Revelation 21 – Part 2

“Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Revelation 21:2

After the apostle John begins to receive a new vision of what heaven will be like (21:1), he sees a specific feature of “the new heaven and new earth.” John then sees “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (21:2a). The “New Jerusalem” is called “the holy city” in contrast with the earthly Jerusalem that existed as the capital city of the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. 1 That earthly Jerusalem will be destroyed at the end of the Millennium when the old heaven and earth are destroyed by fire (21:1b; cf. 2 Peter 3:10-13).

“A holy city will be one in which no lie will be uttered in one hundred million years, no evil word will ever be spoken, no shady business deal will ever even be discussed, no unclean picture will ever be seen, no corruption of life will ever be manifested.” 2

When God creates “the new heaven and earth” (21:1) He will send the “New Jerusalem… down out of heaven from God” to the new earth (21:2a). The fact that this city is mentioned in conjunction with the new earth, and it has huge foundation stones (21:14) implies that it will rest on the new earth. 3 Just as the earthly Jerusalem was Christ’s capital city of the Millennial Kingdom, so the “New Jerusalem” will be Jesus’ capital city of the new earth. 4 Jesus has already mentioned this new city when He said, He who overcomes… I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God.” (Revelation 3:12).

“Since God had promised His people that He would give them the land of Israel forever (cf. Genesis 13:15; Joshua 14:19; I Chronicles 28:8; 2 Chronicles 20:7; Ezra 9:12; Psalm 37:29; Jeremiah 7:7; 25:5; Isaiah 60:21; Ezekiel 37:25), it is not surprising that along with the new heaven and new earth John now sees the” 5 “New Jerusalem” descending down to the new earth. John refers to this city as “coming down out of heaven from God” not because it will be suspended above the new earth forever as a satellite city, but to demonstrate the truth that this city’s “builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10; cf. 12:22). 6 This city was not constructed by human hands but by God Himself.

John describes the New Jerusalem as a city prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (21:2b). The word “prepared” (hetoimázō) is the same word Jesus used in John 14:2-3 when He said to His disciples, 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare [hetoimázō] a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare [hetoimázō] a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3). In Revelation 21:2, the word “prepared” (hētoimasmenēn)is in the perfect tense, meaning that Christ has been preparing this city for believers since He ascended to heaven after His death and resurrection, and He continues to prepare this place to the present. For centuries the Lord Jesus has been preparing this incredible place for His “bride” to be inhabited by His church consisting of Jewish and Gentile believers from the church age (21:2b; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:2: Ephesians 5:27). This magnificent city has been “adorned” (kosméō)or “made to have an attractive appearance through decoration”7 “for her husband,” King Jesus (21:2b; cf. Revelation 19:7-9).

God created the earth in six days (Genesis 1:1-31), but Jesus has been preparing our place in heaven for almost two thousand years. Remember, Jesus was the Son of a carpenter (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) – so heaven is going to be a fantastic place – a real place. We will look at the specifics of this wonderful place later in our study of the book of Revelation.

Currently the New Jerusalem is being prepared by Christ in the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2) where God dwells with the immaterial parts (soul and spirit) of all believers in Jesus who have died 8 (John 14:2-3; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23). When Jesus refers to this city as a prepared “place” (topos) in John 14:2-3, that Greek word specifically refers to a “locatable place.” 9 This assures us that heaven is a real, physical place.

But where exactly is heaven located now? We do not know the exact physical location of heaven right now, but we know that it is “up” since the Bible tells us at the ascension of Jesus that the angels of God told the watching followers of Christ, This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). Ephesians 4:10 also says, “He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens.” When Paul writes that Jesus “ascended far above all the heavens,” he is including the first heaven which includes the atmosphere surrounding the earth where we see the domain of the clouds and birds (Genesis 1:6-8, 20; Isaiah 55:9-10). This also includes the second heaven which consists of the domain of the sun, moon, stars, planets, and galaxies (Genesis 1:14-17). 10 So, we know that heaven is up above us.

The apostle Paul spoke of being “caught up to the third heaven” which he also referred to as “Paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), which is beyond the first and second heavens and is the current dwelling place of God 11 where believers in Jesus go when they die (cf. Revelation 4:1-4; Acts 7:55-56, 59; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23). So even though we don’t know the specific location of heaven, we do know that it is a real physical place that Jesus is preparing for those who believe in Him (John 14:1-3). Christ will take believers there with either an angelic escort when we die (Luke 16:22a) or while we are still alive at the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth prior to the seven-year Tribulation period (I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 4:1-4).

Are you prepared to enter Jesus’ heaven? If you don’t know for sure you will go to God’s heaven in the future, you can know for sure right now. It is important to understand our need to prepare to go to heaven. The Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Does that include you and me? Yes, it includes all people. God demands complete perfection. But as sinners we have fallen short of that standard. All of us have sinned against God and deserve to be separated from Him forever (Romans 6:23a; Revelation 20:15).

To deal with our problem, God provided a Substitute. That Substitute was Jesus Christ who was one hundred percent perfect because He is God (John 1:1; I John 5:20). He had to take our punishment because one sinner cannot die for another. God allowed His only perfect Son to die in our place. The Bible says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

Years ago, a little girl was playing near a rock in her backyard. Underneath that rock was a rattlesnake. As she was playing, the snake lurched out and bit her in the leg. She fell to the ground dying. Her brother was standing a short distance away and saw what had happened. As soon as he saw her fall, he rushed over, and he sucked the venom from her leg. He didn’t know that there was an infection inside his mouth. The venom entered the infected area and in moments he died. He died, but his sister lived. Out of love for his sister, he took what would have caused her death and took it upon himself.

Because of the even greater love Jesus Christ has for us, He entered this world and took the sins that should have caused our death and placed them upon Himself. He became our Substitute. Because Jesus died, we can live forever.

Christ paid our sin debt in full (John 19:30). There is nothing left for you to pay. God can now offer eternal life freely – as a gift. That is why we are told, “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). Gifts though, must be received and there is only one way to receive this gift. The hand that receives this gift is faith. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). To believe means to be persuaded that Jesus is speaking the truth and is therefore trustworthy. And then believing or trusting in Him alone to give us everlasting life as a gift so we can live with Him forever in His heaven.

If you have never received Christ’s free gift of eternal life, why not do so now? Simply take Jesus at His word when He says, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life,” and you will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus and all those who have believed in Him for eternal life. Here is how you can tell God in a simple prayer what you have just done.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I come to You now as a sinner. Nothing I am or do makes me deserve heaven. I now understand that You took my punishment when You died on the cross and rose again. I am now believing or trusting in You alone Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion), to give me everlasting life and a future home in Your heaven. Thank You for the gift of eternal life I just received and for the future home I will have in Your heaven. Please use me now to tell others how they can know for sure they will live with You forever. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. 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 6517.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 234 cites Wilbur M. Smith, “Revelation.” In The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Edited by Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), pg. 1522.

3. 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. 454.

4. Constable, pp. 234-235.

5. 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.1582.

6. Ibid., pg. 1583.

7. 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. 560.

8. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2420.

9. David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015 Kindle Edition), pg. 14; cf. Bauer, pg. 1101.

10. Jeremiah, pp. 16-17.

11. Ibid., pg. 17.

The Darkness is Gone because the Son is Risen!

“Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” John 20:1

As early as she could get up on Sunday while “it was still dark,” Mary Magdalene went down to the tomb where Jesus’ corpse had been laid on Friday. This reference to it being “dark” may refer to both the physical darkness of the morning and the emotional and spiritual darkness that Mary was probably experiencing. Mary no doubt was stricken with grief by Jesus’ sufferings and death. After all, this was the Messiah-God who had healed her from demon possession (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). He wasn’t supposed to die like this! Mary had no idea what had already happened that Sunday morning. So, this was a very dark morning for her emotionally and spiritually.

What about you? Is this a dark day for you? Is your life filled with doubt and uncertainty considering the coronavirus? Are you struggling with negative attitudes this week? You may not admit it to anyone else, but you may be thinking, “Where is God amid all this chaos and pain in my life? I hear other people talk about faith and how great faith can be and how it makes a difference in their lives but if I was really being honest, I’d have a lot of question marks about it. I’m not a very trusting person.”

As Mary arrived at the tomb “she saw that the stone had been taken away.” The word for “taken away” (ērmenon) means “to lift up and carry away.” 1 It conveys the idea of being “tossed aside.” It was not slowly rolled away. It was thrown aside by the angel of God when he arrived (cf. Matthew 28:2). The power of God tossed this stone aside! This is probably why Matthew tells us the Roman guards shook with fear and became like dead men (cf. Matthew 28:4). I would have done the same!

When the stone was thrown aside, it was not so Jesus could come out of the tomb. I believe Jesus had already come out of the tomb before the stone was tossed aside. The stone was removed so the disciples could come into the tomb and see that it was empty. This is what makes Christianity distinct from all other religions. The founders of all other religions are still dead in their graves, but Christians worship a Jesus Christ that left an empty tomb behind Him! We worship a Jesus Christ who rose from the dead and remains alive today! A Jesus Christ who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-26).

