Revelation 22 – Part 2

3 But the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” Revelation 22:3b-4 

For many of us, there are times when we are not too excited about heaven. We are much more interested in earth than we are about heaven. One of the reasons for this is because we have been misinformed about heaven. We have heard that when we get there, it will be all white with no other colors. We will all have wings and look like chubby little cherubs. We have heard that we will all float around on clouds playing a harp. Every thousand years or so we will float by one another. Few things sound more boring to me than being in a colorless place having to play a harp! No wonder we don’t get excited about going to heaven!

Today we are going to learn in our study of the book of Revelation that we will all have responsibilities in heaven. As the apostle John continues to focus on the interior of the New Jerusalem on the new earth in the final stage of heaven (22:1-5), he writes, “But the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” (Revelation 22:3b). The greatest thing about heaven is “the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in” the New Jerusalem where believers from the church age live. As we saw last time (22:1b), there is one “throne” that is shared by “God” the Father and God the Son (“of the Lamb”). What makes the new earth heaven is the fact that God rules from His “throne” there over His people.

But notice that God is not ruling the new earth alone. “And His servants shall serve Him” (22:3c). Near to God on His throne are “His servants” who “shall serve Him.” These “servants” are overcoming believers who remained faithful to Christ until the end of their lives on earth (cf. 2:7, 10, 25-27; 3:10-11, 21; et al.). While all believers in Jesus will be on the new earth with Christ and serve Him to varying degrees corresponding to their rewards (22:12), 1 overcoming believers will have special privileges and authority because of their faithfulness to Christ.

For example, we saw in Revelation 3:12, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. 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. And I will write on him My new name.” Christ guarantees the overcomer who perseveres in obedience to Him (3:10-11) that He “will make him a pillar in the temple of My God.” This refers to a position of permanent honor and intimate association with Christ. Since God the Father and God the Son will be the temple in eternity (cf. 21:22), this reward is an especially magnificent experience of nearness to God as well as a key position of support and prominence in God’s eternal kingdom. 2

The phrase “he shall go out no more,” describes the permanence of these rewards. Once these positions of honor and authority are given to the overcomer, they shall never be withdrawn. He is firmly set as a “pillar” in Christ’s eternal kingdom and as such will never be separated from this intimate relationship with God. 3

According to 3:12, the overcomer will also have “the name of” God, the name of God’s city, “the New Jerusalem,” and the Lord’s “new name” written on him, stressing a permanent place of prominence in God’s spiritual temple in the eternal state. This is like the promise in Revelation 22:4 which says, “His name shall be on their foreheads.” Since these faithful believers honored the Lord Jesus on earth, He will honor them as His victorious ones forever on the new earth.

“Writing one’s ‘name’ on something indicated ownership in John’s day, as it does now. In the ancient world, columns often bore the names of conquerors. In the pagan world, devotees of certain gods often wrote the name of their god on their forehead (cf. Exodus 28:36). Scripture does not reveal Jesus Christ’s ‘new name’ elsewhere. Perhaps this new name is a symbol of His character, which overcomers can only appreciate when they see Him (cf. 2:17; 3:5).” 4

“On earth, the role of a servant to a king is generally reserved for those who play a special role in the king’s administration. The Lord Jesus stated that His elite servants in eternity will be those believers who serve Him well during their lives. For their earthly service they will be abundantly rewarded in eternity (cf. Matthew 16:24-27; 19:27-30; Luke 9:23-27; 12:31-34; 14:12-14; 18:28-30; 22:28-30; John 4:35-36; 12:24-26).” 5

These overcoming believers will have the opportunity to serve God up close before His throne. “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” (Revelation 22:4). It is true that in one sense all believers in Jesus from the church age will stand before Him and see His face (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; I John 3:2), 6 but the implication here is that these “servants” of God are under His good favor and in His “inner circle.” 7

