Revelation 14 – Part 7

“So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.” Revelation 14:19

Having compared the upcoming bowl judgments to a grain harvest (Revelation 14:14-16), John now shifts his attention to the battle of Armageddon which is compared to a grape harvest (Revelation 14:17-20). The number of God’s messengers prepared to reap the harvest of God’s judgment increases in the following verses. “Then another angel came out of the temple, which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.” (Revelation 14:17). The sixth (“another”) “angel” in this group (14:6-20) “came out of the temple which is in heaven” ready to execute judgment with “a sharp sickle” like the angel of verse 14. Like that angel, this angel also represents the Lord Jesus Christ. 1

“And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.’” (Revelation 14:18). Then John hears “another” (seventh) “angel” who oversees “the altar” of incense and its “fire” (cf. 8:3-5). It is quite possible that this means the angel is responding to the prayers for vengeance by the Tribulation saints from under the altar (cf. 6:9-10). 2

This seventh angel loudly commands the angel with “the sharp sickle” to “thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” The earth is portrayed as a grape vineyard with many “clusters” of grapes which represent the different armies from around the world that will fight against Jesus Christ at Armageddon (cf. 16:12-16). 3 These various armies must be removed from their different locations around the globe to be “gathered” to Jerusalem (cf. Zechariah 12:3; 14:2). 4 Somehow Satan will deceive the kings of the earth to assemble outside Jerusalem to make war with the King of kings and Lord of lords as He returns to the earth with His church (Revelation 16:12-16; 19:7-19).

The word used for “fully ripe” (ēkmasan) means to be “fully grown” or in “prime condition.” 5 The grapes were full of juice and ready for harvest.” 6 What this means is the rebellion of these armies that gathered to make war against King Jesus had reached a crescendo. 7 It was time for their judgment.

19 So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.” (Revelation 14:19-20). Without delay, “the angel” swung “his sickle” and hurled the “gathered… vine of the earth,” representing the Beast and his global armies, 8 “into the great winepress of the wrath of God” (14:19). So, we see that the judgment pictured by the harvest of grapes here is more localized than the judgment portrayed by the harvest of grain, in that it focuses on the armies gathered far “outside the city” of Jerusalem (14:20) 9 “to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (16:16) or Megiddo. Megiddo is approximately forty miles northeast of Jerusalem and will be the site of this bloody battle between the Lord Jesus and the armies of the Beast. 10 This severe judgment by God against the Beast and his rebellious armies is portrayed as grapes being “trampled” in a “winepress” by the Lord Jesus Christ (14:19-20).  

“When the grapes were put into the winepress, there would be people in the winepress who would stomp around on the grapes so that the juice would be released down into a collection vat. Using this image, in Revelation 14:19 the winepress is ‘the great winepress of God’s wrath.’ The Lord is the One who is doing the stomping, but He is stomping on people, not grapes. And what pours out is blood, not grape juice (Isaiah 63:2-3; Joel 3:13; Revelation 19:15). The imagery suggests that the stomping of His judgment is so intense that the blood from His winepress will splash out as high as a horse’s bridle.

“This is a picture of the ferocity of God’s judgment. The Lord is saying that at Armageddon He is going to throw all the nations into His great winepress and that His intense, blood-splattering judgment will extend throughout Israel from Megiddo to Bozrah.” 11

It seems probable that the “blood” of these armies will literally flow “up to” the height of “the horses’ bridle[s],” which is about four to five feet, “for one thousand six hundred furlongs,” which is two hundred miles (14:19-20; cf. 19:15-21). For that much blood to flow, vast numbers of people will have to die. Nothing in human history has ever come close to the ferocity of this battle. The blood will evidently drain out of the Valley of Jezreel, near the biblical city of Megiddo, 12 for two hundred miles, probably flowing eastward down the Jezreel Valley down through the Harod Valley to the Jordan Valley, and then south all the way to the Dead Sea. 13

It is important to see here that God is patient in giving people a chance to get right with Him prior to judgment. God waited until the “grapes” were “fully ripe” (14:18) before He had them thrown into the “great winepress of” His “wrath” (14:19). He does not judge people “at the first hint of their sinful rebellion, though that would be entirely justified. Instead, He provided extended opportunity for repentance and strikes with the sickle of judgment when rebellion has matured into an unmistakable pattern.” 14

If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ yet, please understand that God is being patient with you to give you an opportunity to get right with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. You are not promised tomorrow on earth. Today you can freely come to God as a sinner (Romans 3:23), realizing you cannot save yourself from the penalty of your sins (Romans 6:23a; Revelation 20:15). God loves you and longs to have a forever relationship with you. This is why He sent God the Son, Jesus Christ, to earth over two thousand years ago to die in your place on a cross and rise from the dead (John 3:16a; I Corinthians 15:3-6) so “whoever believes in Him should not perish” in hell, “but have everlasting life” both now and forever (John 3:16b).

