I John 3 – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

2. Ibid., pg. 856.

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

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

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

6. Anderson, pp. 137-138.

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

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

9. Anderson, pg. 138.

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

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

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

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

16. Anderson, pp. 138-139.

17. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 139.

I John 2 – Part 11

“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

A few years ago, when I was at a travel agency’s office in a mall near Metro Manila in the Philippines, I met a Muslim man who was also there to purchase plane tickets. As I conversed with him, he made a statement that shocked me. He told me that America’s government leaders orchestrated the 9/11 bombings of the World Trade Center in New York City to cause the rest of the world to turn against Islam and its leaders. When he said this, I thought at first that he was joking. But he wasn’t. He was serious. He told me that there was no evidence whatsoever that the bombings of the WTC were linked to Osama Bin Laden and Islam. At that time, I did not understand how extensively Islam brainwashes its followers from an early age to believe such things.

Anderson illustrates this from the life of former NBA star Chris Jackson, now known as Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf: “He had broken the single game scoring record of Pistol Pete Maravich at LSU and went on to lead the Denver Nuggets for several years. Then he converted to Islam, changed his name, and refused to stand during our national anthem. He walked over and sat on the bench in protest. After several trades he is out of the NBA. He has built his own mosque in Louisiana where he leads prayer to Allah five times a day. In an interview he claimed there is no evidence that Osama is responsible for the New York tragedy. He said, ‘As a matter of fact, there were thirteen Jews found standing on top of a building filming the event, and I think the Jews are responsible.’ The interviewer looked at Chris Jackson and said, ‘You know, you’re crazy.’ And this American citizen said, ‘Well, that’s what they said of our great prophet Mohammed, and I am glad to identify with him.’” 1

With Islam growing in popularity around the world, we will see more people sharing Chris Jackson’s views. 2 Please understand I am not just talking about the refusal to stand for our national anthem or attributing the terrorism of 9/11 to America or the Jews. I am also speaking of Islamic teachings which reject three of the most important fundamentals of the Christian faith:

1. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God (Matt. 5:18; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). Islam teaches that the Judeo-Christian Bible is corrupt and untrustworthy except for the portions which support Islam. 3 The reason Muslims make this accusation is “because the Qur’an says it teaches the same thing as the Bible, confirming the Torah and the gospel, yet the teachings of the Bible are clearly different.” 4

2. The deity of Jesus Christ. Islam’s sacred Scripture, the Qur’an, denies that Jesus is the Son of God or God Himself. According to the Qur’an: “No son did Allah beget, nor is there any god along with Him” (Sura 23:91; cf. 25:2); it is blasphemous to say that Allah (God) is the Christ (Sura 5:19, 75); Allah cannot have a son because he has no consort or partner (Sura 4:171; 5:101). “Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.” (Sura 112:1-4). The Qur’an also teaches that anyone who says Allah has begotten a son will be driven to hell (Sura 19:86-88). According to Islam, since God cannot have a Son, He cannot be a Father. So, Islam also rejects the Trinity – one God in three Persons. 5

3. Christ’s death and resurrection. The Qur’an rejects that Jesus died on the cross and therefore rejects His resurrection. “That they said [in boast], ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no [certain] knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:” (Sura 4:157). 6

Should these Islamic teachings surprise us? Not if we have read the apostle John’s first century letter known as I John. We have already learned in our study of this epistle that there are different barriers to our fellowship with God: personal sin (1:5-2:2), an example of which is hatred for our Christian brothers or sisters (2:3-11), and the world (2:15-17). Now we will begin to look at a third major barrier to our fellowship: the Devil and his false teachers (2:18-27).

It is not surprising that John’s warning against the enticements of the world (2:15-17) is followed by a warning against the antichrists (2:18-27). These antichrists or false teachers were promoting a worldly lifestyle which would entice his readers no matter how spiritual they may have been (2:12-14).

John writes, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that theAntichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” (I John 2:18). Once again John addresses his readers as “little children” (paidia) which means “taught ones” 7 and can refer to “one who is open to instruction.” 8 His readers need to learn what he is about to reveal.

One of the signs that “the world is passing away” (2:17) is the appearance of false teaching or “antichrists” and “the Antichrist” (2:18). While the Greek word for “hour” (hōra)can refer to a part of a day (e.g., John 1:39; 4:6; 11:9), it also is used in reference to an undetermined length of time (e.g., John 2:4; 4:21, 23; 5:25, 28; 16:25; etc.). 9 The phrase “the last hour” refers to a climactic era in history between the First and Second Comings of Jesus Christ.