At this juncture it is important to understand the concept of a king having an inner circle of friends or companions. The book of Hebrews develops this theme involving “partakers” (metochoi) or “companions” of “the heavenly calling” (Hebrews 1:9; 3:1, 14; 6:4; 12:8) which culminates in the heavenly realities associated with participation in the New Jerusalem (Hebrews 11:16). 8 This includes sharing in the dominion and inheritance of God’s King-Son, Jesus Christ. 9

In the Old Testament, it was common for a new king to have around him close associates and friends. For instance, Rehoboam turned for counsel to “the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him” (I Kings 12:8). Moses had his personal attendant, Joshua. King David had Hushai who is described as “the king’s companion” (I Chronicles 27:33). 10

Other examples of this can be seen in the Hellenistic world. Jeremias said of the first century Herodian Court: “In the royal apartments, among the King’s associates are to be found his intimate friends, the ‘cousins and friends,’ and ‘cousins’ does not necessarily mean relations. These ‘cousins and friends’ constitute the highest rank we meet in all Hellenistic Courts.” 11

Suetonius said of Caesar: “Moreover, when he came to power, he advanced some of his friends to the highest positions; even though they were of the huhn blest origin; and when he was taken to task for it, flatly declared that if he had been helped in defending his honor by grigands and cutthroats, he would have requited such men in the same way.” 12

With this background in mind, it would be clear to the readers of Hebrews that Christ’s reign on earth (Hebrews 1:6-8) would include His own circle of friends or “companions” (Hebrews 1:9). Since Jesus obtained His joy and rulership through a life of consistent righteousness (“You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness” – Hebrews 1:9a), it is obvious that the readers of Hebrews would understand that for them to share in His joy and rulership as His “partners” or “companions,” they will have to do the same. 13

So, when a person believes in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life, he or she begins a partnership with Christ involving their journey to His Kingdom and the New Jerusalem. Only believers who remain faithful to Christ to the end of their lives will be able to rule with Him in His eternal kingdom on the new earth (Hebrews 3:14; 10:23, 35-36; cf. Luke 22:28-30; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:10, 26-27; 3:10-11, 21). Failure to remain faithful to Christ does not result in the loss of eternal life and a place in His kingdom (2 Timothy 2:13), but it does mean the loss of eternal reward, particularly losing the privilege of reigning with Christ from inside the New Jerusalem. 14

When the apostle John refers to God’s “servants” being up close to God’s throne where they “shall serve Him” (Revelation 22:3b-4), I believe this is a reference to the “partakers” or “companions” of King Jesus that is developed in the book of Hebrews. This is a privilege reserved only for believers who remained faithful to Christ till the end of their lives on earth.

Next John writes, “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5). In this final stage of heaven in the New Jerusalem, “there shall be no night there” nor need of a “lamp nor light of the sun” because the radiant presence of “the Lord God gives them light” (22:5a).

The greatest privilege of overcoming believers is “they shall reign forever and ever” (22:5b). The exalted Lord Jesus Christ said, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21). Again, this is a privilege that awaits believers who remain faithful to Christ to the end of their lives (Matthew 25:21, 23; Luke 19:15-19).

Some Christians are not interested in ruling with Christ. Such an eternal reward does not appeal to them. They do not care to be in a position of authority over other people because they don’t want to deal with all the problems that entails. But having a position of rulership with King Jesus on the new earth will be a much different experience than being in a position of authority over people in this fallen world. 15

In Christ’s eternal kingdom on the new earth there will be no more sinners. Hence, reigning with Christ will be much more enjoyable and fulfilling than managing sinful people in this life. 16

We probably don’t think very often about being an overcoming believer or companion who shares in Christ’s reign on the new earth. A co-ruler with Christ will have special tasks to perform. They will have more authority and opportunity than other believers who were not faithful to Christ to the end of their lives. Overcoming believers will glorify King Jesus more than those who are not. As a result, their eternal experience will be filled with more joy (Hebrew 1:9). 17

Wilkins suggests several different ways overcoming believers will reign with Christ:

“Some will hold positions of authority in the new world government: Presidents, Governors, Mayors, City Council members, Judges, Legislators, and the like. Others will have authority within commerce. Surely the kingdom will have transportation companies, publishers, architectural firms, developers, utilities, entertainment, and sports companies, and so on. All of these businesses will need people in various levels of management.