Is there anything keeping you from believing in Jesus right now for His gift of everlasting life? If there is, what is it? Nothing you can think of could outweigh the horrors both of God’s temporal judgments on earth during the future Tribulation period (Revelation 6-19) and His eternal judgment of nonbelievers in the lake of fire (Mark 9:43-48; Revelation 14:9-11; 20:15). God intended “the everlasting fire” of hell to be for the devil and his angels, not people (Matthew 25:41). But those who reject God’s free offer of eternal life in Christ Jesus, will send themselves to hell for all eternity (John 3:18, 36b; Revelation 20:15).

God is not asking you to clean up your life. He did not send Jesus into the world to condemn you but to cleanse you (John 3:17). All God asks is that you believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life (John 3:16 36). And when you believe in Christ, He guarantees you will “not perish” in hell, but “have everlasting life” both now and forever (3:16b). Do you believe this? If so, you are now God’s child (John 1:12) destined for heaven with God forever. You are no longer destined for the upcoming temporal judgments of the Tribulation period (I Thessalonians 5:9-10; 4:13-18) nor eternal judgment in the lake of fire (Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9).

As we conclude Revelation 14:6-20, there are two principles for those of us who believe in Jesus to apply to our lives.  First, God’s grace gives us the freedom to choose His righteousness.” 15 In the Garden of Eden, God created Adam and Eve with the freedom to choose between good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17). With this freedom of choice comes accountability. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God instead of obeying Him (Genesis 3:1-6), they sent all of humanity into a state of sin and death (Genesis 3:7-21; Romans 5:12-14; I Corinthians 15:22). 16

However, Christ’s death on the cross redeemed us from slavery to sin (Romans 6:5-7; Ephesians 1:7) so that we now have the choice through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to choose God’s righteousness instead of sin (Romans 8:1-13). God calls us as believers in Jesus to use the freedom of choice in the service of God, not self (Romans 6:12-13). 17

The second principle to apply to our lives is “God’s justice holds every person accountable.” 18 Some believers in Jesus think that because they are saved forever by grace through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), they are no longer accountable for their decisions or actions. It is true that believers in this Church Age will escape both the coming wrath of God during the Tribulation period on earth via the Rapture of the church (I Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-5:9) and eternal torment in the lake of fire (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; Acts 16:31; Revelation 14:9-11; 20:15).

But the Bible also tells us that Christians “must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10). A day of God’s assessment of our Christian lives is coming to determine what if any eternal rewards we will receive for the things we did in our earthly bodies.

The Bible tells us in I Corinthians 3, that God is the One who will “reward” each believer “according to his own labor” (3:8b) at the Judgment Seat of Christ (3:9-15; cf. I Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Under the penetrating gaze of Christ, the quality of our works will be “revealed by fire” to determine our level of loss or rewards (3:13). Those whose work “endures” the flames “will receive a reward” (3:14). But “if anyone’s work is burned” up, “he will suffer loss” at the Judgment Seat; “but he himself will be saved, yet as through fire” (3:15). While this passage does affirm the eternal security of an unfaithful believer (“he himself will be saved”) who enters heaven with little or nothing to show for in terms of service to God, 19 it also underscores the accountability of that believer to Christ. Jesus’ scrutiny of his unfaithful life will be painful (“yet as through fire”).

The day of God’s assessment of our Christian lives is coming. Are we prepared to face Christ’s revealing gaze at the Judgment Seat? Are we using our freedom of choice to choose to live a life that is free from sin’s domination, or have we forgotten that there will be an accounting of our works before Jesus? 20 God wants to use this knowledge of His future assessment of our Christian lives to motivate us to live faithfully for Him now so we can enjoy eternal rewards with Him throughout eternity.

