Revelation 13 – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

5. Hitchcock, pg. 322.

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

7. Vacendak, pg. 1546.

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

9. Hitchcock, pg. 323.

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

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

12. Adapted from Hitchcock, pg. 324.

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

14. Vacendak, pg. 1565. 

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.

17. Swindoll, pg. 311.  

18. Evans, pg. 2369.

Revelation 12 – Part 4

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Revelation 12:11

After Satan and his fallen angels are “cast” down to earth at the midpoint of the Tribulation period (12:9), the apostle John writes: “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.’” (Revelation 12:10). John hears “a loud voice… in heaven” praise God because the casting down of Satan and his fallen angels to earth signals that Jesus’ coming “kingdom” on earth is near and so certain that it is communicated as if it has already happened. 1 As in Revelation 11:15, this praise anticipates Christ’s coming as if it has already taken place. 2

The coming of Jesus’ kingdom to earth will result in the “salvation” of Israel. In the first half of the Tribulation the 144,000 converts are the “firstfruits” (cf. 14:4) of Christ’s saving work among the Jews, but at Jesus’ return “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). So in addition to the 144,000 Jews being saved during the first half of the Tribulation, many more Jews will be saved when Christ returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation. Nationally as well as individually, their sins will be forgiven through faith in Christ (cf. Isaiah 59:20-21; Acts 10:43; Romans 11:25-27). The kingdom will be ruled based on the “power of… Christ” and His commands (12:10a). 3

Before Satan is “cast down” to earth at the midpoint of the Tribulation, he is described as “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night.” “This indicates, first, that God has allowed Satan access to His divine presence. Second, it indicates Satan uses that access to level accusations against God’s people. He does that because he knows the Lord’s righteous character and that human sin breaks their fellowship with God. If Satan cannot prevent a person from being saved, he at least wants to steal the joy that comes from walking in fellowship with God.” 4

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, what sins can Satan accuse you of today? The Devil cannot successfully accuse you of wrongdoing before God because Christ has already paid the penalty of your sin in full when He died in your place on the cross. The Bible says, 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus… 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” (Romans 8:1, 33-34).  

All of our sins—past, present, and future—have been paid in full by the blood of Christ! No accusation from Satan can stick to us or soil our reputation, because God’s grace and mercy have washed us clean from our transgressions.” 5

When Satan and his fallen angels are cast down to earth, his relentless accusations of believers before God will have ceased, but those who are on the earth will be subject to Satan’s attacks even though he can no longer accuse them in heaven. 6

During the last half of the Tribulation, Satan, “the accuser” of believers, will attack God’s people on earth ferociously. But John informs us, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Revelation 12:11). Believers on the earth during the last half of the Tribulation will overcome Satan “by the blood of the Lamb” which cleanses them from all their sins and protects them from the accusations of Satan “and by the word of their testimony” which involves speaking the truth of God to defeat Satan’s lies, even if it means losing their own “lives” (12:11).

Satan lost access to God’s throne in heaven, but God’s people on earth had not (cf. Romans 5:1-2; Hebrews 4:16). These believers had victory over Satan because they would not bow to the image of the Beast (cf. Revelation 13:15) but openly shared “the word of their testimony” even if it meant persecution or death. These followers of Jesus “did not love their lives to the death.” Instead, they loved serving and magnifying Christ more than their own lives. 7

Every believer is saved from eternal condemnation by Christ’s blood no matter what age they live in (Revelation 12:11; cf. Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7; Genesis 3:15; 15:6; John 3:14-18; Romans 4:1-25; Revelation 1:5; 5:9; 7:14). Believers in Jesus who defeat Satan’s schemes in life and receive Christ’s eternal rewards do so by a godly public testimony. Secret agent believers, those who are saved but operate undercover, so to speak, will receive minimal (Matthew 6:19-21) or no eternal rewards from Christ (cf. Matthew 10:33; 25:18, 24-30; John 12:42-43; I Corinthians 3:15). Triumphant, conquering believers do not love their lives more than they love God, 8 and the Lord will reward them eternally for their sacrificial service (cf. Matthew 10:32-42; 19:28-30; 25:16-17, 20-23; I Corinthians 3:8-14; Revelation 2:10-11, 17, 25-28; 3:5, 11-12, 21; 22:12).

In view of Satan being cast down to earth and believers overcoming him, the voice that began speaking in verse 10 continues by saying, “Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” (Revelation 12:12). The inhabitants of heaven are called to “rejoice” or celebrate, but the “inhabitants of the earth and the sea” must beware because “the devil has come down” to them with “great wrath,” knowing he has “a short time” (three and a half years) before Jesus returns to earth to defeat him and bind him in the bottomless pit for a thousand years (cf. Revelation 20:1-3).

