So, we began this new series a couple of weeks ago where we are learning about the various gifts the Lord has given to His body. And again, I’m not referring to the gifts that are the face of the church that everyone sees and esteems; I’m referring to more of the internal bones and organs of the body that provide the support that it needs and help with the overall function of the Lord’s church. So, we are learning what these particular gifts are and how God has designed them to work together for the building up of His church.
We started at the beginning of Romans chapter 12 where we learned how to prove God’s will for our lives—which is important to discovering what our place in the body is. And we saw that in verses 1&2, this comes by first learning to present our bodies as living sacrifices and then by having our minds renewed to think like God thinks.
You see, so many believers strive to know God’s will for their lives, but they fail at these two very basic and fundamental things---for if we do not learn to lay down our lives and adopt the mind of Christ, how will we ever discover His will for us? We can’t. We won’t.
No, we must do exactly what Jesus did in the Garden—truly offering ourselves up to God’s will being done in our lives and letting that same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus. And just as Jesus walked completely in the will of His Father, so will we if we do these two things.
We then moved on to verses 3-5 last week where we learned that each member in the body of Christ has received a gift—that is, we have all been given a specific grace to accomplish a function in the church.
We saw that Paul went on to say in Romans 12:3-- “as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Now this statement has had a variety of views in the church today because some take issue with the fact that God would give different measures of faith to different believers. And while I certainly believe that God has given each one of us the same amount of saving faith and has not given any more faith than others, I do not believe that Paul was referring to our general faith; I believe he is referring to the faith that we need pertaining to the gift of grace that we have been dealt.
You see, the terminology that is used in the New King James version that I just read from is correct. Paul literally said that God has dealt to each one a measure of faith because there is no definite article used in front of measure in the original text which always means that it should be translated “a” instead of “the.”
The next few verses further substantiate this view because Paul goes on to say, “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (verses 4&5). The word “for” at the beginning of verse 4 is a term used to indicate that the writer is explaining what he just said. The translators could have said, “Because as we have many members…” And just look at what Paul says in this verse… He explains how a body has many different parts (i.e., members) but all the parts have different functions. So, it is obvious that contextually Paul is not talking about every member of the body of Christ having the same thing, but having different functions, different graces, and different offices.
So why did he use the term “faith” in reference to the different measures of faith that were distributed? Again, it is because he is not referring to the faith—the like precious faith that every believer receives to receive the Lord and then to walk by (Second Peter 1:1). He is referring to the faith that is needed to use and operate in our giftings and graces. In other words, this means that we have been given all the faith that we need to walk in the grace we’ve been given. Which is a way to discover what we are graced to do—for the things we truly believe in are a lot of times the thing we are called to do.
So, we’ve all been dealt the cards we have. And although the cards might look different, they are all aces, baby! Yes, we are all different, but we are all important—for everyone has a special gifting from God! Yes, every man and woman in the body of Christ has been given a specific function and a specific ability that is to be used for the building up of the body. And we saw how these giftings are exactly that—gifts—for they are given by God’s grace and not by our own merit.
I took us through several Scriptures that teach us that this same word Paul used for “gift” was used to describe things God has already given us by His grace and are simply in need of stirring up on the inside of us. Therefore, our giftings from God are not based on merit or our works but on God’s grace in the same manner our salvation was, is, and evermore shall be.
THE POSITION OF PROPHECY
So, what I would like us to begin doing this week is start unwrapping these gifts that Paul revealed to us in Romans 12:6-8 by seeing what kind of things God has graced His body with. So, first, notice that Romans 12:6 says, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them; if prophecy, let us prophecy in proportion to (what?) our faith.”
Notice, first of all, that this is saying that if one is given the gift of prophecy, then they are to use it. How? In proportion to the measure of faith that they have been dealt.
Again, as Paul says in the beginning of this verse, if we have been each given different measures of grace (again, not saving grace but gifting grace), then there must be different measures of faith given for us to operate in these different measures of grace we were given. Yes, each one of us have been given gifts differing depending on what part of the body we were placed in and each one of us have also been given different measures of faith in order to operate in that specific grace we have been given.
Now the phrase “let us use them” is not in the original Greek texts, but I believe it is appropriate because how many of you know that just because we have been given gifts of grace doesn’t mean they automatically will operate in our lives? No, we have to use the gifts given to us. You might say that we have to unwrap those gifts.
You see, we can have all kinds of gifts wrapped up under our tree, but if we never unwrap them and start utilizing what’s contained in the packages, they are a waste. God doesn’t want us wasting the gifts He’s given, church. No, He wants us unwrapping them and using them to bless others. Amen?
But the fact is in the remainder of this verse, the apostle Paul begins to get into some of the gifts given to the body of Christ. And the first one he mentions is one of his most talked about gifts in the Book of First Corinthians—the gift of prophecy.
This is the only one of the gifts of the Spirit that is “cross-posted” between First Corinthians chapter 12 and Romans chapter 12. So, that tells you that this is a very important gift for the edification of the body of Christ. In fact, when you study Paul’s explanation of the gifts of the Spirit in First Corinthians chapter 14, you see how strongly he makes the point that prophecy is better than tongues because of how it edifies the body. (This is a point we will get more into shortly).
Now as we begin to look at this gift to the body, it’s important to realize that we all can desire to be more used in this gift. Paul invited us to do so in First Corinthians 12:31 & 14:1 when he encouraged us to “earnestly desire the best gifts”—particularly the gift of prophecy.
But the fact is, even though we all are invited to prophesy, there is a gift of prophecy that is given to certain members of Christ’s body. And that is what he is referring to here in Romans 12:6.
Now while we all certainly can be used in the gift of prophecy, the fact remains that there are those who are specifically called to operate in the position of prophecy in the body of Christ. This obviously includes those called into the office of a prophet, but also would include those who are simply wired for the prophetic. These are those who are simply more inclined to the prophetic and tend more to seeing & feeling things than others. In other words, they can sense things others in the body cannot.
Church, this is a vital gift to the body of Christ because just as our physical body relies on its senses being intact, the Lord’s body needs the gift of prophecy to “sense” things in the spirit. Why? Because it can see things others can’t see. It can smell things others can’t smell. It can feel things others can’t feel.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that this position in the body is more important than others, but that it serves a function that others in the body don’t. So, for example, just as the foot needs to recognize the need for our body’s ability to smell, that same sense of smell needs to recognize the important role the foot plays. Although, they play totally different roles in the body, they value the contribution the other part plays and learn to work together for what’s in the best interest of the entire body.
So, as various members of the body of Christ, we need to value this part of the body that is called to operate in the prophetic gift.
But like I said earlier, prophecy is something we can all operate in, in measure—and this is based on our pursuit of it. So, let’s look at this gift in detail in First Corinthians chapter 14 to see what it does, so that we know what we are pursuing.
You see, God gives us specific instructions concerning both prophecy and tongues in First Corinthians chapter 14—how they are to be done decently and in order, etc.
Now the very fact that Paul tells this church how, when they come together, to not let tongues be the only thing they practice and how one, two, or three are to speak in tongues at the most and then one interpret, tells us one very important thing. Evidently, these gifts are under our control to some degree. Elsewise, he would not have given them instructions on how they are to operate.
So, let’s go ahead and begin reading in verse 1 and learn more about this gift of prophecy:
Now notice that in verse 1, Paul says to pursue love and to desire spiritual gifts. Basically, what Paul was saying was— “Okay, church, pursue what I talked about in chapter 13 and desire what I talked about in chapter 12.” In other words, he was tying together the truths he talked about in the previous two chapters right here in this statement, and then he goes on to say, “but especially that you may prophesy.”
Why is this so significant? It is because, as Paul will go on to say in chapter 14, prophecy is a beautiful summarization of both of these two truths that he laid out to us in these prior two chapters. Why? Because we should desire the gifts because we are pursuing love. In other words, we should be coveting the gifts of the Spirit not because we are being covetous, but because we desire to help and be a blessing to other people. It is all about love, my friends, and if we only want to be used in the gifts for our own glory, fame, and self-promotion then we are missing the boat. We are first to pursue love and then desire spiritual gifts in order to more effectively love people.
So, what does this have to do with prophecy? Why should we especially desire that we might prophesy? It is because prophecy edifies, exhorts, and comforts others and, therefore, is the best way to love people vocally. Amen.
Now let me throw this in here again—but the very fact that God told us to especially desire to prophecy shows us that we all can be used in this gift of prophecy. Yes, again, just because we don’t see it operating in our life yet does not mean we are doomed to a life of not operating in this gift. We can desire it! We can seek it! We can press into it! Amen!
But the following point needs to be made here again—Although we all can prophesy, that does not make all of us prophets. Prophecy is different than the office of a prophet, just as our personal prayer language in tongues is different than the ministry gift of tongues and someone able to teach is different than the five-fold ministry gift of a teacher.
So, let’s now look at this gift in more detail so that we can become hungrier for it—for we become hungry for what we feed on:
The apostle Paul goes on to say in First Corinthians 14:2-3— “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit, he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”
So, what we have here is Paul telling us why we should especially desire the spiritual gift of prophecy; it is because tongues speaks to God (which is certainly good for us as an individual). But if we are truly pursuing love, then prophecy should be the vocal gift that we desire most because it speaks words of edification, exhortation, and comfort to our brothers and sisters.
You see, while it is certainly important that we spend time speaking to God through praying in the Spirit in our own personal time, the greater good is to spend our life seeking to speak into the lives of our neighbor. While we can certainly edify, exhort, and comfort ourselves through praying in other tongues, it is more profitable to others to speak edifying, exhorting, and comforting words into them through prophecy. As we spend time speaking in tongues, we are focusing on building ourselves up, but as we spend time seeking to prophesy, we focus on building others up. This is love—the more excellent way.
So, I have concluded that a good definition of prophecy versus tongues is this: The gift of prophecy is a supernatural utterance in a known language just as tongues is a supernatural utterance in an unknown language. In fact, prophecy basically produces the same results as speaking in other tongues. We can see this in verses 3 & 4 when Paul says that prophecy speaks edification to men and tongues edifies ourselves.
So, what does it mean to “edify”? It means to “build up.” This is why Jude said in verse 20 that, as we pray in the Spirit, we build ourselves up on our most holy faith. Now Jude was referring to building ourselves up, not on our own personal faith, but upon our most holy faith—that is, the faith of Jesus Christ (the faith of the new covenant). So, in other words, Jude was saying that tongues is a means for saints to build themselves up upon the foundation of this new and better covenant—meaning, if you want to learn more and go higher in your revelation of the New Testament doctrine, then tongues is a vehicle for doing so.
In fact, in Isaiah chapter 28, we have one of the very few Scriptures in the Old Testament where tongues was foretold. It said, “For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people.” But what I want you to notice are the verses before and after this passage. Notice that he talks about line upon line and precept upon precept. This is that edifying that Paul and Jude referred to.
But what I want you to see here is that prophecy also edifies and builds up like tongues does. The difference is that tongues builds us up personally while prophecy builds us up corporately.
THE MORE SURE WORD OF PROPHECY
You see, back in the early church, tongues and prophecy were the two primary vehicles that God used to establish and build the church up on their most holy faith. In fact, prophecy was actually the main source of the New Testament doctrine that we call the holy canon of Scriptures (See Second Peter 1:20).
For many, that is a new revelation because what we have the benefit of seeing as the Holy Scripture is all recorded in our Holy Bible. But you do know that this Bible did not just originate from heaven, right? In other words, it did not fall out of the sky 2,000-plus years ago. No, it was written through inspired and supernatural utterance given to them in a known language! Therefore, the Bible is a result of prophecy because it was supernatural utterance given to each of these men in their known language.
In Second Peter 1:19, the Bible itself is called the more-sure word of prophecy! We call it the Word of God, but while it is certainly the Word (originated) of God, the vehicle through which God gave it to us is the Word of Prophecy.
Now there is an important lesson in this because Peter does not just call the Scriptures the “word of prophecy”; he calls it the “more sure word of prophecy.” You see, while words of prophecy that are given today certainly can be absolutely inspired of God and edifying, they can also be polluted, diluted, or completely uninspired.
This is why we are told to judge prophesies. The very fact that we are told to judge prophesies should show us that not all so-called prophesying is of God. Just because someone stands up and says, “Thus saith the Lord…” does not mean that everything that comes out of their mouth is of God. Just as the interpretation of tongues is just that, an interpretation, not a word for word translation, likewise, prophecy is not a word for word utterance given by God. A prophesy can include one thing that was indeed “Thus saith the Lord” and then another thing that was “Thus saith the dude.” This is because God’s living water flows through dirty pipes. Therefore, just as you would not just blindly drink something that flowed through a pipe, you shouldn’t just drink everything that flows through another person. You should judge it.
How many of you stay in a place somewhere that is not used that often and turn on the faucet and drink the water without first making sure the water is not corroded? I’ll tell you—I look at the water first and make sure it is not discolored and doesn’t stink before I put it in my mouth. In other words, I judge the water. I don’t judge the pipe because I am not qualified to judge pipes. What is on the inside of pipes is unknown and unseen to me. Therefore, I cannot judge pipes. But I certainly can judge the water that comes out of pipes through my senses.
Well, we should do this with prophesies: We should judge the words spoken; but avoid judging the one from whom the words came from. Why? Because they can miss it! It is not like God’s Words are continuously flowing through them. If it were a truly reputable and spiritual person, you might be able to be a little more trusting because, if the living water has flown through them enough, then they are more likely to be speaking by inspiration of God. But if it is like that place I described before, that does not have a reputation of being used efficiently in the past with a good testimony, then you better not blindly trust their “words.” You had better use your spiritual senses and determine if it is God or if it is just them.
HOW TO JUDGE PROPHECIES
So, how do we judge prophecies: Well, as we can learn from First Corinthians 12:3, those utterances inspired by the Holy Spirit will never defame Jesus and His finished work; they will always glorify Him. However, many Spirit-inspired utterances do not make reference to Jesus one way or another, so how do you judge these supernatural signs that are given to the Body? By obeying what Paul said after encouraging us to not despise prophecies in First Thessalonians 5:21— “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” You test all things! The Scripture teaches us to judge all prophecies—to judge them, first of all, by what I just said, “Do they glorify the deity and authority of our Lord, and do they glorify the finished work of our Savior?” Secondly, does that word you received line up with the Scriptures—meaning, does it contradict what is written. Always remember: “Thus saith the Lord” never is to be placed above “What is written.” Then, if they pass those two tests, you hold fast to that which “seems good”—meaning holding fast to the things which bear witness to your heart and you have peace with. Is that fire burning within you? Is the Spirit bearing witness inside of you? Does it seem right to your spirit and the Holy Ghost? If it does—hold fast to it! Don’t let go of the Word of Lord and it shall surely come to pass!
But the wonderful news is that even though prophecies are subject to inspection and can be off base, we have a “more sure” word of prophecy—namely the Word of God, and it never fails; it is always true; and we can be “more sure” that it is an unfailing prophecy.
So, the lesson in this is—make sure you do not always run around looking for a prophecy because they can fail. They are not a sure thing simply because they come through flawed vessels. Look unto the more sure word of prophecy and always, always, always, use God’s Word as the barometer to whether any words you receive contradict the truth or not.
Now we have seen that prophecies are given to, first of all, build us up—line upon line, precept upon precept—on our most holy faith. And we have seen that our most holy faith is God’s Holy Word. And this should not seem strange because look at all the prophecies that are recorded as Scripture.
PROPHECY EXHORTS AND COMFORTS
Then the apostle Paul goes on in First Corinthians 14:3 to say that another purpose of prophecy is to offer exhortation to others: Now to exhort means to encourage, spur on, or push someone forward.
You see, sometimes believers need to be encouraged. They need to know that God understands their situation. They need to be reminded of what His Word says to spur them on in their believing Him.
We see in the Scriptures how David encouraged himself in the Lord in First Samuel 30:6. Well, how did he do that? I guaranteed you that he prophesied to himself! He exhorted himself likely through the inspired songs that he wrote. Again, many of those songs were actually inspired Scriptures that he wrote called “psalms.”
Did you know that you can do this as well? While prophecy is mainly given to encourage others; you can prophesy to yourself and exhort yourself in the Lord. Amen! I have done this many of times. And do you want to know one way in which to do this? Through singing songs unto the Lord! Ephesians chapter 5 says that we are to speak to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. And in the verse before that he tells us to be continuously filled with the Spirit. How? By speaking to ourselves words of edification, exhortation, and comfort through singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord! Hallelujah!
Friends, this is prophetic in nature and what keeps us filled up with the Holy Spirit! We must learn to do what David did when he spoke words of prophecy to himself and exhorted his soul to bless the Lord! Amen. This is one of the best ways to exhort ourselves in the Lord. (Compare Colossians 3:16)
And, last but not least, Paul says that prophecies are given in order to bring comfort to people: Many people seem to think all prophecy is doom and gloom. But while prophecy can be giving bad news that is coming to pass, it is also to bring comfort to people. Like say a prophecy comes forth that says there is a famine coming, God will oftentimes couple that together with the good news that it will be done in so and so time, allowing people to get ready (This is comforting, isn’t it?).
OTHER FORMS OF PROPHECY
But one point that I want you to take away from this is that prophecy takes on many forms in how it comes forth. It is not just the time where one stands in front of you and says, “Thus saith the Lord…” No, prophecy can come forth in songs as one sings to the Lord. This can happen both corporately or in our prayer closet because as we begin to open our mouth in praise and adoration of God, the Holy Spirit can begin filling our mouths with a supernatural utterance that “gives thanks well”—just as tongues is a better and more inspired way to praise God.
Prophecy also can come forth in prayers: How many of you have ever experienced that as you were praying for a certain individual or a certain situation that you were maybe reminded of something concerning that thing you were praying about and then as you began praying words came into your mind and mouth that just flowed out of your heart. Well, that was likely a word of knowledge coupled together with prophecy!
Prophecy can also come forth in poetry or other writings. I have found that this is one of the ways that God has used me in prophecy more times than I could count. I used to accredit the inspiration that I feel when I write to just that, simply being inspired and as a gift pertaining to my calling. But what I can see now is that this is prophecy because this is all prophecy is. It is simply inspired utterance in a known language. So why can this not be expressed in writing?
There is also an element of prophecy in preaching and teaching and witnessing. Yes, we see many gifts of the Spirit in manifestation in the ministering of God’s Word. We can see the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and especially this gift of prophecy simply in the sharing of God’s Word.
Again, this was understood in the Early Church and where many of the Scriptural truths that we have today came from. They actually depended on prophecy to develop the doctrinal truths that we have today recorded in the Scriptures.
So, here is the lesson we should take away from this: We need to do more talking! We need to do more singing! We need to do more writing! We need to position ourselves to let this gift of prophecy flow through us! We need to give the Holy Spirit ample opportunity to distribute to us His inspired, supernatural utterance!
I’m convinced that there are some of us who have not discovered that we are called into this position of prophecy in the body of Christ and that is because we have not understood that prophecy can be packaged in so many ways.
So, begin to seek to speak words of edification, exhortation, and comfort into other’s lives! Do this by calling them on the phone, writing them a letter, etc. Be a good steward of the ability you have now to bless people with your words while in your heart hungering and desiring that this gift of prophecy flows through you more regularly. If you do this, you will see more of this supernatural utterance flowing through you, guaranteed. Amen.
THE GIFTS OF THE BODY
Part One & Two – Proving the Will of God & The Manifold Grace of God
If anyone knows the importance of having a physical body that is in good health and working properly right now, it is your pastor. Sadly, we don’t usually realize this until something isn’t working the way it was designed to. And as in my case, when something as important as our back gets hurt, it seriously compromises the overall function of one’s body.
Well, the truth is—all of us who are born again Christians don’t just have our physical bodies, but are a part of the body of Christ, which is called to work together in the same way our physical bodies do. And likewise, if one part of the body isn’t doing its part—particularly those hidden and unseen parts of the body—then the rest of the body can suffer for it. Amen?
