Revelation 21 – Part 10

“And the nations shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor of the nations to Him.” Revelation 21:24

Last time we saw that there will be no need of the sun or moon to shine because the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ will illuminate the entire New Jerusalem on the new earth (21:22-23). This Celestial City is so bright that it will also provide light for the entire new earth. “And the nations shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor of the nations to Him.” (Revelation 21:24). Notice that there will be “nations” on the new earth, perhaps much like we have today. Since the New Jerusalem is inhabited by King Jesus and believers from the Church Age (21:2, 9-10; cf. 19:7, 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27), these “nations” consist of believers in Christ from before and after the Church Age who live outside the city on the new earth. These other believers will also have access to the New Jerusalem because of their faith in Christ (21:27b).

Vacendak writes, “God will create human beings to live on the new earth just as He created Adam and Eve – sinless people whose status and condition will be similar to Adam and Eve’s before the Fall… More likely, believers who are alive on earth at the end of the Millennium will be brought into the new heavens and earth in their unresurrected bodies to populate it. These bodies will be transformed into sinless bodies, but will not have been resurrected. They will be like Adam and Eve before they sinned, but without the ability to sin. As such, they will procreate and populate the new heavens and the new earth, and so they will form the nations.” 1

It is likely then that the nations will be comprised of resurrected and unresurrected believers from before and after the Church Age who “shall walk in” the brilliant “light” of the New Jerusalem. The “kings” (basileis) or rulers 2 are “overcomers” who remained faithful to Christ to the end of their lives (21:24b; cf. 2:10b, 25-27; 22:5; cf. 2 Timothy 2:12).

These “kings of the earth bring their glory and honor of the nations to Him” (21:24b). This suggests that there will be human government and economy on the new earth. The leaders of these nations will reenact what the wise men did over two thousand years ago when they brought their gold and other treasures to the Baby Jesus (cf. Matthew 2:1-11). 3 In eternity on the new earth, the kings of the earth are going to bring their “glory and honor” or treasures to King Jesus year after year in the New Jerusalem to worship and glorify Him. Everyone on the new earth will bring glory to God.

Next the apostle John informs us, Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).” (Revelation 21:25). In John’s day, cities closed their gates to keep their enemies out, especially at night. But on the new earth there will be no need to shut the gates of the New Jerusalem because King Jesus will have no enemies on the new earth and there “shall be no night there” because the light of His glory illuminates everything. The phrase “shall not be shut at all” (ou mē kleisthōsin) is emphatic and literally says “shall no not ever be shut.” 4 Since the gates of the New Jerusalem will never ever be shut, the rulers of the nations will have continual access into the city.

“And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations so that they may enter it.” (Revelation 21:26). The kings “shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations“ into the New Jerusalem “so that they” themselves “may enter” (21:26b) through “its gates” (21:25a). Only overcoming or faithful believers will enter through the main “gates” of the New Jerusalem. This is seen in Revelation 22:14: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” The majority of Greek manuscripts contain the phrase “do His commandments.” Only those believers whose lives are characterized by obedience to Christ to the end of their lives (cf. 2:10, 25-27) will be rewarded with this special honor. The emphasis of verse 14 is not on entering the city, but on entering by “the gates” into the city. Every believer can enter the city, but only some will come in through the gates. This is emphatic in the Greek text which literally says, “and by the gates they may enter into the city” (kai tois pylōsin eiselthōsineis tēn polin).The apostle John is emphasizing the way of entrance, that is, by the gates, and not the fact of entrance. 5

“Gates of ancient cities were for defense or honor or both. To be known ‘in the gates’ was to sit among the ‘elders of the land’ and have a position of high honor and authority (Proverbs 31:23, cf. ISBE 2:408). Since defense is not a function of these ‘gates’ into the heavenly city; they are to be regarded as places of honor and authority. The overcomer was promised ‘authority’ over the nations (Revelation 2:26). John describes them elsewhere, as memorials to the twelve tribes of Israel (21:12, 14). We are reminded of the Roman victory arches which sat astride the main thoroughfares entering into Rome. There were thousands of entry ways into Rome, but Caesar entered by these gates, by the victory arch. Through these gates, according to John, ‘the honor and glory of the nations’ will enter (Revelation 21:25-26).” 6 “As Lange has suggested, to enter by the gates means to enter ‘as conquerors in triumphal procession.’” 7

So what John probably had in mind when he speaks of the kings of the nations entering into the New Jerusalem through “its gates” (21:24-26), are “the victory arches that towered over the main thoroughfares entering into Rome. Through these gates the triumphant Roman generals and their soldiers would march.” 8

Arch of Titus

For example, “the Arch of Titus near the Forum in Rome… was constructed after his victory over Jerusalem in AD 70.