As we conclude today’s message, let’s remember that there are two ways we can overcome the schemes of Satan:

LOOK TO JESUS AND HIS DEATH IN FAITH FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF ALL YOUR SINS. We can overcome Satan’s hateful accusations through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ – “they overcame him by the blood of the lamb” (12:11a). Have you placed your faith in Christ Jesus alone for His complete forgiveness? Christ was born into this world despite all the opposition of hell some two thousand years ago (Revelation 12:4-5). What Jesus did for you and me was not easy.He went to war for us and paid for all our sins when He died on the cross (John 19:30; Colossians 2:13-14). He now offers you the greatest gift ever given, and He invites you to take it by placing your trust in Him and His death on the cross

The Bible tells us, “All the prophets say it is true that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins through Jesus’ name.” (Acts 10:43 NCV). Does the word “all” include you and me? Absolutely! It includes the best and the worst of people, and everyone in between. It is up to you whether you will receive His gift or not. Will you believe or trust in Jesus alone to forgive all your sins – including past, present, and future sins? If you do, you can be free of the accusations Satan brings against you.

Perhaps you have already believed in Christ for your salvation, but you may be struggling to feel that He has truly forgiven you. Maybe you have trusted Him as your Savior, but you are still living under condemnation, and it is time to let go of the guilt and shame. The devil is defeated every time you refuse to listen to his lying accusations. He may whisper, “What you did was too bad, too wicked for God to forgive!” Or“You can’t change! You’ll never be any different!“ Instead of paying attention to Satan’s lies, you reach out and believe that Jesus really did die to bring you and me a new life! When Christ died for your sins, how many of them were future?ALL OF THEM. Ignore Satan’s lies and receive the hope and transformation that only God’s forgiveness brings! 

The second way to overcome the devil’s schemes is: LET JESUS RULE YOUR LIFE NO MATTER WHAT THE COST – “they overcame him… by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” In other words, they overcame him by speaking the truth and living the truth even if it cost them their lives. We give the devil a black eye when we seek to live a life of integrity. When the person at church is the same person at work or in the home, Satan is defeated. Don’t let anything or anyone intimidate you from living for God, even the threat of death!

If we have believed in Jesus for His gift of forgiveness and eternal life, there is no need to be afraid of death. Christ has overcome death through His victorious death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. His resurrection and ascension to heaven guarantees our own in the future.

The Bible tells us, 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Through His death, Jesus conquered death to free people from the fear of death.

Evans writes, If the Son has set you free, then, the only power the devil has over you is what you permit him.

“Satan is ‘the father of lies’ (John 8:44), so he’ll try to trick you into giving him permission to exercise authority over you. But the devil no longer has the power of death (2:14). The gun he’s been intimidating you with has no bullets. Jesus Christ emptied its chamber into Himself. Thus, all Satan can do is deceive you into thinking the gun still has ammunition. But the fear of death should no longer make you a slave (see 1 Cor 15:51-57).” 9

Prayer: Father God, thank You so much for the incredible victory Jesus has already won through His shed blood on the cross for the sins of the world! Thank You that the penalty of sin, Satan, death, and hell are overcome through believing in the forever cleansing blood of the Lamb, Who died and rose again on our behalf so we should never die eternally, but be raised from the dead to live forever with our King. Please enable us to live each day for Jesus without fear, knowing He has already conquered our greatest fear which is death. Use us, Lord, to testify with our lives and lips to what Jesus has already done so multitudes may receive His forgiveness by believing in Him and live a life that is free from fear. In the life-giving name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. The word translated “have come” (egeneto) is the aorist tense, signifying a past event.

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. 1543.

3. Ibid.

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

5. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 241.

6. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 137.  

7. Vacendak, pg. 1543.

8. Adapted from Evans, pg. 2398. 9. Ibid., pp. 2243-2244.

Revelation 12 – Part 2

“She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.” Revelation 12:5

As the apostle John continued to survey the seventieth week of years (Daniel 9:27) a second time (cf. Revelation 10:11) in the book of Revelation, he focused on specific characters who will appear on stage as the drama unfolds. Beginning in Revelation 12, the apostle will describe the conflict between God and Satan in the spiritual realm that has taken place throughout history since Satan’s rebellion against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-18) so we can understand how it will be manifested in the physical realm during the second half of the Tribulation period, especially during the bowl judgments (Revelation 16). 1

Last time John introduced two characters involved in the conflict: a woman and a Child (12:1-2). We learned that the woman represents the nation of Israel (12:1; cf. Genesis 37:9-11) and the Child represents the Lord Jesus Christ (12:2). Today, we will look at the third character in this spiritual battle.