“The more authority a person has, the more he or she will be able to glorify the Lord Jesus.” 18

Oglesby writes, “A group of retired Marines gathers on Sunday mornings at a local Jack’s for biscuits, coffee, and Marine solutions to the country’s problems. To them it’s straightforward: adapt, improvise, and overcome. They are friendly, but it’s clear that if you’re not a Marine, you’re not a Marine. They have a special bond forged by Marine history, warrior ethos, core values, tradition, and sheer toughness. The Marine Corps motto is Semper Fidelis, Latin for ‘Always Faithful.’ Their caps, coats and sometimes their lips say, ‘Semper Fi!’” 19

King Jesus has a special place and role reserved for His servants who are always faithful. They will be companions at His side when He rules the new heavens and new earth from the New Jerusalem. 20

Are you putting yourself in a position to be among those who will rule with King Jesus on the new earth? To be among this privileged group you must first receive Jesus’ gift of everlasting life simply by believing in Him alone for it. Christ said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). The moment you are convinced Jesus was speaking the truth here and is therefore trustworthy, you have eternal life and can begin a partnership with Christ involving your journey to His Kingdom and the New Jerusalem. Only believers who remain faithful to Christ to the end of their lives will be able to rule with Him in His eternal kingdom on the new earth (Hebrews 3:14; 10:23, 35-36; cf. Luke 22:28-30; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:10, 26-27; 3:10-11, 21). Position yourself to be among those who will rule with Christ by obeying His Word, drawing near to Him, seeking His rewards, maturing through adversity, and living a life of faith. 21

One of my favorite movies is “Rudy.” It is about a young man who wants a better life than the steel mill life of his father and older brother. He dreams of going to Notre Dame to play football. Rudy endures all kinds of adversity to finally get there. Initially, he becomes the water boy for the football team. This small guy has no special talents. For four years Rudy is on the practice squad getting the tar beat out of him by the starting football players, some of whom were nearly twice his size.  

Rudy comes to the last game of his senior year. A few seconds are left in the game. Players on the sideline begin to chant, “Rudy… Rudy … Rudy…” Then the crowd starts to join in and soon the entire stadium is chanting for Rudy. Finally, the head coach gives in and lets Rudy go into the game. On the next play, Rudy makes the tackle. After four years of faithfulness in the background, he made a play at the end of the game and was carried off the field by his teammates. You may think that is no big deal. But none of the other Notre Dame players got a movie made about them!

You may feel like you are a nobody faithfully serving God behind the scenes. But the day is coming when the Lord Jesus Christ will give you a name that everyone will know in heaven. He will give you a special position of authority to rule with Him forever on the new earth. This promised reward assures you of close fellowship with Christ forever by receiving the honor of sharing His royal throne.

Prayer: Lord God, please empower those of us who believe in Christ to remain faithful to You until the end of our lives so we may receive Your eternal reward of ruling with You on the new earth and enjoying a special intimacy with You. In Your glorious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen. 

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2423.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1513.

3. Ibid.

4. Constable, pg. 54 cites Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John. 2nd ed.

(London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pg. 58.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1588.

6. Ibid.

7. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 6640.

8. Paul Tanner, 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. 1250.

9. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 313.

10. George Lang, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary (Miami Springs: Conley and Schoettle Pub. Co., 1985), pg. 71.

11. David O’Farrell, “The Metochoi of the Book of Hebrews,” Dallas Theological Seminary ThM Thesis, 1984, pp. 29-31 cites Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Times of Jesus, pg. 89.

12. Ibid., pg. 45 cites Suetonius, Deified Julius, 1:14.

13. Robert Govett, Govett on Hebrews (Miami Springs: Conley and Schoettle Pub. Co., 1981), pg. 24.

14. Tanner, pp. 1253-1254.

15. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 42.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid., pg. 43.

18. Ibid., pg. 45.

19. Rick Oglesby, Among the King’s Companions: Position Yourself Today to Be Among Those Who Rule With Christ (Rick Oglesby, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 138.