Prayer: Holy Father, You have pierced our hearts with this vision of a harvest of grapes that depicts the future blood bath that will take place when King Jesus returns to earth to severely judge the Beast and all his armies who have rejected You, Lord God. Never has the earth seen such ferocity and shedding of blood as is described in this final battle that will take place at the end of the Tribulation period. To think that all of this could be avoided if people would trust in You and yield to Your righteousness. But in love, You created us with the freedom to choose. May those of us who believe in Jesus, use this freedom of choice to serve and honor You in the power of the Holy Spirit throughout our lives, knowing You will richly reward us for our faithfulness at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This final battle also reminds us of the importance of sharing the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection with those who are currently perishing without Christ, so they may believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life and be rescued from both temporal judgments on earth and eternal judgment in the lake of fire. Thank You, Father, for graciously revealing the future to us so we may prepare for what is coming. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition

(Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1554.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 163.

3. Bob Vacendak, pg. 1554.

4. Ibid.

5. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 5904.

6. Ibid.

7. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 274.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1554.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid., pg. 1561.

11. 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. 376.

12. Swindoll, pg. 275.

13. Constable, pg. 164.

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

15. Swindoll, pg. 276.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid., pg. 277.

19. Evans, pg. 1979.

20. Swindoll, pg. 277.

How much you matter to God – Part 4

“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ ” Luke 19:5

We are learning from Jesus’ encounter with a wealthy man named Zacchaeus how much we matter to God. So far we have discovered…

– No matter how insignificant I feel, Jesus notices me (Luke 19:4-5a).

– No matter what other people say, Jesus affirms me (Luke 19:5ab).

Zacchaeus’ appearance made him feel lonely and insecure. His accusers made him feel bitter and resentful. But it was Zacchaeus’ sins, his own lifestyle, his own choices, that made him feel guilty and ashamed. So Jesus Christ did something even more shocking. He didn’t just walk up to the tree and look up and notice Zacchaeus. And He didn’t just call him by name and affirm him as a pure one in front of everybody else who hated him. 

Jesus then said, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” (Luke 19:5). Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ home for dinner. This is truly amazing!

Think about this. The Son of God, walked all the way through town to find the biggest scoundrel in town and says, “I’m going to go to your house. I’m going to be your guest. Out of all these thousands of people, I choose you, Zacchaeus.”

This leads us to our third profound truth: NO MATTER WHAT I’VE DONE, JESUS ACCEPTS ME (Luke 19:5c-6) and He wants a relationship with me. This is the biggest mind blower of all. Jesus knew that there was no way that Zacchaeus would ever invite Him to his house because Zacchaeus was carrying a lot of hidden guilt, perhaps like some of us today. Because in his mind, Zacchaeus was thinking, “I’m not good enough to have Jesus Christ at my house. I’m not good enough to have God as my guest. You don’t know the things that I have done. I am not good enough to have a relationship with Him.”

And many of us have felt that way. We say to ourselves, “I’m not good enough. If you knew all the shameful things I have done You could never love me or want to spend time with me.” But we are wrong. Spending time with Jesus is not based on our goodness. It is based on God’s incredible love and grace for us. Regardless of all we have done wrong, Jesus Christ still wants a relationship with us.

So Jesus takes the initiative and says, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Notice, that Jesus did not say, “I would like to stay at your house.” No, He said “I must stay at your house.” This was a divine appointment. It was a necessary visit. 1  Since Jesus called Zacchaeus by name, He obviously knew Zacchaeus. He knew everything about him, but that did not deter Jesus from taking the initiative and inviting Himself to Zacchaeus’ house.

The truth is, like Zacchaeus, we have done a lot of things we are ashamed of. We have all hurt other people with our own brand of selfishness. Sometimes it is out in the open. Sometimes it is in secret. But we have hurt a lot of other people in our lives by the things we have said and done. Our choices have deeply wounded people. But Jesus wants to change us more than condemn us. Jesus said, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17). Christ came into the world to cleanse us, not condemn us. So He looks at you and me, and He says, “I know you, I love you, and I accept you in spite of all that you have done. And I want you to know and love Me and have a relationship with Me.”

Some of us may think, “If I come to Jesus Christ with all the dirt in my life, He is going to condemn me!” If this is how we think, then we don’t understand how much we matter to Jesus Christ. When we come to Christ in faith, no matter what we have done, Jesus still accepts us. Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37b). Christ guarantees that when you come to Him in faith, He will never reject you. This may be difficult for us to understand if we have experienced a lot of rejection in our lives.