“Engravings on it show Roman soldiers bringing back treasures from the temple in Jerusalem. Similarly, those Christians [believers] who remain faithful to their King will enter the city in victory and will be likewise honored.” 9

Whether you are an overcoming believer who enters through one of the main gates of the New Jerusalem or a non-overcoming believer who enters the city through another entrance, everyone will have a desire to bring honor and glory to God Who reigns over the new earth from that city. Not one person will be unwilling to do this because every citizen on the new earth will be a sinless believer. The eternal state will have rules and laws, but no one there will want to disobey them. 10

After mentioning who may enter the New Jerusalem, John now tells us what cannot enter the city. “But there shall by no means enter it anything profane, nor one who causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Revelation 21:27). Nothing that is “profane” (koinon) or impure 11 can enter the New Jerusalem, “nor one who causes an abomination” (bdelugma)which refers to “something that causes revulsion or extreme disgust… in the sight of God.” 12 Nor will anyone enter the city “who causes… a lie” (pseudos) or falsehood. 13

Even though the city gates will continually be wide open, nothing that is evil or leads to evil will ever be part of the New Jerusalem. This does not mean there will be people on the new earth outside the New Jerusalem who are evil. In the context of these final chapters in the book of Revelation, unbelieving people and all their evil ways have been confined to the lake of fire forever (cf. 20:11-15; 21:8). 14 This part of the verse is saying nothing about born again believers in Jesus who were evil or led people to do evil during their lives on the old earth because their sins are now gone forever since they are forgiven, immortal, and sinless (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14; I Corinthians 15:35-57; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 5:26-27; I John 3:1-3).

Only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (21:27b) will be able to enter or inhabit the New Jerusalem. It is important to observe that it is the absence of one’s name “in the Lamb’s Book of Life,” not the absence of good works, that determines one’s eternal destination. Evil works are not the issue for entrance into the New Jerusalem. Many of the earth’s greatest sinners’ names are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life because they received God’s free offer of eternal life through faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9). 15

Alcorn states that many Americans believe going to heaven is their “default destination.” 16 But this optimism is contrary to what Jesus warned when He said, 13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). Christ makes it clear that “few” people find the way that leads into eternal life. This is probably because few people are being told that faith alone in Christ alone is the only way into God’s heaven (John 10:9; 11:25-26; Act 4:12; I Timothy 2:3-5).

What would keep all of us out of heaven is failure to believe in Christ alone for His gift of eternal life. This is the one sin that cannot be forgiven. All other sins are forgivable (Colossians 2:13-14; Psalm 86:5; 103:2a, 3a; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19b; Acts 10:43). 17

Jesus said God the Holy Spirit was sent to 8 convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” (John 16:8-9). The word “sin” (hamartias) means “to miss the mark or standard.” 18 All people fall short of God’s perfect righteousness because “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) against God through their thoughts, words, actions, and motives. Our sin separates us from God because He is holy and righteous and cannot allow sin into His presence: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; You cannot tolerate wrongdoing.” (Habakkuk 1:13 NIV; cf. Isaiah 59:2). Because we are all sinners, we deserve eternal death or separation from God forever in the lake of fire (Romans 6:23a; Revelation 20:15). We are not able to enter God’s heaven as we are. Hence, heaven is not our default destination. The lake of fire is our default destination. 19

Yet the world tries to persuade people that they are not sinners. Many secular scientists and psychologists seem bent on destroying peoples’ awareness of sin. They may say that all people are inherently good. As a result, many people have a difficult time admitting they are guilty of sin. Oh, they may admit that they make mistakes or have failures and vices, but it is very difficult for them to admit that they have sinned against God. Even some churches say that people are not that bad and because God is love, He will accept everyone into heaven. Hence, many people, including Christians, believe that going to heaven is their default destination.

But the ultimate proof of the world’s sinfulness, Jesus says, is that “they do not believe in Me” (John 16:9). A court of law can convict someone of murder or theft, but only God the Holy Spirit can convict someone of unbelief toward Christ. The Holy Spirit can convict people of their individual sins they have committed, but people can clean up their own lives and still go to the lake of fire. It is the sin of unbelief toward Jesus Christ that condemns people to an eternity in the lake of fire. Jesus said, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18).That is why the Bible says that “Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). Those who refuse to believe in Jesus will not have their names written in the Book of Life.

Unbelievers are judged according to their works to determine their degree of punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-13; cf. Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40), not their eternal destination. But their condemnation and placement in the lake of fire is because of their unbelief toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:15; cf. John 3:18).

Because faith in Christ and His full payment for sin on the cross (John 19:30) is the only solution to our sin problem, the Holy Spirit wants to convict people of their sinful condition, so they can see their need to believe in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life (John 3:14-16). The Holy Spirit is the prosecuting attorney who presents God’s case against sinful humanity. He creates an awareness of sin so that it cannot be dismissed or excused or evaded by taking refuge in the fact that “everybody is doing it.” When we are convicted of our sin, we admit to God that we have been wrong in our unbelief toward Jesus and then we believe or trust in Him alone, so we can live with Christ forever in the New Jerusalem on the new earth.

Do you know for sure your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Don’t wait and see, just hoping that your name will be in the Book of Life. You can know for sure right now by taking God at His Word. The apostle John who wrote Revelation and the gospel of John, also wrote First John. He writes, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13). This one verse is written to “you who believe in the name of the Son of God.” Do you believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, Who died for all your sins and rose from the dead, proving His claims to be God are true (cf. John 20:31; Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:3-6)?

