Category Archives: Jesus

Why Revelation

We are sure that everyone has asked the question as to why the book of Revelation is a part of the New Testament canon of Scriptures. The answer to the question is somewhat simple, but maybe needs to be occasionally reconsidered, especially when people lose hope during chaotic times.

Revelation has for many been considered an anomaly in reference to the other books of the New Testament. And indeed it is in reference to how it is written. However, when considering the fact that God would not continually send prophets among His people as He did throughout the history of Israel, He knew that His people needed encouragement in times of extreme social chaos and war. So instead of sending a prophet as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, or Ezekiel to remind His people to remain faithful and not lose hope, He had the Holy Spirit write one book of encouragement for Christians that would stay with them until the final coming of King Jesus and the end of all things.

God subsequently commissioned the Spirit that one apocalyptic message be written with cryptic symbols that would be a message of continual encouragement for Christians until the final coming of His Son. This one book—Revelation—would remind Christians that as long as they remained faithful to the victorious King Jesus, everything would turn out for good in the end. They too, as those first recipients to whom the book was written, would join in Jesus’ victory over death.

The Old Testament faithfuls had the privilege—if indeed we would use the word “privilege”—of having inspired prophets to remind the people in the midst of kingdom conflicts that their King in heaven was still in charge of all things. They could personally receive the encouragement of the prophets if they had the privilege of being within hearing distance of the prophets’ messages.

Christians today, however, have something that is far better than the occasional prophet who might pass through the village. Every evening the Christian today can sit down in his or her living room, and in the midst of social turmoil and war, be within reading distance of the same message of encouragement that the Old Testament faithfuls received only if they had the opportunity of being within hearing distance of a prophet. The Christian’s blessing over the Old Testament faithfuls, therefore, is tremendous. While bombs may be exploding around us, we can read in the book of Revelation that King Jesus is still “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tm 6:15).

God the Father “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come” (Ep 1:20,21). The kingly function of the resurrected Son of God is sprinkled throughout the New Testament letters. But it is revealed in visionary pictures throughout the book of Revelation.

So why would we have a written visionary picture of our King in action at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places? If we take time to think about this for a moment, the answer is quite obvious. Throughout the epistles the fact that King Jesus ascended to reign with all authority is stated as a matter of fact. But in the book of Revelation the Holy Spirit wanted to give the people of God, until the final coming of the King, something on which they could rely for hope in the midst of tremendous social or political conflict, especially in times of war.

Throughout the centuries, Christians would not read Revelation as if its prophecies were taking place in their present time of social chaos. On the contrary, they would read with hope, knowing that those first Christians to whom the message of the book was originally written, personally survived the fulfillment of the conflicts that were prophesied to take place in their century.

In order for the Holy Spirit to give the people of God for all time a document of encouragement, He needed to use an in-time example of deliverance from hostile forces that had set themselves against the people of God in the historical context when Revelation was written. Or, if the hardships were not direct upon Christians, the Holy Spirit needed to give hope to the people of God who had to suffer indirectly from hostilities that may be occurring around them. The message of Revelation, therefore, is that we, regardless of any present hostilities that may affect us, will survive as did the early Christians who suffered through the hostilities that are recorded in the visions of Revelation. And since those Christians survived, we too, will be survivors.

Regardless of whether direct or indirect, the Holy Spirit wanted to use some early historical conflict as an example through which the people of God prevailed with their faith, regardless of the political and social conflicts in which they had to live until King Jesus finally came in the end to end all worldly confusion. Therefore, the Spirit recorded an example of an in-time victory of the saints who lived in the midst of persecution or war in order to give Christians for at least two thousand years, a reminder that they too in any century will likewise pass through any social turmoil of the times. Regardless of where they would be in the world in a time of war or social chaos, those Christians who maintained their faith and hope in King Jesus, would be survivors, whether in death, or in actually surviving some social turmoil.

Throughout Revelation, therefore, the Spirit constantly reminded the original readers, as well as Christian readers from the time the book was originally inscribed by John, that times of turmoil would pass, but the body of Christ would survive. This message is sprinkled throughout the New Testament, but consummated in the book of Revelation. Notice in the midst of the book of Revelation the consummation of this message of encouragement: “… from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rv 1:5). He “made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rv 1:6). “All the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Amen” (Rv 1:7). “I [King Jesus] am the Alpha and the Omega … the Almighty” (Rv 1:8). “Do not fear. I [King Jesus] am the first and the last. I am He who lives. And I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. And I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Rv 1:17,18). “The living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever” (Rv 4:9). “You [King Jesus] are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and because of Your will they were created and have their existence” (Rv 4:11). “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever” (Rv 5:13).

To add to John’s redundancy on this theme throughout Revelation, consider the theme verse of the entire book: These will make war with the Lamb and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings. And those who are with Him are called and chosen and faithful” (Rv 17:14).