If we are struggling in the dark with bad attitudes, doubts, or our faith – the resurrection power of Jesus Christ can change all of that. The same power that brought Jesus back to life can also resurrect a joyful attitude in us and replace our doubts with an unwavering confidence in Jesus and His promises. His resurrection power can revitalize our faith so that all fear is gone, and His joy can overflow in our lives once again. The darkness is gone because the Son is risen indeed!

If part of your struggle in the dark is with sin and shame, please know that Jesus’ resurrection power guarantees unlimited forgiveness in Christ to all who believe in Him. You may think your sin is too great for God to forgive. You may believe shame-based lies that say no one could accept or love you as you are. This is not true. Listen to God’s voice of truth: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loved you so much He sent His Son to die in your place when you were still an ungodly sinner. God loved you at your worst. He did not wait for you to clean up your life. He loved you just as you are. God loves you regardless of what you have done or what others say or think of you.

The risen Lord Jesus now invites you to come to Him just as you are to receive His forgiveness. The Bible says, “Everyone who puts his trust in Christ will have his sins forgiven through His name” (Acts 10:43). The word “everyone” includes the worst and the best of people. It includes people of all faiths. It does not matter if you are a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, or Universalist, Jesus invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to receive His unlimited forgiveness.

The Bible says the moment we believed in Jesus alone, “He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). No one can successfully condemn you now because Christ was condemned to death for your sins, removing your guilt (Romans 8:34b). Jesus was raised to life, satisfying God’s demand to punish your sins (Romans 8:34c). Jesus is now at the right hand of God the Father defending you against all accusations (Romans 8:34d). And Jesus intercedes for you that your faith won’t fail, you won’t give up, so that you can encourage others (Romans 8:34e; cf. Luke 22:32).

Hallelujah! Jesus is alive, and we who believe in Him are forgiven of all our sins – past, present, and future! The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! Oh, let us worship our risen Savior together!!!

Prayer: My risen Lord Jesus, I worship You this day because You have conquered sin, death, and the devil through Your death and resurrection. The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! You alone are my risen Savior, Lord Jesus! There is none like You. Even when I have dark days filled with doubt, fear, and shame, You are still alive and You are with me and love me more than I could ask or imagine. Thank You for dispelling the darkness on that first Sunday after Your death and burial. And thank You for continuing to dispel the darkness in this world through Your gospel of grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 28.  

Revelation 12 – Part 1

“Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.” Revelation 12:1

If you are a Christian, you are familiar with God’s love for you. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). The world includes you and me. God loves us!!! The apostle Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). God showed how much He loved us by dying in our place “while we were still sinners.” God did not wait for us to clean up our lives and become “worthy” of His love. Even when we were at our worst, God loved us by giving His best for us when He took our punishment for sin on the cross.

As much as God loves us, we need to understand that Satan hates us. Swindoll writes, Never forget those three words if you love and follow Christ’s teachings. Satan wants nothing more than to sabotage our love for God and for others, to tempt us into a moral catastrophe, and to see us choose a lifestyle of sin rather than a walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. When we falter, he stands ready to accuse us before God. When we pass the tests of temptation, he looks beyond that and is already strategizing his next attack. Satan’s hatred of us is relentless.

“… Understanding that Satan is neither all-powerful nor completely powerless will help us come to terms with the real challenges we face as we do battle with Satan’s evil empire in its current form. I say ‘current form’ because it’s important to understand that Satan’s ability to unleash his fury on God’s people is limited in the present age. However, one day Satan’s empire will be allowed to strike the world in full force before crumbling at the coming of Christ.” 1

You may recall that the apostle John received instructions to“prophesy again,” a second time regarding the seven-year Tribulation “about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” in Revelation 10:11. Therefore, Revelation 11-19 surveys the seventieth week of years (Tribulation) a second timewith a view to revealing the specific characters on the stage of the drama. In Revelation 11, John reviews the first half of the Tribulation with a focus on the Two Witnesses whom God will bring directly to faith in Christ so they can proclaim the truth to the world from Jerusalem (11:1-6), resulting in the salvation of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (“firstfruits” – 14:4) who will proclaim the “gospel of the kingdom” during the last half of the Tribulation period (cf. 7:1-10) to “all the nations” (cf. Matthew 24:14).

At the end of Revelation 11, the seventh trumpet sounded to prepare the apostle John, and his readers for the seven horrific bowls of wrath (cf. Revelation 16) immediately before Christ returns to set up His kingdom on earth (Revelation 11:15-19). God now gives John and his readers more information about the forces behind the anti-God hatred during the last half of the Tribulation (Revelation 12-15), so John and his readers could understand the bowl judgments (Revelation 16) which the seventh trumpet judgment contained. 2

Beginning in Revelation 12, John will describe the conflict between God and Satan in the spiritual realm that has taken place throughout history since Satan’s rebellion against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-18) so we can understand how it will be manifested in the physical realm during the second half of the Tribulation period, especially during the bowl judgments. 3

John will now focus on five main characters in Revelation 12 that are involved in this spiritual conflict. First, we are introduced to a woman. “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.” (Revelation 12:1). The phrase “a great sign” (mega sēmeion) Walvoord says refers to “the first of a series of events called ‘signs’ or ‘miracles’ (12:3; 13:13-14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20). As signs they were symbols of something that God was about to reveal and usually contained an element of prophetic warning. Though this sign was seen in heaven, the events which followed obviously occurred on earth.” 4

Swindoll states that the Greek word for ‘sign’ (sēmeion) signifies a mark or symbol that carries a special meaning or points us to something beyond it.” 5 In this case, John indicates that the new vision contains symbolic characters that point to real people or events in history – past as well as future.” 6

Many interpretations have been offered regarding the identity of the “woman” in this verse. Some have said that John was referring to something that his original readers knew about, namely, the “mother of the gods” represented on Roman coins. 7 Others have held that this woman is the church that is laboring to bring Christ to the nations. 8 This is built on an allegorical interpretation of Scripture and must be disallowed. The church did not produce Christ, but Christ produced the church. Also, since the church is not seen on earth in Revelation 4-19, the church cannot be represented by this woman. 9

Others say the woman refers exclusively to Mary, the mother of Jesus. 10 But this is not possible because Mary was never persecuted and never fled into the wilderness where she was fed for 1260 days (Revelation 12:6, 13-14). Clearly the woman is the nation of Israel who will be intensely persecuted during the last half of the Tribulation period (Revelation 12:13-17; cf. Matthew 24:15-22).

Other reasons why the “woman” refers to the nation of Israel include:

1. The context of Revelation 12:1 reveals that John is dealing with the nation of Israel. Grant says of Revelation 11:19, “The ark, then, seen in the temple in heaven is the sign of God’s unforgotten grace toward Israel…” 11

2. The identity of the woman as the nation of Israel is supported further by the reference to “the sun… the moon… and twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1) which connects back to a similar symbolic representation of Israel in Genesis 37:9-11. In this passage, Joseph, the son of Jacob has received a dream from God. 9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, ‘Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.’ 10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, ‘What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?’ 11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.” These verses identify “the sun” and “moon” as Jacob and Rachel, Joseph’s parents, and the stars as Jacob’s twelve sons (cf. Isaiah 26:17-18; 60:1-3, 20). Compare Jeremiah 31:35-36; Joshua 10:12-14; Judges 5:20 and Psalm 89:35-37 where heavenly bodies are associated with Israel’s history. 12

3. The use of the term “woman.” Eight times the term “woman” is used in this chapter (12:1, 4, 6, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17), and thirteen additional times the pronoun “she” (12:2, 5, 6, 14) or “her” (12:1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 14, 16, 17) is used in reference to the woman. We find this term used frequently in the Old Testament to refer to the nation of Israel (cf. Isaiah 47:7-9; 54:5-6; Jeremiah 4:31; Micah 4:9-10; 5:3; Isaiah 66:7-8). While the church is called a “bride” (Revelation 21:2, 9, 17), a “wife” (Revelation 19:7; cf. Ephesians 5:22-33), or a “chaste virgin” (2 Corinthians 11:2), we never find the church referred to as a woman in the New Testament. 13

4. The use of the term “wilderness.” The “wilderness” is said to be the place of refuge afforded the woman in her flight (Revelation 12:6, 14). The “wilderness” was a common reference to Israel in her national history (Exodus 3:18; 4:27; 5:1; 7:16; 8:27-28; 13:17-18, 20; 14:3, 11-12; 15:22; 16:1-3, 10, 14, 32; et al.). Israel was taken into “the wilderness of the land of Egypt” (Ezekiel 20:36). Israel, since she refused to follow God into the promised land, was turned back into the wilderness for forty years where they would die, and a new generation would be brought forth (Numbers 14:1-35; cf. Hebrews 3:7-18). Israel’s unbelief caused Ezekiel to declare God’s purpose: “And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face.” (Ezekiel 20:35). Hosea reveals that in the long period Israel would spend “in the wilderness” God would be gracious to them (Hosea 2:14-23). 14

5. The references to the period of three and a half years (“one thousand two hundred and sixty days” – 12:6 and “a time and times and half a time” – 12:14) in Revelation 12 connect to the last half of the week of Daniel’s seventieth week prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27) which was specifically addressed to “your people and for your holy city” (Daniel 9:24). Since this prophecy was given to Daniel it could only refer to Israel and the city of Jerusalem. Each time this period is mentioned in Scripture, whether as a “one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Revelation 11:6; 12:3), “forty-two months” (Revelation 11:2; 13:5), “time, times, and half a time” (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 12:14), or three and a half years, it always refers to Israel and a period in which God is dealing with that nation. 15

6. The reference to the angel, “Michael” (Revelation 12:7). In Daniel 12:1 the archangel Michael is called “the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people.” Michael is united with the destiny of the nation Israel by this word of the Lord to Daniel. In Revelation 12:7 Michael appears again in reference to the warfare in heaven. The fact that Michael appears on the scene here indicates that God is again dealing with the nation Israel, and Michael is a character here because the destiny of Israel is involved. 16

Pentecost quotes Moorehead regarding Revelation 11:19, And the temple (sanctuary) of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of the covenant.’ This is strictly Jewish ground; the temple, the ark, the covenant belong to Israel, represent Hebrew relations with God and Hebrew privileges. The Spirit now takes up Jewish things, Jewish standing, covenant, hopes, dangers, tribulations and triumph.” 17

Clearly the people of Israel are in view here, so the woman in Revelation 12 represents the nation of Israel.