But there is a big difference between people and God when it comes to forgetting our past. When we sin, people have a tendency to remind us of our past sins. But God forgets! The Bible says, “ ‘16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days,’ says the Lord: ‘I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ 17 then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’ ” (Hebrews 10:16-17). God was not teasing when He said He will remember our sins no more. God has a forgetful nature. “Just as it’s against your nature to eat tree or grow wings, it’s against God’s nature to remember forgiven sins.” 2

“You see, God is either the God of perfect grace… or He is not God. Grace forgets. Period. Grace does not judge! He who is perfect love cannot hold grudges. If He does, then He isn’t perfect love.” 3 Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve. He gives us what we need instead of what we deserve. None of us deserve to be forgiven. None of us deserve to have our sins remembered no more. But God’s grace forgives and forgets!

Think about this. If God did not forget, how could we pray? How could we sing to Him? How could we dare enter into His presence if the moment He saw us He remembered all our sinful past? 4

Let me illustrate this with a $100 bill. If I took a $100 bill and crumpled it up in my hand, would you still want it? Yes. But what if I stomped on that $100 bill with my dirty shoes on? Would you still want it? Yes, of course you would. But why? Because it has not lost any of its value. Yes, your life may be crumpled and stained by sin. It may be a total mess. But your life has not lost any value to God! And, yes, you have blown it but Jesus Christ still wants a relationship with you. 

When we come to Jesus, He accepts us and He will never reject us. No matter what we have done, Jesus wants a relationship with us. Knowing that Jesus notices everything in our lives, He affirms us regardless of what anyone else says about us, and He still wants a relationship with us in spite of the fact that we have rejected Him in the past, how should you respond to Him?

The way Zacchaeus did. The Bible says, “So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.” (Luke 19:6). I think Zacchaeus was saved before he hit the ground. He thought, “This is a deal I am not going to get anywhere else. I am going to take advantage of it right now.” Zacchaeus didn’t just receive Jesus joyfully into his house that day, he joyfully received Jesus into his heart. His heart was filled with joy because no one had ever showed him such love and grace as Jesus just did!

With the God who notices… affirms… and accepts you and is waiting with open arms, give me one logical reason why you should refuse to receive him as your Savior. There is none. It is so simple. The Bible says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12). Believe and receive. Zacchaeus joyfully received Jesus into his life by believing in Him. God became His Father in heaven and Zacchaeus became God’s child forever at that moment of faith.

Today I want to invite you, like Zacchaeus, to jump out of the tree you are in or get off the limb you are out on or get out of the dark hole and receive Jesus Christ into your life. How can you do that? The Bible says you must simply believe in Jesus Christ. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1). Jesus is the promised Christ, the Messiah-God (cf. Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1, 14, 41; 20:31). When you believe this, you are born of God. You are placed in God’s family forever and He will never cast you out (John 6:37).

In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus makes it very clear that there is only one way to God and that is through Him. Our sin, the wrong things we have done, separate us from God (Romans 6:23a). But Jesus has provided the only way back to God by dying on the cross for all our sins (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6). He took our place and punishment on the cross, was buried, and then rose again. The Lord Jesus is alive today and He now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift of eternal life.

Just as you trust a chair to hold you up through no effort of your own, so you must trust in Jesus Christ alone as your only way to heaven. Your good life, religion, or prayers will not save you. Only Jesus can save you. The Bible says, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). Did you catch that? “No other name under heaven” can save us from eternal separation from God outside of Jesus Christ. Your monk, parent, pastor, peers, politician, priest, prophet, or imam, cannot save you from your sins. You and I cannot save ourselves. But Jesus Christ can.

And the moment you place your trust in Jesus for eternal life, you become God’s child and God comes to live inside you through His Spirit. He can change the way you see yourself.

If you just believed or trusted Christ alone today for His gift of salvation, I would like to give you a chance to tell God what you have done. You can pray this prayer in your heart, keeping in mind that prayer does not save, trusting Christ saves.