So, this is the way we need to see every member of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ—as valuable and important parts of the church. No, not one of us is expendable and none of us are irrelevant. We ALL play a vital role in the health and growth of the body of Christ, not just those who hold the microphone or stand on stage.
So, from the example I just used, just like our spine & vertebrae are in the back and unseen, there are members of Christ’s body that might be in the background and unseen as well. And that’s what I want to start talking to you about today—the gifts that God has given each one of us and our function in the body of Christ.
Again, I’m not referring to the gifts that are the face of the church that everyone sees and esteems, but to the internal bones and organs of the body that provide the support that it needs and help with the overall function of the Lord’s church. We will learn what these gifts are and how God has designed them to work together for the building up of His church.
TWO KEYS TO KNOWING GOD’S WILL
So, let’s start today in the beginning of Romans chapter 12:
Verses 1-2 say, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
In these verses, what the apostle Paul was encouraging his readers with is that in light of all the mercy and grace the Lord has showered on our lives, we have a reasonable service—and that is to walk in that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. That means that the Lord has a plan for each one of us and expects us to walk in His will for our lives.
But the fact is that most Christians don’t feel like they know what God’s will is for their lives. I’ve found that most believers are confused as to what their purpose and calling is. But these verses not only teach us how important it is do His will, but how to know His will as well. This happens as we both lay our lives down for His sake and as we learn to renew our minds to His plan and purpose for our lives.
Sadly, the truth is that most don’t ever do these two things contained in these verses. They don’t truly present their bodies as a living sacrifice, by laying their lives down for the cause of Christ. They still want to do things their way and the way they feel but don’t resolve to give it all to Him.
Church, this is the first step to discovering God’s will for our lives—laying down our wills. Jesus had to do this, didn’t He? He could have succumbed to His feelings and said, “Father, I don’t want to present My body as a sacrifice for them. I’d rather do it this way or that way.” And guess what would have happened—or in this case, what wouldn’t have happened? No, crucifixion. And sure, that would have been more pleasant for Jesus, but it certainly would not have been good for us. But because Jesus prayed that oh so powerful prayer— “Nevertheless, not my will but your will be done”—we have had God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will be done for our salvation. Amen.
Let me give you a great example of how this works: I’ve seen this happen numerous times in how someone finds their mate.
There have been a few ladies whom I know who had a difficult time finding their husband. They dated and dated and dated, and it seemed like they would never find their Boaz. But when they finally came to the place where they laid that desire down on the altar and truly made seeking first the kingdom of God their priority, it was amazing how quickly their Boaz showed up in their field. It was as if the Lord was not going to let them find him while the desire for him had too great of a place in their heart.
And I believe this works in so many areas of our lives—if we would lay down our own desires and delight ourselves in Him, then He would give us the desires of our heart. Sounds like a Scripture, doesn’t it (See Psalm 37:4)?
So, finding the will of God begins with losing our own lives and laying down our own wills, but then there is another step to proving it—and that is found in Romans 12:2. According to this verse, our lives must be transformed by the renewing of our minds in order to prove His will. That describes us truly learning to think like God thinks and letting His Word—His thoughts—transform the way we look at things.
You see, I’ve found that one of the reasons people miss God’s will is because of the way they think. They still see things the way they always have and have not allowed God’s way of thinking influence their own mind.
For example, if one’s thinking never changes to understand that in God’s kingdom, we are all servants, then they might be confused to thinking that things work in His kingdom like they do here in this world. Therefore, their idea of what is being successful might not be the same as God’s. If one never comes to realize that love is the only true way, they might live their entire life trying to acquire the very thing that they are called to give.
Church, there are a lot of ways that a Christian might not have the mind of Christ, once we start thinking like God thinks, discovering His will will be so much easier. This is why we see so much in the Scriptures about meditating on His Word day and night when it comes to possessing the land promised to us and prospering in all our ways (See Joshua 1 & Psalm 1). It is because the renewal of our minds is key to experiencing His good, acceptable and perfect will in our lives.
So, that is what we are going to begin doing over the course of the next few weeks—renewing our minds to God’s will for our lives and discovering our place in the body of Christ.
THE GRACE GIVEN TO EACH ONE OF US
Now let’s move on to the following verses in Romans chapter 12 that begin to get into the various gifts and callings of God in our lives that prove His will …
Paul goes on to say in Romans 12:3-8, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
In verse 3, the apostle Paul starts off by saying, “For I say, through the grace given to me.” He was saying that it was through the specific gift of grace that he had received—which was obviously His calling to be an apostle to the body of Christ—that he was about to give this authoritative breakdown of how God distributes His grace to the rest of the body.
Then he goes on to say, “… to everyone who is among you …” This is an important phrase because as this verse goes on to say, God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. In other words, “everyone” who was a part of this church had been dealt a measure of faith for the grace given to each one of them.
Now we will get more into that in the weeks ahead, but the point I want you to see from these verses is that just as it was for the church in Rome, everyone among us have been given a measure of faith for the differing gifts of grace given to each of us. That doesn’t sound to me like any of us are left out. Does it to you? No, these verses make it apparent that we are all a part of the body of Christ and because of that, we all have certain graces and a measure of faith that has been given to us. (I’ll get back to this in a moment)
But let’s continue: “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly …” So why did Paul say this? It is because there is a tendency that creeps into all of us who are in the body of Christ to magnify our part of the body and our position in the body in a disproportional manner.
Let me give you an example: Let’s say for teaching purposes that the left arm of the body of Christ emphasizes the importance of teaching in the body of Christ and the right arm emphasizes the importance of evangelism. What happens a lot of times is that those are a member of the left arm in the body of Christ will be so inclined towards their gifting that they believe that teaching and instruction of the Word is all that is important, and they disesteem the power of evangelism. On the other hand (no pun intended😊), those who are a part of the right arm, tend to think that evangelism (which is witnessing and getting people saved) is all that is important and that we shouldn’t spend a lot of time studying the Word but rather should be “hitting the streets” to bring people into the kingdom. How many of you know that both of these mindsets are both correct and incorrect? What do I mean by that?
It is a correct way of thinking because evangelism and discipleship are both vital, integral, and important. It’s also incorrect because one should never say one is any less important than the other.
Let me give you another example: There are also different parts of the body that emphasize different teachings themselves. For instance, there have been and are different ministries that are called to emphasize certain subjects. One example is Brother Kenneth Hagin, Sr. God told him to go and teach the subject of faith to the body. So, he emphasized and threaded that subject throughout his entire ministry. Then I think of Andrew Wommack. God has obviously called him to teach the body about His grace and unconditional love. And there are many other examples, but my point is that the problem comes when ministries that are called to emphasize certain things in the body of Christ start to disesteem and devalue those who teach or emphasize anything else because I have news for you: as great as the subjects of faith, grace, etc. are, there are more subjects in the body of Christ than those. Therefore, we need to recognize that, and while we certainly should continue to focus on the things that God has put in our hearts and inclined us towards, we should also recognize that there are other parts of the body that are needful as well.
Now don’t get me wrong: It’s not wrong to esteem and value our part in the body. In fact, I believe that is a point Paul is actually making here—that we need to “think highly” of our place in the body of Christ; just not more highly than we ought to think. No, it is not wrong to magnify our ministry and to think highly of our place in the body of Christ. The apostle Paul himself said that he magnified his office (Romans 11:13). So, if the apostle Paul magnified his office, we should also magnify our office!
This is why the apostle of faith said that we are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. He was not condemning us thinking highly of our place and grace in the body; he was correcting the attitude of thinking more highly of our place and grace in the body than we ought. Yes, we should think highly of our gifting and office because if he said that we should not think more highly than we ought to think, then evidently there are high thoughts that we ought to be thinking! And that is what Paul himself practiced as he continuously magnified his office and gifting as an apostle.
This is thinking “soberly” as Paul went on to say in Romans chapter 12 because to not think soberly is to think with an exaggerated and unrealistic perception as people who get intoxicated tend to do. One can do that both ways—either by thinking they are more important than they truly are or not thinking they are as important as they truly are.
THE MANIFOLD GRACE OF GOD
But the fact is, everyone has a special gifting! Every man and woman in the body of Christ has been given a specific function and a specific ability that is to be used for the building up of the body. Yes, everyone of us has a good, acceptable, and perfect will of God for our lives.
Let’s now go over to a passage of Scripture in First Peter chapter 4 that reiterates this point …
First Peter 4:10-11 says, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom belongs the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Notice that verse 10 clearly shows us that each one has received a gift from the manifold grace of God. So, again, contrary to common belief, it is not just some believers that are gifted. “Each one” of us has received a gift! That means that every born-again believer has a gift that they have received from the various kinds of God’s grace.
And notice that Peter says that each one “has received a gift.” These gifts that we all have are not gifts that come after we have been saved for multiple years etc. We have received them! In other words, they were evidently given at the moment we were born again and became Christians.
Then we notice that Peter goes on to call them “gifts”—that is, something that we did not earn or that has to be worked for. Our gifts are free gifts of grace! This is why Paul, in describing our gifts and callings, said that these gifts and callings are “without repentance” (Romans 11:29). This means that they are irrevocable and will not be taken away. Why? It is because they are gifts of grace! They are not something that we have to work to keep. We can make the decision to go into the world and that gifting that God has put into us, of say singing, stays with us.
But what is God’s intention for us to do with that gift? Peter said that we are to “minister it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
Notice, first of all, that Peter said “minister” it. This tells us that not only are we all gifted but that we in all actuality are all “ministers.” We like to refer to those who stand behind a pulpit as the ministers, but the truth is we are all ministers because this word denotes being a servant. And no one would argue that every believer is called to be a servant, right? Yes, we are called to serve one another; therefore, we are called to be ministers.
And “ministers” (i.e., servers) of what? Ministers of the manifold grace of God that we have been made stewards of! You see, as we saw in Romans chapter 12, to each one of us grace has been given. And each one of us have been given different graces based on our calling. This is what Peter is referring to when he refers to the “manifold” grace of God. The word “manifold” literally means “many kinds or a variety.” So, the manifold grace of God is a reference to the many kinds or variety of giftings that come from the grace of God.
GIFTS, NOT WAGES
But here is the point I want to leave you with today: Yes, we all have been blessed with a specific calling & function in the body of Christ, but these things are called “gifts” that come from the variety of God’s “grace.” So, the first thing we need to understand about our gifts is that they are indeed that—they are gifts of God’s grace.
The reason I want to make this point is because far too many believers do not see the things God has given us this way, but rather see them as a “wage.” What do I mean by that? I mean that most Christians think that you and I have to “work” to either gain or maintain the graces given to us by God; that we have to do something to see them manifest in our lives. But that is simply not true. The gifts that God gives us are free gifts! They do not have to be earned, worked or paid for! They are gifts, not wages! Amen?
For instance, when we see the word “gift” used in the New Testament, oftentimes it comes from the Greek word charisma. Now when you look this word up, you find that it is defined— “a favour with which one receives without any merit of his own; the gift of divine grace; a free gift.” This sounds an awful lot like the grace we receive at salvation, doesn’t it? Now we know that this grace is not obtained by any good works of our own. Rather, it is a gift given to us by God. Well, if these other things we are called with are also called “gifts”, then they should be understood to be the same way—gifts of His divine grace, freely given without any merit of our own. Amen.
Now when we use the word “charisma” in our modern-day language, we use it to describe someone who has flare and a gift to influence and attract people’s admiration. It is often tied to people in positions of leadership—specifically because their magnetism is what launched them into that position.
And, you know, when it comes to “charisma,” this is not something that people usually claim to have themselves. Rather, others are usually the ones to ascribe it to them. In other words, the person who possesses “charisma” does not usually go around saying, “I’ve got charisma!” No, it is recognized more by others around them.
Likewise, with the “charismas” given to us by God, most people don’t believe that they already got ‘em! They see other big-wigs and super-dupers in full-time ministry as possessing “charisma,” but they do not see themselves as having the goods too.
Which holds a great point as to how we can figure out what our “charisma” is: Ask others! Inquire of those you respect around you and those who know you best. Let them tell you what you are best at and where your gifting lies.
But the truth is, if you have been born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit, then you have “charisma!” Amen? So, guess what that means? It means that you are gifted! It means that you’ve got flare! Yes, you’ve got charisma! Amen!
Do you have Scripture for that, pastor? You bet your bottom dollar, I do. Hallelujah!
I looked up the various times that this Greek word charisma is used in the New Testament and guess what the common usage is? That we’ve already got it! Let me give you some examples:
First of all, First Corinthians 1:4-7 says, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, Paul starts off this letter thanking God for the grace of God that was given to them by Christ Jesus. And notice He is addressing a church body, not just it’s leaders. So, it is to be understood that these verses are applicable to everyone in the church.
And notice that he doesn’t say, “I pray to God always concerning you that God would someday give you grace by Christ Jesus.” No, he is saying they’ve already got said grace! Amen?
Paul continues that they were enriched in everything by Him—not hoped to be enriched in everything someday, but they already had been given everything and were enriched in this! In what? In all utterance and all knowledge! What does this mean? Well, “utterance” describes “speech,” which is an obvious reference to the various vocal gifts in the body of Christ such as the preachers, teachers, tongues, prophecy, etc. The term “knowledge” is a likely reference to the other gifts such as the wisdom and understanding given to others in the body. But my point is that this church was already enriched in all of these gifts.
Now was this just true for the Church of Corinth or is this a reality for all of God’s Church today? It is for all of us today just like it was for them 2,000 years ago because God does not include these things just for the benefit of one select group! No, He is no respecter of persons! Amen?
Let’s look at some other New Testament verses:
Later on, in First Corinthians 7:7, Paul begins to explain the principles of marriage, saying that a man has his wife and the wife has her husband. In verse 7, he says, “But each one has his own gift from God …” The word that is used here for “gift” is again the word charisma. So, Paul also calls our spouses our gifts from God, which beautifully illustrates the point I am making.
You see, if you are a man and you are married, you’ve already got a wife! It would be considered immoral for you to go around trying to find another wife when you already have your “gift” from God, right? Likewise, since we are married to the Lord, have His Spirit living in us, and have been given our own gifts from God, we need not go around trying to get something else! Amen?
But how many people do this very thing? They feel insignificant and useless to the body of Christ, so they try and operate in someone else’s gift because they want to feel like they are making a significant contribution to Christ’s church. That’s not right, church! Like we should with our spouse, we should recognize what we have and be thankful for it—understanding the good things that are already being brought to the table.
So, it is not a matter of you and I having or doing something else. It is simply a matter of believing that the Lord has already put good things on the inside of us and letting those graces be manifested in and through our lives the way God designed them to—by grace!
So, if we don’t earn them—not receiving them by our actions—then can we lose them through our works? Nope! For Romans 11:29 says, “For the gifts (Greek, charisma) and the calling of God are irrevocable.” This means that any “charisma” of God (including the gifts of the Spirit) is unable to be changed or reversed. Another way of saying this is to say—God’s not an Indian giver! Once He gives it, He doesn’t take it away.
Finally, let’s look at one more instance where this Greek word charisma is used, and in so doing, learn how to release the gifts within us:
In Second Timothy 1:6, the apostle Paul exhorts Timothy with— “Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” Again, the gift of God is already in there; put in us by the anointing of the Holy Ghost. However, as good stewards of these gifts, we are called to “stir up” the gift! One might describe this as “unwrapping” the gift that we’ve been given!
Therefore, I believe we can see a principle here: When it comes to any of God’s gifts that are in us, you and I “stir up” those gifts through our faith that’s in us!
The final point I believe that the Lord is making today is that we do not need to have the mentality that we are trying to get these gifts from God. No, we’ve already got them—for if we already have Jesus and the Holy Spirit, then we have the gifts that He gives. Amen?
Well, someone will say, “Yeah, but how can we say we have something if we don’t see it?” Good question, but wrong perspective. We are called to walk by faith, not by sight—simply believing what God says is ours no matter if we are walking in the reality of it or not. So, I submit to you that we need see the gifts of the Spirit as God’s gifts to us—not things He might give us in the future, but gifts that He’s already given. Then, understanding that the Holy Spirit is just looking for an opening to let these gifts flow in our lives, we invite Him to do so in us.
Church, this is when I believe the gifts will begin to flow like rivers of living waters—when we tear down the dam of unbelief, complacency, and indifference. Let us believe God when He says that we have charisma and walk in that favor today! Amen!
WHAT IS TRUTH?
PART FIVE – THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH
What is truth? This is the question we have been asking for several weeks now, and it is absolutely a critical question for the hour we are living in. The reason why is because we are living in the last of the last days and this is a time period where the truth will be harder to come by, as deception will be more prevalent. So, what we are learning is what the truth is and how to know it even in the midst of this dark and perverse generation.
A few weeks ago, we began answering the question—What is truth?—and I gave a specific definition that the Holy Spirit gave me when I asked Him this same question that Pilate asked Jesus. He told me that the “Truth is—that which is not hidden, which makes God known.”
So, as we considered this definition, we saw that the Holy Spirit began by telling me what the truth was not. In other words, truth is the exact opposite of a lie as God and the devil are the exact opposite and contrary to one another.
Then two weeks ago, we got into the second half of this definition of truth where the Holy Spirit said that the truth is that “which makes God known”: I explained how when the Holy Spirit shared this with me that I began seeing how all the examples of truth that I had come to know in the Scriptures all illustrated this.
And the first one of these biblical examples we covered was JESUS. Yes, I suppose that most of us would immediately gravitate towards Him first because in John 14:6 we have one of the most powerful proclamations of Himself that He ever uttered— “I am the way, the truth, and the life …” That’s right, Jesus didn’t just have truth or speak truth; He was the truth. So as Hebrews 13:8 states that He was the same, yesterday, and forever, then that means that the truth does not change. So, as Jesus came full of truth—He showed us that God is good and merciful and loves the sinner, but it is also to tell the sinner to repent and to declare the true way to God. Amen.
Last week, we looked at another example of the truth from the Scriptures—the Word. We looked at John 17:17 where Jesus told us that God’s Word is truth. We also saw in Psalm 119:160 that the entirety of His Word is truth.
Church, this is something we can absolutely hang our hats on—that God’s Word is the absolute truth. If we want to find truth, we go to the Scriptures. If we want to be better equipped to avoid the lie, we give heed to the Scriptures. His Word—the entirety of it—is truth. Of this, we can be certain.
We also learned last week that His Word is what breaks up the fallow ground of one’s heart and what thoroughly equips us for any storm of life. Yes, His truth—the Word of God—has the power to set us free from both the power and the deception of sin.
THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE
And that’s where I would like us to pick up today—in John chapter 8 where Jesus gives us some powerful words about the power of His Word.
You see, it’s important for us to realize that we are not just talking about having heard His Word in the past. The way that we stay equipped and prepared is continuing in His Word. Jesus spoke along these lines in the Gospel of John:
In John chapter 8, we have a powerful statement by the Lord: In verse 30, we are told— “As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.” So, notice that as He testified to the truth of who He was, many of the Jews that heard His words believed in Him. This is when we are told what we are in verses 31-32— “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’”
So, these Jews heard the words He spoke to them and believed as a result. But then, Jesus said to those who believed His words, “If you abide (i.e., remain or stay) in My word …”—meaning, if then they would continue in His Words and not allow themselves to be moved away from them. Then what would happen? Jesus said, “you are My disciples indeed.”
You see, there is a difference between believers and disciples. Believers might believe when they hear something, but disciples follow after that word they’ve heard. They stay in it! They abide in it! And it is those disciples who are given the following promise— “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
So, who is it that’s going to know the truth? No, it’s not just any believer; it’s those who are really His disciples. You see, in order for one to really know the truth, they must really follow after the truth. These are those who are promised to know the truth, and these are the ones who are also promised to have that truth make them free.
THERE IS FREEDOM
Now when we hear about the truth making us “free,” that might bring to mind something else—How about Second Corinthians 3:17 where we are told that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (i.e., liberty).”
