And God Said, “Let There Be Light”

By Roger Penney

The above words, found in Genesis 1:3 (KJV), are the first recorded spoken ones of God, and as such they are highly significant concerning God’s plans for the world and His people. They also tell of the nature and character of God, as seen in what John wrote: “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn. 1:5).

The Nature Of God
Light is the very essence of God’s being. It is difficult for us to imagine the Supreme Being, who has the purest, uncreated and infinite energy, but the Bible says God is precisely that One. There is no darkness in Him; He is all pure light, just and holy, yet gracious. The book of Hebrews tells us, “It is impossible for God to lie” (6:18). He, the Lord Jesus, is the ultimate and final Truth, and He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). This One who “cannot lie” (Ti. 1:2) also said, “I am the light of the world: He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12).

“God is light” is an absolute and unconditional statement, and the verses we quoted in John show quite clearly that the Lord Jesus is God. God, remember, is a trinity – often referred to as “the Godhead.” Later in the New Testament, Paul stated that the Lord Jesus has and is the fullness of God (Col. 1:19, 2:9).

In our present situation and bodies of humiliation it would be impossible for us to exist in God’s presence, for such is the intensity of the light of God. We are in fragile and sinful bodies, but one day soon these bodies of ours are to be transformed. In heaven we will have glorious bodies, “like unto His glorious body” (Phil. 3:21).

The Effects Of The Light
His true light will be revealed, yet at present that light is shining in the darkness of human hearts and minds, dispelling ignorance and vice. Such is the work of Him who is the true Light.

At the beginning of John’s gospel we are told that the “light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended [overcame] it not” (Jn. 1:5). The prophetic words of the Lord Jesus just prior to the healing of the blind man are significant concerning His task then and now. He told His disciples, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no one can work” (9:4-5).

Then, after His resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the light continued to shine in the hearts and minds of men, dispelling the confusion, dissatisfaction and lies. This has been done by the gospel and the power of the Spirit of God. “But if our gospel is hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:3-4).

Just as God decreed that there be light in creation, dispelling the primeval darkness and chaos, so the same process occurs in the human hearts and minds by the gospel. Paul explained to the Corinthians, “For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v.6).

The face of Moses shone after being with God on the mountain (Ex. 34:29), but the Lord Jesus is the actual Light, shining all the time since He is God and is ever with God the Father (2 Pet. 1:19). Now, as a result of our learning about the Lord Jesus and getting to know Him, we shine as lights in this dark world (Phil. 2:15).

The Dominance Of The Light
The light is universal and dispels all the satanically imposed darkness. John stated that we are of God, but this world is under the control of Satan: the Wicked One (1 Jn. 5:19).* The apostle continued, “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (v.20).

Isaiah described how the Lord Jesus conquers the satanic darkness of this world. It is by shining His light and causing it to reflect from His people, who have experienced living in the darkness and are now set free. “Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation [distress], when at first He lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Napthali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined” (Isa. 9:1-2).

“The people” were of Galilee. The Pharisees and other learned men despised them, saying with contempt, “This people who knoweth not the law are cursed” (Jn. 7:49). Nicodemus argued with the educated men, but then they taunted him, suggesting that he too was a Galilean. Compounding their display of ignorance, they declared that no prophet ever arose from Galilee (v.52). Clearly they did not count John the Baptist as a prophet, although he was, as well as the Lord Jesus – both of whom had come from Galilee.

The Lord spent much time with the people of that region. They were specially privileged and chosen to be the bearers of the light to the nations after His resurrection. He taught in their synagogues, performed miracles in their towns and villages, and instructed them by the lakeside. Note that we carry the same light as has been done by generation after generation of the Lord’s people.

We see later that men of Galilee and others of despised occupations, such as a tax collector, were to take the gospel all over the world. Faithful men and women are still engaged in this work worldwide. These dear servants of the Lord Jesus are seldom from the upper classes of society, but they fulfil the means God uses according to His will. Paul explained to the Corinthians, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

The Lord Jesus is the Light of the World. This great message was first entrusted to the men of Galilee, then after to those who heard it. Now, when the world is in darkness spiritually, the same message is committed to us. The Lord said to His disciples “Ye are the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14). It is only a reflected light, but nevertheless a reflection of the true Light.

The Darkness And A False Light
Isaiah told about a world without light. It is a world where all the peoples are shrouded in gross darkness, but where there is hope for the true Light. He wrote: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall arise upon thee. And the Gentiles [nations] shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Isa. 60:1-3). This prophecy is a call to the faithful remnant of Israel to shine for the Lord Jesus, for He also is about to arise and shine to defeat forever the darkness and its power. It is also a prophecy that has as its fulfillment all peoples at all times who are called to be witnesses for Him.

At this present time Satan is mustering his forces for the takeover of this world by the Antichrist. The Devil even has some success in confusing and leading astray God’s people. He does this by changing himself into the appearance of an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). We are not ignorant of his devices, yet we need to be reminded. Therefore Paul warned the Corinthians about false apostles and deceitful workers who were then and are now “transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ … Therefore it is no great thing if his [Satan’s] ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:13,15).

God is at work, so Satan also puts his servants to work to subvert things and the Word of God. However, we have all the resources of God through the Holy Spirit and the power of the Lord Jesus. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (4:6).

Evil And The Evil Ones To Be Destroyed By The Light
One day soon the forces of darkness and evil are to be burned up. “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 4:1, see Zech. 14:12). The Antichrist himself shall be burned up by the very brightness of the Lord’s presence. “Rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God; and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (2 Th. 1:7-9). In the following chapter of Paul’s letter we read that not just the forces of evil are to be destroyed, but the very person who has ruled the world blasphemously as Satan’s representative is also to be destroyed. “And then shall the Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming” (2 Th. 2:8; See also Mal. 3:2; Rev. 19:15).

Just And Righteous Judgment By The Just And Righteous Judge
In Revelation the Lord Jesus is depicted having “eyes … as a flame of fire” (1:14). John’s vision began with his being suddenly confronted by such a wonderful and majestic personage that he was led to write: “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead” (v.17). His description includes “His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars; and out of His mouth went a two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” (vv.15-16). This describes the Lord Jesus when He will come to judge the nations. “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen!” (v.7). The sword is that of the warrior who is bringing judgment to His enemies. The “eyes … as a flame of fire” tell us that He sees all things, including the secrets of the heart and the thoughts of intellects bound and perverted by Satan and the demon hordes.

We see in the prophets the Messiah coming in power, but in the New Testament the fact of the Lord Jesus as the Judge of all is clearly explained. “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father” (Jn. 5:22-23). This is stressed time and again in this passage. It goes on to say, “Verily, verily [Truly, truly], I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father has life in Himself: so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man” (vv.25-27). The Lord Jesus went on to say, “As I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not My own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me” (v.30).

We see in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that the Lord Jesus will judge the works of His people and reward them, or not, accordingly (3:10-15). Later, the promise to the world is that all men will be judged according to how they have responded to God’s message. Paul told the people of Athens, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained whereof He has given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

The Lord Jesus will rule the world in righteousness as well as conduct the final tribunal. That terrible event is again prophesied in Revelation where John described it in all its terror and despair: “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death“ (20:11-14).

In view of these things, may we truly ponder God’s first recorded words: “Let there be light.”

* The term “wickedness,” as found at the end of this verse in some Bibles, is not an accurate translation of the Greek.

God’s Illuminating Light

By Stephen Campbell

Scientists and philosophers have long examined the nature of light and vision. In the 4th century B.C. Plato wrote that vision occurred because rays of light came from people’s eyes and took hold of the objects they saw. Although not everyone subscribed to that theory, variations on the idea continued to be proposed as late as the 1400’s by scholars as eminent as Leonardo da Vinci.1 Of course, it is well understood now that the eye receives light by means of a complex, elegantly designed system of components, and the resulting images are interpreted by the brain.

The debate about vision is more than just a historical curiosity, however. It symbolizes two ways that people evaluate the meaning of life itself. To some, “man is the measure of all things.”2 We look at the details of life, assign meaning to what we see, and proceed according to our best evaluation of the situation. In other words, figuratively speaking, rays of light come from our minds, and by that light we interpret what is in front of us. This is a very common view. In fact, all our training as children and adults is essentially designed to strengthen our powers of discernment and interpretation so we can reach effective conclusions about life.

To Bible readers, though, there is another view: Just as light is something external and objective that enters our eyes, the illumination of life’s meaning is external too. It enters our hearts and minds from an objective source and reveals the true nature of what we see. That objective Declarer of Meaning is God Himself, who shines upon our lives. As the great Illuminator, He provides all the light we need for understanding life’s meaning and purpose.

God Is Light
When examining the theme of light in the Bible we must start with this declaration: “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn. 1:5 NKJV). Light and darkness are obviously exact opposites. Where there is one, by definition there cannot be the other. Light makes things plain, exposes what is dirty, helps someone find what is lost, repels what is evil. The statement that “God is light” implies that all these characteristics reside within His very nature. The declaration that “in Him is no darkness at all” means that no deceit or flaw can exist in God, and it implies that nothing unrighteous will be allowed to have a place in His presence. As the Father of lights, there is not even a shadow of variation in His care (Jas. 1:17); as the sovereign Lord, He dwells in unapproachable light, for no creature can ever fully comprehend His character (1 Tim. 6:15-16).

Therefore it is not surprising that, in creation, light was His first provision for the Earth. He could not allow darkness to rule an empty, formless world. “Let there be light!” He declared (Gen. 1:3). In fact, on that first day of creation, light was the only thing God brought into existence. This is not because it was hard for Him to do; rather, light is so significant that God gave it its own day, for it represents the nature of Himself. Later, on the fourth day of creation, specific celestial bodies – the sun, moon and stars – were formed to produce or reflect light, but light itself was brought out of darkness from the very beginning.

God Gives Light
These facts indicate that God does not want us to live in darkness. Our own experiences show how little we can do without light. When we walk in the dark, we stumble; when it is night, we cannot work; and with these statements the Scriptures agree (Jn. 9:4, 11:9-10). Naturally speaking, various forms of artificial light have allowed humanity to conduct business 24 hours a day, and it has been argued that the electric light is one of the most significant inventions in history. This reality simply underscores the truth that we are not made to live in darkness.

Just as we depend on physical light, our souls require spiritual light, which God provides for us through the life of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. First of all, we are told that Jesus is the Light of the World. Although John’s gospel uses a number of metaphors to explain who the Lord is (the Door, the Vine, and so on), perhaps the apostle John most appreciated Jesus as the Light. In four different chapters (1, 8, 9 and 12) he explicitly presented Christ in that manner. He is the “true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (1:9). The life and perfections of Jesus shine upon every human being (consider Jn. 1:3), illuminating our lives by displaying the glories of the one in whom God found all His delight. This is even true for unbelievers who reject that light. If someone turns away from the sun, does that cause it to become dim? No, the light simply shines upon that person’s back. All who read these words must determine a response to God’s light that shines through Christ Jesus.