20. Ibid.

21. Adapted and condensed from Ibid., pp. 4-5.

Revelation 2 – Part 4

“But hold fast what you have till I come.” Revelation 2:25

The ascended Lord Jesus addresses the fourth church next. “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass.’” (Revelation 2:18). Thyatira was the smallest and least significant of the seven cities, but it was the one that received the longest letter.” 1

“According to legend, Thyatira was first established as a shrine to the sun god Tyrimnus and named Pelopia.” 2

This town stood about forty-five miles to the southeast of Pergamum. It was famous for its textiles, but especially for its production of purple dye (cf. Acts 16:14) and its trade guilds (or social clubs). 3

Sadly, these guilds were also steeped in blasphemous worship and sexual sin. The church in Thyatira had a woman, Jezebel, who supported such guild practices. If a Christian refused to participate in idol worship, he or she would often be excluded from the guild, and therefore be unable to conduct their business. 4

The Lord Jesus describes Himself as “the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass.” This description of Christ is like that in 1:13-15, but here He is called the “Son of God” rather than “the Son of Man,” since this situation required a reaffirmation of His deity and the authority or right to judge this church. 5

“Eyes like a flame of fire” refers to Jesus’ blazing anger against sin and His ability to see beneath the surface into the inmost being of a person’s heart. 6 The Greek word used to describe Christ’s feet like “fine brass” is a rare word chalkolibanō, also used in 1:15. It seems to have been an alloy of several metals characterized by brilliance when polished. 7  This speaks of the risen Christ’s inflexible, immovable strength and power 8 and His readiness to execute judgment (cf. Revelation 19:15). 9

Although much was wrong with the church in Thyatira, Christ commends this church when He says, “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.” (Revelation 2:19). These believerswere strong in good “works,” “love” for others (not mentioned in the other letters), “faith” in God, “service” of their Savior, and “patience” or perseverance in trials. This church was doing more as time went on (“the last are more than the first”)in contrast to the church at Ephesus which did less. 10 Often churches stop growing over time, but not the church in Thyatira. Their “works, love, service, faith, and…patience” continued to increase more that what they had at “first.”

But despite this evidence of Christian growth, the church in Thyatira had some serious flaws and needed a Judge. “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2:20). Whereas the church in Ephesus would not allow false teachers, this church did. The risen Lord Jesus rebukes them for permitting a false teacher named “Jezebel” to entice them to practice “sexual immorality” connected to idolatrous worship (“to… eat things sacrificed to idols”).

It is likely that Jezebel’s immorality involved teaching God’s people that it was acceptable to engage in the activities of the guild feasts that took place in pagan temples. The pressure on the workers of that day to give in was great because failure to attend these feasts could threaten their livelihood.” 11

Though perhaps this was her real name, Jezebel also brings to mind the wife of Israel’s King Ahab (see 1 Kgs 16:31; 2 Kgs 9) and represents an entire category of immoral and idolatrous women.” 12

A modern-day practice of Jezebel’s doctrine is connected to pornography which involves sexual immorality and idolatry. Pornography is one of the most destructive practices in the church today and most churches do not know how to address it in a way that offers hope and healing for those enslaved to it. The majority of churches preach against the problem of pornography without providing a safe environment to address the real problem which is a deeper hurt in the hearts of those hooked on porn. Pornography is simply a surface coping mechanism for a deeper wound. Statistics indicate that 60-70 percent of men, 50-58 percent of pastors, and 20-30 percent of women in evangelical churches are sexually addicted. 13

“Pornography is the number one addiction for men. One out of two internet hits have to do with sex and pornography. Pornography can ruin normal sexual relationships because no real person can live up to pornographic images and fantasies. Research has shown that the limbic system bonds with whatever you are visualizing at the time of orgasm, so the next time you have sexual cravings they will be focused on that image or fantasy. This is why pornography is so addicting. Pornography is not really about sex; it is about zoning out, getting high on your own neurochemicals. Sex addicts report having withdrawal symptoms similar to cocaine withdrawal.” 14

Pornography is not just an adult addiction. Young people are also struggling with watching pornography online as young as four years of age and older because it is so accessible, addictive, aggressive, anonymous, and appealing. If you don’t think it’s possible for your children to get hooked on porn, you need to listen to Christian apologist and author Josh McDowell’s videos. 15 If you are struggling with pornography, contact Pure Desire at www.puredesire.org to obtain hope and healing from your addiction.