And this certainly is right in line with everything else we have seen the truth to be because Jesus has absolutely been the One responsible for having us free, the Word also makes us free, and where we find the Spirit of truth, we also find freedom.
So, this week, I want us to move into looking at this other One who brings freedom in our lives. Let’s look over at John chapter 16:
In John 16:12, Jesus told His disciples— “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” And the word “bear” here literally describes taking something up with the hands. Therefore, you could translate this phrase as— “I still have many other things I want to tell you, but you cannot handle them at this time.” And the reason they could not handle these other truths Jesus had to share with them was because they were still carnal and could not handle these spiritual truths. In other words, this describes their inability to receive certain spiritual meat because they had not received the help of the Holy Spirit.
Now many of us could attest to this as well: There was a time where we might have been Christians, but the spirit, life, and truth of God’s Word alluded us. We could read our Bible and not understand what we were reading. But when we received the Spirit of God, it was like the Bible opened up to us like a flower in the springtime. That’s the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives!
That is why Jesus went on to say in John 16:13, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…” So, when Jesus starts off by saying “however” in verse 13, He was again pointing them ahead to the ministry of the Holy Spirit coming in His place and picking up where He left off. So, while they could not handle the spiritual truth that Jesus desired to show them because they were still unregenerate and unspiritual, the Spirit of truth’s soon arrival would unlock all of these truths for them.
What this shows us is that the Holy Spirit is our key in being ushered into spiritual things. Without Him, we will be severely limited in understanding spiritual things—which is what I believe the Lord wants to teach us about today.
Now notice that Jesus calls the Holy Spirit here “the Spirit of truth” and said that He would guide us into all truth: You see, the Holy Spirit came to bring the revelation of God the Father and God the Son. As Jesus said, He speaks not of Himself but came to glorify Him (Jesus). So, His intentions are certainly not hidden. He is here on the earth today to make the truth Himself known to us. Amen!
So, the Holy Spirit’s commission to “guide us into all truth” means what? It means to guide us into all of Jesus, as He is the Truth. We have seen that it also means to guide us into all of the Word, as His Word is truth as well. But one could also say that the “truth” that the Holy Spirit guides us into is the opposite of the “lie”—meaning, if we are walking in the truth, we are not walking in a lie.
HOW TO BE GUIDED
Now unfortunately most Christians are like many of us men—we don’t like to ask for directions. We would rather waste an hour trying to find it ourselves rather than simply stop and ask someone who has been there for directions. Humility will acknowledge when it needs guidance.
So, it all goes back to asking for directions and inviting the Holy Spirit to lead & guide us into all truth. But another important truth that Jesus gives about the Holy Spirit’s ministry to direct us is found in the word “guide.”
Notice John 16:13 does not say—the Holy Spirit will “drive” us into all truth, or He will “drag” us into all truth. No, Jesus said He will “guide” us into all truth. To guide someone carries more of the idea of leading them. On top of that, you cannot guide something or someone that is not already moving.
Take for instance, a boat: You can turn the rudder one way or another, but if the boat is not already moving it will not make a difference in the direction that the boat goes. Yes, you can turn a rudder as far as it will turn, but if the boat never leaves the dock, it will remain pointed in the same direction. Likewise, we have to be “moving” in order for His guidance to become effective.
What do I mean by “moving?” I mean that there must be cooperation on our part because some of the responsibility has been given to us. Say, for instance, if we desire to know the truth of God’s Word. Well, we can’t just sit back and do nothing and expect the Holy Spirit to guide us into the truth of His Word. No, we must seek the truth through reading, studying, and meditating God’s Word. When we get our “boat” started in that direction is when the “Rudder”—the Holy Spirit—can guide us through teaching us and bringing things to our remembrance. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate study guide!
But this is what we must understand: The Holy Spirit’s job is to guide us, not to drag us. In other words, His ministry is to help us stay on God’s path, not to tell us every little step to take.
You see, He is not interested in “making” us do anything. He is not “the good cowboy”—driving and corralling His flock and making them go in the direction He desires. No, the Holy Spirit—similarly to Jesus’ proclamation of Himself because they are one and the same—is the Good Shepherd. Yes, like Jesus, the Holy Spirit is commissioned to lead us beside the still waters and into greener pastures. And, just as a shepherd does, He leads us, but we are responsible for following Him as He guides us.
This describes the Holy Spirit’s ministry toward us! His nature is to gently guide us in the direction that we need to go—whether that be leading us into a fruitful, abiding relationship with Jesus or leading us into increasing in our wisdom and understanding of the Word. He guides us into all the truth!
GUIDED FROM SAMARIA TO ETHIOPIA
This word for “guide” is also used in Acts chapter 8 in the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. You remember the story: Philip was in Samaria preaching Christ in many villages and an angel spoke to him to go south, to the road which goes from Jerusalem to Gaza. And when he went, he saw this eunuch travelling in his chariot, reading the Book of Isaiah (vs. 28). So, as he saw him, the Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake the chariot.”
So, we pick up now in verse 30: “So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this: ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.’ So, the eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:30-35)
Philip’s question to the eunuch is very practical to what we are talking about today—for I have come across many Christians who do not feel like they understand what they are reading. Well, just as the eunuch answered Philip, I believe this is true for all of us as well— “How can we, unless someone guides us?”
You see, the reason many believers do not understand the Word like they can is because they have never taken advantage of this particular role of the Holy Spirit—to guide us into all the Word. In other words, the Holy Spirit is the key to understanding the Bible.
So, as we’ve said, being guided into all truth would be (and is) being guided in all the Word of God, based on John 17:17. Which we know is at least part of what Jesus was saying here, because of how these verses parallel what we saw in part two of this series when we learned that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things.
So, when we read our Bible, we don’t have to do it alone. We ought to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us throughout our reading and studies—inviting Him to unfold the truth that is behind every passage of Scripture. Amen.
For example, we wake up in the morning, get our cup of coffee, and sit to read, but before we do, we might say, “Good morning, Holy Spirit! Thank You for being my teacher, and I thank you that one of your assignments in my life is to guide me into all truth. Well, Your Word is truth. So, as I read Your Word—Your Truth—this morning, I thank you for guiding me. YOU are my study guide! Amen!”
Again, would it make any sense for me to expect the Holy Spirit to lead me through the truths contained in the Bible if I never occasionally read my Bible? No, if I want to capture a spirit of wisdom and revelation of God through His Word, then I must first seek to grow in knowledge which comes through reading and studying (Ephesians 1:17). While certainly He could reveal the truth to us through some sort of miraculous revelation if we were in a situation where the Word of truth was not readily available to us, this is not the common way He will reveal His Word to us. I would be foolish to expect God to instruct me this way if I have the Word of God sitting on my nightstand collecting dust because I never take the time to read it. No, in order for me to take advantage of this ministry of the Holy Spirit, I must give Him something to work with. I must begin reading, studying, and meditating the Holy Scriptures. Then, and only then, will I be in position for the Holy Spirit to guide me through the Bible’s books, chapters, and verses and into all the truth contained in them.
But there is also another lesson regarding being guided by the Holy Spirit in the account we are looking at: How was Philip guided by the Spirit to have this encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. It began as Philip was busy about his Father’s business. Now not only was Philip preaching the gospel and doing his part in fulfilling the Great Commission, but when the angel spoke to him and told him to go even further south to the “deserted place,” he went. It was then that the Holy Spirit gave him the reason for this particular assignment and spoke to him about overtaking the eunuch’s chariot.
So, here’s my point: What if Philip would have still been in Jerusalem hiding out in a house, and not doing what Jesus had already commissioned us to do? Further, what if, even though he had gone to Samaria, he hadn’t heeded the instructions of the angel of the Lord and not gone down to the desert? Well, I can all but guarantee you that he would have not heard “the Spirit said” in verse 29.
So, I believe this shows us how the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth—because if Philip would not have already been moving, the Holy Spirit would have not been able to guide him to minister to this eunuch. Amen?
But the Holy Spirit is not only with us to guide us into all truth but also to guide us out of all error.
So, let’s go back to First John, where we began this series from, because this is one of the main points that we see the apostle John making in his first epistle.
Beginning in First John 2:18, we see how John let his readers know that there were many antichrists already present with them in that it was the last hour. So, how many do you suppose we have in these last minutes of the last hour?
As he states in the following verse, the spirit of antichrist would not just be in the world but would come from the church itself—showing us that this spirit of error is found both in the world and in the church.
Then John makes a powerful point in verse 20—that we all have an anointing from the Holy One and know all things, meaning that because we have the Holy Spirit, we have the capability of knowing what we need to know. And in the context here, that would be knowing the spirit of truth from the spirit of error.
So, some of the key points John makes that show us how to know error is that we already know the truth (verse 21), so we don’t need to go looking for it. Number two, the truth is found in Jesus. That means that it will always point us towards His deity and Lordship. Number three, as we learned earlier, it is abiding in the Word we had in the beginning. In other words, not deviating from the Word we received in the beginning. Error will always try to introduce something new and exciting, but just because it appeals to our senses, doesn’t mean it is true.
In verse 26, John again reiterates that these things He was writing to them about are concerning those trying to deceive them (and us). But in verse 27, He shows us how the Anointing Himself has become our teacher and we don’t need someone else to interpret truth to us—for He is the Spirit of truth and will always lead us into abiding in Him.
THE TRUTH WE HAD IN THE BEGINNING
Then if we move on to First John chapter 4, where we began this series:
Again, John says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore, they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (First John 4:1-6)
So, we can clearly see how we know the spirit of truth from the spirit of error. It is by knowing the Holy Spirit—for when we know Him—the Spirit of truth—we will know the truth and that truth will make us free. Amen.
WHAT IS TRUTH?
PART FOUR – THY WORD IS TRUTH
What is truth? That is the question of the hour—because in this world where the truth seems hard to come by, we need to know what the truth is. And the truth is that we as Christians don’t have to be at a loss like the lost are. We have the answer for this world and the things contained in it because there are things the Lord has given us that clearly reveal to us what the truth is.
We learned in the first part of this series that there is the spirit of antichrist—the spirit of error—in this world and it is dictating much of what we see that is mainstream. And as I’ve stated several times, if it’s mainstream, it is likely going downstream—yes, downstream like a river, taking everything towards destruction. But we learned that when we heard the word of truth—the gospel—a paddle was put in our hands to turn our boat around and head upstream against the current of this world.
A couple of weeks ago, we began answering the question of this series—What is truth?—and I began by giving you a specific definition that the Holy Spirit gave me when I asked Him this same question that Pilate asked Jesus. He told me that the “Truth is—that which is not hidden, which makes God known.”
So, as we considered this definition, we saw that the Lord first described truth by what it is not by saying that it is something “which is not hidden.” In fact, when He gave me this definition, I didn’t know it at the time, but when you look up the root word for “truth” in the New Testament—the word aletha—you’ll find that it describes something not hidden and unconcealed. So, the definition he gave me certainly lined up with the literal definition of the words used in the Bible for truth.
But since the Holy Spirit began by telling me what the truth was not, what this means is that at its core, truth is the exact opposite of hiding and concealing things. In other words, truth is the exact opposite of a lie as God and the devil are contrary to one another. So, we spent a week talking about the fundamental difference between the truth and a lie.
Then last week, we got into the second half of this definition of truth where the Holy Spirit said that the truth is that “which makes God known”: I explained how when the Holy Spirit shared this with me that I began seeing how all the examples of truth that I had come to know in the Scriptures all illustrated this.
And the first one I would venture to say we all think of when we think of the truth is JESUS, right? Yes, I suppose that most of us would immediately gravitate towards that statement by Jesus in John 14:6 where we have one of the most powerful proclamations of Himself that He ever uttered— “I am the way, the truth, and the life …” That’s right, Jesus didn’t just have truth or speak truth; He was the truth. But as we saw, He was not just the truth; He is the truth yesterday, today, and forevermore.
We looked at Hebrews 13:8 that declares that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever—which means that the truth is the same today, yesterday, and forever.
You see, this is one of the fruits that indicate what the truth is— Truth is found in the consistency of it. Yes, when it comes to where our faith needs to be and what we build our lives on, it needs to be on the One who never changes, the One who is the same today as He was yesterday and the one who will still be the same tomorrow as He is today. This is Jesus!
But oh, how the truth seems to always be changing, doesn’t it? It’s evolving with the times and today we are seeing the world around us adopting certain mindsets and belief systems that were unheard of just decades ago. This should not be so with the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Like the truth Himself, we ought to be the same yesterday, today, and forever—understanding that the truth that we heard from Him 2,000 years ago is still true today and we do not move off of it.
We looked at John 1:14-18 that states that Jesus came full of grace and truth—which is a good illustration of this point that in the church today there is a little too much absence of truth in the emphasis of His grace.
Now you know that I am certainly big on His grace—understanding that it is only by His grace that we can be saved, and it is only by His grace that we can grow and increase. But the mistake I see a lot of the church making in this generation is that in making such a strong emphasis on His unconditional love and grace, the truth—absolutes in His kingdom—are not being held in high esteem and proclaimed to the people. But the “truth” is that Jesus was full of both of these things: Yes, He came to reveal to us God’s goodness & grace, and we see that on full display throughout His life and ministry. But at the same time, He never compromised the truth of God. Rather, He boldly proclaimed it in the face of the hypocrisy that had permeated Israel.
So, we asked the question: If Jesus were to be the guest speaker of a church today, what would He preach? What truth would He have come to deliver? I made the point that you can be sure that it would not be just sweet & kind. No, it might ruffle a lot of feathers because it would be vastly different than so many traditional Sunday morning sermons today, because it would contain some rebuke, reproof, correction, and warning. I know this because just look at what He ministered 2,000 years ago. So, if He has not changed, then the truth He came to deliver would not change either.
So, Jesus came to tell us the truth—it is that God is good and merciful. It is that He loves the sinner and seeks to save the lost. But it is also to tell the sinner to repent and to declare the true way to God. Amen.
HIS WORD IS TRUTH
Now in that definition the Lord gave me of truth, I saw how Jesus perfectly fit that description of the truth because Jesus was not hidden. He came from heaven to earth to show us the way to eternal life. So, He was not hidden, but came for all to see—and He came to make God known so that we could see the true nature and will of our Father. As Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). Therefore, Jesus was not hidden, and He most definitely made God known.
But another thing that popped up into my head when the Holy Spirit spoke this to me was that the Word of God, which is also described as truth, fits this description as well. And this shouldn’t surprise us because Jesus and the Word are one and the same.
You see, the apostle John revealed to us that Jesus, who was in the beginning, was the Word (John 1:1). So, there is really no difference between Jesus and the Word. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen the other.
And like Jesus, the Word of God has also not been hidden. The Lord has made sure that His Word has “run swiftly” throughout the whole world. It is not hard to get ahold of a Bible in most countries and He also made sure to preserve it during dark times where people have tried to snuff it out. Not only has His Word not been hidden from us, but it also makes God known to us in that it reveals His character, will, and purpose to us. Yes, next to the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures, the Bible gives us the knowledge and truth of God more than anything else.
And we have plenty of references in the Scriptures to God’s Word being the truth. So, this week, let’s look at some of the examples we have of God’s Word being truth …
The first and most obvious example is found in John chapter 17: In this chapter, we have Jesus’ prayer before His arrest later that evening. He prays for His disciples in verses 6-19 and in this prayer, He says this— “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” (Verses 14-19)
So, what Jesus is describing here is how His disciples had received God’s Word from Him and, as a result, they were no longer of the world and the world hated them just as the world hated Him. So, they were in essence “sanctified”—that is, set apart & different—by the truth. And Jesus then said in verse 17— “Your Word is truth.”
So here, we have one of our most concrete statements that God’s Word is the truth in the entire Bible. But Psalm 119—which is widely known to be a chapter of the Bible that is completely devoted to the subject of the Word of God—has a verse that summarizes this point as well. Verse 160 says, “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”
Notice that it is the entirety of God’s Word that is truth, not just portions of it. That doesn’t mean that every word in it is true. There were things in it that people were quoted as saying and other things people did that were not in accord with the truth, but the overall “Word” that we receive from the Scriptures is certainly true. Not only that, but Psalm 119:160 goes on to say that it “endures forever”—meaning that it does not change with the times but is just as true today as it was when it was written. Amen?
Church, this is something we can absolutely hang our hats on—that God’s Word is the absolute truth. If we want to find truth, we go to the Scriptures. If we want to be better equipped to avoid the lie, we give heed to the Scriptures. His Word—the entirety of it—is truth. Of this, we can be certain.
And this is what Jesus taught us in John chapter 17—that His Word is what keeps us and separates us from the evil and deception found in this world. Jesus said that the Word—His truth—is what set His disciples apart from the rest of the world. It is what makes us think and act differently. It is what gives us the mind of Christ and causes us to be more Christ-like. And it is what protects us from he who is in the world. Sounds a lot like what we have been learning in the series, doesn’t it?
But I’m here to tell you today that the Word of God is not just information that is true which helps keep us from being deceived; it is life that will both cultivate the ground of our heart so that we think more like Him and less like the world and it will also equip us to survive any storm that this world will throw at us in the future.
BREAKING UP THE FALLOWED GROUND
Do you remember in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower how He described four different conditions of hearts, and the first one was the ground “by the wayside”?
This ground was alongside of the path well-traveled. That’s why it was so hard and compacted to where the seed could not even penetrate it. That is descriptive of those who are too close to the world, and the more worldly they are, the less likely the truth can get in their hearts.
Well, if one’s heart is currently in this condition, a good question would be—How do they “till” this ground and make it good ground that can receive the seed—which is His Word, the gospel of truth?
The Lord once showed me the answer to this question: Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
So, what we see here is how we can eliminate the wayside ground from our heart:
First of all, it takes diligence! It’ll take work, and you need to understand that! That ground did not get that way overnight. It has taken years to get compacted like it has. So, it isn’t going to get softened overnight. It will require diligently working that ground. How?
By, first of all, being a laborer of that field who is unspotted from the world—that is, not conformed to the world. This worker is not half-hearted and double-minded. They have removed themselves from the world and have set their hand to the plow, not looking back. Amen? This echoes what we’ve seen in Romans 12:1&2—that the first and foremost key to not being conformed to the world is by the renewal of our mind.
Finally, Paul tells us this by telling Timothy how we do this: By rightly dividing the Word of Truth! So, the way we break up that wayside ground and make it good ground again is by “cutting straight lines” (Lit. “rightly dividing”) in it—which comes through rightly dividing the Word. This could be described as cutting furrows in the ground before planting seed.
Saints, the key to seeing that wayside ground changed is diligence in the Word of God—letting His Word renew your mind through diligent study, reading and meditation. As the Apostle Paul says in Second Timothy 2:15—this is what digs and lays straight furrows in that ground which has been packed down through the world’s counsel and philosophies.
So, as Hosea 10:12 says, “break up your fallow ground.” This means to break up that untilled ground so that the seed you sow gets where it can perform what it is meant to perform! Amen.
EQUIPPED FOR THE STORM
So, that is how we change a prior & current condition. What about preparing us for future obstacles?
In Second Timothy 3:16-17, this is what the apostle Paul said concerning God’s Word and how it can prepare us for these storms: In this passage of Scripture he says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
In verse 17 when Paul says that with the Word of God we will be “thoroughly equipped” for every good work, I want us to look at what this meant in Paul’s days. The Greek word that was used to translate “thoroughly equipped” described a boat that was completely outfitted and decked out with all the little trinkets that they would need to survive any storm and get to the other side. So what Paul was saying was— “God’s Word will well-equip you, not only to survive the storms of life, but also to get you to the other side!” Yes, it will set you apart to where you are not like every other boat in the harbor. Yours will have all that it will need to weather the storms that are most certainly coming upon this earth.