Throughout the New Testament the writers regarded the present inter-advent age, after the Incarnation and before the Lord’s return for His own, as the last hour or the last days. This is the final period before the Lord Himself breaks into history again and raptures the church. Then the first stage of the new era will be judgment (the Tribulation), and the second stage, blessing. In the second stage, Jesus Christ will rule directly over human beings, first in the Millennium, and then in the new heavens and the new earth.” 10

John and the other authors of the New Testament believed Jesus Christ would return for His own in their lifetime (cf. Matt. 24:36-51; Luke 12:39-40; I Cor. 1:7; 15:51-52; Phil. 3:20; I Thess. 1:10; 4:13-5:11; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28; I Pet. 1:13; 2 Pet. 3:10; Jude 1:21), thus John refers to this period of time before Christ’s return as “the last hour.” Two thousand years later Christ still has not returned for His church. Does this mean the Bible has errors because the writers of the New Testament believed Jesus would return in their lifetimes, and they were obviously wrong?

Zane Hodges points out in his commentary on 1 John, that the Bible predicted that scoffers would come “in the last days” who would deride believers for their doctrine that Christ could come at any moment 11 like “a thief in the night” (2 Pet 3:3-4, 10). 3 Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Peter notes that the coming of “scoffers” is a sign of “the last days.” This is similar to what John is saying in I John 2:18-19. The appearance of “antichrists” or false teachers is indicative of “the last hour” leading up to the manifestation of the ultimate “Antichrist” who will claim to be God and rule the world during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation period (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15-22; 2 Thess. 2:3-4; Rev. 13:1-10).

The skeptics Peter mentions erroneously assume that “all” the processes we observe in our present world are the way “things” have always been (2 Pet. 3:4). This is also known as uniformitarianism. Such false assumptions overlook the fact that God has supernaturally intervened in the past when He spoke the universe into existence (2 Pet. 3:5; cf. Gen 1-2) and judged humanity through a global flood (2 Pet. 3:6; Gen. 6-8). The “same word” that supernaturally intervened in the past will also intervene in the future when God destroys the present heavens and earth with fire (3 Pet. 3:7).

Peter responds to these skeptics who doubted Christ’s coming by saying God does not view time as we do. “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Pet. 3:8). God is not limited to our linear view of time since He created time. Time for God may be a different dimension. 12 So, when Peter refers to “the last days” and John speaks of “the last hour,” they are not in conflict with God’s view of time. An hour or day to God may be two thousand years for us.  

John and his readers knew that “the Antichrist” was destined to appear on the world stage more than three-and one-half years prior to Christ’s return to earth to set up His kingdom. His readers now needed to be aware of the “many antichrists” who had already appeared. The Greek compound word translated “antichrist” (antichristos)means “against” (anti) + “Christ” (christos). These are people who oppose Jesus Christ and His teachings, or they claim to be the Christ or Messiah. 13

“An ‘antichrist’ opposes and replaces Christ with the goal of distracting and derailing Christians from pursuing Christ.” 14

Speaking of these antichrists, John writes, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” (I John 2:19). The word “us” (hēmōn) is used four times in this verse and most likely refers to the apostolic eyewitnesses (cf. 1:4-5; 4:6). It stands in contrast to the “you” in I John 2:20-21 which refers to John’s readers. Here we see for the first time the “we”“you”“us” contrast (cf. I John 4:4-6). 15 John wants his readers to know that these false teachers defected from the apostolic churches of Jerusalem and Judea (“They went out from us”) and sought to spread deception among John’s Gentile readers.

“It does not make sense that the false teachers had left the churches to which the readers belonged. If they had, how were they still a problem? On the other hand, if, like the legalists of Acts 15, they had seceded from the apostolic churches of Jerusalem and Judea, then they were a particular threat to the readers because they came to them claiming roots in the soil out of which Christianity arose. Thus, John was eager to deny any connection with them.” 16

John wants his readers to know the antichrists were not in agreement with apostolic teaching (“they were not of us… none of them were of us”). If they had agreed (“if they had been of us”), they “would have continued with the” apostles (“us”) and their teaching. But since God’s truth could not be changed among the apostles, these false teachers departed. They were unwilling to submit to the final authority of God’s Word, so they went out to deceive John’s readers by claiming to be from the same fellowship as the apostles. John wants his readers to know this so they will not listen to them and be deceived.

Were these antichrists believers in Jesus? It is possible they were saved and then denied the truth they once believed (cf. I Tim. 1:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:17-18). A person can still be saved after falling away from the faith. We can lose our faith, but God never loses us. If He did, then Jesus would have failed to do the Father’s will (John 6:38-39).

John’s readers were not defenseless against these antichrists: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” (I John 2:20). The “anointing from the Holy One” is God the Holy Spirit since we are told that the anointing “teaches” (I John 2:27). This strongly suggests that the anointing is a Person. 17 Christ promised that the Person of the Holy Spirit would “teach” His disciples “all things” (John 14:26; cf. 16:13-14).