Next John writes, “Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.” (Revelation 12:2). Since the woman is Israel, the “child” is the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 12:5). The Bible tells us that Christ would come from the nation of Israel. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” (Romans 9:3-5).

The “labor” and “pain” in giving “birth” to Jesus (Revelation 12:2) are pictures of the grief and sorrow that the nation of Israel experienced in Old Testament days at the hand of Satan in his attempts to prevent the Messiah from coming. This agonizing struggle between Satan and Israel has been going on from the very beginning (cf. Genesis 3:15). 18

Israel’s founding father, Abraham, was promised a son (Genesis 12:1-7). Instead of waiting on God’s timing, Abraham took a shortcut and slept with his maidservant, Hagar, who gave birth to Ishmael (Genesis 16:1-16). Later Abraham’s wife, Sarah gave birth to Isaac (Genesis 21:1-7). The result of these two births has been a source of conflict between the Arabs and the Jews ever since (Genesis 21:8-21; 25:12-16). Israel faced terrible pain while in exile in Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria.In the days that Jesus was born, Israel was under the oppression and taxation of the Roman government.

God used many imperfect people to bring His Son into the world through the nation of Israel. When you examine the genealogies of Christ (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-37), these lists of names contain broken sinners like you and me. They include Jacob (Matthew 1:2; Luke 3:34) who was a deceiver. David (Matthew 1:6; Luke 3:31) who committed adultery and murder. Solomon (Matthew 1:7) who took an abundance of wives and concubines. Manasseh (Matthew 1:10) was one of Judah’s most wicked kings.

Moreover, and while women do not normally show up in biblical genealogies, the women in Jesus’s line were particularly questionable. Tamar (Matthew 1:3) was a Canaanite who posed as a prostitute and committed incest with her father-in law Judah. Rahab (Matthew 1:5) was a prostitute; Ruth (Matthew 1:5) was from Moab, a non-Israelite people that worshiped false gods.

Another observation about Jesus’ genealogies is that they are mixed racially, including both Jews and Gentiles which indicates that Jesus’ kingdom identity and rule includes all races of people. All of this points to God’s sovereign grace. He accomplishes His glorious purposes despite difficult circumstances and the character of the people involved. If God can use the imperfect people listed in these genealogies to bring Jesus, the Messiah-God, into the world, God can surely use you and me to accomplish His purposes. 19

Evans writes, Notice also that of the five women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy, four are of Hamitic descent: Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Ruth. That doesn’t mean that Jesus was black. To assert such, as some black theologians and religious leaders do, is to fall into the exclusionist perspective of many whites, who would make Jesus an Anglo-European, blue-eyed blond with little relevance to people of color. It would also fail to respect the distinct Jewish heritage of Christ. Jesus was a person of mixed ancestry.

“It blesses me to know that Jesus had black in His blood because this destroys any perception of black inferiority once and for all. In Christ we find perfect man and sinless Savior. This knowledge frees blacks from an inferiority complex, and at the same time it frees whites from the superiority myth. In Christ, we all have our heritage.

“Black people, as all other people, can find a place of historical, cultural, and racial identity in Him. As Savior of all mankind, He can relate to all people, in every situation. In Him, any person from any background can find comfort, understanding, direction, and affinity—as long as Christ is revered as the Son of God, a designation that transcends every culture and race and one to which all nations of people must pay homage.” 20

In conclusion, God wants us to remember that His faithfulness to His promises is not contingent upon our character, but upon His. We see this throughout history when God promised to bring the Messiah through the nation of Israel despite the nation’s unfaithfulness. The genealogies of Christ underscore God’s faithfulness in using imperfect Jews and Gentiles to fulfill this promise. As a nation, Israel had to endure much pain to usher the Messiah into the world. Likewise, we may have to endure much pain to fulfill God’s purposes. Whether we are faithful or not, God remains faithful to what He has promised.

The Bible tells us, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13). I have heard many Christians and churches insist that going to heaven is based on our faithfulness to God, instead of His faithfulness to His promises. Where is the assurance in such an assertion? If our assurance of going to heaven is based on our faithfulness to God, then we are all in a heap of trouble.

Why? Because like the nation of Israel, we also have sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Our good thoughts, words, and actions cannot make us right before God because they are all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). This is why God sent His only perfect Son into the world through the imperfect nation of Israel (Romans 9:3-5) so He could pay the penalty for all our sin once and for all by dying in our place on a cross and rising from the dead (John 19:30; Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3-6; Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10-14). All God asks us to do to enter His heaven is believe in Christ and His finished work on the cross.

Jesus said, “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15). Just as Moses “lifted up” the bronze serpent in the wilderness so that all the dying Israelites could look at that serpent in faith and live physically (Numbers 21:1-8), so Jesus Christ was lifted up on the cross so “that whoever believes in Him” or looks to Him “should not perish but have eternal life.” Nowhere does Jesus say, “Whoever remains faithful to Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Repeatedly, Jesus and His followers tell us to “believe” 21 or have “faith” 22  in Christ alone as the only condition for entering God’s heaven.

Have you been looking to your own faithfulness as the way to Christ’s heaven? If so, Satan has deceived you to trust your own faithfulness instead of God’s. This is an expression of the Devil’s hatred toward God and humanity. Satan is a liar, a thief, and a murderer (John 8:44; 10:10a). He wants to deceive people to miss God’s heaven by distorting the gospel message lest people believe it and are saved (Luke 8:5, 11-12).

If you have believed the gospel, that Christ gives eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 3:14-18), but now you are trusting your own faithfulness as the basis of your assurance that you will go to heaven, then Satan, being the thief that he is, has successfully robbed you of your assurance of going to heaven. You still have eternal life because of your faith in Jesus, but your assurance of going to heaven is lost by looking to your own faithfulness instead of Christ’s. Our faithfulness to God can vary from moment to moment. So, when we are unfaithful to God with our thoughts, motives, words, or actions, we are prone to doubt our salvation if our assurance is rooted in our own faithfulness.

God makes it clear in the Bible that He does not want any of His children to doubt that they have eternal life and a future home in heaven with Him. “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). God wants you to know that you “have eternal life” the moment you believe in the name of the Son of God.” So, if you lack assurance of going to heaven, why not ask God to show you the truth and to make His Word understandable to you? 23

The key to assurance of salvation is looking to Jesus’ promise that all who simply believe in Him have everlasting life (John 3:14-18; 5:24; 6:35-50, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-26; et al.). It is also important to remember, that we do not get to heaven through the promises we make to God, but through the promises He makes to us! 24

If you have been trusting your own faithfulness or anything else besides Jesus and His finished work on the cross to get you to heaven, Christ invites you right now to stop and look to Him and His finished work on the cross as Your only way to His heaven. When you do this, God gets all the glory and the only boasting in heaven will be in our gracious and loving Savior Who got us there (I Corinthians 1:18-31; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Prayer: Father God, we give You praise for the first main character in Your description of the conflict between You and Satan. The nation of Israel is central to Your redemptive purposes. It was through this imperfect nation and imperfect individual Gentiles that You brought Your only perfect Son into the world the first time to be our one and only Savior. If any of us struggle with shame and not feeling worthy to be used by You, may Your Holy Spirit use today’s Bible verses to silence our shame so we can present ourselves to You as Your available servants. You are a faithful God Who remains faithful to His promises even if we are faithless. Thank You, Lord, for this powerful reminder that can embolden us to faithfully proclaim Your saving message no matter what our past. Please use us to accomplish Your purposes so all the glory belongs to You. And Lord, if there is anyone reading this article right now who is trusting in someone or something other than Christ alone as their only way to heaven, please persuade them to stop and believe in Jesus for His free gift of eternal life. Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 234-235.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 132.

3. Ibid., pp. 132-133 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 117.

4. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 5656 to 5662.

5. Swindoll, pg. 235 cites Eugene Nida and Johannes P. Louw, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, §33.477.

6. Swindoll, pg. 235.

7. Constable, pg. 133 cites as examples Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), pg. 337; and Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars (London: SCM, 1965), pp. 151-152.

8. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 288 cites as an example Ford C. Ottman, The Unfolding of the Ages (New York: Baker and Taylor, 1905), pg. 280.

