Why Did Jesus Come?

Part Five: He Came To Give Us Life

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” —John 10:10 ESV

By Shereen Ghobrial

I think one of the funniest Sherlock Holmes stories is about a time when he and Dr. Watson were camping. Sherlock Holmes is a fictional investigator, appearing first in 1887 in British writing, and later with his friend Dr. Watson. As the story goes, after pitching their tent under the skies, they went to sleep. A few hours later Holmes woke Dr. Watson and asked, “Watson, look above and tell me what you see.”

Watson said, “I see the sky full of stars.”

Holmes then asked, “And what do you conclude from this?”

Watson answered, “If you are asking astronomically, then I see we have millions of stars; meteorologically, I see we will have a cloudy day tomorrow; time-wise, I see it is about four o’clock in the morning; and theologically, I see we are a tiny particle in big universe created by a great God. But, why do you ask?”

Holmes replied, “Don’t you see that someone has stolen our tent!”

The moral of this story is we tend to focus on the peripheral, or relatively minor, meanings of life, missing its main meaning and purpose. So, what is the meaning of life?

The Meaning Of Life
The meaning of life is a philosophical question concerning the purpose of our existence as human beings. Many theories have been provided based on assorted ideological and cultural ideas, but we need to turn to the Bible to seek the divine and real meaning of life.

In Genesis 1:26-27 we find the creation of man narrated as follows: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Notice two thoughts in these verses. First, men and women are created in God’s image. That means they have a shadow of His moral attributes, such as intelligence, holiness, love and will. Second, God gave them dominion over all other creatures on earth. You are not equal to the tree outside your home or pets and other animals; you are superior, created by your Designer for a higher purpose.

Look at another passage of the Bible: “… Everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made” (Isa. 43:7). In this verse God clearly indicates the purpose of creating man: “for My glory.” What does glory mean? Glory is a reflection of greatness. The glory of a king is reflected in his wealth, personality and scope of his dominion. The glory of God is reflected in the greatness of His attributes, such as holiness, intelligence, justice, mercy and wisdom. Hence, the purpose of creating mankind is for God to manifest His attributes by exhibiting and exercising them in men and women.

For example, when we see the magnificence of human intelligence it gives us a glimpse of the wisdom of the Divine Creator. When we see the strong or the rich showing mercy to the weak or the poor, that reflects the glory of God, who abounds with mercy (Ps. 103:8). Alternatively, God exercises His mercy on the sinner by waiting patiently for him to repent. If he does not repent, God will manifest His judgment by sending the sinner to hell. In either case, God will be glorified.

In summary, the Bible reveals to us that the purpose and meaning of life is to glorify God by reflecting His attributes. Did Adam achieve this purpose in his life? How about his descendants?

The Lost Purpose
The Word of God declares clearly that all mankind have missed the goal of their creation and the purpose of their life. This is the definition of “sin.” Paul confirmed this when he wrote: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Notice the contradictory relationship between “sin” and “the glory of God.” The essence of sin is not so much about hurting others or breaking God’s moral laws as it is about not glorifying God in your life. This is a much wider and more inclusive definition because glorifying God would include, for example, being holy, honest, merciful, faithful and loving. When you fail to exhibit one of God’s moral attributes you are sinning, and “the wages of sin is death” (6:23).

The important thought to stress here is the contrast between death and life. This may seem obvious, but many people are looking for the meaning of their life while they are still dead in their sins. As a creature you have lost your life because of your sinful nature. This means there is no reason to look for a meaning of life, since there is no life in you anyway. Now you may wonder, “Is there any hope?”

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Did Jesus come to restore to us the innocent life that Adam had? Is this the life that Jesus meant? Or was He talking about a different kind of life?

Abundant Life
God had a great plan for us. It was for the Church – the individuals called by the grace of God – to have a new type of life similar in nature to the life of Jesus Himself. The life in Adam was given from the Creator to His creature. The new life that Jesus is offering is given from God the Father to His sons.

In Genesis 2, God “breathed into his [man’s] nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (v.7). After His resurrection the Lord Jesus “breathed on them [His disciples] and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn. 20:22). God breathed into Adam to give him life; Jesus breathed into His disciples to give them God Himself: the Holy Spirit.

Every human being receives life through birth. A baby carries the attributes of his parents in terms of physical, mental and behavioral attributes. For the abundant life, a person needs to be born again; only a true Christian has the new life. The Holy Spirit does this work, using the Word of God, the Bible. Similar to natural birth, in the second birth the newly born believer carries the moral and spiritual attributes of his Father – God.

Peter built on this fact when he wrote: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). What Jesus had in mind was not to improve some individuals, but to create a completely new race. The purpose and meaning of life is still the same: to reflect God’s glory, proclaiming His excellencies.

The major difference is the power that we have to achieve that purpose. In Adam, we have life from God, yet we separated ourselves from Him and the result is death. In Jesus, we have God Himself living in us by the Holy Spirit. He has the power to lead us in the victorious life that reflects the glories and attributes of our Father.

Why Did Jesus Come?

Part Four: He Came To Preach
By Shereen Ghobrial

And He said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And He went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. —Mark 1:38-39 ESV

A remarkable attribute of Christianity in the twenty-first century is the spread of megachurches. A simple definition of a megachurch is any local Protestant church that has a weekly attendance of 2,000 or more. If we go back to the 1950s, we could count 2-3 megachurches, but now there are many. One characteristic of megachurches is that their growth is directly related to a “good” preacher. We use “good” in quotes because that is the description made by man, not necessarily God.

The objective of this discussion is not to study megachurches. Instead, we desire to highlight the importance of preaching and see from the Bible points about the style and message of the greatest preacher: the Lord Jesus.

The Preacher Versus The Message
Which is more important, the preacher or the message he is preaching? There are arguments for both viewpoints. On one hand, what impacts people and changes their lives is the message they hear. On the other hand, if the preacher is not skilled and knowledgeable enough, then his message may not reach the hearers.

God has preached a very long sermon during the course of human history. He is the perfect preacher, giving one idea or revelation at a time. The focus and object of God’s message is the same: the Son of God and His work on the cross. God started this sermon in the garden of Eden, where He clothed Adam and Eve with skins from an animal sacrifice to show the need of a substitute. The message continued growing by revealing that the Substitute would be provided by God, as Abraham had learned when offering Isaac. Later, as the Israelites learned from the Passover lamb, the Substitute must be perfect. Many other revelations are found on the pages of the Old Testament as well.

The ultimate revelation was when God took the form of a man and came to this earth. He is named Jesus, and He revealed to us everything we can know about God. In Him we see God’s love – as much as we can understand. We also see in Him God’s hatred of sin, His power over nature, and His mercy to the poor, sick and needy. Through Jesus we realize God’s wisdom in finding a solution to the problem of sin and know the divine plan to bring sinful people to eternal glory by saving them “by the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20).

If we consider God’s revelations and messages throughout history as one sermon, the main theme is Jesus.

Jesus’ Preaching Strategy
What was Jesus’ preaching strategy? Did He use teams to prepare crusades, or stadiums and conference centers? What marketing incentives did He utilize?

I am sure we can easily answer these questions as we look on the pages of the four Gospels. He gave messages on a mountain, from a ship, and in a crowded house. The Lord’s messages were spontaneous and triggered by people’s questions or the need that He saw in them (Mt. 9:36, 14:14; Mk. 6:34). His team consisted of 12 men – mostly fishermen with no marketing experience. Some of His disciples were hated by Jewish society, such as Matthew the tax collector. One can argue that Jesus had a good tactic of attracting people by providing food, but Jesus Himself rebuked that practice (Jn. 6:26-27).

When looking at the different occasions of the Lord’s preaching we see Him speaking to crowds of hundreds and thousands as well as to just one Samaritan woman. What was His guidance in picking His audience? It was simply to obey the Father’s will (4:34) – a will that does not focus on numbers.

