“2 Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye… 5 That they may keep you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words.” Proverbs 7:2, 5
The man who “keeps” or obeys God’s “commands” will “live” and experience God’s protection in his life. The phrase “the apple of your eye” refers to the pupil which is the most sensitive and carefully guarded part of the human body (7:2a). When God’s “law” becomes our most important focus, when it is what we pay the closest attention to (7:2b), it will “keep” or guard us from the many allurements of “the immoral woman” and “seductress who flatters with her words” (7:5). God’s Word instructs us to…
1. Avoid where and when the sexual temptation is waiting – “the path to her house in the twilight… in the black of the night” (7:7-9). Establish guardrails that keep you from being tempted such as no searching online when you are alone at night, lock up your digital devices using internet filters to give you accountability when accessing the internet, avoid massage parlors, strip clubs, bars, etc.
2. Avoid women online or in person …
Who dress seductively – “attire of a harlot” (7:10a)
Whose hearts are “crafty” or secretive/deceptive (7:10b)
Who are defiant (“loud and rebellious”) against God’s Word and the sanctity of marriage (7:11a)
Who are promiscuous – “her feet would not stay home…” (7:11b-12)
Who are overly aggressive, sensual, and shameless – “she caught him and kissed him; with an impudent face she said to him…” (7:13)
Who minimize wrongdoing by referring to their religious activity (“I have peace offerings with me; today I have paid my vows”) and entice men with a meal in her home (the animal sacrifice usually included leftover meat which must be consumed the same day in her home – 7:14; cf. Lev. 7:15)
Who seek to build your ego up with flattery – “So I came out to meet you, diligently to seek your face, and I have found you” (7:15)
Who seek to entice with you with a sensuous description of their bedroom – “I have spread my bed with tapestry, colored coverings of Egyptian linen. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon” (7:16-17)
Who proposition you – “Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love” (7:18)
Who reassure you of your safety from their husband – “For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he has taken a bag of money with him, and will come home on the appointed day” (7:19-20)
Who disarm you with their “flattering lips” (7:21)
3. Avoid seductive women online or in person because…
They will lead you to far-reaching consequences including bondage and death – “Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, he did not know it would cost his life.” (7:22-23)
We are living in a very sexualized society today whereby pornography is very accessible, affordable, aggressive, anonymous, and appealing. Solomon’s description of the seductress is much like the digitalized pornographic women online. Satan uses the beauty of women (in person and online) to entice Christian men away from God and His design for purity in marriage and family, so he can “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10a) their lives today (1 Pet. 5:8).
Solomon concludes these warnings by inviting us to listen to his advice (7:24):
Guard your heart. “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways” in your imagination or fantasies (7:25a; cf. Matt. 5:28). We are already in danger if we are fantasizing about having sex with a woman outside of marriage. When we are tempted to fantasize about her, turn to the Lord and pray for her salvation (if she is not a believer in Jesus), or for her purity (if she is a believer). Reach out to a brother in Christ to confess your struggle and pray with each other (Jas. 5:16).
Guard your body. “Do not stray into her paths” (7:25b). Avoid where the seductress is waiting for you whether it be online or in person. Do not go or stay near to someone (online or in person) who resembles the immoral or seductive women that Proverbs 7 describes. Ask God what your first step must be to do this. Locking up your digital devices? Getting a flip phone? Changing jobs or locations? Joining a men’s recovery group that deals specifically with porn and sex addiction?
Guard your future. “For she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men. Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death” (7:26-27). No matter how “strong” we think we are, we must take seriously the consequences of yielding to her seductive ways. To be in “her house” and in her bed in our thoughts or in person will place us on a fast speedway to “hell” (Sheol) or the grave. If we pursue sin long enough and hard enough it will lead to physical “death.” Possible causes of death could be punishment from an angry husband, from poverty, from STDs, or from spiritual and emotional anguish.
While King Solomon wrote Proverbs 7 warning of the allurements of seductive immoral women, he did not follow his own advice later in life. The Bible tells us, “When Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David” (I Kgs. 11:4). Even though God had warned Solomon not to marry foreign wives because they would turn away his heart after their gods (11:2), Solomon disobeyed the Lord and “had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart” (11:3). Solomon did not just worship their false gods, he also built worship centers for the people of Israel to worship the false gods of his foreign wives (11:7-8). As a result, God “became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded” (I Kgs. 11:9-11).
Solomon’s sexual immorality led to widespread idolatry. In many ways, viewing pornography is idolatrous. What is an idol? An idol is turning to something or someone other than God when we are anxious, bored, depressed, exhausted, lonely, self-doubting, stressed, or even wanting to celebrate. More and more Christians are turning to pornography  instead of the Lord to medicate or celebrate their feelings. Pornography is an idol that is destroying the sons and daughters of God around the world.
As long as we are living in these fallen physical bodies, there will always be the danger of being seduced by immoral women in person or online which can cause us to fall away from the Lord our God. Solomon ignored God’s design for marriage (one wife for life or until the death of one’s spouse – Gen. 2:24; cf. Mark 10:6-12; Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:10-11), and married hundreds of wives and had hundreds of mistresses.
May none of us think we are beyond the reaches of sexual immorality and the idolatry that often accompanies it.