9. Pentecost, pg. 288.

10. Ibid., cites F. C. Jennings, Studies in Revelation (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, [n.d.].), pp. 310-311.

11. Ibid., cites W. Grant, The Revelation of Christ (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, [n.d.]), pg. 126. There is extensive biblical evidence showing that the woman of Revelation 12 is best identified as the nation of Israel (see Pentecost, pp. 288-291).

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid., pg. 289.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid., pg. 290.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid., pp. 290-291 cites William G. Moorehead, Studies in the Book of Revelation (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: United Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1908), pg. 90.

18. 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. 1541.

19. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1480-1481.

20. Ibid., pg. 1481.

21. Matthew 18:6; 21: 32(3); 24:23, 26; 27:42; Mark 1:15, 9:42; 15:32;16:16(2), 17; Luke 8:12, 13; 22:67; John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:39, 41, 42, 48, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 45, 46, 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64, 69; 7:5, 31, 38(2), 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:25, 26, 27(2), 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:12; 16:9, 27; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:29, 31(2); Acts 2:44; 4:4, 32; 5:14; 8:12, 13, 37(2); 9:42; 10:43, 45; 11:17, 21; 13:12, 39, 41, 48; 14:1, 23, 27; 15:5, 7; 16:1, 31, 34; 17:4, 5, 12, 34; 18:8, 27; 19:2, 4, 9, 18; 21:20, 25; 22:19; 26:27(2); 28:24(2); Romans 1:16; 3:3, 22, 4:3, 5, 11, 17, 24; 9:33; 10:4, 9, 10, 11, 14(2), 16; 13:11; 15:31; I Corinthians 1:21; 3:5; 7:12, 13; 9:5; 10:27; 14:22(2); 15:2, 11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 2:16; 3:6, 9,

22; Ephesians 1:13, 19; Philippians 1:29; I Thessalonians 1:7; 2:10; 4:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:12,13; I Timothy 1:16; 3:16; 4:3, 10; 6:2(2); 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 3:8; Hebrews 11:31; I Peter 1:21;2:6, 7; I John 3:23; 5:1, 5, 10(3), 13.

22. Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 7:50; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 6:7; 14:22, 27; 15:9; 16:5; 20:21; 24:24; 26:18; Romans 1:17; 3:3, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30(2), 31; 4:5, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16 (2); 5:1, 2; 9:30, 32; 10:6, 8, 17; 11:20; 16:26; I Corinthians 15:14, 17; Galatians 2:16 (2); 3:2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26; 5:5; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 3:9(2); Colossians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:2; 2 Timothy 3:15; Titus 1:4; Hebrews 6:1;11:31; James 2:1, 23, 24; I Peter 1:21; 2 Peter 1:5; I John 5:4.

23. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 7.

24. Ibid.

How can Jesus’ resurrection make a difference in our daily lives? Part 1

“Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” John 20:1

The apostle John wrote the gospel of John to non-Christians so they “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31). In chapters 1-12, John records seven miraculous signs of Jesus to persuade non-Christians to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God so they may have eternal life in His name. Then in John 20 he records the eighth and greatest miraculous sign – the resurrection of Jesus! The entire book of John has been leading up to this exciting event! What makes it even more exciting is that John was there to watch it all happen as an eyewitness.

Some people think Jesus was in His resurrected body for a short time on earth and was seen by only a few people. But the truth is He was in His resurrected body on earth for over a month and He was seen by over 500 people (Acts 1:1-3; I Corinthians 15:3-8). This is an incredible event and for the next few days we are going to see how Jesus’ resurrection can make a difference in our daily lives.

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to a lot of different people at different times. Today we are going to see that He first appeared to Mary Magdalene. The resurrected Jesus is alive. He makes Himself known in peoples’ lives. The exciting thing about each of these appearances is the difference it made in people’s lives when they saw Him alive after His death and burial.

As we take a look at how the empty tomb challenged the life of Mary Magdalene, we are going to see how He can make a difference in our daily lives. The first way the risen Lord Jesus can make a difference is to DISPEL THE DARKNESS IN OUR LIVES WITH THE LIGHT OF HIS RESURRECTION (John 20:1). The apostle John writes, “Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb” (John 20:1). Let’s look at some important details in this one verse.

The first detail is that it was “on the first day of the week.” What is the first day of the week? Sunday. Interestingly, “for the Jews, Sunday (the day after the first Sabbath following Passover cf. Leviticus 23:11) would be the Feast of First Fruits. On this day the Jews would present the first sheaf of the barley harvest to the Lord in the Temple. This offering was both an expression of gratitude and an expression of faith that a full harvest was about to follow. It is significant that Jesus rose from the grave on the Feast of First Fruits. And so Paul presents Christ as the ‘first fruits’ of the resurrection (I Corinthians 15:20-23).“ 1

In the Old Testament, believers worshiped God on the Sabbath which was Saturday. But in the New Testament believers got together on Sunday because that was the day of Jesus’ resurrection (cf. Acts 20:7). This is why believers around the world worship the Lord together on Sunday. It is resurrection day! Some believers insist that you must worship the Lord on Saturday to be a true believer. But the Bible tells us in Romans 14:5-6a that it doesn’t matter what day or night of the week you worship because we are no longer under the regulations of the Old Testament Law anymore (cf. Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:24; 4:5). So you could worship the Lord together on a Wednesday night if you wanted to. What matters is that your observance shows your commitment “to the Lord” (Romans 14:6).

The second detail is the word “early.” The Greek word [prōi, πρωί] refers to “the watch that is between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.” 2  It is very early in the morning while it is still dark. The reason Mary and other women [note plural “we” in verse 2, cf. Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1,10) got up early to go to the tomb was because it was a tradition of the Jews to go to the tomb for at least three days after the person was buried to take care of the body and make sure all the spices were in the right places. They couldn’t go on the Sabbath day, so they had to wait until Sunday. I also believe Mary was eager to go to the tomb so early because of her love and devotion for Jesus, living and dead, which was based on her gratitude for His delivering her from bondage to Satan (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). She had been an observer at the cross and now was the first person at the grave. 3

So as early as she could get up on Sunday while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went down to the tomb. She, being a agile young woman, ran ahead of the other women and came to the tomb first, and discovered that the tomb had already been opened. 4

The third detail to observe is that “it was still dark.” This reference to it being “dark” may refer to both the physical darkness of the morning and the emotional and spiritual darkness that Mary was probably experiencing.Mary no doubt was stricken with grief by Jesus’ sufferings and death. After all, this was the Messiah-God who had healed her from demon possession (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). He wasn’t supposed to die like this! Mary had no idea what had already happened that Sunday morning. So this was a very dark morning for her emotionally and spiritually.

What about you? Is this a dark day for you? Is your life filled with doubt and uncertainty in light of the coronavirus? Are you struggling with negative attitudes this week? You may not admit it to anyone else, but you may be thinking, “I wouldn’t be around me this week if I were honest about it.” Some of you may be struggling with your faith. You think, “I hear other people talk about faith and how great faith can be and how it makes a difference in their lives but if I was really being honest, I’d have a lot of question marks about it. I’m not a very trusting person.”  

The fourth detail to notice is that John says, “the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” The word for “taken away” [ērmenon, ἠρμένον] means “to lift up and carry away.” It conveys the idea of being “tossed aside.” It was not slowly rolled away. It was thrown aside by the angel of God when he arrived (cf. Matthew 28:2). The power of God tossed this stone aside! This is probably why Matthew tells us the Roman guards shook with fear and became like dead men (cf. Matthew 28:4). I would have done the same!

When the stone was thrown aside, it was not so Jesus could come out of the tomb. Jesus in His resurrected body went through the grave clothes that surrounded Him. Jesus in His resurrected body had the power to go through doors and into rooms without the doors being opened. So I’m suggesting that Jesus had already come out of the tomb before the stone was thrown aside. The stone was removed so the disciples could come into the tomb and see that it was empty. This is what makes Christianity distinct from all other religions. The founders of all other religions are still dead in their graves, but Christians worship a Jesus Christ that left an empty tomb behind Him! We worship a Jesus Christ who rose from the dead and remains alive today! Hallelujah!

If you are struggling in the dark with bad attitudes, doubts, or your faith, the resurrection power of Jesus Christ can change all of that. The same power that brought Jesus back to life can also resurrect a joyful attitude in you and replace your doubts with an unwavering confidence in Jesus and His promises. His resurrection power can revitalize your faith so that all fear is gone and His joy can overflow in your life.

If part of your struggle in the dark is with sin and shame, please know that Jesus’ resurrection power guarantees unlimited forgiveness in Christ to all who believe in Him. You may think your sin is too great for God to forgive. You may believe shame-based lies that say no one could accept or love you as you are. This is not true. Listen to God’s voice of truth: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loved you so much He sent His Son to die in your place when you were still an ungodly sinner. God loved you at your worst. He did not wait for you to clean up your life. He loved you just as you are. God loves you regardless of what you have done or what others say or think of you.

The risen Lord Jesus now invites you to come to Him just as you are to receive His forgiveness. The Bible says, “Everyone who puts his trust in Christ will have his sins forgiven through His name” (Acts 10:43). The word “everyone” includes the worst and the best of people. It includes people of all faiths. It does not matter if you are a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, or Universalist, Jesus invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to receive His unlimited forgiveness.