If you do, the Bible guarantees “you may know that you have eternal life.” It does not say you may “think” or “hope” you have eternal life. It says you may “know” with absolute certainty that eternal life is yours right now. Because Jesus Christ is “the truth” (John 14:6) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), we can be confident He will keep His promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him (cf. John 3:15-16). Do you now know for sure you have eternal life and a future forever home in the New Jerusalem on the new earth? If you do, you can tell God this through prayer.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for persuading me that I am a sinner whose default destination is in the lake of fire. I believe You took my place on the cross to die for all my sins and then rose from the dead, proving You are God. As best I know how, I am now believing in You for Your gift of everlasting life. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and for the future forever home I will have in the New Jerusalem on the new earth. Please use me now to tell others how they can know for sure they will live forever with You in Your heaven. Help me remain faithful to You so I may honor and worship You more with the rewards You give for faithfulness. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. 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. 1586.

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), pp. 169-170.

3. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 40.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 245.

5. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 974-975.  

6. Ibid., pg. 975.

7. Ibid., cites John Peter Lange, “The Revelation of John,” in A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, ed. John Peter Lange, et al. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 12:446.

8. Dillow, pg. 975.

9. Ibid.

10. Vacendak, pp. 1586-1587.

11. Bauer, pg. 552.

12. Ibid., pg. 172.

13. Ibid., pg. 1097.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1587.

15. Adapted from David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015 Kindle Edition), pg. 21 who cites William R. Newell, The Book of the Revelation, 9th ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1935), pg. 334.

16. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 54 cites K. Connie Kang, “Next Stop, the Pearly Gates… or Hell?” Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2003.

17. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32) is not unforgivable, it is unforgiven because those who commit this sin are too hard of heart to seek God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 12:33-37). See “Can a Christian commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?” at www.seeyouinheaven.life.

18. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 267.

19. Alcorn, pg. 54.

Revelation 18 – Part 1

“And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!’” Revelation 18:2

In Revelation 17 we discovered that the woman riding on the scarlet beast represents the worldwide false religion that will exist during the first half of the Tribulation period whose headquarters is in the city of Rome, the city on seven hills or “mountains” (17:1-9). The fact that this woman is “sitting” on the beast suggests that Rome will initially control the beast and benefit from his expanding kingdom represented by the “seven heads and ten horns” during the Tribulation period (17:3). At the mid-point of the Tribulation when the beast rises to power claiming to be God (Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4) and demands to be worshiped as such (13:1-18), Rome will refuse to comply and will be destroyed by the leaders of the world under the authority of the beast (17:10-17).

At the end of Revelation 17, we are told that “Babylon,” the code name for Rome (cf. 14:8; 16:19-21; 17:1, 9, 18; cf. I Peter 5:13), is the “great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth” (17:18). In the first century context when John wrote the book of Revelation, this could only refer to the city of Rome which ruled the world at that time. 1 Just as Rome relentlessly persecuted believers in Jesus when John wrote in the first century, the revived Roman Empire in the Tribulation period will also persecute believers who refuse to submit to her evil and idolatrous practices (17:6).

Regarding this end-times capital city, Swindoll writes, “That future Mecca of me-theism and Vegas vanity will be the mother of evil and all forms of false religion. Like Paris, she represents a lifestyle of high culture. Like Jerusalem, she’s a crossroads of world religion. Like Washington, she’s teeming with political power. In fact, if you were to take the powerful cities of the world and merge them into one grand megalopolis, you’d have ‘Babylon.’” 2

The belief that salvation is by works originated with the original Babylon in Genesis 11:4 when the people of the world led by Nimrod, Noah’s grandson (Genesis 9:8-12), said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” To avoid spreading over the face of the whole earth as God originally commanded (Genesis 1:28; 9:1), the people wanted to make a name for themselves by building a city and a tower that reached to the heavens. The desire to glorify self (“let us make a name for ourselves”), rather than God, is the foundation of religious /economic “Babylon” or Rome during the Tribulation period. 3

The apostle John now receives a new vision providing more details about why Babylon (Rome) will be destroyed during the Tribulation. “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory.” (Revelation 18:1). This “angel” of the same kind (“another”) as the previous angel in 17:1 possessed “great authority” and “glory” indicative of the importance of the announcement of judgment he was about to make. 4 This is the only “angel” in the book of Revelation which is said to exude “glory,” 5 which suggests he just came from God’s presence (cf. Exodus 34:29-35; Ezekiel 43:2). 6

The presence of this angel once again emphasizes the importance of angels in the book of Revelation. They are present and active in the church age as well (Revelation 1-3), and some believers in Jesus “have unwittingly entertained angels” who are disguised as humans (Hebrews 13:2). But after the church is removed from the earth (Revelation 4:1-4), angels will assume a more visible role to fill the spiritual void in the church’s absence. 7

“And he cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!’” (Revelation 18:2). The repetition of the word “fallen” (epesen), which means to “be destroyed,” 8 indicates that God guarantees this future judgment and that it will happen swiftly. 9 The tense of this verb describes this future judgment as already having taken place to underscore its certainty. 10

When the beast and ten kings destroy Rome (17:16-17), it will “become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” This is a very appropriate description of Rome after its destruction because she was a city given over to idolatry, leading people away from the true God. Throughout history, demons have attached themselves to idols so that when people worship an idol, the demons can receive the adoration and worship they long for (cf. Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:16-17; 2 Chronicles 11:15; Psalm 106:36-38; Revelation 9:20). Since Rome’s character was demonic spiritually, God will bring the same character on her physically. 11

Next several reasons are given for Rome’s destruction. “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.” (Revelation 18:3).