We who trust Jesus and follow Him find that we have been brought out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. We now possess the light of life and become children of light (1 Pet. 2:9; Jn. 8:12, 12:36,46). The same divine, irresistible power by which light overcame darkness at creation is the prevailing force which God applies to our salvation: “It is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). The Christian faith is transformative! It is not a series of good ideas by which we can gradually improve ourselves, but a complete change of circumstances.

This change comes with a responsibility. Christians are light in the Lord, but we are exhorted to live as children of light (Eph. 5:8). Thankfully, God has provided for this need as well. The Word of God shines as a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (Ps. 119:105). Not only does the Bible show us where our feet are walking, but it also reveals where God’s pathway is if we have strayed from it. The psalmist added, “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (v.130). The apostle Peter agreed, saying that the Bible’s words of instruction and prophecy are like “a light that shines in a dark place” (2 Pet. 1:19). Sometimes homes are lighted with elaborate, decorative displays that are pretty but not very functional. The Bible is not like that. Far from being merely ornamental, God’s Word is bright and effective as a source of understanding and wisdom. By its power we will live up to our character as children of light if we allow the Bible to illuminate us in the activities of life.

Christians Are Lights
Certain chemical compounds have the property of phosphorescence, which produces the “glow in the dark” effect found in various toys and other items. These compounds store light energy and then release it slowly over time. In a much more significant way, Christians shine as lights in this world – not only because we have been exposed to God’s light, but also because we have been made children of light. Yet we do not produce our own light; God and His Word remain our only sources of light, and we carry that light into our daily circumstances.

The experience of Moses helps us understand this reality. After spending an extended period of time with the Lord on Mount Sinai, his face took on a radiant, shining appearance that was noticeable to everyone. For the people of Israel this was distracting and even a bit frightening, so Moses veiled his face. This evidently happened with regularity, because after this occasion the text says, “Whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of his face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again” (Ex. 34:35). The veil of Moses symbolizes the temporary nature of God’s covenant with Israel, because that veil is taken away in Christ, and today we can see God’s glory clearly (2 Cor. 3:7-18).

The main point for our subject is that the light which shone from Moses’ face was caused by his time in God’s presence. Our own light for God becomes brighter in the same way. As we look upon the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into the same image with ever-increasing glory. This proves the deep importance of spending time with the Lord in Bible reading and prayer if there will ever be brightness in our testimony for Him.

Our light has particular characteristics that are helpful to notice. First, the Lord said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:14-16). This passage emphasizes that light must be visible to be effective. A city on a hill is constructed with the knowledge that everyone will see it at night. In a house, an oil lamp is placed on a stand so its light can shine upon anyone who enters the room. Is this how our lights shine for the Lord? Just as the life of Christ shines upon every human being, so our light should shine equally upon everyone who knows us. Furthermore, we won’t simply be known as a “nice person,” because those who see our light will be directed to our Father in heaven. They will not only notice our good works but will also understand that the source of our light is God Himself – and this will require our verbal testimony about His work in our lives.

The apostle Paul added that we are “children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). A light is not troubled by darkness! In fact, a dark room is where light does its best work, for there even the smallest light is noticed and appreciated. As we observe the surrounding darkness, let us not become distressed but determined! Does your world seem increasingly crooked and perverse? Those are perfect conditions for God’s light to shine through you. The next verse connects this light with “the word of life.” As we tell others what the Bible means and why its message is true, our lives will draw them from darkness and into God’s magnificent light.

A Burning, Shining Light
The Lord Jesus described the effectiveness of such a witness. The people of His day had listened with interest to John the Baptist: “You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth … He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light” (Jn. 5:33,35). “Burning” means he had been lit for the Lord, and “shining” means he gave light to everyone who saw him. John was no miracle worker and he did not travel great distances. He simply served the Lord at the Jordan River, preaching God’s message. Yet people heard him, and afterwards they said, “All the things that John spoke about this Man [Jesus] were true” (10:41). What a grand summary of his life!

“The LORD is my light,” wrote David in Psalm 27:1. By Him we receive light, and through Him we give light. The Christian songwriter Chris Rice captured these details this way:

Carry your candle, run to the darkness;
Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn.
Hold out your candle for all to see it;
Take your candle, and go light your world.

As we carry the character of Christ, we will shine for Him.

1. Source.
2. The philosopher Protagoras stated this view in the 5th century B.C. He is widely credited with the beginning of relativism, a philosophy which holds that there are no absolute truths about human experiences but only perceptions that are true for each individual. Source.

The Lord’s Character As Light

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” — Genesis 1:1-2 NKJV

By Alfred Bouter

Years ago, I read a story about how the Lord used a missionary to convince a high-ranking army officer of his need to turn from darkness to light just by reading Genesis 1:1-3. The missionary first read Genesis 1:1-2 and then left him alone – very abruptly. This caused the officer to reflect on what he had just heard, especially after the same thing happened again the next day. On the third day the missionary returned. He saw a change in the officer and then read to him the same passage once more, but included verse 3: “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Through a work of God’s Spirit, this man had begun to see his lost condition of darkness and turned to God’s light, our Lord Jesus Christ. What about you, dear reader, have you turned to Him, confessing your sins with true repentance? Have you turned from darkness to light?

This true story illustrates God’s wisdom and power. He used the biblical account of the creation of physical light to bring spiritual light into a realm of darkness, producing life and a new birth. This is what happened to Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:3-18), as he later wrote, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

How about us who believe? When He called and drew us to this marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9), we learned how it is needed also for our daily walk: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart” (97:11). Furthermore, walking in the light implies having fellowship with each other as believers (1 Jn. 1:7) and with God, even though we are surrounded by the darkness of this world. David prayed therefore, “That I may walk before God in the light of the living” (Ps. 56:13).

The Arrival Of The True Light
When the Lord Jesus came to His people Israel about 500 years after their return from the Babylonian captivity, He found them living in darkness. “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” (Mt. 4:16 ESV). After three and a half years of His public ministry, the Lord Jesus said, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light … These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them” (Jn. 12:36 NKJV). Why? The true Light gave light to every man when the Messiah came into the world, but His people did not see or recognize this light (1:9-11) – except for a few who believed (v.12). The Lord, who knows the hearts (Acts 1:24), was not able to have true fellowship with the rest of the people even though they believed in the miracles He performed (Jn. 2:24-25). Believers today also belong to a remnant, just as a few believed in those days. Do you truly believe?

Most professing Christians – those who say they are Christians – are attracted to all kinds of outward things but are not really born again, for they do not believe with the heart. However, those who truly believe have become lights themselves, as the Lord Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden … In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:14,16 esv). “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men … the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it … That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (Jn. 1:4-5,9 NKJV). Matthew, quoting from Isaiah 9:1-2, summarized this as “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” (Mt. 4:16 ESV).

However, they rejected it, as they rejected the Messiah despite the irrefutable, or undeniable, signs He gave showing that He was the Messiah. Many years later John wrote, “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (Jn. 3:19, also read vv.20-21). Later we read that John the Baptist had functioned as a light, of whom the Lord said, “He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light” (5:35). But the Lord continued, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (9:5 NKJV). His declaration referred to His earthly ministry, whereas now He shines from heaven.

Shining Lights To Represent The Lord Jesus Christ
When Jesus sent His disciples on a mission He said, “You are the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14). He then compared them to a city on a hill that “cannot be hidden.” In the same way, disciples today are to shine for Him to the glory of God the Father (v.16). Is this not a great privilege? For sure it is, but it comes with great responsibilities for which He provides the resources.

“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness” (Jn. 12:46 ESV). Nevertheless, He was rejected while on earth, but now He is shining from heaven, as Saul of Tarsus experienced. Furthermore, the Lord in glory uses the believers on earth to shine as lights for Him. Of the many Scriptures about this topic, let’s look at a few in Ephesians.

“You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8 NKJV). The apostle described the tremendous blessings that the believers have received (see Eph. 1-3), and through these Scriptures he exhorted us all to walk in a manner worthy of the heavenly calling with which we have been called (4:1-6). To put his teachings into practice, we need the right attitude and spiritual maturity, as well as the willingness to hold the truth in love (v.15). God’s plan is that Christ may shine in and be reflected through all the believers who together form “the new man” (v.24) – to display Christ. Each believer has one or more gifts, but all need to grow to reflect the beauties of Christ who is now in heaven (4:7-32). If we don’t grow we will remain vulnerable just as children, tossed to and fro, carried away and deceived (v.14).

Furthermore, Paul explained that all believers individually are children of God and should walk together in love to represent God who is love (5:1-7). Therefore being light in the Lord, we must function as lights and walk as children of light (v.8), honoring the rights of Christ and of God in this world that rejects both.

Light is separated from darkness, and believers are to shine as lights in this dark world to reflect Him. This goes together with walking in wisdom (v.15) and doing His will (v.17). Love, light and wisdom are inseparable, and God wants us to represent Him as His children. What a privilege and challenge this is for us!

Help From John’s Gospel
We may study John’s gospel in several ways, but for now we just want to see some links between it and what we have already considered.

This gospel describes the Lord’s excellence in various ways, especially in the seven great “I am” statements. His preeminence also comes out in His seven discourses, as well as in the seven miracles He performed during His earthly ministry – as distinct from the great miracle of His death and resurrection and those in His post-resurrection ministry. Showing that these elements are inseparable, the gospel written by John links life in chapters 3-7 with light (Jn. 8-12) and love (Jn. 13-17). What we saw earlier about love, light and wisdom cannot be realized without life (see 1:4), which is essential, as the Lord explained to Nicodemus (3:3-5).

We became followers of the Lord Jesus when we came to Him to be saved and accept the life He offers. Taking His yoke upon us (Mt. 11:29), we became His disciples and servants, walking in His light to represent Him in the darkness of this world. We cannot do this without true love to Him and His own, which also extends towards the lost (see Romans 9:1-5 for an example in Paul).

Seven Signs And Other Sevens
Various words in John’s gospel highlight the Lord’s public ministry. The signs He worked clearly signified who He was: the promised Messiah. Jesus worked remarkable acts of power, often called miracles. He operated with special energy while drawing people’s attention through these exploits, or wonders. Of these, John selected seven (see Jn. 21:25) that occurred during Christ’s ministry before His sufferings. His light shone, His love worked, and true life was manifested. They are listed in John’s gospel as follows:

  1. Changing water into wine in Cana, Galilee (2:1-11);
  2. Healing an official’s son in Capernaum, Galilee (4:46-54);
  3. Healing a paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, Jerusalem (5:1-18);
  4. Feeding the 5,000 near the Sea of Galilee (6:5-14);
  5. Walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee (6:16-21);
  6. Healing a blind man in Jerusalem (9:1-7); and
  7. Raising dead Lazarus in Bethany, near Jerusalem (11:1-45).

The seven “I am” statements show that the Lord Jesus Himself is Yahweh, the LORD.1 They are:

  1. “I am the Bread of life” (6:35);
  2. “I am the Light of the world” (8:12);
  3. “I am the Door for the sheep” (10:7,9);
  4. “I am the good Shepherd” (10:11,14);
  5. “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (11:25);
  6. “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (14:6); and
  7. “I am the true Vine” (15:1,5).

