I John 3 – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

2. Ibid., pg. 856.

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

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

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

6. Anderson, pp. 137-138.

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

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

9. Anderson, pg. 138.

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

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

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

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

16. Anderson, pp. 138-139.

17. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 139.

I John 2 – Part 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

1. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3686.

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

3. Ibid.

4. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 749.

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

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

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

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

9. Bauer, pp. 630-631.

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

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

12. Ibid.

13. Bauer, pg. 622.

14. Ibid., pg. 905.

15. Anderson, pp. 103-104.

I John 2 – Part 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

2. Ibid.

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

4. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 457.

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

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

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

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

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

10. Bauer, pg. 444.

11. Ibid., pg. 673.

Overcoming the Fear of Death

14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2:14-15

We are living in a world that is becoming more fragile due to COVID, the war between Russia and Ukraine, terrorism, and cancer to name a few reasons. These factors (and others) are causing more people to think about death.

Often death takes place much sooner than most people anticipate whether it is due to an accident, a mass murderer, or a terminal illness. As tragic as these things are, death and dying are not God’s idea. The Bible tells us that “the devil… had the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14b) because he tempts people to sin, and sin brings forth death (Genesis 3:1-19; Romans 5:12; James 1:15). 1

For many people the greatest fear they have is the “fear of death.” Satan uses this fear to reduce people to slaves (“subject to bondage”). Because of the fear of death, some people exercise vigorously every day while others do not exercise at all. Because of the fear of death some people will never get on an airplane. Because of the fear of death some people never want to see a doctor. But for others, a doctor is the first person they do want to visit. Some people are so afraid of death they must make light of it to avoid crying about it. Many people spend a fortune trying to make themselves look younger because they are terrified of dying. The fear of death reduces us to slaves. 2

The good news is that Jesus Christ became like us (“inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same”) so He could conquer death with His own death on the cross. Christ took the punishment we deserved for our sins (death) and died in our place. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead victorious over death so “He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” “Through” His “death,” Jesus conquered death to “release” people who believe in Him from the “fear of death.”

Christ promised, “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26). Jesus guarantees a person who believes in Him that “though he may die” physically, “he shall live” eternally with Him. Yes, our breath stops, and our bodies become cold. But the Bible promises that “to be absent from the body” is “to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Therefore, all who believe in Christ never need to be afraid of death because He promises “never” ending life to them. The moment we die we are in the presence of the Lord.

Evangelist Larry Moyer writes, “I found out that the pilot of the plane that was flown into the second tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, was a believer in Jesus Christ. I am here to tell you; the terrorists did not defeat him. He defeated the terrorists. Because he did not go down, he went up.” 3

If you had died in that plane crash, would you have gone down or up? You can know for sure you will go up by believing in Christ alone to take you to heaven when you die. Jesus is not asking you to be baptized, go to church, live a good life, keep the Ten Commandments, take all the sacraments, or pray everyday. He is simply asking you to believe in Him for His gift of everlasting life. The moment you do, you can see death as a new adventure rather than your greatest fear.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for becoming human like us so You could defeat the devil and his power of death through Your own death so those who believe in You can be released from the fear of death. Please lead us to those who are afraid to die so we can share the good news of Your never-ending life to all who believe in You and You alone. Thank You for the simplicity of the gospel that delivers people from their greatest fear. In Your matchless name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Dr. Larry Moyer’s sermon, “Four Things A Loving God Wants Us To Know About Death and Dying,” contributed on August 5, 2009, at sermoncentral.com.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

Revelation 21 – Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

4. Dillow, pg. 676.

5. Bauer, pg. 673.

6. Dillow, pp. 677, 1058.

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

8. Dillow, pg. 677.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1584.

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

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

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

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

Revelation 19 – Part 5

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

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

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

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

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

“Crown Him with many crowns,

The Lamb upon His throne:

Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns

All music but its own!

Awake, my soul, and sing

Of Him who died for thee,

And hail Him as thy matchless King

Thro’ all eternity.” 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

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

5. Constable, pg. 210.

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

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

8. Evans, pg. 2415.

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

10. Vacendak, pp. 1574-1575.

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

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

13. Swindoll, pg. 343.

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

15. Evans, pg. 2415.

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

17. Constable, pg. 211.

18. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

19. Swindoll, pg. 344.

20. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

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

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

23. Ibid., pp. 333-334.

24. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

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

28. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 903.

29. Constable, pg. 212.

30. Vacendak, pg. 1575.

31. Ibid., pg. 1576.

32. Swindoll, pg. 345.

33. Evans, pp. 2415-2416.

Revelation 19 – Part 3

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7

Following the first three outbursts of praise toward God in heaven for the destruction of Rome (19:1-4; cf. 18:1-24), the apostle John recorded a fourth outburst of praise for the coming rule of God on the earth (19:5-6) and the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:7-10). Last time we looked at the first part of this praise involving the coming reign of God on the earth. Today we will focus on the marriage supper of the Lamb.