The Bible says the moment we believed in Jesus alone, “He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). No one can successfully condemn you now because Christ was condemned to death for your sins, removing your guilt ( Romans 8:34b). Jesus was raised to life, satisfying God’s demand to punish your sins (Romans 8:34c). Jesus is now at the right hand of God the Father defending you against all accusations (Romans 8:34d). And Jesus intercedes for you that your faith won’t fail, you won’t give up, so that you can encourage others (Romans 8:34e; cf. Luke 22:32).

Hallelujah! Jesus is alive, and we who believe in Him are forgiven of all our sins – past, present, and future! The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! Oh let us worship our risen Savior together!!!

Prayer: My risen Lord Jesus, I worship You this day because You have conquered sin, death, and the devil through Your death and resurrection. The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! You alone are my risen Savior, Lord Jesus! There is none like You. Even when I have dark days filled with doubt, fear, and shame, You are still alive and You are with me and love me more than I could ask or imagine. Thank You for dispelling the darkness on that first Sunday after Your death and burial. And thank You for continuing to dispel the darkness in this world through Your gospel of grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1.  J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 358.

2. Walter Bauer,A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 892.

3. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 695-696.

4. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 496 cites J. W. Shepard, The Christ of the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1946), pp. 611-612; cf. Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 358.

5. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition, pg. 28.

How can we endure difficult times? Part 6

“Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him.” John 18:12

In the first twelve verses of John 18, we are learning how to endure difficult times. So far we have discovered we can do this when we…

– Learn about the love of Christ (John 18:1a).

– Look to the Lord in prayer (John 18:1b).

– Lean on the power of Christ (John 18:2-8a). 

– Listen to the command of Christ (John 18:8b).      

– Let Christ protect us now (John 18:9-11).

The sixth and final way to endure difficult times is to LET CHRIST HAVE YOUR BURDENS BECAUSE HE UNDERSTANDS (John 18:12; cf. Hebrews 4:15). The apostle John writes, “Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him.” (John 18:12). Although the disciples were not arrested, Jesus was “arrested… and bound.” The word “arrested” (synelabon) means “to grasp together or seize.” 1 Since Jesus offered no resistance, it is not clear why they “bound” the Lord. Perhaps they were afraid Jesus might use His supernatural powers and attempt to escape.

This verse is especially powerful for those who are incarcerated. They have been arrested. Jesus was also arrested. Christ was arrested even though He was innocent. There are some in prison today who were arrested even though they were innocent. Jesus was falsely accused. Some prisoners may have also been falsely accused. Christ has much in common with those in jail or prison. As some of you reading this article know, being arrested is not a pleasant experience, especially if you are innocent. Christ understands what it is like to be arrested. He knows what it is like to be falsely accused. He understands how you feel, and He wants to help you. He has a greater capacity to care for you because He understands what you have gone through (cf. Hebrews 4:15).

The Bible says, 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:6-7). Christ cares more for you than any other person in the universe. Let Him have your burdens and worries. 

John wrote his gospel so non-Christians “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31). As you read this, you may not know for sure that you will go to heaven when you die. We have learned several truths from John 18:1-12 about Jesus that compel us to believe in Him for everlasting life:

1. Believe in Jesus because He loves you and paid the full penalty for your sins (John 18:1a; 1:29; 19:30). When Christ crossed over the Brook of Kidron which was soaked with the blood of the Passover Lambs, He was reminded that as the Lamb of God, He would be sacrificed on a cross for the sin of the world (John 1:29). Christ could have turned around and run to safety. But He did not. Why? Because of His great love for you and me. Jesus continued up to the Garden of Gethsemane knowing that He would be arrested and crucified for you and for me. That’s how much He loves us! Christ loves you and me whether we are a good moral person or a person who has spent more time in jail than out of jail. Even when we are at our worst, God still gives us His very best. The Bible tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Jesus loves us and wants to begin a forever relationship with us. Believe in Him.

2. Believe in Jesus because He has prayed for you (John 18:1b; cf. 17:20-26; Luke 22:39-43). When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was thinking of our sins being placed on Him when He would die on the cross. This is why the Bible tells us that  “He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.” (Matthew 26:37). Christ was overwhelmed by the thought of being separated from His Father in heaven as our sins would be placed upon Him. Yet Jesus prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup [of suffering] away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Through prayer, Jesus submitted to His Father’s will which included dying for our sins in our place.

3. Believe in Jesus because there is power in His name to give you eternal life and keep you secure forever (John 18:2-8a; cf. 10:28-29; 20:31). Since Jesus has the power to make an army fall down before Him, He also has the power to give us eternal life which can never be lost. The Bible tells us, “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). “No other name” – not Muhammed (Islam), Buddha (Buddhism), Confucius (Confucianism), Joseph Smith (Mormonism), Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah Witnesses), Ellen G. White (Seventh-Day Adventist), Theophilus Lindsey (Unitarianism), Rubin Ecleo (PBMA), Apollo Carreón Quiboloy (Restoration Church/ Kingdom of Jesus Christ), Felix Manalo (Iglesia Ni Cristo), Eli Soriano (Ang Datin Daan) – nor any other religious founders can save us from our sins. Only Jesus Christ can save us from our sins because He paid our sin debt in full when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:1-8), proving that His claim to be God is true (Romans 1:3-4). Believe in Him.

4. Believe in Jesus because He has the power of command (John 18:8b). When the Roman soldiers and temple guards came to arrest Jesus, Christ tells them what to do and they follow His orders. They don’t arrest any of His disciples because He has the power of command. If we are going to go to heaven when we die, we must listen to and obey the command to believe in Christ for everlasting life. “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ…” (I John 3:23). There are many religious leaders commanding us what to do to go to heaven – pray toward the east five times a day. Go to church. Turn from your sins. Confess your sins. Meditate. Pray every day. Be baptized with water. Give to the poor. Keep the Sabbath. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do to others as you would have them do to you. But none of these are things Jesus commanded us to do to have everlasting life. What did Jesus say to do to have everlasting life? “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Do you believe this? If you do, Jesus guarantees that you now have everlasting life.

5. Believe in Jesus Who will protect you forever (John 18:9-11). Just as Jesus protected Peter and the other disciples physically from the well-armed soldiers and guards, He will also protect us spiritually forever the moment we believe in Him (John 10:28-29). No one will be able to overpower Christ and take His eternal life away from us. We are secure in His hands forever.

6. Believe in Jesus because He understands your need for eternal life (John 18:12; cf. Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). All of us deserve to be in a spiritual prison forever in a place called hell because all of us have sinned against God (Romans 3:23; Revelation 20:15). Our sin separates us from God because He is holy and righteous and cannot be around our sin (Isaiah 59:2; 64:6; Romans 6:23). Just as Jesus understands what it is like to be arrested and falsely accused, He also knows how it feels to be separated from God because the sin of the world was placed on Him when He died on the cross, causing Him to be temporarily separated from His heavenly Father (cf. Matthew 27:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Christ does not want you to die forever in hell (I Timothy 2:3-4). This is why He died in your place and rose from the dead – so you could live with Him forever in heaven. All He asks is that you believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift of eternal life. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47; cf. John 4:10-14; 11:25-26; Romans 6:23b).

When you believe in Jesus for His gift, Christ gives you everlasting life starting at that moment of faith (John 6:47). How long does everlasting life last? Forever! Does eternal life ever end? No. So even if you sin tomorrow, next month, or next year, do you still have everlasting life? Yes, because Jesus remains faithful to His promise of everlasting life (John 3:16; 6:47) even if we are unfaithful to Him (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).

The Bible also says that when you believe in Jesus for eternal life, you become a member of God’s family forever. John 1:12 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.” So if you believed in Jesus for eternal life, God is now your Father and you are His child forever. If God is your Father and He is my Father, what does that make you and me? Brothers and sisters in Christ because we now have the same Father in heaven. It does not matter what color of skin you have or what culture you are from. If you believe in Jesus, we are family because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The color of His blood is the same as yours and mine.

And when you believe in Jesus, He comes to live inside you (Galatians 2:20) through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 1:13-14). And He promises never to leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). So if Jesus always lives inside you, do you ever have to feel lonely? No. You may feel lonely at times, but your feelings can lie to you. Focus on the truth of God’s Word instead of your feelings.

The Bible also says that when you believed in Jesus, you now have a future home in heaven (John 3:16; Revelation 21-22). So there is no need to be afraid of death. Even if people threaten to kill you for sharing Christ, you do not need to be afraid because Christ guarantees to take you to heaven the moment you take your last breath (John 11:25-26; 14:2-3; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-23).

If you have never understood and believed this before today, but now you do – you can tell God this through prayer. Praying this prayer is not what gets you to heaven. Only believing in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life gets you to heaven. This prayer is simply a way to tell God you are now trusting in His Son. If you would like, you can say to God:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I come to you now as a sinner. I cannot save myself. I believe You died in my place on a cross and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my prayers, my religion, or my good life), to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You, Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have and for the future home I will have in heaven. In Your powerful name I pray. Amen.”