What is an idol? An idol is turning to something or someone other than God when we are anxious, hurting, lonely, stressed, or even wanting to celebrate. More and more Christians are turning to pornography instead of the Lord to medicate or celebrate their feelings. Pornography is an idol that is destroying the sons and daughters of God around the world.

Christ’s patience toward this false teacher in Thyatira is seen when He says, “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.” (Revelation 2:21). God is very gracious and patient. He gave Jezebel “time to repent” of her false teaching that promoted “sexual immorality.” But she refused to “repent.” Understand that “a refusal is different than a struggle. At times, believers fight sins but cannot stop committing them on their own power. Jezebel was unwilling to make any effort.” 16  She knew she was doing wrong, and she chose to keep doing it. This does not mean that Jezebel was unsaved. It is possible to be a Christian and drift from sound doctrine (cf. I Timothy 1:19-20). 17

Since Jezebel did “not repent,” the Lord Jesus promised to discipline her and her followers when He said, “Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 2:22). Since she encouraged lying on beds of adultery, the risen Jesus would cast her on a different kind of bed: a bed of sickness. 18 And because her followers joined her immoral ways, they would experience God’s painful discipline in the form of “great tribulation” or distress.

Another group in this church would experience a more severe judgment. “I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.” (Revelation 2:23). This group is referred to as “her children” because they fully embraced her teaching and lifestyle. 19 They would experience physical “death.” This may sound extremely severe, but it is not the first time in the New Testament that God disciplines His people in this way (cf. Acts 5:1-11; I Corinthians 11:29-30).

 Immediately before pronouncing, ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb 10:31), the writer of Hebrews declares, ‘The Lord will judge His people’ (v 30, emphasis added). The Lord’s discipline would cause His people to know that He is serious about sinful activity and false teaching and that no one is exempt from His discipline (cf. Gal 6:7).” 20

This judgment would be so intense that “all the churches shall know” that the ascended Christ is the One “who searches hearts and minds.” Nothing escapes His notice. False teachers may be able to deceive their followers, but they are not capable of fooling the risen Lord Jesus. These seven churches (and any of us today) reading these messages would be reminded to take sin seriously because God is partial to no one. He says, “I will give to each one of you according to your works.”

Not all the believers of the church in Thyatira followed Jezebel and her false doctrine. Jesus says to them, “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.(Revelation 2:24). Apparently Jezebel claimed that her “doctrine” (that Christians can indulge in immorality without consequences) was deeper than the teachings of the apostles’ when in reality they extended to “the depths of Satan.” 21  Christ says that those who did not follow Jezebel’s teaching would be subject to “no other burden” just listed.

Instead, this godly remnant was to hold fast what you have till I come.” (Revelation 2:25).  These faithful believers were simply to continue to do what they had been doing – to stand against false teaching and to “hold fast” to purity of doctrineuntil Christ comes for His church at the Rapture (cf. Revelation 4:1-4; cf. John 14:2-3; I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). 22

Walvoord observes, Perhaps because the church was small, Christ did not command them to leave it but to remain as a godly testimony. Judgment on Jezebel and her followers would come soon and would purge the church. In modern times Christians who find themselves in apostate local churches can usually leave and join another fellowship, but this was impractical under the circumstances in Thyatira.