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7). The fourth song of praise continues with the command to “be glad and rejoice and give” God “glory for the marriage of the Lamb has come” when Christ will escort His bride, the church (Revelation 3:14, 20; 21:2, 9; 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-32), to earth for their marriage celebration which will last one thousand years on the earth during the Millennial Kingdom (19:7a; 20:1-6; cf. Isaiah 25:6-9; 35:1-10; 55:12). 1

The reference to the Lamb’s “wife” is the third metaphor in Revelation that describes women: the “woman” in Revelation 12 is Israel (12:1-6), the “harlot” in Revelation 17-18 is “Babylon,” the code name for the city of Rome (cf. I Peter 5:13), and now the “wife” or “bride” of the Lamb in Revelation 19 is the church. 2

The nation of Israel cannot be Christ’s bride because this bride comes to earth with Christ when He returns to the earth, and because Old Testament believers will not experience resurrection until after Christ returns to the earth (cf. Daniel 12:1-2). 3

We can understand the general time and place of the marriage supper of the Lamb by comparing it with marriage customs in the ancient Near East. In the Galilean culture of Jesus’ day, the first stage of wedding customs involved the groom going to the bride’s house to present a wedding contract to the bride. When he proposed marriage, he would offer her a cup of wine. If she drank it, she was accepting the betrothal.

This betrothal stage takes place during the Church Age, when the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, came to the world to offer His gift of salvation to all who believe in Him. The Church Age began at Pentecost when God the Holy Spirit indwelt those who believed in Christ and placed them in His body the church (Acts 2:1-11; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27).

The second stage of marriage customs in Jesus’ day involved the groom informing his bride that he was to go to his father’s house to prepare a place for her. Likewise, this is what Jesus told His disciples He would do when He said, 2 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.” (John 14:2). Since ascending to heaven after His death and resurrection nearly two thousand years ago (Acts 1:9-11), Jesus has been preparing our eternal mansions in His Father’s house in heaven.

In Jesus’ day, when the the bride accepted the groom’s wedding proposal, she would typically respond, “When are you coming back?” The prospective groom would reply by saying, “Only my father knows!” The groom then returns to his father’s house to prepare for his marriage by adding a room to his father’s house where he and his bride will live. In Galilean culture, his father determines the exact time when his son returns to his bride’s house to bring her back to his own. When the groom returns for his bride to take her to his father’s house, the wedding takes place. 4

Similarly, when Jesus said, “3 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 14:3). When God the Father determines that it is time for Jesus to return for His bride, Christ will come for His church in the air (I Thessalonians 4:16-17). This is why Jesus said only His heavenly Father knows “that day and hour” of His return for His bride, the Church, at the time of the Rapture (Matthew 24:37; Mark 13:32). Just as the bride did not know when her groom would return, so Christians do not know when the Rapture will take place. 5

It is at this stage when the marriage of the church to Jesus takes place. At this time in heaven Christ will present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). No longer will the church be tainted with conflict, division, or false teaching. 6

The third event of Galilean wedding customs in Jesus’ day involved the groom providing a feast or banquet for his bride and friends, at his home, to celebrate their wedding. Typically, this lasted several days. 7

The spiritual wedding celebration of Jesus and the church will last one thousand years on the earth after the Tribulation period. 8 This will be an incredible period of tremendous blessings and fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel (Psalm 2:6-9; 72:10-11; Isaiah 2:3-4; 11:6-9; 25:6-9; 35:1-10; 55:12; 65:20-22; Ezekiel 40-46; Zechariah 14:3-9; Matthew 19:27-28; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; et al.).

We also see in this fourth song of praise in heaven that the Lamb’s “wife has made herself ready” (19:7c). Christ’s “wife” or bride, the church, “has made herself ready” for her Bridegroom and their marriage supper by being obedient to Christ “until the end” (cf. Revelation 2:26).

“And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Revelation 19:8). “It was granted” to the Lamb’s wife, the church, “to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” The “fine linen” the bride will wear (the glory and splendor she will exhibit) “is the righteous acts of the saints.” This fine linen cannot represent salvation because it represents “the righteous acts of the saints.” Salvation from hell is “by grace through faith… not of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9; cf. Romans 4:5). Notice also this is the attire of “the saints” – people who have already believed in Jesus for eternal life (cf. I Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1). 9 So, their righteous acts follow their conversion.

Keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Himself will be clothed in dazzling white garments that will outshine all others. His glory will be supreme. 

“When at the Mount of Transfiguration, He appeared in His glory, ‘His clothes became as white as the light’ (Matthew 17:2). Special clothing is not insignificant, because it honors a person. The more glorious the garments, the more honor to the wearer.

“Like the sun, the Lord’s garments will have maximum radiance. The garments of great servants like Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Deborah, Esther, and Mary will surely glow brightly. But theirs will be reflected glory, like the glory of the moon that reflects the glory of the sun.

“Would you not want to be identified as closely as possible with the Lord Jesus and glorify Him, even in your clothing? The quality of your eternal garments will be determined by what you do in this life. Once this life is over, it will be too late to influence your worthiness to walk with Christ in white.” 10

Since the clothing of the bride is the “righteous acts of the saints,” this suggests that not all believers will have the same degree of glory or splendor exhibited in their garments because not all believers have the same quality or number of righteous acts. There will be varying degrees of rewards and responsibilities in Christ’s kingdom because there will be varying degrees of preparation made by believers during this life on earth.