In Solomon’s case, it is better to do what he says, not what he did. We must guard our hearts, our bodies, and our futures from the dangers of sexual immorality (Prov. 7:24-27). God the Holy Spirit can empower us to do this as we yield to Him in the context of a recovery community of believing brothers in Christ (Rom. 8:10-11; 2 Tim. 2:22).
No matter where we may find ourselves in our dealings with sexual temptation, there is always hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is not uncomfortable with our sin or shame. He already knows about it, and He wants us to approach His throne of grace with confidence or boldness because He understands and is sympathetic towards our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15-16). Satan wants to convince us that God is against us and condemns us (Rev. 12:10).
Jesus tells us that His heart is “gentle and lowly” (Matt. 11:29), not condemning (cf. John 3:17). When in the temple, Jesus read Isaiah 42:3 which described the coming Messiah: “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” (Matt. 12:20). Jesus, the Messiah, will not treat those of us who are “bruised” with sin and shame harshly (“break” them). He comes along side of us to strengthen and heal us with His presence rather than step on us to advance His own plans. He will not “quench” what little hope (“smoking flax”) we have left inside of us. He wants to rekindle our love and passion for Him and for life itself. He does this with His gentle and gracious presence in our lives which heals our wounds and replaces our shame with dignity.
God says He is for us and demonstrated this by giving us His best – His only perfect Son – when we were at our worst (Rom. 5:8, 10) – to take our condemnation when He died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead (Rom. 8:31-32, 34). If God gave us His best when we were at our worst, how much more will He do for us now that we are His beloved children!?!
Prayer: Father God, thank You for addressing sexual temptation and sin in these verses. Christian men are being sexually assaulted by the enemy in our society today. Most if a not all of us have mobile devices where we can easily access the allurements of seductive women via online pornography without anyone knowing about it but You. Before it is too late, please Father God, rescue us, redeem us, and restore us to close fellowship with You through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Heal the pain that often drives us to turn to sexual sin. We all have wounds that need Your healing touch. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for being gentle and gracious with our brokenness and shame so we can let down our guard and permit You to heal our wounds and replace our shame with dignity. Please break the chains that keep us bound to our shame. Help us set our minds on the things of the Holy Spirit Who reminds us that You are for us and not against us. The proof? You gave us Your best (Jesus) when we were at our worst (Your enemies), so that now as Your beloved children we can expect Your best for us daily. Please transform our ashes into beauty so we may proclaim the praises of Him Who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
 Statistics indicate that 60-70 percent of men, 50-58 percent of pastors, and 20-30 percent of women in evangelical churches are sexually addicted – see Jeremy & Tiana Wiles, Conquer Series Study Guide Volume 1 (Stuart, FL: KindgomWorks Studios, 2017), pg. 21.
“When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’” John 5:6
In this chapter, we are going to address a deadly, dreaded disease. It is important that you listen closely because you could have this disease and not even know it. This disease can spread rapidly and render an entire church body spiritually bedridden. It is called spiritual paralysis or the loss of the ability to walk with God. Those stricken with this disease find themselves spiritually paralyzed…unable to do what God wants them to do. They are unable to make disciples – to lead others to Christ and train them to do the same. They may be unable to overcome a past hurt, habit, or hang up.
As Christians, it is essential that we know Jesus Christ is our greatest Advocate when it comes to recovery from past hurts, habits, or hang ups. When Jesus arrived in Nazareth, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and read from the prophet Isaiah a description of the Messiah’s ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18). The verses Jesus read (4:18-19) were taken from Isaiah 61:1-2 which describe the promised Messiah’s ministry on earth.
There is a progression in Isaiah’s description of the Messiah’s gospel preaching ministry that is relevant to those of us struggling with things outside of God that are controlling us. We have learned to medicate our pain and shame with unhealthy coping behaviors. But Jesus came to “heal the brokenhearted,” resulting in “liberty” from that which we could not break free. Shame imprisons us, but the Savior liberates us. His gospel grants spiritual “sight” to us so we can begin to see ourselves through His eyes and no longer be “oppressed” by shame-based lies.
The biblical text does not tell us if Jesus read verse 3 of Isaiah 61, but this verse is a continuation of the Messiah’s ministry on earth. His healing grace will “console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Our brokenness brought great sadness (“ashes… mourning”)to us, but Christ’s grace will “console” us, changing our sadness and “heaviness” of shame into “joy” and “praise.” This inward transformation will make us a blessing to others, like oak “trees” flourishing in “righteousness” because of the outrageous grace of God.
Jesus was and still is, all about setting people free from brokenness, chains, blindness, and oppression. He is committed to liberating people from the things in their lives outside of God that are controlling them.
And we all have something in our lives outside of God that is controlling us. It may be alcohol, busyness, a cell phone, drugs, fear, gambling, intellectualism, jealousy, materialism, peoples’ approval, pornography, sex, social media, sports, tobacco, unforgiveness, work, or worry to name a few. I believe the third miracle of Jesus recorded in John’s gospel teaches us important truths for overcoming spiritual paralysis which is often manifested in the form of addictions.
If you feel helpless to overcome things outside of God that are controlling your life, then you are invited to go with the Doctor on a poolside call to see how this dreaded disease of spiritual paralysis can be cured. Just how can we overcome spiritual paralysis?