“And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.” (Revelation 12:3). This second “sign” is described as a “fiery red dragon.” God identifies this dragon as “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.” (Revelation 12:9; cf. 20:2). The color “red” might indicate the bloodshed Satan causes during this last half of the Tribulation period. 2

Why is the dragon used as a symbol of Satan? Pharaoh, king of Egypt, in his cruelty to God’s people, and in proud and haughty independence of God, is termed ‘the great dragon’ (Ezekiel 29:3, 4). Nebuchadnezzar is similarly spoken of in respect to his violence and cruelty (Jeremiah 51:34). Gathering up the numerous scripture references in the Book of Psalms, and in the first three of the greater prophets, to the crocodile, the sovereign of the seas, who is identified with the dragon, insatiable cruelty seems the main feature. The Egyptians regarded the crocodile or dragon, according to their hieroglyphics, as the source and author of all evil, worshipped under the name of Typho. The color of the dragon, red, denotes his murderous, bloodthirsty character. This is the first time in Scripture that Satan is directly spoken of as a dragon. The heathen monarchs, Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, enslaved and oppressed the people of God, and, thus far acting in satanic power, merited the appellation of dragon. But at the time treated of in our chapter, Satan is the prince of the world—its virtual ruler. The Roman power is the instrument through which he acts. Hence the title ‘great red dragon’ can now for the first time be used of him.” 3

Satan is described as “having seven heads and ten horns” (12:3b), which are the same as the Beast (Antichrist) possesses during the last half of the Tribulation period (Revelation 13:1; 17:3, 7). Revelation 13:2b clearly tells us that this individual derives his authority from Satan: “The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” This demonstrates that Satan is seeking a governmental authority over the woman’s “offspring” (Revelation 12:17), the nation of Israel, which authority rightly belongs to Christ Himself (Revelation 12:5; cf. Psalm 2:6-9; Matthew 2:2; 27:11, 37). 4

The “seven heads” and “ten horns” probably represent seven nations and ten rulers (12:3b; cf. Revelation 17:12) and the “seven diadems” represent political authority in the Tribulation period (12:3b; cf. Revelation 17:10-12). 5 Ten kings will rule under Satan’s authority in the Tribulation period (12:3b; cf. Daniel 7:7, 23-24; Revelation 13:1; 17:7, 12), but when the Beast (Antichrist) rises to preeminence among them, he will subdue threeof them, leaving only seven (Daniel 7:7-8, 20, 23-24; Revelation 13:1). 6

“His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.” (Revelation 12:4). God was coming down to Satan’s turf on earth! And the old dragon was not about to let that happen without a fight! John informs us that Satan’s “tail drew a third of the stars of heaven” or fallen angels who followed Satan’s rebellion against God “and threw them to the earth” to try to prevent the birth of Jesus the Messiah (12:4a). When Jesus is born into the world, Satan is there, with his cohorts, waiting to destroy Christ. While shepherds are watching and angels are singing, Satan is waiting to make his move.

The attempt to kill the Christ Child John sees in this vision is probably a reference to king Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus. Herod was the Roman government’s puppet king over the nation of Israel. The book of Matthew tells us that when Herod learned that Jesus had been born, he had all boys two years old and younger be murdered (Matthew 2:1-16). Herod was afraid, because he knew that he wasn’t the rightful king and that Jesus was, so he did what political leaders do when threatened, and he tried to exterminate the competition. John pictures Herod’s brutal attempt to kill Jesus as a Satanic attempt to stop Jesus in fulfilling His mission.

So, when we celebrate the birth of Christ, I believe the Lord would tell us that we ought never forget the great conflict that was being waged in the heavenlies to get the Savior to earth. Think about how vulnerable Christ made Himself! Here He was, the Creator of the world, lying helpless and hungry in the arms of a woman that He created! The Savior who came to bring peace and restore God’s creation was the object of the greatest hatred ever known to God’s creation. And He found Himself in the middle of the greatest conflict to be waged yet on this earth.

“She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.” (Revelation 12:5). In this version of the Christmas story, Jesus goes from being born at Bethlehem (“She bore a male Child”) to ascending to heaven where He would sit on “His throne.” Satan failed to destroy Jesus at His birth, and because he also failed to destroy Him during His life and in His death, Jesus Christ ascended victoriously into heaven 7 where He would sit on His throne until His enemies will be made the footstool of His feet (cf. Hebrews 1:10). The Messiah’s kingdom will come in spite of any and all attempts of the dragon to prevent it. 8 Christ will “rule all nations with a rod of iron” in His Millennial Kingdom on earth after He returns from heaven to earth with His church (Revelation 19:11-20:6; cf. Psalm 2:8-9). John uses this one verse to summarize the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and future reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Satan not only used Herod in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus, but He would later use Judas to betray Him (John 13:27) andPilate to condemn Him (Mark 15:15) andthe Romans to crucify Him. All the fury of hell would be released against the child born on that silent night.

As Jesus lay in the manger, somewhere in Palestine there grew a tree, straight and strong. One day that tree would be cut down and fashioned into a cross. And it would become the ultimate Christmas tree upon which was hung the ultimate gift! On that cross the perfect Son of God would take our punishment for our sin and defeat the devil once and for all. This was predicted in the first book of the Bible.