“Then he said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!”’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’” (Revelation 19:9). The same angel who had guided the apostle John in writing about Babylon (17:1, 15) instructed him to “write” some encouraging words to his readers: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!”  The word “called” (keklēmenoi) means to “invite.” 11 This Greek word and its derivatives are used often in the New Testament as an invitation to participate in the rewards and glory of the kingdom of Christ (cf. Matthew 20:16; 22:1-14; Luke 19:11-27; I Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15; I Peter 5:10; et al.).

What a blessing it is to be invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb! Every person must prepare and make oneself ready. However, not all believers in Jesus will be able to participate in this great privilege. While every person who believes in Jesus for eternal life will be able to enter Christ’s kingdom (John 3:5-16; cf. Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17), only those who remain faithful to the end of their lives will be allowed to participate in the marriage celebration of the Lamb. 12 Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14; cf. Matthew 8:11-12). Many are “called” or invited to this marriage celebration, but only those who have prepared will be “chosen” to participate. 13 “Few” will be “chosen” to join Jesus in this celebration because they will have failed to remain faithful to Christ “until the end” (cf. Revelation 2:26). 14 They will lack the “righteous acts” needed to be part of the marriage banquet (Revelation 19:8). 15

“The marriage feast of the Lamb destroys the common caricature of heaven as a place where each believer simply sits on a cloud playing a harp. During this thousand-year party, believers’ rewards and responsibilities will be determined by their levels of faithfulness to Christ on earth. Jesus will ensure the complete absence of disorder and discord.” 16

The importance of the invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb is underscored when the angel said to John, “These are the true sayings of God” (19:9b). John is so overwhelmed by the four great outbursts of praise and the invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:1-9), that he falls at the angel’s feet. “And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’” (Revelation 19:10). Being so impressed with this new vision, John falls at the angel’s “feet to worship him.” Immediately the angel corrects John: “See that you do not do that!” The worship of angels is forbidden in God’s Word (cf. Exodus 34:14; Matthew 4:10; Colossians 2:18). No matter how glorious an angel is or exalted a saint is – for that matter – they are never to be worshiped.

The angel reminds John, “I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!” Angels, like humans, can only bear witness to “the testimony of Jesus.” 17 They are messengers, not God. God alone is to be worshiped. Only the true God in three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – deserves our adoration and worship. 18

The angel points John (and us) back to the focal point of the book of Revelation when he says, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” All prophecy has always pointed ultimately to “Jesus.” The first ten verses of Revelation 19 are a very appropriate introduction to what is about to be revealed, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is the subject of the entire book of Revelation (1:1). 19

As I finish up this article, my stomach reminds me that it is time for supper. Revelation 19:7-10 also reminds us of the marriage supper of the Lamb to be served in the future. All people have been invited (“called”) to this celebration. But to be “chosen” to participate in this fantastic thousand-year party, we must meet two conditions:

First, we must be able to enter Christ’s kingdom by believing in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life. Why? Because all people have sinned against God (Romans 3:23) and deserve to die forever in the lake of fire (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15). But God does not want any of us to die forever in the lake of fire, so He sent His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ to die in our place for all our sins and rise from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus is alive today in heaven, and He wants you to be able to enter His future kingdom on earth by believing in Him.

Jesus said, 5 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6). To enter God’s kingdom, we must have two birthdays: our physical birth (“born of water… flesh”) and our spiritual birth (“born of … the Spirit”). To be born of the Spirit we must realize that Jesus Christ was “lifted up” on the cross to die in our place so “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14b-15). The moment we believe in Christ, He guarantees our entrance into His kingdom on earth at the end of the Tribulation period.

Second, to attend the marriage supper of the Lamb, we must live faithfully for Jesus after believing in Him for eternal life.While all believers are called or invited to prepare for the wedding supper with Jesus to share in rewards and the glory of Christ’s kingdom, only those believers who prepared by being obedient to Jesus until the end of life on earth will be able to participate (Revelation 2:25-27; 3:5; 19:7-9; cf. Matthew 8:11-12; 22:1-14). All believers will enter and live with Christ in His eternal Kingdom through faith in Him alone (Matthew 18:3; John 3:5; 16), but only faithful believers will be able to enjoy ruling with Him there (Luke 19:11-27; Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for loving us enough to share this invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb. What a fabulous thousand-year celebration this will be on the earth. Empower those of us who who believe in Jesus to remain faithful to You until the end of our lives so we may receive Your eternal rewards of ruling with You in Your coming kingdom on earth. Please use us to spread Your message of eternal life to those who are perishing without You. In Your matchless name, we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1572; Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 207 cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 5 (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), pg. 1048; Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2414.

2. Constable, pg. 205.

3. Ibid., pg. 206.

4. Evans, pg. 2414.

5. Constable, pg. 206.

6. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 331.

7. Constable, pg. 206; 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 6232-6237.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1572; Evans, pg. 2414.

9. Vacendak, pp. 1572-1573.

10. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 46.

11. 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. 503.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1573.

13. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 796.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1573.