RESOLVE to Get Well (5:1-6). You must want to get well. 5:1-2a: At the start of His second year of ministry, Jesus went to the Passover “feast” (cf. 6:4) in “Jerusalem,” where He would heal a certain invalid. This miracle took place to the north of the temple area at the “pool” of “Bethesda” near the “Sheep Gate” on the northeastern wall of the city of Jerusalem (diagram 1), which was built by the high priest, Eliashib, with his brethren (cf. Neh. 3:1, 32; 12:39).
Bethesda” means “house of outpouring” or “house of mercy.”  This pool was near the “Sheep Gate” so that sheep coming to be sacrificed in the temple could be brought through this gate after being washed in this pool.
Today, Jesus Christ is our High Priest, and because of His all-sufficient sacrifice on the cross as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), we can be washed clean of all our sins by His blood which enables us to approach God with confidence in His heavenly throne room to worship Him (cf. Heb. 10:1-25; 13:10-16).
Excavations of this part of the temple area have shown there were two pools with a covered colonnade or porch on all four sides of the complex and a fifth colonnade that separated the two pools, confirming the description John gives concerning the “five porches” (John 5:2b) which would shelter the disabled and sick.  Five is the number of grace. Why were all these needy people gathered here?
5:3b-4: Some scholars reject these verses stating that they are not found in older Greek manuscripts and are not consistent with John’s writings.  But there are convincing arguments to include these verses in the original text of the gospel of John. 
All known Greek manuscripts of John’s gospel include these verses except for less than a dozen.
Christian apologist Tertullian confirms the authenticity of the passage in the third century.
The reading was widely distributed in both the East and West as evidenced in the versions and writings of the church Fathers.
The stylistic pattern of this passage is consistent with the unique content and probable connection with the traditions of Bethesda.
The absence of these verses in older manuscripts can be explained by a falsely perceived “pagan tinge.”
The statement about the multitude of sick assembled under the five porches in verse 3 and the response of the lame man in verse 7 demand the presence of verses 3b-4.
We must not forget that the Bible records many miraculous interventions of angels in the lives of ordinary people (cf. Gen. 19:1-11, 21-24; 2 Kings 6:16-18; Dan. 6:22; 10:8-13; Matt. 28:2-4; Acts 5:17-21; 12:5-10; et al.). God in the outpouring of His mercy granted miraculous healings at the Pool of Bethesda to heal some of the sick (diagram 2).
5:5:But there was“a certain man” at this pool who had not received this mercy or grace for “thirty-eight years” (John 5:5). This lame man lay forlornly in a place where God’s mercy and grace seemed to always touch others but never himself. There had been no mercy at the house of mercy for this needy man. Imagine how he must have felt to witness so many people being miraculously healed, but not once did he experience such healing. It would have been easy for him to conclude that God must not love him because if He did, he would be healed by now. For thirty-eight years he had been confined by paralysis to a bed, leaving him weak and hopeless.
Like the lame man who had lost hope, addicts can become so lost in their addiction for so long of a time that they give up on any type of recovery. They hear the testimonies of other addicts which speak of finding freedom from what once held them in bondage. But that freedom of which others testify had escaped them. The hopeless addict can easily conclude that their addiction or the pain that drives it must be too great to overcome. Hence, such an addict has no hope of lasting change because their chains have not been broken.
5:6: Of all the sick and disabled people at the pool that day, Christ chooses the one (diagram 3) who had probably been seeking healing the longest.  All the previous healings at the pool went to the least needy among the invalids (5:4-5, 7).  Now it was time for healing to come to the one who needed it the most. Christ chose this man because He knew “he already had been in that condition a long time” and had lost any hope of being healed.
We may think it strange that Jesus asked this man, “Do you want to be made well?” Surely anyone who has been chronically ill wants to be healed, right? Not necessarily.
“The reality is, most of us – especially addicts – are more comfortable with a familiar sickness than an unfamiliar solution. Jesus was really asking the man, ‘Are you desperate? Are you willing to do whatever I’m about to ask? Are you willing to do whatever it takes? If you are the only one to get well today, are you still all in? Do you really want it?’”
“Do you want to be made well?” That’s a question we may need to answer, as well. The first step to overcoming spiritual paralysis or an addiction is to resolve to get well. Do you want Jesus to heal the parts of your life where you have been deeply wounded or is it easier to hold on to the hurt? Do you want Christ to overcome your fears or are you more comfortable playing it safe and not taking any risks because you are ruled by the fear of what could happen? All too often we hold on tightly to the things that keep us stuck.
To the one crippled by past hurts, Jesus asks, “Do you want to be healed?” To the one chained by secret sin Jesus asks, “Do you want to be set free?” To the one battling addiction Jesus asks, “Do you want to overcome?” To the one who is paralyzed by fear, Jesus asks, “Do you want to admit you are not in control and learn to trust Me?” To the one who has not yet believed in Christ alone to get them to heaven Jesus asks, “Do you want to be saved?” To all of us who need His healing touch in any part of our lives, He asks, “Do you want to be made well?”
The lame man responded to Jesus’ question. 5:7: He seems to be complaining, “Every time the water bubbles up, no one is here to help me into the pool. It’s always the stronger ones who reach the water first. It’s a shame those of us who need it the most get the least amount of help. It’s been that way for thirty-eight years.”