When the first man and woman disobeyed God, the Lord pronounced a curse on the serpent, the woman, and the man (Genesis 3:14-19). Regarding the serpent, God said: And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15). God said there would be a perpetual struggle between Satanic forces and humankind. It would be between Satan and the woman, and their respective offspring or “seeds.” The “offspring” of the woman was Cain, then all humanity at large, and then Christ and those collectively in Him. The “offspring” of the serpent includes demons and anyone serving his kingdom of darkness, those whose “father” is the devil (John 8:44). God’s pronouncement was ultimately fulfilled when Satan would bruise Jesus’ heel (“he shall bruise His heel”) through Christ’s sufferings and death, but Christ, would deliver the fatal blow to Satan when He defeated the Devil through His death and resurrection (“He shall bruise your head”).

How? Christ 14 wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:14-15). Through His death on the cross, Christ “wiped out” or erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us (2:14). When a person was executed under Roman law, the sentence was attached to the accused’s cross (cf. John 19:19). All our sins were attached to Jesus’ cross. Jesus took all of Satan’s accusations against us away, effectively nailing our certificates of debt to His cross. He paid our sin debt to God in full; He died for our guilt and shame. God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

In doing so, Christ also disarmed “principalities and powers” – Satan and his forces – disgraced them and triumphed over them (Colossians 2:15). A fallen angel is no match for the Son of God, who took away Satan’s rulership. Satan’s accusations against us are empty because Christ paid the penalty for all our sins.

If somebody has a gun pointed at you, whether or not it’s loaded is a huge deal. The devil doesn’t want you to know that his gun has been emptied by the cross of Christ. Now, if you don’t know that, you’re still going to cower and run, living in fear and shame. But you don’t have to listen to him. Though he is right about your sin, your debt has been paid by Christ. You are free to live for God. Satan still has power, but he no longer possesses final authority in history.” 9

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 2:14-15: 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.” Jesus Christ became a man without ceasing to be God, to render the devil powerless over us. Through His death, Jesus conquered death to free people from the fear of death (2:14-15). If the Son has set you free, then, the only power the devil has over you is what you permit him.Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44), so he’ll try to trick you into giving him permission to exercise authority over you. But the devil no longer has the power of death.Hence, the fear of death should no longer make you a slave (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-57). 10

This cosmic war between God and Satan is won through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. John wants us to see the manger through the lens of the cross in Revelation 12:1-5! He wants us to understand that Jesus’ victory began on the day He was born.

When John wrote, “And her Child was caught up to God and His throne” (Revelation 12:5b), he used the Greek word haparzō (“caught up”)for the ascension of Christ from earth to heaven after His death and resurrection (cf. Acts 1:9-11). This word means to snatch, seize, or take suddenly.” 11 This is the same word that the apostle Paul uses to describe the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth prior to the Tribulation. “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (haparzō) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:17).

It is interesting to observe in Revelation 12:6 that John then fast forwards in time from Christ’s ascension to Satan’s hostile attacks against the woman representing the nation of Israel during the Tribulation period. John skips over the entire history of the church here. Why? 

“For one thing, the emphasis in the book of Revelation is not on what happens to the church during the present age but on what will happen to Israel and Gentile believers during the future Tribulation. Second, ever since Pentecost the church has been spiritually united with Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13), so we share with Christ in His destiny. Just as the male child was caught up to God and rescued from Satan’s earthly wrath, the church also will be caught up to God to be rescued from the coming wrath of the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:17; 5:9-10).” 12

Christ’s resurrection and ascension guarantees our own resurrection and ascension to heaven through the Rapture of the church (I Thessalonians 4:14-17). Instead of facing the wrath of the Tribulation period on earth, the church will be caught up to be with the Lord Jesus in heaven (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11). What a glorious future awaits those who believe in Christ during this Church Age. Satan hated Jesus and He hates Christ’s church. But Jesus loves us infinitely and has provided an incredible future for us with Him in heaven (John 14:2-3). May all the glory go to Him!!!

Prayer: Precious Lord, thank You for Your Word which gives us heaven’s perspective about earthly events. Since his rebellion, Satan has aggressively opposed You and Your people. The Devil failed to destroy Jesus at His birth, and because he also failed to destroy Him during His life and in His death, the Lord Jesus ascended victoriously into heaven. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we who have believed in Jesus will also be resurrected and caught up to heaven in victory to be with Christ forever when He returns at any moment for His church. We praise You, Lord, for the plans You have for us, to prosper us and not to harm us. Plans involving a future that is filled with hope. Satan on the other hand, is a liar and a murderer who seeks to devour us. Please use Your Holy Spirit to expose his strategies, we pray, and open the eyes of those who have been blinded by his deceit. We ask that many more people on earth will hear and believe the gospel of grace before Jesus returns for His church, so Christ is most glorified. In the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pp. 132-133 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 117.

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), locations 5673 5679.

3. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 287 cites Walter Scott, Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ (London: Pickering and Inglis, [n.d.]), pp. 249-250.