“’The anointing’ is not some special gift shared by only elite clergy. John is addressing spiritual ‘children’ (2:18). Every Christian has the anointing: the internal teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit who illuminates the believer’s mind to understand and apply God’s truth, as well as to detect deception. Paul refers to it as having the ‘mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2:16).” 18

When does one receive this anointing? The moment he or she believes in Jesus for His gift of eternal life (John 7:37-39; cf. Acts 10:43-45; 19:2; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:2, 26-27; Ephes. 1:13-14). God the Holy Spirit takes up residence in a person’s body when he or she comes to faith in Christ (I Cor. 6:19-20).

The result of this anointing is “you know all things.” The Holy Spirit enables believers to adequately know and understand Christian truth. The antichrists may have told John’s readers that they or their church leaders lacked a special knowledge which only they could give them.

John assures them they had adequate instruction in the truth of God. “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” (I John 2:21). John does not write to his readers because they are ignorant of the truth as the antichrists may have told them. The apostle writes to them precisely because they do “know” the truth and they know “that no lie is of the truth.” This suggests that the false teachers may have told John’s readers or the church leaders that their understanding of the truth was inadequate, and they needed to be enlightened by them. But John says, “You already know all things. You know the truth. And you know that the truth is never to be confused with a lie. So, there is no need for any of you to listen to these false teachers. Your church leaders are competent to teach the whole body of Christian truth.” 19

It is important to recognize that the word John uses for “know” (oida) in I John 2:20-21 is different than the experiential knowledge (ginōskō) he spoke of earlier (2:3-4, 12-14). In the New Testament the word oida almost always refers to “direct insight into spiritual or divine truth” although it may not be truth that has been experienced yet. 20 This truth is the result of the teaching and convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.” 21

The key to resisting false teaching is to “know the truth” of God’s Word and depend upon the Holy Spirit to do what the Word says. Jesus said, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13). God the Holy Spirit gives us direction from the Word of God. “The Spirit of truth” guides us “into all truth.” The Spirit communicates to us through the written Word which is the truth (John 17:17). Walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) means to depend on the Spirit to do what the Word says. We are to depend upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Word and obey it as we expose ourselves to it. So, as we become more familiar with the truth of the Bible, we can detect the deceptions of the antichrists by contrast.

There are some who try to cast doubt on the truth of the Bible to make the church more open to doctrinal deviations. For example, Islam does this by telling Christians that the New Testament was corrupted by the apostle Paul and therefore is no longer trustworthy. 22 The Jehovah Witnesses have retranslated John 1:1 in their New World Translation to say that the Word, Jesus Christ, is “a god” instead of “God.” 23 John would have had zero tolerance with anyone who praises a false idea as “insightful” or “worthy of dialogue” no matter how far it is from the truth of God’s Word. 24 Christians today also need to have the same zero tolerance for anyone who rejects or distorts the truth of God’s Word.

What lies will these antichrists teach? 22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (I John 2:22-23). The main lie that John has in mind is the denial “that Jesus is the Christ.” For the apostle John, belief “that Jesus is the Christ” is saving: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1a; cf. John 20:30-31).

Believing “that Jesus is the Christ” in John’s thought means to believe that Jesus is the One Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-27). The person who denies this truth about Jesus “is a liar” who undermines the very basis on which anyone is saved. 25 Hence, these false teachers were denying that John’s readers had eternal life (cf. I John 2:25). If Jesus is not the Christ, as the antichrists taught, then John’s readers had no assurance that they possessed eternal life by believing in Christ. If their assurance disintegrated, so would their fellowship with God. 26

Denying that Jesus is the Christ is also a denial of “the Father and the Son” (2:22b) because “whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (2:23). To deny One is to deny the other and to acknowledge One is to acknowledge the other because Jesus perfectly reflects God the Father. Both the Father and the Son are God.

If we apply this lie detector test to Islam, we can quickly see that Islam denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and it also denies that God is the Father (see previous comments). According to I John 2:18-23, what do we learn about any religious system that denies Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and denies God is the Father? First, we learn that it is a lie. And second, it is from the Antichrist. To put it bluntly, any religious system that denies Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and denies God is the Father is from the Devil. 27

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for providing tests to help us discern truth from error. We are living in a world that is filled with deception and false teachers who claim to be Christians but deny that Jesus is the Christ Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him. Thank You for the anointing of the Holy Spirit which enables us to understand and apply the truth of Your Word, and to detect deception. Any religious system that denies Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and denies God is the Father is a lie and is from Satan. Grant us the courage and discernment to apply these truths from I John to our daily lives. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 119.

