Revelation 8 – Part 2

“And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.” Revelation 8:2

Following the opening of the seventh seal resulting in silence in heaven for about half an hour (8:1), John describes what is happening around the throne of God (8:2-6), giving heaven’s perspective on the next series of judgments about to take place on the earth. In this introduction the prayers of the saints play a key role in the launch of the trumpet judgments. 1

And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.” (Revelation 8:2). The Lamb gives “seven trumpets” to “the seven angels who stand before God.” “The fact that these are angels’ trumpets distinguishes them from the trumpet of God (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16) and from other New Testament trumpets (Hebrews 12:19; Revelation 1:10; 4:1).” 2

The word “trumpets” (salpinges) “refers to an instrument of pronouncement, alarm, or call to arms. The New Testament never uses this term to identify a musical instrument. Instead, it refers to its military use, similar to a bugle used on a battlefield. In Revelation, as in several Old Testament passages (Isaiah 27:13; Joel 2:1), the trumpet announces the coming of the day of the Lord.” 3

In these verses, the “trumpets” are used to announce divine judgment(s) in the day of the Lord (cf. Zechariah 1:14-16). They declare war against rebellious mankind on the earth. 4 

To draw the eyes, ears, minds, and hearts of the world to God, heavenly angels will sound a series of trumpets—unmistakable signs of God’s power over the earth. For some the sounds serve as calls to redemption, but for most they will become terrifying reminders of wrath.” 5

“Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.” (Revelation 8:3). During these thirty minutes of reverent silence in heaven, “another angel” acting as priest approached the “altar” holding “a golden censer of incense.”  This saucer-shaped bowl was used in temple worship to hold burning incense, “an aromatic substance made of gums and spices.6

 “In the Old Testament tabernacle a censer made of copper, probably heavy to handle, was used to carry coals from the brazen altar outside the tabernacle to the altar of incense inside. Later, in the temple, Solomon used censers made of gold (1 Kings 7:50; 2 Chronicles 4:22).

“This offering in heaven corresponds to the custom of offering incense on the altar of incense in both the tabernacle and the temple. The censer would hold the coals, and a separate vessel would carry the incense which was to be poured on the coals once the altar was reached. The resulting smoke was typical of prayer ascending before God.” 7

This angel fills the role of priestly mediator like the Old Testament priest (cf. 2 Chronicles 26:18) and adds an element of sanctity and holiness that is pleasing to God (cf. Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). He reveals that the impending trumpet judgments arise from God’s holy justice and are sent in response to the numerous prayers of godly people in all ages who have prayed for judgment and justice to come on the earth (cf. Matthew 6:10). 8

The offering of incense may also symbolize the earlier impatient prayers of the martyred saints from the Tribulation who cried out to God, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10). Many of us have been taught that there are three possible answers from God in response to our prayers: “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” In this instance, we see that unanswered prayers are sometimes stored up until God chooses to answer them in His perfect timing and way. 9

“No saint’s prayer is forgotten, but has its effect in due season, in bringing in the Kingdom, that is, our Lord’s return!

“It is the answer at last to ‘Thy Kingdom come’ which the saints of all ages have prayed. No other answer could be given, inasmuch as earth has rejected the rightful King!” 10

Next John writes, “And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.” (Revelation 8:4). The fact that “the prayers of the saints” rise with sweet smelling “incense” suggests it is a pleasant experience for God to receive the prayers of His people. 11 Hence, God prepares to act on behalf of His peoples’ prayers for justice on the earth.

“Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:5). The censer,” previously filled with prayer, is now “filled… with fire from the altar” and is cast to the earth. The ensuing “noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake” are reminiscent of how God manifested His power and presence at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16-19; Psalm 68:8) and are a forewarning of how God will reveal His power and presence through the trumpet judgments. 12

The time has finally come for God to answer the desperate pleas for justice from His people throughout all the ages. I am reminded of what the Lord said in Deuteronomy 32:35-36: “’35 Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them.’ 36 For the Lord will judge His people and have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their power is gone, and there is no one remaining, bond or free.”