Well, I am reminded of the story of when Jesus constrained His disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side? Now they did this knowing that there was a storm awaiting them or else He wouldn’t have had to make them (i.e., constrain) do it. Well, in one account, Jesus being the truth gave them the Word beforehand saying, “Let us go to the other side.” He did not say, “Let us go halfway and then drown because of the winds and waves of the storm.” No, He showed them that He intended for them to get to their destination and not perish in the storm.
Likewise, Jesus has already given us His Word—the truth. He said in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” We too have this promise that, although the winds and waves will try and destroy us, we can rejoice because we have God’s Word that we will make it to the other side. You see, this is the power of God’s Word! If He said it, we are going to make it if we will just put faith in His Word!
So, here is the conclusion to the matter—you and I and entire world for that matter have been given the opportunity to know the truth and let that truth make us free—free from deception, the devil, and everything else that does not take us toward Christ likeness.
But it’s going to take us being more than just a believer; we have to become disciples—those who diligently continue in His Word and study to show ourselves approved.
As we cultivate the ground of our heart by letting His Word break up the fallowed ground, we are better equipped to receive the word of truth and produce its fruit. And then, when storms come in this world around us, we won’t be moved because His Word is what we are grounded on, and we know we will get to the other side.
His Word is truth and if we want to be kept from the deception, we must hide His Word in our hearts. Amen?
So, we began a new series a few weeks ago which I am entitling “What is truth?” because in a world where it is so hard to tell what the truth is, we need to know that we as Christians don’t have to be at a loss like the lost are. No, church, there are things God has given us that clearly reveal truth to us and will show us exactly what to do, what to believe, etc. when it comes to any of these things that we are dealing with in the world. So, we ought not to be looking for truth in the things of this world; we ought to be looking for truth in Him and in the tools He has given us to know the truth. Amen?
We learned in part one of this series that one of the main reasons that being led by the spirit of truth is so important for this hour we are living in is because the spirit of error—that spirit of antichrist that has been in the world since time began—is working hard to sweep people off into deception. Yes, there seems to be an even stronger current—more troubled waters—that is carrying the world on to its demise.
And that’s what we described living in this world to be like—a river that’s current is moving everything in it downstream towards destruction. But we learned that it should not be so for the Christian because when we heard the word of truth—the gospel of our salvation— we were “converted” (i.e., turned) and the truth was put in our hands to turn our boat around and head upstream.
Last time, we began answering the question of this series—What is truth?—and I began by giving you a specific definition that the Holy Spirit gave me when I asked Him this same question that Pilate asked Jesus.
I explained that several years ago, after asking the Lord many times to define truth for me, I finally got my answer. On my back porch in Colorado Springs, CO., during a time of prayer, the Lord spoke to my heart the following statement: He said, “Truth is—that which is not hidden, which makes God known.”
So, as we considered this definition, we saw that the Lord described truth as something which is not hidden. In fact, when He gave me this definition, I didn’t know it, but when you look up the root word for “truth” in the New Testament—the word aletha—you’ll find that it describes something not hidden and unconcealed. So, the definition he gave me certainly lined up with the literal definition of the words used in the Bible for truth.
But what this means is that at its core, truth is the exact opposite of hiding and concealing things. In other words, truth is the exact opposite of a lie—which is a concealing of truth.
So, we looked at what a lie actually is and how the truth and a lie are as opposite to one another as God and the devil are. We saw how all deception and intent to deceive comes from the father of lies, satan, and how all truth comes from the one true and living God. We learned that as children of the truth, we are to always speak the truth in love with one another. And that doesn’t mean that we are brutally honest, but that we get to the heart of the matter and always point people towards the truth.
You see, as that definition of truth that the Holy Spirit gave me went on to say, the truth is not just that which is not hidden; it is also what makes God known.
Well, that is when the Holy Spirit began sharing with me how all the examples of truth that I had come to know in the Scriptures all illustrated this “rhema” word that He gave me.
THE TRUTH HIMSELF
So, this week, I want us to move on to some of these things the Lord then began showing me about the truth that certainly are not hidden and absolutely make God known.
Now what is one of the first things you think of when you hear the question—What is truth? Well, I would suppose that most of us would immediately gravitate towards that statement by Jesus in John 14:6 where we have one of the most powerful proclamations of Himself that He ever uttered …
In John chapter 14, we have Jesus beginning to teach His disciples some final lessons before He would be taken from them. He begins by telling them not to let their hearts be troubled and to know that He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. Then in verse 4, Jesus made the following statement— “And where I go you know, and the way you know …” To which Thomas pipes up and says, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Somebody say, NOT SMART!
How many of you know that when the Lord tells you that you know something and you know how to get there, that you don’t essentially respond with, “No, we don’t know, and we don’t know the way either.” That’s like calling Jesus a liar. And we know that Jesus is not a liar but is the totality of truth. Amen?
And that’s exactly what Jesus went on to say to Thomas next, which is what I wanted to get to: He responded to Him in verse 6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
So, essentially what Jesus was saying was that the way and where they were going, they knew because He is that way! So, if they knew Him, they knew the way. Amen?
I’m reminded now of how God’s ways were made known to Moses while His acts were all that was revealed to the children of Israel. So, what He does was made known to them, while why He does the things He does was made known to Moses.
And why was this? It wasn’t because God just chose to reveal His ways to Moses and not to the rest of the Jews. No, it was because Moses positioned Himself to know God’s ways through spending time in His presence and being the most humble person on the face of the earth at that time. Amen!
And guess what else Moses came to know—the truth and the life? Yes, through His humble approach to seeking God, He came to know the way, truth, and life of God. And church, that is the same way we come to know the truth—it is through coming to know Him. Yes, the more we spend time with Him and in His Word, the more it comes alive to us, and we are able to know the liberating truth of God and His Word. This is a foundational truth to knowing what the truth is—it is found in knowing God Himself. Amen?
Which is what Jesus went on to say in John 14:6—that He is not only the way; He is also the truth and the life. No, not a truth or a life; He is the way, the truth, and the life—meaning He is not just a way to God or one of the many truths that are out there. All truth is all enveloped in Him! He is the only life! And there is no other way to the Father except through Him.
So, Jesus is the truth. He didn’t just have truth or speak truth; He was the truth. But not just “was” the truth; He is the truth yesterday, today, and forevermore.
THE TRUTH IS THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER
In Hebrews 13:7-9, the author of this epistle said this— “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.”
Notice that verse 7 first shows us the importance of both respecting and honoring those who our spiritual leaders and have shared God’s Word with us. But why? “Considering the outcome of their conduct.” That means that what we need to be mindful of is that those who not only preach God’s Word to us but practice what they preach have certain fruit in their life that needs to be “remembered.” I mean, the fruit that one has in their life is indicative of what they believe. So, if one’s life consistently does not line up with the life God said we can have, then there’s a chance that what they believe might be wrong. So, it would be wise to follow the faith of someone who has the fruit that we desire to see in our lives instead of being unrelenting regarding our own theology or philosophy.
Being a teacher of God’s Word, I’ve run in to enough of this—most people have their minds already made up and they love you when you echo what they already believe, but they don’t like it when you challenge their belief systems even when you have a laundry list of Scriptures to back it up.
This is what the apostle Paul taught us–that the time will come when people “will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (Second Timothy 4:3-4).
Now when he said here that they will not “endure sound doctrine,” do you know what that means? It means they will not tolerate “healthy” teaching. Yes, the word used for “sound” here is the same word that is used in Third John 2 in describing the Lord’s desire that we prosper in every area of our life and be in “health” just as our souls prosper. So, this word “sound” describes something that is healthy.
Now we know the word of God is likened in many places to food (See Matthew 4:4, First Peter 2:2, Job 23:12, and Jeremiah 15:16). So, what we see being described here is that like children tend to do, the world will come to a place where it does not want to hear what is truly healthy and good for them, but will do what? Because they have “itching ears” (or ears that need to be tickled or scratched), they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to “stories.”
You know, it has always just amazed me how so many Christians do this. Their ears and hearts are readily inclined to listen to someone who speaks well, has charisma, and mixes in interesting and funny stories. But if someone comes simply speaking the truth of God’s Word with none of these other things, they turn them off.
This should not be so, church! We ought to be all about what the content is that the speaker is saying and not just be inclined to their speaking ability. In order to grow, we must be nourished with the words of faith and of good doctrine. That’s what produces the fruit we desire to see in our lives.
So, what Hebrews 13:7 is showing us is that what ultimately reveals truth is fruit. Just consider the outcome of what people are ministering. Is there the fruit of the Spirit evident? Is the Holy Spirit Himself present?
Then Hebrews 13:8 goes on to say, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” So, what does this have to do with what was just said in the previous verse? I believe it’s that one of the fruits that indicate what the truth is, is found in the consistency of it. Verse 9 bears this out because it goes on to say, “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines.”
You see, when it comes to where our faith needs to be and what we build our lives on, it needs to be on the One who never changes, the One who is the same today as He was yesterday and the one who will still be the same tomorrow as He is today. This is Jesus!
In fact, based on John 14:6, we can translate Hebrews 13:8 like so— “The truth is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” It does not change because the Lord changes not (Malachi 3:6).
But oh, how the truth seems to always be changing, doesn’t it? It’s evolving with the times and today we are seeing the world around us adopting certain mindsets and belief systems that were unheard of just decades ago.
This should not be so with the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Like the truth Himself, we ought to be the same yesterday, today, and forever—understanding that the truth that we heard from Him 2,000 years ago is still true today and we do not move off of it.
And, again, the writer of Hebrews declared in verse 9 that we will have ample opportunity to be moved by various and strange teachings even in the church. This is similar to the apostle Paul’s description of being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (See Ephesians 4:14). And what was His solution there? It was speaking the truth in love (verse 15) and growing up in Christ Jesus, who is the truth.
But the fact is, the truth is unchanging. It has been here before the world began and it will be here long after this world ends. So, one critical part to abiding in the truth is looking at Jesus, who is that unchanging truth of God, and embracing what He came to deliver to us—God’s truth.
FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH
I love the way the Gospel of John shows this to us: John 1:14-18 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
In describing how Jesus came to us in the flesh and lived among us, the apostle John described Him as being “full of grace and truth.” Now notice how Jesus was not just described as being full of grace, but also full of truth. The apostle Paul also said in Ephesians 4:21 that the truth is in Jesus.
You see, in the church today, I believe there is a little too much absence of truth in the emphasis of His grace.
Now you know that I am certainly big on His grace—understanding that it is only by His grace that we can be saved, and it is only by His grace that we can grow and increase. But the mistake I see a lot of the church making in this generation is that in making such a strong emphasis on His unconditional love and grace, the truth—absolutes in His kingdom—are not being held in high esteem and proclaimed to the people. A lot of the reason for this is because of what we said earlier—people don’t want to hear what is right versus what is wrong. They don’t want to hear absolutes, especially when these truths go against what our flesh wants and what we think.
But the “truth” is that Jesus was full of both of these things: Yes, He came to reveal to us God’s goodness & grace, and we see that on full display throughout His life and ministry. But at the same time, He never compromised the truth of God. Rather, He boldly proclaimed it in the face of the hypocrisy that had permeated Israel.
So, Jesus was, is, and forever will be our example of truth. That means that the things Jesus declared to us are things that we ought to hang our hats on. His words are ultra-significant and super relevant—not just for the Jews 2,000 years ago, but for all today.
You would think that all Christians would know this, but there is even a large group of “believers” today who do not believe that Jesus’ words are relevant to the church because He was called to minister to God’s chosen people, Israel. And while it was true that He was called to lost sheep of Israel, that doesn’t mean that His teachings aren’t to be applied to our lives as well or we might as well throw out just about all of the Old Testament and even the epistles of the New Testament like Romans since we are not Romans.
And so, what I see here is that since Jesus is the truth, then the things that He taught are absolutes. Yes, they are things that we must adhere to and will always be relevant—no matter how much things change around us. Amen?
WHAT WOULD JESUS PREACH?
So, let me end today’s message by asking this question: If Jesus were to be the guest speaker of a church today, what would He preach? What truth would He have come to deliver?
Well, I can assure you that there would be no guarantee it would be sweet, rosy, and peachy. No, it might ruffle a lot of feathers because it would be vastly different than so many traditional Sunday morning sermons today. Yes, it would contain much love and grace, but it would also include rebuke, reproof, correction, and warning.
I remember one time early in my Christian walk where I was attempting to see a fellow co-worker (in a Christian bookstore no less) be truly converted. You see, just because someone goes to church or is involved in some Christian thing, that doesn’t mean they are a child of God. No, everyone must be born again and be personally converted, and this is more than just following traditions and certain rites & rituals.
So, one time when I was expressing their need to truly make Jesus their personal Lord and Savior, they asked me what I meant because they had gone to the altar before and said the sinner’s prayer. This took me aback because I didn’t know what to tell someone who had gone through the motions of becoming a Christian but had never been truly converted. That’s when the Holy Spirit gave me the “truth” I needed to help her understand that it must be a heart change. I said to her, “Don’t you think if you truly believed that He was Lord, it would change the way you were living your life?” She looked at me and said, “You know, you’re right.”
You see, there was certainly a risk of offending her by declaring to her the truth, but because I loved her, I was willing to take that risk.
That reminds of my attempt to see a friend get saved who I had before I was born again: I told this friend the truth about Jesus more than once after my conversion and they finally said, “Why do you keep trying to get me to become a Christian?” because they were certainly offended with my attempts to see their life changed as mine was. Well, I told this person—“Let me ask you this—If I knew you were about to get on an airplane that was going to crash, wouldn’t you want me to tell you?” They responded with yes. So, I then told them— “That’s exactly what I am doing. I know that you are on your way to death and destruction, and I am trying to get you off that plane.”
Church, this is a big part of the truth that Jesus came to proclaim. Yes, He ate with tax collectors and sinners, but that was because He loved them enough to come by their side and tell them the truth. This is how we should be living as well—loving our neighbor to the degree that we tell them what they need to hear in the way they can hear it.
THE TRUTH’S TRUTH
This is exactly how the Truth Himself lived His life on the earth. As both the Truth and being full of truth, we know that all that He said was the truth.
So, let’s look at some of the things that Jesus emphasized throughout His ministry that are certainly relevant truths to us even today.
Let’s go back to the beginning of His ministry and see what He began by proclaiming: What was Jesus’ first word to the people when He began His ministry? It was “Repent”—not a word that is accepted too easily in the church today (See Matthew 4:17).
As we’ve seen, this is a word that literally means to think a different way and turn in that new direction. But like I said, this is not what most people like to hear. They like to think that the direction they are going in is okay and certainly don’t like anyone telling them that they need to change. But that’s exactly what Jesus came on the scene proclaiming to His chosen people who desperately needed a course change.
And He also greatly emphasized why we all needed that course correction. It’s because as He stated in His Sermon on the Mount— “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
You see, the truth is that there is a direction that we all can choose, and while the majority of this world will choose the wide gate and the broad way that leads to destruction, the way of life is the narrow gate and the difficult way.
This is what Jesus came to direct people’s minds towards—that there is a better way, and that way is one of love, mercy, compassion, and a selfless, sacrificial life. He came to remind us that people are what are important and to live one’s life for others is the highest call of all the human race. It is to populate and enrich heaven with souls and to be ready for His Second Coming. This is what it means to be “woke” according to Jesus.
So, Jesus came to tell us the truth—it is that God is good and merciful. It is that He loves the sinner and seeks to save the lost. But it is also to tell the sinner to repent and to declare the true way to God. Jesus is the truth and was full of the truth, and so should we be. Amen.
Well, today we will be concluding our series on the Book of Revelation entitled “The Revelation.” And I expect that you have learned things through this study that have imparted spiritual blessings to you! It has certainly ministered to me as we have focused on all the positive, good things that are found in this, the final Book of the Bible, and not on all the bad, confusing things.
So, let’s quickly review what we have covered thus far:
So, as promised, today we will pick up in the final two chapters of this final Book of the Bible. And church, I want to let you know that what we will see today is God’s heart and the culmination of His will for His creation: It is to make all things new again!
Interestingly enough, when you read Revelation chapter 21 & 22, you see God essentially restoring what He created in Genesis chapters 1 & 2. In other words, He will recreate in the end what He created in the beginning. No, it will not look completely the same, having the name Eden, but it will be paradise restored, nonetheless. Glory to God!
But like the fact that these two chapters describe God restoring what He created in the beginning, as we look at these last two chapters that describe our hope as Christians, many of us will likely see that we haven’t clearly seen what our hope entails. In other words, we are going to see some things about the end of this world as we know it, and about the new one to come, that we might not have completely understood correctly. So, open up your heart and mind to believe what we will read today instead of only reading what we believe. Amen?
HOW OLD THINGS WILL PASS AWAY
Now we begin in Revelation 21:1 where the apostle John said, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.”
Now this is something that requires some explanation because I feel there are a lot of Christians that have not heard or understood what will ultimately take place with the heavens & earth at the end. I believe the apostle Peter sums it up best in his second epistle. Let’s look at it …
Peter begins by addressing the problems that scoffers either were or would be making, questioning the promise of Jesus’ Second Coming. Then he says in Second Peter 3:5-7 – “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
So, Peter compares how the heavens and the earth, which were created by the Word of God and were eventually flooded in the days of Noah, are being reserved now in our generation, not for water, but for fire.
You see, this is why we need to read our Bibles and believe what we are reading. Why? It’s because the world would have you believe that “mother earth” is in danger through things like global warming, etc. No, we don’t have to worry about global warming; the world ought to be worrying about global melting because that’s what the Bible tells us is going destroy this planet.
Peter goes on to explain this further in verse 10 – “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.”
So, the Day of the Lord—that Day when Jesus returns—will come unexpectantly like a thief in the night. It won’t be something we will see coming through a telescope and will be able to get ready for. No, this passing away of the heavens will sneak up on us unexpectantly—and as Peter says, “with a great noise.” So, we don’t need to have a big bang theory. You know what a theory is, right? I like Brother Hagin’s definition— “A theory is a supposition based on the ignorance of the subject under discussion.” No, the difference is this great noise isn’t what will create all things, but what will destroy all things. Then Peter says that the elements (that is, all physical things from the atom to Adam) will melt with fervent heat to where the earth and all that is within it will burn up.
Church, this is what will most assuredly take place in the end. So, knowing this, what should our response be? Should we be dreading that day? NO! Peter goes on to say that it should simply change our conduct—to where we are living holy and godly lives (See verse 11). Then we are “looking for and hastening the coming of the Day of the Lord” (See verse 12). Yes, as he says in verse 13 in light of this “global meltdown”— “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” And not just look for it, but look forward to it, according to verse 14.
Church, this is indeed a Day we are to look forward to! It has been prophesied over and over of a new heavens and new earth where peace will be experienced, no more death, no more killing. Only paradise and promise will be experienced in those days!
THE HOPE OF HEAVEN ON EARTH
But here is another major misunderstanding in the Body of Christ: Where believers go when they leave their body now is not their permanent habitation. Yeah, that’s right, heaven is not our eternal home; heaven will invade earth in that Day and that is where we will make our eternal habitation, ruling and reigning with Christ on the new earth! Amen!
Let me illustrate it to you so you can be sure to understand it— One of our longtime members, Barb Scott, will be moving to Pennsylvania at the end of November and she will be traveling by air. Well, suppose her flight includes a short layover in Cincinnati, Ohio. That is a lot like what the heaven we now go to is like. It’s a lot like that layover in Cincinnati while our permanent destination is in Pennsylvania—that symbolizing the new earth that will be created in that Day. Now, of course, Pennsylvania is a far cry from paradise. Perhaps I should have used the Caribbean Islands, Hawaii, or something like that. But the point is that the layover city is different than the destination city. However, the intermediate heaven and heaven on earth will not be much different as far as I know. They will both be grand and glorious and worth looking forward to!
But one thing John made sure to describe to us about what he saw is the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven to the earth (See Revelation 21:2). He described this city as a bride prepared for her husband. So, I don’t know if the wedding march will be being played when the holy city is coming down from heaven to the new earth, but what I can guarantee you is that the full measure of the same joy and excitement a husband experiences when he sees his bride coming down the aisle is going to be experienced in believers when they see the New Jerusalem descending to the earth. Hallelujah!