“The parallels between Thyatira and other apostate churches throughout church history are clear. Some compare Thyatira to believers in the Middle Ages when Protestantism separated from Roman Catholicism and attempted a return to purity in doctrine and life. The prominence of Jezebel as a woman prophetess is sometimes compared to the unscriptural exaltation of Mary. The participation in idolatrous feasts can illustrate the false teaching that the Lord’s Supper is another sacrifice of Christ. In spite of the apostasy of churches in the Middle Ages, there were churches then which, like the church of Thyatira, had some believers who were bright lights of faithfulness in doctrine and life.” 23

The ascended Lord Jesus then gives this godly remnant a challenge and promised reward if they fulfill that challenge. 26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations – 27 ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ – as I also have received from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star.” (Revelation 2:26-28). The eternal rewards for remaining faithful to Christ and resisting Jezebel’s false teachings “until the end” of their lives was ruling with Christ “over the nations” in His earthly kingdom and enjoying a special intimacy with the Morning Star Himself, Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16). 24 The morning star (usually the planet Venus) appears in the night sky, just before the dawning of a new day. Jesus Christ will guide faithful believers in the future, as the new day of His rule dawns (cf. Titus 2:13; Daniel 12:3). 25

“Thus, the reward for a pure life is a greater experience of Jesus during His millennial reign and for eternity. Naturally, a co-ruler of the universe will have greater access to the King than a common citizen.” 26

The Lord intended the prospect of this promised blessing to motivate the unfaithful in the church to return to God’s will for them, and to encourage the faithful to persevere. Believers who are faithful (“he who overcomes”) will receive “power” (authority) in heaven from Jesus Christ and will “rule” (lit. “shepherd”) others during the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (cf. Matthew 16:24-27; 19:28-29; Luke 19:11- 27; Romans 8:17b; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 3:21; 20:4-6). Some believers will receive greater authority for being faithful, than others who have not been as faithful (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). While not all Christians will remain faithful to the Lord (2 Timothy 2:12), Christ evidently described believers as faithful (cf. Revelation 2:19) to motivate them to remain faithful. 27

We see that the rewards of ruling with Christ and enjoying a special intimacy with Him in His earthly kingdom are reserved only for individual believers in Jesus who remain faithful to Christ until the end of their lives on earth. The Lord Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:29). Not all Christians are “overcomers” who hold fast to Christ till the end of their lives on earth. Only those who “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” and appropriate Jesus’ promise will be able to live as “overcomers” and receive these perseverance rewards.

Since Christ will reward each Christian “according to his works” (2:23; cf. 22:12) and not all Christians do the same amount or quality of works, there will be varying degrees of rewards among believers. When Jesus evaluates our Christian lives at the Judgment Seat (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12), He will look deeper than the works themselves, since He “searches the hearts and minds” of His people and knows what motivates them to act (Revelation 2:23; cf. I Corinthians 4:5). His rewards will also take into consideration the motivation for our works (cf. Matthew 6:1-4; Hebrews 4:12-13). Have we served Christ with our very best to bring honor to Him (cf. I Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:22-25)? 28 Only Jesus Christ is qualified to make such judgments of believers (cf. I Corinthians 4:1-5; Revelation 1:12-20; 2:23; et al.).

To summarize: Christians who succumb to false teaching and the sinful lifestyle it promotes, can expect God’s discipline in their lives even unto physical death (2:18-23; cf. Acts 5:1-11; I Corinthians 11:29-30). Believers who resist false teaching and remain faithful to Christ until the end of their lives will receive the reward of ruling with Christ in His coming Kingdom and enjoy a special intimacy with Him, our Morning Star (2:24-29).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for loving us enough to tell us what we need to hear. Like the church in Thyatira, You have commended us for having more good works, love for others, faith in God, service for You, and perseverance in trials than we had at the first. But You know our hearts and minds better than we do. You know that we have tolerated false teaching within our churches that compromises the truth of Your gospel by adding works to Your finished work on the cross. Such an unstable foundation has led to an infiltration of sexual immorality and idolatry in Your churches. Those of us who fall prey to this teaching of Jezebel’s spirit are those who often seek spiritual enlightenment apart from You and crave eternal life without believing on Christ’s sacrificial death. We can consider ourselves superior to the rest of the earth’s population and are ever learning some new ‘mystical’ spirituality, which is contrary to the truth of the gospel. Please help those of us who have embraced Jezebel’s teaching to return to Your will lest we experience Your painful discipline. Empower those of us who have rejected her teaching to remain faithful to You until the end of our lives so we may receive Your eternal rewards of ruling with You in Your coming Kingdom on earth and enjoying a special intimacy with You then as our Morning Star. May we hear and practice what Your Spirit says to us. In Your glorious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 41.