The Lord Jesus spent over 33 years on earth, but only preached during the last three years. During His public ministry He spent most of His time with His 12 disciples, rather than in public healing and teaching. In this we see a few lessons in ministry:

  • Plans should always be guided by the Father’s will, not by any human ambition of having more services or a bigger audience.
  • Success should not be measured by what people think, but how God values our motives and efforts. The Lord Jesus was the best preacher, but He only impacted a few hundred individuals, as seen at the end of His ministry (Acts 1:15; 1 Cor. 15:6). Yet, He was able to tell the Father that He had finished all the work the Father had given Him to do (Jn. 17:4).
  • For a lasting impact it might be best to spend more time with fewer individuals or to utilize a private setting. The Lord spent most of His time with His disciples, and most of them went on to change the face of history as available tools of the Holy Spirit.

Comparison With Other Preachers
One attribute of Jesus’ preaching is the fact “He was teaching them as One who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Mt. 7:29). He was unique in this, for He was the living Word, the true expression of God Himself. We can only model Him in that aspect, by preaching the written Word, the Bible. Similarly, John the Baptist, coming before Jesus, preached about the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). Only Jesus had the authority to say, “You have heard … but I say to you …” (Mt. 5:21-23,27-28,33-34,38-39,43-44).

The Pharisees were the most respected preachers at Jesus’ time; however, they were preaching ideas they did not live out (Mt. 23:1-3). The Lord Jesus was a great preacher because He practiced what He taught. To be accurate, He taught what He practiced (Acts 1:1). The best message we can minister to people is through what we do – even more than what we say. Let us keep this point in mind as we preach in this world, waiting eagerly to be with Him.

Look for part 5 next month.

Why Did Jesus Come? Part Three: He Came To Call Sinners

By Shereen Ghobrial

And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” —Mark 2:17 ESV

“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” —Luke 5:32

“Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” —Matthew 9:13

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” —Luke 19:10

Biel/Bienne* is a city in Switzerland that is very much associated with precision and micro mechanics, especially in the watch making industry. Many watch-making companies started in this city, including big names such as Swatch, Omega SA and Rolex. A number of other cities in Switzerland are involved in watch making, but most of them get their “movement” parts from Biel/Bienne.

I have not visited Biel/Bienne, but I imagine the people there to be very punctual and neat. They are probably overall precise and accurate in their communication and manner of life. How am I making such a conclusion? By knowing what they produce and what they are good at doing. Their personality and style of life are reflected in the industry in which they excel.

Why would a watch company be picky regarding the precision of the movement parts of its watches? The main goal and function of a watch is to give the time in a very precise way. Imagine having a watch that is made of gold and looks very nice, but it advances one extra minute every hour. That means by the end of the day your watch will be ahead by 24 minutes, and after two days it will be ahead by nearly one hour. If you get such a watch from a reputable company you would consider the watch to be no good and seek a replacement. In spite of the beautiful looks of the watch, it would be considered defective for it does not meet the purpose for which it was made.

Now let us consider man instead of the watch, and use the word “sin” instead of “defective.”

What Is Sin?
God created man in His image to rule the world and reflect the moral glories of God; for example, to be intelligent, loving and holy. By reflecting God’s glories, or displaying His attributes, man would glorify God. However, man missed that goal, deciding to seek his own desires instead. The result is every one of us was diverted to a different path.

The Bible says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way” (Isa. 53:6). By going my own way, I have missed the main goal for which I was created, and that is what the Bible calls “sin.” “Sin is lawlessness” (1 Jn. 3:4), which means I do not abide by any law, but by my own desire and will instead.

The Result Of Sin
God warned Adam regarding the result of sin when He told him, “[From] the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Because Adam sinned, mankind was put under the judgment of death in all aspects of life: physically, spiritually and eternally.

When a child is born, he immediately starts experiencing death in his or her body. Old cells die; germs and viruses attack the weak human body, and the body ages. In time, signs of death creep into the wrinkled skin and the gray hair. Finally, “it is appointed for man to die once” (Heb. 9:27). This is the physical death which is a result of sin, “for the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

Another type of death is spiritual or moral death, which resulted from the separation from God. When man sinned he lost his open communication with his Creator, and as a result he lost the enjoyment and privilege of reflecting God’s moral attributes. This is the reason we see evil in the whole world, because we have people who are spiritually dead.

Paul gave a good description of them in Romans 3:13-18: “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” These are whom the Lord Jesus referred to when He said, “Follow Me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Mt. 8:22). He was saying to let the spiritually dead bury their own relatives that are physically dead.

The third type of death is eternal death in the lake of fire. The apostle John wrote: “Then I saw a great white throne … And I saw the dead, great and the small, standing before the throne … and they were judged, each one of them according, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:11-14). After living a life marked with spiritual death and ending with physical death, the unrepentant sinner will end up in eternal death by suffering judgment in the lake of fire.

Going back to our watch analogy, think of the watch that advances one extra minute every hour. Is the watch defective because of what is does, or does the watch advance one extra minute every hour because it is defective? It is the latter option. The fact the watch is malfunctioning is a mere symptom of the internal defectiveness of the watch. For mankind, our physical, moral and eternal death is the natural result and divine punishment for our internal defectiveness, meaning our sinful nature. It is the nature we acquired because of Adam’s sin and not because God made us this way.

Who are sinners? The Bible gives a clear, but hard answer: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). This includes you and me – all human beings with the one exception being the heavenly Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. That means we are under the judgment of:

  • Physical death – suffering from diseases, aging and bodily death,
  • Spiritual death – immorality and bad habits, and
  • Eternal death – in the lake of fire.

Can Religion Help Me To Escape Death?
Although people associate religion with God, the Bible clearly indicates it was man who invented religion, not God. This is seen in the first religious man, Cain, when he tried to approach God by his human effort and in his own way (Gen. 4:1-5). Man uses religion to give himself a false feeling of security.

In the Old Testament, God had given the children of Israel a great privilege, which was His law. He gave them instructions to regulate their relationship with Him and among themselves. That worship included sacrifices, a tabernacle, a temple and, most importantly, the Levites and priests. In all the instructions and regulations, God was always looking for worshipers, not the worship itself.

For example, the tabernacle had many pieces that would be disassembled and carried during the desert journey. Most, but not all, of those pieces could have been carried on carriages. However, the pieces in the Holy and Holiest of Holy had to be carried by the men of a certain family of a particular tribe; not on horses, carriages or any other means. It was one of God’s ways to communicate His desire to have this intimate relationship with the worshipers. He even declared His ownership over them, saying, “The Levites shall be Mine” (Num. 3:12).

We may ask, “How about sacrifices, singing and praise, and other rituals that were practiced in the tabernacle and the temple?” They were only needed to express what was in the worshiper’s heart. A sacrifice is an expression of a repenting heart; a prayer is an expression of a needy heart, and praise is an expression of a heart in awe and delight. David realized this truth when he said, “For You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; You will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51:16-17).

The Lord Jesus clearly indicated that point in His discussion with the Samaritan woman. When she asked Him about the required details of worship, He answered her question and added, “The Father is seeking such people to worship Him” (Jn. 4:23). He did not say the Father is seeking “such worship,” but “such people to worship Him.” The Darby translation says, “The Father seeks such as His worshippers.”

Religion cannot help because it provides mere rituals, which is what Cain offered and was rejected. God is seeking a repentant and broken heart, one that realizes the total uselessness of self-effort and work, for “we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isa. 64:6 ESV). Repentance is the first step to escape death, but it is not enough.

He Came To Call Sinners
Jesus came to call sinners (Mk. 2:17). He is the only One who can make that confident call – a call to come to Him. Once we realize our inability to escape from death, we see our need of the Savior. Jesus is the Savior, having paid the debt of our sin by His death on the cross. God considered Jesus the ultimate sin offering, and because He offered Himself He can call on every sinner to escape from death.

God is calling everyone, but it is our individual responsibility to accept this call. The Bible clearly states that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). However, He respects our wills. Sin is our own responsibility if we do not accept His call and invitation.

Are you a sinner? Jesus came to call you! Now is the right time to accept Him into your life.

* Biel is the German name of the city and Bienne is its French name. Since 2005, the city’s official name has been “Biel/Bienne.”

Why Did Jesus Come?