In addition to the seven signs and the seven “I am” statements, John recorded the discussions the Lord had and the discourses He gave. The other gospels emphasize more what He did than what He said, whereas the special focus of John is on what the Lord Jesus spoke, because He is the Word (Jn. 1:1-5,14). Therefore, we find the:

  1. Discourse on the Father and the Son (5:19-47);
  2. Discourse on the Bread of God (6:26-40);
  3. Discourse during the Feast of Booths (Jn. 7);
  4. Discourse on the Light of the world (Jn. 8);
  5. Discourse on the Good Shepherd (10:1-18);
  6. Discourse on the Grain of Wheat (Jn. 12:20-36); and
  7. The Upper-room Discourse (Jn. 14-16).

Much more could be said about the Light of the world. John’s gospel often mentions great contrasts, for we learn much through such comparisons, as in Hebrews and other Scriptures. Some examples are old against new, light against darkness, love against hatred, and life against death. All of this is in relation to our Beloved, the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us!

While this article is mainly about the Lord Jesus as light, we have seen that this point cannot be separated from who He is in His love or as the Giver and Sustainer of life. The topic of light is also important in Revelation, especially in relation to the new creation, where the adjective “new”2 is another keyword with “light.” How wonderful this will be!

1. When Judas was going to betray the Lord, Jesus identified Himself before the band of officers and soldiers who had come to arrest Him, by saying “I am” (Jn. 18:3-6). The power of God’s presence for Jesus is God caused all to go backwards and fall down before Him. Soon, every knee will bow (Phil. 2:10).
2. This word (Greek: kainos) occurs 14 (2×7) times in John’s writings (gospel, epistles, Revelation) and in total 42 (6×7) times in the New Testament.

Nothing cuts so deeply as the truth; nothing heals so thoroughly as grace. What a comfort it is that we can go to God and welcome all the searching light of His presence, all its exposure of us down to the bottom of our nature and over all the story of our sin and wretchedness. We are assured that He only probes for our own good. He does this probing so that the resources of His grace may be brought out in all their comprehensive fullness.
Light and warmth reach us from one sun in the heavens; grace and truth subsist by Jesus Christ. They shine, if we may so say, in one face – that of the One who has come from the purity of God’s heaven and is the Healer of man’s disease. His is the hand that was once pierced for our sin that now removes its guilt and defilement from us, and the heart that bled for our transgressions and now reveals to us the heart of God.

—W. H. Westcott (adapted)

Prophet, Priest And King

By Martin Girard, adapted, with permission, from Skyway Messages

Anyone familiar with Israel in the Old Testament will realize that prophets, priests and kings all featured in the life of the nation. How did these distinct offices originate? A brief review of Israel’s history will answer that question. To begin with, an individual – Abram, later named Abraham – was called by God to leave his familiar surroundings and embark on a pilgrimage to an unknown destination (Gen. 12:1). That individual became the father of a family, which eventually became a nation, Israel – named after Abraham’s grandson, whose original name of Jacob had been changed (32:28).

The nation, as foretold, spent 400 years in slavery in Egypt (15:13-14) before God delivered them under the leadership of two men – Moses and Aaron. Initially, Moses was fearful and lacking in confidence, but God encouraged him by sending his brother Aaron to assist (Ex. 4:14-16). Moses was the one who had been chosen to speak on God’s authority; and Aaron, although a prophet on Moses’ behalf, took a secondary place in service to him. (7:1). Later, after God had appeared to Moses at Mount Sinai, instructions were given regarding the tabernacle – the place where God was to be worshiped by His people while they journeyed through the wilderness – and the priesthood. Thus, not only was there a prophet in Israel who spoke for God, there were also to be priests who ministered in sacred things relating to the worship of God.

The First Of Each
Strictly speaking, Moses was Israel’s first prophet. Meanwhile Aaron became the father of a family of priests who ministered at the tabernacle (28:1). Of that family, Aaron assumed the role of high priest on account of his seniority, as ordered by God. After the nation became established in Canaan, their “Promised Land,” the people began to take notice of the nations around them. Each of these other nations had kings who reigned over them, and the Israelites wanted to be like them (1 Sam. 8:5). Samuel, God’s prophet at the time, was displeased; but God told him to agree to their request and establish a king over them. The first king chosen was Saul, who was anointed with oil before taking up his responsibilities (10:1).

Three different figures therefore came to feature in the life of the nation of Israel:

  1. The prophet was God’s messenger and spoke with His authority.
  2. The high priest ministered at the tabernacle and was over the family of priests and Levites.1
  3. The king was the secular ruler of the nation, under God. The judgments of God rested with him (Ps. 72:1).

All of these leaders were mortal and died. Moses, after living for 120 years, passed from this earth (Dt. 34:7). By that time Aaron had already died (Num. 20:28). Years later we read of the deaths of Saul (1 Sam. 31:6) and then of David (1 Ki. 2:1,10), who was arguably Israel’s finest king.2 The life of each was marked by success and failure, but death prevented them from occupying their positions in a permanent sense.

While these facts are clear in the Old Testament, other Scriptures indicate God’s intention of raising up a prophet, a priest and a king who would surpass all those who had gone before them. Moses, speaking to the Israelites, told them that God would raise up “a Prophet” from the midst of His people, “of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken” (Dt. 18:15 KJV). The LORD had told Moses, “I will … put my words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him” (v.18). A “Prophet” – notice the capital letter – who would arise in Israel was therefore promised and would speak with the authority that Moses had possessed. The Jewish people have certainly respected Moses throughout their history, so who could this promised “Prophet” be?

Not only do we read of the coming Prophet in the Old Testament but also of the coming Priest. Consider Psalm 110:4: “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent. Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” The promise, we notice, does not concern a priest like Aaron but like Melchizedek who had lived before Aaron. Mentioned only briefly in Genesis 14, Melchizedek was “the priest of the Most High God” and “king of Salem” (v.18). We find no king of Israel officially serving as a priest in the Old Testament. Any who dared to do so incurred the judgment of God (2 Chr. 26:16-21), for the roles of priest and king were distinct.

Prophets in the Old Testament prophesied of the coming of a special king who would bring peace to the warring planet. Isaiah wrote, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever” (Isa. 9:6-7). Who could this special king be?

Three In One
Turning to the New Testament we discover that one Person is the perfect fulfillment of all these Old Testament prophecies. The Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is revealed as Prophet, Priest and King. We must consider each role in turn.

As already mentioned, Moses had foretold of a coming Prophet with features similar to his own (Dt. 18:15). On one occasion the Lord Jesus stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth and read the words of Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk. 4:18-19). After sitting down, the Lord Jesus told His listeners, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” They marveled as they listened to the gracious words that proceeded from His mouth (vv.21-22).

Isaiah had written of the Messiah who would come bringing the message of God. He had come! When a crowd of 5,000 had been fed miraculously by the Lord Jesus, people declared, “This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world” (Jn. 6:14). The Lord Jesus Christ, as “the Word,” was the very expression of God (1:1) and spoke as God. He was one of Israel’s own people, like Moses, and was known as “Joseph’s son” (Lk. 4:22). Although He was not recognized as a Jewish rabbi, He spoke with authority, unlike the scribes (Mt. 7:29). His words were living words (Jn. 6:63). His critics were forced to declare, “Never man spake like this man” (7:46).

Promises in the Old Testament speak of another Priest – not a descendant of Aaron but connected with Melchizedek. The book of Hebrews elaborates on this theme and reveals in Hebrews 5:5-6 that Christ is the fulfillment of Psalm 110:4. In Hebrews 7 the subject is developed further. Melchizedek, with no recorded ancestors, is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is eternal. Under the law He could never have served as a Levitical priest, “for it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood” (Heb. 7:14). The Lord Jesus, “after the similitude of Melchizedek,” was appointed as Priest – “not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life” (vv.15-16). The priests of the tribe of Levi “were many … because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death” (v.23). By contrast, Christ, who lives forever, has “an unchangeable priesthood” (v.24). In order to function as a priest, however, “it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer” (8:3). The wonderful truth revealed is that Christ “offered up Himself” (7:27) – not in the sense of a repeated sacrifice like the priests of old, but “once … to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (9:26).

Melchizedek, you may remember, “priest of the Most High God” who lived at the time of Abraham, was also a king (Gen. 14:18). Before His birth at Bethlehem, Mary the mother of our Lord was told that her Son would be given “the throne of His father David” and that He would “reign over the house of Jacob for ever” – His kingdom knowing no end (Lk. 1:32-33). Tracing His earthly genealogy we discover that the Lord Jesus was indeed a descendant of both Jacob and David (3:31,34). The words spoken to Mary resemble those we have already considered in the Old Testament in Isaiah 9:7. Thus the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed to us in the New Testament as the Prophet whom Moses spoke of, the Great High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek, and the King of David’s line. Significantly, when Jesus was crucified, the title placed above Him was, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (Mt. 27:37).

In the Old Testament three distinct offices were seen – prophet, priest and king. Nobody in Old Testament times could combine all of these because they were distinct. But the New Testament unfolds the truth that the three offices have been brought together in one Person – our Lord Jesus Christ.

Past, Present, Future
The subject we have been considering is vast, and this article certainly has not done justice to it. Before concluding, however, an explanation might be helpful.

The three roles that we have been looking at need to be related to the three aspects of time – past, present and future – and can be examined in that order. The Lord Jesus fulfilled His role of being the Prophet of God in His first coming. Hebrews 1:2 makes it plain that the God who had spoken in past dispensations to our forefathers by the prophets “hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.” Christ, the Eternal Word, is God’s final “word” to mankind. He has nothing further to say.

But the very next verse goes on to speak of this great Prophet by whom God spoke actually purging our sins through His sacrifice at the cross before taking His seat at God’s right hand on high. One of the great themes of the Epistle to the Hebrews is Christ’s work as our Great High Priest. Not only did He offer the sacrifice of Himself upon the cross, but He also fulfills another priestly function at the present time. The priests of old needed to “have compassion on the ignorant” and to be “called of God” to the task (5:2,4). Hebrews presents the Lord Jesus to us as our compassionate Great High Priest (4:15) who “is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (7:25). This statement brings us to the present time. The Lord Jesus is our Great High Priest at this moment, helping us in our need and pleading for us before the Father. What a wonderful provision we have!

But we must also consider the future. Christ, our Great High Priest who lives in the very presence of God, “shall … appear the second time” – not to deal with sin again but coming “unto salvation” (9:28). In other words, He will come again to bring final deliverance and blessing to His people. So many New Testament passages speak of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Revelation 19:11-16 describes Him returning to earth accompanied by the armies of heaven. He wears the inscription “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (19:16) and comes to reign for 1,000 years (20:6). But beyond that millennial reign it remains true that “He shall reign for ever and ever” (11:15).