“What a potent force is prayer! The saints go into their bedrooms, close the doors, kneel down, and pray. They spread out before God their petitions, and God hears. The prayers are placed in the scales of judgment.” 13

“So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.” (Revelation 8:6). It is now time for God’s trumpet judgments to begin. “In the heavenly order of things the greatest honour is to be ever ready to be sent on the service of God; and that is the honour these angels possessed.” 14

All the trumpet judgments proceed out of the seventh seal judgment (Revelation 8:1ff). When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, John saw not just one judgment but a whole new series of judgments. There is every reason to conclude that these will follow chronologically. 15

Although some view the seven seals, trumpets, and bowls as parallel and simultaneous, the fact that the seventh seal contains the seven trumpets indicates that the seven trumpets follow the seven seals and that the seven bowls in turn follow the seven trumpets. Also, since the judgments in each series are different and intensify as the Tribulation progresses, the succession view is best.” 16

The trumpet and bowl judgments are the ones that the angel from the east held back until the 144,000 servants of God were sealed on their foreheads (7:3). Therefore, they are more severe than the first six seal judgments. The purpose of these subsequent judgments is to lead hostile unbelievers to repentance, and to announce punitive judgments against hardened unbelievers—but few will repent (cf. Revelation 9:20-21). 17

The coming catastrophic judgments of God during the second half of the Tribulation period are in response to the prayers of God’s people who have prayed for Him to avenge their sufferings (8:1-6). Rather than take vengeance into our own hands when we have been wronged by others, it is best to forgive those who have hurt us and let the Lord deal with them in His time and in His way.

All of us have been hurt and wounded by others, especially those we trusted. From beginning to end, the Bible emphasizes the importance of forgiveness. God even commands us to forgive: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32).

Jesus taught us to pray, 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors… 14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:12, 14-15). Forgiveness is so important because it is connected to God’s forgiveness of us. I cannot enjoy fellowship or closeness with God the Father if I am not willing to forgive those who have hurt me. Being unforgiving connects us to our past hurts and makes it difficult to fully enjoy the blessings of our relationship with God and with other people in the present.

One of the ways we can know we have not forgiven someone is we keep rehearsing bitter and defensive thoughts toward those who have hurt us. We keep going “back to court” in our minds with all the things we wish we had said or want to say to them. 18 God invites us to release the hurt others have caused to us. Forgiveness requires the cancelling of a debt (cf. Matthew 18:21-35). Perhaps the person who has hurt us owes us an apology, justice, money, repentance, restoration, suffering, understanding, etc. God wants us to cancel the debt they owe us.

We may tell ourselves, “If I forgive them, they will get off the hook and there will never be any justice.” But the truth is, only God knows what is just. The Bible says, 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:17-19). God wants us to do our part to get along with people and live at peace with them. But if they still hold on to a grudge or mistreat us, God says He will deal with them.

There have been many barbaric things done to believers in Jesus throughout the ages. Recently, “The Taliban has been going door to door looking for Christians to kill and unmarried women to take captive. Christians in Afghanistan fear the same genocidal persecution suffered by fellow Christians in Iraq and Syria.

“Christians are hiding in their homes in Afghanistan for fear of what the Taliban will do to them.” 19

Today’s verses remind us that the day is coming when God will respond to the pleas of His people for justice. The horrific trumpet judgments during the last half of the Tribulation will be God’s answer to His peoples’ cries.  

Prayer: Father God, what a privilege for us to see what is happening in Your throne room prior to the trumpet judgments on the earth. The fact that the prayers of the saints rise with sweet smelling incense tells us it is a pleasant experience for You to receive the prayers of Your people. Thank You for reminding us not to try to take vengeance into our own hands when we have been wronged by others. For You will respond one day to the accumulative pleas of Your people for justice. And You will repay those who have brought so much pain to Your people. It gives us peace to know that we can trust You to avenge the wrongs done to us. At the same time, Father, we are reminded that we need Your forgiveness because we have also wronged others. Please lead us to live balanced lives filled with Your grace and truth. Grace to forgive others and truth to remind us we also need forgiveness. In the name above all names, the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1528.

2. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

3. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 176.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 105.

5. Swindoll, pg. 176.

6. Ibid., pg. 177 cites J. D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney, eds., The New International Dictionary of the Bible, pictorial ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), pg. 465.