15. Dillow, pg. 796.

16. Evans, pg. 2414.

17. Constable, pg. 208.

18. Swindoll, pg. 331.

19. Walvoord, location 6252.

Revelation 15 – Part 2

“They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the nations!’” Revelation 15:3

Last time in our study of Revelation 15, the apostle John saw believers who were martyred during the last half of the Tribulation (cf. 6:9-10; 8:3-5; 14:18) standing victoriously on a sea of glass with harps of God in their hands ready to praise the Lord (15:1-2)! The crystal-like “sea of glass” before the throne pictures the purity of God and the complete calmness of His throne room in heaven before His judgments resumed on earth. While the “nations rage” (Psalm 2:1) on earth against the rule of God like a “troubled sea” (Isaiah 57:20), all is calm before God’s throne in heaven. In the next verses we see what these martyred believers do in heaven and why.

“They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the nations!’” (Revelation 15:3). These victorious believers are singing two songs. The first is “the song of Moses, the servant of God” which exaltsGod’s “works” in judging His (and their) enemies who hate Him and His people (15:3a).

“Just as Moses sang in triumph after Israel’s Egyptian enemies had been swallowed up by the Red Sea (see Exodus 15:1-18), followers of Christ from the Tribulation will sing at the prospect of Satan, the Antichrist, and the false prophet being overwhelmed with judgment. This song will be even more glorious than that of Moses, though, because the judgment will be carried out by the Lamb of God. Jesus was active in Moses’s day, following Israel through the wilderness (see I Corinthians 10:1-4). But He was not yet openly identified as the incarnate Messiah and Redeemer, as He is here.” 1

The second song is “the song of the Lamb” which seems to be a new song not recorded elsewhere in the Bible. The words to this song are what follows: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the nations!” (15:3b). The Lamb is “great and marvelous” in His “works” when He will judge His enemies at the end of the Tribulation period (Revelation 14:17-20; 19:11-21). Notice that the Lamb is called “Lord God Almighty.” Jesus is not merely a human prophet or good moral teacher. He is “Lord God Almighty.” He is also perfectly “just and true” in judging those who hate Him because He patiently gave them ample light (John 1:9) and witness of Himself 2 both indirectly through the things He has made (cf. Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-23) and directly through the Bible (Psalm 19:7-14).

“Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.” (Revelation 15:4). Although not all people will believe in Jesus during their time on earth, one day all people will “fear” and “glorify” His “name” (cf. Philippians 2:9-11), concluding that He “alone” is “holy” (15:4a). It is possible this occurs during or after the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). 3

After the Battle of Armageddon (14:17-20; 16:12-16; 19:15-21) when Christ will reign for a thousand years on the earth (Revelation 20:1-6), “nations shall come and worship before” King Jesus in Jerusalem (Psalm 2:6-9; 24:1-10; 66:1-4; 72:8-11; 86:9; Isaiah 2:2-4; 9:6-7; 66:18-23; Jeremiah 10:7; Daniel 7:13-14; Zephaniah 2:11; Zechariah 14:9, 16-21) because He dealt authoritatively with the worldwide rebellion of humanity through His “judgments” (15:4b). 4

Revelation 15:3-4 underlines a profound truth about worship. It does not matter if the songs are old (“song of Moses”) or new (“song of the Lamb”), the purpose of worship is to “glorify” God for His awesome Person (“Lord God Almighty”) and His “great and marvelous… works.” 5

The relationship between these two songs in Revelation 15:3-4 is vividly summarized by one commentator: “The song of Moses was sung at the Red Sea, the song of the Lamb is sung at the crystal sea; the song of Moses was a song of triumph over Egypt, the song of the Lamb is a song of triumph over Babylon; the song of Moses told how God brought His people out, the song of the Lamb tells how God brings His people in; the song of Moses was the first song in Scripture, the song of the Lamb is the last. The song of Moses commemorated the execution of a foe, the expectation of the saints, and the exaltation of the Lord; the song of the Lamb deals with the same three themes.” 6

I find it intriguing that these martyred believers from the Tribulation period who are now in heaven, enter into worship prior to the most devastating judgments of God on the earth. To those who were on the earth at the time these believers were martyred, to them it would have seemed that these believers lost to the Beast. But in heaven, these martyrs are celebrating a victory.

This reminds us that things are not always what they appear in God’s plan of redemption. What seems like a defeat is really a victory. God works in different ways than people do. Things are not always what they appear to be. The Beast thought he had permanently defeated his enemies, but they were celebrating the Beast’s upcoming defeat in heaven.

These martyred believers in heaven were also about to witness the entire history of the world coming to a climax in the upcoming bowl judgments about to take place on the earth. They are about to see the glory of God displayed like never before. The plans they once had on the earth no longer mattered in heaven. Their self-importance melts into God-centered worship. And this worship flows from the Person and work of God. This tells us that the more we know the Lord and His ways, the more profound our love for Him will be. We cannot fully worship the Lord until we know Him more fully.

In conclusion, because God is just and right in all that He does, including His most severe and devastating judgments, He deserves all our praise and admiration whether we understand His ways or not (15:3-4; cf. Isaiah 55:8-9). God’s ways are not our ways. None of us will question His judgments when we see them from heaven’s perspective.