Only God Could Have Planned All This!
What a wonderful prospect lies before us: those who belong to Christ shall reign with Him! But more than that, what a wonderful book the Bible is! What human mind could have planned all these things and caused them to fit together with such perfection? Along with G. V. Wigram in his hymn “What Raised The Wondrous Thought?”, we can only exclaim, “O God! The thought was Thine … Thine only it could be.”

All of these thoughts center in God’s beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom He was well pleased (Mt. 17:5). Like the wise men of old, let us “worship Him” (2:2), listen to Him through whom God has spoken to us, and obey Him. As our Great High Priest He will never fail us, and one day He will return from heaven to reign as King, supreme over all, forever.

1. Levites generally served in less significant ways than the priests.
2. The kingdom was taken from Saul (1 Sam. 15:23), while it was covenanted to David forever (2 Sam. 7:13).

The Offices Of The Lord Jesus Christ

Prophet, Priest And King

By Alfred Bouter

When “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4 NKJV) had come, after 4,000 years of human history, God sent His Son into this world. He entered it through His mother Mary’s virgin womb, in which He had been conceived by the Holy Spirit (Mt. 1:18-25). When Mary gave birth to her first-born Son, He was the Baby born as others, yet how different (read Lk. 1-2)! He knew no sin and in Him was no sin – in contrast to all of Adam’s other descendants, who do have a sin nature. Jesus, however, never committed any sin, for He was apart from sin even though surrounded by it and many sinners.

He was King at the very moment He was born (Mt. 2:2). When a baby boy is born into a royal family, he is a prince first and becomes king later. However, the Lord Jesus came as King, yet He was laid in a manger (Lk. 2:7), for He humbled Himself taking a human form of Bondman. He will always keep this form – without losing any of His divinity. Marked by perfect obedience, He was obedient even to the death of the cross (Phil. 2:5-8).

The angel’s message to the shepherds declared Him to be “Christ [Messiah or Anointed One] the Lord”1 and “Savior” (Lk. 2:11). He was born in “the city of David”2 (v.11) because He was a direct descendant of King David (Mt. 1:6; Ruth 4:17-22; Lk. 3:23-31), as well as of Adam and God (v.38; Mic. 5:2). At the same time He was and is “over all, the eternally blessed God” (Rom. 9:5), “Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us’” (Mt. 1:23).

Paul summarized the unfathomable mystery of His person: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich [literally, “being rich”], yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). The expression “being rich” indicates that He did not stop being rich – being God – when He made Himself poor, coming in flesh at His incarnation (Jn. 1:14; 1 Tim. 3:16). This amazing event fulfilled many prophecies about Messiah’s coming, including God’s words to Eve about the Seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15) and others “in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets and the Psalms” (Lk. 24:44).

When He came He was not recognized or honored, except by the shepherds who had been in the fields and later by a few individuals in the temple (2:16-38). We commend the many details about the first coming of the King to your study and meditation, including how He grew up in a despised part of the country, Galilee. Jesus lived in Nazareth, a town not held with honor, and He was known as the son of the carpenter (vv.39-52; Mk. 6:3; Jn. 1:46, 7:52).

The Start Of Jesus’ Public Ministry
Around the time that Jesus was 30 years old (Lk. 3:23), God sent “a witness”: John the Baptist (Jn. 1:6-8). Having been brought up in the priestly3 family of Zacharias and being about 30 years old, it would have been time for John to begin his ministry in the temple. Instead, he was in the wilderness as a prophet proclaiming a special message. This was about 400 years after the last Old Testament prophet, Malachi (Mal. 3:1).

John was called the greatest born of women (Mt. 11:11; Lk. 7:26-28) because he had the privilege of introducing the Messiah to His people. Therefore he was also the greatest prophet, apart from the Lord of course. At the very moment that this remarkable prophet baptized4 Jesus, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove to remain on Him (Jn. 1:33-34), for He was infinitely greater than John (vv.26-27). The Father’s voice was heard from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I have found My delight” (Mt. 3:17 JND).

After this, as God’s unique Servant-Son, He was led by God as the:

  • King, for the Holy Spirit carried Him up into the desert (Mt. 4:1);
  • Servant, as He was “driven” (literally, “pushed”) into the wilderness (Mk. 1:12);
  • Perfect Man, who the Holy Spirit led into the wilderness (Lk. 4:1-14).

As Son of God, Jesus did not need to be tested, therefore the Gospel of John does not include His temptation. However, this gospel describes other aspects, as led by the Holy Spirit, which the other writers did not mention.

The Story Develops Further: A Great Prophet
As King-Servant-Son of Man, Jesus called 12 men to be with Him, learn from Him, and then be sent out later by Him. It is worthy to consider this band of His disciples further by reading passages such as Mark 3:14, Luke 6:13-17 and Matthew 9:37-10:42. There were also several faithful women5who served Him (Lk. 8:2-3, 10:38-42). Luke summarized the first part of the Lord’s ministry in Galilee with the following words, “Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen up among us’ and ‘God has visited His people’” (7:16 NKJV; see Jn. 6:14). Indeed, Jesus the Messiah was greater than all the prophets, including John the Baptist (read 1:19-37).

A prophet (Hebrew, nabi) means a “forth-teller” because he is God’s spokesperson, sent by Him with the purpose of bringing His failing and deviating people back to Himself. A striking example is Samuel (1 Sam. 1-12), who was privileged to anoint David and introduce him among God’s people (16:1-13). God also used women for prophetic service, such as Miriam (Ex. 15:20) and Deborah (Jud. 4-5). The enemy, however, sent false prophets and prophetesses who claimed to speak in the name of the Lord; as an example of this, read 1 Kings 22.

Important Considerations
David was anointed king, but he was also called a prophet (Acts 2:30) and sometimes functioned as a priest. In fact, God used him to organize the services of the priests and Levites in relation to the temple that Solomon would build (1 Chr. 22-29).

Before David, Moses had been “king” (Dt. 33:4-5 JND) in Jeshurun – one of Israel’s names – and he functioned as a priest at several occasions and a prophet often. In this last capacity Moses spoke about the coming Prophet like him to whom the people should listen (18:15-19).

Shortly after Pentecost, Peter explained that Jesus of Nazareth was that Prophet (Acts 3:22-23) to whom the Jews should have listened, for He had been speaking to them on God’s behalf on earth. Yet, they still had the opportunity to listen to Him as He was now speaking from heaven (v.26). Later, Paul explained the same to the Jews in the synagogue (Acts 13:26-47; see Heb. 3:1-5). Both Moses and David were remarkable types of the Lord Jesus, who unites, or will unite, the three offices in His person.

Seen in a chronological order and in a dispensational sense, we suggest that Jesus is firstly the Prophet who came to proclaim God’s thoughts and rights where the people had failed. As Priest, He became Mediator between God and man, first on earth (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 2:17-18) in connection with His work on the cross and then as Minister of the sanctuary (8:1-2) as the true High Priest in heaven. Being from the tribe of Judah, as David’s Descendant, the Lord Jesus was also King.

Not being from Levi or descended from Aaron, He was not allowed to function as Priest on earth in any official capacity (7:13-14), even though He acted as Priest, especially in Luke’s gospel. Because of Christ’s accomplished work on the cross and His resurrection, God introduced a new covenant, with a new set of rules and a change of law. Under this new law the Lord Jesus is Priest, not only in the similitude of Aaron’s service, but also after the order of Melchisedec, a king and priest (7:15-8:2). Understanding this comes through maturity and the Holy Spirit (5:11-14, 6:1).

The Prophet Rejected
Let’s go back to the Lord’s ministry on earth. From a human perspective His ministry seemed to have been a failure when He died on the cross outside Jerusalem, but it was not. God had foreseen and predicted this in Isaiah 49:1-7 and elsewhere. The Lord Jesus, of course, was in full agreement with God’s plan and ways (Mt. 11:25-26), and He knew from the beginning what would happen.

The problem was not on His side. Rather, His people rejected Him despite all the evidence He had given that He was their promised Messiah (Jn. 1:9-11, 20:31). In His life He had glorified God, who accepted His person and work, confirming this several times. His death, resurrection and exaltation were for the glory of God, in contrast to Israel’s behavior.

Stephen summarized Israel’s history of hardening and their resisting of the Holy Spirit: “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers” (Acts 7:52 NKJV). Stephen’s solemn indictment summed up Israel’s history and condition, as he reviewed Christ’s ministry as God’s great Prophet.

Just before Stephen’s testimony and death (6:8-8:2), Peter had spoken to the Jewish leaders about Israel’s responsibility as to “those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled” (3:18). “Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The LORDyour God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days” (vv.22-24).

Two things are obvious: Christ’s ministry as God’s Prophet fulfilled God’s plans (Acts 2:22-24), and God’s earthly people had completely failed. Sadly, this will lead to Israel’s acceptance of a false prophet (Jn. 5:43; 2 Th. 2:3-12; Rev. 13:11-18), as predicted in many examples and types. This man – who must and will be Jewish – will be the counterfeit prophet-priest-king allowed by God, just as was King Saul in the Old Testament.

However, in the world to come – “the millennium” – God will use many young and old among His earthly people to be His prophets (Acts 2:17-18). Obviously these individuals will repent and believe – which is a point of similarity in the various periods in God’s ways, or dispensations, despite great differences between them. The coming “great tribulation” will take place after the true Church is raptured into heaven (1 Th. 4:14-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-52) and many other changes have taken place.

The True King Will Reign
Israel will then finally repent and return to God: the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin first (Zech. 12:10, 13:6-9), followed by the ten tribes (Hos. 6:1-2; Isa. 49:25; Dan. 7:14, 25-27; Ezek. 20:33-42, 34:11-31, 37:15-28; Jer. 31-33). Afterward the Lord Jesus – the Messiah – will reign as King over Israel (Ps. 2, 72) and the nations (Ps. 8; Mt. 25:31-46) to the glory of God.

A careful study of Revelation 21-22 shows certain differences between the millennial reign, in which righteousness will reign (Rev. 21:9-22:6), and the eternal state of the new creation (21:1-8) where righteousness will dwell (2 Pet. 3:13). The Lord’s reign is eternal, yet a difference exists between the enforcement aspect of righteousness during the millennium – with the rod of iron (Ps. 2:9) – and the dwelling aspect of righteousness in the eternal state.

Similarly, there will be a difference between the Church, the heavenly city, the Holy Jerusalem of the millennium (Rev. 21:10), and the Church as the New Jerusalem of the eternal state (Rev. 21:1-2). In the eternal state Christ will be all and in all, according to God’s eternal counsel (Col. 3:10-11; Eph. 3:10-11).

Christ, Only Christ
As the Prophet, using many prophets and various means, the Lord Jesus will bring His earthly people Israel back to God and Himself (see Zech. 4). As Priest, He will sustain them throughout the millennial age and have priests among His own people, whereas others will be taken from the nations to serve as priests under Him (Isa. 66:21). Christ will have a people of priests (vv.2,8-10,20-23). This is the case also today – although in a different setting and context – with us, believers taken from Jews and Gentiles linked with Him in the glory (Heb. 4:16). As the King (Ps. 45) He will reign in righteousness (Isa. 32:1) over Israel and the nations (Zech. 14:9).