We do the same thing today. How often do we hear people say things like, “I’d stop drinking if my wife would quit nagging me!”“I’d work harder, but no one appreciates my effort.” “I’d stop doing drugs if my friends would stop pressuring me.” “I’d make better grades, but my teacher doesn’t like me.” “I’d come to church, but there are too many hypocrites there.” “I’d give up porn and sex if it wasn’t so accessible and appealing.” “I would forgive him if he would change.” We have such a difficult time saying, “I am responsible for my choices.” We blame heredity, environment, circumstances, the past – everything except ourselves.
Hence, the second way to overcome spiritual paralysis (our addictions) is to REFUSE TO BLAME OTHERS AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR OWN CHOICES (5:7). When Jesus asks, “do you want to be made well?” what is our response? When Jesus asks, “do you want to be healed from your past hurts?” Do we reply, “you don’t know how badly they hurt me”? When Jesus asks, “Do you want to be freed from the chains of your secret sin?” do we counter, “I just can’t control myself”? When Christ says, “Do you want to be saved?” will you excuse yourself, “I’m not nearly as bad as other people I know.” When Jesus asks, “Do you want to become more effective in reaching the lost?” do we say, “I’m happy with the way things are?” When Jesus asks, “Will you try new ways to minister to the lost?” do we say, “I’m afraid of what could happen?” Jesus said to the cripple “Do you want to be made well?” And he replied, “I don’t have anyone to put me in.”
To receive the healing Jesus has for our lives, we must refuse to blame others and take responsibility for ourselves. Christ is eager to help us, but we must be willing to let Him. Living in denial only makes our addictions worse. We must break out of denial and stop blaming someone else for the choices we have made. It is time to face the pain in our lives so we will recognize our need for Jesus. Denial can stop today! Healing can begin today!
Jesus ignored the excuse of the lame man and out of love He gave him some strong medicine. 5:8: Christ does not preach to this man. He did not correct his theology. He did not expound upon God’s love and grace. He didn’t tell him to be more thankful. Nor did He recite the promises of God to him. People who have lost hope do not need knowledge. They need compassion and direction. 
First, Christ asks an impossible thing; secondly, He removes all possibility of a relapse; and thirdly, He expects continued success. All these are involved in the words: “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”
From these words, we discover the third way to overcome spiritual paralysis (our addictions): RELY ON CHRIST ALONE FOR HEALING (5:8). Notice that the first thing Jesus says to do is what the man could not do for thirty-eight years – “Rise.” On what basis does Jesus say these words to him? It is important to see this. Perhaps the lame man was thinking, “If this Man tells me to rise (and I cannot rise), it must mean that He intends to do something to make it possible.” Thus, his faith is transferred from his own efforts to Jesus: “He must do it. I can’t.” The man must also have reasoned somewhat along these lines, “If this Man is going to help me then I have got to decide to do what He tells me to do.”
Jesus does not say, “Try to build up faith in your mind. Pray for months first. Form a committee. Go to rehab and then you will be able to walk.” Overcoming addictions is not based on a Twelve-Step program or trying harder. Instead, Christ tells him (and us) to do something: “Rise! Stand up!” Obviously, it was Jesus’ will that this man should do what He told him to do, and the moment the man’s will agreed with the Lord’s will, the power was there. I don’t know whether he felt anything or not. All I know is that strength came into his bones and into his muscles and he could stand. He knew he could stand, and he did. By faith in Jesus this man stood up.
Twelve Step recovery programs begin with admitting one’s powerlessness to overcome their addictions. Every addict promises never to go back to their addictive behaviors after a relapse. But that does not happen until they come to grips with the fact that they are powerless to stop their unwanted behaviors. Jesus is asking this lame man to do something he has been unable to do the last 38 years. To do this, he must admit he is powerless, and Jesus is powerful. He must shift his focus from himself or other people around him to the only One Who has the power to do what is humanly impossible.
The apostle Paul said something similar when he writes, “10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:10-11). Do we realize that every Christian inhabits a spiritually dead body? We often forget this because we are physically alive. We are not naturally inclined to regard our physical body as dead. But from God’s point of view that is exactly what it is.
We might have expected Paul to say, “If Christ is not in you the body is dead because of sin.” But he does not. He says, “If Christ is in you…” (Rom. 8:10). When we are born again by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for His gift of eternal life (John 3:15-16, 36; 6:40, 47), our inward nature changes (I John 3:9), but our physical body remains the same (Rom. 7:13-28; I John 1:8, 10; 3:2-3). It is still infected by the deadly virus of sin, and as a result is completely unresponsive to the new life the Christian now possesses. The Christian is inwardly alive, but his physical “house” is dead, that is, totally unresponsive to the new life within.
The good news is “the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in” every Christian though their physical body is dead or unresponsive to the eternal life within them (Rom. 8:11a). The same Spirit “who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies” (Rom. 8:11b). It is God’s Spirit, not our own determination or willpower, which can grant the power to “resurrect” our spiritually dead physical bodies on earth. Thus, the key to overcoming addictions is not through our own determination and strength, but through the power of God’s Spirit indwelling us. 
Perhaps this is why the average secular recovery program only has a 3-10 percent success rate for addicts whereas a Christian-based approach to overcoming addictions has a 70 percent success rate.  Secular approaches tend to focus on the addiction or symptoms rather than the root cause or pain that drives the addictions and the power of God’s indwelling Spirit to heal that pain. Our dependency must be on God’s Spirit within us, not our own determinations, strength, or willpower.