2. An April 2, 2015, Pew Research Report entitled, “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050” at https://www.pewresearch.org states that Islam is projected to grow faster than any other religion. “Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion, a 35% increase. Over that same period, Muslims – a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates – are projected to increase by 73%. The number of Christians also is projected to rise, but more slowly, at about the same rate (35%) as the global population overall. As a result, according to the Pew Research projections, by 2050 there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8 billion, or 30% of the population) and Christians (2.9 billion, or 31%), possibly for the first time in history.”

3. See Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 117-118 and Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Islam and the Rise of Radical Islam (Christian Publishing House, 2019 Kindle Edition), pp. 7, 34.  When witnessing to a Muslim, show them that the Bible claims to be the perfect Word of God (Matthew 5:18; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21), encouraging them to read it. If Muslims say they cannot read the Bible because it is corrupted, remind them that the Quran promises, “there is no change to the word of God” (Sura 10:64). If God can preserve the Qur’an, He can preserve the Bible which the Qur’an encourages Muslims to read (cf. Sura 3:3; 5:36-38, 66; 12:111; 20:37; 29:46; 35:31; and 10:94). Surely Allah would not command his people to read the Bible if it was corrupted. In Sura 10:94, the Qur’an tells Muslims that if they are in doubt about anything in the Scriptures, they should ask those who have received the book that was given before, such as the Tauret (the books of Moses), the Zabur (the psalms of David), and the Injil (the Gospels). – See Janosik, pg. 44.

4. Qureshi, pg. 117.

5. When witnessing to a Muslim about the deity of Christ, explain to them what the term “Son of God” means in its historic and biblical context. Never does it mean that God has a wife and produces offspring as Muslims believe. “Son of God” is an analogical term that indicates the relationship that the Second Person of the Trinity has with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is not inferior to the Father; for He claims that He and the Father are one (John 10:30), as well as if they have seen the Son then they have also seen the Father (John 14:9). Jesus also performed unique miracles that confirmed that He was the Son of God (John 20:31). Thus, the Son is not “another” god, but rather the second Person of the One God. In addition, Christians should realize that the reference to Jesus as the “Christ” is a title given to the heavenly, eternal Son Who is equal to God the Father (John 5:18-24). Christians should also explain the limitations that the Son took on Himself in order to become a Man. If He did not become fully Man (John 1:14; I Timothy 2:5), then He could not truly die in our place and bring us redemption from our sins (Phil. 2:5-8) (Janosik, pg. 271).

6. When witnessing to a Muslim about the death and resurrection of Christ, Christians need to understand that from an historical point of view, the claim by Muslims that Jesus Christ was not crucified was made 600 years after the event and has no historical support from the first century. (Janosik, pg. 284). Perhaps one of the best ways to help Muslims understand the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ would be to use Dr. Gary Habermas’ “minimal facts” argument (Janosik, pg. 284 cites Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection [Kregel, 2004]). The five essential facts to relate are:

a. Jesus died by crucifixion. Most historians accept the fact that a man named Jesus Christ lived in the first century and died by crucifixion.

b. His disciples believed that He rose and appeared to them. Whether or not Jesus actually rose from the dead, His disciples were so persuaded of this fact that they spent the rest of their lives telling this story. None of them ever denied what they had witnessed firsthand.

c. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed. The apostle Paul first tried to destroy the early church, but after his encounter with the risen Jesus Christ he became the chief evangelist for the church.

d. The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed. Something transforming happened to James that turned him completely around so that he became one of the great leaders of the early church. Experiencing his half-brother, Jesus, resurrected from the dead could do this.

e. The tomb was empty. There have been many attempts to discount this fact, but they all fall far short of the simple explanation that Jesus, who had been crucified and died, had risen from the dead and exited the tomb (Janosik, pg. 284). 

7. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pp. 45, 55.

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

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

10. Constable, pp. 55-56.

11. Anderson, pg. 121 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pp. 106-107.

12. Anderson, pp. 122-123 cites Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Comos (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993), pg. 76. 

13. Constable, pg. 56.

14. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2940.

15. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 593.

16. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3719 to 3723.

17. Ibid., Kindle Location 3728.

18. Evans, pg. 2940.

19. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 593.

20. Anderson, pg. 124.

21. Ibid.

22. Qureshi, pp. 196-198.

23. The translation of John 1:1c, “And the Word was God” (kai Theós ēn ho Lógos), is based on the Greek rule of grammar (Colwell’s rule) which states that the definite predicate nominative, “God” (Theós), in front of the verb “was” (ēn) will not have the article. See E. C. Colwell, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament,” Journal of Biblical Literature 52 (1933), pp. 12-21. In Greek, word endings determine the subject. But since both “Word” (Logos) and “God” (Theos) have the same ending, John added the article (ho) to Logos to identify it as the subject of the sentence.

24. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 593.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Anderson, pp. 124-15.