Prayer: Dear God, thank You for noticing every detail of my life… for seeing my potential in spite of my sin… for wanting a relationship with me in spite of all that I have done wrong. Today I realize there is nothing I can do to deserve heaven. So right now as best I know how, I am trusting You alone, Jesus, to forgive all my sins and to give me eternal life. Thank You for the assurance that I will now be with you in heaven when I die. Thank You for not being ashamed of me. I do not want to be ashamed of You, Lord Jesus. Please help me to see myself as You see me – forgiven, redeemed, and saved forever. Help me to tell others what You have done for me. In Your mighty name I pray Lord Jesus. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus, He placed you in God’s family forever (John 1:12; 6:37). All of your sins are forgiven (Colossians 2:13-14). God has forgotten all your sins so you can approach Him with boldness now through prayer (Hebrews 10:16-22). God is now Your Father in heaven and you are His child forever (Matthew 6:9). You now have many brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world. And at that moment of faith in Jesus, everything changed in your life just as it did in Zacchaeus’ life. Lord willing, we will discover next time just how dramatically Zacchaeus’ life changed and how Jesus can change our lives too.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1717.

2. Retrieved from Steve Siemen’s communion meditation at NewLife Church in Pleasant Hill, Iowa on August 8, 2021.

3. Ibid.

4. Adapted from Ibid.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 6 (Video)

This is the sixth video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the sixth miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving His miraculous healing of a man born blind (John 9:1-41).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from Jesus.net, www.GoodSalt.com,  John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, or they are creative common licenses. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

How can I overcome condemnation? Part 2

“And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. ” John 8:8b-9

The second way I can overcome condemnation is when I… REDIRECT THOSE WHO CONDEMN ME TO THEIR OWN SIN (John 8:3-9). This is what Jesus did when His gracious teaching was rudely interrupted by the religious leaders. Satan loves to keep people from hearing God’s grace. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.’ ” (John 8:3-4). During the feast of Tabernacles many people lived in close quarters. The religious leaders caught a woman in the act of adultery.

Have you ever been caught in the act? I love Bill Cosby’s story of his son and the cookie jar. He tells of the time his son was caught up on a stool with his hand in the cookie jar. Bill, said, “Did I not tell you that you could not have a cookie?” “Yes”, his little son replies, “but I was getting the cookie for you”. “I don’t want a cookie” Bill tells him. “Well, can I have it then?” his son asks. That was a very smart answer when your hand is caught in the cookie jar.

Have you ever been caught red-handed? You were guilty and everyone knew it. Like your humming along on the highway, and a policeman gets behind you and puts on his lights. I mean, isn’t that a wonderful feeling? And you have nothing to say, because you know that you were going way too fast. Whenever you are caught in the act, there is no point in arguing. The guilt is yours, and you must deal with the consequences. This woman was caught in the act. She was guilty of the crime. Her accusers were right. She didn’t put up any defense. This woman had just committed the act of adultery. The sin that she committed was a serious crime. It was one of many crimes that carried with it the death penalty. It was ranked right along with murder, kidnapping, witchcraft, and offering human sacrifice.

For this woman to have been caught in adultery, the leaders must have set it up. They now set her in the middle of a crowd where everyone could see her and what Jesus would do with such a case. This was unlawful because they had a court to try such cases. But where was the man? The leaders set this whole thing up so the man could escape. They seemed to have a personal vendetta against this woman. The leaders then say, “’ 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.” (John 8:5-6a). The law of Moses said to stone an adulteress and adulterer (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22-24)). But the leaders weren’t concerned with justice, but with trapping Jesus. If Jesus says not to stone her, He is in conflict with the Mosaic law. If He says to stone her, He is in conflict with the Roman Law – for only the Romans had the right of capital punishment, not the Jews. So Christ is confronted with a situation in which He could offer no acceptable response.

Why did these men want to throw stones? The same reason that we want to throw them. We throw stones because we… harbor hatred, hold on to bitterness, are entangled in anger, want to have revenge, will not let go of the things that upset us or because it is easier to throw stones at others rather than ourselves.

Stones can be valuable as well, for you use stones to build something. You can use stones to cover something up or you can even decorate with stones. When you hold a stone in your hand, what do you feel? There is a hardness. There is a heaviness. There is a coarseness. There is sometimes a feeling that you just want to throw that stone, isn’t there?

Although we would never think of actually throwing stones at other people, far too often we throw emotional or spiritual stones at others, don’t we? Hurtful comments, generalizations, gossip, judgmental statements, or harshness with the truth. What is it that makes people want to throw stones?