4. Pentecost, pg. 287.

5. Constable, pg. 134.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., pg. 135.

8. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1542.  

9. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2148.

10. Ibid., pg. 2243-2244.

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. 134.

12. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 235-236.

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 face challenges with courage? Part 5

“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

Growing up in the 1960s, sports were a major part of my life. I remember watching the introduction of the TV show called “ABC’s Wide World of Sports.” Every week, the host of the show, Jim McKay, would say, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport … the thrill of victory … and the agony of defeat … the human drama of athletic competition … This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports.” To represent “the agony of defeat,” a film clip of Vinko Bogataj was played of him crashing off a ski-jumping ramp. For decades viewers watched this terrible crash. Thankfully, Bogataj was not seriously injured. But his wipeout representing the  “agony of defeat” was immortalized by this show.

Can you imagine having your failure replayed for decades before millions of viewers!?! None of us want our names to be connected with “the agony of defeat.” We would much rather be associated with “the thrill of victory.” With this in mind, we are going to look at the fifth and final way to face challenges with courage. So far we have learned from Jesus’ instructions to His disciples, that we can face challenges with courage when we…

– Resolve to go directly to the Father in prayer (John 16:25-26).

– Receive the Father’s special love for us (John 16:27).

– Recognize that Jesus is in control (John 16:28-30).

– Rest in the Father who will never abandon us (John 16:31-32)

The final way to face challenges with courage is to RELY ON CHRIST WHO HAS CONQUERED THE WORLD (John 16:33). Christ said to His eleven believing disciples,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). When Jesus says, “these things I have spoken to you,” He is probably referring to the many promises He has given to His disciples in the Upper Room discourse which included preparing a place for them in His Father’s house (John 14:1-3), answered prayer (John 14:13-14; 15:7), the sending of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26; 16:5-15, 26), fruit-bearing (John 15:1-17), and unending joy (John 16:16-24). Christ ends His discourse on a note of peace and victory.

There are three contrasts in the first half of this verse which have incredible significance:

1. “in Me” vs. “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” (thlipsin). This word refers to “pressure or distress brought about by outward circumstances.” 1

2. “you may have” vs. “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 2  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 3  that the disciples will experience tribulation in the world. The disciples (and we) 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. Matthew 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. 4

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.5

The world cannot give this kind of peace to believers. The world gives Christians “tribulation” because the world opposes Christ and His followers (John 15:18-16:4). The word “tribulation” (thlipsin) “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.” 6

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 (John 15:18-16:4). 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. Matthew 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 have courage.” Why could the disciples face these upcoming challenges with courage? Christ explains, “I have overcome the world.” The word “overcome” (nenikēka) means “to overcome, conquer, be victorious” and it is in the perfect tense. 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; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4-5), we can also win with Him as we face difficulties with His courage! Because Jesus has already won the battle, we can claim the victory as we face trials triumphantly. Have you heard this before? It is true, but it is not quite as simple as it sounds. One does not become an overcomer by simply saying with confidence, “I am an overcomer!”

The verb “to overcome” (nikáō) is used by John only here in the gospel of John, but he uses it six times in I John (2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4-5) and sixteen times in the book of Revelation (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 5:5; 6:2; 11:7; 12:11; 13:7; 17:14; 21:7).

John’s use of the word “overcome” in I John is used of all Christians who are “overcomers” through their single act of faith in Christ at the moment of salvation which overcomes the world’s system’s hostility toward saving faith (I John 5:1, 4-5; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4). However, the statements in I John about overcomers are not the same as Revelation’s statements about overcomers.

In Revelation there is the call to hear (Revelation 2:7a; cf. 2:10, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Only those Christians who hear the call and appropriate the promise will be able to live a victorious life for Christ. Jesus is addressing the whole “church” consisting of believers in the letter (Revelation 2:1; cf. 2:8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14), but the call is to the one “who has an ear” and to the one “who overcomes.”

The Book of Revelation deals with persevering in works (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15) and not a single act of faith for salvation from Hell. For example, access to the “tree of life” (Revelation 2:8) is not based on a single act of faith in Christ (I John 5:1, 4-5), but upon obedience to Christ’s commands. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life.” (Revelation 22:14a). Revelation is talking about Christians being “overcomers” through obedience to Christ until the end of their lives, so they can gain eternal rewards such as eating from the tree of life or ruling with Christ in His coming Kingdom on earth (cf. Revelation 2:8, 26-27; 3:21; 22:14).

In John 16:33, we see that victory begins when, through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, we find peace in living life for Him. Christ has already won the victory over the world and the ruler of this world. Knowing this can give us much courage as we face intimidating challenges.