In “replacement theology” it is said that the Church has taken the glorious place God intends to give to Israel in the world to come. Because of this wrong theology, Christ is robbed, God is robbed, His earthly people are robbed, and the true Church is reduced to earthly blessings. This is not God’s idea at all!

Closing Remarks
The above lessons and instructions about Israel’s past and future have applications and lessons for us today (1 Cor. 10:1-13). As true believers taken from among the Jewish people and the Gentiles, we are priests (1 Pet. 2:5) and kings (vv.9-10), now and forever (Rev. 1:6, 5:10). Today, God gives prophets in the local assembly; every exercised brother can be used by the Spirit of God to utter a word for the consolation and encouragement of the saints (see the instructions in 1 Cor. 14). In private, children’s ministry or other settings, God’s Spirit may use sisters too as His mouthpiece.

The above thoughts may seem a bit confusing, but trying to grasp God’s thoughts with the Spirit’s help we will start to understand that God has a moral testimony before He publicly introduces the actual thing. This was the case with Christ’s testimony to Israel as the true Prophet, yet He was rejected. Still, the day will come when His testimony will be fulfilled under His reign as King.

Today the Church conveys God’s thoughts so people may repent and be saved, becoming part of the body of believers taken from among Jews and Gentiles as God’s present testimony (see 1 Cor. 1-2). This takes place before the Church’s coming glorious manifestation. Furthermore, what will be literally true of Israel during the millennium as a people in tune with God, should be morally true of the believers today. Above all, these things were seen in perfection in our Lord’s testimony on earth and are so in His present testimony from heaven, before He will reign as King in absolute supremacy.

Israel failed to listen to God’s testimony through His Prophet and therefore they were not able to function according to His plan. Yet His plans will be fulfilled! He wanted His people to function as His prophets, as Peter had quoted the prophet Joel (Acts 2:17-21). This will be the case in the millennium. Then, the King will have a company of kings and priests in heaven as well as on earth, all for the glory of God and for the true joy and satisfaction of the Lord Jesus and of His own. As prophets they will proclaim His rights, as kings they will maintain those rights and rule with Him, and as priests His earthly people bring Him everlasting glory and praise. In the eternal state all rebellion will have been eliminated and eternal thanksgiving and praise will rise to our God, from heaven and earth. Praise God!

1. This statement implies that Jesus is LORD Jehovah, or Yahweh. The Greek text here has no definite article before “Lord” (Kurios), which indicates Jesus to be God: an unfathomable mystery, yet a reality.
2. In the New American Standard Bible this term occurs 42 times (6×7): 40 times in the Old Testament and 2 times in Luke.
3. It is fascinating, at least to me, that the Hebrew root of the word priest (chn) translated as “priest,” “priesthood” and “to serve as priest” occurs 777 times in the Hebrew Bible.
4. John preached repentance, and those who repented were baptized confessing their sins. The Lord Jesus had no need to repent, but He was baptized to identify with those who had repented. Those believers were baptized anew after Christ’s work on the cross, resurrection and ascension, identifying with the Messiah whom His people rejected.
5. This was also the case in Moses’ days when he set up the tabernacle according to God’s instructions (Ex. 38:8). Believing women have important roles, but these are distinct from the tasks believing men have in public service, even though there is no difference as to the position both have “in Christ” (Gal. 3:28).

Some Thoughts On The Epistle To Titus

By Alan H. Crsoby

Paul began this letter with a reminder that as an apostle he had been sent with the message of eternal life – a blessing God had planned for mankind even before the “ages began” (Ti. 1:2 ESV). This was similar to what he told the Ephesians: “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:3-4). In Titus, Paul pointed out that his preaching of this fact is something with which he was “entrusted by the command of God our Savior” (Ti. 1:3). To Paul, Titus was his “true child in a common faith” (v.4).

Point Out Elders
The apostle left Titus in Crete “to set right what remained unordered” (JND) and to point out (Greek: cheirotoneo) “elders in every town” (v.5 ESV). Paul described those who were to be pointed out as elders, particularly those who should serve as overseers, or bishops (KJV): They should be “above reproach” (ESV), be “discreet” (JND) and “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that [they might] be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (vv.7-9 ESV).
We should note that the words “appoint,” “ordain,” “minister,” “bishop” and a few others reveal the theological bias of the translators. “Appoint” and “ordain,” for instance, do not mean creating elders but merely recognizing “those who had already been raised up and qualified by the Holy Spirit and had given evidence of this in their life and service” (Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p.67).

Elders who would serve as overseers were to have some spiritual leadership abilities. These leaders would be men who could see what needed to be done and do it, possibly with the help of others. Therefore those who were gifted in “helping [and] administering” (1 Cor. 12:28) would be involved.

Rebuke The Judaizers
Titus was to “silence” those of the “circumcision party” – presumably Judaizers – and those who would “turn [people] away from the truth” (Ti. 1:10-13). Judaizers do not believe God’s Word about salvation being by grace alone (Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 2:16). They errantly think we must do or practice certain things like Jews otherwise we cannot be saved. The work of Judaizers has resulted in today’s church altars, special clothing and positions for those who are called ”clergy” (consider the priests in Ex. 28:1-40), and in “questions of food or drink, or with regard to a festival [“holiday,” KJV] or a Sabbath” (Col. 2:16).

There are Christians who have set up a “church calendar” which involves the commemoration of various aspects of Christ’s life – particularly His birth, death and resurrection. These are not found as festivals or holy days in Scripture; instead we find the “breaking of bread” (Acts 20:7; Lk. 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:23-25). Our Lord asked us to remember Him in this very special way. In remembering Him each week, the bread leads us to think on His becoming flesh (the focus of Christmas), and the wine leads us to think on His death and resurrection (what Easter celebrates). Paul said that by remembering Him in the manner in which He instructed, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” for us (v.26). By contrast, the Galatians were rebuked for observing “days and months and seasons and years” (Gal. 4:10) as part of a church calendar.

Beware Of Those Seeing Nonexistent Evil
Paul said, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their minds and their consciences are defiled” (Ti. 1:15). In other words, these “defiled and unbelieving” assign the worst possible interpretation to motives and actions. They will be very persuasive. We should never allow ourselves to be ruffled by their talk until we investigate for ourselves and obtain the facts in their true light.

Teach According To Sound Doctrine
Paul wrote to Titus, which we can also apply to ourselves: “Teach what accords with sound doctrine” (2:1). Such teaching will be full of truth and wisdom yet differing according to the maturity of the hearers. Older men were to be taught “to be [serious], dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and steadfastness” (v.2). Younger men were “to be self-controlled,” and Titus was to teach them as a model to “show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned” (vv.6-8). Older women were “to be reverent in behavior,” not destroying or harming the reputation of others, but teaching the younger women (vv.3-4). The younger women were to be taught “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands” (vv.4-5, italics added) – but this does not mean wives were to be servants to their husbands! “Bondservants,” or what we might call “employees,” were “to be submissive to their own masters in everything; … well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering” (vv.9-10). They were not to call in sick just to take a day off or extend a bathroom break beyond what was necessary, for example.

In every case the guiding principle is to be: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus (Col. 3:17). In this way we will “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Ti. 2:10).

Be Ready To Do Good Work
We are to be submissive and obedient to the “governing authorities” (Rom. 13:1). It is very difficult to do good works with your income when you have to pay it to the government as fines, or in your home when you are confined in jail! In short, conduct your life so you are always “ready for every good work” (3:1).

We are warned against speaking evil of people (v.2). Here, the Bible uses the Greek word blasphemeo, from which we get our English word “blaspheme.” Therefore we notice that we can “blaspheme” – speak evil of or irreverently of – people as well as God. This sin is not uncommon among believers, including those who are well-versed in Scripture and sound in doctrine. A colleague of mine once described his Bible-believing relatives: they emphasized avoiding “worldly things” but they would speak badly of others in their absence. As a consequence, one was afraid to leave the group even for a brief period for fear of what they would say of him or her.

We are not prohibited from passing on news about the comings and goings of others, but we are to avoid giving accounts of people’s doings that make the talk evil. Scripture tells us, “Whatever is commendable … if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). Talk that fits these descriptions would encourage good works in others.

We are also told to avoid “controversies” and “quarrels” (Ti. 3:9). Our religious flesh gets ego-pleasing pleasure from gathering followers, especially if we get them to follow us into a division. Those who do this are called “heretics.” Paul wrote: “quarrels about the law … are unprofitable and worthless” (v.9); “the law is holy … and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). Thus a person who uses “truth” to cause dissensions and quarrels is ”warped and sinful” (Ti. 3:11).

Live In The Grace Of God
The grace of God is both an impressive fact and an extraordinary person, namely “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2:13). In coming into this world to die in our place He made salvation available to everybody. This salvation brings not only deliverance from eternal punishment but also the power “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (v.12)

Meanwhile, we are to be living as though we are expecting the Lord Jesus to appear on this earth in glory (v.13). This is what the devout Jews were looking for when Christ came the first time, but they did not realize that the Christ would have to suffer death and be resurrected before He would “enter into His glory” (Lk. 24:26). We, now, “being justified by His grace we … become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Ti. 3:7). Jesus Christ “gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (2:14),

In closing, Paul made the simple request, “Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works … and not be unfruitful” (3:14). We become unfruitful by allowing foolish controversies and dissensions to stir up divisions. The Lord earnestly desires us to be one (Jn. 17:22), but nowhere does Scripture tell us that our purpose in this world is to be a “representation of His one true Church.” Instead, are we not told to “be careful to devote [ourselves] to good works” (Ti. 3:8)? We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Lessons From The Book Of Titus

By Alfred Bouter

How amazing is God’s Word! No matter how we look at it, search and study it, we will always find that it is wonderful because God is Wonderful (Isa. 9:6). This includes the epistle that the apostle Paul wrote to Titus.
The name Titus probably means “nurse,” which fits his service quite well. Even though Titus was not Jewish, Paul called him his “true child” (Ti. 1:4 NASB), as he was saved early in Paul’s public ministry as apostle to the Gentiles (see Gal. 2:8). Some years later Titus and others accompanied the apostle to the Jerusalem council meeting (Acts 15), although this may not have been his first time there (Gal. 2:1-3)1.
During the apostle’s third missionary journey, Paul sent Titus, as a useful servant, to Corinth (2 Cor. 2:13, 7:6,13-14). Titus also helped organize a special collection for the poor in Jerusalem and Judea (8:6,16,23, 12:18). The donations were collected in Macedonia and Greece and brought to Jerusalem near the end of Paul’s third journey (Acts 20-21; Rom. 15:25-27).

However, shortly after his arrival there Paul was arrested and put on trial, first in Jerusalem, and later for at least two years in Caesarea. The trial continued, eventually ending in Rome2
(Acts 22-28), where he remained for two full years (28:30-31). After his release from prison the apostle must have traveled extensively (Rom. 15:24,28), of which we have no details in Acts and only some hints in a few Epistles. At some point Paul left Timothy in Ephesus, while he traveled further (1 Tim. 1:3).