Frustration: When we become frustrated it distorts our ability to see things clearly.

Fatigue: Everything always looks worse when we are tired.

Failure: When others fail, we are quick to judge their actions. When we fail others, we are quick to justify our actions.

False Assumptions: When we get only bits and pieces of the truth, we create assumptions based on faulty logic.

Feelings: If we make the choice to follow our feelings we make the choice to be shallow.

How does Jesus respond to this attempt to condemn Him? “But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.” (John 8:6b). Much speculation has centered around what Jesus wrote. But the Bible is silent on this point! The act of writing – not what was written – is what is most important. When Jesus is tested about the Law of Moses, He writes on the ground “with His finger.” The two times in the Bible when God is mentioned writing with His finger are here and on Mount Sinai.  

Jesus was more than a Teacher of the Law (John 8:4). He was also the Giver of the law. He was the Son of God (John 20:31), God in human flesh (John 1:1,14), the Creator of all things (John 1:3). The same finger that wrote the law on the tablet of stone on Mount Sinai (Exodus 31:18), is the same finger that wrote on the ground. If Jesus was the Law-Giver, then He could forgive this woman like He had forgiven Israel at Mount Sinai (Exodus 33:12-34:9).

“So when they continued asking Him…” (John 8:7a). The leaders thought Christ was stalling so they persistently questioned Him. “He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ ” (John 8:7b). Is Jesus referring to sinlessness when He says,“He who is without sin among you”? No. In the original language, this verse literally says, “He who is without the sin [of adultery] …”  Christ is referring to a specific area of sin.

As the truth began to sink in, we read, “And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.” (John 8:8). The fact that Jesus wrote on the ground twice reminds us that God also wrote on the tablets of stone two times on Mount Sinai. Moses broke the first tablets when he came down from the mountain and saw the golden calf and the revelry of the people (Exodus 32:19; cf. 31;18; 32:15-16). So God wrote them a second time with His finger (Exodus 34:1).

Some writers have suggested that Jesus may have wrote on the ground the names of the women whom the Pharisees slept with. The Law required the man and woman be stoned. Where was the man? Was he one of the leaders or a friend of the leaders? There would have been ample opportunities for the leaders to commit adultery during the feast.

“Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” (John 8:9). As the sun was rising, the leaders were leaving. The older ones left first because they had more guilt since they had been committing adultery longer. Instead of focusing on the woman’s sin or on trapping Jesus, the leaders were now forced to look at their own sin.

When people are quick to condemn you or criticize you, set a boundary with them. Ask them, “Have you ever committed a similar sin? How did you feel? Would you have wanted others to remind you of that or put you down in front of other people?” When you are being attacked, it is better to take the offensive rather than be defensive. This is what Jesus did with those who sought to accuse Him at the expense of a broken woman. He defended this woman, and her accusers retreated when faced with their own sin.

I believe many Christians remain silent in their shame because they are afraid of condemnation from other believers in the church. Some of my most hurtful moments have come from misunderstandings with other Christians or shame-based preaching and teaching. Those were situations where I felt condemnation not compassion. Sure, I was taught that God loved me, but I was still a worthless sinner who needed to try harder.

God is showing me that people who are hurting often hurt other people. Instead of facing our own pain, we have a tendency to act out our pain with others. It is much easier to focus on the shortcomings of another person than to face our own.

If you are afraid to seek help from other Christians, please understand that Jesus Christ is not in the business of condemnation. The Bible says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17). Christ wants to cleanse you, not condemn you. It is important for you to ask Jesus to lead you to believers who will love and care for you regardless of your past or present problems. A Christian cannot offer you the compassion of Christ as you deal with your brokenness, if he or she has not walked through their own brokenness with the Lord.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I needed to hear this message this morning. Much of my life I have lived under self-condemnation simply because of who I am. I did not love myself growing up. I perceived myself to be unlovable and worthless. But as I listen to Your Word, Your truth is helping me to see that You are a kind and gentle Savior Who loves me and wants to set me free from condemnation and shame. Lord, please teach me to see myself as You do – as a lovable child of God whose primary purpose is to be, not do. My value comes from what You say, not what I do or what other people think, say, or do. Please show me how to respond to broken people who want to tear me down rather than build me up. Just as You set boundaries with the woman’s accusers to protect her, please teach me how to do the same with my accusers so that Your truth protects me from the lies of the enemy. Help me dismiss the lies that keep me under condemnation and replace them with the truth that empowers me to live a life filled with Your purpose and hope. As I heal and become the man You created me to be, please help me pay it forward to other sons and daughters of Yours who are living under condemnation. In Your name I pray. Amen.