By Shereen Ghobrial

Part Two: He Came To Fulfill The Law

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” —Matthew 5:17-18 ESV

Why Did We Have The Law?
Many people ask, “Why did God choose the nation of Israel, and why did they have such a special relationship with Jehovah in the Old Testament in spite of their being stiff-necked (Ex. 32:9)?* Why were they given the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic law?

The story of the nation of Israel started in Genesis 11-12 when God appeared to Abram in Ur, which is modern day Iraq. Abram, later named Abraham, was living in idolatry (Josh. 24:2). God “called” him to leave Ur and follow Him. The Bible teaches us that God’s calling is according to His grace (1 Cor. 1:26-29), and it is not because anyone deserves it.

What was the purpose of the calling of Abraham and the special relationship Jehovah had with the nation of Israel? We can find this answer in Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary” (3:19). The apostle continued, “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (v.24). God gave the law to prove to men and women their failure and show to them their need for a Savior.

An analogy we may understand is the way quality control is done in food processing or medicine factories. It is through “sampling”: taking a small sample from each production batch and testing it. The sample is a representation of the whole batch. In a similar way God took a sample – Israel – from the human race and provided all the factors for the success of the divine test:

  • Ancestors who were great heroes of faith: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob;
  • God revealed Himself to Israel and spoke to them through Moses;
  • The God-given perfect law to guide in high moral living and the building a godly society; and
  • God directed them to build a tabernacle for Himself to dwell among the nation.

The apostle Paul listed more blessings and privileges for the nation of Israel in Romans 11.

What was the result of testing this sample of human kind? It was total failure that ended by crucifying the Son of God. The conclusion of this test was: Men and women are sinners, and they need the Savior.

Was The Problem In The Law?
One may argue it is impossible to live at the level of moral standard demanded by the law, or that the law has a flaw or is inadequate. But David said, “The law of the Lord is perfect” (Ps. 19:7). Paul confirmed that thought, saying, “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). If we continue with the analogy of sample testing we can see that Jesus came as another sample and passed the test completely: He fulfilled the law. This proves the law is holy and perfect because there was a man, Jesus Christ, who was able to fulfill all the law.

Jesus And The Temple
Through the ages, a common thought of man has been that God is far away and does not want to have any relationship with humankind. The wise men of Babylon said, “The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh”(Dan. 2:11). However, the Bible teaches that God desires to live among His people and to establish a direct connection with them. This was first manifested in the garden of Eden, and then repeated in many other incidents, including the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple in Jerusalem.

The main thought of the temple is God’s presence through the ark of the covenant. The tabernacle was holy because it was sanctified by Jehovah’s presence. The temple was holy, too, because of Jehovah’s presence. The walls, furniture and gold – even the sacrifices – were valued because of God’s presence. This is the lesson the Lord Jesus was seeking to teach the Jews when He said: “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred?” (Mt. 23:16-17).

When Solomon built a temple for Jehovah, the ark of the covenant was carried there and placed inside. The temple then, in a sense, became the new dwelling of Jehovah. The colorful gate and linen walls of the tabernacle lost their value because their true value had been found in the presence of God. Likewise, when Immanuel (“God with us,” Mt. 1:23), the Lord Jesus, was present, He overshadowed the temple that was built by human hands. Jesus Christ is the true temple because “in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9).

The Jews did not understand because they focused on the material things – the stones, marble and gold (1 Chr. 29:2) – and missed the main purpose of the temple as God’s dwelling. Therefore when God came in the flesh they did not care about Him, for He took the form of a lowly person. Without understanding, they accused Him of talking offensively about the temple when He said “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn. 2:19; see Mt. 26:61, 27:40; Mk. 14:58, 15:29).

Jesus And The Sabbath
One of the rules in the law is to rest on the Sabbath. This was strongly followed by Jews. The Old Testament was very clear about not carrying any belongings on the Sabbath (Ex. 20:9-11; Jer. 17:21-22,27). However, Jesus did miracles on the Sabbath a number of times. For example, when Jesus healed the paralyzed man by the pool in Bethesda, He said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk” (Jn. 5:8). The Jews accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath because they considered His miracle to be work. Jesus answered, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (v.17).

The Lord Jesus was not breaking the law; rather, He was fulfilling the essence of it, which is love. He clearly summarized the law when He was asked about the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-39).

By following the law without love we could make a religion as the Pharisees had done. If we would follow love without any law we would create anarchy. When by faith we follow the law in showing our love to God and fellow humans, then we live like Jesus.

Jesus Was A Revolutionist
At the time when Jesus walked on earth, there was a strong religious system in Israel. They had:

  • A magnificent temple which was built by Herod,
  • Many religious sects including the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes,
  • Plenty of priests organized into scheduled divisions such as Zacharias in Luke 1:5.

On the other hand, Israel had experienced 400 years of silence, during which God did not give any new revelations or miracles. Other than a few individuals, the nation did not repent and they did not accept the Son of God when He came spreading the good news of the kingdom.

How can there be such a contradiction: a strong religious system without any power or influence on the hearts? People forgot their main focus should be their relationship with Jehovah as their God. Instead, they focused on practices and rituals. The Bible, however, leads us to a relationship. In it we see several: Adam and God, Israel and Jehovah, and believers and Christ.

The Lord Jesus respected and fulfilled the law, but He attacked false religion. He was a revolutionary because He challenged and condemned the religious leaders of His time. He encouraged His disciples to listen to the teaching of those leaders because they taught the Law, but He discouraged following in their footsteps because they did not live what they taught (Mt 23:1-3).

Christian Or Religious?
Are you a Christian or simply a religious person? You cannot be both! If you superficially follow rules, even the divine rules of Scripture, you can consider yourself a religious person. This would make you follow a group of people, a set of teachings or theological principles, and might even lead to practices and rituals that are not biblical.

On the other hand, the true Christian follows a person: Christ. The Christian reads the Bible because he wants to know more about Christ. The believer meets with other Christians because they are the body of Christ on earth. He or she serves and spreads the good news of the gospel because of a deep desire for others to enjoy this great person, the Lord Jesus Christ, too.

Let us be careful, for our fallen human nature tends to admire any rituals that satisfy our conscience. If allowed to work in our lives, this could divert us away from the person of Christ. “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1).

* The Lord used the expression stiff-necked about the children of Israel to describe their stubbornness and disobedience (Ex. 32:9, 33:3,5, 34:9; Dt. 9:6,13, 10:16; 2 Chr. 30:8; Acts 7:51).

Why Did Jesus Come?

Part One: The Origin Of His Mission

They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” —John 6:42 ESV

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” —John 6:38

“I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.” —John 5:43

By Shereen Ghobrial

A big portion of the population in the country in which I live is made up of immigrants. Some boast about their country of origin while others try to hide that fact, depending on that nation’s history and fame. Think about your friends at school or your colleagues at work. How would you feel if one of them came and told you he did not immigrate from Sudan, Italy or any other country, but from heaven? Would you believe him; or would you reject his claim, thinking he was lying or insane?

What would it take to make you believe such an assertion from a friend whom you know very well? You would probably need two conditions met:

  1. Witnesses – that person must be very special, and there must be trustworthy witnesses who testify of his being special (or confirm his claim).
  2. Faith – you would want to hear some of those testimonies, and by believing them you could put your trust in that person and his claims for being special.

In John 6:35-40, Jesus presented Himself as the bread of life that came from heaven. This was a big shock to the Jews who were acquainted with His whole family, including Mary, His mother, and Joseph, His legal father.

The Lord Jesus did not come without witnesses, but He had many witnesses confirming He is the Son of God who came from heaven. The testimonies of those witnesses are recorded in the Bible and spread all over the world. What is left for you and me is to believe what was written: Jesus is theChrist, the Son of God, and through believing we may have life in His name (20:31).