The theme of the book is obvious. The Holy Spirit needed an in-time example of the faithful overcoming those earthly powers who ignored the kingship of Jesus, and thus assaulted Christians directly. He needed a historical message of victory for those who would have to endure wars between earthly states from which they, too, would indirectly suffer hardship until the final coming of King Jesus.

There are two possible in-time conflicts through which the original recipients of Revelation had to remain faithful in the first and second centuries. The reader can make his choice as to which conflict John referred directly, whether Jewish or Roman persecution. But we must be very clear on one point here in making a choice concerning what modern-day self-appointed false prophets have harped for years concerning their twisted interpretation of the book of Revelation. These “theologians” have assumed that the book of Revelation was a prophecy of events that would transpire at the end of time. By twisting the prophecies of Revelation to make them refer specifically to present events, they have stolen the message of Revelation from the original recipients to whom John wrote.

Such “prophetic thieves” have likewise stolen a message of hope in Revelation from centuries of faithful Christians who needed a Spirit-inspired historical record of faithfulness during persecution. But modern-day prophets have stolen away the purpose of Revelation from being an encouraging message to those who had to endure the traumatic experience of social chaos and war when Revelation was first written. For this reason, a great number of discouraged Christians today have simply stayed away from reading the book, even though they are in the midst of great suffering.

Christians throughout the centuries have endured many of the same hardships that the early recipients of Revelation suffered. Christians throughout the years have endured by reading a Book of encouragement that was written in the first century who suffered and survived great social turmoil. We today have been encouraged by the examples of faithfulness of those early Christians who were suffering in the first century when the book of Revelation was first written.

Unfortunately, too many modern-day prognosticators have accused the Holy Spirit of missing the date for the fulfillment of the encouraging prophecies of Revelation by almost two thousand years. When John wrote that the prophecies of the book would shortly come to pass, modern-day prophets assume that “shortly come to pass” means at least two thousand years (See Rv 1:1; 22:6).

The early Christians suffered dismay and death as they struggled through persecution. They did so in hope of deliverance in A.D. 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem. The modern-day prognosticators have likewise accused the Holy Spirit of missing the time for an encouraging prophetic message that was written to those who initially experienced—even being fed to lions in the Roman Coliseum—of the Roman Empire. This persecution was not terminated until the rise of Caesar Constantine and his signing of the Edit of Toleration in A.D. 311. But at the time, the persecuted needed to know that the Holy Spirit had not gone wrong in reference to the fulfillment of the encouraging message of Revelation that God would bring vengeance on their persecutors in their time.

Modern-day prophetic speculators should be concerned about their stealing an encouraging message of hope away from every Christian who has lived in the last two thousand years. Thousands of first century Christians personally endured harsh persecution from Jewish persecutors, and later the Roman state psychopaths who sought to produce entertainment in the Roman Coliseum by throwing Christians to starved lions. By faith these persecuted Christians remained faithful unto death because they believed that King Jesus was King of kings and Lord of Lords (See Rv 2:10). The twisting of these precious words of encouragement for Christians since that first disciple was thrown to a salivating lion will certainly lead to destruction of those who misapply the prophecies of the book of Revelation (2 Tm 4:3,4; 2 Pt 3:16).

As stated previously, we read the book of Revelation to receive hope from the example of the faithful. We do not read the book with fear of some impending prophecy of dread that is about to come upon us in our time. We read the book and glean great encouragement in the fact that since God took the early Christians through great turmoil, He will likewise do the same for us.

Now the in-time chaos through which the early Christians would be victorious could be either the destruction of the Jewish state that ended in A.D. 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem, or the termination of Roman state persecution that ended the first of the fourth century with Contantine’s signing of the Edict of Toleration. If the “beast” and “false prophet” of Revelation refer to the finalization of the Jewish state, then John would have received the prophetic visions before A.D. 70. If the “beast” and “false prophet” refer to the Roman state and state religion, then John could have received and written the prophetic visions before A.D. 97/98 when it is believed that he was eventually martyred by Roman.

Regardless of the immediate historical enemy of those to whom the book was written, the Spirit wanted the book to be written as a prophetic history book for all Christians who lived thereafter. The message of the book was prophetic to the immediate recipients, but now it is a history book of encouragement for every Christian since the prophecies of the book were fulfilled in the first and second centuries. As a history book of conquests, the message of the book is thus quite clear. As our Savior overcame, we too will be victorious in the midst of any social chaos or war in which we might presently be engulfed. As the early Christians overcame when the prophecies of Revelation were fulfilled, we have an example of their victory that we too can overcome.

While the reader makes up his or her mind concerning the date when John received the visions, and when he wrote the book, one must not miss the point of why the book of Revelation is in our New Testament. When considering the theme of the book—the victory of the saints because of the victory of King Jesus—we come to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit wanted to record for posterity an example of Christians overcoming any social chaos and persecution in which they would find themselves until the final coming of Jesus.