2. Ibid., cites David E. Aune, Revelation 1—5 (Word Biblical Commentary series. Dallas: Word Books, 1997), pg. 201.

3. Constable, pg. 41.

4.  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. 1508.

5. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

6. Constable, pg. 42 cites, William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 1 (The Daily Study Bible series. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 128; Vacendak, pg. 1508.

7. Walvoord, pg. 164.

8. Constable, pg. 42 cites Barclay, pg. 128.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1508.

10. Walvoord, pg. 164.

11. Vacendak, pg. 1508.

12. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2374.

13. Jeremy & Tiana Wiles, Conquer Series: The Battle Plan For Purity Study Guide, Vol. 1 (Stuart FL: KingdomWorks Studio, 2017), pg. 21.

14. Michael Dye, The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Book 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 206-207.

15. See Christian apologist and author Josh McDowell’s very informative and staggering videos on October 7, 2018 at Denton Bible Church entitled, “Breaking Free from the Porn Epidemic w/ Josh McDowell” at https://vimeo.com/294241982 and on August 3, 2021 with Pure Desire Ministries entitled, “The Effects of Pornography with Josh McDowell” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3sRmLFarZc .

16. Evans, pg. 2374.  

17. Vacendak, pg. 1509.

18. Constable, pg. 43.

19. Vacendak, pg. 1509. 

20. Ibid.

21. Constable, pg. 43.

22. Ibid., pg. 44; Vacendak, pg. 1509.

23. Walvoord, pg. 164.

24. Vacendak, pg. 1509.

25. Constable, pg. 45.

26. Evans, pg. 2374.

27. Constable, pg. 44.

28. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 771-772.

How can we face challenges with courage? Part 5

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. “in Me” vs. “in the world” – Jesus depicts the disciples as living in two spheres. The first is spiritual and eternal (“in Me”)and the second is physical and temporal (“in the world”).The phrase “in Me” points back to the intimacy Christ spoke of in the vine and branches imagery (John 15:1-8). Disciples of Jesus can “have peace” in Christ who never changes, not “in the world” which is ever-changing. We are not going to find peace in the world. Only Christ can give us the peace we yearn for. If our focus is on Christ, then peace can be our experience. If our focus is on the world, then we can expect “tribulation” (thlipsin). This word refers to “pressure or distress brought about by outward circumstances.” 1

2. “you may have” vs. “you will have” – in the spiritual realm the disciples “may have”  peace. The verb translated “may have” (echēte) is in the subjunctive mood which means it is possible or desirable 2  they may have peace, but Christ did not guarantee their peace in this life. If they abide in Christ (“in Me”), then they can have peace. But it is not certain they will abide in Him. But Jesus does guarantee they “will have” tribulation in the world. The verb translated “will have” (echete) is in the indicative mood which conveys certainty 3  that the disciples will experience tribulation in the world. The disciples (and we) will not be able to escape the tribulation that is in the world. Perhaps the disciples still did not believe persecution was imminent (cf. John 15:18-16:4). They expected to rule with Jesus soon in His coming Kingdom (cf. Matthew 16:21-28; Luke 22:24-30). Their expectations kept them from receiving more truth from Christ that they found to be contrary to what they wanted – this is something all of us must guard against. 4

3. “peace” vs. “tribulation” – If the disciples (and we) abide in Christ and stay focused on Him, they can experience internal “peace” (eirēnēn) or a deep-seeded calmness that is given to obedient believers (cf. John 14:21, 23, 27a) even though they will definitely have “tribulation” in the world. This peace of Christ arises from a life of faith in God. It refers to a calmness “that would come to their hearts from trusting God and from knowing that He was in control of all events that touched their lives.5