Diagram 1

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please download our free digital discipleship materials on this website (see diagram 1) to go through with other people who are seeking to know Jesus. Thank you, and may Jesus richly bless you.

ENDNOTES:

1. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pg. 776; Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 286.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 2 (Video)

This is the second 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 second miracle Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee involving a nobleman’s son who was near death.

All Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from David Padfield/ www.FreeBibleimages.org,  www.GoodSalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, www.FreeBibleimages.org. 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/.

Why does the Lord allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it? Part 8

“Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him, and let him go.’ ” John 11:44b

Today we will look at the final reason why the Lord may allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it. It is to GET CHRISTIANS TO HELP ONE ANOTHER DISPOSE OF THEIR GRAVE CLOTHES (John 11:44b). Jesus had just commanded a dead man to come out of his grave (John 11:43). And a living Lazarus walked out of his tomb wrapped from head to toe in burial clothes. Only Jesus can bring life to dead churches, marriages, families, and individuals. That is Jesus’ job. But look at the end of verse 44:  “Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him, and let him go.’ ” (John 11:44b). Could Jesus have caused the grave clothes of Lazarus to drop off? Absolutely! If He could raise Lazarus from the dead, He could certainly cause his grave clothes to drop off. But why didn’t He do this?

That would have left Lazarus naked and caused him a lot of humiliation and shame. By having those around him unwrap Lazarus, Jesus was providing an opportunity for people close to Lazarus to help him lose his grave clothes without losing his dignity. Likewise, Christians need to help one another get free from their spiritual and emotional grave clothes.

Jesus gives life to people. That is His job. But it is our job, the people of God, to help one another get out of the grave clothes that keep reborn people from acting alive. We may still have the grave clothes of shame and self-righteousness. We may view ourselves and God in a way that keeps us from experiencing His resurrection life. There may be deeply ingrained habits or thought patterns that prevent us from living resurrection lifestyles. Or we may have the grave clothes of unconfessed sin or an unforgiving spirit which keep us from experiencing true freedom in our Christian lives.

The church needs to be a safe place where we begin to peel away the grave clothes that keep born again people from experiencing the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. We cannot live victorious Christian lives in isolation from other believers. We need each other to experience the resurrection power of Christ in our lives.

How can churches become a safe place for believers to remove their grave clothes?

1. Ask others to help you remove your own grave clothes. Instead of jumping in like a spiritual superior to help remove the grave clothes of others, church leaders are to give others permission to help them remove what is keeping them from experiencing Christ’s resurrection power more fully. After all, how can church leaders expect others to be vulnerable about their struggles if they are not vulnerable about theirs? This kind of mutual vulnerability conveys the gospel message that we are all imperfect sinners in need of God’s grace (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). If Christians will live in humble vulnerability with one another, they will create an atmosphere that gives every believer in the church the safety and freedom to shed their grave clothes on the pathway to experiencing Christ’s resurrection power.

2. Extend the same grace to others as Christ has given to you (Ephesians 2:8-9; 4:32). None of us deserved salvation, but God freely gave it to us by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. We must create an atmosphere of this grace that invites imperfect sinners to come out of the darkness into the light of Jesus’ love. I have attended Christian churches and/or ministries where believers were treated harshly for having grave clothes that kept them from experiencing Christ’s resurrection power. They were belittled and bullied for having struggles, which only increased their fear and shame. They were viewed as an embarrassment to the church or ministry. According to them, since “true Christians” have no serious problems, no provisions were made to help them.

This is the exact opposite of what Jesus did with those who were broken and wounded. Christ fulfilled the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 42:3 which says, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” (cf. Matthew 12:20). Jesus did not deal harshly with those who were already hurting nor did He extinguish what little hope a broken heart possessed. He came along side of them to strengthen them with His presence rather than step on them to advance His own plans. He wants to rekindle our love and passion for Him. Unlike the religious leaders of His day, Jesus had compassion for the weak and vulnerable. He extended gentleness and humility to the harassed and helpless (Matthew 9:36) as well as to the weary and burdened (Matthew 11:28). He gave forgiveness to the fallen (John 8:11). Likewise, the more churches have this Christlike mindset, the more they will expect “true Christians” to have obvious problems and provide ministries that provide the safety and security to promote transparency, healing, and growth.

3. Focus more on the heart instead of behavior. God is not uptight about our sin and shame. People are the ones who are uptight about our sin and shame. God still loved us even though we were undeserving, ungodly sinners without any strength to reconcile ourselves to Him. He did not wait for us to clean ourselves up before He loved us and died in our place. The Bible says, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). “Christ died for the ungodly,” not the godly. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ died for us “while we were still sinners,” not saints. Christ looked beyond our sin to our hearts. He loved us no matter how often or badly we sinned.

Do our churches communicate this same kind of love to those the Lord brings to us? No matter how stinky a believer’s grave clothes are, do we love and accept that person as Jesus loves and accepts him or her? Do we take time to get to know the person, or do we stay preoccupied with their behavior and avoid them or judge them? It is Christ’s love that will embolden believers to remove their grave clothes and be transparent with one another, not focusing on behavior. After all, God’s “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). And fear and shame are two of the most common obstacles that keep people from being vulnerable with one another. But when we experience God’s incredible love for us through other believers who love and care for us no matter what we have done, we will respond with love toward our Lord and toward His children (I John 4:19).

4. Define believers by what God says about them, not by what they do. Christians are not defined by their grave clothes. They are defined by what God says about them. For example, the apostle Paul wrote the book of Ephesians to Christians who were living in the city of Ephesus, a sex-saturated society that was the home of the temple Diana. Christians were enticed by temple teachings to live without restraint. Paul countered this godless culture by emphasizing the Christian’s new identity in chapters 1-3, followed by a call to live in a way that is consistent with who they are in chapters 4-6.

An example of this is seen in Ephesians 5:8-10. Paul writes,  “8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” Notice that Paul starts with who they now are in Christ – “you are light in the Lord” (5:8a). The light of Jesus Christ now defined who they are, not the darkness of their sin. Paul then concludes, “walk as children of light” (5:8b). Jesus is the “light of the world” (John 8:12) and His followers are defined by His light.  

Christian speaker and author, Dr. Tony Evans, writes, “His followers must reflect Him the way the moon reflects the sun—not as crescent-moon Christians but as full-moon Christians. And we can’t reflect His light unless we’re in the light. So, if you want to reflect Christ, you have to be absorbing Christ through cultivating an intimate walk and relationship with Him (see John 15:1-16).” (Dr. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. pg. 2110).

As we grow closer to Jesus and learn how He sees us, we will begin to live like children of light who produce “goodness, righteousness, and truth” as we discover what is “acceptable to the Lord” (5:9-10).  

If we want to see believers shed their grave clothes and experience the resurrection power of Jesus more fully, we must focus on what God says about them instead of on what they have done. Why? Because the more they see themselves as God sees them, the more He will transform their lives. After all, we act in the way we perceive ourselves to be. The Bible says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7). Our behavior does not determine who we are. At the very core of our being we are God’s children and God wants us to learn to start acting in a way that is consistent with who you are.

For example, if you see yourself as an addict at the core of your being, what will be the most natural thing for you to do? To stay sober or practice your addiction? Practice your addiction. What will be the most unnatural thing for you to do? Stay sober. But if you see yourself as a child of God at the core of your being (John 1:12; I John 3:1-2), what is the most natural thing for you to do? Stay sober. Satan wants to convince you that you are a sinner. Why? Because sinning is accepted as natural. But if you realize and believe you are a child of God at the core of your being, then you will come to the conclusion that sinning compromises who you are. Sin is inconsistent with who you are in Christ. The more a believer sees themselves as God sees them, the more they will realize their grave clothes no longer define who they are. In fact, wearing their grave clothes will seem unnatural and restrictive to them.

Prayer: Wow, Lord Jesus! Many times I have read the raising of Lazarus from the dead, but I had not noticed the last part of verse 44. What a powerful application this is for the church today. Yes, You gave life to Lazarus as only You can do. But You want Your people to help him remove his grave clothes so he can experience his new life more fully. Oh Lord, please awaken Your church to see their role in helping other believers remove their grave clothes in a way that preserves their dignity and enables them to more fully experience Your resurrection power in their lives. In Your life-giving name I pray. Amen.

How can I grow closer to the Good Shepherd? Part 1

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” John 10:11

Pharisaism replaces rest in Jesus with demands for spiritual performance. People under a Pharisaic system can develop a distorted image of God. In John 10:11-21, we will discover that our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is on our side and not against us.

We saw in John 10:1-10 that we can trust Jesus as the true Shepherd because of …

– His prophetic credentials (John 10:1-2)

– The doorkeeper’s (John the Baptist) confirmation (John 10:3a)

– His personal concern for each of us (John 10:3b)

– His competent leadership (John 10:3c-6)

– His completely free offer of salvation (John 10:7-9a, 10b)

– His constant provision of nourishment (John 10:9b, 10c).

The Pharisees had not entered the sheepfold in the prescribed manner, that is, through faith in God’s Promised-Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Messiah and God’s provision of salvation through Him was a gracious gift not to be earned through compliance with the Law. Because of their unbelief, the Pharisees were false shepherds who misled their followers onto a treacherous path of dependency upon their own efforts to save themselves. Since they led the sheep along the wrong path away from the life Jesus offered, Jesus called them thieves and robbers of God’s sheep.