Titus accompanied the apostle during his ministry in Crete,3 a large island situated in the Mediterranean Sea southwest of Greece. For a long period of time, beginning about 4,000 years ago, Crete had been considered to be a place of cultural greatness. Having ministered there, Paul left Titus on the island with instructions to put certain things “in order” (Ti. 1:5).

A few years later Paul was arrested and sent to Rome to be put on trial, having been falsely accused of a serious crime (2 Tim. 1:8,12,15-18). He found himself in difficult circumstances, much harder than the two years in Rome about five years earlier (Acts 28:30-31; Phil. 1:15-18). Several people visited him between the various sessions of this trial (see 2 Tim. 4:16-18), including Onesimus (1:16) and others (4:10). Many departed from Paul’s teachings – which were and still are from God – in those days (2 Tim. 1:15), and Demas forsook him completely (4:10). After visiting Paul, others went on to serve elsewhere, while Luke remained faithfully with the apostle. Paul expected Timothy to arrive from Ephesus, bringing Mark (v.11). At some point during this difficult period Titus must have come to visit Paul in Rome on his way to Dalmatia (4:10). That region is on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea, where Paul may have been during his third missionary journey, having referred to Illyricum (Rom. 15:19).

A special bond existed between Paul and Titus. This is an example and encouragement for older and younger believers spiritually to walk, grow and serve the Lord together, in a relationship of mutual appreciation and commitment.

To Put Things In Order
When Paul had left Titus in Crete, he gave him specific instructions to put things in order among the assemblies – in the homes and in the community. As an apostle, Paul had God-given authority to appoint elders in the assemblies he had started together with Barnabas (Acts 14:23). Now he delegated this authority to Titus for the assemblies they had visited in Crete. From Acts 20 we know that the Holy Spirit placed elders in the midst of the flock of the Lord’s people as overseers, not over the flock (v.28).

The apostles and their delegates are no longer with us to choose or establish elders, but the Word of God and the Holy Spirit are present. God’s thoughts have not changed, and the resources needed to practice His desires are still with believers and will remain here until the Lord’s return. This implies a challenge for us today: Rely on Him in all things, instead of on man’s institutions or devices.

In his letter Paul introduced himself as a “bond-servant of God” (Ti. 1:1) – an example to Titus and to all believers to truly serve God, the Lord Jesus and His people. While being subject to the Emperor, as explained in Romans 13 and elsewhere, Paul was first and foremost God’s servant.

He described believers as God’s chosen or elect ones, having the knowledge of the truth and living godly lives with a sure hope (Ti. 1:1-2) in a world without it (Eph. 2:12). This reliable hope is good now and for eternity for all those who have received eternal life (Jn. 3:16) and are linked with God’s counsel, or purpose, from before the world’s foundation. It rests in “God, who cannot lie” (Ti. 1:2), and it is connected with His promise from before the ages (2 Tim. 1:1,9; Eph. 3:5-9) and His “eternal purpose” (v.11). All this gave Titus the right context in which the things that remained were to be “set in order” (Ti. 1:5). It is the same for us as we rely on help from the Savior-God.4

This short epistle with instructions to Titus for the benefit of the believers in Crete is of great significance to all believers. It contains precious gems and practical instructions. The believers are left in this world to represent God and, as children of God, to reflect His qualities and features. This applies especially to those in leadership positions, for the more they have received the more responsible these ones are and the clearer their light should shine.

The good qualities mentioned in this letter are to be seen in all believers, but first of all in the elders (overseers) and deacons (servants). God’s standards are very high; in fact, only the Lord Jesus as a perfect Man on this earth fully answered to them. However, God desires that all believers, not only elders and leaders, follow these norms and imitate our Lord’s perfect example even though we are not perfect.

The following outline shows how all believers are addressed in this epistle, and Titus in particular, in view of the tasks to instruct, help, lead, correct and encourage. In fact, God’s Word addresses all believers, giving lessons in all its instructions whether we are directly addressed or not. Reading slowly through the text, asking the Lord to bless His Word to us today, we will receive His blessing and encouragement. He can and will use what we read to instruct us about something that is on our minds.

Brief Outline of Titus5
I. Salutation (1:1-4)
II. Qualifications Of The Elders (1:5-9)
III. Characteristics Of The False Teachers (1:10-16)
IV. Godly Behavior For Different Groups (2:1-10)

A. Older men (2:1-2)
B. Older women (2:3)
C. Younger women (2:4-5)
D. Younger men (2:6-8)
E. Slaves (2:9-10)
V. Role Of Grace In Promoting Godly Behavior (2:11-3:11)
A. The educating power of grace (2:11-14)
B. The gracious behavior that results from grace (2:15-3:2)
C. Grace as a motivation for godly living (3:3-8)
D. Behavior inconsistent with grace (3:9-11)
VI. Final Instructions And Greetings (3:12-15)

A Few Remarkable Nuggets
Obviously in this short paper we cannot deal with all the different matters this epistle addresses. However, what becomes apparent when reading Titus is God’s desire that all Christians function according to His thoughts and plans, as His disciples and witnesses. His desire represents a tremendous challenge for all true believers, because Satan is totally against it as long as we are in his world. The place where we live today is in enemy territory; he is the “ruler of this world” (Jn. 14:30) and the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4 NKJV), opposing God’s testimony.

In this spiritual battle, he uses the same tactics (1 Jn. 2:16) as he did with Eve in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-6). This is allowed by God, but with Him in firm control, for He is sovereign and above all. Trials allowed by God led Job, for example, to recognize God’s greatness (Job 42:2), and so it is for believers today. God wants all believers to be His witnesses. This is beautifully explained in Titus 2:11-15. First, the grace of God has appeared to all men. In other words, every man, woman and child is addressed by God in grace with His special offer of salvation. Those who accept it by faith, whether slaves or princes, are then instructed to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, just as 1 John 2:15-17 and many other passages explain. Right and upright conduct, in true self-judgment, is needed and will lead to further instruction in God’s school. This is intended for all believers.

We are in God’s school every day, and His teaching will lead us to:

          • Become sober, sensible, honest with ourselves, and self-controlled.
          • Act rightly with others, both Christians and non-Christians.
          • Be godly, or pious, with the right attitude in relation to God. This implies introducing God into every part of our lives and depending on Him.
          • Have the correct outlook on the future in accordance with God’s teaching on Christ’s coming for the Church, the Church meeting Him in the air, and being with Him forever in glory (1 Th. 4:14-17).
          • Understand in truth the work of redemption and its results.
          • Realize that we belong to Him.
          • Manifest the zeal of true love that expresses itself in actions for His honor.

The overall context of this passage is Paul’s teaching that Titus should urge the bond slaves to be subject to their own masters (Ti. 2:9). Instead of teaching social activism, Paul took the difficult situation which believing slaves experienced as an opportunity for them to promote God’s interests – to be living testimonies of the true Master. Such a behavior (see vv.9-10) would powerfully speak to their earthly masters, better than Paul could say in words. With a conduct of faith and faithfulness (v.10) the Christian slaves would adorn, or beautify, the doctrine of God our Savior. Their changed attitude would be a powerful testimony to their unbelieving masters of the power of God’s grace that changes lives (vv.11-15). Paul explained elsewhere that a slave may buy himself free; a master who has become a believer may even free his slaves, but rebellion, or rioting, is never an option.

God’s Desire For Us All
It is not only slaves who are placed in this world to shine for God. In Titus 3, Paul taught that all Christians need to be subject to rulers, including any authority placed over us by God, while showing respect to all fellow men. The apostle used seven key expressions to describe the right attitude (vv.1-2):

          1. Be subject,
          2. Obedient,
          3. Ready for every good work,
          4. Not maligning,
          5. Not contentious, but
          6. Gentle and
          7. Meek

These seven points summarize our new lifestyle, in contrast to the one before we were saved. The old lifestyle is summarized by seven other keywords in verse 3:

          1. Foolish,
          2. Disobedient,
          3. Deceived,
          4. Enslaved,
          5. Wasting time in evil and envy,
          6. Hateful and
          7. Hating one another.

These new and old lifestyles do not only refer to the slaves but to all human beings saved by the grace of God. Paul then summarized this grace with seven characteristic terms, as shown by the Savior-God in His kindness and love for mankind:

          1. He saved us, not by works of righteousness we did or might have done,
          2. But according to His mercy,
          3. Through the washing of regeneration by God’s Word …
          4. And by the renewing of the Holy Spirit …
          5. Whom He poured out abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
          6. As a result, we have been justified, or declared righteous, through God’s grace …
          7. As He made us heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Eternal Life
This is a wonderful gift, because the Lord Jesus, the eternal Son of God, is the true God and the eternal life (1 Jn. 5:20). He is the Gift as well as the Giver. The moment we believed, God gave us the right to become children of God (Jn. 1:12) and we received eternal life (3:16). Furthermore, we wait for the Lord Jesus to come again (1 Th. 4:14-18), when He will take us to where eternal life dwells (Jude 1:24). That is why Paul speaks about “the hope of eternal life” (Ti. 1:2, 3:7). This is not a contradiction, since at the moment we believed we received eternal life. At the same time we were put on a path that leads to eternal life – to the realm where the eternal life dwells and where we will dwell with Him.

Paul explained that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5) and that the Holy Spirit was “poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Ti. 3:6 NASB). On the day of Pentecost, Peter said that Jesus of Nazareth had been “exalted to the right hand of God” and that “having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33 NKJV). In the house of Cornelius, Peter testified that “the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also” (10:45). Praise God for the riches of His grace, manifested by the triune God through our Lord Jesus Christ!

1 Before he started his missionary journeys, Paul, together with Barnabas, brought financial support from Antioch to Jerusalem (Acts 11:29-30). Perhaps Titus went along with them, if Galatans 2:1-3 refers to that trip. Others think that this last quotation refers to the Jerusalem council described in Acts 15.
2 This journey to Rome is sometimes called Paul’s fourth missionary journey.
3 The New Testament refers to Crete or Cretans seven times by name (Acts 2:11, 27:7,12,13,21; Ti. 1:5,12).
4 Six times in the pastoral epistles Paul refers to God as our Savior (1 Tim. 1:1, 2:3; 4:10; Ti. 1:3, 2:10, 3:4).
5 Litfin, A. D. (1985). Titus. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 761). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Good Health In Crete

By Martin Girard, adapted with permission from Skyway Messages

“A treasure trove of history, rugged beauty, gorgeous beaches and sizzling summer temperatures.”

These words were used in a holiday brochure to describe the island of Crete. Today if you visit any international airport in Western Europe specializing in holiday flights, you may well see “Chania” and “Heraklion,” the two largest cities on Crete, on the flight arrival and departure screens. It is hardly surprising that people would want to visit such resorts. If the averages are anything to go by, you can expect temperatures of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and seven hours of sunshine each day, even in the autumn! Crete is the most southerly island in the Mediterranean, with the result that tourists are guaranteed a deep tan in the strong sunshine.
A long, narrow island, Crete is about 160 miles from end to end. Although there are plenty of sandy beaches, the island scenery is spectacular with a wild landscape and mountains rising 8,000 feet above the sea. There are olive groves and vineyards, and oranges can be seen growing. The island also boasts of Europe’s longest gorge – the Samaria Gorge.