How can I overcome condemnation? Part 1

“Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.” John 8:2

Are you living under condemnation? Are you weighed down by guilt and anxiety about your past? Maybe you have done things which would embarrass you if they became public knowledge. You may have a criminal record or a moral charge or a domestic conflict that, to this moment, is private information. You may wrestle with a past that has been fractured and wounded by a mental or emotional breakdown. Futile attempts at suicide may add to the previous scar tissue and increase your fear of being labeled “sick” or “nervous.” It’s possible you live with memories of an immoral relationship, a financial failure, a terrible habit, a divorce or a scandalous involvement. You may be your worst critic of your past.

Many of us are driven by shame. We believe we are flawed at the core of our being. Yes, we hear preachers say that God loves sinners, yet we are convinced that we are still worthless and unloved. We live under condemnation whether it be of our own doing or the doings of others, including the master of condemnation – Satan himself (Rev. 12:9-10).

How can I overcome this condemnation that keeps me buried under a load of guilt and shame? For the next few days, Lord willing, we will look at John 7:53-8:11 to discover God’s remedy for the condemnation that often plagues us.

The first way I can overcome condemnation is to REST UNDER CHRIST’S GRACIOUS TEACHINGS (John 7:53-8:2). After Jesus had freely offered eternal satisfaction to the people gathered at the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37-39), John tells us, “And everyone went to his own house.” (John 7:53). The religious leaders had criticized Nicodemus after His attempt to defend Jesus’ right to be heard. They didn’t believe a prophet would arise from Galilee. More than a prophet would arise from Galilee, however, and offer everlasting hope to that region. “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.” (John 8:1). The religious leaders slept comfortably and late, but Jesus spent the night on the Mount of Olives. Jesus had no place to lay His head in Jerusalem.

“Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.” (John 8:2). The day after the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus went into the temple and all the people came to Him. Why did all the people come to sit under Jesus’ teaching? Was it because He beat them up spiritually and emotionally and people love to be put down? No. I believe these people were tired of the demands of the religious leaders, and they were drawn to the gentle and forgiving grace of Christ (cf. Matthew 11:28-30; 12:20).

Notice that the Bible says Jesus “sat down and taught them.” Although sitting down was a normal rabbinic practice, I think it is very significant that John tells us this. Jesus did not stand like He did the day before in the temple (John 7:37). He “sat” among them to teach them. He was on the same level as His audience. He longs to connect with people so they can begin to see themselves as He sees them – someone who is infinitely loved and valued by God.

As they sat under His teaching and discovered the magnificence of His grace, they were healed from the malignancy of their guilt! How precious and broad is Christ’s love they found, yet how petty and narrow is man’s legalism (trying to keep the Law to gain God’s acceptance). How refreshing is the Lord’s grace! Yet how rigid is the legalist’s guilt! Christ’s grace was setting them free from their guilt and shame. And He wants to do the same for you. “For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). Christ did not come into the world to condemn us. He came into the world to cleanse. He did not come to rub our sin in. He came to rub our sin out.

We can be free from the plague of condemnation and shame by coming out from under shame-based religious systems. These systems may preach the love of God and that Christ died for our sins, but at the core of their teaching they believe: “You are bad, God is good, so try harder.”

As Christians we need to be under the grace and truth of Jesus Christ which teaches: “God is good, you are being restored, so come and be.” As we place ourselves under His teaching, we will begin to see the weight of condemnation lifted and the wellspring of Jesus’ grace settle into our hearts and minds so we can focus on being and not working to earn His love and grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am learning so much from You about who I am in the sight of God. I used to see myself as a worthless sinner who is saved by grace. But You are helping me to see I am a child of God who is infinitely loved and valued by You and my Father in heaven. Lord, my heart is deeply concerned about the millions of people who are under religious teachings that condemn and oppress broken people in need of Your healing grace. They have no hope of freedom from condemnation and shame. They need You Lord Jesus. Please show them how good and gracious You are. Help them to come to know Your saving grace that makes them a new person on the inside who is free from condemnation and shame. In Your name I pray. Amen.