Then in verses 3-8, John heard a loud voice describing several characteristics of this new heavenly Jerusalem that will reign over the new heavens and the new earth:
The first thing we are told is that the tabernacle of God would now be with men and He would dwell with them. Again, God’s original and eternal plan is to come down and make His home with us! He did it in the Garden of Eden when He would come down and fellowship with man in the cool of the day, and He will do it again when Paradise is reestablished in the Millennium. This is God’s perfect will—to abide with us forever! This is undisputedly the greatest benefit of heaven being brought to the earth.
Verse 4 goes on to say that He will wipe away every tear, that there shall be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain, because the former things have passed away. How awesome is that going to be!?! All of these things that were brought on by the curse of sin will die—that is, they will not be a part of this new everlasting kingdom. Glory!
Then in verse 5, John sees where God said, “Behold, I make all things new.” This is what the Lord did for us through Jesus as it pertains to our salvation, and it is what He will ultimately do with His creation and for His creation. Amen.
For example, in Second Corinthians 5:17— “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” That sounds an awful lot like what God said He would do with His original creation, doesn’t it? Yes, all of the old things (that is, the heavens and the earth that He created in the beginning) will pass away, and yes, all these things will become new! That’s the new heavens and the new earth—where righteousness dwells!
But the fact is, this process started in each of us the day we got saved: The old creation we were born into through the transgression of Adam passed away on the day we received Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. At that moment, you and I became a new creation where Jesus made all things new in our spirit. This left us in the position to hope in the same transformation to take place in our outward man that took place in our inward man. And this will be experienced around the same time that God makes all things new on this earth! Amen.
Then, in verses 6-8, we see the Lord saying, “It is done!” Again, similar to what Jesus said when He hung on the Cross— “It is finished”—when this process of restoration and redemption began. So, we can now see that it is finished and it is done! Amen.
THE NEW JERUSALEM AND OTHER CITIES
Now in the rest of Revelation chapter 21, we have this New Jerusalem described in glorious detail. And because we see John spend some nineteen verses describing what this city will look like, we need to know that this is a big part of what we have to look forward to. So, let’s look at a couple of distinguishing characteristics of this city that is to come …
The dimension laid out to us in Revelation 21:15-16 equates to it being 1,400 miles in length, width, and height! This would stretch north and south from Canada to Mexico, and east and west from Macon, GA to Colorado Springs. If each story were a generous 12 feet high, this would give it 600,000 stories! That means that it could be anywhere from 600,000 – 1,200,000 stories, depending on the height of each story. (See illustration).
Now a building’s greatest strength is its foundation, and the New Jerusalem was said to have not one foundation, but twelve, each decorated with a different gem (See Revelation 21:14, 19-20). John names twelve stones, eight of which correspond to the stones of the high priest’s breast-piece (See Exodus 28:17-20). Church, whatever God builds will last! (See Hebrews 11:8-10).
Then, in verses 22-27, we see the glory of this New Jerusalem—that there will be no temple in this Jerusalem because the Father and Son will be its temple, there will be no need for the sun and moon there to illuminate it because the Lamb is its light, and the city’s gates will always remain open.
Now as we move on to Revelation chapter 22, we see where John was shown a pure river (clear as crystal) of the water of life that proceeded from the throne of God. He saw the tree of life there. And then in verse 3 we see something that should excite us— “no more curse.” Glory! And in verse 5 we see that we shall reign with the Lamb forever and ever!
You see, this concept of reigning with Christ is another thing not understood by many. Sure, we see Jesus as coming to reign, Him being the King of kings. But who are the kings He is king of? We are! He is the firstfruit of many brethren—so we, as sons of God, are meant to rule with Him. Yes, rule over sin, the curse, and death now in this life, but over the New Earth that will be created. Amen!
Jesus taught us things that lead us to presume that many other cities will be on the New Earth—not just the New Jerusalem. We get this through Jesus’ stewardship parable, the Parable of the Minas, where He indicates we will be given cities to rule over as we faithfully steward what He’s given us in this life (see Luke 19:11-27). It is for this reason that I believe the New Earth will contain many different cities just like we have now. There will be the capital city of the New Jerusalem, but other cities given to His faithful servants to reign over in His stead.
THE HOPE OF THE REVELATION
Now, in conclusion, I want us to end this series with the resounding message we see at the end of this Book. Again, it is not bad news, but rather good news! Let me say it this way— The Book of Revelation is a revelation of the culmination of the gospel! As a matter of fact, the Revelation of Jesus Christ is the terminology used to describe His Second Coming in other Scriptures (See First Corinthians 1:7-8 & First Peter 1:7). Therefore, the Book we call “Revelation” is ultimately a prophecy of the Revelation of Jesus Christ at His Return. This is evidenced in Revelation chapter 22 …
In this—the last chapter of the Bible itself—Jesus repeats that He is coming quickly three times! (See verses 7, 12, 20) In fact, the very last admonition given to us by Jesus is— “Surely I am coming quickly.” So, this must be an extremely important truth for us to understand if the Lord wraps up the Holy Scriptures by giving us this admonition. Then, to establish its importance further, He repeated it three times (for in the mouth of two or three witnesses let every word be established). Therefore, we ought to pay close attention to these final words of Jesus by taking an in depth look at them…
In Revelation 22, Jesus said twice “Behold I am coming quickly” (vs.7&12). The word “behold” renders, “stop, look, and listen.” It is a word used to make the hearers stop and pay attention to what is to follow. When I was in elementary school, I had a physical education teacher who would use this phrase— “Stop, look, and listen” –repeatedly to get our attention. He would say this to make us quit our goofing off, calm down, and pay attention to what he was about to say. Likewise, Jesus used this word to get us to quit messing around in worldly, carnal things and to become sober and vigilant concerning the truth that was in His following statement.
In verse 20, Jesus used the word “Surely.” You know, Jesus oftentimes, during His earthly ministry, would preface some of His statements with the words, “verily, verily.” This meant that what He was about to say was absolutely true, certain, and sure. Likewise, here in Revelation when He said “surely” He was saying the same thing— “This is absolutely true, certain, and sure.” So, what is it that He wants us to heed and pay attention to and also to be certain and convinced of? It is that He is coming quickly!
Now when we see the word “quickly” we could think something like— “Now if He said He was coming quickly a little less than 2,000 years ago was He telling the truth?” This is what the apostle Peter was saying in Second Peter 3:3-13 when he said that in the last days scoffers will come saying things like— “Where is the promise of His coming because things haven’t changed in so long?” Peter then points us back to understanding how God’s time operates in verse 8. He says, “… do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” So, you see, God does not have the same timetable as we do. In His mind, since the time Jesus was resurrected, it hasn’t even been two days yet. But one thing is for sure… that we are closer than we ever have been before and, therefore, we need to “watch” (i.e. to stay awake and alert spiritually) because He is coming quickly.
Now I understand that people think they already know this. Sure, we’ve all heard that Jesus is coming back. But that doesn’t mean we truly know it.
I remembered hearing of a man’s experience of being taken to heaven and meeting Jesus. He said that Jesus told him to go back and tell people that He is coming. This man thought, “They already know that,” and Jesus, of course, knowing his thoughts, said to him, “No, they don’t! They don’t know that! Go and tell them!”
Church, let’s not let it be said of us that we don’t know that Jesus is coming back! Let’s let this truth impact our hearts to where we will live our lives accordingly! Behold, He is coming again quickly to make all things new! Be ready and watch! Amen.
THE PARABLE OF THE KING AND THE WIDOW
Now let me conclude this series by turning back to Revelation 22 and taking a look at the attitude that John described as saturating the church of the Lord Jesus Christ…
In verse 17, he says, “And the Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’…” and in verse 20 he wraps up his Revelation by saying— “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” I hope you can hear the earnest, heartfelt desire in Christ’s bride pleading for Him to “Come!” In these words, I hear a desperate bride who longs for her husband who is in a distant land to come back to her that they may be together forever. This is exactly the attitude the church should have today concerning Christ’s return.
Let me paint this picture in a parable. I’ll call this the Parable of the King and the widow …
There once was an extremely poor widow woman who had been sold into slavery. Her situation was hopeless, and death seemed to be her only destiny. Then an extremely wealthy king looked from afar and spotted her. His heart was moved with compassion and he decided to do something about her poverty and bondage. So, he traveled a great distance to come to her rescue. When he arrived, he sold all that He had in order to redeem her from certain death and to purchase her freedom. Moreover, he even took her to be his bride! She marveled at the amazing grace that he extended towards her! Not only had he delivered her from certain death, but he also offered her an abundant life in his kingdom. She had never known love like this before! Her obvious response was that she fell in love with her redeemer and fiancé.
Then the time came for Him to return to His kingdom and He had to leave her behind because it was not time for her to return with Him. He did not want to leave her comfortless, so he sent her a helper to help take care of her while He would be away. On top of that, he sent her many letters that expressed his love for her and contained his promise that he would again return to her. Although she was left in the same environment that He found her in, she now had His help and the hope of his promise to come again one day and take her back with Him so that where he was she would be also.
She always kept this hope before her—anticipating Him to come back to her at any moment. She would read the love letters that He left for her in order to bring herself comfort and hope, yet she, along with the helper he had sent to her, would groan—earnestly desiring the King to return to them. In her longing, the Bride would cry out— “O, Lord, Come!”
You see, this beautifully explains what the heart-cry of every believer should be. Because of our love for the Lord, our hearts should be desirous to see Him. We should actually long for His return!
Church, this is the summarization of this, the Revelation of Jesus Christ—it is a promise that our King will return again, and He is bringing His kingdom with Him. All of us who serve Him now, will reign with Him then.
This is our hope! It is that the curse will die! His kingdom will come! A new heaven and a new earth will be created with a new capital city, the New Jerusalem. The Lord will dwell with us and there will be no more tears, only blessing! And we will enjoy what God intended in the beginning—heaven on earth. Even so, Come Lord Jesus, Come!
Well, we are getting close to concluding our series on the Book of Revelation. Today’s message is what just might be the next to last message as we get into the rise & fall of Babylon, the Beast, and God’s judgment of the sin contained in the world.
So, let’s quickly review what we have covered thus far:
A GOD OF JUDGMENT?
So, as we pick up in the end of Revelation chapter 14, we see the angel’s reaping of the earth’s harvest and the grapes of God’s wrath. Then in chapters 15 & 16, we see what is described as the Bowl Judgments, which are the last seven judgments to be poured out on the earth before the end will come.
Now the judgment and wrath of God is certainly something that we see saturating the Book of Revelation, isn’t it? It is inescapable—for Revelation’s pages are filled with plagues that are sent by Him and his anger towards the sin & unrighteousness that will be present on the earth in the last days.
In fact, this part of Revelation about judgment & plagues has actually been a tool used by many well-meaning evangelists to convert people and see them repent from their sins. Yes, Revelation is probably the greatest evangelical tool that has been used to see people saved.
However, I see a wrong mentality present in the way many people understand these truths about the wrath of God and His judgment. What I think many people don’t understand is that it is not His will to be angry and judge people. No, I don’t believe that is our Father’s heart at all!
Now is there a wrath towards sin? Yes! Is He going to judge the world? Absolutely! But the thing we need to understand is that this is not His heart. God never has desired to judge people. Yet He does it because He has to, not because He wants to.
Now the chastening of the Lord is different. Back in their day, children were raised differently than the world raises its kids today. They would let their children go through difficult situations in order to see them grow up by making good, correct decisions through the adversity. But that is not what this is referring to. What we see here is a judgment of sin and unrighteousness which is by far the most common cause of God’s judgment people are exposed to.
In fact, when we study the Old Testament, we see the children of Israel being judged time and time again. But in the vast majority of all of these “judgments” we do not find them obeying God, following after righteousness, etc. No, the judgements came as a result of their failure to obey Him and heed His voice.
THE WAGES OF BABYLON
Which leads us to chapter 17 where we see another vision that the apostle John had—that being of a harlot riding on the back of a beast. Many see this as “Babylon”—a symbol of a religious system and/or government that will be carried and led by the antichrist. In other words, we are seeing here the reign of the antichrist in the Last Days through his one world government and religion.
Now as we’ve made the point of throughout this study, this does not mean that this is how this one world government will appear. I highly doubt it will be called “Babylon,” but what it symbolizes is that ancient city of Babylonia that the Bible speaks much of. So, “Babylon” represents the epitome of a godless society—which is obviously what the antichrist will reign over.
But as we move on to chapter 18, we see the Fall of Babylon—which we learned will be close to the time that the antichrist and his false prophet will be cast into the lake of fire. This will be around that third strike called on the devil where he will be “out” for good. Amen!
But what I want you to see from all of these judgments & plagues that will be poured out in these last days is that God’s wrath is not reserved for the righteous and holy. It is reserved for the devil, his angels, and all of those who serve him. In other words, hell is not reserved for servants of the Lord; it is reserved for the devil and his angels.
For example, in Matthew 25:31-46, when Jesus explained how the Son of Man will judge the nations, He described it as a shepherd dividing his sheep from the goats. And Jesus then clearly teaches us what the conversation will be in that day between the shepherd and his sheep/goats. But what I want you to notice is what He said to each one …
Notice first verse 34— “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” Then He goes on to describe why they were considered His sheep and were placed on His right hand. But notice that Jesus said they would “inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.” That means that God’s plan from the very beginning was for a kingdom to be prepared for mankind. But notice what Jesus said when addressing the goats that were gathered on His left hand. Verse 41 says, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” Notice this judgement was not prepared for them, but for the devil and his angels. So, when we compare what Jesus said to both the sheep and the goats, we see that God Himself has prepared for us an everlasting kingdom. But the judgment of everlasting fire was not prepared for us. It was reserved for the devil and his angels. But based on this passage of Scripture, we see that the goats will be sent there nonetheless, even though the judgment, punishment, and wrath was never intended for them.
You see, we learned earlier in this series from First Thessalonians 5:8 that you and I are not appointed to wrath, but to obtain salvation. But that does not mean that you and I cannot experience the judgement that we were never appointed to.
This is why I believe that question of “How can a good God ever send someone to hell?” is not based on correct thinking. The truth is things like judgment, punishment, hell, etc. are not what God appoints people to. People make choices that determines those things. This is why the Lord told His people in Deuteronomy 30:19-20— “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
So, the choice is ultimately ours! We are the one who choose life or death, blessing or cursing. It’s not God choosing that for us. Sure, He had to choose to make those things available for us to choose. But He will not force it on us. So, if someone persists in making poor choices, He will let them.
So, in a lot of ways, our lives are a product of the choices we make—the choice to do things God’s way or our own way. We know what Proverbs says, right? “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). So, this means that there are Scriptural principles that are laid out to us by the Lord, and by embracing them in our lives, we choose the life God has prepared for us. In other words, there are spiritual laws that will consistently produce the same results if we take heed to them.
THE FALL OF PRIDE
Let’s look at a specific Biblical principle that illustrates what I am saying that’s along the lines of what we are looking at in Revelation today:
Revelation chapter 18 describes to us the “Fall” of Babylon, right? Well, I would venture to say that we all have heard the following statement from the Book of Proverbs— “Pride goes before a fall.” This comes from Proverbs 16:18 that says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Now how many of you know that this “Babylon” that we are reading about—since it was a city built by the devil himself—was likely built on pride since the is a distinguishing characteristic of Satan. So, should it surprise us that Babylon will fall? Absolutely not! Why? It is because this is a law, a principle, and is just the way it works.
Like we say because of the law of gravity— “What goes up, must come down.” Likewise, a person or a people who lift themselves up, will come down. We need look no further than the Babylon of old to discover this:
We all know that the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, suffered from the sin of pride and lost his kingdom for it. No more than twelve months after being warned by Daniel the prophet of God's displeasure with him, Nebuchadnezzar looked out across the great city of Babylon and said in his pride, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30)
But noticed what happened in verses 31-32: “While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.”
Then in verse 33 we see the fruit of his fall: “That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.”
Now this example of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and subsequent fall is probably one of the most extreme examples of this principle we have the entire Bible. Of course, other than the fall of Lucifer as a result of his pride. But my point is—This is a law, and it’s not that God had planned for Nebuchadnezzar to be brought to this low place. In fact, we know it wasn’t because in the proceeding verses, we see that he humbled himself, gave glory to God, and apparently experienced a restoration in certain areas. He just simply fell as a result of his own choice to think more highly of himself than he ought to have thought.
So, my point is there are spiritual laws & principles that will yield specific fruit—whether towards life or death.
THE WAGES OF SIN
Now let’s pick up in Revelation chapter 18 where we see further evidence of this by God’s judgment upon Babylon: It begins with angel coming down from heaven with great authority pronouncing judgment over the great city falling.
Then verse 4 says something very interesting: After the angel makes his statements, we read this: “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.’”
Notice the angel referred to the judgment that would come upon Babylon as “her plagues,” not “your plagues.” In other words, they are not for His people, but are strictly reserved for sin. But this verse also indicates that if His people do not “come out of her” (i.e. remain enveloped in her ways and choices) and share in her sins, then they can and will (unless they repent, of course) receive of her plagues.
But, again, this is not God’s choice; it’s the choice of each and every one of us as to who we are going to serve and what we will share in. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord! Amen?
Now if you continue reading in Revelation chapter 18, you will see the following statements regarding sinful Babylon— “render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works” (verse 6) and “In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow” (verse 7). All of this sounds a lot like a New Testament principle that we see from the pen of the apostle Paul …
You see, the Bible is crystal clear that the wages of sin is death. The apostle Paul said in Romans 6:23— “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Now if the gift of eternal life is not forced upon us, but must be received by our choice to receive it by faith, then why would the wages of sin—that being death—be forced on us? It’s not. It too is a choice.
Now I understand that everyone will die—for that choice was made for us by Adam in the garden. But I’m talking about “death” has the absence of God, His promises, and His blessing on our lives. That part is in our control. And when one persists in choosing sin over righteousness, the same death principle applies to all of us.
Let me explain: Paul was teaching in Romans chapter 3-6 of the free gift of righteousness and how everyone who receives the Way of this free gift—the Lord Jesus Christ—has been redeemed, forgiven, and sanctified in Him. But a question came up in Paul’s teaching, and a legitimate one in that, that can we continue in sin then if we are made righteous by His grace and the sin-issue has been taken care of? Paul’s response to his own question was— “Certainly not!” Then in verses 16-23, he begins to explain how if someone presents themselves as a slave of sin then they are that one’s servant. And if sin becomes our master, then we can expect the wages that our master administers. This is what led to his statement in verse 23 that the wages of sin is death.
So, I say all of this to say that sin demands judgment. Death is its offspring. It doesn’t matter you or who’s you are. If you or I choose to the way of unrighteousness, death will eventually follow if we do not repent. That is why it is on us to choose life and choose blessing! We choose them by faith—a faith that follows the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen?
So, all of the death and judgment that we see in the end times is not because God delights in pouring out His wrath—for He is not an angry God, but One who delights in grace & mercy. However, the sin that will permeate the world in the last days demands the completely righteous judgment of God. And this is why we will see the wrath of God poured out on the earth. But, again, when you see God judging folks in the Bible, you do not see God judging righteousness. It’s sin, transgression, and iniquity that the Lord punishes, not holiness, righteousness, and obedience.
WE REAP WHAT WE SOW!
But let me end today’s teaching by flipping the script: Just because it is true that the wages of sin is death and there will be judgment on the sin of the world, this is not to just be taken negatively. You see, just as it is true that the wages of sin is death, the wages of righteousness is life! And just as it is true that there will be negative judgments, there will be positive ones too!
You see, only see the judgment at the end of Revelation as being negative, but we have a lot of other Scriptures that talk about rewards being dealt in that Day See Second Corinthians 5:10. In fact, the word that’s used in many cases to describe the judgment seat of Christ is the Greek word bema which was oftentimes used to describe how someone was rewarded for winning some athletic competition. This wasn’t a somber time, was it? No, this was an exciting time for the winner!