7. Walvoord, pg. 164

8. Vacendak, pg. 1528.

9. Swindoll, pg. 177.

10. Constable, pg. 105 cites William R. Newell, The Book of the Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1935), pg. 121.

11. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2386.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1528.

13. Swindoll, pg. 178 cites John Phillips, Exploring Revelation, rev. id. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987), pg. 118.

14. Constable, pg. 106 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 50.

15. Ibid., cites Merrill C. Tenny, Interpreting Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), pg. 71 and George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, 1972 reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985), pg. 122.

16. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 285.

17. Constable, pg. 106.

18. Michael Dye, The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Books 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 123-124. 19. Retrieved from a November 22, 2021, email from American Center for Law and Justice’s Executive Director, Jordan Sekulow.

A Cosmic Christmas (Video)

This video is about the birth of Christ from heaven’s perspective as described in the book of Revelation. The message of this video will help you learn how to experience the joy and peace you were meant to have.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site: http://www.revelationillustrated.com. Other digital images are used with permission from Arabs for Christ / FreeBibleimages.org, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, www.LumoProject.com, GoodSalt / goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.

How can we recover from rejection? Part 5

“Jesus answered, ‘It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.’ And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.” John 13:26

Before we address the next way to overcome rejection, it is important to understand the cultural situation. “In first-century Palestine the triclinium was coming into use. A triclinium was a low, rectangular dining table around which couches were arranged on three of the four sides. The fourth side, the ‘foot’ of the table, was left open so that food could be served. Guests would eat in a reclining position around the table. A cushion would be provided for the left arm. The right arm would then be free to reach for food on the low table. Of the three positions around the table, the middle position (opposite the ‘foot’ of the table) was regarded as the most honorable. It was here at the ‘head’ of the table that the principal guests would recline.” 1  Laney writes, “It is safe to assume that Jesus would be situated at the head of the table as the principal guest. To His right and left were the principal places of honor (cf. Mark 10:35-37). To His right, in the place of special honor reclined the apostle John (John 13:23) On His left, in the next highest place, was Judas, the betrayer (13:26).” 2

With this in mind, we are prepared to look at the fifth way to recover from rejection: LEAN ON JESUS FOR HIS POWER TO FORGIVE (John 13:22-26). After Jesus announced to His disciples that one of them would betray Him (John 13:21), we read, “Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.” (John 13:22). Jesus’ announcement about His betrayer took the disciples by surprise. They could not imagine any of them betraying the Lord. No one suspected Judas. He had covered his tracks very well.

“Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23). John informs us that “one of His disciples whom Jesus loved” is described as “leaning on Jesus bosom.” This disciple “whom Jesus loved,” is identified in John 21:20, 24, as the author of the gospel of John, the apostle John.

John experienced an intimacy with Christ that arose through his obedience to Christ. He writes later that those who are closer to the Lord through obedience, receive a special intimate love from Him: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21). There is a sense in which John is closer to Jesus through obedience and this can be seen in his writings. When we obey the Lord Jesus, He discloses more of Himself to us, including His love.

“Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke.” (John 13:24). Peter was overcome with curiosity to know the identity of Jesus’ betrayer. Maybe Peter’s loyalty to Christ was coming out now and he wanted to take preventive measures. Luke 22:38 says Peter had access to two swords. John and Judas were reclining next to Jesus, but Peter’s position at the table was not close enough to Jesus to ask Him privately, so he asked John to ask Jesus to identify the traitor.

“Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ ” (John 13:25). John was relining next to Jesus on His right so all he had to do was lean back on Jesus’ chest and ask Him, “Lord, who is it?” By leaning back in this way, he could speak very quietly and still be heard by Jesus. Both Peter and John are concerned for Jesus’ well-being.