Jesus may ask us to do things as a Christian that we have never attempted before. It may not make sense to us. It may seem impossible to us. But instead of trying to figure everything out, we just need to do it! Overanalysis leads to paralysis.
What does the Lord say next? The Lord did not merely say, “Rise,” He said, “take up your bed.” Why did He say that? I like the way G. Campbell Morgan has put it, “In order to make no provision for a relapse.” The man might have said to himself, “I’m healed, but I had better leave my bed here; I may need it tomorrow.” If he had said that he would have been back in it the next day. But he did not. Jesus said, “Take up your bed. Get rid of it; don’t leave it there. Don’t stay stuck.”
“Wherever your bed is, that’s where your home is. Thus, this man would no longer be sleeping in a place of despair. His home was changing.”
Christ is saying something very important to people and churches who need to be healed: do not make any provision to go back on what you have done. If you do go back, the consequences will be worse than the first time. That’s why Jesus says to the man, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14). This man’s paralysis was due to personal sin. This is not always the case with physical ailments, but sometimes it is. And when Jesus enables us to overcome that sin, He says not to make provision for a relapse. Many people fail right here.
If Christ has enabled you to stop drinking, go home and pour out the alcohol! If you are off drugs, go home and get rid of the drugs! If you have stopped looking at porn, stay offline or at the very least, get an internet filter such as covenant eyes or canopy. Burn your bridges behind you. Say “No” to the friends you used to drink with or do drugs with or had sex with. You will probably find that some of them will come with you. Burn your bridges. Cut off any possibility of going back.
Let somebody know the new stand you have taken so that he or she will help hold you to it. Join an accountability group. Get involved with discipleship. You were wounded in the context of relationships and now you can heal in the context of healthy relationships. You cannot overcome your addictions in isolation. Satan will try to isolate you from Christians who can help you in this recovery process. He uses fear and shame to do this. Ask God to help you push through the fear and shame so you can ask safe believers for the help you need. Remember, “9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.” (Eccles. 4:9-10).
Burn your bridges, is what Jesus is saying. If you have forgiven someone, don’t rehearse the hurtful things they did to you. Let go and move on – burn your bridges. If you have been paralyzed by fear, cling to the promises of God and don’t rehearse those fearful “what ifs.” This is so important. Our Lord knows what He is talking about – “take up your bed.” Remove all possibility of a relapse.
The third thing Jesus said to the lame man is, “walk.” Don’t expect to be carried – walk. Many people want to be carried after they are healed. They expect everybody to gather around them and keep them going – a common area of failure. But if Jesus gives you the power to rise, Jesus is the One who can give you the power to walk every day, to keep going. That is an important thing to see – you and the Lord. Your eyes are not on your friends, your pastor, your recovery group, your counselor, or on yourself; your eyes are to be on Christ now. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2). That is how this man kept going. It is how you as a believer can keep going in your Christian life.
It is important to see God’s part and our part in the healing process. Who healed the man at the pool? Jesus. Who had to walk? The man. Who saves us from our sins? Jesus. Who must believe in Him? We must. Who makes us more like Christ and gives us the power to to overcome our sinful addictions? Jesus. Who must decide day by day to follow Him and live life on His terms? We must.
The fourth way to overcome our addictions is to REDIRECT OUR FOCUS AWAY FROM LEGALISM TO CHRIST’S HEALING AND EMPOWERING GRACE (5:9-13). 5:9: The Bible tells usthat “immediately” this invalid’s body responded to the power of Jesus Christ, and he was “made well, took up his bed, and walked.” John’s description of the man’s healing is probably a deliberate understatement. After being unable to walk nearly forty years, no doubt his limbs had atrophied, and his hope had withered. When Christ’s power made him well, this man must have jumped up off the ground, skipping and dancing, and doing cartwheels all around that pool of despair.  The outpouring of God’s mercy and grace had finally come to him.
But the apostle John reminds us in his reference to that day of healing being on “the Sabbath” (5:9b), that there were killjoys at this pool of mercy. 5:10: “The Jews” or religious leaders scolded this ecstatic man who had just been healed (Diagram 4), saying, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”
“According to the prevailing Jewish interpretation of the law, it was not legitimate to carry anything from one place to another on the Sabbath (cf. Neh. 13:15; Jer. 17:21-27). Doing so constituted a capital offense that could result in stoning. The rabbis allowed for exceptional cases, such as moving a lame person, for compassionate reasons.” 
“The Lord instituted the Sabbath as a gift. He ordered a day of rest to rejuvenate the bodies and minds of His people. More importantly, it was given in order to break the day-in, day-out cycle of routine so that people would not forget that God is the ultimate source of their sustenance; their labors are but a means of His provision. The Sabbath gave people permission to stop work so they would not neglect a vital need: worship. We are created for worship; therefore, worship is good for us. But the Pharisees turned this wonderful gift of God into a burden, an occasion for severe criticism, an excuse to exercise power, and yet another opportunity to remind themselves and everyone else of their superior moral worth.” 
