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Romans Under New Light
The Gospel of the Kingdom
Over the centuries, in Protestant circles, there has been constant debate as to the nature of salvation. Did God really inspire the authors of the New Testament to write inconsistently and with apparent contradictions with regard to salvation? Or are we simply afraid to read the Bible literally and let those authors say what they are saying without fear of letting go of our presuppositions?
Does God choose those who will be saved and those who will be condemned to hell? Is salvation simply a matter of professing a (free grace) faith in Jesus Christ? Or is Lordship salvation and regeneration required? (In other words, is some level of evidence of life changes required?) What does James mean by, “Faith without works is dead”? Why did Martin Luther have difficulties with James saying that it “contradicts Paul by teaching justification by works" and that it is “really an epistle of straw”?
Are Protestants correct in viewing salvation as a one-time event of justification? Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians believe that salvation and even justification is a journey. They do not distinguish justification and sanctification. But they tend to strongly reject the millennial reign of Christ. Would all these problems become solved if salvation is viewed as a journey that can continue even past the grave into the millennial reign of Christ? Since the Bible really does characterize salvation as a journey and not a one-time event, perhaps we really should think about letting God outside the boxes in which we have placed Him.
The emphasis of New Testament salvation is the resurrection and walking without sin. We are taught from childhood that when you die, you go straight to either heaven or hell. Does Scripture ever say we go straight to heaven when we die? There are arguments for such. But it’s never explicitly stated. The resurrection, however, is explicitly taught quite a bit. If unbelievers go straight to hell when they die, then why is the Great White Throne of Judgment needed after the millennium? If we go straight to heaven when we die, then why do we need a resurrection? The resurrection becomes anti-climactic at best. Try interpreting what the Bible says about salvation in terms of a journey with a focus on the resurrection.
The disciples asked Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age" (Matthew 24:3)? Jesus responds by saying:
Matthew 24:11-15 ESV And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. (12) And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (13) But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come . (15) "So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),
Is the gospel (good news) of the kingdom the same as Paul’s gospel (good news) about salvation? Jesus says the one who endures to the end will be saved. Does this match what is generally understood from Paul about salvation? How would the audience of Jesus have interpreted the words, “good news about the kingdom?” From their perspective, is the kingdom of God a kingdom that is in heaven and not of this world? Jesus said that to Pontius Pilate before the crucifixion. Jesus was not saying that Rome would be attacked in defense of the King of Kings. The kingdom of heaven is not currently of this world. But the Jews would have understood the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, to be a future earthly reign of Israel over the world when the Messiah comes. Jesus was not correcting the Jews about the nature of the kingdom. He was speaking to Pilot and not the Jews. Jesus even told the Jews that the meek would inherit the earth (not heaven).
In light of this, what is the gospel (good news) of the kingdom? How does the earthly reign of Israel and the Messiah over the world relate to salvation? To the ancient Jews, salvation is being saved from sin and death. At funerals, preachers of today seem to focus on our departed loved ones being in a better place, meaning heaven. But to the Jews, as well as the major emphasis of New Testament Scripture, salvation is all about the resurrection. Could it be that gospel (good news) of the kingdom is very much related to the resurrection and the earthly reign of the Messiah? If so, has the real gospel (good news) of the kingdom really been preached to all the nations? I believe the two witnesses and the 144,000 will preach the gospel of the kingdom to all the nations during the first half of the seven-years. Then the end will come starting with the abomination of desolation. But how does the gospel of the kingdom relate to the gospel (good news) of salvation?
The exact nature of the gospel has been debated by Protestants ever since Luther and Calvin. Is salvation a decision or a journey? How much “fruit of the Spirit” must one show before he or she will go to heaven? These debates rage on in Protestant circles today in the form of radical-grace or hyper-grace movements. Could the very existence of these divisions indicate that Luther may have gone too far? Radical-grace advocates would say that Luther didn’t go far enough. They want a new Reformation of Grace.
The Catholics believe that purgatory is necessary for those who still have sin in their lives. Was Luther correct to eliminate purgatory without providing a scripturally based alternative? Could it be that the truth about the gospel hides in the middle between the Catholics and the Protestants? What is the true gospel of salvation? And is the gospel of salvation the same as the gospel of the kingdom?