“Jesus answered, ‘It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.’ And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.” (John 13:26). Christ tells John that He will identify His betrayer by giving him “a piece of bread”that He has “dipped.” “The dipping of a piece of bread was a significant part of the Passover ritual. In the course of the paschal meal, the master of the feast would pick up some unleavened bread, which was a flat cake. He would put bits of lamb on the piece of bread, sprinkle some bitter herbs on it, and then roll it. Then he would dip the bread containing the meat and herbs into a bitter sauce. This bread would then be handed to a guest. The ritual would be repeated until a piece of bread had been provided for each guest…

“The lamb anticipated God’s Lamb, who would provide God’s salvation for sinners. In preparing the bread with the meat and herbs dipped in sauce, the master of the feast was reminding the participants of God’s promise to provide salvation. In receiving the piece of bread, each participant acknowledged his sin. Each also reaffirmed his faith in God’s promises that He would send a Messiah to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and each professed his willingness to receive salvation which Messiah would offer…

“It is significant that Christ gave the first piece of bread to Judas Iscariot (John 13:26). It was customary to offer the first piece to the most honored guest at the feast… This was an evidence of the love and the grace of the Lord, who knew what was in Judas’ heart before the seats were assigned around the table. Further it is to be noted that since the giving of the bread was in effect an offer of salvation, Christ was offering forgiveness to Judas if he would accept the offered salvation and put his faith in Him. This was grace exemplified. Perhaps no greater demonstration of the love and the grace of Christ can be found anywhere in Scripture than in this scene, for the One who would be betrayed was offering the betrayer forgiveness of sin if he would accept it.” 3

Even though Jesus had been deeply hurt knowing that Judas would betray Him, He still lovingly offered Judas His forgiveness. Similarly, if we are to recover from rejection by others, we too must offer forgiveness to those who have rejected us. Refusal to forgive others hurts us more than those who reject us. Refusal to forgive our offenders leads to bitterness. And bitterness builds a wall around our lives because no one likes to be around a cynic – someone who is always resentful and complaining.

Jesus wants to teach us to be a better person, not a bitter person. Each of us has a choice as to how we respond to those who reject us. We can choose to focus on our feelings or we can choose to focus on the truth. The truth is we are to be “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave” us (Ephesian 4:32). Forgiveness keeps our hearts tender and sensitive to the Lord and others. We cannot do this in our own strength. We must lean on Jesus’ power to enable us to forgive those who have deeply hurt us. The moment we choose to obey God and forgive our betrayers, God will supply us with the power to do exactly that. Remember, we also have caused hurt to others by rejecting them. We also have sinned against others, especially God. The more we realize our own need for forgiveness, the more forgiving of others we will become.

It is important to understand that forgiving someone does not mean you trust him or her. You can forgive someone in a moment based upon Christ’s positional forgiveness of you (Ephesians 1:7; 4:32), but trusting that person will take time. Trust must be earned from the person who betrayed or rejected you. For example, a Christian wife is commanded to respect her wayward husband, but she is not commanded to trust him (I Peter 3:1-6). He must earn her trust.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my heart was deeply touched by Your final offer of grace and forgiveness to Judas the night before Your death on the cross! Even though You knew his actions in advance, You did not stop loving him. I am reminded that all of us are like Judas in that we have betrayed You with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. And all of us, like Judas, desperately need Your forgiveness for all the times we have betrayed you. Thank You for extending Your forgiving grace to me. Please help me to extend this forgiveness to others who have rejected me. I pray Your Spirit will also enable others to forgive me for the wounds I have caused them. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago: Moody, 1987), pg. 247; J. Robert Teringo, The Land and People Jesus Knew (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1985), pg. 53.

2.   J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 246.

3. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pp. 430-431.

How can we experience the blessedness of clean feet? Part 4

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” John 13:14

As we continue to study John 13:1-17, we are learning how we can experience the blessedness of clean feet or intimacy with Christ. So far we have discovered that we must…

– Recognize Jesus’ loyal love for us (John 13:1-2).

– Reckon who we are in Christ (John 13:3-5).

– Receive Jesus’ cleansing grace (John 13:6-11).

The fourth way to experience the blessedness of intimacy with Christ is to RESOLVE TO APPLY JESUS’ CLEANSING GRACE TO OTHERS (John 13:12-15; cf. Ephes. 4:32). “So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you?’ ” (John 13:12). This was a searching question especially for Peter and Judas. Jesus had just demonstrated His love for them and the benefits of that love. Now Christ turns to deal with the attitude that had characterized them when they came to this meal. In view of their contention for a position in which they would be served by others, Jesus said: “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.” (John 13:13). The implication of the title “Teacher” is expanded in verses 14-15 as is the implication for the title “Lord” in verses 16-17. These were titles of respect and honor. They were correct to perceive Him as their Teacher and Lord.