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, teach us to worship You for who You are and what You do. Too often our worship of You fades into a preoccupation with our own needs and concerns. Help us to be still in Your presence, not asking for anything, just focusing on Your majesty and awe-inspiring works. You are just and right in all that You do even though we may not understand Your ways. Therefore, we can always trust You with everything. Thank You for reminding us that things are not always what they appear. People on earth may see martyrdom as a defeat, but in heaven it is celebrated as a victory. The world sees Christ’s death as a humiliating loss, but those of us who believe in Christ see it as an everlasting triumph over sin, death, and the devil. Thank You Lord God Almighty for leading us into Your triumph. In Your most powerful name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2405.  

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. 1556.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 284.

6. Ibid., pg. 284 cites John Phillips, Exploring Revelation, rev. id. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987), pg. 187.

Revelation 15 – Part 1

“And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image, and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.” Revelation 15:2

After receiving revelation about Satan’s forces of evil (Revelation 13) and what happens to those who do not receive the mark of the Beast (Revelation 14:1-5) and to those who do (Revelation 14:6-20), the apostle John records what he sees next before God’s throne in heaven to heighten our anticipation of the coming bowl judgments near the end of the Tribulation period (Revelation 15:1-16:1).

“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.” (Revelation 15:1). The words “I saw” (kai eidon)introduce a new scene in heaven. 1 John “saw another sign in heaven” that was “great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues or bowl judgments which will bring about the completion of God’s “wrath” at the end of the Tribulation period.The previous signs were “the woman” and “the dragon” (Revelation 12:1, 3). This sign is “great and marvelous” because it signifies the climax of the outpouring of God’s wrath on nature, humankind, the dragon, and the two beasts. 2

The sign itself involved “seven angels” who are the agents of God’s bowl judgments on the earth. 3 The word “plagues” (plēgas) refers to a “sudden calamity that causes severe distress.” 4 Literally, it means a “sudden blow” or “wound caused by a sudden blow.” 5 These bowl judgments are not some long, drawn out pandemic like COVID or HIV. Instead, these plagues come with sudden impact that are quick, destructive, severe, and brutal. 6 Humanity will be nearly exterminated, and people will become more rare than fine gold during these bowl judgments (Isaiah 13:12). 7

When John says, “in them the wrath of God is complete,” he is saying the execution of God’s judgments on the earth will be “complete” or finished. That is, there will be no more judgment to be poured out on earth during the Tribulation. 8 These severe bowl judgments will avenge the slaughter that the Beast and False Prophet inflicted upon believers during the last half of the Tribulation period. 9 God’s final judgment of the wicked will not take place until the end of Millennial Kingdom a thousand years later when all nonbelievers will stand before the Great White Throne to be “judged according to their works” to determine their degree of punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

Amid God’s severe judgments on the earth, we are also given a picture of His amazing grace and victory. “And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image, and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.” (Revelation 15:2). Like Revelation 4:6 where “a sea of glass” is surrounding the throne of God in heaven, John sees “something like a sea of glass mingled with fire” (15:2a). Like in 4:6, “the sea of glass” here depicts the holiness of the verdicts coming forth from God’s throne. But now the crystal sea is “mingled with fire,” signifying God’s passionate wrath that is about to be expressed through the horrific bowl judgments. 10

John sees “those who have the victory over the beast, over his image, and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God” (15:2b). Who are these persons standing on the sea of glass? These are the believers who were martyred during the last half of the Tribulation period (cf. 6:9-10; 8:3-5; 14:18). They are depicted here as victorious over three intense pressures designed to lead them to reject Jesus Christ: 11

“over the beast” which signifies the first beast’s political pressure expressed through his charismatic military expertise that persuaded people to give their allegiance to him.

“over his image” which depicts the second beast’s religious pressure exhibited through his deceptive display of supernatural power through the statue (“image”) of the first beast.

“over the number of his name” which portrays the economic pressure when the first beast’s number was required to buy or sell during the last half of the Tribulation period.

Believers in Jesus may experience similar pressures today. Satan, “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Ephesians 2:2), can use political pressure to discourage Christians from following Jesus. Many believers are being oppressed by human governments today. 12.

Are we willing to take a stand for Jesus Christ, even though it may cost us? When an apartment manager says you cannot share the gospel with his or her tenants, are we going to obey that manager or will we obey Jesus Christ who said, “Go and preach the good news to everyone in the world.” (Mark 16:15 CEV; cf. Acts 4:18-20; 5:29). Does “everyone in the world” include those apartment tenants? Absolutely! When a country’s human government forbids its citizens from preaching Christ, will we obey that government or the God who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18)!?!

I might add, if we disobey human government, whether it be local, state, or federal, we must also respectfully submit to the consequences as did the early church (Acts 4:3-31; 5:17-32, 40-42; 7:1-60; 9:20-25; 11:19; 12:1-4; et al.; cf. Matthew 26:52; Romans 13:1-7; I Peter 2:16-25; 3:13-4:19), which in some cases could be a verbal reprimand, eviction from an apartment building, jail, the loss of a job, torture, or even physical death.

As Christians, we may also experience religious pressure to reject Christ. Some of the most severe persecution today comes from religious authorities. For example, a former Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or Roman Catholic may be excommunicated from their place of worship or rejected by their own biological family for having come to faith in Christ. Some of this opposition can result in torture or physical death.  