Witnesses That Jesus Is The Son Of God
The Father Mt. 3:17, 17:5; Mk. 1:11, 9:7; Lk. 3:22, 9:35; 2 Pet. 1:17
The Holy Spirit Mk. 1:1
Jesus Himself Jn. 9:35-38, 10:36; Rev. 2:18
Scripture Jn. 5:39
His works Jn. 10:37-38
His disciples Mt. 14:33, 16:16; Jn. 1:34,49, 11:27
His enemies Mk. 5:7, 15:39; Mt. 27:54

As a heavenly Man, Jesus came with a heavenly mission, commissioned by the Father Himself. The plan of this mission was made in eternity past and executed in the fullness of time. As a Man on a mission, the Lord Jesus was in complete compliance, following the orders of His Top Commander, the Father; that is why it was right for Him to say, “not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” (6:38). His mission, the will of the Father, has two aspects:

  1. God’s responsibility: The Lord said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day” (v.39). The Father gave the Son specific people, and the Lord will ensure their safety and salvation.
  2. Man’s responsibility – the expected response: The Lord said in the following verse: “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (v.40). The Father’s will is for the Son to be presented to everyone and that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.*

These aspects must not be separated into two different missions, as to do so may lead us to wrong conclusions. For example, if we stress only God’s responsibility we can reach the conclusion that because God has chosen people to be saved, He has chosen others to go to hell. The Bible teaches us that all men have sinned and they deserve hell, but God has chosen some for great salvation and glories (2 Th. 2:13; Rom. 9:23). The Bible does not teach us that God has chosen anyone for hell; rather, individuals have prepared themselves to destruction through their sinful life (v.22).

On the other side, if we stress man’s responsibility we can reach the wrong conclusion that we are saved only because of something we have done, which would eliminate the value of God’s grace. The Bible, however, stresses the goal of our calling and salvation is “to the praise of His glorious grace” (Eph. 1:5-6,12).

When we consider this two-fold mission in its entirety, it has great value for us. It is a mission planned in heaven, in eternity past, to send a heavenly Man to earth to save sinful humans and change them by giving them eternal life to be heavenly beings.

* The expression “eternal life” in the Bible is not just describing a life that would last forever; in fact, all human spirits will last forever. In essence, the expression “eternal life” refers to God’s life, which was revealed and displayed in the Lord Jesus. This eternal life is granted by the Holy Spirit to those who believe in the Lord Jesus, at the time of their new birth.

Look for part 2 next month.


Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour Thou, with joy we worship Thee,

We know Thou hast redeemed us, by dying on the tree.

We know the love that brought Thee down, down from that bliss on high;

To meet our ruined souls in need, on Calvary’s cross to die.

Our Saviour Jesus — Lord Thou art, eternal is Thy love;

Eternal, too, our songs of praise, when with Thee, Lord, above.
—Thomas E. Purdom (1852-1942)

Sign Gifts

Part One
The Gift Of TONGUES And Its Use

By Albert Blok

There are many differing opinions about the importance and use of tongues. Some believe that if one does not speak in tongues, that person is not saved. Others consider speaking in tongues to be a gift that is still important today, but they do not say that it must be done to be a born again Christian. Then there are other people who believe that speaking in tongues was a gift of the past and that this gift is, generally speaking, not in function anymore.

But what do we learn about speaking in tongues as we see it in the Bible? To start, we need to understand the meaning of the word “tongue” as it is used in Scripture.

The Word’s Use
The word “tongue” is used in several ways. It is applied to the muscle that we have in our mouth, as we see in the story of Gideon: “Every one that laps of the water with his tongue, as a dog laps …” (Jud. 7:5 KJV).

“Tongue” is also used to indicate speech or talking, as in Exodus 4:10 when Moses said, “I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” Similarly, Esther stated, “But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue …” (Est. 7:4). James observed, as to our quickness in often talking unadvisedly, “The tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas. 3:5-8).

A third manner in which “tongue” is used is in terms of a specific, known and identifiable language. One example is found in Ezra 4:7, which says, “The letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue.” In Acts 2:7-11 the many foreigners “were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? … We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” From these verses we see that the third explanation of “tongue” is the one that applies to our study.

Three Occurrences
There is no example of anyone speaking in tongues in the Old Testament. Furthermore, it is interesting to notice that we have no account or indication that John the Baptist, the great herald of the coming Messiah, ever spoke in tongues. Nor do we have a record of the Lord Jesus doing so. It was however something that would come later, and the Lord Jesus in His parting message told His disciples that there would be those who would speak with new tongues (Mk. 16:17).

The first mention and time that we have of speaking in tongues was at Pentecost in Acts 2:4-11, a passage we already referenced. The Holy Spirit had come down and had baptized all the believers into one Body, the Church. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. What was the subject? It was the “wonderful works of God.” Although unknown to those who spoke them, the words were known to the listeners – the actual languages of every man in their own language.

The second time that tongues is mentioned is in Acts 10:44-46, and it is further explained in Acts 11:15. “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (10:44-46). The newly believing Gentiles spoke in tongues, which were understood by the Jews as they recognized that they were magnifying God.

The third encounter as to the use of tongues took place in Ephesus, as recorded in Acts 19:1-7: “It came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.”

In all three cases, when the people received the Holy Spirit they spoke in tongues. Each time there was a change or demonstration that God was working in a special way. In Acts 2 it was a new relationship: The Lord in heaven identifying Himself with a group of believers on earth, baptizing them together and thus forming the Church. At that time there were only Jewish believers.

The adding of Gentiles to the Church, and that equally in relationship with Christ, is noticed in Acts 10. They spoke in tongues just as the Jews had done on the first day, at Pentecost, showing that there was no longer any distinction between believing Jews and Gentiles. This may not be such an important difference to us now, but at that time it certainly was marked. Therefore we understand Peter’s explanation: “For as much then as God gave them the like gift [the Holy Spirit] as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” (11:17).

In Acts 19, certain men of Ephesus were looking for Christ to come as the Messiah, having understood only this much from the preaching of John the Baptist. It was a Jewish position. But since the preaching of John the Baptist, the Lord had been rejected and had gone to heaven. When they understood this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and received the Holy Spirit. This took them from an Old Testament position to a New Testament one. God wanted to show the change by having them speak in tongues. We need to understand that this was a situation that occurred at that time, but it cannot be repeated because the teaching of John the Baptist has been replaced.

The Fourth Occurrence
It is interesting to consider that speaking in tongues is spoken of only four times in the Scriptures. The fourth and last time is in 1 Corinthians 12-14, and the subject is about gifts as given to each one individually as the Holy Spirit willed and gave. The emphasis of the teaching in these chapters in relation to the gift of tongues is the correcting of the abusive, incorrect use of this gift in the assembly of Corinth.

As we read these three chapters in the context of the entire first letter to the Corinthians, we quickly see that they were very carnal, desiring to satisfy their flesh. That group of believers had many difficulties. There was gross immorality, infighting, selfishness and a spirit of division. Among these believers were those who had the gift of tongues, as given by the Holy Spirit as He willed. However, they were using this gift incorrectly. From this example we see that speaking in tongues was not a sign of spirituality, as many teach today. It was not proof of someone being saved or an indication of being filled with the Holy Spirit, for a believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit could not use a gift in an incorrect way.

Some believe speaking in tongues is a necessary proof of salvation, because of what took place in Acts 2 and 10. However, the people who spoke in tongues in Acts 2 had already believed in the Lord Jesus as their Savior. Instead, what happened at Pentecost was the beginning of the Church. Likewise, the Gentiles in Acts 10 spoke in tongues when the Holy Spirit fell upon those who heard the Word, showing that they were now received in the same manner as the Jews had been – this did not take place as a proof of their individual salvation. There are many other examples in Scripture of individuals who never spoke in tongues at their conversion, such as Saul of Tarsus, Lydia of Philippi and the jailer in Philippi and his family.

As A Sign Gift
It is important to notice that speaking in tongues is placed last in the list of gifts (1 Cor. 12:7-10,28). Rather than having the desire to speak in tongues, believers are admonished to seek the gift of prophesy (14:1-5).

As stated before, it is important to see that the gift of tongues is only used in New Testament Church times, not in the Old Testament. The sign gifts, of which tongues would be considered part, were for the confirmation of the message of the gospel: “If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Heb. 2:2-4).

Although signs were a demonstration and verification of the work of God in the preaching of the gospel, the gift of tongues was principally a sign and proof to the unbelieving Jews of the truthfulness of the new message that was being proclaimed: Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior by faith. We see this in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22: “In the law it is written, with men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear Me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not.” Paul, as directed by the Holy Spirit, said that tongues were a sign to the unbelievers – the ones under the law, the people of Israel. So the purpose of tongues was to show the unbelieving Jews that God was now working in a special way, different than before.