Christ then says,14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15). As their Teacher, He has given them an example to follow. “Students,” Jesus says, “you ‘ought’ (to owe a debt or be obligated) to do this assignment for Me. If I can do it, then so can you.” As students of their Teacher, the disciples are to serve one another just as their Teacher served them. As students, they were not to sit around and be served, but rather they were to take the initiative in meeting the needs of others. In other words, they were to be teachable.

Foot washing was common in the first century culture. But not now. Is this meant to be a church ordinance? I do not believe so because the New Testament church did not practice foot washing as an ordinance. Nowhere in the New Testament do the writers treat foot washing as another ordinance in addition to Water Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The main idea from Christ here is that of humble service.

The practice of humility often means doing what others refuse to do. This is a timely word for the church today. Just as a spirit of entitlement and competition had overtaken the disciples at the Last Supper when they were arguing about who was the greatest (Luke 22:24), so too, it can overtake believers in the church today. “The world asks, ‘How many people work for you?’ but the Lord asks, ‘For how many people do you work?’” 1

Believers may be growing in their knowledge of the Bible, but are they growing in humility? Are they willing to do what no one else will do? Christ washed the feet of His disciples after giving them an opportunity to do so. They did not want to perform a lowly servant’s task. They were too proud to perform such a lowly service.

The Lord wants us to take off our garments of pride and selfishness and put on His love and serve others especially when things get dirty. Humble service is most needed when people are hurting and suffering. This may mean dealing with the dirty feet of other believers just as Jesus dealt with the dirty feet of His disciples. Ephesians 4:32 instructs us, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” The way to keep our hearts tender is to be forgiving of one another as God forgave us in Christ Jesus. We cannot have an intimate relationship with one another if we are unforgiving. Why? Because all people have dirty feet or sin in their lives and they will offend us. But let’s not forget that we also have dirty feet or sin which offends others. The key is to share the same forgiveness with one another that Christ has freely given to us. None of us deserve this, but all of us desperately need it.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as my Teacher, You have given me an example to follow when You knelt down and washed the dirty feet of Your disciples. I am realizing that You want me to humbly serve others especially when things get dirty. When people are hurting or suffering, they do not need a lot of Bible knowledge. They need to know they are loved and cared for, especially if they have experienced spiritual failure in their lives. Thank You for reminding me of the importance of passing on the same kindness and forgiveness to others that You freely gave to me. None of us deserve these things, but oh how greatly we need them. In Your gracious name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. I (Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books, 1989), pg. 347.

Who is Jesus Christ? Part 4

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

In the first five verses of John we saw that the Word, Jesus Christ, is eternal, relational, and our Creator God (John 1:1-3). Jesus is the only source of eternal life and hope (John 1:4-5). So when we look at Jesus, we are looking at our Creator God in human flesh. Jesus Christ made you and me to have a relationship with Him. So what is God like?

In John 1:14, we are going to see that God became a man in order to show us what He is like (John 1:18). The apostle John writes, “And the Word became flesh…” (John 1:14a). The most amazing fact of history is that the Word, God Himself, became a human being without ceasing to be God. Religions seek to know how we as humans can get to God. Yet the Bible tells us that God came to us. The Word, Jesus Christ, became a human being.

The word “dwelt” (skēnóō) means “to tabernacle” (John 1:14). Just as God’s presence dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle (cf. Exodus 25:8-9; 33:7, 11), so He lived among people in the Person of Jesus Christ. King Solomon thought it incredible that God would dwell on the earth (1 Kings 8:27), but that is precisely what He did in Jesus.

Why did God become a man? So, we could approach Him and trust Him. For example, a construction company was once building a road through some mountainous country, using dynamite to build a roadbed. Steve, who worked for the company, was placing the dynamite charges. One day as he was getting ready to detonate a charge, he noticed that several little chipmunks had come out of the underbrush, playing around the hole where he had installed the explosives. Steve, being a tenderhearted guy, didn’t want to see those little chipmunks blown to bits, so he began trying to drive the chipmunks away. Each time however, they just came right back to the location. His supervisor, Charlie, came out to see what was holding up the blasting. Steve, exasperated, explained that those chipmunks would not get out of the danger area. Charlie chuckled, and then used the incident to talk about Jesus Christ.