If we steal the fulfillment of John’s prophetic visions away from the early Christians who first received the book of Revelation, then we have stolen more than words away from two thousand years of Christians who have read the book in order to receive hope in times of turmoil. We have stolen away from the New Testament a living testimony of Christians who endured far greater hardships than most Christians have endured since then.

Jesus’ Last Words

G.  Last words of trust:

“And crying out with a loud voice, Jesus said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit!’” (Lk 23:46).   Jesus again quoted from the Psalms in order to remind the people that He had fulfilled prophecy (See Ps 31:5).   He not only fulfilled prophecy in reference to what He did in His ministry, but He also fulfilled prophecy in reference to statements that were said in prophecy.

This statement infers that Jesus lived in compliance with the will of the Father throughout His ministry. He was confident in His obedience. He could thus confidently relinquish His spirit into the hands of the Father, whom He trusted could take it from there. We read the same sentiment in the words of Stephen when he was stoned to death by an angry mob: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (At 7:59). After Stephen said these words, “he fell asleep” (At 7:60). And Jesus, after He had uttered His last words, “breathed His last” (Lk 23:46). Both trusted that the Father and Son could assume responsibility of their destiny in eternity.

We see in the final words of Jesus and Stephen their confidence in their final destiny. Such assurance should be characteristic of every disciple who nears his final breath. In our final hours, we seek to have the same confidence as Paul after he had endured tremendous hardships in order to finish his business:

I have fought the good fight. I have finished my course [business]. I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me at that day, and not only to me, but also to all those who have loved His appearing (2 Tm 4:7,8).

[End of lesson. And, Merry Christmas. I pray that this series focuses your mind on Jesus, the One about whom Christmas is all about.]







Jesus’ Last Words

E.  Last words of humanity:

 “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had now been accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst’” (Jn 19:28). We reflect on John 1:14 when John revealed that the eternal Word became flesh and dwelt among us as a man. “I thirst” are words that reveal the incarnation of God the Son who became in all ways as a man in order to deliver us from our destiny of doom.

In His suffering as a man, it would only be natural that He would thirst. But there was more in the preceding statement than the natural thirst of one who was in great suffering, and nigh unto death. The statement is a fulfillment of the words of Psalm 69:21.   In these last words, Jesus wanted to remind us again that He fulfilled all the prophecies concerning Himself and His kingdom reign. Every detail of prophecy was fulfilled, and thus, in the miracle of fulfilled prophecy all honest people, who would be seeking the true God beyond this world, would indeed conclude as the guard who was standing at the foot of the cross, Truly this was the Son of God (Mt 27:54).

F.  Last words of finality:

 “When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished’” (Jn 19:30). What was finished was the plan of redemption. He completed His business. The One who was crucified in prospect before the creation of the world had accomplished His destiny. After Jesus had created the world (Cl 1:16), He rested from His creating work (Gn 2:1,2).   And now He had finished His redemption work for those whom He had created. All the prophecies from Genesis 3:15 to the cross had been fulfilled in reference to the eternal plan of redeeming those of His creation who believed.

After the resurrection, and before His ascension, Jesus walked and talked with His disciples in order to remind them of the finality of His eternal plan of redeeming those who believed. Before His ascension, He said to the disciples,

These are the words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled that were written in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms, concerning Me” (Lk 24:44).

At the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus revealed His purpose in reference to the fulfillment of all prophecies concerning His destiny. “Do not think,” He reminded His audience, “that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill (Mt 5:17).

Once all the prophecies were fulfilled, He brought to finality the Sinai law. It was set aside when the purpose for which it was given was accomplished. So at the time He was on the cross, the Sinai law, as well as all presumptuous and meritorious religious ordinances of men, were terminated. In being nailed to the cross, “He has made [us] alive together with Him, having forgiven us all trespasses” (Cl 2:13). In order to do this on the cross, He wiped “out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He took it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Cl 2:14). He took away all meritorious religious laws that resulted in sin, for no man could keep law perfectly in order to save himself (Rm 3:20; Gl 2:16). And so, the words of Paul are true:

Therefore, my brethren, you also became dead to the [Sinai] law through the body of Christ, so that you should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, so that we should bring forth fruit to God (Rm 7:4).

In the last words of Jesus from the cross, He had accomplished what He had said only a few hours earlier when He was in prayer to the Father in the garden of Gethsemane: “I have glorified You [Father] on the earth. I have finished the work that You gave Me to do (Jn 17:4).

[Last of lesson tomorrow]





Jesus’ Last Words

D.  Last words of despair:

 It was the ninth hour according to Jewish time (3:00pm in the afternoon Roman time) when “Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is to say, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Mt 27:46; Mk 14:34).

These last words were a quotation from a prophetic statement made in Psalm 22:1. It may have been that Jesus wanted everyone present to recall in their minds the prophecy of Psalm 22, which prophecy was a prophetic plea for the help of God in times of trouble. It was one of those times in the last moments of Jesus’ ministry to the world when He approached God from the standpoint of a truly incarnate human being.