One may wonder why this would apply even in Corinth, but we know that Jews were scattered all over and Paul’s practice was that he would reach out to his own people with the message of the gospel in almost every place he went. This was the case in Corinth too, where “he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Acts 18:4).

Concluding Thoughts
In the correct understanding of Scripture, there is a principle of “first mention.” This principle is that unless clearly indicated otherwise, the significance of the word is to be interpreted by its first use, which in this use of “tongues” means a specific, known and identifiable language. This is clearly understood in the passage of Acts 2 where various languages are named. In Acts 10 and 19 the hearers understood what was being said, so in all three cases it was an identifiable and understood language. There is no justification to think otherwise. Considering this, the practice by some to utter unintelligible sounds and noises with the pretext that they are speaking in tongues has absolutely no Biblical justification or support and thus must be dismissed as something that is artificial and false.

As we read through the book of Acts we see that the miracles and sign gifts diminished rapidly as time passed. Historically we read nothing about the use of tongues after Acts 19, only 27 years after Pentecost. There is no further mention of the use of tongues except for the corrective letter to the church in Corinth.

It is important to notice that Peter, James, John and Jude were all present at Pentecost and personally experienced what happened that day. All wrote letters, which we have in the New Testament, but none of them wrote about tongues in their letters even though they did speak about the Holy Spirit (collectively a total of 27 times).

Peter in 1 Peter 2:2 told us that we are to grow and be built up. How, by tongues? No, but by the pure milk of the Word.

Paul wrote 13 or 14 letters and in only one of these letters did he write about tongues. It was in one of his earliest letters – 1 Corinthians – and when he did it was in a corrective way.

The gift of tongues was used in praise or prayer (Acts 2, 10; 1 Corinthians 14:2,14), and for edification (v.26), but there are no occasions in Scripture to suggest its private use. It was for public use before unbelieving Jews with the application of perfect love, as put forward in 1 Corinthians 13, to verify the message of the gospel of grace by faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Look for the conclusion of this Series next month.


We do not find speaking in tongues in the Gospels, other than in the prophecy of the Lord Jesus in Mark 16:17. In verse 14 the Lord reproached the Eleven for their unbelief and hardness of heart. He then gave them the commission to preach the gospel to all the creation, indicating the consequences for the hearers and the signs that would follow those who believe (vv.15-17). The Eleven went forth and the Lord fulfilled His promise, confirming the word by the signs following it. Notice these points: Signs were only given as confirmation of the word, it does not say signs would follow all believers, and the promise in this passage was given only to the Eleven.

——H. L. Heijkoop (adapted)


The Dispensations

Part Four
The Lord’s Message To The Seven Churches
(Revelation 2-3)

By Alfred Bouter

In our three previous studies we briefly looked at the seven days of creation, the seven Feasts of the LORD, and the seven parables about the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 13. Now we turn in our study to the Lord’s messages to the seven churches in Asia, encouraging believers to be true overcomers.

At the time, this Asia was a province of the Roman Empire in present day Turkey. The assemblies1 addressed by the Lord (Rev. 2-3) had their beginnings when Paul was working in Ephesus. They were probably visited by Peter, and about 20-25 years later the apostle John lived and ministered in the same area.

The book of Revelation is part of John’s ministry, as are his gospel and three epistles. All of them are characterized by a special emphasis on Christ’s personal greatness. John’s gospel does not mention its writer by name, instead he is presented as the disciple whom Jesus loved,2 with a profound understanding of the greatness of His Person. Therefore, speaking of the Lord we read of Him as:

  • The Son of Man talking with Nicodemus, to whom He could say, referring to Himself, “Who is in heaven” (Jn. 3:13),
  • The only begotten Son (1:18), and
  • The eternal Son of God, the Son of the Father and the eternal life (1 Jn. 5:20).

John’s special task was to unveil3 to the believers Christ’s greatness and glory, against the background of a world-system in which the Lord Jesus has been and still is rejected.

Do we realize that this “outcast,” despised and rejected by men (Jn. 1:10-12; Isa. 53:1-3), will be reintroduced into this same universe (Heb. 1:6) and every knee will bow before Him (Phil. 2:10-11)? It is this divine program that is unveiled, or uncovered, in Revelation. However, before John gets to write about it, he shows Christ’s greatness (Rev. 1), which is a study in itself. Then, before speaking about those future events, John becomes Christ’s spokesman to address the assemblies of his day, including the believers ever since – even you and me today!

How To Interpret Revelation
Much confusion exists about this, but the key lies at the door. It is found in Revelation 1:19, showing that this book has three main parts: past, present and future. Chapter 1 refers to Christ’s first coming in grace when He was rejected despite His greatness. From Revelation 4 and onwards the same glorious Person is reintroduced, and in the process will be accepted by all, willingly or unwillingly. In between (Rev. 2-3), the Lord addresses the seven churches.

Furthermore, Revelation provides the framework in which all Old and New Testament prophecies fit. This helps us understand the meaning and order of all those Scriptures. In other words, having this framework we are able to put all the bits and pieces of prophecy together in an understandable outline or plan.

At the same time, Revelation’s main purpose is to show that our Lord Jesus will manifest His glory through and in the events the book describes. For this reason, even in this book of judgments, we read of a threefold blessing at the beginning (1:3) and of six more blessings afterward, in a variety of contexts. How good it is to be occupied with this wonderful and glorious Person, and to consider Him in His greatness as Judge, King, Priest, Executioner of God’s judgments and the One who will be seated on the great white throne (Rev. 20). He is the Alpha and Omega, who is everything, speaks everything and works everything – the eternal “I Am” (22:13 NKJV). The book also shows that He is the One who is the great Lover of our souls, our Bridegroom (Rev. 19, 21-22). His voice thrills the hearts of those who read this book and know Him as their Creator-Redeemer (Rev. 4-5). It is therefore no wonder that the book of Revelation starts with an outburst of praise the moment He is mentioned (1:5).

John responded in the only right way: “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead” (1:17-19). In other words, there is no room left for self, the flesh, man’s glory, selfishness, man’s agenda, or whatever else there may be. Through his death-like experience, John had the privilege to be strengthened and instructed by his beloved Master (v.19). Thus he was made fit to communicate the glories of our Lord to us and the whole universe.

The Seven Letters And A Survey Of The History Of The Church
Between Christ’s first coming, “the things which you have seen” (Rev. 1), and His second coming (Rev. 4-22), or “the things which will take place after this,” we have the “things which are” (1:19). This expression covers the period of the Church on earth linked with Christ in heaven, from Acts 2 until the rapture. However, deviations started right from the beginning of the Church’s history, even while the apostles were still alive and present with the believers. Just before departing, Peter instructed his generation – and indirectly, ours today – to cling to the Lord and to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Him (please read 2 Pet. 1:3-21, 3:18).

In this context it is important to realize that John’s ministry gives what is essential, with the purpose to preserve the believers in the knowledge and the enjoyment of God’s blessings. In one word, Revelation introduces Christ and brings us back to our first love – our Lord Jesus, who has meant everything to us. The apostle presented to his readers the One who remains until the end, who gives us all that we need to be overcomers – not overcome by the world, the devil or the flesh.

The Church as a professing body has lost this sense of “first love” (Rev. 2:4). Even worse, it – including true believers – has forsaken that love. This does not mean that we can lose our salvation, but it means we can lose its enjoyment. What about you and me?

Whenever there is failure in the public testimony, or in whatever context, John’s writings instruct each individual believer to listen. It is not with the purpose to make him fit into a certain church hierarchy or a human ordained system, with all the good intentions that may exist. No, it is in order to restore each believer to the state of first love, and to keep him or her in this condition and relationship until the end – that is until the rapture of the Church.

Revelation is not intended to satisfy our curiosity about what is going to happen or how the Lord will return and reign in public display. Rather, the book is about the unfolding of Christ’s glory that produces a moral result, to make the Church ready for the Bridegroom so the Spirit and the bride may say, “Come” (22:17). Interestingly, “come” is the only word in the whole book that the bride says publicly. It is an expression of desire, longing, love and anxious waiting.