The world cannot give this kind of peace to believers. The world gives Christians “tribulation” because the world opposes Christ and His followers (John 15:18-16:4). The word “tribulation” (thlipsin) “is used in a general sense to speak of the ‘pressing affliction’ that the disciples must endure as they identify with Christ in an unbelieving world (cf. 15:18-25). This is the pressure believers experience when they take a stand for Christ or speak out on a sensitive moral issue. Yet although believers face intense pressure from the world, they can enjoy internal peace in Christ.” 6

Some teach that if you are doing God’s will everything will go smoothly. This is contrary to what Jesus promises. Even if you are living for Christ “you will have tribulation,” because the world hates Jesus and those who follow Him (John 15:18-16:4). If the world does not hate a believer, it may be because that believer is being conformed to the world instead of being transformed by the Word.

After the disciples forsook the Lord at the time of His arrest (cf. Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50), they may have felt ashamed and uneasy whenever they thought of Jesus. But Jesus predicted their desertion in the very saying where He also assured them of the peace He would give them (John 16:32-33). Christ loved them despite their shortcomings. In the future when they looked back on their desertion, they would reflect that Jesus predicted it. And even though He knew full well they would abandon Him, He had promised them peace. That is grace. Christ would give them peace even though they did not deserve it.

The world would definitely bring the disciples distress, but they could “be of good cheer.” The word translated “be of good cheer” (tharsaeite) means “to have courage.” Why could the disciples face these upcoming challenges with courage? Christ explains, “I have overcome the world.” The word “overcome” (nenikēka) means “to overcome, conquer, be victorious” and it is in the perfect tense. So Jesus speaks of His victory over the world as though it is an accomplished fact with continuing results to the present!

It was no accident that Jesus spoke these triumphant words, “I have overcome the world,” even as the Roman soldiers were buckling on the weapons for His arrest. That is confidence, isn’t it!?! But this is a confidence that would be lacking in the disciples that night. At first, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter, the ring leader of the disciples, pulled out a sword in Jesus’ defense (Luke 22:50-51; John 18:10). But by the next day, all eleven disciples had lost faith. Those triumphant words from the previous night must have haunted the disciples as they watched from a distance as Jesus agonized on the cross. It appeared to them that the world had overcome Jesus. But on Sunday morning, their faith would be reignited and strengthened by the resurrection of their Lord!

To an unbeliever, the cross of Christ seems like total defeat for Him. But Jesus sees it as a complete victory over all that the world is and can do to Him. Christ goes to the cross, not in fear or in gloom, but as a Conqueror! Because Jesus won the victory over the hostile world and Satan through His death and resurrection (cf. John 12:31-32; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4-5), we can also win with Him as we face difficulties with His courage! Because Jesus has already won the battle, we can claim the victory as we face trials triumphantly. Have you heard this before? It is true, but it is not quite as simple as it sounds. One does not become an overcomer by simply saying with confidence, “I am an overcomer!”

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

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

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

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

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

In the Philippines when I would watch NBA basketball, I enjoyed the Dallas Maverick’s team. Since we were fourteen hours ahead of CST in Dallas, Texas, I was not available to watch their games in the mornings while living in the Philippines when they were televised live in the States. So I would watch the replay of their games in the evening. Before I did that, I liked to check the final score on ESPN, so I would know if the Mavericks won before sitting down to watch them. Knowing my team had already won the game, gave me confidence even though I may watch my team make several mistakes and fall behind in the score. I did not give up on them though because I already knew they would win the game.

The same is true in our Christian lives. We already know the outcome of this battle between Jesus and the world and the ruler of this world. Knowing Christ has already won the victory over the world and the devil can enable us to have courage when we face intimidating challenges. At times it may seem that the world and Satan are winning the battle when we fail, or other believers fail, but the truth is Christ has already won the war through His death and resurrection! Therefore, we can fight “from” the victory Jesus has already won, not “for” the victory as though it was completely dependent upon us.

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. BAGD, pg. 352.

8. Ibid., pg. 539.