The first reason for Rome’s judgment is because she corrupted the nations of the world – “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” The wealthy and sensual lifestyle of Rome was like a fine wine that other nations drank of and became intoxicated (cf. 17:2; 18:23; 19:2). 12 Her mixture of religion with wealth and sensuality misled nations to commit spiritual “fornication” or immorality by embracing various false gods.

The second reason for Rome’s judgment is due to her seducing foreign leaders to participate in her materialistic practices – “the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her.” Rome is pictured as a “great harlot” (17:1, 5, 15-16) who enticed foreign leaders into her worldly practices by offering them many financial advantages. 13

The third reason for Rome’s judgment is because she enticed merchants to share in her excessive wealth – “the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.” The word “merchants” (emporoi) refers to “one who travels by ship for business reasons.” 14 These businessmen are becoming wealthy by selling religious paraphernalia and by engaging in slave trade for the “bodies and souls of men” (18:12-13). 15 Notice that human trafficking will likely become more pervasive during the Tribulation period.

It is important to notice in these verses that wealth does not always come as a blessing from God. Satan can also give wealth, as is demonstrated from his promise to give Jesus worldly kingdoms in exchange for worship. 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’” (Matthew 4:8-9). Many Christians can make the mistake of assuming that the presence of wealth in a particular church or individual’s life indicates God’s blessing and His approval upon that church or individual.16

It is possible for Satan to bless a church financially when that church compromises the gospel to entice people to be a part of that church. Satan does not want people to hear a clear and simple gospel message (“believe and be saved” – Luke 8:12), so he will deceive people into thinking God’s blessing is on a church that does not preach and teach belief in Christ as the only condition for eternal life.

Jesus warned in Matthew 7:13-14 that the size or prosperity of a church is not always an indication of God’s blessing. He said, 13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads [in]to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 How narrow is the gate and confined is the way which leads [in]to life, and there are few who find it.” The “narrow gate” that “leads into life” is faith alone in Christ alone as the only way into God’s heaven (John 3:15-16; 10:9; 14:6; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:3-5). Jesus prophesied that “there are few who find it” because there will be fewer and fewer messengers who preach such a message. The “wide… gate” that leads “into destruction” is any message that does not say faith alone in Christ alone is all that is required to enter God’s heaven. Jesus prophesied that “there are many who go in by it.”

This is why there are many prosperous churches in America that are not preaching faith alone in Christ alone as the only condition for entering God’s heaven. Likewise, there are also many fast-growing world religions standing in front of the wide gate proclaiming some other way to God that is not faith alone in Christ alone. How does God want believers in Jesus to respond to such wide-gate false religions? He tells us in the next verse in Revelation 18.

“And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.’” (Revelation 18:4). John “heard another voice from heaven” that may belong to the Lord Jesus. This voice calls God’s “people” to “come out” of Rome and her worldly lifestyle “lest” they “share” the same judgment for “her sins, and… receive of her plagues.” Some people living in Rome will hear the gospel preaching of the Two Witnesses during the first half of the Tribulation (11:1-12) or the 144,000 Jewish evangelists during the last half of the Tribulation (7:1-8; 14:1-5) and will believe in Christ for eternal life. To avoid Rome’s impending judgment, they will need to flee from the city.

This reminds us of Lot who warned his sons-in-laws to get out of Sodom before the Lord destroys it, but they refused, and died as a result (Genesis 19:14-25). This will also happen to God’s people who ignore His command to get out of Rome before He destroys it. 17 They will suffer physical death, but they will still enter God’s heaven because of their belief in Jesus for His gift of salvation.

If you are part of a church or religion that does not preach faith alone in Christ alone to enter God’s heaven, you are advised to flee from that church or religion. The apostle Paul warned the Galatian believers in Jesus not to support or join those who do not preach a “believe / faith alone” gospel (cf. Galatians 1:6-9; 4:12, 21-30; 5:1-12; 6:17). It does not matter how wealthy or kind a person or church is that teaches a different gospel. They are “accursed” by God if they preach a different way to heaven other than faith alone in Christ alone (Galatians 1:8-9).  

If they are believers in Jesus, they will lose rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ and could even experience God’s discipline here on earth (Galatians 1:6-9; 5:19-21; 6:7-8; I Corinthians 3:15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; I Timothy 1:18-20; 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:23-26). If they are not believers in Jesus, they will experience a greater degree of punishment in the lake of fire for misleading people away from faith alone in Christ alone (Matthew 18:6-14; 23:13-15; 2 Peter 2:4-17; Jude 1:4-13; Revelation 19:20; 20:11-15).