Throughout the ministry of Jesus, every time He addressed His Father in prayer, He used the word “Father.” But at this moment on the cross, He refers to the Father as “God.” At the moment of death, His relationship with the Father had now changed. It had changed from Father to God. The father/son relationship during the ministry had now moved to the human/God relationship, for it was now time for the Father, as God, to take over in the death and resurrection of the Son (See Ep 1:20).

Jesus was not on the cross at this time in reference to a father/son relationship, but to turn the wrath of God from man.   He was there as Moses stood before God on behalf of the people who were at the brink of being totally destroyed by God for their rebellion. God said to Moses, “Let Me alone so that My wrath may wax hot against them and that I may consume them (Ex 32:10; see Dt 9:13,14).

The annihilation of all humanity was nigh unto happening when Jesus was on the cross. In the fullness of His own humanity, Jesus in His incarnate state was an eternal offering for sinful humanity who would be doomed without the cross. He was there to appease the wrath of God in order that God not wipe all humanity from the face of the earth as He did in the days of Noah (Gn 6:7; 7:21). So in these last words, Jesus was not only making the plea of Psalm 22 for Himself, but also for humanity in order that the wrath of God be turned away from those who had a spirit of rebellion, which included all humanity. Paul enlightened us concerning this burden of sin that Jesus took with Him to the cross:

… whom [Jesus] God has set forth to be an atoning sacrifice by His blood through faith in order to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins in the past because of the forbearance of God (Rm 3:25; see Hb 9:15).

The psalmist was in a time of despair when the words of Psalm 22 spilled forth from his heart. And so in this last moment of darkness on the cross, Jesus too wanted to call to those who heard these last words, and later read them in Holy Scripture, that the finality of redemption was being paid by Him with an extreme price. Jesus’ cry was a statement of eternal sacrifice which revealed that after the incarnation, it would never again be as it was when the Word was in eternity with God, and as God, before the incarnation. There was a permanency in the incarnation that He would continue throughout eternity in order that He truly be in a personal relationship with His brethren.

It was sin that necessitated such a sacrifice of the One who became sin for us. Through an incarnational sacrifice, God did eternally separate Himself from the form God. For the cause of the cross, the Son gave up being equal with God (See Ph 2:5-11). If we could realize the full impact and extent of His sacrifice, we too should cry out, “Our God, Our God, why have You forsaken Him?”   Then we are brought to our knees with overwhelming gratitude because He was forsaken for us.

Paul later wrote, “For He [God] has made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on behalf of us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Co 5:21). Peter concurred, He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Pt 2:24). We have difficulty understanding the metaphor of the moment.   Jesus’ atoning sacrifice was an eternal assumption of our sin upon Himself who knew no sin. He assumed our punishment for our sins. He was executed on our behalf. It was a time on the cross to let the world know that there would have been a certain eternal separation from God for every individual of humanity if it were not for Jesus who took upon Himself our punishment.

In order that we be reconciled to God, the cross was a moment when Jesus had to be separated from God through His assimilation of our sins in Himself. Only when we stand in the presence of God ourselves will we fully understand the implications of what Jesus meant in being “forsaken by God.” But until that time, we will understand what the Holy Spirit revealed through both Paul and Peter that Jesus assumed the sins of mankind in order that all those who believe might have life in the name of Jesus (Jn 1:12).

[Point E., and maybe F., tomorrow]



Jesus’ Last Words

C.  Last words of maternal responsibility:

While hanging in torture on the cross, Jesus was still thinking of others. It would be only natural for Him to make sure his aged mother was in the capable hands of another. So to the young son of Zebedee, who at the time was probably still a teenager, or in his early twenties, John inscribed the following words of Jesus from the cross:

Therefore, when Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved [John] standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour that disciple [John] took her into his own household (Jn 19:26).

This statement implies that the husband of Mary, Joseph, had already passed on by this time. The Holy Spirit deemed it unnecessary that we have a record of the passing of Joseph, for there is no statement in Scripture concerning the death of Jesus’ earthly father. The death may have occurred before the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, which thing we might assume happened because only Jesus’ mother was at the marriage feast early in the ministry of Jesus (See Jn 2:1-11). At least by the beginning of His ministry, Joseph is not mentioned with the mother, brothers and sisters when He came into “His own country” in the early part of His ministry (See Mk 6:1).

So in His last hours on the cross, Jesus wanted to assign the custody of His mother over to a specific person. If He had not done this, then the disciples themselves would have had to assume this responsibility, for the brothers and sisters were not believers at the time. We would assume that Jesus was thinking that throughout the burden of their duties as Christ-sent apostles, His mother may have been neglected.