The Order Of Events
The history of the Church found in Revelation 2-3 may be summarized as follows:

  1. In what was written to Ephesus we see that the Church as a whole left her first love. Historically, this took place at the end of the first century.
  2. Because of what happened in Ephesus, the Lord allowed persecutions – Satan acting as a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8) – especially in the second and third centuries. Smyrna means “myrrh,” and this fits with the many sufferings of those centuries.
  3. Perhaps because of the many faithful martyrs and since the Church kept growing, Satan attacked it in a different way, changing his strategy. He acted as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14) having the plan, “if you cannot oppose them, try to join them.” Through this, the believers were placed under the protection of the world when the Roman Emperor became the head of the professing Church. This sad development is in the letter to Pergamos, meaning “fortress,” corresponding historically with events in the fourth century and later.
  4. The link with the world gradually gave rise to the desire of the professing Church to rule over the world. This ambition came to pass in Thyatira (sacrifice, odor of affliction). It ties to the 12th century and onward when the absolute authority of the papal system climaxed and the moral corruption worsened. The final climax will be the great Babylon of Revelation 17-18, after the rapture.
  5. In Sardis, signifying “escape,” a remnant was led out of the degenerated system as in the Reformation of the early 16th century. However, the Lord’s message to Sardis addressed the condition that existed approximately 100 years after the Reformation, when a general state of spiritual decline characterized the national churches that often called themselves Protestant as a protest against Rome. The true believers, living or risen from the dead, will go with the Lord when He comes, but the unbelievers will remain here.
  6. In sovereign grace the Lord will raise a remnant, as it were, from among the spiritually dead, as seen in Philadelphia (brotherly love). That church was a glowing revival and testimony for Himself, but with little strength because of man’s failure. It was a witness nonetheless and distinguished by faithfulness to His name and the Word of God, as was also seen during the 19th century, while waiting for His coming (1 Th. 4:16-18).
  7. Then we come to the last phase in this development: Laodicea, meaning “the people decide.” It is where the Lord, who was everything for Philadelphia – the church which was a collective restoration to first love – had to leave. Outside, He is knocking at the door to still reach out. Even though we know of the Church’s decline, and that we are almost at the end of its long history, does it not shock us to see the Lord standing outside?

An Important Note
A true believer can be restored to first love, even in Laodicea, but the unbelievers will continue in their hardening until the day of judgment. The true believers are in four different groups, developing after Pergamos and going through Laodicea. Each group is distinct, but they are one in Christ and are to be raptured together. The unbelievers, including professing Christians who do not truly trust the Lord, will continue on earth throughout the tribulation period. We always need to distinguish between the true Church and the Church of mere professors. At the rapture these last ones will be “left behind” on earth and develop into the great Babylon.

A Few More Points
In suggesting our outline of the seven churches we do not limit the teaching of Scripture (Rev. 2-3) to this particular flow of events. Each of the Lord’s seven messages is for every believer at any time in the history of the Church. The letters contain a tremendous wealth about which many books have been and still may be written.

Another point to emphasize is that these seven local assemblies, or churches, with all their distinctive features coexisted at the time John wrote. Yet they have all disappeared, which brings us back to the point that only the Lord is, and remains, faithful. There are no failures or shortcomings with Him!

In addition, is it not encouraging to notice the patience of our Lord as He persistently knocks at the door (Rev. 3:19-20)? He does not try to force Himself inside. He does not cry or shout (see Mt. 12:19), but He shows patience, grace, gentleness, faithfulness, care and love. He is “the Wisdom from above” (Jas. 3:17), with many wonderful qualities that we need.

How solemn that this challenging message, “Behold, I stand at the door …”, was given right after the revival that characterized Philadelphia – where Christ is everything and will continue to be until the rapture. In Laodicea, however, human resources, solutions, methods and inventions gradually replaced Him.

Today the Lord challenges us to examine ourselves in heart and conscience with the desire to restore us to first love and bring us back to Himself so that He may be everything to us – fresh, new, vibrant and wonderful. In submitting to God’s thoughts and ways, we will be brought to an acknowledgment of the LORD’s greatness, as Job experienced many years ago. We may also see a parallel between Laodicea and the days of the last Old Testament prophet, Malachi, who addressed the failure of God’s people who had returned from the Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem, God’s dwelling place of His choosing. They were at the right place, or in the right position, but they were not in the right spiritual condition, except for a remnant among them formed by God’s grace (see Mal. 3:16). Our blessed Lord is looking for a response from willing hearts, of believers who with love answer to His gentle knocking, even though their answer may be weak. “Lord, help us!”

1. “Assembly” means “a company of called out ones” – called out of Paganism, Judaism or whatever -ism. As far as language is concerned, the word “church” is related to the word “Lord.”
2. John had the privilege to rest in Jesus’ bosom while here on earth and was the disciple who was most intimately acquainted with our Lord. He was the one who followed Him quietly as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn. 21:20) and the one of whom Jesus said, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?” (v.22). Is it not fitting that it was this disciple who saw the Lord in all His greatness – as the future Judge and King and as the One who walks right now among the candlesticks of Revelation 2-3?
3. The Greek word “apocalypse” is often translated as “revelation,” and it may also be translated as “unveiling.” In this book the Lord Himself unveils what is hidden, past, present and future, whether about us, the world or Himself.

A Few Thoughts On PROPHECY / Part Six

By Alfred Bouter

In this, our last section, we will consider links between several passages of Scripture. The Lord’s Olivet discourse details events that will take place after the rapture, which at that time was yet to be revealed. Christ’s speech can be roughly divided into three parts, paralleling the three sub-divisions of the prophetic portion of Revelation 6-16 (seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls). These are to take place during the seven-year period termed the “70th Week,” after the rapture of the Church. Several links also exist with Daniel 9:24-27, as outlined in the following overview.

First Half Of The 70th Week
The first line of Daniel 9:27 – “then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week” (NKJV) – parallels “the beginning of sorrows” (“birth pains” in some translations, Mt. 24:4-14; Mk. 13:4-13; Lk. 21:8-19) and the seal judgments (Rev. 6).

Second Half Of The 70th Week
The middle of Daniel 9:27 – “but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate” – ties with the trumpet judgments (Rev. 7-9, with details in Rev. 11-13) during the abomination of desolation.1 Many details of this end time idolatry are found in Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14 and Revelation 13. Note that the predictions of Luke 21:20-24 mainly refer to the events that took place in the years 68-70 and 132-135 AD, although some details also apply to the future destruction of Jerusalem.

Described ConditionOlivet DiscourseRevelation 6
False prophets / messiahsMt. 24:5,11v.2
WarsMt. 24:6vv.2-4
International discordsMt. 24:7vv.3-4
FaminesMt. 24:7vv.5-8
PestilenceLk. 21:11v.8
Persecution / martyrdomMt. 24:9vv.9-11
EarthquakesMt. 24:7v.12
Cosmic phenomenaLk. 21:11vv.12-14

Conclusion Of The 70th Week
The end of Daniel 9:27 – “even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate” – correlates to the final birth pangs (Mt. 24:15-29), which are the bowl judgments (Rev. 16, with background details in Rev. 14-15, 17-19). Daniel 9:24-27 reveals the timetable for these events and shows some links between the first and second coming of the Messiah. These verses explain how the Messiah would be presented to His people 483 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. Here is where a “gap” of unknown duration started (see Isa. 61:1-2; Lk. 4:19), between Christ’s first and second coming. Remember, the rapture precedes His second coming (see 1 Th. 4:14-18).

Sometime after the beginning of this “parenthesis,” or “in-between period,” the Messiah was executed (Dan. 9:26). His rejection and violent death resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple forty years later, as well as the Jews’ dispersion among the nations in 70 AD. The acceptance of a false, or counterfeit, messiah (Jn. 5:43) caused further trouble during 132-135 AD. Another destruction of Jerusalem and of a third temple that still must be built, where this future idolatry (abomination) will be centered, is yet to come (2 Th. 2:3-12).