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31). But what does that mean? Is it the Greek-like concept of intellectual knowledge? Or is belief a continual action? Is salvation a one-time event? Do we say we are saved and that’s it? Or do we continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13)? Do we need to “endure to the end” in order to be saved (Matthew 10:22, 24:13 Mark 12:13)? One thing is for sure: We must continue to look upon the cross for salvation.
Believe in Jesus and you will inherit eternal life. But look at the context of John 3:16 for a true understanding of the gospel. The verse right before, at John 3:14-15, says: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." The people of Old Testament Israel were told to look upon the serpent to be healed of sickness and disease. But Christ was lifted up so that we can be healed from sin as well as sickness and disease. Sin is at the very heart of sickness, disease, and death. “By his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). We must be saved from sin. All sins are habitual. If we still sin, we must continue to look to the cross in order to stop sinning – in order to be healed from our sinful habits, so that we no longer sin. We must daily take up our cross and follow Christ. Only then can we inherit eternal life.
We must realize that continued sin is like a disease. Jesus can heal us from that disease. If you want to inherit the kingdom, you must be completely healed from all sinful habits. We must believe that Jesus can heal us. If we say that Jesus can't or won't do this, then we do not fully believe in Jesus for eternal life. We must continually look upon the cross for healing just as the people of Israel looked upon the serpent for healing. We must have faith and not doubt. We must turn our lives completely over to Christ in order to inherit the kingdom. If any sinful habits remain, then we have not yet finished our journey back to the Father. When no sinful habits remain, then we are completely sanctified. This is necessary in order to inherit the kingdom.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (24) He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
If you die before overcoming sin, before becoming completely sanctified, that doesn’t mean you will go to hell. But those who continue to sin will not inherit the kingdom.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21 ESV Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality , (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions , (21) envy, drunkenness , orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Many, if not most, Protestants have trouble with these verses. How can one completely stop sinning? And if one does not inherit the kingdom, does that mean he or she would go to hell? The exact nature of the gospel of the kingdom has been debated by Protestants ever since Luther and Calvin.
Catholics view justification and sanctification as basically the same thing. Both are viewed as a journey of salvation. Those who do not complete this journey before death must spend time in purgatory. Only the saints go to heaven without first going to purgatory. Protestants argue that purgatory is not supported by Scripture and that purgatory is an additional requirement for salvation other than God’s grace.
From the Catholic perspective, entire sanctification is necessary before going to heaven. If one does not become a saint in this lifetime, sanctification is completed in purgatory. From the Protestant perspective, all believers go straight to heaven without time in purgatory. However, the Protestants have differing views as to how much sanctification is needed before one can inherit the kingdom. Or, one might argue that one needs to maintain a certain level of discipleship, or devotion to Christ, in order to inherit the kingdom. This view is called Lordship salvation.
Lordship salvation states that some level of the fruit of the spirit is required before one can be assured of salvation. Free-grace advocates oppose this view. They point out that a requirement of any level of fruit, or any level of discipleship, puts one in the position of not knowing if they have enough to be saved. There is no assurance of salvation. But if one were to take the more Catholic view that sanctification must be completed before one can inherit the kingdom, then this debate is put to rest.
Free-grace advocates would say all believers go straight to heaven regardless the state of their sinful habits. Lordship salvation advocates, to one degree or other, will require a relatively sin-free life but that still contains some sin. The more one leans to the free-grace side of this debate, the more one tends to view salvation as a one-time decision instead of a journey. If salvation is a one-time decision, then what’s the point of the journey? And if salvation is a journey, then the more Catholic-like view of entire sanctification seems to be the only way to avoid the question of what degree of discipleship and sanctification is required for salvation.
In other words, it’s going to be either an all-out requirement of entire sanctification, or it’s going to be no requirement of sanctification, in order to be saved. If entire sanctification is required to inherit the kingdom, as Catholics would claim, then very few Protestants Christians will make it. What is needed is a free-grace alternative to purgatory that is strongly supported by Scripture.
Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (9) not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
If salvation is viewed as a decision, then grace and faith become one-time events. This tends to be true even if salvation is viewed as a journey that doesn’t require completion. The start of the journey tends to become the main requirement for salvation. When this is the case, grace becomes “unmerited favor,” meaning that God forgives us of our sins even though we do not deserve this favor.