He explained to Steve that the only way one of them could communicate with those chipmunks, was if one of them became a chipmunk, and yet at the same time, kept all the characteristics of a man. Chipmunks are afraid of humans because we are twenty times their size. But if you become a chipmunk, they would be able to trust you and relate to you, because you would be able communicate the great danger caused by the dynamite (from Eight Vital Relationships for the Growing Christian (Dallas: EvanTell, Inc., 1982), Chapter 2, p. 6). 

This is exactly what God had to do – He became a man in order to communicate with the human race what God is really like and to warn them of the incredible danger facing them if they rejected Christ (Matthew 23:14; 25:41, 46a; Mark 9:42-47; 12:40; Luke 20:47; John 1:1, 14-18; 3:18, 36; Revelation 20:15). If God came to us in the fullness of His glory, we would be too frightened of Him to trust Him (cf. Exodus 33:20; Ezekiel 1:28; Revelation 1:17) just like a chipmunk would be too scared to trust us.

The reason John could say he and the other disciples “beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14b) without overwhelming fear was because Jesus’ humanity veiled (Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 10:20) the fullness of the glory He possesses in heaven (cf. Revelation 1:12-18).

Jesus became a human being so that you and I could relate to Him and Him to us. Therefore, we are to trust Him at all times because He understands us. Hebrews 4:15-16 says of Jesus, “Since we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin; Therefore, let us boldly come to the throne of grace.” He voluntarily became one of us so that you and I would believe that our Savior knows how we feel.

Perhaps you have viewed God as some distant impersonal force who does not care about you or your circumstances. You may say to yourself, “How could God let COVID-19 happen? I have lost my income, my health, and my friends! What kind of God is this?” Please understand that the God of the Bible is not some distant dictator who delights in punishing people.

Listen to what Christian author Max Lucado says, “From the funeral to the factory to the frustration of a demanding schedule, Jesus Christ understands [bold lettering is mine]. When you tell God that you’ve reached your limit, He knows what you mean. When you shake your head at impossible deadlines, He shakes his, too. When your plans are interrupted by people who have other plans, He nods in empathy. He has been there. He knows how you feel. … Rejection? He felt it. Temptation? He knew it. Loneliness? He experienced it. Death? He tasted it. And stress? He could write a best-selling book about it. Why did He do it? One reason. So that when you hurt, you will go to Him… and let Him heal you” (Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm: A Day in the Life of Jesus, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1991), pp. 16-18).

The glory of Jesus that the disciples beheld was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14c). Christ maintained a perfect balance between these two attributes. Of all the phrases that God could have used to describe Jesus Christ, He chose “grace and truth.” “Grace” refers to the unmerited kindness of God or getting what we do not deserve. We do not deserve eternal life, forgiveness, or salvation from hell, but Jesus Christ can freely offer this to us apart from any of our works because of His “grace” (John 4:10-14; Romans 3:24; 4:4-5; 6:23b; 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-9).

“Truth” refers to the perfect standard of God’s holiness. Truth says there is a right way, a best way. In life, some things are true which makes other things false. We do reap what we sow. There are consequences to our actions. Truth is true. It is unbendable and unbreakable and unyielding. Jesus came full of truth. Every word that He spoke was truth. Christ never told a lie. Every action and every thought were true. When Satan came against Jesus tempting Him by perverting the Word of God just a little (Matthew 4:1-11), how did Jesus respond? “It is written in God’s Word. Here’s the truth.” He always countered falsehood with truth. Near the end of His life before Pilate, Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). Pilate said to Him, “What is truth” (John 18:37-38)? Then Pilate walked away. That was a big mistake, because the One who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) was right in front of him. The One who is and knows all truth is there. So, truth must be included in grace or grace is merely tolerance.