Revelation 22 – Part 10

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20

Chuck Swindoll writes, “The book of Revelation was written during a difficult time in Christian history. The emperor Domitian, having declared himself to be ‘lord and god,’ tried to force Rome’s traditional religious practices on everyone – especially the Christians. This involved persecuting the Christian ‘atheists,’ who worshiped a God who couldn’t be seen. How difficult it was for Christians to hang on to their faith, their hope, and their love in the midst of such persecution! How tempting it would be to succumb to fear, to deny the source of eternal life in exchange for temporal living. How encouraging the prophecies and promises of Revelation must have been to those first-century Christians whose faith was hanging by a thread!

“Today, in a world increasingly antagonistic toward biblical truth and the claims of Christ, Revelation’s vivid, striking images and dire predictions of doom offer a strangely satisfying form of comfort to us as well. In effect, the persecuted righteous still hear the righteous Judge say, ‘Don’t lost heart; remain faithful; I will vindicate your suffering soon.’” 1

Following Jesus’ previous testimony (22:12-19), Christ once again promises to come quickly: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). Jesus is the One “who testifies to these things” previously mentioned about His soon coming to reward people, both saved and unsaved (22:12-15), the divine origin of the book of Revelation (22:16), the free offer of eternal life (22:17), and the warning not to alter the book of Revelation (22:18-19).

Even though many Christians avoid the book of Revelation because of its symbolism, there are certain truths of which they can be certain. The first is Jesus is coming soon. Christ promises, “Surely I am coming quickly.” The Greek word translated “quickly” (tachy) means “soon, in a short time.” 2 The words “quickly”and “soon” both convey God’s perspective about His return for His church. His coming is always “soon” from “the standpoint of the saints’ foreview of the future, and when it occurs, it will come suddenly or quickly.” 3 This is the third time in this chapter that Christ makes this promise (22:7, 12, 20; cf. 3:11; 16:15).

Jesus’ promise to come soon (22:20) is in response to the prayers of “the Spirit,” the church (“the bride”), and anyone who “hears,” to “come” (22:17). 4 The implication of these words of Jesus for first-century Christians was that His coming could take place at any day or hour or moment in their lifetime. 5 This is also true for us today. The next event on God’s prophetic calendar is the return of Christ for His church (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. John 14:1-3; I Corinthians 15:51-58; I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11).  

We can understand that the Lord Jesus is coming soon even if the details of the Rapture, Tribulation, the Second Coming of Christ, the Millennium, and New Heaven and New Earth are not clear to us. 6 This is one reason why Christ repeats this promise three times in the last chapter of the Bible. He wants us to look for His coming at any moment.

The second truth Christians can be certain of from this verse (and the entire book of Revelation) is seen in the apostle John’s response: “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” The word “Amen” (Amēn) “comes from a Hebrew exclamation based on a verb that means ‘to confirm, support, uphold… to be certain.’” 7 Literally this word means, “So be it!” 8 John’s “Amen” expresses a worshipful affirmation of what Jesus just promised. John then prays, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” There is enough clear teaching in the book of Revelation for you and me to look forward to the soon coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. If reading this book makes you a better worshiper of Christ, then it has achieved its goal. 9

The soon return of Christ depicted in the book of Revelation is intended to motivate apathetic or indifferent people to wake up because their present choices will have eternal consequences connected to Jesus’ coming. For the Christian, they will have to stand before Jesus at His Judgment Seat to determine what, if any, eternal rewards they will receive for the way they lived their lives on earth since being saved (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). Since Christ could return at any moment or we could lose our lives today, we cannot afford to neglect our walk with Jesus for one moment. 10

For the non-Christian, the soon return of Christ at any moment is intended to encourage them to receive Jesus’ free offer of eternal life simply by believing in Him (22:17; cf. John 4:10-14; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26). God does not promise you tomorrow on the earth, so today could be your last opportunity to get right with Him. Jesus said to a religious leader who thought the way to heaven was by doing good works, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5). Entering God’s eternal kingdom on the new earth is not by your behavior, but by your births.

According to Jesus, you need two birthdays to enter His eternal kingdom. The first birthday is your physical birth (“born of water … that which is born of the flesh is flesh” – John 3:5a, 6a). Since you are reading this article, you already have this birth. But you also need a second birth which is spiritual (“born of… the Spirit… that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” – John 3:5b, 6b).

Jesus explains that the way to be born of the Spirit is to believe in Him for eternal life: “Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14b-15). Christ was “lifted up” on the cross to pay the full penalty for all our sins (John 19:30) so “whoever believes in Him should not perish” in the lake of fire “but have eternal life” both now and forever in the world to come. At the moment of faith in Christ, God’s Spirit baptizes or places us into the family of God (I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27). We are NOT born of the Spirit by being baptized with water, taking communion, speaking in tongues, casting out demons, or performing miracles. We are born of the Spirit by believing in Christ alone for His free gift of eternal life. 