We might wonder why the care for the mother of Jesus was not assumed by the children of Mary, specifically James, Judas (Jude), Joses or Simon, and the sisters (Mt 12:46-50; Mk 6:3; Jn 2:12; 7:3-5).   In the Jewish culture, it was the responsibility of the firstborn to make sure the mother was cared for in society.   As the firstborn, therefore, Jesus was assuming His responsibility to make sure that His mother was never neglected, which thing would be true of a believer who had accepted Him as the Son of God.

At the time these words were spoken by Jesus, the earthly brothers and sisters apparently still did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world. Many would later become disciples, particularly James and Jude.   But at this time, Jesus wanted everyone to know that He was entrusting His mother specifically into the hands of a believer. He was thinking spiritual, and not in reference to earthly family responsibilities.

[Point D. tomorrow]

Jesus’ Last Words

B.  Last words of hope:

With forgiveness still on His mind in His last moments on the cross, Jesus turned to the repentant thief and said,Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise(Lk 23:43). In this life, we will never know this man to whom Jesus spoke these comforting words. All we know is what the repentant thief said to the other criminal who was crucified along with him, “Do you not fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?” (Lk 23:40).

We could say that the one to whom Jesus promised Paradise was a God-fearing man who was caught by the authorities while in the wilderness of criminality. He knew that he was receiving just punishment for his sins of a wayward life.   But on the cross, his mind was turned toward meeting the God against whom he had sinned in leading a wayward life on earth. He then turned to Jesus in remorse of repentance, and asked for a last possibility of hope against the One whom he had sinned. In remorse, he asked Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Lk 23:42).

We do not know how long he had known Jesus, for he called Jesus by name. But we do know that he understood that Jesus was coming into His kingdom, though he did not know all that this kingdom entailed. He was not a nonreligious person. So Jesus, that we might be reminded of the authority He had even in His last hours on earth, expressed to us through His words to the thief what He had previously said, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins …” (Mt 9:6).

The announcement of the angel at the time of the birth of Jesus was correct: “For to you a Savior is born this day in the city of David, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11). Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). And in His final moments on the cross, Jesus was doing His business for which He came into the world, that is, bringing forgiveness of sins to the world.

While on earth, Jesus had the divine authority to forgive sins between man and God. He was on the cross in order to seal the deal between God and man. “He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, so that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness; by whose wounds you were healed (1 Pt 2:24). So just as a last reminder while on earth, Jesus wanted us to remember why He was there that day nailed to a “tree.” He was there on our behalf.

What the repentant thief realized the moment he drew his last breath, is what all those who believe in Jesus will realize when they, too, do the same. They will in that same day be with Jesus in Paradise. It is for this Paradise of God that we all hope.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life that is in the paradise of God (Rv 2:7).

[Point C. tomorrow]

Jesus’ Last Words

In a TV show a scenario of destiny was established by a supposedly dying man. The man was lying in a hospital bed with his immediate family and church family gathered around. The preacher was holding the dying man’s hand. The preacher asked if the dying man had any last words for his family and friends.   The man uttered, “Yes, I did not get all my business done!” And then he expired.

Jesus gave some last words from the cross, which words communicate a great deal. However, He did get His business done, and so, it was time to relinquish His spirit into the hands of the Father. He could confidently give up His spirit on the cross because He had finished His business for which He came into the world.

The last words of a passing loved one are always precious. They are words that the living remember throughout their lives. And so it was with the last words of Jesus from the cross.   These are words the Holy Spirit wanted us to remember, and thus, He guided inspired writers to make sure that we remembered the last words of Jesus, for the meaning of the words carry with them some very profound thoughts.

A.  Last words of forgiveness:

From the cross, Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Lk 23:34).   These are words that we would expect to hear from the One whose business it was to come for us in our sin. In our ignorance, we did not know how far away from God we had strayed. The cross will always be a reality check of our ignorance while we were steeped in our own self-righteous religiosity. Even in the actual act of crucifixion, those who drove nails through the hands of Jesus were doing so in the ignorance of their own sin to crucify the Son of God.

The self-righteous religious leaders who called for the crucifixion of Jesus were so caught up in their own religion that they called for the condemnation of Jesus because they thought they were preserving the “Jews’ religion” from the influence of a rebel. But the execution of their deed was based on the fact that they did not believe that Jesus was who He said He was. Almost everything that Jesus was and taught was contrary to their self-righteous religiosity (See Rm 10:1-3).

To the Roman soldiers who did the actual deed of crucifixion, Jesus was just another malefactor who had to be executed.   Every blow of the hammer was an indication of their ignorance of the incarnate hands through which they drove sharp nails. Nevertheless, while the incarnate flesh of Jesus strained against the nails of the cross, Jesus was still thinking of the business for which He came into the world. Forgiveness was His business, and thus in His last moments on the cross, He was still doing His business.