In the Philippines when I would watch NBA basketball, I enjoyed the Dallas Maverick’s team. Since we were fourteen hours ahead of CST in Dallas, Texas, I was not available to watch their games in the mornings while living in the Philippines when they were televised live in the States. So I would watch the replay of their games in the evening. Before I did that, I liked to check the final score on ESPN, so I would know if the Mavericks won before sitting 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 this 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. 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! Therefore, we can fight “from” the victory Jesus has already won, not “for” the victory as though it was completely dependent upon us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, regardless of how the world beats us down, we have reason to live with courage because You are the Sovereign King over the world. You have defeated sin, death, and Satan through Your death and resurrection! Because of this, our eternity is secure in You if we have believed in You for Your gift of eternal life. We can now fight “from” the victory You have already won, instead of fighting “for” victory as though it all depended on us. Lord Jesus, You have the power to overcome our circumstances here on earth. Knowing this truth and staying connected to You in an intimate relationship will greatly change our perspective as we face challenging times on earth. Thank You for giving us peace and courage in the midst of life’s storms. You are an amazing Lord and God! In Your victorious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [BAGD], compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979),  pg. 362.

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

3. tps://www.blueletterbible.org/help/greekverbs.cfm.

4. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 457.

5. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 440.

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

7. BAGD, pg. 352.

8. Ibid., pg. 539.

How can Jesus transform our grief into gladness? Part 5

“Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” John 16:22

We are learning from Jesus’ instructions to His eleven believing disciples how Christ can transform our grief into gladness. So far we have discovered He does this when we …

– Ask Christ to help us properly understand His word as it relates to our situation (John 16:16-19).

– Accept that pain and suffering are part of life (John 16:20a; cf. 16:33).

– Assess our circumstances with an eternal perspective (John 16:20b-22).

– Allow our grief to direct us to the Father in prayer (John 16:23-24).

The final way Jesus transforms our grief into gladness is not based on a specific verse in this passage, but on the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus transforms our grief into gladness when we ACQUAINT OURSELVES WITH THE PATTERN OF TRANSFORMED PAIN. This pattern finds its fullest expression in Jesus. He transformed the bad into the good.

Because of Jesus, we can never say about a person, “He or she must be suffering because of some sin he or she committed.” Jesus, who never sinned, also suffered. God never promised that typhoons or twisters will skip over our houses on the way to our non-Christian neighbors or that COVID-19 will flee from our Christian bodies and invade a non-Christian’s body. We are not exempt from tragedies in the world just as God was not exempt. Christ was willing to suffer in order to accomplish a higher goal. He trusted His Father to use His death for good. And God took the worst thing that could happen – the brutal execution of His only Son and turned it into the final victory over sin, death, and the Devil (I Corinthians 15:1-58; Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 2:14-15). God turned the design of evil into the service of good, an act that holds in it a promise for all of us.

Because God transformed Jesus’ suffering into good, He can do the same for us. Jesus’ resurrection transformed the pain of His disciples into joy. No trial, illness, unemployment, broken relationships, death of a loved one, or grief extends beyond the range of Jesus’ transforming power. He transforms pain, using it to teach and strengthen us, if we allow it to turn us toward Him.

Childbirth is ironical – an event that causes some of the greatest physical pain, but also opens the doorway to one of life’s greatest joys – new life! Someone once said, “The more grief inflicted upon you, the better fitted you are to appreciate joy. More often than not the so-called negatives are assets. There cannot be a front without a back, an up without a down, a cold without a hot, a love without a hate.”

When speaking of the effects of His own death on His disciples, Jesus compared it to a woman in labor. She travails until the moment of delivery, when suddenly anguish is transformed into ecstasy. Death is like birth – it causes great emotional pain, but in reality, it opens a doorway into the great joy of eternity because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Author Philip Yancey writes, “Imagine birth from the perspective of the fetus (unborn baby). Your world is dark, safe, secure. You are bathed in a warm, cushioning liquid. You do nothing for yourself. You are fed automatically, and a murmuring heartbeat assures you that someone larger than you is meeting all your needs. Life consists of simple waiting – you’re not sure what to wait for, but any change seems faraway and scary. You encounter no sharp objects, no pain, no dangers. A fine, serene existence.

“One day you feel a tug. The walls seem to press in. Those soft padded walls are now pulsing, wildly, crushing you downward. Your body is bent double, your limbs twisted and wrenched. You’re falling, upside down. For the first time in your life, you feel pain. You’re in a sea of roiling matter. There is more pressure, almost too intense to bear. Your head is squeezed flat, and you are pushed harder, harder into a dark tunnel. Oh, the pain. Noise. More pressure.

“You hurt all over. You hear a groaning sound and an awful, sudden fear rushes in on you. It is happening – your world is collapsing. You’re sure it’s the end. You see a piercing, blinding light. Cold, rough hands grasp at you, pull you from the tunnel and hold you upside down. A painful slap. Waaaahhhh!

“Congratulations, you have just been born.

“Death is like that. On this end of the birth canal, it seems a scary, dark tunnel we are being sucked forward by an irresistible force. None of us looks forward to it. We’re afraid. It’s full of pressure, pain, darkness… the unknown.