If you have never understood and believed this before, but now you do, you can tell God this through prayer. But praying this prayer does not get you to heaven. Only believing in Jesus for His gift of eternal life gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now believing in His Son.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You so much for bringing to my attention that You could return for Your church today. I want to be part of that wonderful event. I am coming to You now as a sinner who cannot save him or herself from sin. I believe You died in my place for all my sins and rose from the dead, and You are alive today. As best as I know how, I am believing or trusting in You alone to give me the gift of eternal life. Thank You for the eternal life I just received and for my spiritual birth into Your family today. Thank You also for the future home I will have in Your eternal kingdom. Please help me learn how to follow You and share with others how they can enter Your eternal kingdom. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 405.

2. 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. 993.

3. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 6654.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 258.

5. Ibid., cites Joseph A. Seiss, The Apocalypse (Charles C. Cook, 1900; reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), pg. 523.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2425.

7. Swindoll, pg. 404 cites R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), Vol. 1, pg. 51.

8. Swindoll, pg. 404.

9. Evans, pg. 2425.

10. Swindoll, pg. 405.

Revelation 1 – Part 1

“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” Revelation 1:3

People all around the world are wanting to know what the future holds for them, especially during this global pandemic. They turn to astrology, clairvoyants, fortune cookies, crystals, doctors, mediums, meteorologists, palm readers, political analysts, prophets, psychics, religious leaders, scientists, statisticians, or tarot cards, tabloid newspapers, etc. Sometimes these forecasters do get it right. But more often their predictions are way off. Forecasts about the future are only as reliable as their sources. 1

When the source of information is our limited human perspectives on the past and present, the most intelligent ‘expert’ can only offer an educated guess. On the other hand, if the source is the all-knowing sovereign God, we can be certain that what He speaks will surely come to pass.” 2

Before God gives us some amazing descriptions about the future in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, He wants to assure us that the Source of these predictions is very reliable. These visions of the future do not come from some fanatical religious zealot or psychic who is trying to make a living. The Source of these incredible predictions comes from God Himself.

The apostle John, the same human author of the gospel of John, 1, 2, and 3 John, writes, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 1:1a). John immediately alerts his readers to the Source of this book’s information when he writes, “The Revelation of [about or from] Jesus Christ.” The Greek wordfor “Revelation” (apokálypsis) means “disclosure,” 3 “uncover,” 4 or “unveiling.” 5 “It means bringing something to light that was formerly hidden or kept secret. Today the term ‘apocalypse’ conveys the idea of a cosmic cataclysm or disaster. Though the apocalypse of John includes some of these elements, the term’s meaning is much broader. It refers to any kind of unveiling. In this case, God revealed the future to John in order to inform His people what would take place.” 6

Jesus Christ is the Giver of this revelation, and He is its main subject. 7  There is no author more trustworthy than God Himself. In the book of Revelation, as the events unfold leading up to the return of Jesus Christ to earth to set up His kingdom, we are going to learn more and more about Him. Our view of Christ will become clearer as He discloses more of Himself and His redemptive plan in this book. Our lives can be forever changed as we encounter the glorified Lord Jesus Christ in this book!

When John writes, “which God gave Him to show His servants,” he is referring to “God” the Father giving Jesus (“Him”) this revelation “to show His servants,” one of whom is “John” the apostle (Revelation 1:1b). If we are struggling to accept what God says in this last book of the New Testament, it may be time for us to surrender ourselves to Jesus Christ as “His servants.” Being Jesus’ servant means being dependent upon and yielded to God which is the best way to hear God’s voice. 8

Did you ever wonder why the Lord Jesus chose John to receive this amazing revelation about the future? I think the main reason is because John was trustworthy. John wrote in his gospel, 23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” (John 2:23-25). During the week-long feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus did many miracles. As a result, many people believed in Christ for eternal life. But John informs us that “Jesus did not commit (or entrust) Himself to them, because He knew all men.” Jesus “knew” that these new believers were not ready to obey Him yet. Why do I say this?

Because Jesus later says, “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). Christ “manifests” or discloses more of Himself to the believer who “has… and keeps” His commandments. Friendship with Christ is conditioned upon obeying Him. Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). This friendship refers to Jesus disclosing His thoughts to those who obey Him. Thus, Jesus’ friends are those to whom He entrusts Himself.

John had one of the most intimate relationships with Jesus among all the disciples. The Bible says of John, “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23). John was not only physically close to Jesus’ heart (“leaning on Jesus’ bosom”) the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He was also spiritually close to the heart of our Lord (“whom Jesus loved”). Christ trusted John so much that He even assigned him to provide and care for His own mother, Mary (John 19:26-27). John had proven his faithfulness to Jesus through his obedience to Him. As a result, Jesus gave John the privilege of providing and caring for His own mother.