The preceding words of Jesus concerning forgiveness, reveal that He understood why they wanted Him on the cross. They truly did not know what they were doing. They were as one of their leaders who launched a vehement persecution against those who later gave their allegiance to Jesus as His disciples. This leader (Paul) later wrote after finally relinquishing to the power of the testimony of Jesus’ disciples, “I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious. But I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief (1 Tm 1:13). Jesus knew that many of those who cried out that He be crucified, would later, as Paul, believe that He was the Christ and Son of the living God.

Those who nailed Jesus to the cross did so, because at the time, they had no interest in who Jesus really was. The Jewish religious leaders were caught up in their own religiosity. The Roman world of idolatry was fascinated with the gods they had created after their own imaginations. It was of this religious world that Paul later wrote: “This wisdom [about the Son of God] none of the princes of this age has known, for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Co 2:8).

Nevertheless, the disciples who truly followed Jesus after the resurrection emulated the spirit of the last words of forgiveness that Jesus uttered from the cross. When Peter later stood before some of the people in Jerusalem who had aided in the crucifixion, this spirit of forgiveness was revealed. “And now, brethren, I know that through ignorance you did it, as did also your rulers (At 3:17). On his mission journey to the city of Antioch of Pisidia, Paul also reminded the people of the ignorance of those in Jerusalem who crucified Jesus:

For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor the voices of the prophets who are read every Sabbath, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him (At 13:27).

Jesus, who was executed out of ignorance was actually God working through the ignorance men to accomplish the salvation of all those who would eventually confess Jesus as Lord and Christ. We must not misunderstand what was happening behind the scenes at the time of the crucifixion. During the trial and execution of Jesus, Satan thought he was having his best day. He had used well the ignorance of men. But in his deed of deception, God was actually revealing the mystery of salvation that had been held in secret since the garden of Eden (See Ep 3:3-5; 1 Pt 1:10-12). Therefore, we must not forget what Jesus said in His plan to lead Himself to the cross:

My Father loves Me because I lay down My life so that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again (Jn 10:17,18).

Jesus gave His life voluntarily for us. The cross was no accident. It was planned and executed by Jesus. He willed that the nails be driven through His incarnate flesh. While on the cross, Jesus could have called on ten thousand angels to deliver Himself from the fate that He had set for Himself. In the garden of Gethsemane at the time of His arrest, He reminded the disciples, “Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me more than twelve legions of angels” (Mt 26:53). We must never come to any conclusion that would bring us into doubt concerning the predestined purpose of the cross. We can sorrow for His suffering while there, but we must rejoice that He was there. Any theology that would presume that the cross as an accident, afterthought, or miscalculation on the part of God in His eternal plan of redemption, must immediately be discarded as false.

Regardless of the torment of pain on the cross, Jesus was practicing that which He had preached throughout His ministry. “And whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me, cannot be My disciple” (Lk 14:27). And when we take up our crosses, we too must be willing to make the same statement from our crosses that Jesus made. Jesus would remind us, “Bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you” (Lk 6:28). It was as if Jesus were practicing what He preached when He prayed that those who crucified Him be forgiven. At the time, they did not know who He really was, or what they were doing.

The prayer of Jesus from the cross was answered fifty-three days later by about three thousand people. When the apostle Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost, he announced to those who had crucified Jesus, “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this same Jesus whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ(At 2:36). The message cut the people to the heart (At 2:37). That day, “those who received his word were baptized … about three thousand souls” (At 2:41). They were cut to the heart, because in their own ignorance, they had crucified the Messiah (Christ) of Israel who was now Lord of all (At 2:36).

From that day of Pentecost, those who were informed of the incarnate God who was crucified in ignorance, became obedient to the gospel that was set in motion. “So the word of God increased. And the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly.   And a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith (At 6:7). There is always forgiveness waiting for those who respond to the gospel of Jesus. The following words of Joy Tidwell express well our thinking:

An angry mob milled round the town,

There was violence in the air;

A man was tried and guilty found,

A cross he had to bear.

Up the hill and down the road,

So heavy it became;

People scoffed, and laughed, and joked,

And revelled at his pain.

He faltered, and a helping hand,

Relieved part of the load;

But no one there could help remove,

What waited down the road.

A crown of thorns upon his head,

Was mockery to the king;

They nailed him high upon the cross,

Their voices they did ring,

“If you be who you say you are,

Come down and prove it true.”

“Forgive them Father,” was all he said,

“They know no what they do.”

The mob that still lives on this earth,

Is just as bad as then;

His cross is just as heavy now,

We load it down with sin.

Up the hill and down the road,

Until his back is sore;

We laugh and joke and gaily live,

And forget the pain he bore.

Oh, we might help him for awhile,

To carry his heavy load;

But we get weary and get tired,

And take off down the road.

We leave him there alone to face,

Again the crown of thorns;

We mock him as the others did,

When his flesh was ripped and torn.

As he did then, he looks down now,

In compassion tried and true;

“Father, forgive them,” he still says,

“For they know not what they do!”


[Continued tomorrow]

Jesus Is Power!