“But beyond the darkness and the pain lies a whole new world outside. When we awaken after death in that bright new world, our tears and hurts will be mere memories.” 1

Perhaps you have lost a love one recently who believed in Jesus or was too young to believe in Him, and your heart is numb with grief. Christ’s resurrection guarantees you will be reunited one day in His presence (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). Knowing this can comfort and sustain you during this dark and painful time. Jesus wants you to take heart because the day is coming when the darkness will be gone forever and your pain will be transformed into endless joy (Revelation 21-22).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You never promised that suffering would not be part of our lives. In fact, You promised just the opposite if we follow You. But it is not a hopeless kind of suffering. Your resurrection guarantees to all of us who believe in You a hope-filled beginning when we die and go to be with You. A perfect, sinless, world awaits us in Your presence when we take our last breath. Knowing this empowers us to endure the darkness and pain before us with the confidence that something much better and greater lies beyond our time here on earth. Thank You, my Lord and my God, that the hurts and tears we have now will be transformed into endless joy and laughter in the world to come where we will be reunited with You and those who have gone before us. Please help us to lean into You when troubled times come. Your presence can calm our hearts when we surrender to You. In Your hope-filled name I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTE:

1. Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), pp. 258-259.

How can we overcome self-centeredness? Part 4

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” John 12:32

All human beings are born with a sin nature that wants its own way (cf. Isaiah 53:6). Like the child when being disciplined said to his father, “I’m not bad. I just want my own way.” All of us are self-centered creatures. We demand our own way. Life revolves around self. “It’s all about me!”

This is very evident as we approach our presidential elections in the USA. Our country is extremely polarized right now because individuals and political parties are demanding their own way. There is a lack of unity and cooperation with one another because of this sinful nature that insists on “my way or no way.”

We are learning how to overcome self-centeredness in our study of John 12:20-33. So far we have discovered that the way to overcome our self-centeredness is through…

– Seeking Jesus (John 12:20-22).

– Self-denying service to Christ (John 12:23-26).

– Surrendering to God’s control in prayer (John 12:27-30).

Today we will look at the fourth and final way to overcome self-centeredness in this passage. It is STAYING FOCUSED ON THE ONE WHO DEFEATED THE DEVIL AND DRAWS ALL PEOPLE TO HIMSELF (John 12:31-33). After God the Father spoke from heaven to affirm that He would glorify His name through His Son’s death, Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (John 12:31). While the death of Christ makes all people savable (Romans 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 John 2:2), it also means those who reject Christ will be judged or condemned.

Jesus had said, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18). Constable states, “The Jews thought they were judging Jesus when they decided to believe or disbelieve on Him. In reality, their decisions brought divine judgment on themselves. By crucifying Jesus, they were condemning themselves. Jesus was not saying that this would be the last judgment on the world. He meant that because of humankind’s rejection of Him, God was about to pass ‘judgment’ on the world for rejecting His Son (cf. Acts 17:30-31).” 1

Satan, “the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31b; cf. 14:30; 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4), because the cross will deprive him of power and influence. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given the responsibility to rule the world on God’s behalf (cf. Genesis 1:26-28). Instead, they chose to sin against God (Genesis 3:1-6) and thereby granted rule of the world to Satan (see 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 5:19). So the Son of God, Jesus Christ, became a Man without ceasing to be God (John 1:1, 14; Titus 2:13; I John 5:20), to defeat the devil. The cross guarantees the enemy’s defeat because Satan achieves victory through accusing sinners. But through the cross, Jesus Christ would deal with sin once and for all (see Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 7:26-27; 9:12; 10:10) so Satan can no longer successfully accuse or oppose those who believe in Jesus (Romans 8:31-39).2

Look in Hebrews 2:14-15: “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.” Satan’s power was destroyed, not Satan himself. He had the power of death and used peoples’ fear of death to enslave them to his will. But through the cross, Jesus defeated death and now His children can live for Him and face death with confidence! Satan opposes Jesus so much because he knows what Jesus’ death means. When Jesus said Satan would “be cast out” (John 12:31b), He is referring to His ultimate victory over Satan which, though still future, was initiated at the cross. This victory will be finalized when the devil is cast into his permanent home in the lake of fire where he “will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10).

Satan often appeals to our self-centeredness to lead us away from God to serve his deceitful schemes which are opposed to the Lord. He did this in the Garden of Eden when he said to Eve,4bYou will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4b-5). God had told Adam, who told Eve, that they could eat from any tree in the garden except one – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17a). God promised that if they ate from that tree they “shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17b).