About sixty years later, John, then in his nineties, had been exiled for his faith by the emperor Domitian to a penal colony on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, about forty miles from Ephesus.” It was there (Revelation 1:9) that the ascended and glorified Lord Jesus Christ entrusted John with this incredible revelation in the last book of the Bible because John had proven himself to be trustworthy to Christ through his obedience. Jesus could count on John to write down exactly what he was told.

What about us? Are we a trustworthy friend of Jesus’? Have we demonstrated our love for Him by keeping His commandments (John 15:14)?  For some of us, we don’t know Jesus any better today than the day we became a Christian, even though that may have been years ago. Christ will not disclose Himself to us if we are not willing to go on and obey Him. He refuses fellowship with Christians who are not ready to obey Him.

For any relationship to grow deeper, there must be mutual trust. I am not going to be transparent with you until I develop a certain level of trust with you. Likewise, you are not going to be transparent with me until you have cultivated more trust in our relationship. The same is true of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus knows our hearts. And He knows if we are ready to obey Him and grow deeper in our relationship with Him or not. He knows if we are still trying to be in control of our lives instead of Him.

The content of this revelation Jesus gave to John has to do with “things which must shortly take place” (Revelation 1:1b). The words translated “shortly” (en tachai) mean that from God’s point of view (cf. 2 Peter 3:8) these future events will take place very soon (cf. James 5:8-9). 10

“A major thrust of Revelation is its emphasis upon the shortness of time before the fulfillment. In the midst of persecution God’s people do not have long to wait for relief to come. To say that the relief will come ‘suddenly’ offers no encouragement, but to say that it will come ‘soon’ does. . . .

“The presence of en tachei in 1:1 shows that for the first time the events predicted by Daniel and foreseen by Christ stood in readiness to be fulfilled cf. Dan. 2:28-29, 45]. Therefore, John could speak of them as imminent, but earlier prophets could not.” 11

The fact is, not only will these future events laid out in the book of Revelation begin to take place at any moment, but they also “must” take place (cf. Luke 21:9). “Not one word of God, including the prophecy and promises of Revelation, will fail to come to pass!” 12

The events recorded in the book of Revelation are designed to show the triumph of Jesus Christ as He subjects all enemies to Himself and then reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 6:1-20:15). As far as the world is concerned, Jesus Christ was rejected. The book of Revelation picks up where the Cross leaves off. It reveals Jesus Christ to the world as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

The importance of the book of Revelation can be seen in the way God gave it to humankind. “God” the Father “gave Him [Jesus]” this revelation “to show His servants… And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.” (Revelation 1:1). The chain of communication was from “God” the Father to Jesus (“Him”) to “His angel” to the apostle “John,” and finally to the “servants” of Christ.

Equally striking is the signification of the book. The glorified Lord Jesus “sent and signified” this revelation “by His angel.” The Greek word translated “signified” (esēmanen) “refers to speech that gives a vague indication of what is to happen. John uses this word three times in his Gospel (cf. John 12:33; 18:32; 21:19) and in each case what is being said is not immediately or easily discerned and yet it is not so unintelligible that its meaning is impossible to determine. While the Book of Revelation is full of symbolism and signs that can be difficult to understand, it is a book that can be understood. Just as many of Christ’s parables were intended to be confusing so that His disciples would come to Him for an explanation (cf. Matt 13:10-17), the Revelation of Jesus Christ might be intentionally confusing so that readers dig deeper, longer, and more prayerfully into the text of Scripture.” 13

The apostle John “bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.” (Revelation 1:2). The book of Revelation is “the word of God” and “the testimony of [from or about] Jesus Christ.” John was faithful to bear “witness” or share “all [the] things he saw” from “Jesus Christ” with the churches of Asia Minor. It is important to recognize that the book of Revelation is just as divinely inspired and authoritative as the rest of the Bible. It is “the word of God.” It is not the apostle John’s opinions. It is from the mouth of God.

John now presents the first of seven blessings mentioned in the book of Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3). This is the only book in the Bible that contains this specific, unique promise. For this reason, the book of Revelation has often been called the ‘Blessing Book.’ The inclusion of this blessing seems to anticipate that many would be tempted to neglect the study of Bible prophecy, especially the book of Revelation.” 14

This one verse underscores that the book of Revelation was meant to be a very practical book. Let’s look at three significant elements in this one special blessing: 15

1. “He who reads” – In the early church, few people had a personal copy of the Scriptures, so someone would read them aloud to the congregation.  Today this blessing extends to all who read the book of Revelation, including you and me. I pray that this will encourage everyone reading this article to pick up their Bible and begin reading this life-changing book. If you do not have a Bible, please go to www.youversion.com and download a free digital Bible.