Tragically, the religious leaders were more concerned about the infringement on their Sabbath rules than about Christ’s healing grace in this man’s life. Sadly, this is true of many churches today or Christian recovery groups. They are more concerned about their man-made rules than they are about sinners encountering the healing grace of Jesus Christ. Their focus is more on the behavior of an addict rather than the addict’s heart and way of thinking. That is the spirit of legalism. Legalism will render an addict spiritually paralyzed and defeated. The constant emphasis on behavior will reinforce the addict’s cycle of shame. The lame man did not know Christ. Jesus healed him regardless because of His GRACE. Grace is not restricted by rules and regulations or how much one knows. Grace expands in the context of loving relationships.
Jesus was more concerned about this man’s need to be healed than He was about breaking the Sabbath rules of the religious leaders. Grace puts relationships ahead of rules. Legalism puts rules ahead of relationships. God’s grace teaches us that an addict cannot change his behavior until He looks to Jesus to change his heart (cf. Mark 7:14-23).
5:11-13: The former lame man’s response to the religious leaders shows that he preferred to listen to this unknown Man with supernatural power, not these leaders who were practicing religion. These men had known he laid there as an invalid for thirty-eight years, but they never offered him any assistance. So, when an unknown Healer restores his legs and commands him to carry his mat, there was no question in his mind about whom he would listen to.
If you have been in a recovery program or church that lack the healing grace of Jesus Christ from within because of their focus on external appearances, will you stay there or take up your mat and go home to a place off healing and hope? It is not an easy choice to make if legalism is all you have ever known.
Here is the dilemma. When Jesus wanted to do something new, the religious leaders were still caught up in the old. They were in a rut. Someone once said the difference between a rut and a grave is depth and length. And that is the dilemma for many of us today. We try to fit God into our safe set of rules. And like the legalists, we think that everyone else should also conform to our safe and comfortable box. But God is not contained in a box. The moment you think He is, He will do something new to burst that box you tried to contain Him in. God is looking to do something new in our lives and churches (cf. Isaiah 43:19).
I wonder what may be in our lives and church that simply cannot co-exist with the new thing that God wants to do? God is looking for someone who will step out in faith and say, “I don’t know what’s going to happen – but I want to join God in the new thing He is doing.”
We then discover the fifth way to overcome our spiritual paralysis (our addictions) which is to REMEMBER THERE ARE STILL CONSEQUENCES FOR OUR CHOICES (5:14). 5:14: The word “found” suggests that Jesus was looking for the former lame man (Diagram 5), He did not just happen to see him. Christ continues to pursue us after He heals us. Jesus came back to reveal Himself to this man. He wanted him to have more than just a healthy body. He wanted the former lame man to be healthy spiritually as well. He not only healed him of his physical affliction, but He also now wants to save this man from a “worse thing” which is possibly a reference to eternal suffering in the lake of fire. 
For this lame man to avoid returning to his sin, he needed Jesus in His life. John tells us in his gospel, “37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39). Believing in Christ for eternal life not only saves us from eternal suffering in the lake of fire, but it also results in God’s Spirit living inside us to give us the power to resist temptation and progressively experience victory over our sinful addictions. Christ shares His identity with this man now so he can know the Giver of eternal life and ask Him for it (cf. John 4:10).
It is also possible that Jesus is thinking of the consequences of going back to the sin that led to this man’s physical disability. I am not suggesting that all disabilities are because of personal sin. But in this man’s case it was.
How does this relate to overcoming addictions? It is possible to become sober for a long time and still be spiritually and emotionally unhealthy. Especially if you do not replace the addiction with Christ and His Word. When speaking of the spiritual condition of the wicked generation of Israelites in His day, Jesus said, “43 When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45). We can sweep our house clean by becoming sober. Like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, we can look good on the outside talking about the length of our sobriety. But inwardly we can lack love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. If we do not fill the void in our lives with Christ and His Spirit, we are opening ourselves up to something far “worse than the first” addictions we had. We will experience greater demonic influences in our lives.
The final way to overcome our spiritual paralysis or addictions is to RENDER ALL THE GLORY TO CHRIST (5:15). 5:15: This man gave all the credit to Jesus for his healing (Diagram 6). Some interpreters think the man was giving his allegiance to the religious leaders instead of to Christ. But I understand this verse to confirm that the former lame man was giving Jesus the glory for his miraculous healing.
I am reminded of a story about a woodpecker that was pecking away at a huge tree. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the tree and split it from top to bottom. The woodpecker flew off in a flash. Minutes later he returned with several other woodpeckers. Pointing to the tree, he said, “There it is. Look at what I did!”
Are we quick to take credit for what God is doing in our lives and in our church? Or when God works in another believer’s life, are we quick to give the glory to that Christian instead of giving all the glory to God? When we humbly submit to Christ’s authority and give Him all the glory for the work He is doing in our lives, He gives us special power to continue to walk with Him.
Do you as an individual want to be made well today? Perhaps you are a Christian and you have been unable to live the way God wants you to live. You may be crippled by past hurts or a present habit or hang up or something else. Do you want to be made well and walk with the Lord Who has the power to set you free from your addictions? If so, you can say this prayer to God…
Prayer: “Lord God, I want to get well. I am tired of living in fear and shame all my life. I admit I do not have what it takes to overcome my addictions without You. Please make me willing to do whatever You ask of me. Please forgive me for blaming others, including You. Right now, I take responsibility for my own actions, and I trust You alone to heal me. Please give me the power to overcome the sin in my life that has crippled me. Help me burn the bridges that lead back to that sin so I can keep my eyes on You, walking with You the rest of my life. Please provide a group of loving Christians who can help me on this journey of healing and recovery for I cannot do this alone. Replace my fear with a radical faith that trusts You to do the impossible. In Jesus’s name. Amen.”
 Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, 2023 Edition, pg. 149 cites John Wilkinson, Jerusalem as Jesus knew it: Archaeology as Evidence (London: Thames and Hudson, 1978), pp. 95-104; 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. 174.
 Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 582.
 Gordon D. Fee, “On the Authenticity of John 5:3b-4,” Evangelical Quarterly 54 (October-December 1982): 207-218; Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London: United Bible Societies), pg. 209; Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), pg. 203.
 Zane C. Hodges, “The Angel of Bethesda – John 5:4,” Bibliotheca Sacra 136 (January-March 1979): 39.
 Robert Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society. 2019 Kindle Edition), pg. 190.
 Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on John, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 4 (Tyndale House Publishers, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 112.
 Mark Denison’s July 29, 2021, article entitled “Jesus on Recovery: 3 Keys to Overcome Addiction” at covenanteyes.com.
“4For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — your 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
In the book of I John, the apostle John has made it clear that love is more than mere sentiment or words; it is an act of obedience (I John 2:3-11; 3:10b-23; 4:7-16). Love (agapē) is doing what is best for another person. Christ did what was best for us when He came to earth and died in our place on a cross to pay the full penalty for our sins so whoever believes in Him may have everlasting life (3:16; 4:9-10; 5:13).Hence, if a believer claims to love God Whom he has not seen and hates his Christian brother whom he has seen, he is a liar and is deceiving himself (4:20). God’s commandment to love has interwoven loving Him and loving His children (4:21). We cannot disconnect them.
John anticipated his readers asking, “Who then is my Christian brother or sister?” John identified one’s Christian brother or sister as, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…” (5:1a). There is no mention of one’s good works, lifestyle, or obedience. Only believing that “Jesus is the Christ,” the promised Messiah-God (2:22-23; 4:2-3; 5:20; cf. John 11:25-27; 20:31; Isaiah 9:6-7), results in being “born of God.” John then explains that our love for God’s children is not based on their lifestyle or performance, but on our love for the Father of these children (5:1b). If we love God the Father, then we must love His children.
Someone may then ask, “How do I know when I am loving God’s children?” John replies, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.” (I John 5:2). Christians can know they are loving God’s children when they “loveGod and keep His commandments.” Keeping God’s “commandments” is the way to show that a believer loves his brother, since loving a fellow believer is one of those commandments. 1
A Christian is not an only child in the family of God. To ignore a brother in Christ is to cut ourselves off from intimacy with God. 2 God created us for relationships. He never intended for His children to live the Christian life all alone. He meant for us to live life in close fellowship with Him and other believers in Jesus.
In 5:2, it is important to observe that John has moved from keeping God’s single “commandment” (3:23; 4:21), a reference to loving our Christian brothers and sisters, to keeping His “commandments” (plural). 3
“Even if we think of the ten commandments, the last six deal with loving other people. You’ve heard it said to fathers, ‘The best way to love a child is to love his/her mother.’ It is loving other believers when we model the Christian life for them. This is even more important than meetingtheir physical needs; it points them toward the kind of life that can meet their spiritual needs.” 4
A Christian’s love for other believers can be measured by the degree to which he orshe keeps the commandments of God. This may sound like John is putting us under performance, legalism, and relativism (our obedience compared to other Christians around me). But this is not the case. 5
John explains what it means to love God when he writes, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (I John 5:3). The phrase “the love of God” (hē agapē tou Theou) refers to our love for God (objective genitive), not God’s love for us (subjective genitive). 6 Our love for God is measured by the degree to which we “keep His commandments.”
According to the Pharisees, there were at least 613 commandments the Jews were responsible to obey. And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus raised the bar even more when He said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:20). Christ’s audience were taught it was wrong to murder someone (5:21), but Jesus went further when He stated it was sinful to be, “angry with his brother without a cause” (Matt. 5:22). Jesus’ listeners had been taught it was wrong to commit adultery (5:27), but Jesus took it further when He said, “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28). Christ’s audience had heard they were to love their neighbor and hate their enemies (5:43), but now Jesus says, “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). Christ took the interpretation the Pharisees had given of the Law and took it to a whole other level. 7
All of this may sound overwhelming to us. You may be saying to yourself, “How can I keep God’s commandments? It seems too difficult. It is beyond my reach. It is impossible!”
John responds by saying that God’s “commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:3b). What does he mean by this? The word translated “burdensome” (barus) means to be “heavy, oppressive, unbearable, or weighty.”8 If we try to live up to the standards of God’s Law in our own strength, we will experience an overwhelming weight of oppression and defeat. There will be no joy or peace in our lives.
The issue here is the source for keeping God’s commandments, not the standard of God’s commandments themselves. John explains why God’s commandments are not burdensome when he writes, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—your faith.” (I John 5:4). The word translated “For” (hoti) means “because.” 9 Hence, I John 5:3b-5:4a would read, “And His commandments are not burdensome because whatever is born of God overcomes the world.”
Since we are talking about people, we would expect this to say, “Whoever is born of God.” But instead, it says, “whatever [pan] is born of God.” The phrase “is born” (gegennēmenon) translates a perfect tense participle. The Greek perfect tense refers to a completed action in the past with continuing results to the present. Our new birth was completed in the past but has a continuing impact on us to the present. This is very significant.