Truth without grace is just as destructive as grace without truth. Truth without grace is unbearable. Only the arrogant, proud hypocrite thinks all he needs is truth, because he thinks he has it all together. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus outlines the perfect life. In the middle of that sermon Jesus says, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  Jesus means what He says here. When I read the expectations of God on my life and I hear His call to be perfect, I say, “Lord I can’t do it. Have mercy on me a sinner, because I fall way too short. The bar is too high.” That’s the demand of truth all by itself and it overwhelms us. God says, “I didn’t just come in truth, I came in grace.”

Why is grace and truth so important? As humans, we tend to err on one side or the other of grace and truth. Grace without truth is wishy washy. It is a farce. It is called tolerance. There are no absolutes… no right or wrong… no consequences for our actions. Anything goes, resulting in lives without direction. There is nothing we can know for sure which is tolerance. For grace to be real, it must be based on truth.

For example, grace without truth is like taking your car to the body shop to get rid of the rust. You get the car back and it looks great. But a year later the rust appears again. The mechanic didn’t remove the rust, he just covered it up to make it look good. Eventually, the rust keeps coming back. That’s how it is when you try to ignore truth. You can ignore truth for a while, but it keeps coming back. I can ignore the law of gravity and step off a cliff – and the law of gravity still applies to me. It doesn’t matter what you believe in that case. If you ignore it, it bites you.

Do you remember the woman in John 8? The religious leaders were ready to stone her because the law (the truth) said you should (cf. Leviticus 20:10). She was caught in the act of adultery and they came to Jesus saying, “The law says she should die. What do you say, Jesus?” For a few moments, Jesus wrote on the ground, while they pestered Jesus. Then Jesus stood up and looked them in the eye and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7).One by one, starting with the oldest, they all walked away. Jesus kept writing on the ground.

After a while there was no one left except Jesus and the woman. Jesus looked up at her and said, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10). She said, “No one, Lord” (John 8:11a). Here’s the thing. On that day, there was somebody there who could condemn her…who could have thrown the first stone… there was someone who was sinless – Jesus (cf. John 18:38b; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). He could have done it. Instead Christ said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:11b). That is grace and truth.

Truth expresses God’s righteous character and demands punishment for all of our sins (Romans 3:9-23). Jesus Christ was a perfect display of God’s truth. He is “the truth” (John 14:6). He was perfect and sinless (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Even the political leaders could “find no fault in Him at all” (John 18:38; cf. Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22; John 19:4, 6). God’s judgment of sin fell on Jesus instead of us when He died on the cross in our place  (Isaiah 53:5-6; Matthew 27:45-56; Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). That is truth.

But grace is seen while Jesus was hanging on the cross. After His enemies physically and verbally abused Him, and nailed Him to a cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Did they deserve Christ’s forgiveness. No, none of us do. But grace offers forgiveness freely. Jesus also said to the thief hanging next to Him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Without grace, the thief on that cross dies in his sin and goes to hell.

Christ is full of grace and truth. He has the perfect ability to tell us the awful truth about ourselves, while holding us up by His grace. Because He is full of truth He was the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). Because He is full of grace, you can come to Him just as you are, without having to clean up your life first. And because He is full of truth, you can come in complete confidence knowing that He will keep His promise to forgive you and grant you eternal life the moment you believe in Him. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

That’s grace and that’s truth. Jesus was full of both. Therefore, we are to seek to be gracious and truthful with one another (Ephesians 4:15). We are called to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Is there someone in your life that needs not just truth, but grace? Something has come between you and your relationship? They need to hear from you that the past is gone. It’s been wiped out. That’s the power of grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are totally amazing! You are the perfect balance of grace and truth. Thank You for telling me the truth about myself. I have sinned against You with my thoughts, words, and actions which makes me deserving of eternal separation from You in the lake of fire. But Your grace led You to take my punishment when You died in my place on the cross and rose from the dead. Because You are the truth without any sin, Your perfect sacrifice for my sins satisfied God’s holy demand to punish all my sins. Your grace invites me to come to You just as I am to freely receive Your forgiveness and everlasting life by believing in You. I can know with confidence that I have everlasting life the moment I believe in You because as the truth, You can never lie. You always keep Your promises. Please, my Lord and my God, change me so I can show grace and truth to others as You have shown to me. Lead me to those who not only need Your truth, but also need Your grace. They need to know that their past is gone. It has been erased because of Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.