It is possible to experience opposition even within evangelical Christianity. I can remember being shunned by various Christians and churches for holding fast to the simple gospel of grace which embraces faith alone in Christ alone for salvation from hell. Those who embraced a “faith plus” gospel wanted nothing to do with me because of my commitment to the freeness of salvation. It hurt, but I was also consoled by God’s promises to reward those who remain faithful to Him until the end of their Christian lives (Revelation 2:10, 25-26).  

Like believers in the last half of the Tribulation, believers today can also experience economic pressure to reject Christ. Perhaps your employer fires a coworker for their faith in Christ. This puts pressure on you to conceal your Christian faith to avoid the same fate. Or let’s say you go to the marketplace in your village, but the vendors are non-Christians, and they refuse to sell their goods to you because of your faith in Christ. You see them selling their goods to those of like faith, and over time you begin to wonder if it might be better to yield to your hunger pangs and forsake your faith so you can purchase some food.

There are many stories like this in the world today of Christians who are having to face political, religious, and economic pressures because of their commitment to follow Jesus. 13 What is it that we live in daily reliance on? Is it a politician, a religious leader or organization, or job? Or is it God? Do we trust the Lord for all our needs, including the roof over our heads to the timely words we speak in every conversation?

The victorious believers that John sees standing on the sea of glass are described as “having harps of God” (15:2c). With their “harps” they would offer praise to God because He has chosen to manifest and complete His coming judgments at the end of the Tribulation period (cf. Revelation 15:3-4). Are we offering God our praise in everything we do? Are we taking time to thank Him for what we do have?

What a sight it must have been for the apostle John to see these martyred believers from the future Tribulation period standing victoriously on the sea of glass with harps in their hands ready to praise God! Instead of choosing to save their lives by yielding to the Beast and his wicked regime, they chose to remain faithful to Christ, which probably seemed foolish amid unequalled persecution. But to quote missionary and martyr Jim Elliott: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” 14May God raise up more believers in this Church Age who are willing to live for Christ no matter what the cost!

Prayer: O precious Lord Jesus, I realize that I often depend on other people or things more than I depend on You. Forgive me my Lord and my God! Please guide me in living for You no matter what the cost. Thank You for reminding me that only what is done for You will last. In Your mighty name Lord Jesus, I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 165.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 825.

5. Ibid.

6. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 286.

7. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1555.  

8. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2404.

9. Swindoll, pg. 282.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1555.

11. Adapted from Swindoll, pp. 282-283.

12. A February 2, 2022, email from American Center for Law and Justice’s Chief Counsel, Jay Sekulow, states, “Sixteen Christians are murdered every single day because of their faith. A devastating new report details just how explosive and deadly the persecution of Christians has become around the globe… In Nigeria, Christian pastors are beheaded. In India, Christians are jailed and discriminated against. In Pakistan… Christians [are] on death row for their faith… This new report shows that Afghanistan has become the absolute worst place on earth for Christians. The persecution is excruciating… ‘Men, women and children are subjugated, beaten, and executed for their beliefs that differ from the tyrannical Taliban.’ The Taliban is going door to door looking for Christians to kill and unmarried women to take captive. Christians are hiding in their homes and fearing what the Taliban will do to them – a genocidal persecution.”

13. Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs, When Faith Is Forbidden: 40 Days On The Frontlines With Persecuted Christians (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2021). 14. Swindoll, pg. 283 quotes Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1958), pg. 247.

Revelation 14 – Part 1

“Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1

A couple of days ago, my wife and I went to the movie theatre to watch a film after we saw its preview the week before. That’s what previews are meant to do. They show exciting scenes from an upcoming movie to entice viewers to come see the film in its entirety. Sometimes, however, the preview of an upcoming movie leads us to expect one thing, but the producer of the film delivers something entirely different. 1 Fortunately for my wife and me, the movie lived up to the excitement the preview generated in us the week before.  

One thing we can be sure of about God’s previews of the future in the book of Revelation is they will not disappoint us. “Not only does He know the future, but He also controls it. He’s not simply the leading actor in the coming end-times drama; He’s the writer, producer, and director! So when He gives us previews of things to come, we should pay close attention. These scenes aren’t meant to satisfy our curiosity but to warn the rebellious and to encourage the righteous.” 2

After receiving revelation about Satan’s two wild beasts (the World Ruler and the False Prophet) who will triumph during the last half of the Tribulation period (13:1-18), John now receives revelation that describes both what happens to those who refuse the mark of the beast (14:1-5) and what happens to those who receive the mark of the beast (14:6-20). You may recall in Revelation 7, we learned that God would save two groups of people during the first three and a half years of the Tribulation period: He will save and seal 144,000 Israelites (7:1-8) through the preaching of the Two Witnesses (11:1-12), and He will take to heaven a multitude of people from all nations who will die during that time (7:9-17).