Saints, we are called to be the winners! We just need to run in such a way that we obtain the prize! Then that day won’t be a day to dread, but a day to look forward to!
So, church, while the tendency is to only hear these truths from the negative slant, we need to understand that just as this works against people who make wrong choices, it also works for people who make right choices! Amen!
For example, we talk about the law of sowing & reaping, and most of the time people only refer to that negatively like— “You know, brother. You will reap what you sow.” Totally emphasizing that if you sow bad seed, you will reap bad fruit. What should our response be if someone says that to us? We should respond with— “Praise God!” Why? It’s because it is just as simple to make good choices and sow good seed as it is to make bad choices and sow bad seed—and we have chosen to sow good seed!
If I will sow unto righteousness, I will reap a righteous reward. I can absolutely expect that in my life. So, let’s not take this only from the perspective of— “Oh, I better not make a mistake and open myself up to the wages of sin.” No, let’s focus on following God’s principles and doing what He said!
So, in light of all of this, who is it that will eat from the bowls of wrath? It’s not the wise, the righteous or the holy, it’s the world and those who persist in unrighteousness that are partaking of God’s wrath. In other words, the death, plagues, and destruction that are to come are coming for sin’s sake, not for righteousness’ sake.
So, we are continuing our series today based on the Book of Revelation entitled “The Revelation”—this being the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ in His resurrected and glorified state! So, it is a message containing the good news of Jesus’ ultimate victory, not just the bad news that most have made it out to be. That means that when we read this Book, we don’t need to get stuck in the chapters in the middle that prophesy the negative things that will take place during the end-times. No, we need to understand that Jesus, being the Alpha and the Omega, is the beginning and the end of this Book of Revelation. So, let’s focus on our ultimate destination of victory, not the bumps in the road before we get there.
So, we are now on part six of this teaching and we have covered some important things in the first five parts:
NOW ARISES THE BEAST
So now, let’s move on to chapter 13 in the apostle John’s Book of Revelation where we see something else “arising” (literally, a beast arising from the sea). Now we understand that this “beast” is what is commonly referred to as the antichrist. And, oh, we’ve all heard a lot about this guy, haven’t we? Heck, some of us might have even been a part of those conversations. But the antichrist has certainly been a topic of conversation in a lot of parts of Christendom because people’s desire to identify him or when he is coming has been a hot topic of discussion for some time.
Now the “antichrist” is described by the apostle Paul as “the man of sin” and “the son of perdition” (perdition being a state of eternal condemnation and damnation) (See Second Thessalonians 2:3-4). Paul goes on in this passage to describe the antichrist as the one who “opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped.” Paul even describes him as one who will “sit as God in the temple of God…”
But what the apostle John saw in Revelation chapter 13 was different: He saw some kind of beast rising out of the sea.
Now as it is with the devil himself, the antichrist is not going to come looking like this beast that John saw. As we’ve noted, the things John saw were from a heavenly, spiritual perspective. So, what we will see from this earthly perspective will not appear like this at all. It will be much more deceptive and appealing to those who do not know the truth. You see, the devil himself comes as an angel of light, and his earthly representative will come in like fashion to where the whole world will be deceived, including many Christians.
But that’s just about all I am going to say about him. And the reason why is because I don’t want to glorify and magnify him any more than he already has been.
HOW TO HANDLE THE COUNTERFEIT
You see, I wonder why there is this inordinate desire in people to talk about him. I’m of the opinion, that instead of emphasizing the antichrist, why don’t we focus our attention on being more “Pro-Christ” (which is essentially being Pro-Life because He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life).
You see, the prefix “anti” literally means “against, opposed to, opposite of, or instead.” So, all the antichrist is, is a “Christ counterfeit.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that the devil loves to copy the original article and use the things of God for his own purposes. And he does the same here with the first beast, known as the antichrist.
But like I have learned through years in banking, the best way for one to recognize a counterfeit is to study the genuine article thoroughly. When I handled money for hours on end, I found that when a counterfeit bill was presented to me that it stuck out like a sore thumb. Now the client who accepted the fake bill didn’t recognize it when someone passed it off on them nor did they recognize it when I told them it was fake. But to the person who handled money all day, a counterfeit bill was obvious.
It is for that reason that I strongly believe Christians should spend the majority of their time studying the truth as opposed to error. I have seen believers spend their time studying this false religion and this bad doctrine in an attempt to become more familiar with it. They do it for noble reasons such as wanting to reach the people who ascribe to those wrong beliefs or so to make sure they don’t fall for those lies. But I am of the persuasion that we need to be doing the opposite—both becoming so familiar with the Word of God and spending time getting to know the Word Himself. The reason is because as it is with recognizing counterfeit currency, the more we know the true, genuine article, the more we will be able to distinguish between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Speaking of handling money, do you remember how John said in First John 1:1 that he had “handled” the Word of Life. Then he proceeds in his epistle to talk about the spirit of error and how they can be kept from being deceived by the spirit of antichrist. So, the protection from deception of the antichrist spirit is found in having heard, seen, and handled the truth Himself. This is certainly done through studying the truth to show ourselves approved, but it is also in knowing Jesus on a personal and intimate level. If we handle Christ like so we will have a hard time being deceived when the spirit of antichrist is before us.
In fact, it’s not just the anti-christ that we see in the 13th chapter of Revelation: It’s the Anti-Trinity! If you read the entire chapter, you see that the dragon (i.e. the devil) was the one who gave the antichrist his power, throne, and authority (See Revelation 13:2) just like God the Father gave His Christ the same. We even see in verse 3 about how the antichrist apparently will have a mortal, deadly wound to his head (See verse 3) and that wound will be healed. Some take this to mean that he will be raised from the dead, which will cause the world to marvel and follow him. Sounds a lot like Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, doesn’t it? Again, the devil’s plan is to ultimately counterfeit what the Lord God has done!
Then, moving on to verse 11, we see another beast coming out of the earth and this one—known by many as the false prophet—is said to exercise all the authority of the first beast and cause everyone on the earth to worship the antichrist that he is representing. I don’t know about you, but that sounds an awful lot like the Holy Ghost who is said to not do things on his own authority but to represent the Lord Jesus Christ and lead us all to glorify Him. This false prophet also is said to perform all kinds of great signs on the earth for the antichrist similarly to how the Holy Spirit is here with us today to perform various signs, wonders and miracles through the Christ’s church.
So, again, what we see in this chapter is not just the antichrist, we see the anti-trinity: The dragon, who is the devil, being a type of God the Father. The antichrist being a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. And the false prophet being a type of the Holy Spirit. The devil will counterfeit everything that is God.
THE RANK & FILE OF THE KINGDOM OF DARKNESS
We even see this in the rank & file of the kingdom of darkness in Ephesians 6:12 where Paul describes the devil’s structure of authority with his demons. In this verse, we are told— “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Now it is noteworthy that the apostle Paul began by saying that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood. Why, you ask? It is because that is exactly what the devil wants us to think—that our warfare is carnal and aim all of our aggression on other physical human beings. If the devil can get you and I to aim our anger at other people and see them as the issue, then we are playing on his turf. This means that we are giving the devil the home-field advantage. No, the truth is that we are really wrestling with the devil’s workers, which is a specific structure, rank and file.
Paul begins by referring to the first class of demonic spirits called “principalities”: The word used for “principalities” is the Greek word arche. This word literally means “first ones, leaders, or preeminent ones from ancient times.” It is where the title “arch angels” comes from, which are the highest-ranking angels in God’s kingdom. So, it would be accurate to say that “principalities” are Satan’s “arch demons.” In other words, they are the highest-ranking demons in his army.
Interestingly enough, Satan is called in Ephesians 2:2, “the prince of the power of the air” and in John 12:31 and 16:11, he is called “the prince of this world.” The word “prince” that is used in these references comes from a derivative of this same word for arche, the word archon—thus showing us that just as Satan is referred to as a ruler or a prince, these principalities have been given a ruling position within the devil’s ranks.
Now the next group of demonic spirits listed are “powers.” The Greek word for “powers” is the word exousia and would better be translated as “authorities.” These are apparently the second level in the ranks of Satan’s army. They are the demonic spirits that were given a certain amount of authority by Satan himself and they exercise that authority over the next two levels of demonic spirits listed.
These two levels of demonic spirits are the classifications of demons that we more regularly deal with in our everyday lives— “the rulers of the darkness of this age” & “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Let’s quickly look at the third level in Satan’s kingdom— “the rulers of the darkness of this age.” The word “rulers” here comes from the Greek word kosmokrateros, which describes “raw ruling power that has been brought into order and arranged.” So, this particular class of demons has been brought into rank and file and specifically arranged so that their raw power can be best utilized against this “age.” The word “age” describes the “characteristics of a society.” This means that these demonic spirits’ jobs are to influence and inspire society’s philosophies and ideas. Inspire them with what? Paul revealed to us that their job is to flood our society with “darkness!” In other words, “the rulers of the darkness of this age” focus more on a specific generation’s belief system and on a specific society’s philosophies rather than working against us on an individual level. In other words, these demons are working more on this world’s system than they are on us individually.
You see, this is why the devil is called in Second Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this world.” This title reveals to us that what Satan rules over is this world’s system—influencing the population’s general beliefs, ways of thinking and philosophies. And he obviously does this through this particular class of his army— “the rulers of the darkness of this age.”
Now, the fourth and final level of demonic spirits that Paul listed are the ones that we more regularly deal with in our everyday lives. And they are called “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” First of all, notice that they are called “hosts.” This word “hosts” carries with it the idea that there are a bunch of these particular kinds of demons—denoting a multitude. So, this means that this is likely the most populated classification of demons.
Yes, there are thousands upon thousands of these lowest ranking demon spirits, and Paul says that they are “in the heavenly places.” Now this term “heavenly places” describes the earth’s atmosphere all around us. And the phrase “of wickedness” shows us that they are simply imitating their master…
Now when you study out this word “wickedness” you see that it describes things that are “evil, bad and vile.” Therefore, the desire of these spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places is to influence us into all that is evil, bad, or vile, which would include “sin, ungodliness, oppression, sickness, poverty, etc.” These are the demons that get directly involved in our lives and try to manifest “wickedness” in us, whether it be by trying to influence us to sin and live ungodly or by trying to bind us with some sort of physical, emotional or mental infirmity.
THE POWER OF UNITY
So, when combining both what we’ve seen in Revelation chapter 13 and Ephesians 6:12, we can clearly see that the kingdom of darkness is not disorderly and chaotic. There is actually a lot of organization in the devil’s camp. Therefore, by seeing the order and arrangement that Satan has in his army, we can understand why he has been so effective against mankind. It is because we tend to succumb to one of the devil’s biggest ploys, which is to divide or de-unify us.
Friends, we have countless things that promote division in our world today. Naturally, we have things like political factions and racism. Spiritually, we have our denominations and our doctrines. On the other hand, the devil has had his army working together and thus the reason for his success and our failures. We have far greater power in us than he has and if we could learn to come together and operate in our proper rank and file, we would be unstoppable by the enemy. Amen?
So it is no wonder why Satan fights unity so much! It is because He fears the body of believers who might join together with one common goal. This is why you see church splits. This is why you see division in the community. And this is why you see such an escalation of divorce. It is because his number one goal is to divide! For a house divided against itself cannot stand.
Do you remember when Jesus was accused of casting out demons by Beelzebub (see Mark chapter 3)? What was His response? He said that Satan cannot cast out Satan, for a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25). So, as we have seen, there is order in Satan’s camp. It is not perfect chaos. He has a systematic order in his kingdom because he knows the power of operating in this way. Friends, he has order, and each demon in his kingdom works according to their assignment and their position.
So, let’s quickly turn over to Genesis chapter 11 and see an example of how Satan inspired the event called the Tower of Babel: In this chapter, we see the story of a man called Nimrod, and this man had a plan. He and his people decided they wanted to make a name for themselves. So, they planned to build a tower that would reach to the heavens lest they be scattered across the earth. Well, God saw what they purposed in their heart to do and came down and divided their language because He said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them” (Genesis 11:6). That is a powerful statement!
GOD’S STRUCTURE WORKS!
But again, my point is, we can see that the devil counterfeits everything that is God. Why? Because he knows it works. Yes, the devil knows that God’s structure of authority and His way of operating works! And, church, we need to know it works too!
For example, God basically said something similar that he did in Genesis 11:6 but this time is was out of the mouth of Jesus when He said that nothing shall be impossible for us. And why was there the prospect of this people accomplishing anything and nothing being impossible for them to do? It was because they were one! It was because they all had one language! It was because they had tapped into a spiritual law that when a people become one and they pursue a common goal—with one mind, one mouth, and in one accord—nothing shall be impossible for them.
So, if this is a true principle for Satan and the ungodly, how much more do you reckon this will work for the body of Christ!?! I guarantee you that if it works for them tenfold; it will work for us a hundredfold! And, as a matter of fact, the Lord said it this way—if one can put a thousand to flight, then two can put ten thousand to flight! This is why the Bible tells us that a threefold cord is not easily broken—because when two of us agree on earth concerning anything we ask; God gets involved and all things are possible!
We’ve already seen it work like this in the Book of Acts, haven’t we? Acts 2:1-3 says, “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord and in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues (that’s the only thing you will ever find divided in God’s kingdom), and one sat upon each of them. And then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Friends, when they gathered together in that upper room in one accord, the Holy Spirit—the anointing Himself—came upon each one of this royal priesthood and took ordinary men and women and made them extraordinary! That oil was poured out on them and was mixed with those tongues of fire and they became the light of the world. Hallelujah! They became that golden lampstand filled with oil and with fire at the wick to burn bright in this dark and perverse generation. But how did it all start? As they were in one place and in one accord!
So I encourage you today—do not let the kingdom of darkness bring division into your house, our house, etc. Guard your hearts from those spirits of strife and division that seek to de-unify us from others. It is a ploy of our enemy—he arrays his army in a unified way for the primary purpose of de-unifying us. Don’t let him do it. Don’t give division place. Amen.
YOU ARE MARKED AND SEALED!
Finally, let’s look at what the apostle John saw next in verses 16-18. It was that mark that the antichrist & false prophet caused all of the human population to receive, commonly known as the mark of the beast.
Now this, like the antichrist and many other negative parts of Revelation, have caused a lot of anxiety and fear in the body of Christ. I have even seen movies made about this and in these movies, you see the people actually being given a mark on their foreheads of 666. That is not what the apostle John saw!
While it is true that there will be something that will be required to buy and sell in that day, Revelation 13:17 does not tell us that the mark will be a literal 666; it says to let him who is wise & understanding calculate the number of the beast. That means that the numbers themselves are not that evil, mark of the beast.
Now before we go on a tangent, trying to figure out what this mark is and what the numbers 666 add up to, let me say this—Why would we spend our time trying to figure out the mark of the beast when there is also a mark given to us by God? That’s right! The Bible says that you and I already have a mark—no, not the mark of the beast, but the mark of the Lamb!
You see, according to the following chapter (Revelation 14:1), He puts His seal on the foreheads of those who are His. And as we saw earlier in this series, this seal that the Lord put on the foreheads of His people was a sign that kept them from harm (See Revelation 7:3 & 9:4). So, if one has the seal of God on the forehead, they are kept—from both harm upon their person and from the deception of the enemy. That’s something to get excited about, right there!
Let me give you a good biblical example of this: Second Timothy 2:17-18 tells us— “And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.”
Allow me to take some liberty with this verse in order to make a point: Let’s say it this way— “And their message will spread like cancer. The antichrist and his false prophet are of this sort, who needless to say are so far from the truth and will overthrow the faith of even many of the elect.”
How many of you know that they could have camped on this verse and started wringing their hands worrying about how these false teachers were evidently capable of overthrowing the faith of some through their false teachings like many have feared concerning the antichrist. But what does Second Timothy 2:19 go on to say? “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’”
Church, that is what we need to focus on when it comes to the antichrist and his mark—the “nevertheless” that says that we stand on the sealed, solid foundation of God! That means that you and I do not have to be moved when the worst of times and greatest deceptions occur—because we stand on that solid foundation that has the following seal— “The Lord knows those who are His” and “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Amen!
Saints, we have to know that God’s mark on us says He knows us! What a remarkable thing to know that God knows you and I! Praise God! But here is the truth that reiterates what we said earlier—He knows those who know Him. And because he knows us by name and we know His name, He will keep and protect us! Amen!
But the second thing is how we can make sure we have protection from deception—departing from iniquity. You see, sin deals with the action or lack of action that is wrong; iniquity, on the other hand, deals more with the character or nature of the wrong action. In other words, iniquity seems to be the motivating factor behind wrong behavior. Therefore, for us to allow iniquity is to allow more of an opportunity for entering into deception. This is why the heart is to be guarded with all diligence. Amen?
So, when it comes to the great deception that will come in these last days, let me share with you something the Lord told me early in my Christian walk when I was concerned about ever being deceived myself:
Knowing I was called to the ministry, I was concerned as to whether I would teach things that were incorrect, thinking I was teaching the right things. So, I pleaded with the Lord to protect me from ever being deceived. So, the next morning after praying that, I woke up to these words replaying in my spirit— “Second Peter, Second Peter, Second Peter…” After laying there for a bit, I finally realized that the Lord wanted me to get up and read that Book of the Bible. And to make a long story short, He showed me from Second Peter 1:5-8 that all I need to do is walk in the light that I know, and He will always keep me free from deception. In other words, what the Lord was teaching me was that in order to not led astray by error, all I need to do is walk in the truth that He has given me.
Church, there are things we can do to keep ourselves from the great deception to come. But the same truths will keep you and I from the spirit of antichrist that John told us is already in this world (See First John 2:18 & 4:3). So, let’s walk in the light as He is in the light! Let’s handle the Word of Life so that we can discern the counterfeits. It is all based in knowing Jesus—both through an intimate relationship with Him and through the Scriptures. Let’s be Pro-Christ, and we will live Pro-tected.
Let’s continue our series today based on the Book of Revelation which is entitled “The Revelation.” Again, I have titled it this because this Book is not a Book of Revelations, but rather a Book revealing to us one Person—the Lord Jesus Christ in His resurrected and glorified state! In other words, it is a message containing good news, not just the bad news that most have made it out to be. Therefore, when we read this Book through this lens it will produce hope instead of dread, fear, and anxiety. And that’s exactly what I’ve noticed this series doing for most of you—I’ve seen that it has produced joy and happiness, which should not be strange to us because we saw in Revelation 1:3 that we are supposed to be blessed when we read and hear the message of Revelation.
So, we have covered that Jesus is the very spirit behind prophecy, and that includes end-time prophecy. In other words, He is the message behind the message! So, we are focusing on the fact that He is both the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end—of the Book of Revelation, and not just focusing on what happens in the middle of it all.
Then we looked at the seven golden lampstands—those seven churches of Asia Minor that Jesus had the apostle John write letters to. In this message, we studied what I called seven pillars contained in these seven letters to the churches, which were seven things that we see repeated and emphasized in these seven letters that not only related to the church then, but to the church of today as well.
Now some of these seven things were encouraging words and others were corrections. But we saw that even though five of these churches were corrected for many things, John did not see a couple of golden lampstands and then the other five were silver, bronze, etc. No, he saw seven golden churches—showing us that even though some churches and their members are “tarnished” with sin, flaws, and failures, they were still gold—the most precious commodity in the kingdom of God. Amen!
Then, a couple of weeks ago, we moved on to Revelation chapter 4 & 5 and looked at the transition of this Book. We saw that “after these things” the apostle John looked and saw a door standing open in heaven where he was invited to come up through and to see things from God’s perspective. I made the point that I believe this statement is extremely important in leading into the things John saw and wrote down for us. Why? It is because everything the Lord showed him that was to take place was from “up there.” In other words, it was from heaven’s perspective, not an earthly, carnal perspective.