John is emphasizing our ultimate source of victory over the world which he identifies in the last half of verse 4: “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—your faith.“ (I John 5:4b). The word translated “faith” (pistis) is a singular neuter gender. This connects back to the singular neuter genders in this verse: “whatever” (pan), “born of” (gegennēmenon), and “this” (hautē). Our single act of “faith” in Christ alone for new birth (“born of God”) is the source of our permanent victory over the world system which was satanically opposed to us being born into God’s family (5:4b) and is satanically blinded to the gospel (2 Cor. 4:3-4).
“What the Apostle clearly wishes to affirm in 1 John is that the very act of believing in Christ is a singular—and permanent—victory over the unbelieving world around us. Moreover, this victory is the reason why obedience to God’s commands is not a burden to the believer (1 John 5:3-4; see Matt 11:28-30).”10
Before we became Christians, Satan used the world system to oppose us from being born into God’s family. This is why John writes, “Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (I John 5:5). The moment an unsaved person believes that Jesus is the Son of God, he overcomes the world which did all it could to keep him or her from believing this truth for salvation. Since the antichrists or false teachers deny “that Jesus is the Christ” (I John 2:22), it is a great victory when a person believes this truth and is born into God’s forever family.
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; 11:3-4; Ephes. 2:2). He uses the world system including educational systems, various religions, economical systems, political systems, entertainment, and recreational systems to name a few, that teach many false views which desensitize people to their urgent 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.
You can decide tomorrow.
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. And since the effects of new birth can never be reversed by Satan, this defeat is decisive and permanent (Luke 8:12; Col. 2:15).
However, this initial victory does not guarantee victory in living the Christian life. Rather, the victory achieved by the new birth makes obedience to God’s commands an achievable goal. The Greek constructions in I John 5:4 translated “he who overcomes” (ho nikōn) and “he who believes” (ho pisteuōn) are present participles preceded by the Greek article. 11
“This construction in Greek is essentially timeless and characterizes an individual (or individuals) by some act or acts he has (or they have) performed. Such statements have their closest analogy to many English nouns (often ending in–er) that express completed and/or ongoing action. For example, ‘He is a murderer.’ In this case the person may be described this way based on one instance of murder or because of many such acts.
“John is thus saying that ‘the overcomer of the world’ is one and the same as ‘the believer in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.’ As is made clear by the past tense of verse 4 (‘has overcome’) this is already true! But since John is discussing the fact that keeping God’s commandments is not ‘burdensome’ (5:3b), the implication is that such victory can continue and that the key to it is faith! Just as the Christian life begins at the moment of saving faith in Christ, so also that life is lived by faith in Him.” 12
“With these words, the writer affirmed that a believer is a world-conqueror by means of his faith in Christ. This suggests that such faith is the secret of his continuing victory and, for that reason, obedience to God’s commands need not be burdensome.”13
“If your Christian life is weighing you down, you’re not living the real Christian life. How do I know? Because God’s commands are not a burden. When obedience is driven by love, it loses its burden. Ask any mother of a newborn. A mother doesn’t feed, change, clean, and comfort her baby because of a command—but because of love. Does she become tired and dirty? Of course. But the work isn’t a burden per se because it’s her baby she’s attending. When you love others based on your love for Jesus, He says in effect, ‘Hitch up to me, and I’ll do the pulling’” (Matt 11:30).” 14
Since our first victory (new birth) was by faith in Christ (5:1, 4-5), then it is by faith in Christ that we may continue to experience victory in the Christian life. Since Christ was our Substitute in death; He must also be our Substitute in life. This is what the apostle Paul was trying to say when he wrote, 15“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20; cf. Rom. 5:10).
“It has been said that the hardest thing in the world for a non-Christian to believe is in the substitutionary death of Christ, but the hardest thing in the world for a Christian to believe is in the substitutionary life of Christ. We got victory over death by His death; we shall have victory in life by His life. This is what it means when it says, ‘Christ lives in me.’”16
Prayer: Gracious Father in heaven, thank You for saving us from eternal death the moment we believed in Jesus and His substitutionary death for all our sins. This single act of faith in Christ overcame Satan and his world system which had blinded us to the gospel and opposed us from being born into Your forever family. Since this first victory was by faith in Christ, we cannot continue to experience victory in our Christian lives apart from faith in Jesus and His substitutionary life. When our faith is in Christ, keeping His commandments is not burdensome because Jesus is our source of power. Thank You Lord Jesus for living in and through us. Please use us to share this life-changing message with those who are blinded to the gospel so they may experience permanent victory over the Devil and his world system. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. See 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), pp. 601.
2. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2950.
3. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 602.
4. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 227-228.
5. Ibid., pg. 228.
6. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 207464; cf. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 John, 2022 Edition, pg. 107; Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 602.
7. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 228.
8. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early ChristianLiterature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 167-168.
9. Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, Kindle Location 207484; Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 602.
10. Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse: A Study on Eternal Rewards (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2016), pg. 152.
11. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 602.
13. 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 4043 to 4048.
14. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2950.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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 inflicts … distress 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.
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.
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.
“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 thesecond 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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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 “abow” 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.” (Habakkuk3:9). 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.
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.
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.
“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.
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 StudyCommentary (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.