Beginning in Revelation 14, John now fast forwards to the end of the Tribulation period where he sees the following: “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Revelation 14:1). 3 John saw “the Lamb,” the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:29), “standing” victoriously “on Mount Zion,” the earthly Jerusalem,at the end of the Tribulation period. Many prophetic Scripture predicted that at the end of the Tribulation period Jesus the Messiah will return to Jerusalem from which He will rule His kingdom on earth (Isaiah 2:3; 24:23; Micah 4:1, 7; Zechariah 14:1-21; cf. Acts 1:9-12; Revelation 19:11-20:6). 4

Standing with Christ at the end of the Tribulation are the “one hundred and forty-four thousand” Jewish evangelists who faithfully proclaimed Jesus’ gospel message to the ends of the earth during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation when the beast ruled without mercy over the earth (14:1a; cf. 7:1-8; Matthew 24:14). Some religious groups, like the Jehovah Witnesses, teach that these 144,000 people are the sum total of all people who will be saved.  This is not true! We already saw in Revelation 7 that there are an innumerable number of people saved during the Tribulation period (7:9-17) in addition to the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (7:1-8). These evangelistic Jews will prepare the way for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth. 5

Because they refused to worship the beast and take up his mark, these 144,000 Jews will be rewarded with the Lamb’s “name” and “His Father’s name written on their foreheads” (cf. 3:12) in contrast with the mark placed on nonbelievers’ foreheads by the False Prophet (cf. 13:16). Because of their faithfulness to Christ to the end of the Great Tribulation, they will rule with King Jesus from Mount Zion in His eternal Kingdom (14:1b; cf. Romans 8:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21). 6

Notice at the end of the Tribulation that John does not see 143,800 Jewish evangelists. He sees all the 144,000 are supernaturally preserved by the Lord. Not one of them was killed. They have endured all the horrors of the seven-year Tribulation and are still standing victoriously with the Lamb on the earth because God faithfully protected them. 7

So, in this preview, we see in place of the beast from the sea, the Lamb of God. And in place of the beast’s followers with the mark of the beast on their foreheads, we see the Lamb’s followers with His and the Father’s name on their foreheads. In addition, we also observe in place of the pagan-controlled earth we see the God-controlled Mount Zion or Jerusalem. 8  This contrast in scenes is meant to encourage believers in John’s day and ours. While our journey on earth will contain trials and tribulation (John 16:33), it will end with a glorious mountaintop experience. This is intended to motivate us to remain faithful to Christ to the end of our Christian lives.

Next John writes, “And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps.” (Revelation 14:2). Some Bible students think this verse means that “Mount Zion” (14:1) is the heavenly Jerusalem (cf. Hebrews 12:22) since John speaks of this scene in heaven. 9 But the text says John “heard a voice from heaven.” This does not necessitate that the Lamb and His 144,000 followers are in heaven. Since the 144,000 are the same group described in Revelation 7:1-8, they are specifically said there to be sealed and preserved safely through the Tribulation on earth. This preview of their future indicates that they will be kept safe on earth into the Millennial Kingdom without going to the third heaven (Paradise) since this is the meaning of the seal in Revelation 7:3-4. 10

The “voice” John heard “from heaven” was loud like “many waters” roaring at a waterfall or like “loud” claps of “thunder.” We are not told who this voice belongs to. It could be “the voice” of the Tribulation martyrs (7:10), an angel (cf. 6:1; Daniel 10:6), or many angels (cf. 5:8, 11: 7:11; 19:6). But it cannot refer to the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders (14:3). I believe this voice represents the inhabitants of heaven consisting of the Tribulation martyrs and God’s angels.

John also tells us he “heard the sound of harpists playing their harps” (14:2b). In the book of Revelation, we are told that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders (5:8), and the victorious believers from the Tribulation period (15:2) will all have harps along with those mentioned in Revelation 14:2. The “voice” and “harps” most likely represent the singing and music of the inhabitants of heaven (cf. 19:6). 11

“They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.” (Revelation 14:3). The “new song” this heavenly group sang “before the throne” in heaven could only be learned by “the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth” (14:3). Please understand that the biblical text does not say the 144,000 were standing before the throne in heaven. It simply says they “could learn that song” which was being sung in heaven by this heavenly choir.

It is quite possible that being able to learn this new song was in itself a reward for these 144,000 faithful evangelists. Vacendak writes, “Since the emphasis here is not on the contents of the song but on the fact that only the 144,000 could learn it, this could very well be a special reward for their dedication to God like the reward of the ‘new name’ in 2:17 that is known only to Christ and the victorious one receiving it. Because these faithful witnesses will have an utterly unique experience in their service to Christ on earth, it is fitting that they enjoy a unique experience with Christ in eternity.” 12

After all, they had earned such a reward. “These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed by Jesus from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:4). These 144,000 evangelists “were not defiled with women, for they are virgins” who avoided both sexual immorality and spiritual adultery with the Satanic world system led by the Man of Sin or the beast (14:4a; cf. James 4:4; I John 2:15-16). 13

It is likely these servants of the Lord were unmarried in view of the strenuous times the last half of the Tribulation would bring. This brings to remembrance the apostle Paul’s admonition to singles (“virgins”) who were engaged to remain single in view of the “present distress” or persecution under Nero’s rule (I Corinthians 7:25-26). 14  

The 144,000 followed Jesus “wherever He goes” being forever grateful for the incredible price He paid (“redeemed by Jesus”) for their sins (14:4b; cf. Matthew 16:24-27; Luke 9:23-26). These evangelists were willing “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). 15