On the other hand, if salvation is viewed as a journey to the Father that must be completed, then grace must be defined as a continuous work of God. The Holy Spirit changes us on the inside so that over time, we no longer have the sinful habits that we used to have. Thus, grace is God changing us instead of God forgiving us. From this perspective, the work that Christ did on the cross is certainly a finished work of God. But it’s not the primary meaning of grace. The Greek word for ‘grace’ means favor. God’s favor is given to a specific group of people. But Christ’s work on the cross was for everyone.
Christ’s work on the cross is extremely important. Without it there could be no grace. All our sins were paid for at the cross. Christ’s sacrifice was a ransom for everyone. But the work of the Holy Spirit, to transform us on the inside, is a work of grace. It’s done only for believers. Only believers receive the Holy Spirit.
Hosea 13:14a I will ransom them from the power of Sheol. I will redeem them from death! Death, where are your plagues? Sheol, where is your destruction?
1 Timothy 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all; the testimony in its own times;
Grace is being continually changed by the Holy Spirit. This definition of grace has Old Testament support. After Pentecost, all believers are filled with the Holy Spirit. But in the Old Testament, only a few of the covenant people were selected to receive the Holy Spirit. They were considered as favored by God. Thus, the Old Testament concept of grace is to be chosen by God to be filled by the Holy Spirit. Under the New Covenant, all believers are chosen to receive God’s grace in that they are filled with the Holy Spirit.
We are saved by grace and through faith. Continual grace is being filled with the Holy Spirit to change us on the inside. But what about continual faith? Faith becomes a continual belief, hope, and deep prayerful desire that God will change us so that we are no longer sinning. We have continual faith that God will continually change us. We become spiritual beggars for righteousness. These changes could take a lifetime. For others it could be much faster.
If salvation is a one-time decision, then faith is a matter of believing in Christ to save us. If salvation is a journey to completion, faith is becoming a spiritual beggar. We must desperately desire the Holy Spirit to change us. We desperately desire to overcome all our sinful habits because of our love for Christ.
Depending on our definition of grace and faith, salvation by grace and through faith can take on entirely different meanings. Is it a decision, or is it a journey to completion? All of Paul’s words about grace and faith are dramatically affected. If salvation is a journey to completion, we remain faithful that God will complete the work that he began in us. That work is God’s grace.
Philippians 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6 ESV And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Notice the subtle difference between these two translations. Do we hope that this work is completed before Christ returns? Or do we limit our faith such that God’s work can only be completed upon receiving new spiritual bodies? Those who believe salvation is a journey to completion would say the former. If we truly have faith in God to transform us on the inside, should we limit that faith to say God’s work of removing our sinful habits cannot be completed before Christ returns and we get spiritual bodies?
If salvation is a journey without the need of completion, then the need for the journey becomes diminished. If we do not believe that God can truly transform us so that we no longer sin, Satan will have a big hole in our theology that he can use while tempting us. In our weakness we will believe that we can’t stop sinning. So we will give into temptations. But if salvation is a journey to completion in this lifetime, then there is no room for debate. This definition of grace, however, requires either purgatory, or a free-grace alternative to purgatory.
If salvation is assumed to be a journey without the need for completion in this lifetime, it results in big differences between the gospels of Jesus and Paul. Jesus requires holiness in order to enter the kingdom. Paul can be interpreted as only requiring faith for salvation by defining grace as what Christ did on the cross. This past-tense oriented view of salvation produces huge perceived differences between Jesus and Paul, because Jesus didn’t use the term “grace” very often. (Jesus didn’t speak of grace very often because Pentecost had not yet come.)
Hyper-grace teachers say Jesus was teaching under the old covenant of law, and that Paul taught grace. Even some of what Paul said seems to be in conflict with past-tense grace. For example, Paul says to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Those who continue to sin will not inherit the kingdom. But when salvation and grace is viewed as a journey to completion, all the apparent conflicts between Jesus and Paul completely disappear. Paul becomes consistent with himself. But unless we say that a small minority of Christians will be saved, some form of free-grace alternative to purgatory is required for those who don’t complete their journey. In today’s generation, only a few of the believers tend to find that narrow gate of righteousness.