Crete is steeped in history and is said to be the birthplace of western civilization some 5,000 years ago. The population is a little more than half a million, and the island is easy to reach today by air. However, journeys 2,000 years ago were not as simple. Artemas or Tychicus, when sent to Crete by the apostle Paul (Ti. 3:12), would have had to make a sea crossing – probably from Greece. As we know from the account of Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27, dangers could be encountered when weather conditions suddenly deteriorated.

A Letter Sent
Long before the days of established postal services or electronic communications, a man sent a letter to his young friend in Crete. It is preserved for us in the Word of God as Paul’s Epistle to Titus. Times may have changed, but the message of this inspired letter has not. Matters that are relevant to life today can be discovered within this brief epistle.

Titus was an uncircumcised Greek (Gal. 2:3) who was evidently led to the Lord by Paul – hence he is called “mine own son” by the apostle (Ti. 1:4 KJV). He had accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem and was also involved in service for the Lord in Corinth. There are a number of references to him in 2 Corinthians. Afterwards he had helped Paul to evangelize Crete and then stayed on for follow-up work (Ti. 1:5). When Artemis or Tychicus arrived in the island, Titus was to leave Crete and meet Paul on the Greek mainland.

In brochures today we are told that the local people in Crete are “warm and friendly,” but that was not always the case. The reference to them being “liars, evil beasts, slow bellies [lazy gluttons]” in Paul’s day (v.12) is hardly flattering. However, a work needed to be done there, and Titus was an experienced individual who could be entrusted with the ministry Paul had in mind.

The Need For Elders
After Paul’s introduction, in which he confirmed the divine authority that he possessed, this servant of God turned to the task that was urgently needed. Certain things were not right. Disorder prevailed in some places, which was why Paul instructed Titus to “set in order” the things that were lacking (v.5). How easily things can lapse into an unthinking routine that has no sense of spiritual urgency! It was vital that true men of God, who could lead the church according to the divine pattern, be recognized. In every city where believers met together God intended that His flock should be shepherded by suitably qualified men. In order for Titus to identify them, Paul listed the features that should be evident in their lives (vv.5-9).

Men of the same calibre are needed to lead the flock of God today. All too often churches treat a passage like this casually and appoint as leaders men – or wrongly, women – because of their business abilities and social skills. Paul’s list mentions no such qualities. Instead, it describes a man “holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught” (v.9). God is most concerned with having leaders who know the truth as given and cling to it. He has no use for goals to modernize or make it more fashionable for the current day.

Good Health
An interesting expression occurs five times in this epistle. The Greek word hugiaino (v.9), translated as “sound doctrine,” gives us our English word “hygienic.” A strong rebuke was needed so any local believers who were living unruly lives would become “sound in the faith” – meaning spiritually healthy (v.13).

Titus himself was to teach truths that would promote “sound doctrine” (2:1). While it is important to be correct scripturally, Paul’s concern was not simply for an academic grasp of the truth. Spiritual health is a very practical matter, as can be seen in the second chapter of Titus. The older men in the churches were to be “sound in faith” (v.2) and reflect it by their godly lives. Older women also were to exemplify holy living and teach younger women how to conduct their lives in a God-glorifying way. Younger men were to be pure in their relationships (vv.1-6).

All of this is very practical and applicable to life today. Titus himself was to set an example to the young men and use “sound speech” in his conversation with them (2:7-8) in order to promote their spiritual health.

Good Works
In addition to good spiritual health, this epistle developed the theme of good works. Those who merely profess to know God are “reprobate,” or wicked, and unable to display good works in their lives (1:16). The life of Titus was to be “a pattern of good works” (2:7) which others could follow. Although “works of righteousness” (3:5) play no part whatever in our own salvation, believers should be “zealous” for good works (2:14). We need to be “ready” to do what is good (3:1) and seek to “maintain good works” (v.8) in our daily lives. Good works are part of fruitful Christian living (v.14).

The Christian life must be lived out in the context of an ungodly world. The carnal – worldly and fleshly – spirit that characterized the Cretans is with us still and needs to be rebuked. God, by His mercy, saves souls, and His grace is constantly available to equip His people for every task they face each day.

Suffering As A Christian

By Martin Girard

In his first epistle, Peter took up the subject of suffering. He referred to the sufferings of Christ for us (1 Pet. 2:21), and what it means for someone to suffer as a Christian (4:16). Suffering can be experienced for a number of causes. Physical illness and infirmity can lead to pain. Somebody reading this magazine may well be confined to bed and undergoing suffering from which there seems to be no relief. Such experiences are not to be minimized or regarded as trivial, for they are not. But the purpose of this article is to focus on one specific form of suffering which Peter mentioned. He cautioned his readers not to suffer for a wrong reason: for murder, theft, evil-doing, or even being a busybody. Indeed, one ought to expect unpleasant consequences from engaging in such wrong things. Sin should make us ashamed. “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed” (4:16 KJV, emphasis added). Rather, “let him glorify God” when such an experience arises.

Suffering as a Christian has continued in every generation since Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Before that time, in the Old Testament era, God’s believing people suffered at the hands of enemies as well. Today, all over the world, we can find examples of Christians suffering. In some countries where a militant and aggressive religion prevails, Christian believers experience brutal persecution. But in other places where Christians are free to meet openly for worship, we can also discover instances of persecution.

Examples could be given of Christians who have been taken to court for acting according to conscience and refusing to submit to humanistic laws. Faced with losing their job or having to pay a fine for failing to promote same-sex relationships, some believers have been made to “pay the price” for their biblical beliefs. While there is no merit in suffering for evil doing, one who has to suffer “for well doing” according to the will of God can bring glory to Him. In fact, Peter moved on immediately from this statement to consider how Christ suffered for our sins (3:17-18).

Reasons For Persecution
Actually there may be no reasons for persecution! The writer of the longest psalm had many persecutors and enemies, but he declared, “Princes have persecuted me without a cause” (Ps. 119:157,161). There was no valid reason why they should persecute him. However, the next words spoken are revealing: “But my heart standeth in awe of Thy Word.” Perhaps this explains why he had been caused to suffer. Satan detects – and hates – any sign of faithfulness to the Word of God. Evidently the “princes” referred to were proud of their own authority and rejected the truth of God. The psalmist’s respect for God and His Word provoked their derision, ridicule, mockery and scorn.

In the New Testament we find a number of reasons why believers may suffer. The Lord Jesus pointed out to His disciples that if He experienced persecution, they could expect to face it too (Jn. 15:20). The way in which the Lord Jesus responded to opposition teaches us how we should respond. Actually, Peter told us that the way in which Christ reacted provides us with an example we should follow (1 Pet. 2:21-23). Since He was hated without a cause it ought not to surprise us if we experience the same. Paul affirmed, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). A godly life therefore can provoke opposition. We may find we are persecuted “for righteousness’ sake” – in other words, for actually doing the right thing (Mt. 5:10)! Preaching the message of the cross, which is a “right” thing to do, can also arouse the hatred of men, for man in his pride finds the message offensive and prefers some kind of “works” in which he can glory. Paul referred to this in Galatians, where he made it very clear that some preferred to preach circumcision* in order to avoid the persecution associated with the cross (5:11, 6:12).

The message of the Bible is never popular. Jesus spoke of tribulation or persecution arising “because of the Word” (Mt. 13:21). There will always be the temptation to give people what they want to hear, but that will never do. Early believers who were beaten and commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus “departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Their love for the Master lessened the pain. They remembered what He had suffered for them and gladly accepted the beating for His sake. Persecution, therefore, may come to us for the Lord’s sake, for faithfulness to the truth or for living a godly life.

Something To Remember
Those who suffer in the cause of Christ must remember that there is a divine purpose in it. Although we may not be aware of that purpose now, one day we will understand. At the present time it is certainly true that “tribulation worketh patience” (Rom. 5:3). The trials we experience can be used by God to develop both patience and a spirit of perseverance in us. For this reason we must accept God’s wise and loving dealings with us and be “patient in tribulation” (12:12), like the Thessalonian believers (2 Th. 1:4). Paul actually took pleasure “in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake” (2 Cor. 12:10) for he knew that when he was conscious of human weakness he could draw upon the greater divine strength.

In Daniel 3 we have the account of three faithful men who were cast into a burning, fiery furnace because of their refusal to engage in idolatry. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, was astounded to see not three but four men in that furnace, walking about freely and unharmed by the intense heat of the fire. The Lord Himself, who was with His children in their trial, brought them safely out. The record of their experience can encourage us greatly. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ, not even persecution (Rom. 8:35)! Paul, who suffered much, could write of being “persecuted, but not forsaken” (2 Cor. 4:9). Those who hurt the Lord’s people hurt Him too, as Saul discovered while on his way to arrest believers in Damascus (Acts 9:4-5). Any who face severe sufferings for Christ’s sake can discover a super-abundant consolation (2 Cor. 1:5). The experience of the three Israelites in the furnace confirms to us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1, emphasis added).

Some other facts ought not to be forgotten. The Lord will deliver the righteous from all their troubles as He delivered David (34:6,17). We ought not to forget that the death of a believer can be the means He uses to provide deliverance. Paul’s writings assure us that our present sufferings cannot compare with the glory that lies before us (Rom. 8:18). Although he suffered as an evil-doer would, Paul’s eye was on the future and he looked forward to reigning with Christ (2 Tim. 2:9,12). He knew, humanly speaking, that he deserved none of this grace because he was guilty of persecuting believers unto death (Acts 22:4) and, for this reason, was not fit to be called an apostle (1 Cor. 15:9). But in mercy the Lord saved him, and He can still do the same. Some of those who persecute God’s children today may yet repent and humbly turn to Christ. If they refuse, then they will, of course, face His judgment.

Responding To Persecution
I think when we experience persecution it is wise to pause and ask the Lord what He may be saying. On one occasion, at least, the disciples were told by the Lord Jesus to interpret persecution as a sign that they should move from the town where they were hated to another (Mt. 10:23). By contrast, Paul often simply endured suffering and stayed where he was (1 Cor. 4:12). Much wisdom is needed in order to know what the Lord wants us to do. There is certainly nothing wrong in praying for deliverance like David did: “O LORD my God, in Thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me” (Ps. 7:1). In desperate need Hezekiah turned to God and cried, “O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me” (Isa. 38:14). We are certainly invited to call upon Him in our need, for we read, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me” (Ps. 50:15). Troubles and suffering must not cause us to doubt. Rather, we need to maintain our trust in the Lord.