They were “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” in that they were the first converts of the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11) during the first half of the Tribulation period who were saved and sealed (cf. 7:3-4). Following their conversion, they were discipled by the teaching of the Two Witnesses before fleeing Judea to begin their worldwide gospel ministry during the second half of the Tribulation (14:4c; cf. Matthew 24:13-22). 16

“And in their mouth was found no falsehood, for they are without fault.” (Revelation 14:5). Even though deception will abound under the reign of the beast, there will be “no falsehood” found in the mouths of the 144,000 evangelists because they boldly shared the truth of the gospel and “are without fault” in that their lifestyle was one of faithful obedience to the Lord, not perfection. By God’s grace, they knew the will of the Lord and faithfully pursued it without stumbling into sin (Titus 2:11-13; Jude 1:24). 17

What do we learn from these 144,000 Jewish evangelists? First, if we are to be effective witnesses for Christ, we must be pure in our relationships with others. The 144,000 Jewish evangelists “were not defiled with women, for they are virgins” (14:4a). If we love the world more than the Lord Who created the world, people will not be as likely to listen to us if we claim to be followers of the one true God. If we are impure like the world around us, we will not have a credible message for those who are confused or lost in the world’s corruption. 18 Ask yourself, “Do I keep myself pure in my relationships with others – especially those who are of the opposite sex? Or do I blur the lines between appropriate and inappropriate behavior and questionable speech? Do I pursue worldly desires and lusts, or do I make it my priority to pursue the things of God (James 4:4; I John 2:15-17)?” 19

Secondly, like the 144,000 evangelists, we must faithfully “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (14:4b). The Lord Jesus came to earth “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He promised,Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Our responsibility is to follow Jesus. Christ’s responsibility is to make us fishers of men. Do you feel inadequate to share the gospel with the lost? Do you ever think that you do not know enough to share the gospel with non-Christians? Ask the Lord Jesus to help you follow Him daily and He will teach you all you need to know about evangelism. The best way to learn to talk to unbelievers is to walk and talk with Jesus. He will lead you to the unsaved people His Holy Spirit has prepared to hear and believe the gospel (John 16:7-11). Believing this will give you boldness as you go to share Christ with a lost world. Ask yourself, “Do I practice immediate obedience to Jesus or delayed obedience? What keeps me from practicing immediate obedience?”

The more we appreciate what Christ has done for us (“redeemed by Jesus”), the more grateful we will be to represent Him as His ambassadors to a lost world (14:4c; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15-21). We will be more willing “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29).

Thirdly, like the Jewish evangelists who were discipled by the Two Witnesses after their conversion (Revelation 7:1-8; 11:1-12), we must also be trained by older believers to effectively live for Christ now (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:2). Ask yourself, “Have I been taught by an older believer how to live for Jesus? If not, am I willing to place myself under a more mature believer to learn how to follow Jesus? If I have been discipled, am I now discipling others? If not, what is keeping me from doing this?”

Fourth, like the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, we must live a life of integrity, speaking the truth with our lips (“in their mouth was found no falsehood”) and living the truth with our lives (for they are without fault”) (14:5). If our mouths and lives are full of lies, people will not believe us when we tell them the gospel is true. Ask yourself, “Do I compromise the truth to avoid rejection or disapproval? Do I speak half-truths, white lies, and deception to avoid conflict with others? Do I live with integrity in public and in private? Am I hiding any secret sins?” If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions in this paragraph, turn to the Lord, confessing these sins to Him. The Bible promises “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

When we remain faithful to Christ and preach the truth of the gospel amid an array of false gospels and deceptions in this world, we will be richly rewarded in eternity by the Lamb of God Who redeemed us (Revelation 14:1-5; cf. Matthew 16:24-27; I Corinthians 3:5-14; 4:1-5; 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; I John 2:18-3:3, 24-4:6; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21; 22:12).

Prayer: Precious Lord God, thank You for these encouraging verses that describe the victory of the Lamb and His faithful followers at the end of the Tribulation period. After reading Chapter 13 which is filled with horrific deception and destruction under the Antichrist’s and False Prophet’s regime, our hearts are filled with hope to see Jesus and the 144,000 Jewish evangelists standing triumphantly on Mount Zion in Jerusalem at the end of the Great Tribulation. By Your grace Lord God, we ask You to enable us to be faithful witnesses to the truth of the gospel with our lives and our lips. May Jesus live in and through us so those who are confused and perishing without Christ in this corrupt world, can find the healing and hope that only Jesus can give them. We ask You to remove the Satanic blinders from the hearts and minds of the unsaved so multitudes will believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life which can never be lost. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.   

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 263.

2. Ibid.

3. The majority of Greek manuscripts read “the” (τὸ) Lamb in place of “a” Lamb, and “His name and” (τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ καὶ) before “His Father’s name.”

4. 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. 1549.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), 2402.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1549.

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. 291.

8. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 154 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 188-189.

9. Constable, pg. 154 cites Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton: Scripture Press Foundation, Victory Book, 1986), pg. 88; J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ, Edited by J. Otis Yoder (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1971), pg. 208; Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 607.

10. Constable, pp. 154-155 cites John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), pg. 214.

11. Vacendak, pp. 1549-1550.

12. Ibid., pg. 1550.

13. Ibid.

14. Constable, pp. 156-157.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1550.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Swindoll, pg. 267.

19. Ibid., pg. 268.