It is important to understand that the rapture2 of the Church (1 Cor. 15:51-53; 1 Th. 4:16; Phil. 3:21) is not part of the prophetic events, but it is the prerequisite for those events to take place and the pouring out of God’s judgments (seals, trumpets and bowls). These things cannot take place as long as the true Church is on earth. The false church will continue after the rapture and be judged on earth at the end of those seven years (Rev. 17-18). About 1,000 years later, after the great white throne judgment, all unbelievers will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

1. Some feel the trumpet judgments precede the manifestation of the abomination.
2. This spectacular event will include the believers of the Old Testament. They will be in heaven with the Church, seen as part of the 24 elders and later as guests at the wedding of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9).

A Few Thoughts On Prophecy – Part Five

By Alfred Bouter

Having considered the greatness of our God and aspects of prophecy earlier in this Series, we turn our attention to the order of future prophetic events. We will consider them briefly, but further study is encouraged to the glory of God. 

Overview Of Future Prophetic Events

1. We witness the nation of Israel partly re-established, and in 1948 it became a political power. Part of Judah and Benjamin,1 with a portion of the Levites and some from the other tribes, re-gathered in the Promised Land, but mainly in unbelief with regard to the Lord Jesus as the Messiah (Isa. 18; Ezek. 37:1-14). The temple will be rebuilt, perhaps even before the rapture (1 Th. 4:16-18). In our century, a Sanhedrin – the Council of the religious leaders – was reinstituted in Galilee and then moved to Jerusalem. However, as long as Israel rejects the true Prince of Peace, there can be no real peace. We should pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps. 122:6).

2. Because of Israel’s hardening, having rejected the true Messiah and continuing to do so, a great apostate leader, rebellious to God, will arise with vast political, economic, military and religious powers – ultimately affecting the whole world (Dan. 11:36-39; Isa. 57:9; Zech. 11:15-17; Jn. 5:43; 2 Th. 2:3-12; 1 Jn. 2:18,22; Rev. 13:11-18). This leader is the “beast” that comes “out of the earth” presenting himself as Messiah, although he will be a counterfeit. We already see many preparations of these coming developments as shadows of coming events.2

3. At a certain moment after the rapture, a seven-year covenant will be imposed and signed between the leader of Israel (called “the many” and not including the true believers) and the leader of the Western world, or the revived Roman Empire, the beast out of the sea (Rev. 13; Dan. 9:27; Isa. 28:15, 57:9-11; Mt. 24:4-14).

4. Around the middle of those seven years Satan will be cast out of heaven (Rev. 12:9). The leader of the reinstituted Roman Empire, revived in a miraculous way, will make himself the object of worship in his empire, including Israel. At the same time Israel’s leader (the second beast) will have a share in this idolatry and will declare himself to be god, displaying himself as god in the temple and enforcing the worship of a counterfeit trinity (Satan, 1st beast and 2nd beast). All this is in opposition to God. Social, economic, religious and other means will be used to enforce worship and submission (2 Th. 2:4-12; Dan. 9:27, 11:38, 12:9-11; Mt. 24:15; Rev. 13:11-18; see Dan. 3-6).

The service of the true God in the temple will be stopped and replaced by the idolatry the Lord Jesus predicted (Mt. 24:15). According to His instructions, the believing remnant in Judea will flee (see Ps. 42-72). At the same time an important remnant will remain in Jerusalem (Rev. 11:1-14 – the two witnesses; see Zech. 4:11-14).

5. Because of this heinous idolatry, God’s chastisement will come over Israel – called His “indignation” – as He will send “a consumption” and “a flood” in the form of invasions by the kings of the South and of the North, in alliance with several nations (Ps. 83; Isa. 8:5-8, 10:5,28-32, 28:2,14-19; Dan. 9:27, 11:40; Zech. 14:1).

6. The alliance against Israel from the north will be supported by another power in the far north (Dan. 8:24; see Ezek. 38:1-8). Psalm 83 describes some aspects of such an alliance, possibly in preparation already.

7. This “axis of evil” is an alliance of attacking nations under the leadership of the king of the North and it will occupy Israel, even Jerusalem, in part or for a time. Then it will continue against Egypt (Isa. 10:24,32, 28:14-19; Dan. 11:40-43; Zech. 14:1). However, an alliance under the king of the South will attack Israel even before the king of the North does (Dan. 11:40). Daniel 11:1-35 details past historical events while verses 36-44 predict future events: the false king of Israel, the king of the South, the two attacks of the king of the North and his end.

8. The armies of the allied Western power (revived Roman Empire), according to the terms of the covenant with Israel, will finally arrive to help Israel. However, their ultimate goal is against the Lamb, so He will come (with us – the believers of the day of grace) from heaven to destroy the Western armies in the valley of Armageddon, which is the Jezreel valley in northern Israel. He will cast the two beasts – the western leader and the false prophet – alive into the “lake of fire” (Rev. 16:13-16, 17:7-14, 19:19-21; Dan. 2:34,44, 7:7-14; Isa. 31:8). Sometime earlier, the apostate church will be judged, first its religious power (Rev. 17) and then its political, economic and social powers (Rev. 18).

9. The king of the North with his armies will come back to Israel to besiege Jerusalem again (Dan. 11:44; Isa. 29:1-4), but he will soon perish because of the Lord’s intervention.

10. The Jewish nation and its leaders, under the pressure of the terrible attacks from the North, will turn to the Lord in true repentance and finally call for His return (Mt. 23:38; Zech. 12:10-14). Then the Lord Jesus will come down from heaven, together with His saints (Rev. 19:11-21), and His feet will stand on Mount Olivet (Zech. 14:3-7; Acts 1:11; Col. 3:4; 2 Th. 1:6-10).

11. The Messiah will destroy the king of the North and his armies at or close to Jerusalem (Isa. 10:5-27, 29:1-8, 30:27-33, 31:4-8; Dan. 8:20-26, 11:44). This coming destruction was illustrated in the annihilation of the armies of the king of Assyria in Hezekiah’s day (2 Ki. 19:35).

12. The apostate Jews, or “the many,” will be judged (Isa. 6:10-13, 17:4-6; Zeph. 3:11,15; Zech. 13:8, 14:1-15). No unbelieving Jew will enter the glorious millennial reign, but all the preserved ones of Israel will. They are the 144,000 sealed ones from all of Israel’s tribes (Rev. 7:1-8; Dan. 12:2).

13. The faithful remnant among the Jews, having passed through the great tribulation (the 144,000 of Rev. 14:1-5), will be rescued by the Lord (Isa. 10:20-27, 28:16, 29:1-8, 30:18-26; Mic. 5:1-8; Zeph. 3:12-20; Zech. 12:1-14) and then joined to the restored nation of Israel (Dan. 12:2-3). With them the Lord will start implementing His reign, as pictured by David and his heroes. The martyrs will rise and reign from heaven (Rev. 20:4).

14. This remnant will attack, judge and subject the surrounding nations, including the Palestinians (Isa. 11:11-16; Joel 3:4-8; Zeph. 2:5-7; Zech. 9:5-8). The Lord will judge the nations and separate “the sheep” from “the goats,” or the believers from the unbelievers of that time period (see Mt. 25:31-46). The “sheep” will enter the public reign of the Messiah on earth, and they are represented by the innumerable “great multitude” of Revelation 7.

15. A remnant of the Ten Tribes will be brought back to Israel (Ezek. 20; Isa. 49:22-25) after the unbelievers among them have been judged while they were still living among the nations. All this may occur within 45 days (Dan. 12:12).

16. After this, a tremendous power from the extreme north (Gog and Magog, with their supporters) will attack Israel shortly after the beginning of Christ’s reign. However, the attackers will fall on the mountains of Israel (Ezek. 38-39). This is not the same attack as described in the last part of Revelation 20, which will take place at the end of the thousand years of peace.