So what does Satan do? He tells Eve that she will not die. The devil says there is no penalty to sin. And all of us have believed that lie ever since. Satan tells Eve (and us) that God just told her that because He is selfish. He does not want anyone to be like Him and take His place. Satan explains, God “knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan is saying, “God doesn’t want anyone to become like Him by knowing good and evil… He doesn’t want you to reach your full potential. If you obey God, you will be limited and unfulfilled.” But Satan knew no one could be like God. How did he know? Because he tried it himself and got kicked out of heaven (cf. Isaiah 14:12-15)!

Jesus then says, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32). The words “lifted up”refer to Christ’s crucifixion (cf. John 3:14; 8:28; 12:33). Why? Because He must be lifted up on the cross to draw “all”(the word “peoples” is not in the Greek) to Himself. This refers to “all”people, not just Jews, but all people including the Greeks or Gentiles. Jesus’ love is not exclusive. This drawing or pulling is universal regardless of one’s past, nationality, political party, or skin color.

Because of the cross, God does the drawing work that impacts every individual in some way. No one can come to Christ in faith apart from God’s drawing (cf. John 6:44). Jesus does not tell us how long God will draw people to Himself. He may draw them for a brief time or thirty years (cf. Acts 13:46; Romans 1:18-32). That this drawing can be resisted is seen in the life of Judas.3 Judas said “no” to God’s intense drawing for over three years but Judas rejected that drawing and never believed in Christ (cf. 6:64, 70-71; 13:10-11; 17:12). 

John 12:32 does not mean all people will be saved, but that all people will be impacted by the cross in some way and have an opportunity to believe in Christ. But it is still each person’s choice to believe in Christ. John informs us, “This He said, signifying by what death He would die.” (John 12:33). Crucifixion was the kind of death Jesus was destined to die.

The January 10, 2006 Daily Bread reads, “Towering above New York Harbor is the Statue of Liberty. That stately lady, with freedom’s torch held high, has beckoned millions of people who were choking from the stifling air of tyranny or oppression. They’ve been drawn to what that monument symbolizes – freedom. Inscribed on Lady Liberty’s pedestal are these words by Emma Lazarus from her poem ‘The New Colossus’:

            “Give me your tired, your poor,

            Your huddled masses

            yearning to breathe free,

            The wretched refuse

            of your teeming shore;

            Send these, the homeless,

            tempest-tossed, to me:

            I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

“A different monument towers over history, offering spiritual freedom to enslaved peoples everywhere. It’s the cross where Jesus hung 2,000 years ago. At first the scene repels us. Then we see the sinless Son of God dying in our place for our sins. From the cross we hear the words ‘Father, forgive them’ (Luke 23:34) and ‘It is finished!’ (John 19:30). As we trust in Christ as our Savior, the heavy burden of guilt rolls from our sin-weary souls. We are free for all eternity.” 4

Remember Mrs. Lot’s philosophy – “There’s no need to take God seriously”? That could have been etched on her salt-block tombstone. When you have a chance, lick some salt today and ask yourself, “What are some things in my life that God has asked me to leave behind? Things that keep me from following Christ?” 5 After receiving Christ by believing in Him alone for His eternal freedom (John 1:12), you can begin to experience freedom from sin’s bondage in your Christian life by purposing in your heart not to be like Mrs. Lot. You can daily overcome self-centeredness through …

– Seeking Jesus (John 12:20-22).

– Self-denying service to Christ (John 12:23-26).

– Surrendering to God’s control in prayer (John 12:27-30).

– Staying focused on the One who defeated the devil and draws all people to Himself (John 12:31-33).

When you do, you can experience the quality of Christ’s life now (John 12:24-25b; cf. John 8:31-36; 10:10) and be honored by the Father in the future (John 12:25b-26; cf. Matthew 19:29-30; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30; John 4:36; 12:25; Romans 2:7; Galatians 6:7-9; I Timothy 6:12, 19). Only Jesus can unite all people everywhere because only He can transform our selfish, sinful hearts into selfless, loving hearts. Let’s stay focused on Him – the Prince of Peace.

Prayer: Father God, I am so thankful to live in America which was birthed to provide freedom for those who were oppressed. But because of human self-centeredness, that freedom is often limited and redefined to serve one’s selfish interests. There is a much greater freedom that is offered to the world today through Jesus Christ. This freedom that Jesus offers is spiritual,  eternal, and absolutely free to anyone who receives it by faith in Christ alone because His sacrifice on the cross paid for it in full (John John 3:16; 19:30). No politician or government can grant this spiritual freedom. Only Jesus can. Please use me to share this good news of Jesus with the entire world so they can be set free from the penalty of sin (eternal death) and Satan’s counterfeit kingdom of darkness! And Lord, please grant me the desire and the power to abide in Your Word daily so Your truth can set me free from the bondage of self-centeredness that can so easily cripple my walk with You. In the liberating name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2015 Edition, pg. 223.

2. Dr. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.), pg. 1796.

3. Dr. Robert Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pp. 396, 434,435.

4. https://odb.org/2006/01/10/drawn-by-the-cross/

5. Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Portland: Multanomah Press, 1983), pp. 438-439.