The fourth reason for Rome’s judgment is seen in verse 5. “For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” (Revelation 18:5). Rome’s “sins have reached to heaven” and triggered God’s remembrance of “her iniquities” of trying to make a name for herself.This is reminiscent of the Tower of Babel when humankind tried to build a city with a tower “whose top is in the heavens” to “make a name” for themselves instead of for God (Genesis 11:4). Those who emphasize human effort and self-reliance to get to heaven like the original Babylon, will eventually deplete God’s patience. Because He is just and righteous, God must give Rome her just recompense.

“Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her.” (Revelation 18:6). God is commanding the beast and ten kings (17:16-17) to give Rome a double portion of judgment for her sins. For centuries Rome has misled people away from the true God and put to death His people (cf. 17:6; 18:24; 19:2). The “cup” she had used to entice others will now become the instrument of her own punishment.

Two more reasons for Rome’s judgment are given in the next verse. “In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’” (Revelation 18:7). Rome’s sinful pride (“she glorified herself”) and self-reliance (“she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow’”)led her to believe she was invincible and immune to disaster. 19 God hates such shameless pride and self-reliance that leads to the rejection of His ways accompanied by viewing oneself as indestructible 20 and accountable to no one.

The reality is that such pride and self-reliance will be severely judged by God. “Therefore her plagues will come in one day – death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.” (Revelation 18:8). “In one day” God will give Rome “death and mourning and famine.” Vacendak suggests that Rome’s destruction in Revelation 18:8-11 “will be by means of a nuclear warhead… Kings, merchants, and shipmasters will all stand ‘at a distance’ when they see ‘the smoke of her burning.’ The desire to keep a certain distance between themselves and the mushroom cloud of smoke billowing up to heaven may indicate their fear of the nuclear radiation that now envelops the city.” 21

Instead of slowly declining, Rome will collapse suddenly in the Tribulation, much like the World Trade Center towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. 22

Throughout history, people have been deceived into believing their joy, peace, and meaning in life are found through the accumulation of wealth as represented by “Babylon the Great” or Rome whose materialistic and religious system will be swiftly destroyed before the Lord Jesus returns to earth (Revelation 18:1-8).

Rather than invest in the things of the earth which will soon disappear forever, believers in Jesus are to invest in heavenly treasure which lasts forever. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs His disciples to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20a) which cannot be lost (“where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” – 6:20b). We may miss those words “for yourselves.” It is not selfish to seek eternal rewards now because Jesus commands us to do this. In fact, to not lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven is disobedience to Christ.

Why is it important to lay up treasures in heaven for ourselves now? Jesus explains in the next verse. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Our hearts follow what we value. The more we invest in Christ’s coming Kingdom now, the more our hearts will be focused on Christ and His coming Kingdom now, and the more glory and honor Jesus will receive in eternity (cf. Revelation 4:9-11; 21:24, 26).

How can we lay up treasures in heaven for ourselves? Jesus explained how earlier in Matthew 6. By doing “charitable deeds” (6:1-4), praying (6:5-6), and fasting (6:16-18) “in secret.” When we do these things for God alone (“in secret”) and not for public applause or recognition like the religious hypocrites did (6:2, 5, 16), Jesus promises that “your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (6:4, 6, 18).

Prayer: Father God, we thank You for Your penetrating Word that reveals the deception of our hearts. Many of us have been duped into believing that wealth is always a blessing from God. But Your Word today reminds us that Satan can also give wealth to those who fulfill his purpose of leading people away from the true God and eternal life, Jesus Christ, as demonstrated by the worldwide false religion that will exist during the first half of the Tribulation period whose headquarters is in the city of Rome. Like Rome in the future Tribulation, many churches and religions today possess wealth, but they are not preaching belief in Christ as the only condition for eternal life. Instead, they preach human effort and self-reliance as the way to heaven. Please help those who are blinded by the allurement of these false religions today to discover the truth about Jesus Christ. He alone can give them eternal life as a free gift the moment they believe in Him because He alone paid for it all through His death and resurrection. Use those of us who believe in Jesus to rescue others from the snare of religion before it is too late for them. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1568.

2. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 325.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 193.

4. Ibid., pg. 194.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1568.

6. Constable, pg. 194.

7. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2411.

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. 815.

9. Constable, pg. 195.

10. The Greek verb translated “fallen” is piptō and it is in the aorist tense (epesen), suggesting a prophetic use which emphasizes the certainty of this future action by stating it as if it has already happened.  