Church, we need to “come up hither” too and become more spiritually-minded concerning these things because when we do, a new perspective of the Revelation will occur: We will have that hope replace the fear! We will have that excitement substituted for dread! And we will have His joy overcome our anxiety!
Then in the second verse of Revelation chapter 4, John began explaining what he saw: So, we learned that what John saw first is what we need to see first in our lives—the throne and the One who is seated on it! In other words, we need to see what the highest authority is and who is He who is seated in that seat of ultimate authority—and we can see that it is El Elyon Himself! And we learned that no matter what happens on this earth, no matter how bad things get, the Lord God Almighty will always remain on the throne! He doesn’t fall off! He doesn’t change. He doesn’t deviate from His consistent rule and victory over all! That’s only us who does that—and the way we can keep ourselves from doing so is by opening our spiritual eyes to see the truth that God indeed is the King of kings and Lord of lords and He reigns forevermore!
So, I believe it is important for us to know the first thing the apostle John saw when he came up hither. It wasn’t the dragon. It wasn’t the beast. It wasn’t the plagues, the bowls of wrath, or the judgments. No, it wasn’t all of the bad things that are to come upon the earth; it was the throne of God that he saw first. So, we learned that living down here on the earth, it is easy to keep our mind stayed on things of the earth. In other words, it is easy to focus on the curse, the death, and all of the things the god of this world is doing. But I believe we are called to elevate our way of thinking and see things, not from an earthly perspective, but from a heavenly perspective.
But then we read that what John saw happening around the throne of God was lost in the sound of heaven—that is, the Father was being praised and glorified by the various hosts of heaven! So, we learned that this is not just what ought to be done in heaven; we learned that what is done in heaven ought to be done on the earth too. And here is the good news that we learned regarding that: when we lift the Lord Jesus up like they do in heaven and we see the earth as filled with the glory of God, all of heaven is drawn to it. He is the King of God’s kingdom and whenever and wherever the King is praised, heaven will be there to participate. Glory to God!
Then last time, we moved on to Revelation chapter 6-11 where the Great Tribulation began to be described. So, what we learned last week was how we can be ready for not only the “Great Tribulation” that is going to come upon the earth, but also how we can be prepared for the other little tribulations that you and I face in our everyday lives.
But when it comes to the Great Tribulation that will occur at the end, we learned that there are certainly “Woes,” but to us, there is a completely different perspective to be had. We do not have to focus on the “Woes” because we got the “Wows”!?! And the biggest “Wow” that we took away from last week is found in First Thessalonians 5:8— “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now some take this to mean that we will be raptured before the Great Tribulation comes upon the earth, and that might be exactly how He does it. But we learned that it could also mean that even when the fire is going on around us, we come out of it without even the smell of smoke. Amen! So, whether we are here through the Great Tribulation to come or we at some point at the beginning of these birth pangs are taken off the earth, the bottom line is that our lot is salvation, deliverance, and protection! Period. Amen!
Sure, we are going to have some birth pangs to endure. Yes, there might be some discomfort as these things come to pass. But we learned that no matter the pain or the discomfort, we know that we know that the baby is on the way! All of this pointed to the fact that you and I ought to be “expecting” (i.e. hope) because, oh “baby,” do we have something to look forward to! Amen?
So, the point I left you with last time is the encouragement that it is not for us to eat from these bowls of wrath—for we are not appointed to God’s wrath! Our lot is salvation and all that goes with it. So, whether we are here, or we are gone, we need not fear these birth pangs that are coming upon the earth. Why? Because we live in that spiritual Land of Goshen to where when the plagues were poured out on Egypt (i.e. the world), they were kept by the Blood of the Lamb. Amen!
THE WOMAN, HER CHILD, AND THE DRAGON
Now we turn our attention to Revelation chapter 12 where John saw a great sign in heaven. It was of a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.
This woman certainly seems to represent Mary, the mother of Jesus—as she was the woman chosen by God to give birth to our Messiah, which the child obviously points to. However, I believe this woman represents God’s people in general in that Israel was considered to be married to the Lord and were the ones whom the Lord Jesus came through. So, as we look at this woman and her child, look at it like the people of God—both past and present—and their Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ.
Then notice the sun, moon and stars that were a part of what John saw when he saw this woman: These were those two great lights and the rest of the stars that God created in the beginning. You see, we as the people of God today are clothed with the sun in that we have put on Christ, who is the Sun of Righteousness. The moon under our feet represents the light that we, as His church, now possess to place all things under our feet. And the twelve stars on her head represent how God has crowned His creation with glory and honor (Psalm 8:5).
So, praise God, this is the way the Lord sees His covenant people! We are clothed with the “Son” Himself! We stand on the Moon in that we reflect the Light of the world! And we are crowned with God’s lovingkindness and tender mercies!
Then we see in the second verse that the woman began to cry out in labor and pain as she was about to give birth to the Lord—which we saw last week how all of these birth pangs are symbolic of the difficult things which will take place on the earth before the end comes. So, I see this as the hardship and “tribulation” that Israel incurred as they were the one’s called to birth the Messiah.
This is reflected in the following verse as John saw another sign appear in heaven: He said, “Behold, a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.” (Revelation 12:3-4).
So, this great fiery red dragon is obviously the devil (See verse 9). His seven heads, ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads are subject to interpretation, but the bottom line is they represent characteristics of him and his reign here as the god of this world. Now his tail drawing a third of the stars of heaven and throwing them to the earth seems to represent the third of the angels that he deceived into following him and how they were cast from the presence of God onto the earth.
Then the next thing we see the dragon doing was standing before the woman to devour her Child she was giving birth to. And, oh, isn’t this something we see the devil doing in history? For example, when Moses was being born, he stirred up Pharaoh to have all the male babies put to death because he knew the deliverer was coming. Then, at the time of Jesus’ birth, he stirred up Herod to have all the male children put to death because he knew the Savior was being born.
So, we see the devil using evil men to kill babies because he has always wanted to stop the Savior, Deliverer, and Messiah from coming forth. And we can see the same thing happening even today with the millions of babies who are being murdered—perhaps the devil is trying to kill off a generation of deliverers whom God is birthing??? But, of course, we know the devil was not able to stop the birth of Moses and Jesus—showing us that the devil’s best attempts to kill God’s purposes will never succeed. Amen!
Verse 5 goes on to tell us--"She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.” This verse describes everything from the birth of Christ to His ascension to the right hand of God! Glory to God! And I can just imagine that this beat-down the devil got seemed just about as quick! Before the devil knew it, he was disarmed, dethroned and defeated! Hallelujah!
Then in verse 6, we see the next dispensation of God, as the woman (i.e. the Israel of God) flees into the wilderness where God prepared a place for her to be taken care of for 1,262 days. Many people see this as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ after His ascension because this specific time-period is a consistent symbol of the persecution and tribulation of the early, first century church.
THE WAR IN THE HEAVENLIES
Then we move on in verses 7-9 to what seems to be what transpired in the heavenly realm through Jesus’ birth, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension: Which is what? “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
Of course, this “war” was no contest and the dragon and his angels did not prevail. And the result was that the great dragon was “cast out” and there was no place found for him in heaven any longer. This is extremely important to understand because when we look at another passage of Scripture that parallels these verses in Revelation, we will see that Jesus referred to this exact event with His disciples…
In Luke 10:17-20, we have the account of Jesus’ seventy disciples returning with joy saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!” after they were sent out to heal the sick, cast out demons, etc. Now notice the language here, “even the demons are subject to us…” This statement makes it clear that His disciples had a certain sense of awe over the power and authority of Satan and his kingdom because when they said even the demons are subject to them, they are basically putting the casting out of demons in an elite category.
But notice how Jesus responded to their rejoicing: I guarantee you that He did not respond like they expected Him to respond. He said, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven.” Now the question they might have had when He made this statement (and we should be asking as well) is why did Jesus say this? Well, if you look down at verse 20, He explains--“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven!”
So what Jesus was saying was that our cause for rejoicing should not be because the demons obey us when we tell them to leave; our cause for joy should be because our names are written in heaven! Why? It is because demons obeying our voice is evidently a much lesser deal than our names being written in heaven. And let me explain why…
Notice again that Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven” and here in verse 20, He said that we are to rejoice in the fact that our names are written in heaven. So, Satan fell out of heaven and our names are now written up in heaven. I submit to you that Jesus was saying that we are not to rejoice in the fruit of our authority, but rather, we are to rejoice in the root of our authority! In other words, because our names are now written in heaven, we have assumed the position that Satan and his angels lost in heaven (and an even better position than that because we are in Christ).
You see, when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are immediately made citizens of heaven—thus, our names being written in heaven. And through this establishment of our citizenship in heaven, we are delegated authority from heaven. So, it should be of no surprise to us that the demons must bow their knee when we give them orders in the name of Jesus. Why? It is because we now occupy that position that he (i.e. Lucifer) once held! And as I just said, our position is even greater than the one he held while he was in heaven because we are in Christ and seated with Him in heavenly places. So, this makes it even more clear why Jesus downplayed their rejoicing over the demons being subject to them. It was because having authority over the devil is really not a big deal when you look at it from this perspective—namely, from the perspective of being seated at the right hand of God in Christ. Hallelujah!
But the very fact that Satan, that old dragon, fell like lightening from heaven should convince us without a shadow of a doubt that he is under our feet and must heed the voice of God’s Word spoken through us, the Lord’s legal representatives! I mean, it is no contest! We have been given the name above all names, the name of Jesus! We have been washed in the blood of the Lamb! We have been born from above and made citizens of His omnipotent kingdom! So why do we let Him push us around—using our minds for His own personal playground and afflicting our bodies with all of these damnable sicknesses and weaknesses? He has no legal jurisdiction in our lives, saints! So, give him no place in your life!
NOW SALVATION IS
Now put your shouting clothes on because look at what Revelation 12:10 goes on to say which echoes Luke chapter 10— “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before God day and night, has been cast down.’”
Notice that this loud voice in heaven said, “Now salvation …” It didn’t say yesterday salvation or tomorrow salvation; it said, “NOW salvation!” As we see in Hebrews 11:1— “Now faith is…” It doesn’t say, “Now faith was” or “Tomorrow faith is.” Faith is now, and the faith that now is, is for a salvation that is now! Amen!
This is why the Bible teaches us what it does in Second Corinthians 6:1-2— “We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
Notice that the grace of God can be received in vain. How? By believing it is all up to God. So how would we then receive it to where it’s not in vain? This is our receiving His grace in faith—the faith that understands that the day of our salvation is now and that it is the acceptable time for us to receive that salvation. Amen?
Church, because the accuser of the brethren has been cast down and fell like lightening from heaven, our salvation has already come! Because our names are now written in heaven—salvation, strength, the kingdom of God, and the power of Christ have come us ward! We are not waiting on these things now that the roles have been reversed! They are our present inheritance in that we are now citizens of the kingdom of God in heaven and Satan has been cast down from heaven! We are seated in the position of authority—at the right hand of God in Christ. Therefore, salvation, strength, the kingdom of God, and the power of Christ have come in us because we are positionally seated in the heavenly places in Christ.
There is significance in all of these terms—salvation, strength, the kingdom of God, and the power of Christ—but because of time restraints, I want us to look specifically at the first word “salvation,” because this particular term encapsulates the point the Holy Spirit wants to make with us today.
Friends, salvation has come, and salvation means more than what most see it as. Most of the church today sees “salvation” as a “get out of hell free card.” In other words, they only see their salvation as the free gift of God which keeps us from going to hell and enables us to go to heaven. But it means so much more than that, saints!
The Greek word for “salvation” is the word soterion and describes deliverance, but not just deliverance from the penalty of sin; it describes deliverance from all the dominion of the kingdom of darkness! Hallelujah! It means deliverance, freedom, and liberation! It means healing, prosperity, and peace! Salvation means to be delivered from all the kingdom of darkness—both spiritually and naturally! So, our deliverance from the rule of Satan and sin spans much wider than many have seen! We are delivered from all of the works of darkness—all except that last enemy which is to be defeated, which is death.
Friends, our salvation has already come! And with this salvation package we have already received comes many other benefits and in this case, they are strength, power, and the kingdom! This is a far cry from the way the majority of the church lives: Most of the church today is weak, powerless, and does not rule over the kingdom of darkness. But this is not what we are called unto! We are called to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might! We are called to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner man! We are called to rule and reign in life as kings because His kingdom is within us! We are overcomers because we are positioned far above all principalities and powers!
Let’s look some verses that establish these things to us …
DISARMED, DETHRONED, AND DEFEATED
First John 3:8 tells us one of Jesus’ purposes for coming to this world. John says, “…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” The word “destroy” literally means to “loose” or “untie” This means that Jesus came to set us free from sin’s control and sin’s effects. Sin no longer has dominion over us (Romans 6:14)! We have a new master and are no longer slaves to our former master.
In Hebrews 2:14 we are told that Jesus came and lived as a man and then died in man’s sins “…that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” The word “destroy” means “to make of non-effect, to paralyze, or to render inoperative.” One translation said that Jesus made Him a “zero”. This verse is saying that Jesus “paralyzed” the devil through His triumph at the cross. He took away Satan’s power over our lives.
Jesus didn’t just get back the authority we lost from the devil in a quiet, nice way. He literally rubbed the devil’s nose in it: Colossians 2:15 says, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
This verse describes what Jesus did when He was resurrected on the third day. When He was made alive after spending three days and three nights in the pit of hell, Jesus plundered the enemy’s camp, totally defeating him.
Notice the first two words in this awesome verse— “Having disarmed.” This isn’t something Jesus is going to do; it is something He has already done! The word “disarmed” describes “stripping the garments and/or armor off.” This word was used to depict the stripping of the enemy’s weaponry and artillery and leaving him without any weapons with which to respond. One scholar even noted that this word describes “stripping to the point of complete nakedness.” The King James Version translates this word as “spoiled” which would describe Jesus as taking the possessions of the principalities and powers. This means that when Jesus was resurrected, He totally whipped and stripped the enemy and left them with nothing. He took all of their armor away from them! This gives new meaning to the Old Testament verse that says, “No weapon formed against you will prosper.” Under the New Covenant, Satan has been stripped of his weapons that he used to keep us in bondage before Jesus came. Now the only effective weapon that he can form against us is the illusion that he even has an effective weapon! In other words, his only effective weapon now is deception!
So, we can gather from these first two words “having disarmed” that Jesus has already (past tense) taken away the enemy’s weapons. How could he ever defeat us if he doesn’t even have any weapons left? The only way he can is if he can convince us that he’s got an effective weapon against us. The only way he can win is if he can get us to give up, thinking he’s won. His only effective weapon left is deception. It is like someone who robs a bank with his pointed finger in his pocket. If that robber convinces the bank employees that what he is pointing at them is a real gun then he can cause them to give him all the money but if they know that he does not really have a weapon then they will not give him squat!
So, what all of these verses tell us is that Jesus has already totally defeated Satan and his cohorts. It is a finished work! The devil is not going to get any more defeated than he already is! Therefore, we must always approach the end-time events we read in the Book of Revelation with this mindset—that the enemy has already been defeated and we already have the victory!
In Second Corinthians 2:14 the Apostle Paul said, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ…” The word “triumph” here is the same word used for “triumphing” in Colossians 2:15 which describes a victory parade for a conquering army and its leader. So by saying that He is leading us in this victory parade, Paul is saying that we are the soldiers that accompany Jesus after He spoiled the principalities and powers and led them in this humiliating parade. In other words, we partake in His victory without ever having to fight the battle. That’s why Paul said what he did in Romans 8:37— “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” We are not just “conquerors” but we are “more than conquerors”! This means that we are conquerors that didn’t even have to fight the battle and we still get to partake in the victory parade.
First Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We already have the victory in every trial and tribulation that comes our way through the works of our Lord Jesus Christ! Look at what verse 58 says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable…” Paul was saying, “Therefore (in light of this victory Jesus gave us) be sturdy and immovable”. The devil will always turn up the pressure on us but all we are to do is stand and resist his pressure to give up. The only way the devil can defeat us is if he can make us stop standing our ground and quit. That’s why in the early church “patience” was most the most desired virtue. The word translated “patience” meant “staying under power.” In other words, it was the power to stay under Satan’s pressure without moving. The early church had an extreme amount of pressure on them to deny Jesus but they knew if they had “the queen of all virtues” (what they called “patience”) they would win one way or the other.
Through this verse and Second Corinthians 2:14 what do we see that our reaction should be in response to this victory and triumph that we have? They both start with “thanks be to God!” Our response to trials and tribulations that come our way should be— “Thanks be to God who always leads me in triumph and who always gives me victory!” Our job is to thank God for the win that He has already provided. Amen.
But let’s now look at how John saw the church overcoming in Revelation chapter 12 …
THEY WHO OVERCOME HIM
Revelation 12:11 goes on to say— “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
Who is the “they” here? It’s obviously talking about the people of God, God’s children, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. They (we) overcame him. Now as we learned already from First John 5:4-5, this victory that overcomes is our faith—faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But notice what both our faith is in and how it is evidenced—in three things:
Well, the first and most obvious key to overcoming the dragon is the blood of the Lamb: You see, if it weren’t for Jesus’ sacrifice and His shed blood on the Cross, there is no way we could overcome the enemy of our soul. But because of the blood—the blood that has washed us from our sins and is now presently applied to our lives—there is no way we should lose.
But this is why we must go back to the basics on some things. Few people preach on the blood anymore lest they offend people. Well, let them be offended—for it is the blood that has cleansed, forgiven, blessed, delivered, protected, healed, and prospered me! Amen? Church, we need more pleading of the blood in our lives because I can assure you, it is speaking on our behalf better things than Abel’s blood was speaking. Amen!
But the next key to overcoming the devil is the word of our testimony: Bless God, the word of our testimony is also a key component in this victorious life because how many of you know, there are a lot of people out there who have experienced the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood, yet they do not live victorious lives? Why? It is because experiencing all that God has for us is not just based on what He has done for us by His grace. We must cooperate! And one of the ways we cooperate is by our words.
I like to look at this way—Did you notice that the devil is called in the preceding verse “the accuser of the brethren” and that he would accuse them before God day and night? Well, imagine you are on trial in a courtroom, and your father—God the Father—is the judge, your defense attorney (i.e. Advocate) is your older brother, the Lord Jesus Christ (who just happened to never have lost a case), and the prosecuting attorney (i.e. adversary) is the devil.
You see, the accuser of the brethren will constantly make accusations against us in an attempt to get us to agree with him and accept the guilt of our mistakes. The biggest mistake we can make as saints of God is to plead guilty when those accusations are brought against us. If we do that, then I don’t care who your lawyer is—you will be condemned! But the reality is that Jesus Christ is our advocate and if He be for us who can be against us (Romans 8:31)! So, with that scenario, how could we lose a case? The answer is what we have already learned—to admit to the guilt.
That is where the word of our testimony comes in: We must cling to the Word (i.e. logos)—that is, what is written, and hold fast to our confession of faith. This is the testimony that we are to speak when we are put on the stand—not what we feel or what we think. We only speak the truth—the truth of what we read in the Scriptures and what we’ve experienced in our lives that agrees with the truth. Amen? If we only speak this, we won’t lose the case and the devil will never be able to overcome us! Amen!
But then there is one final element to overcoming—not loving our lives unto death. A lot of people like to leave this one off, but it is important because how many of you know, if you love your life too much then if the threat of you losing your life for what you believe comes up, you might lose your confession? That is why the willingness to die for what you say you believe is a big part of overcoming. That’s because if one does not quit—does not quit believing, standing, confessing, etc.—they will always win. Therefore, endurance and patience are key to overcoming the devil.
THE END OF THE STORY
Then, in the remainder of chapter 12, we see the wrath of the dragon and how he now persecutes the “woman” and her “offspring.” But what I want you to see is how, even though the devil persists in trying to destroy the people of God, the Lord provides ways of escape from him.
