2012), pg. 304.

9. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pp. 2420-2421.