11. Vacendak, pg. 1568.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid., pg. 1569.

14. BDAG, pg. 325.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1569.

16. Evans, pg. 2411.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1569.

18. Constable, pg. 196.  

19. Vacendak, pg. 1569.

20. Evans, pg. 2411.

21. Vacendak, pg. 1568.

22. Constable, pg. 197.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 10

“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” John 19:30

From the beginning of human history, people have tried to remedy their sin problem through their own efforts. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they tried to remedy their sense of fear and shame by covering themselves with “fig leaves” (Genesis 3:7). But this covering did not remove the effects of their sin. Since that first attempt to remove the consequences of sin through human effort, people have been trying to remove their own guilt and shame through their own accomplishments. Various religions have been created by people trying to remedy their sin problem. But all man-made religions fall short of God’s solution to our sin problem. 

In Genesis 3:21, God graciously provided the proper covering for Adam and Eve. He “made tunics of skin” through the death of an innocent animal. Blood must be shed. Imagine how Adam must have felt to see one of the animals he had named and cared for being killed on his account! Never had Adam and Eve known death. This was serious business and this was to be God’s way of dealing with sin throughout the ages. By providing a covering with animal skins, God provided forgiveness through the “shedding of blood” (Hebrews 9:22). God later provided forgiveness through the Old Testament sacrificial system. 

Those animals were shadows of the Babe who was born on that first Christmas morning. He would be called “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Like that first animal that was sacrificed for Adam and Eve, Jesus Christ would also be innocent and without sin because He was and is God (John 1:1, 14, 17; 18:38; 19:4, 6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). And like that first sacrificial animal, Jesus was born to die for the sins of others (John 1:29; Romans 5:8; I John 4:9), that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Like Adam and Eve, our human efforts or works cannot remove our sin and shame (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). Religion cannot take away our sins. Only Jesus Christ can take away our sins (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Why? We will discover the answer in the next verse of our study about lasting lessons from the last day in Jesus’ life.

In this picture that John presents we learn that WE CANNOT WORK OUR WAY TO HEAVEN BECAUSE WE CANNOT PAY A DEBT THAT IS ALREADY PAID (John 19:30). The apostle John writes, “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ ” (John 19:30a). As we saw in our last lesson, Jesus’ throat and lips had become parched from the extreme loss of bodily fluids. He shouted out in agony, “I am thirsty!” (John 19:28) to fulfillthe prophecy in Psalm 69:21 (cf. John 19:28-29) and to save us from an eternal thirst (Ecclesiastes 3:11; John 4:10, 14; 7:37-39; Revelation 22:17). John then tells us Jesus “received the sour wine” which would moisten His throat and lips to proclaim the most triumphant declaration ever made: “It is finished!” He did not say, “I am finished!” as some might think. “That would mean He died defeated. No, this was not the end for Him but the beginning of a new chapter in His eternal existence.” 1

When John writes, “And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30), he is connecting us back to something Jesus said earlier. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18). The Jews or Romans did not take Jesus’ life from Him. Christ voluntarily laid down His life for the sins of the world. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13).

What did Jesus mean when He said “It is finished”? The Greek word that is translated “finished” is tetelestai. Receipts in New Testament times were stamped with this word which meant that the debt had been paid in full. Jesus was saying that our sin debt was paid in full! Past, present, and future sins have all been paid for by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ (John 1:29; Revelation 1:5; 12:11).

The Bible tells us that all people have sinned against God with their thoughts, words, and actions (Romans 3:9-23). All sin incurs a debt which the sinner owes to God (Romans 6:23a). If you and I were to pay our own sin debt to God, we would have to suffer forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). But God loves us so much that He sent His only perfect Son to die in our place on the cross. “Jesus did in six hours what no human being can do in all of eternity.” 3  When Christ died on that cross, He gathered to Himself the accumulated debt of a sinful human race and offered to God the full payment for our sins – past, present, and future. Having made the payment, Jesus could say, “It is finished!” – the debt is paid in full. Jesus “paid the very last cent of the wages of our sin.” 4

Christ did not make a down payment for our sin when He died on the cross so that we must pay the remainder of our sin debt to God. God does not accept us on the basis of our good life, our keeping His commandments, our water baptism, our daily prayers, or the sacraments we have taken. We are accepted by God on the basis of the full payment for our sin debt to God when Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf. God was completely and forever satisfied with Jesus’ full payment for our sin (I John 2:2). 

Soon after Jesus said, “It is finished!” and died, we read, “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51). “The way to God was now open. Instead of entry being restricted to the high priest entering the Holy of Holies on only one day in the year, entrance into God’s presence was now available to all who came through Christ. With the barrier of our sin taken away, we can now “draw near … through the blood of Christ” (Hebrews 10:22 with Ephesians 2:13).” 5

The verb tetelestai is in the perfect tense. This means Christ made the full payment for our sin debt when He died on the cross and it remains paid in full to the present. There is nothing a Christian can do, say, or think that can change the fact that their sin debt is paid in full today.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has forgiven all your sins – past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14). The sin debt you owed to God has been “canceled.” If you struggle to believe this let me suggest an exercise for you to do. Grab a pen and paper and write down a list of your worst sins on the left side of the paper and then write “Paid in Full” next to each one. Your list may include:

Abandoning Responsibilities: Paid in Full.

Abortion: Paid in Full.

Adultery: Paid in Full.

Angry outbursts: Paid in Full.

Blasphemy: Paid in Full.