G.  Evidence of the resurrected (Jn 11:1-46):

The raising of Lazarus from the dead was to prove something greater than Jesus “practicing what He preached.” At the beginning of His ministry, He proclaimed, “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me, has everlasting life (Jn 5:24). “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and will come forth (Jn 5:28,29). By the time Jesus came to Bethany where His three friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, lived, it was time for a demonstration of what He had been teaching in reference to eternal life.

When the death of Lazarus was initially reported to Jesus, it was time in the ministry of Jesus to reveal the power that was within His control. And when this power was released, He would accomplish the following: “This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God might be glorified by it (Jn 11:4).

At the time, the disciples seem to still be in a state of “unbelief” concerning the totality of who Jesus was. They had difficulty in bringing together all that He was. They had by this time in His ministry experienced a great deal. But raising the dead would certainly shock their thinking just before the conclusion of His earthly ministry. So Jesus said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go so that I may awake him out of sleep” (Jn 11:11). The disciples did not understand what He was saying. “Lord, if he sleeps,” they replied, “he will recover” (Jn 11:12). However, “Jesus spoke of his death. But they thought that He was speaking of taking rest in sleep” (Jn 11:13).

In order to increase their still inadequate faith, Jesus said to them, “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there [when Lazarus died], so that you may believe(Jn 11:15).   Now Jesus has revealed the purpose for His raising of Lazarus from the dead. The resurrection was not only for the disciples to believe, but for us also, that we might believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Jn 20:31). Since only God can raise the dead, then they, as we, need to conclude that Jesus was and is Deity.

Upon His arrival to Bethany, Jesus said to Martha, “Your brother will rise again” (Jn 11:23). He continued, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he were dead, yet he will live (Jn 11:25). This claim needed proof. It needed a demonstration. It was something about which Jesus had spoken throughout His ministry, and now it was the time to make good on His claim.

In the emotional build up to the main event, there was discussion, if not blame that if Jesus had been present, He could have healed Lazarus. But this would have been no grand finale of proof that He was the Son of God with all the supernatural power that is characteristic with Deity. His healing power had been substantiated by this time, for the people standing around said, “Could not this Man who opened the eyes of the blind have also kept this man from dying?” (Jn 11:37). The answer to the question would be YES! But the purpose for Jesus’ delay in coming to Bethany was to make sure that Lazarus was dead and buried, and thus, there would have been no temptation for Him to heal His friend from a sickness. It was time for a resurrection.

Therefore, with the commanding statement, “Lazarus, come forth,” the world was changed forever, and the power of the resurrection after the crucifixion of Jesus was made possible and real (Jn 11:43).   All that Jesus had taught throughout His ministry concerning “words of life” found validation in these three words.   Our hope in the Son of God finds meaning in the fact that Jesus had the power to be raised, and by the same power that raised Lazarus, we too would be raised.

By the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus laid the foundation to give His disciples hope when He himself was laid in a tomb of death. Lazarus would be the proof that His own death would not be the end. Though after the cross the disciples may have momentarily forgotten the resurrection of Lazarus, they needed to know that the power that raised Lazarus did not come from the man Jesus, but from Him who remained in heaven.   In His incarnate state in ministry, Jesus had control of the supernatural through the power of the Holy Spirit (See Lk 4:14).

Mary had complained, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (Jn 11:32). Physical presence in order that supernatural power be released still plagued the thinking of the disciples. Thus before Jesus cried out for the resurrection of Lazarus, He cried out to the Father, that the Father resurrect Lazarus in order “that they may believe that You have sent Me” (Jn 11:42). The power of the resurrection came from above, but only at the command of Jesus. We must not miss this point.

With the same power from heaven, Jesus was raised from the dead. Paul explained in writing,

 I pray that the eyes of your heart be enlightened so that you may know … what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe … that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead (Ep 1:18-21).

The same power that raised Lazarus from the dead, was the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. It will be this same power that will raise us from the dead when Jesus comes again. All that Paul said in conclusion to this reality were the words of the Spirit, “Comfort one another with these words” (1 Th 4:18).

Therefore, we remember that “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His righteous saints” (Ps 116:15). We have thus been delivered by Him from the fear of death (Hb 2:14,15). Thank you, Jesus!

[End of Lesson 4]

Jesus Is Power!

F.  Evidence of the blind who see (Jn 9:1-12):

The event of this miracle was incidental.   Jesus was going somewhere and “passed by” a man whom He saw was blind (Jn 9:1). As with the disabled man at the pool of Bethesda, this healing was only incidental to what Jesus was doing or to where He was going. He did not call a great crowd of people together, and then select out of them those who volunteered to be healed. He called no one up on a stage in order to do a theatrical performance before the people.

We must “read between the lines” in order to better understand what transpired on this occasion. As Jesus walked by, He noticed this blind man who had been blind since birth (Jn 9:1). In order to heal the man, Jesus made mud by spitting on dirt. He then put the mud on the man’s eyes. He then instructed the man, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” (Jn 9:7).