2. “those who hear the words of this prophecy” – Just to hear the book of Revelation read can be a tremendous source of blessing during these troubling times in our modern world. Knowing what is going to happen in the future is intended to bless us. But knowing Bible prophecy is not enough to experience the fullness of this blessing.

3. “those who… keep those things which are written in it” – Not only is it essential to “read” and “hear” Bible prophecy, but we must also “keep” or obey what is written. God has given us the book of Revelation not only to make us knowledgeable of things to come, but to help us prepare for them so we are ready to face the glorified Lord Jesus Christ.

The reason God has given this special blessing is because the time is near” for the prophecy’s fulfillment. The future events recorded in the book of Revelation could begin to unfold at any moment. So many things are happening in our modern world that indicate the nearness of Christ’s return for His church – global movement toward immorality/lawlessness, global movement toward Israel standing all alone, an increase in the frequency and intensity of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, an increase in weather anomalies around the world, the rise of church apostasies, etc. 16 This should give us all a sense of urgency to prepare for Jesus’ coming.

The fact of the matter is all people must face God as their Judge (Hebrews 9:27). It does not matter how hard we exercise or what kind of diet we are on, we are going to face God as our Judge in the future.

Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life will face God as their Judge to determine the degree of their punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Those who do believe in Christ, will face Him as their Judge at the Judgment Seat of Christ to determine the degree of their rewards in heaven (Revelation 4:4; 22:12).

If you are not a Christian, then hear and believe the final invitation from God near the end of the book of Revelation. “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17). If you thirst for eternal life, Jesus Christ promises to give you “the water of life” or eternal life (John 4:13-14) “freely” (John 4:10; Romans 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 21:6b; 22:17) if you will “come” to Him in faith. Eternal life is free to you and me because Jesus Christ paid for it all when He died on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6). Christ does not give eternal life to you because you earned it by living a good moral life. He gives eternal life as a gift to you when you believe in Him alone for it (John 3:15-16, 36; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26). Friends, believe or trust in Jesus alone and He will give you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29).  

If you are already a Christian, you can prepare for the Jesus’ return by living for the Lord Jesus Christ now to receive eternal rewards from Him at the Judgment Seat (Revelation 2:7, 10-11, 17, 25-28; 3:5, 11-12, 21; 4:4; 22:7, 14; cf. Matthew 25:19-23; Luke 19:15-19; Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). If you are not living the way Jesus wants you to live, He instructs you to confess your sin to Him and He guarantees to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). Then surrender your life to Jesus and begin to follow Him as a disciple (Matthew 4:19). Get involved in a local church where you can hear the Word of God faithfully taught and fellowship with other committed Christians who can help you to grow in Christlikeness (Hebrews 10:24-25). And share the gospel of grace with as many lost people as possible while we still have time (Mark 16:15)!

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You so much for giving us the book of Revelation. During this time of uncertainty, we need a sure Word from our great God and Savior. Many of us often think of Revelation as being filled with nothing but judgments resulting in death or suffering. Thank You for reminding us that this incredible book also contains blessings intended to give us hope and encouragement during these troubling times in our modern world. May Your Holy Spirit lead each of us to prepare for Your soon return. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 33.

2. Ibid. 

3. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 112.

4. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!), 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 211318.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 11; 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.  

6. Swindoll, pg. 14.

7. Constable, pg. 11; Swindoll, pg. 33. The words “of Jesus Christ” in the Greek text (Iēsoús Christou) can be taken as a genitive of subjectivity (Christ is the Giver of the revelation) and objectivity (Christ is the Subject of the Revelation).

8. Tony Evans, pg. 2368.

9. Swindoll, pg. 14.

10. 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. 1495; see also Robertson, Kindle Locations 211356-211373).

11. Constable, pg. 12 cites, Robert Thomas, Revelation 1—7: An Exegetical Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 55-56. Cf. 22:6; Deut. 9:3; Ezek. 29:5 (LXX); Luke 18:8; Rom. 16:20. See Mark L. Hitchcock, “A Critique of the Preterist View of ‘Soon’ and ‘Near’ in Revelation,” Bibliotheca Sacra 163:652 (October-December 2006):467-78.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1495. 

13. Ibid.

14. 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. 6. Constable, pg. 13 cites, David E. Aune, Revelation 1—5 (Word Biblical Commentary series, Dallas: Word Books, 1997), pg. 20.

15. The following discussion of these three points is adapted from Mark Hitchcock, pg. 6. 

16. Retrieved from an interview by Nathan Jones with Pablo Frascini on September 20, 2021, entitled, “Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs” at www.christinprophecyblog.org .