17. The Lord’s reign over Israel will be acknowledged by the whole world, after the spiritual and national regeneration of Israel. That is why there can be no peace before Israel submits to the Prince of Peace; and it is why all human efforts, as in our days before the rapture, are doomed to fail. His blessed reign is described in many Scriptures (for example: Isa. 2:1-5, 11:1-10, 29:17-24, 30:1-8, 35:1-10; Jer. 30-31; Ezek. 36-37; Zech. 8, 14; Acts 3:19-21; Rev. 20:1-6). During that rule of peace, Satan and all his forces will be bound and have no influence on earth (Rev. 20:1-3). Furthermore, all public sin and rebellion will be judged immediately (Ps. 101:8; Isa. 65:20).

18. Special restoration is predicted for Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Persia. Also the Palestinians will live in peace with Israel (see Isa. 19:16-25; Jer. 46:25-26, 48:47, 49:6,39).

19. The functions of the Church with its heavenly calling and position, as well as the restored nation of Israel on earth during the millennial reign, are summarized in Revelation 21:9-27 and 22:1-5. The Old Testament prophets were not instructed in the things about the Church, but other aspects of that period are described in many portions of the Old Testament (Isa. 66; Ps. 2, 8, 45, 72; Zech. 8 and many more). The blessings of this reign are also called “new heavens” and “a new earth” (Isa. 65:17, 66:22) because righteousness will reign (see Phil. 2:10-11). This is not to be confused with the eternal state (Rev. 21:1-8). Today, grace reigns through righteousness(Rom. 5:21).

20. After the thousand years of peace, Satan will be released from prison and will seduce the nations – his last seduction. This will affect all who are under 100 years old, because those who will not publicly confess the Lord will be killed by the age of 100 years (Isa. 65:20). This global uprising represents the final attack against Jerusalem (Rev. 20:1-10), which is the city of the great King (Ps. 48).

21. At the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15; see Acts 17:31, Jn. 5:22) earth and heaven will flee away. A new and eternal order, the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21:1-8) will be entirely in tune with God: righteousness will dwell – true harmony. All unrighteousness will be restricted to the “lake of fire” (see 2 Pet. 3:7,10,13). God will be all and in all (1 Cor. 15:28)!

In connection with the new heaven and new earth, the Church (the Bride) will have a unique public role in the eternal state (Rev. 21:2-3).

A Few Thoughts On Prophecy – Part Four

By Alfred Bouter

“That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.’” —Matthew 8:17 NKJV

Application Or Fulfillment – An Important Difference
In many prophetic writings the prophets spoke using past tense, speaking of coming events as if they were already accomplished. This emphasized the certainty of those events.

Hebrew grammar is different from English in many ways – its tense is reckoned by the context. For example, if a prophet spoke about a future healing using the past tense it is because the prophet saw himself in the future, and looking back he described how the Messiah suffered and with what results. Consider what was written hundreds of years before Christ died: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:4-5).

With the grammar differences in mind we need to distinguish between the application of a prophecy, as in Matthew 8:17, and its true fulfillment, as found in 1 Peter 2-3. When we don’t follow these scriptural rules we get confused and mix things up. True, Matthew used the word “fulfilled,” but he used at the same time several means to help us differentiate between the various “categories” of Scripture quotations and their fulfillment:

  1. Literal prophecy + literal fulfillment (see the end of Mt. 2:5);
  2. Literal prophecy + typical fulfillment (read Mt. 2:15);
  3. Literal prophecy + application (consider the end of Mt. 2:17);
  4. Literal prophecy + summary of a theme in prophecy (in several Scriptures, such as Mt. 2:23).

Many fail to understand that the full benefits of Christ’s sufferings on the cross and His accomplished work, namely the atonement (category 1), will be experienced by Israel as a nation only after the resurrection and rapture of the believers living in the present day of grace (see Heb. 11:40).

Furthermore, during the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus, physical healing was a visual aid, an object lesson, to draw attention to Himself (categories 2-4). Being human, Yeshua (Jesus) feelingly identified with those persons. He wanted the Jewish people to see the implied message concerning who He was and why He had come (see Mt. 9:1-6). The Lord’s comments in Nazareth’s synagogue established the general point that there cannot be any fulfillment of prophecy (Lk. 4:16-21) when it is detached from Him, for He is the Center, Object and Essence of prophecy. Let’s also remember that physical healing, as a sign miracle, is not occurring today (read Heb. 2:3-4), even though healings may occur today by God’s grace (Jas. 5:14-16).

Some Prophecies Fulfilled In Messiah’s 1st & 2nd Coming 
The following list gives further impressions of how it is impossible that all these prophecies would be fulfilled in connection with one and the same Person. Yet, this is what Scripture teaches with respect to the Messiah. The exactness with which many prophecies have been fulfilled in regard to His first coming guarantees that the other prophecies will be fulfilled as well.

Brief Summary Of Fulfilled Prophecies
About Messiah’s First Coming
1. The Messiah Would Be Born In Bethlehem.
2. The Messiah Would Be Born Of A Virgin.
3. The Messiah Would Be A Prophet Like Moses.
4. The Messiah Would Be Tempted By Satan.
5. The Messiah Would Enter Jerusalem Triumphantly.
6. The Messiah Would Be Rejected By His Own People.
7. The Messiah Would Be Betrayed By One Of His Followers.
8. The Messiah Would Be Betrayed For 30 Pieces Of Silver.
9. The Messiah Would Be Tried And Condemned.
10. The Messiah Would Be Silent Before His Accusers.
11. The Messiah Would Be Smitten And Spat Upon. 
12. The Messiah Would Be Mocked And Taunted.
13. The Messiah Would Be Crucified, With Pierced Hands And Feet.
14. The Messiah Would Suffer With Sinners.
15. The Messiah’s Garments Would Be Divided By Casting Lots.
16. The Messiah’s Bones Would Not Be Broken.
17. The Messiah Would Die As A Sin Offering. 
18. The Messiah Would See His Seed. 
19. The Messiah Would Be Buried In A Rich Man’s Tomb. 
20. The Messiah Would Be Raised From The Dead. 
21. The Messiah Would Sit At God’s Right Hand.

Search the Scriptures for these prophecies. Some are clearer than others. Nevertheless, the final verdict is unmistakable. Study the typology of the tabernacle, Moses, Joseph and others. See how many of the Old Testament characters, places and objects were prophetic pictures of Messiah.

“His Own Did Not Receive Him” (Jn. 1:11) 
Even though only a few Old Testament passages foreshadow the rejection of the Messiah, each one reveals important facts about Him. When considered together, they give an overall portrayal of our Messiah’s rejection and the purpose of it.

• Rejection by builders. People in a responsible position are the very ones who refused to accept the Messiah, as seen in Psalm 118. This psalm is a hymn of worship and praise, which was sung while a group of priests approached the Lord’s house in order to offer a sacrifice. The sacrificial system was meaningful because it revealed God’s messianic plan of salvation as illustrated by this psalm. Each part expressed something of the messianic theme as worshipers approached, entered the house of God, offered the sacrifice and thanked God for His mercy. “Save now” (v.25), recorded in the Gospels as “Hosanna,” is a plea to be saved by the Messiah.

In the midst of this praise, Psalm 118 makes a startling declaration: “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” (v.22 KJV). The head stone, or capstone, holds a structure together. Therefore, it is the most crucial part of the building, upon which everything else depends. Yet the psalmist stated that the builders refused this stone. It is common biblical usage for “a stone” to represent the Davidic royal line, and it is a messianic term. Accordingly, this statement indicates that the Messiah was to be rejected by those in a position of responsibility.

Although the builders as a whole rejected the Messiah, anyone who believes in Him will be saved. Isaiah 28:16 explains, “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.”

• An offence. Unfortunately, prophecy reveals that the longed-for Messiah will be a cause of offence, so some will stumble. Isaiah 8:13-15 shows this dilemma. The Lord of Hosts is to be viewed with reverence (v.13). Yet He will prove to be a stone of stumbling, a rock of offence for both houses of Israel (v.14), that is, Israel and Judah. There will be many who fall in this way (v.15).

• Despised. Scripture indicates that the Messiah would be faced with hideous rejection. “He is despised and rejected of men” (53:3). The “men” spoken of here include the very people who anticipated the coming Messiah. That is why Isaiah, speaking later in this same verse as one of the people of Israel, says that “He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.”

By contrast, let us esteem, holding in the highest regard, our precious Savior!