For example, notice in Revelation 12:15 that the dragon spewed from his mouth something like a flood that he might carry the people of God away. But we see in the following verses that the earth actually fought for the woman by opening up and swallowing the flood. This reminds me of that Scripture found in Isaiah 59:19 which says, “…When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”
So, this is where our faith must always be—that no matter when that old dragon spews that flood against us—doing the things he does to try and destroy us—the Holy Spirit will lift up a standard against him! Therefore, no matter what the devil throws at us in these end-times, we can rest assured in the fact that both heaven & earth will raise up a standard to protect and keep us! Amen!
So, my point today is this—The devil was defeated in the past when he and a third of the angels tried to take over heaven. He was defeated after that through the Cross of Christ when Jesus plundered the gates of hell through His resurrection. But guess what? One of the big parts of the Book of Revelation is the victory we have to look forward to in the future. Yes, we have the end of the story, and it forecasts the ultimate defeat of Satan and the kingdom of darkness.
You see, in Revelation chapters 18-20 we see the fall of the empire Satan will build in the last days known as Babylon. It will be destroyed, the beast (i.e. the antichrist) and his false prophet will be thrown into the lake of fire, and Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years! Then after those thousand years have expired, the devil will be released but soon will also be cast into the lake of fire with the others to be tormented day and night forever and ever! Glory!
So, here is the lesson to be learned—no matter how much it looks like Satan is winning (especially in these last days), don’t lose heart because we know the end of the story! And when you know what’s going to happen at the end of the story, all the suspense should be eliminated! Why? Because we know the outcome of the game—and that is that we will ultimately win! Church, let us rejoice now like we know the final score!
So, we are continuing our series today that is based on the Book of Revelation entitled “The Revelation.” I call it the Revelation because who it reveals to us is the only one true revelation, Jesus Christ.
Yes, many believe that this last Book of the Bible is a book “revealing” many different things, but the truth is that it is primarily meant to reveal to us one thing, the Truth Himself. Therefore, when we read this Book through this lens—that it is actually good news and not bad news—it will produce hope instead of dread.
So, a couple of weeks ago, we looked at the seven golden lampstands—those seven churches of Asia Minor that Jesus had the apostle John write letters to. And while we did not spend a fraction of the time we could have spent studying Jesus’ words to these seven churches described in Revelation chapters 2-3, we did look at what I called seven pillars contained in these seven letters to the churches. These were seven things that we see repeated and emphasized in these seven letters that not only related to the church then, but to the church of today as well.
Now some of these seven things were encouraging words and others were corrections. But we saw that even though five of these churches were corrected for many things, John did not see a couple of golden lampstands and then the other five were silver, bronze, etc. No, he saw seven golden churches—showing us that even though some churches and their members are “tarnished” with sin, flaws, and failures, they were still gold—the most precious commodity in the kingdom of God. Amen!
Then, last week, we moved on to Revelation chapter 4 & 5 and looked at the transition of this Book. We saw that “after these things” the apostle John looked and saw a door standing open in heaven. So, we saw from this that the veil has been rent! Now we can enter into His most holy place by the precious blood of the Lamb! And it is from this spiritual place that not only we can worship Him, but where we can see things from His perspective better.
Which is exactly what the Lord invited John to do—to “come up hither” and see the things which would take place after this. I made the point that I believe this statement is extremely important in leading into the things John saw and wrote down for us. Why? It is because everything the Lord showed him that was to take place was from “up there.” In other words, it was from heaven’s perspective, not an earthly, carnal perspective.
I stated last week that it is for this reason that I believe much of the things we have written in the Book of Revelation between chapters 4 & 22 are written from a spiritual perspective and are not necessarily describing to us literal events. So, in my opinion, for people to spend their time trying to make all of these things fit into the worldly events we will experience might not be exactly correct.
But the main point the Holy Spirit made to us was that we all should have more of a heavenly perspective on things. I believe this is even more important for the days we are currently living in because all of the things we are experiencing in this world right now and the things that lie ahead require a spiritual perspective to where we can see what is really happening, and for us not to get swept away with the issues of this world.
Church, we need to “come up hither” too and become more spiritually minded concerning these things because when we do, a new perspective of the Revelation will occur: We will have hope replace the fear! We will have excitement substituted for dread! And we will have joy overcome the anxiety!
Then in the second verse of Revelation chapter 4, John began explaining what he saw. So, we learned that what John saw first is what we need to see first in our lives—the throne and the One who is seated on it! In other words, we need to see what the highest authority is and who is He who is seated in that seat of ultimate authority—and we can see that it is El Elyon Himself!
You see, church, no matter what happens on this earth. No matter how bad things get. The Lord God Almighty will always remain on the throne! He doesn’t fall off! He doesn’t change. He doesn’t deviate from His consistent rule and victory over all! That’s only us who does that—and the way we can keep ourselves from doing so is by opening our spiritual eyes to see the truth that God indeed is the King of kings and Lord of lords and He reigns forevermore!
So, I believe it is important for us to know the first thing the apostle John saw when he came up hither. It wasn’t the dragon. It wasn’t the beast. It wasn’t the plagues, the bowls of wrath, or the judgments. No, it wasn’t all of the bad things that are to come upon the earth; it was the throne of God that he saw first.
You see, living down here on the earth, it is easy to keep our mind stayed on things of the earth. In other words, it is easy to focus on the curse, the death, and all of the things the god of this world is doing. But I believe we are called to elevate our way of thinking and see things, not from an earthly perspective, but from a heavenly perspective.
But then we read that what John saw happening around the throne of God was lost in the sound of heaven—that is, the Father was being praised and glorified by the various hosts of heaven! But we noticed that these words they were saying were not verses to songs. They were simple statements that praised and glorified Father God.
But we learned that this is not just what ought to be done in heaven; we learned that what is done in heaven ought to be done on the earth too: Jesus taught us to pray like so— “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9-10). So, if we are to pray for things to be done here on the earth like they are done in heaven, then don’t you suppose we ought to be declaring the things that they do in heaven? Absolutely!
But aside from the praise of God the Father, do you know one of the primary things you and I are going to see in heaven? Worship of the Lamb of God! This is what we saw in Revelation chapter 5. Church, this is what they are declaring over and over in heaven—that Jesus is the One who is worthy of all glory, honor, and praise. And if we have heaven’s perspective, this is what we are going to be both seeing and declaring. The Lamb is worthy! Therefore, it’s what we ought to be doing here on the earth as well.
So, we ended in John chapter 12 where Isaiah’s vision of the Lord being high and lifted up in Isaiah chapter 11 is quoted. And we learned that it was seeing the Lord high and lifted up which changed Isaiah’s perspective on things. Therefore, we learned that we too ought to be lifting Christ Jesus up like they do in heaven.
But this is the point that I believe the Holy Spirit wants emphasized today—when we lift up and exalt Jesus on this earth through magnifying His Lordship and celebrating His salvation, all of heaven is drawn to that. He is the King of God’s kingdom and whenever and wherever the King is praised, heaven will be there to participate. Oh, glory to God!
Church, it is all about the Lamb. He is the Theme of heaven. He is the Song of heaven. He is the only Way to heaven. It’s all about Him. Jesus alone is worthy!
THE GREAT TRIBULATION
So now let’s move in the Book of Revelation where I will give you an overview of chapters 6-11: That means that today, we are going to cover a plethora of verses in the Book of Revelation, but again, we are not going to go verse by verse through them with me attempting to give you my explanation. I’ll leave that to the so-called eschatology experts because there are a lot of books that one can read, videos they can watch, and information on the internet to get into all of that if you care to. But what I feel the Lord would have us emphasize out of these chapters today will again be the attitude you and I should have towards these things.
You see, all of the things covered in Revelation 6-11 are what many consider to be part of the “Great Tribulation”—which is commonly believed to be a future seven-year period of time when God will finalize His judgment on the unbelieving world.
Now there are a lot of opinions out there regarding these things like whether the church will be here for this “Tribulation” or if we will be raptured before then. I don’t believe the Holy Spirit would have me give you my opinion on those things. Rather, I believe He would have us to focus our attention on being prepared for whatever might happen, not being able to correctly interpret the things that are going to happen. Amen?
So, that is what we are going to learn today: We are going to learn how we can be ready for not only the “Great Tribulation” that is going to come upon the earth, but also how we can be prepared for the other little tribulations that you and I face in our lives today.
But let me give you a quick overview of the things covered in these chapters of Revelation:
In Revelation 6:1-8:6, we have the opening of the Seven Seals from the Scroll the Lamb taken from the hand of God (See chapter 5). And these seven seals are a series of end-time judgments that are released on the earth. They include what are commonly known as the four horsemen of the apocalypse and the 144,000 Jews who receive their Messiah during this time-period.
Then in Revelation 8:7-11:19, we have the Seven Trumpets which will be sounded by the seven angels. These events are characterized by more plagues coming upon the earth in the Last Days—which will include unprecedented natural disasters.
But I want you to notice that after the sounding of the fourth trumpet that John looked, and heard an angel flying through heaven saying with a loud voice, “Woe, wow, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!” (Revelation 8:13). Now I would venture to say that those three woes he gave were for the three remaining trumpet blasts—which will include some terrifying things.
But this is what I want you to see in today’s message: While these are certainly “Woes,” they are only a “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth.” Guess who this is NOT referring to? The children of God! Glory to God, we are not the earth’s inhabitants—for while we are in the world, we are not of the world. Our citizenship is now in heaven!
So, to the world, yes, these are “Woes.” But to us, there is a completely different perspective to be had. We’ve got awesome things to look forward to even in the midst of these judgments—things that accompany salvation.
For example, there are many who read Hebrews chapter 6 and focus only on the part that talks about if one falls away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God (See Hebrews 6:4-8). Woe, they say, but keep reading … Hebrews 6:9 goes on to say, “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.”
So, my point is, why do we tend towards the alarming, negative things and not ever get to this verse? In other words, why do we focus on the “Woes” when we’ve got the “Wows”!?! It’s just human tendency to see the glass as half empty and focus on the negatives.
This is why we see in Revelation chapter 9 that when these locusts that come up from the bottomless pit with faces of men and tails like scorpions, they will not be given power to harm those who have the seal of God on their foreheads (See Revelation 9:4). So, my point is, even though there will be terrifying things to come upon the earth, that doesn’t mean the people of God have to be touched by it! We are redeemed from the wrath of God and His judgments on the world! Amen! (We will look further into that in a moment, but first …)
Now there are some things we are redeemed from, but other things that we aren’t. Sure, we are redeemed from natural things such as sickness, disease, and poverty. We are also redeemed from our sins, transgressions, and iniquities. But a couple thing that we are not redeemed from is persecution and the potential of dying for our faith.
You see, Jesus promised us that in the world, we will have tribulation (See John 16:33). Now the word “tribulation” simply describes a tight, heavy, and pressure situation. So, what Jesus was saying was, that as long as we are in this world, there will be tight, heavy, and pressure situations. And why? Because Satan is the god of this world, and he has control over the vast majority of people on the planet. Therefore, until that day when Jesus returns and His enemies are put under His feet, we will be harassed and persecuted by the enemy of our soul and by his representatives.
However, guess what else we are redeemed from—the wrath of God. Yes, everyone who is born again, washed in the blood, and makes Jesus their personal Lord and Savior, is redeemed from the wrath to come! That much is the truth!
Let me take you over to some verses in First Thessalonians that teaches us this and also shows us about the attitude the church ought to have concerning these things:
First Thessalonians 5:1-11 says, “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”
Now, first of all, notice in verse 8 the truth that I believe we should put our faith and hope in when it comes to all of these things: Paul said, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Oh, praise God! This should greatly comfort and edify us in many ways! For one, God has not appointed His children to His anger and wrath. In other words, He will never be angry with us (as we regularly remind ourselves here @ HPC). Hallelujah!
Now the word “appoint” comes from the Greek word tithemi which means to “set, put or lay.” So, basically Paul was saying that God has not “positioned” His people for the wrath to come. But guess what He has “put” us here for—to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Now some take this to mean that we will be raptured before the Great Tribulation comes upon the earth. And that might be exactly how He does it. But it could also mean that even when the fire is going on around us, we come out of it without even the smell of smoke. Amen!
So, whether we are here through the Great Tribulation to come or we at some point at the beginning of these birth pangs are taken off the earth, the bottom line is that our lot is salvation, deliverance, and protection! Period. Amen!
You see, as the apostle Paul goes on to say, Jesus died for us! So, whether we are awake or sleeping, whether we are here or not, we are promised that we should live together with Him. Like Paul says in verse 11, these are the words that we are to comfort and edify one another with! And I’m here today to do just that, church!
Now notice back in verse 1, Paul told this church that concerning the times and the seasons, they had no need that he should write them. That’s the way I feel about these things too—that concerning all the questions like what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, etc.—you have no need that I teach you. Why? Because as Paul goes on to say in the following verse— “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night…” Notice Paul said that we know this perfectly, not just partially. So, we know completely that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. You know, this is something that is crystal clear about the last days that so many fail to emphasize—that Jesus is returning!
I wonder why everyone wants to spend all their time interpreting the events of Revelation when the thing that we see repeated time and time again in the Scriptures is Jesus’ Second Coming. Now again, whether one believes this is before the Great Tribulation, in the middle of it, or at the end of it, that’s irrelevant. My mentality has always been and always will be—just be ready for whatever happens, not necessarily try to understand what’s going to happen. And that is what Jesus constantly taught us and what the early church evidently echoed—that He is coming again soon and very soon!
But there is another truth about His Second Coming we need to understand and that is that His day will come like a thief would come in the middle of the night—that is, when those in the world are not expecting Him to.
So, what that teaches me is that trying to interpret the times and seasons might not be the best use of our time. What we should do, however, is live our lives ready by being sober, awake, and watching.
Now there is a place for knowing the times and the seasons. Otherwise, we would not have been given the information we have by Jesus, Daniel, John, and even Paul here when he said in verse 3— “When they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them…” And the fact is, this information is vital to being able to weather the storms when they do come.
TIME TO DO THE MATH
A good example of this is found in James chapter 1: In the beginning of his letter, Pastor James says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2). Now the word “count” there is an accounting term. It means to conclude, the calculate, to consider. So, what this teaches me is that when I fall into various trials, I need to sit down, gather myself, and “do the math.”
You see, it is easy to let our emotions take control when we are going through an alarming situation, but here we see that we need to be “logical” from a spiritual perspective. Instead of flipping out about the bad things going on around me, I can gather myself and “add up” all the information Jesus has given me about situations like this. For example, my response might be: “Ah, Jesus told me not to think it strange concerning things like this happening in my life. In fact, He told me that they are opportunities to please God—for without faith it is impossible to please God. So, that means that with more faith (i.e. having to walk less by sight, feelings, etc.) I can please Him more. That means if I rejoice now, if I praise Him now, and if I worship Him now by faith, I can bring a bigger smile to His face. So, let’s do it!” What did I just do? I just “counted it all joy.”
Then in verse 3, James told us one of the main reasons we can count it all joy: He said, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”
So, notice what James uses as motivation for us counting it all joy when problems come into our lives. It is not looking ahead to our victory & deliverance from the problem. He essentially said, “We are to count it all joy knowing that it is producing patience in us!” In other words, James was using the spiritual benefits of character being built in us and virtues being developed in us as the motivation for us rejoicing in the midst of life’s difficulties. How awesome is that!?!
Now, again, this is something where we are going to have to settle ourselves down and prayerfully consider how we think about these trials & tribulations and what our response ought to be. If we respond emotionally, we will usually be led astray. We’ve got to “count” things.
Then notice what Pastor James says next in verse 4 – “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
You see, I see this verse as like a picture of pregnancy: The patience being developed in us through these trials is like the baby. But like it is with pregnancy, the baby needs the time to grow and develop in the womb. So, we need to let the patience have her perfect work in us in order that we may be truly perfect and complete.
Now I know we don’t want to stay in the trials and tribulations any longer than we have to, but this verse makes it clear that there are certain spiritual benefits to carrying it out full term. Amen? Imagine what a monstrosity it would be if a woman were to conceive a child one day and then go into labor the next day!?! She wouldn’t have had time to “count” it all joy, would she?
Likewise, we need time to make all the mental and spiritual calculations necessary to be perfect and complete to where we are lacking nothing. Amen or oh me?
BABY, IT’S ON THE WAY!
But back in First Thessalonians 5:3, notice how Paul describes these destructive times that are to come— “as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.” This is an analogy that we see used by the Master Himself. Let’s look at …
In Matthew 24:4-8, Jesus answered His disciple’s question about what will be the signs of the end-times and the end of the world as we know it. He said, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
Now when you look up the word “sorrows” it describes these birth pangs (i.e. the pain of childbirth). Now in the verses preceding, Jesus describes false-Christs, wars, rumors of wars, famines, plagues, and pestilences (See verses 5-7). These are things He called the beginning of labor pains at childbirth. So, let’s run with this for a moment—for in the mouth of these two witnesses—the apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus—we can see that these end time events are likened to labor pains upon a pregnant woman.
When a woman discovers she is pregnant, is this generally a time of depression and discouragement? I understand that sometimes that could be the initial reaction because the man and woman were not trying to have a child. But when a couple is trying to have a baby and they find out they are going to have one, they rejoice! Then, after carrying the child through the three trimesters, there is obviously discomfort for the woman. She might have morning sickness. Her belly makes things less comfortable. And whatever else goes on. But then, when those birth pangs begin, things become real!
Of course, those contractions start gradually and pretty far apart (15 or 20 minutes). But then once they start getting closer together, like say 5 minutes, she is encouraged to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Then, when they get to around 2 minutes apart, baby is almost here!
Now I know that it is not comfortable to give birth to a child and many women consider it to be the worst physical pain they’ve ever experienced. But I have never heard a woman who has gone through this say that they wish they would have never become pregnant after holding that baby in her arms. Likewise, I know the end times will hold many painful contractions, but we need to always be mindful that they are simply a part of the process of the birth of something beautiful! That is something to rejoice in!
Now whether or not the church are the “Sons” of God who will purely be spectators to the labor pains the woman goes through or if we are the “bride” of Christ who will experience these birth pangs first hand, what we do know is that neither the man nor the woman ought to let the contractions that will come upon the earth be their focal point. As it is with childbirth in the natural, the process is not the focal point. The fact that the little bundle of joy is on the way is where the focus is at! Therefore, like Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, all who are Christ’s ought to be willing to endure said birth pangs for the joy that is set before us. And what is that joy? It is the birth of the new heavens and the new earth where only righteousness dwells and we will rule and reign with Him forever and ever! Glory to Jesus!
Now another interesting point is that in the process of childbirth, something else is supposed to happen. The woman’s water needs to break which, of course, speeds up the process of the delivery. Well, I see this water breaking as another great sign of the last days—for we are promised the outpouring of the latter rain in those days! Glory to God!
How many of you know that out of our belly will flow rivers of living water, and this is the promise of the Holy Spirit being poured out in abundance over the whole earth! Glory! These are exciting times we are living in, saints!
All this points to the fact that you and I ought to be “expecting” (i.e. hope) because, oh “baby,” do we have something to look forward to! Amen?
So, the point I want to leave you with today is the encouragement that it is not for us to eat from these bowls of wrath—for we are not appointed to God’s wrath! Our lot is salvation and all that goes with it. So, whether we are here, or we are gone, we need not fear these birth pangs that are coming upon the earth.
In fact, these plagues that we read about in Revelation are reminiscent of the plagues that came upon Egypt (which was a type of the world), but guess who was protected from the plagues even though they dwelt in the land of the Egyptians? God’s people in the Land of Goshen!
Glory to God, church! We live in Goshen—which is that proverbial secret place of the Most High where we dwell under the shadow of the Almighty (See Psalm 91:1). So, no matter how hot the fires of judgment get here on the earth, know that you do not have to get burned by it.
Just apply the Blood of the Lamb to your doorpost and trust God to protect you for the destruction that will come upon Egypt around you!