Cheating: Paid in Full.

Failure to love God above all else: Paid in Full.

Gossip: Paid in Full.

Greed: Paid in Full.

Money Laundering: Paid in Full.

Murder: Paid in Full.

Pride: Paid in Full.

Selfishness: Paid in Full.

Sex Trafficking: Paid in Full.

Theft: Paid in Full.

Unforgiveness: Paid in Full. 6

Some of you reading this may be tempted to add your own goodness to the finished work of Christ. You think that if the good in your life outweighs the bad, then you will go to heaven in the future. “After all, God only helps those who help themselves,” you say to yourself. But that saying is not found in the Bible.

Jesus anticipated you might think this way when He said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult [confined] is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). The way to heaven is “narrow” because it is through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, not Jesus plus your good works (cf. John 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus says, “there are few who find it.” The majority of people have a propensity to trust in themselves to gain acceptance before God. That is why Jesus said “there are many who go in by” the wide gate that leads to destruction. The “wide gate” is any teaching that denies faith alone in Christ alone as the only hope of heaven. Those teachings reject the full payment of all sin through Jesus Christ.

For those of us who are Christians, this has major implications in evangelism. When we communicate the gospel with non-Christians, we must be clear that all people have sinned against God and deserve to die forever in the Lake of Fire (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). No amount of our good thoughts, words, or actions can change the fact that we are sinners before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6).

Because Jesus finished paying the penalty for all our sins when He died in our place, that means we do not have to work for our salvation (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). All God asks of us is to believe in Jesus and His finished work on the cross as sufficient payment for our sins (John 3:14-15; 19:30). When we do, He gives us everlasting life and forgives all our sins (John 3:16; Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14).

Those who are trusting in their good works or in Christ plus their good works to get them to heaven, are telling God the Father that Jesus’ death on the cross failed to pay their sin debt in full. However, since God was forever satisfied with His perfect Son’s payment for the sin of the world (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2), we must also be satisfied with what satisfies God. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s payment for all of our sins when He died in our place on the cross.

We can reflect this truth in evangelism by inviting non-Christians to believe or trust in Christ alone, not Christ plus their good works, to give them a right standing before God (Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16) and everlasting life (John 3:15-16; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26).

This is called grace. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve. We do not deserve forgiveness or everlasting life. But because of God’s grace, He offers us His forgiveness and everlasting life freely through Jesus’ all-sufficient sacrifice. Will you trust in Jesus alone to do for you what you could never do on your own? He is waiting for you to come to Him in faith just as You are and then He will forgive all your sins and give you life that never ends (Acts 10:43; John 3:15-16; 11:25-26). And then you can have the assurance that “It is finished!” Your sin debt is paid in full.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You so much for sending Your only perfect Son to pay my sin debt in full when He died on the cross. Your acceptance of His sacrifice was clearly seen when You tore the temple veil from top to bottom, signifying entrance into Your presence for those who believe in Jesus. What an amazing Savior I have. What an amazing Father I have in heaven. Thank You for the blessed assurance that my sin debt is paid in full by my great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please use me now to proclaim this incredible message to those for whom Jesus died and wants to save. To You be all the glory and praise, Father. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1.Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross: A Journey Into the Heart of Jesus (Moody Publishers, Kindle Edition, 2002), pp. 122-123.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 350 cites J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930), pg. 630.

3. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pg. 127.

4. Ibid., pg. 136.

5. Ibid., pg. 134.

6. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 132.

A Look into the Future – Part 3 (Video)

This is the third in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the last half of the seven year Tribulation period after the removal of the Church from the earth. Please share this video with those you want to see in heaven.

The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com. The music in this video is used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

What are the narrow and wide gates in Matthew 7:13-14?

13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction , and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14  [NKJV]

When growing up in the church, I was taught that the “narrow gate” refers to the difficult commands Jesus gave in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:12-7:12). In other words, believe in Jesus as the Messiah and do all these things Jesus has just taught, and you will enter into eternal life. The imagery was that of walking through the narrow gate and continuing on this long, difficult and narrow path of obedience to Christ in order to gain entrance into God’s kingdom. The “wide gate” then was living a life of disobedience.

But since my youth, I have come to a more nontraditional view of these verses which I believe is much more consistent with the original language of these verses and the emphasis of the New Testament.

Jesus said,  13 Enter (eiselthete) by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to (eis + accusative) destruction , and there are many who go in (eiserchomenoi) by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult (tethlimmene) is the way which leads to (eis + accusative) life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Jesus said in Matthew 5:20, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Christ is using the commands in the Sermon on the Mount to convict His unbelieving audience (the “multitudes” consisted of believers and unbelievers – Matthew 4:25- 5:2) of their inability to obtain the righteousness required to enter the kingdom of Heaven. These unbelievers must possess a righteousness that is greater than the most righteous people they know – “the scribes and Pharisees.” The only righteousness that God would accept as basis for entrance into His kingdom was the righteousness of God through faith alone in Jesus alone (Romans 3:21- 4:25). Jesus was using the Law and its application in the Sermon on the Mount to convict the unbelieving people of their inability to be righteous enough to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Christ brought them to the point of seeking a righteousness outside of themselves. Like a stern and demanding tutor, the Law was intended to lead people to faith in Christ (Galatians 3:19-24).