Being under a Pharisaic system can hinder believers from growing closer to the True Shepherd. The next few days, Lord willing, we will learn how to grow closer to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, when we realize who He truly is. Those under a Pharisaic system may have a distorted view of Christ which keeps them from growing closer to Him. The remedy? Discover the truth about Jesus. He is a good, trustworthy Shepherd. I can grow closer to the Good Shepherd when I…

REALIZE HIS SACRIFICIAL INTEREST IN ME (10:11-13). Beginning in verse 11, there is a stark contrast between the Good Shepherd and the thief. Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd when He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). This is another “I AM” statement by which Jesus claims to be the same God Who spoke to Moses in Exodus 3:14.

Notice that Jesus is not a mere shepherd, but “the good shepherd.” What does  “the good shepherd” do? He “gives His life for the sheep” so the sheep might live, but the thief comes to kill the sheep so he might live (John 10:10a). False shepherds come to take from others, but the Good Shepherd comes to give His life for the sheep. Jesus has the best interest of the sheep in mind. He laid down His life so that those who believe in Him may have eternal life (John 3:14-15). The word “for” in John 10:11 refers to the substitutionary death of Christ. Christ died “for” us or “instead” of us. He died in our place so we may live.

The Bible is clear that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Since God is a holy God, He must punish sin. God says that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The word “death” here refers to eternal separation from God. All people deserve to die forever in the Lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

God could have permitted us to take our own punishment. But instead, 2,000 years ago, God’s perfect Son took our place on the cross and died as our Substitute. The Bible tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

A California newspaper reported that a man fired a gun into a pedestrian-filled sidewalk. To shield a three-year-old boy from the hail of bullets, a twenty-nine-year-old apartment manager grabbed him and ran back into the building. Carrying the boy, he ran up a flight of stairs before collapsing from two bullet wounds in his chest. A policeman observed, “He brought the boy out of the line of fire and died because of it.” 1

As our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ took what caused our death, our sin, and died for us before coming back to life three days later. By dying in our place, Jesus satisfied God’s holy demand to punish our sins. Jesus is alive today and He has the power to save us from hell and give us eternal life. Jesus is the one and only “door” (John 10:9) for the sheep. He is the only One

Who paid the penalty for our sin when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead. There is no other way to get to heaven (John 14:6) except to believe in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life (John 3:15; 6:68-69; Acts 4:12).

Have you ever come to the point where you accepted Jesus’ death on your behalf? If not, would you like to now? Simply take Christ at His Word when He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The moment you believe or trust in Jesus alone, He gives you eternal life which can never be lost or taken away from you.

Jesus is contrasted with the hireling who does not share the concern of the shepherd for the sheep. “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.” (John 10:12).  When the flock gets too large, the shepherd hires a man to help with the sheep. The hireling watched the sheep at night when danger lurked – lions, wolves, panthers, leopards, bears, and hyenas – in the countryside.

“The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.” (John 10:13). When danger approached, the hireling fled because he doesn’t have personal concern for the sheep like the shepherd has. He only works for money with no sacrificial commitment to the sheep. Since he is a hired man, he also has no personal affection for the sheep.

The shepherd, on the other hand, owns the sheep and cares for their safety enough to even die for them (John 10:11). Christ loves His sheep so much that He was willing to purchase them with His own blood. The hireling is like the religious leaders who only cared for themselves. They used the peoples’ religious performance to meet their own spiritual needs instead of really caring about the needs of the people.

We can act like a hireling when we put our own needs ahead of the people God wants us to serve. For example, when a brother or sister in Christ is opposed by others because of their Christian faith, will we identify with them and support them at the risk of being attacked ourselves? Or will we withdraw from them to protect ourselves? Our Good Shepherd was willing to take a stand and fight for us against the forces of hell when He went to the cross on our behalf. As we grow closer to Him, He can help us put the needs of others ahead of our own.

Prayer: Your goodness, my Lord Jesus, was clearly and powerfully demonstrated when You gave Your life for the sheep. Unlike a robber or a hireling that cares more about himself than the sheep, You were willing to sacrifice Yourself so we may live forever with You after believing in You. False shepherds come to take from others, but You came to give. Knowing You have my best interest in mind invites me to grow closer to You. This can be difficult for me at times because I let my past wounds from spiritual leaders interfere with my view of You now. I pray Your Holy Spirit will remind me that since You gave me Your best when I was at my worst, how much more will You do now that I am in Your sheepfold (cf. Romans 8:31-32)!?! Please live Your life in and through me so others may experience Your goodness as a result. Thank You my Good Good Shepherd. I love You. In Your name I celebrate! Amen.  

ENDNOTE:

1.   From EvanTell’s 2010 “What are you depending on…” gospel tract.

Could there be another great awakening coming?

THE IMPETUS

In recent days I have spoken with people whom I greatly respect as mentors and dedicated followers of Christ who mentioned to me that they are anticipating another Great Spiritual Awakening in America and around the world. The impetus? The mistreatment of children.

One of the darkest expressions of human depravity today is found in human trafficking.  According to the definition of the United Nations, human trafficking means, “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons for the purpose of exploitation.” 1 Victims of human trafficking are exploited through different types of human slavery such as sex work, forced labor, or organ removal and selling.

According to The International Labour Organization, there are approximately 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally. 2  The Fox News Investigative Unit also confirms this, saying, “Every year more than 40 million people are forced into the world of human trafficking across the globe and it’s someone’s son or daughter that is trapped in this modern-day slavery.” 3 Of these millions of victims, 25 percent are children, 75 percent are female, and 81 percent are trapped in some form of forced labor. 4

The 24.9 million people exploited for forced labor includes those caught in one of the most common forms of trafficking: sex trafficking. 5 Women and girls are overwhelmingly affected by exploitation of this sort, making up 99 percent of victims in the commercial sex industry. 6 Sex trafficking alone generates an estimated $99 million per year. 7

While human trafficking affects victims of all ages, children are especially vulnerable. About one out of seven endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2017 were likely child sex trafficking victims. 8 Of the 15.4 million forced into marriage worldwide, 37 percent are children. 9

Human trafficking is also a serious problem in the USA. According to the Fox News Investigative Unit, America is among one of the worst nations for human trafficking along with Mexico and the Philippines. 10 Geoff Rogers, co-founder of the United States Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT), said in an interview with Fox News, “We have a major issue here in the United States. The United States is the No. 1 consumer of sex worldwide. So we are driving the demand as a society… We do have men traveling the globe to go to places like Thailand and other places in East Asia to purchase sex with kids. But, in fact, the demand is so great that the supply has needed to be filled here in the United States.” Rogers also said that 50% to 60 % of these kids are coming out of the foster care industry in America. 11

According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report, over 300,000 of America’s young population is considered at risk for sexual exploitation. It’s also estimated that 199,000 incidents occur within the U.S. each year. 12

According to DeliverFund’s website, in the USA, every 2.5 hours a child is taken by traffickers; every trafficked child is purchased for sex 5.4 times a day; 7 years is the average lifespan of a child victim once taken. 13

One teenage sex trafficking survivor known as “C” says, “Five men came in and it went from a Friday night to a Sunday morning — constantly. There was no sleep or break or anything it was just constantly being attacked by these men, and they kept giving me drugs and giving me liquor. And they just kept me hopped up.” 14

Sex trafficking is also connected to politicians in the USA as the more recent Jeffrey Epstein case has shown. 15 I wonder how many political candidates will address the pandemic of child trafficking along with the COVID pandemic as the November Presidential elections draw near?!!! This is not likely if they are also connected to this shameful industry.

The global pandemic of COVID-19 is causing an increase in isolation and human vulnerabilities that traffickers are eager to exploit. 16With many people stuck at home, stressed, or bored, pornography use has increased – Pornhub’s traffic shot up nearly 20 percent in late March. Sites like OnlyFans, a subscription-based social media platform used heavily by sex workers, have increasingly drawn unemployed people desperate for cash. OnlyFans saw a 75 percent increase in signups in March and April. Glamour magazine reported that up to 10,000 creators were joining OnlyFans daily during the month of May.” 17

Pornography has become an entryway for purchasing people for sex. 18 Amanda Eckhardt, the executive director of Restore NYC, a faith-based nonprofit that works with immigrant survivors of sex trafficking, says, “It’s important for the church to know that beyond the shutdown and pandemic, there will likely be a whole new cohort of people who will increase beyond traditional pornography viewing to purchasing sex, which will intersect with the trafficking of women and girls.” 19

I do not want to leave out the fact that child sexual abuse is also a problem in churches. Countless children have been sexually exploited by Catholic priests, nuns, and members of religious orders around the world. 20  Even among evangelical churches, there are young people being exploited sexually by their church leaders. 21 Regardless of culture or religion, the sexual exploitation of children is a very dark reality.

Let’s not forget the horrific treatment of unborn children worldwide. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 73 million abortions took place each year around the world between 2015 and 2019. 22 Since the legalization of abortion on demand in the USA, over 50 million unborn children have been torn apart in their mother’s womb through abortion procedures. 23

WHAT IS GOD’S RESPONSE TO THE MISTREATMENT OF CHILDREN?