Something else, however, needs to be considered. Remember how the Lord Jesus prayed for His enemies as He was nailed to the cross. Instead of blaming them or pointing to their hatred, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). How amazing! The Lord Jesus knew what they did not know. He had come to be the Sin-bearer, and in His sacrifice He was making provision for their forgiveness if only they would believe. His purpose for His people is that they should have the same spirit of compassion. “Love your enemies,” He declared, “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). The flesh within us would treat them as they have treated us, but the Saviour points us to a higher way. Romans 12:14 confirms this: “Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not.” Notice how Paul repeated the exhortation just in case we have missed it the first time! “Yes, I mean it!” he, in a sense, declared. “Those who have cursed you are to be blessed, not cursed!”

Naturally, suffering is one of the last things we would choose. It is, however, a privilege! Paul rejoiced in it (Col. 1:24) and could speak of being “exceeding joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Cor. 7:4). Of course, we must not go out of our way to seek persecution by provoking other people, but if it should come our way we must remember that we are in good company. The prophets of old suffered for their faithfulness. Think of the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 5:10-12: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

A Vast Subject
The many verses quoted in this article have proved, without question, that this subject is vast. As followers of the Lord Jesus, who was rejected in this world, we should not expect popularity. Rather, we should expect the kind of treatment He received at the hands of men.

Our responsibility is to “relieve the oppressed” (Isa. 1:17). We ought not to make life more difficult for anyone by our unhelpful remarks. Job charged his three “friends” with persecuting him (Job 19:22) rather than comforting him.

In many countries today laws are being passed that flatly contradict God’s Word. By remaining faithful to God and to Scripture, those living in such countries may well find they are treading a pathway of suffering. May the Lord strengthen us for whatever lies ahead and give us the grace to remain faithful to Him. Let us also continue to support and pray for those who suffer for Him.

* Galatians contrasts circumcision, the law and efforts of the flesh with faith, grace and the Spirit’s work.


By Richard Barnett

All of us wish that we could live in a world without suffering, where, figuratively speaking, the sun was always shining; the sky was always blue; and there were no dark clouds. But the sad reality is that suffering is all around us and has become a part of our existence. Its effects are seen in natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes that have devastated countries like Haiti. Wars and conflicts in such places as Syria, Iraq and South Sudan have brought tremendous suffering, causing vast numbers of refugees to flee for safety, often with the loss of lives. Additionally, people suffer physically and emotionally through sickness, starvation, rejection, abandonment and bullying. Many children suffer from alcoholic parents and through marriage breakups. The list could go on and on.

It is unfortunate that God is often blamed for all the grief and pain in the world. The Bible is God’s handbook, even on suffering. Therefore, let’s take a look at suffering from the biblical viewpoint.

The Origin Of Suffering
At the beginning of time, God made Adam and his wife and placed them in an earthly paradise He had prepared: the garden of Eden. One definition of Eden is “delights.” The garden was furnished with everything for which the heart and eye could wish: “Every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:9 KJV). God, in His goodness and tender-loving care, assured man’s enjoyment, comfort and well-being. When God surveyed His work He pronounced everything “very good” (1:31). The finishing touch was the presence of God Himself with Adam and his wife, visiting in the cool of the day to have fellowship with them. I want to emphasize that they were living at this point in an ideal environment, where suffering did not exist and was therefore unknown in their experience.

God gave to Adam one command: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (2:16-17). Since God was man’s Creator, He had every right to demand obedience from Adam. Therefore He put him under the responsibility of obedience.

Most of us are familiar with the sad events that followed, as recorded in Genesis 3. Satan appeared on the scene in the form of a serpent – full of craft and deceit – and questioned Eve as to God’s command. This one who is a “liar” (Jn. 8:44) suggested God was holding back something from them which would actually enhance their happiness, and that He was lying when He told them that they would die if they disobeyed. Adam’s wife believed Satan, took of the fruit of the tree and ate it. Offered some of the fruit by his wife, Adam also took of it and ate, willfully disobeying God. Observe in Genesis 3 the vast and sudden spiritual, moral and social change that took place because of that one act of disobedience:

  1. Their eyes were opened (v.7), meaning there was now an awakened conscience.
  2. They had become alienated from God, for they hid themselves (v.8).
  3. They were afraid of God (v.10).
  4. Adam blamed God: “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (v.12).
  5. There would be enmity between the Seed of the woman – that Seed being Christ – and the serpent’s seed, or followers (v.15).
  6. Christ would “crush” (JND) the serpent’s head but would Himself be bruised (v.15). This was the first prophetic announcement that Christ would suffer. Isaiah predicted that it would be on account of our sins: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5 KJV). Peter confirmed what Isaiah had written: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18). This is what we mean when we say that He suffered vicariously – that is, He suffered on our behalf – in order to put sin away and reconcile us to God.
  7. God said to the woman, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow” (Gen. 3:16), which was something that they had not known before.
  8. The ground was now cursed, causing Adam to labor and toil for the rest of his life (vv.17-19).
  9. Death was pronounced upon mankind: “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (v.19).

All these changes are found as we read of man’s fall into sin, and therefore we can rightly conclude that suffering is a result of the entrance of sin into the world.

Expect Suffering
For that reason, we must expect suffering. Job said that “man born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” and “yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 14:1, 5:7). Before Jesus went to the cross He told His disciples, “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). After the Church was formed, Paul told the followers of Christ, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

Clearly suffering is a part of God’s ways with us – His children. Therefore we should not despair or be filled with a sense of hopelessness, even when things seem out of control, for God is still the Omnipotent – the All Powerful – One who is for us and with us. In all our afflictions, He is afflicted (Isa. 63:9); He enters into our sufferings like no other. He is “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3).

Old Testament saints such as Job, Moses, Joseph and David provide examples of suffering. In Job’s case, he lost his children, possessions and health. Compounding his suffering, his wife suggested that he “curse God and die” (Job 2:9); but Job’s response proved his confidence in God’s wisdom and care. This greatly suffering man knew nothing of what was taking place behind the scenes, that Satan wanted to destroy his soul. Job, however, knew that God was in control of his life and circumstances, and he would trust Him unreservedly. The end result was that God blessed Job even more than at his beginning.

The great thing to remember in our sufferings is that Christ is our sympathetic Great High Priest who is interceding for us in heaven (Heb. 4:14-15), while the Holy Spirit is doing the same for us on earth (see Rom. 8:26,34). Furthermore, the love of God is a banner over us from which nothing can separate, for “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life … shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv.35-39).

The Value Of Suffering
God in His perfect wisdom and His abundant mercy uses suffering as a tool to benefit us. He turns something bad into something good. The principle of suffering and its merits are seen even in nature:

  • Bitter medicine must be administered to one who is sick, but when received it does its work and the sufferer is made well again.
  • Wheat has to be ground into flour, made into dough and then placed into the oven before it becomes bread to feed the hungry.
  • Gold must be melted by intense heat and the impurities skimmed off before it is made into beautiful jewelry to adorn the hands and necks of its wearers.

In like manner God uses suffering to prune and cleanse us that we might become fruitful for His pleasure (Jn. 15:2). Such fruit as purity, love, patience, meekness and compassion are what God desires to see in us. In Genesis, Joseph suffered unjustly at the hands of his brothers and later through the lies of Potiphar’s wife, but in time God delivered and promoted him to a place of great prominence in Egypt. Out of his own experience he said, “The LORD has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (41:52). God used him as an instrument of blessing to many.

David was despised by his brothers and hated by King Saul, who attempted to take away his life. He lost sons and friends in tragic ways; he suffered and wept much. In Psalms, he poured out his inner feelings – and these are written for our “encouragement” (Rom. 15:4 JND). Did David gain from his sufferings? Listen to his testimony as he spoke of the faithfulness of God and the blessings that he obtained:

  • “Trouble and anguish have taken hold upon me; yet Thy commandments are my delights” (Ps. 119:143 KJV).
  • “I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me” (v.75).
  • “Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept Thy word” (v.67).
  • “I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto Thy testimonies” (v.59).

I remember when I went through a very painful time of suffering. It compelled me to draw closer to the Lord, and to pray and search the Scriptures like I had never done before. With these resources I was mercifully sustained during that dark period in my life. I was also helped by many of my Christian brothers and sisters who prayed for and encouraged me. Did I enjoy suffering? I did not, and there were times when I wondered if God had forgotten me. I am convinced that Satan tried to discourage me, but “the righteous cry and the LORDheareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles” (34:17). So speaking for myself, “This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles” (v.6).

Peter saw suffering as a trial of faith which will ultimately end when the Lord returns (1 Pet. 1:7). He looked at suffering in three ways:

  • “Suffering for righteousness sake” – to be scorned and persecuted for doing what is right (see Mt. 5:10-11);
  • “Reproach for the name of Christ” – not to be ashamed to own Him as our Lord and Savior even when someone might make fun of us, and to gather simply to His name in spite of what the majority does; and
  • “Suffering as a Christian” – to respond to insults and injury in a Christ-like manner and by the denial of self.

In all these things we become partakers of Christ’s sufferings “that, when His glory shall be revealed, we may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Pet. 3:14, 4:13-16). There is great consolation in the way Peter ended his first epistle: “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, and settle you” (5:10).

The End Of Suffering
When the redemption of our bodies takes place, suffering will be one of those “things” that will pass away forever from us, and we shall enter into the joy of our Lord. Then will follow for the earth a period of trouble such as it has never seen before: the seven year tribulation period.

After this, the Church, previously caught up to heaven, will return with the Lord Jesus to reign with Him. His reign will result in this groaning creation being brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:21). The prophet Isaiah wrote in glowing terms of that age to come: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:6-9). “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing … Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert … And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (35:1-10). Isaiah 65 adds, “The voice of weeping shall be no more heard, nor the voice of crying” (v.19), and God will “create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (vv.16-17).

The first heaven and the first earth will pass away, and with them all that sin had brought in. They will be replaced with a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1) where only righteousness will dwell. God will restore things far beyond what they were at the beginning, “and there shall be no more curse” (Rev. 22:3).

The end of it all, that for which we long and which has encouraged millions of suffering saints down through the centuries, is what we read in Revelation 21:4: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” God Himself drying our tears – just think of it!

Paul, who suffered like no other New Testament saint (2 Cor. 11:23-33), wrote: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). That day of glory is coming soon when we will “bless the hand that guided, we’ll bless the heart that planned, when throned where glory dwelleth, in Immanuel’s land” (Anne Ross Cousin, 1824-1906).

Finally, I must give a word of caution to you if you are not saved. The sufferings you are experiencing now are just the beginning. They will last eternally and be intensified should you die in your sins. But by repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21), you will be saved now and for all eternity; and thus you too can look forward to an eternity of bliss with Christ our Savior.

Two Men Contrasted (Lk. 16:19-31)
The Rich Man Lazarus
Before Death A man rich by the world’s standards, who dressed in fine clothes and lived cheerfully in splendor every day in his gated home. A poor man who had listened to the word of God shared through Moses and the prophets. He was covered in sores and laid at the rich man’s gate, longing to be fed with crumbs.
After Death Was in a torment of flame in hades. Able to see Abraham and Lazarus afar off, this man was unable to have even a drop of water to cool his tongue or warn his brothers as to judgment for unbelief. Was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom in heaven, and he was comforted there.