That Jesus is thinking specifically of the unbelieving multitude who are standing off in the distance is seen in His reference to kingdom entrance at the beginning (Matthew 5:20) and end of His Sermon (Matthew 7:21). He is speaking in the context of eternity. The phrase “in that day” (7:22) refers to the Day of Judgment for unbelievers. When Christ speaks of entering into “life” or “destruction” (7:13-14), He is thinking of eternal “life” or eternal “destruction.”

The word “difficult” (tethlimmene) in Matthew 7:14 means “confined, narrow.” It has nothing to do with a difficult lifestyle as some teach. The imagery is that you go through a gate and you immediately arrive at the place of destination. In the imagery of that day, you have the gate of a city that does not have a path on the other side of it. The path goes underneath the gate but does not go beyond this point of entrance. So the moment you go through the gate, you are in the city. There is not a long path on the other side of the entrance leading to the city.

The word “enter” (eiserchomenoi) in 7:13 means to “go into.” Matthew never uses this word in this kind of situation in terms of going toward something. It is always used of going directly into something. This is confirmed by the use of the Greek preposition eis, “into” with the accusative. If you were going to use a preposition in the Greek text to talk about going toward something, you would most likely use the word pros, “toward.” But the use of eis (“into”) with eiserchomenoi (“go into”) indicates that you are going through a gate which immediately brings you “into” your place of destination. Jesus is not talking about entering onto a difficult path that will lead to some other destination.

The “narrow gate” refers to the same thing Jesus said in John 10:9 and 14:6:

“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

The narrow gate is “narrow” because there is no other way to enter the kingdom of Heaven except through faith alone in Christ alone. The point of entrance is narrow because it alludes to faith in Jesus and no one or nothing else. The way is “confined” or “restricted” in that there is no other way which leads to the Father except through Christ. The “wide gate” in contrast, has many people entering through it because it is a wide entrance which leads immediately into eternal destruction. The “wide gate” represents all the other options in which men say life can be entered, especially confessing Jesus as Lord while relying on your good works (Matthew 7:21-22). But Christ is inviting His unsaved listeners to seek the “narrow gate” which happens to be Himself. There is only one way to Heaven which makes it “narrow.” That way is Jesus and Him alone.

In Matthew 18:3, Jesus responds to His disciples question about greatness in the kingdom by saying, “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven.” In order for people to enter the kingdom of Heaven they must be “converted” or turned away from the cynicism and lack of trust that characterizes most adults and become like children who possess childlike faith. Little children must depend on others to do for them what they cannot do for themselves. Doing the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21) to gain kingdom entrance is choosing to place childlike faith in Jesus Christ to do for yourself what you could never accomplish on your own.

In the context, Jesus is talking about “false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (7:15). These false prophets are standing in front of the wide gate that leads into destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). Outwardly they may look and sound like Christians (“come to you in sheep’s clothing”). But they are preaching many ways to Heaven except faith alone in Christ alone. Those who believe the false prophet’s message and never trust Christ alone as their only hope of Heaven, will be surprised in the day of judgment when the Lord Jesus says to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23)!

True prophets are standing in front of the “narrow gate” that leads into life (Matthew 7:13-14). They are preaching that the way that leads into eternal life is “narrow” (John 10:9; 14:6). Only faith alone in Christ alone leads to eternal life (John 3:16; 6:40, 47; 14:6; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:4-6).

Those who teach a faith plus salvation are standing in front of “the wide gate” that leads into eternal destruction. Jesus says, “there are many who go in by it.” But those who teach a faith alone Gospel are standing in front of “the narrow gate” which is too narrow to carry your works baggage through it. Christ says, “there are few who find it.”

Just because a Bible teacher or theologian has a large following does not mean he or she is teaching the right message. There are many false religions in the world today that have millions of followers, but that does not mean they have found the “narrow gate” that leads into life everlasting. It is as if Jesus is saying, “Be careful about those who have a large following. They may be standing in front of the wide gate that leads into eternal destruction.”

On the other hand, if a Bible teacher or evangelist has a small following, that does not mean he or she is standing in front of the wide gate that leads to destruction. If his or her message emphasizes that the only condition for everlasting life is faith alone in Christ alone, then he or she is standing in front of the narrow gate that leads into life. Praise God for that person and pray for them to hold fast to the true gospel of Jesus Christ so that many more people can hear and believe it!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for making it clear that You are the narrow gate that leads into life everlasting. Only believing or trusting in You alone gains entrance into the Father’s Kingdom. Help me to point others to You, the narrow gate, with my words and my works as Your grace works within me. Please expose those who stand in front of the wide gate for who they truly are – false prophets who inwardly are ravenous wolves that deceive people to believe that entering Your kingdom is by faith plus works. Please rescue these misled people by sending Your true prophets to them so they may believe in Jesus alone for His free gift of salvation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.