Young children are very valuable to Jesus. They have a special place of love and respect from Him. Jesus said, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10). Little children are very valuable to God as demonstrated by how close their guardian angels stand to the throne of God. Christ said, “It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:14). God the Father does not want any little child to perish forever in hell.

We also see Jesus’ concern for little children in Matthew 19:13-15: “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.” Jesus rebukes those who forbid little children from coming to Him. He says not to forbid little children from coming to Him because “the kingdom of heaven” is occupied by those who possess childlike faith in Jesus.

One of Jesus’ strongest statements against the mistreatment of children is seen in Matthew 18. 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. 6 But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5-6). To welcome children and serve them is to welcome and serve Jesus (18:5). So if you want fellowship with Jesus, you must treat children and those who are childlike with tender love and care. Otherwise, Jesus warns of the great danger of causing them to stumble. He says it would be better to drown in the depth of the sea with a heavy stone hung around your neck than to cause a child to get tripped up (18:6). I can think of nothing worse that exploiting children sexually! Those who do so without getting right with God, must face the wrath of Jesus Christ!

In the Old Testament when God’s people sacrificed their children to pagan gods, the Lord’s wrath was kindled against them. 36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, 38 and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. 39 Thus they were defiled by their own works, and playedthe harlot by their own deeds. 40 Therefore the wrath of the Lord was kindled against His people, so that He abhorred His own inheritance.” (Psalm 103:36-40; cf. Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 16:3; 17:17). What we are seeing in the world today with children being sacrificed on the altars of sexual exploitation and abortion is equally abhorrent to the Lord and invites His wrath.

The God of the Bible is holy and cannot be around our sin (Psalm 5:4; 66:18; Isaiah 59:2;Romans 3:23; 6:23). He hates sin (Psalm 45:7; Proverbs 6:16; Zechariah 8:17), but He does not hate sinners. God loves sinners and wants to save them from sin’s penalty (eternal death) and give them everlasting life. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Christ died for us “while we were still sinners,” not saints. The idea that we must clean ourselves up and stop sinning before we come to Christ is not found in the Bible!

Jesus loved and died for all sinners including the pedophile, the child molester, sex traffickers, the abortionist, and the parents or grandparents who sell their children’s bodies to make money. No exceptions!!! God’s grace is greater and stronger than our sin through the blood of Jesus Christ! “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” (Romans 5:20). If Jesus’ blood can wash away the sin of all nations from all time in all of history (Hebrews 9:14; Revelation 1:5; 5:9; 12:11), certainly His blood can wash away the sin and shame of those who are caught up in human trafficking the moment they believe in Him for His gift of forgiveness and everlasting life (John 3:16; Acts 10:43; 16:31)!

WHAT IS OUR RESPONSE?

My prayer is that God will use the darkness of human trafficking to awaken the world for its need for the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ! All of us have sinned against God with our words, our thoughts, and our actions (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve to be separated from God forever because of our sins (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15). In the sight of a holy God, the people who spend more time in a church or a mosque or a temple are no better than those who spend more time in human trafficking. We all have sinned against God.

How will we respond to the mistreatment of children worldwide? Will we try to justify our participation in these very dark practices by saying “everyone is doing it” or “no one has to know as long as I can keep it a secret”? Are we so desperate for money that we are willing to sacrifice the innocence of our children or grandchildren on the altar of human trafficking?

We may think that this does not apply to us because we do not participate in such atrocities. But are we any better than those who practice such evil as we turn the other way and pretend that such wickedness does not exist or perhaps we assume someone else will fix it? The Bible says, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10). Sins of omission are just as evil in God’s sight as sins of commission.

The Bible says, “Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:4). Are we delivering “the poor and needy” children of this world from human trafficking when we turn the other way and pretend this does not involve us? When the Bible says, Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy” in Proverbs 31:8-9, are we obeying the Lord when we remain silent concerning the millions of children who are speechless and needy in the human trafficking industry? Oh may the Lord have mercy on all of us!!!

Human trafficking is one of the darkest expressions of our human sinfulness. Children are being robbed of their innocence through this very dark industry. Whether you are a victim of human trafficking or a consumer, you are probably silenced by your shame.

If you do not have Jesus Christ in your life, God invites you right now to come into the light of His love so He can set you free from your shame. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus did not say, “Come to a church or a mosque or a temple.” No. He said, “Come to Me.” Jesus is the One who can deliver us from the burden of our sin and shame.

Nor does Jesus say, “Come to Me and I will give you stress and shame.” Human trafficking will give you unbearable stress and shame whether you are a victim or a consumer. But not Jesus. He says, “Come to Me and I will give you rest.” You may be suffering in silence feeling horrible about what has been done to you as a victim of sex trafficking. Or, you may be coming apart on the inside with shame because you purchased children for sex. Please know that Jesus invites you to come to Him just as you are to receive the spiritual “rest” of His cleansing forgiveness and everlasting life. The “rest” Jesus offers here refers to a state of mind that exists when a non-Christian realizes he or she does not have to earn or work for their salvation. This refers to the positional rest of eternal life that is based on trusting in Christ’s accomplishment on the cross (John 3:14-16). Jesus finished the work of paying our sin debt in full when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus is alive today and He knows how deeply you are hurt or ashamed. He loves you infinitely and invites you to come to Him for rest.

If you have never understood and believed this before, and now you do, you can tell Jesus this through prayer.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I come to you deeply burdened by my sin and my shame. I have sunk deeply into darkness. Before today, I thought no one could ever love me or want a relationship with me. But I am realizing that You showed me how much You love me by dying in my place on a cross for all of my sins. Thank You, Jesus, for taking all my punishment when You died and rose from the dead. I am now trusting You, Jesus, alone to forgive all my sins and cleanse me of all my shame. Thank You for the forgiveness and complete cleansing I now have. Please help me to see myself as You do now – as a dearly loved child of God who will never be alone again. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

If you are a believer in Jesus who is a survivor of sex trafficking, please know that Christ loves you infinitely for who you are. What was done to you was terribly wrong, but that does not mean you are wrong. Jesus wants to walk with you through your pain and shame so you can be free from the past. Since you were deeply injured through relationships, you will need to experience healing in the context of relationships with people who will love and care for you regardless of your past. Please see the “NEED HELP?” section for contact information of those who can help you.

If you are a believer in Jesus who enabled human trafficking or purchased children for sex, you also need to know that Jesus loves you very much and He wants to shine His love in the dark places of your soul. Yes, what you did was wrong, but you are not wrong in the sight of Jesus! You are still God’s beloved child who may have unresolved trauma that has led you to medicate your pain and shame with these dark practices. Jesus wants to heal you in the context of loving relationships. Please see the “NEED HELP?” section for contact information of those who can help you.

May all of us pray for the God of all grace to bring to light the darkness of human trafficking in the world so children and consumers will be rescued from the chains of shame through the grace and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ! Only Jesus can replace the enemy’s darkness with His marvelous light and hope!

 NEED HELP?

If you are being trafficked or suspect that someone you know is being trafficked contact:

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678) or CYBERTIPLINE.ORG.

– National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888

If you are a survivor of sex trafficking or a consumer thereof and would like healing, please contact one of the following Christian Counseling services:  

– NewLife Ministries at www.newlife.com or call 800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433)

– Agape International Missions at www.agapewebsite.org

– Rahab’s Daughters at www.rahabsdaughters.org

– Bethany Christian services at www.bethany.org

ENDNOTES:

1. https://www.glowbalact.com/en/humantrafficking/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwp4j 6BRCRARIsAGq4yMHiB6KnaVuFSaP2hgwYWxfJ7qWRLRy4EHUq6ukzo60rf4m56KBY190aAt6NEALw_wcB

2. https://www.forgottenchildren.org/human-trafficking-by-the-numbers

3. https://www.foxnews.com/world/human-trafficking-victims-are-mostly-underage-children-from-within-the-us

4. https://www.forgottenchildren.org/human-trafficking-by-the-numbers

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. https://www.foxnews.com/us/human-trafficking-in-america-among-worst-in-world-report

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. https://deliverfund.org/the-human-trafficking-problem-in-america/

14. https://www.foxnews.com/world/human-trafficking-victims-are-mostly-underage-children-from-within-the-us

15. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/mitchell-richardson-accused; https://www.foxnews. com/politics/christine-pelosi-jeffrey-epstein-democrats-faves-implicated

16. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/july-web-only/coronavirus-human-trafficking-ministries-face-crisis.html

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. https://www.bbc.com/news/10407559; https://en.wikipedia.org /wiki/ Catholic_Church_ sexual_abuse_cases

21. https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/may/lifeway-protestant-abuse-survey-young-christians-leave-chur.html; https://www.washington post.com/news/posteverything/wp /2018/05/31/feature/the-epidemic-of-denial-about-sexual-abuse-in-the-evangelical-church/; http://www.religion watch.com/sexual-abuse-crisis-in-the-sbc-also-an-evangelical-problem/

22. https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-worldwide?gclid= CjwKCAjwyo 36BRAXEiwA24CwGX3b5DXx9cfcMf-7pwvl7eu-cgonf whHVwLrMSTlEAg98qbpdX_76RoCK1 YQAvD_BwE

23. https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/reality-check/2015/03/06/million-abortions-claim-checks/24530159/