It seems that Jesus did not want the blind man to be healed in His presence, or the presence of the disciples. And probably most important of all, he wanted the man to know that it was Jesus who healed him. Therefore, it would be a healing that would be known first only by the blind man himself. So obediently, the man “went his way and washed. And he came back seeing” (Jn 9:7). He was led away, and then probably came back by himself. There were no crowds to be amazed, and no cheers of praise from an overenthusiastic audience.

It was only later when the neighbors who knew the man, began to question as to how he gained his sight. The questioning by the neighbors as to how he was able to see affirms the fact that the man was actually blind. They had walked by the man for years and given him alms as he begged on the street. But now he could see. They knew that while he was blind, he was not deceiving them for contributions.   Their testimony is that he was truly blind.

 “Where is He?” the neighbors questioned. “I do not know,” was the reply (Jn 9:12). John wants us to know that Jesus did not unveil the supernatural on this occasion in order to draw attention to Himself at the time and on this occasion. All the healed man knew was that it was Jesus who did the deed.

Since this was probably the Passover/Pentecost feast that Jesus attended during His ministry, He was building inquiry, or curiosity, in the minds of the people that Someone was in town who was the Prophet about whom Moses had prophesied. The name “Jesus” would become renowned as time went by, and by the time Jesus visited two more Passover/Pentecost feast after this occasion.   It would be throughout this time that Jesus would build a case file of miracles that would demand the conclusion that John later affirmed from the record of only seven of His miracles: “… that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (Jn 20:31).

[Tomorrow is the last part of this lesson.]

Jesus Is Power!

E.  Evidence of water walking (Jn 6:16-21):

This miracle was for the disciples, for the people saw the disciples enter the boat, but not Jesus (Jn 6:22). Everything happened at sea in the darkness of the night, just as Jesus had planned. The situation was set up by Jesus, for He commanded the disciples to get into the boat and make their way to the other side of the sea (Mt 14:22). He then sent the multitudes away from the scene (Mt 14:23). It was then that He went up a mountain in order to pray and wait for the opportune time to come to the disciples in the night. Jesus waited until the storm at sea had prepared them emotionally for what He was about to do. So when the storm at sea had battered both occupants and boat for some time, Jesus “went to them, walking on the sea (Mt 14:25).

Of course such a happening would terrify the disciples, which thing it did (Jn 6:19). John does not, as did Matthew, go into great detail concerning what transpired. John’s purpose for recording this incident was to generate faith in the minds of his readers by bringing his readers to the point of confession that Jesus is the Son of God. So the conclusion to which John drew his readers was the control over the natural world that was within the power of Jesus as the Son of God.

When this miracle first occurred, the apostles were the only witnesses. The multitudes were left to question how Jesus made His way to where the boat eventually landed (Jn 6:22-24). Only when John recorded this event, or when the apostles spoke of it after the Pentecost of A.D. 30, did the people, and ourselves, conclude that Jesus in the flesh had power over the elements of this world (See At 27:21-26). As Jonah perceived that the storm at sea was the work of God to turn his way back to Nineveh, so this storm at sea was for the purpose of revealing to the apostles that if they followed Jesus, they would not be cast into the depths of the sea. They must remember that the One they followed had command of the laws of nature.

John left out the incident when Jesus called Peter to come to Him while He was standing above the waters in a raging storm.   Matthew included the conclusion to which John sought to bring us to confess after reading such a testimony.   When the storm was quieted, and the sea as smooth as glass that reflected the heavenly bodies, the disciples worshiped Him right there in the boat. They correctly concluded, “Truly, You are the Son of God” (Mt 14:33).

Jesus was finally getting through to them.   Mark recorded the reaction of the disciples at the moment, “And they were greatly astonished, for they had not understood the miracle of the loaves because their heart was hardened” (Mk 6:51,52). After the feeding of the multitudes, the twelve disciples had just experienced something that was surreal. They were still trying to comprehend the twelve baskets of fragments. What had happened had not yet “sunk in.” The walking on the water that followed immediately after the feeding of the 5,000 intensified the impact of what Jesus wanted to do in transforming their thinking concerning who He was. It was not that their hearts were hardened against Him, but that the awesome result of the feeding of the 5,000, and the walking on the water, was almost too much for the human mind to comprehend in such a short time.

Therefore, when Jesus came up into the boat, they fell to their knees and worshiped Him, which worship is to be given only to God.

It would have been blasphemy for these Jews to worship any man on earth. It would have been a violation of the first of the ten commandants: “You will have no other gods before Me. You will not bow down yourself to them …” (Ex 20:3-5). But here in this boat in the calm of a sea, twelve Jewish men are bowing down to Jesus. What they came to realize on those calm waters in the middle of the night, was what John wants us to conclude and do in reference to this Jesus of Nazareth. He is truly the Son of the living God. He is One before whom we must bow down and worship.

[Tomorrow again.]