Many will argue that they don’t know any perfect people. But Christian perfection doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes. It’s not a sin to have an error in judgment. We learn from our mistakes. If we have hurt someone, we ask for their forgiveness even if we never intended to hurt them. The need to ask forgiveness of others does not necessarily mean that we has sinned.
We try and avoid honest mistakes. But honest mistakes are not habitual. Sins are tempting. All sins are habitual. They draw us in and enslave us. They are hard to overcome.
Honest mistakes are not sins. Honest mistakes do not tempt us and draw us in. People often see honest mistakes in others and interpret it as sinning. Among Christians, most sins are hidden in our hearts. Lust is addictive and sinful. Sins hide in darkness. Even sinful anger can be hidden. But honest mistakes are not hidden. You can be in the light and still make honest mistakes.
Others will look you in the eye and say, “So how is this holiness thing going for you? Have you stopped sinning?” The problem with this question is that we don’t change ourselves on the inside. Perhaps there is an area of our lives in which the Holy Spirit still intends to work. We might say that we feel at peace with God and are not aware of more sinful habits. But we never judge ourselves as having completed our journey because we must still allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. I think that’s why Paul always associates the completion of the journey (in his case the race) with either being near death or with the return of Christ.
It’s always possible for those who have overcome all their sinful habits to fall back into sin. So we can never know for sure that we will never sin again. But we must believe in God to save us from all our sinful habits. This means we must believe in God that all our sinful habits will be conquered. We have faith that he will complete this work in us, even if the work may have already been completed. We won’t know for sure before we receive our spiritual bodies.
So what about this free-grace alternative to purgatory? Catholics believe the original sin of Adam is removed at infant baptism. This is based on Paul’s teaching in Romans 5 that Jesus is the second Adam. Infant baptism is used by the Catholics to distinguish those who will go to purgatory from those who go to hell with no opportunity for salvation. But is Christ the second Adam only for those who are baptized?
Romans 5:10-12 For if, while we were enemies , we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life. (11) Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (12) Therefore, as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to all men, because all sinned.
Everyone was once an enemy of God. While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son. Thus, everyone was reconciled to God through the blood of Christ. This is not grace because grace is favor. Favor must be for a select number of people. But as we will see, a select number do receive grace. Grace is change by the Holy Spirit. Over time, we are “saved by his life.” We are saved by living a life for Christ.
Romans 5:17-19 For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; so much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ. (18) So then as through one trespass , all men were condemned; even so through one act of righteousness , all men were justified to life. (19) For as through the one man's disobedience many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one, many will be made righteous.
All men were “justified to life.” But only “many” will be made righteous. Just because you are “justified to life” does not mean you will be made righteous. Justification to life was a work that was done by Christ on the cross. He did this for everyone. But not everyone will be made righteous. In this age of grace, believers are made righteous through continuous grace and by continuous faith in Jesus Christ. This grace is the process of the Holy Spirit changing us so that we no longer sin. Everyone has been ransomed. But we can’t continue to sin if we want to inherit the kingdom.
I agree with Catholics that salvation is a journey to completion. But under the Catholic system, only those who are declared saints by the Catholic Church can avoid purgatory. Only a few are made righteous in this lifetime. For the average Catholic, the possibility of becoming a saint seems distant and unobtainable. This can be discouraging for Catholics, feeling like no matter what they do, they will still be punished in purgatory. Paul says that “many will be made righteous.” Entire sanctification must be preached as something that is obtainable by anyone because it’s not we ourselves who do the work. The Holy Spirit changes us on the inside. We must be taught faith to believe that we can become pure and holy by God’s continual grace.
1 Timothy 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all; the testimony in its own times;
Think about salvation as two-way reconciliation. Jesus is the second Adam. Because of this, God reconciled himself to everyone. God loves the world and has a plan that includes everyone. But everyone must completely reconcile themselves back to God, with the help of the Holy Spirit, before they can receive eternal life. If we die before being completely sanctified, there is always the resurrection. Salvation is all about the resurrection. It’s not about going to heaven when you die.
1 Corinthians 15:21-22 For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. (22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
This verse is in the context of Paul’s chapter on the resurrection. Jesus is the second Adam. Everyone has been reconciled. Adam brought sin and death into the world for everyone. Death was the result of the original sin. But Christ is the second Adam for everyone. Thus, everyone has had the consequence of the original sin removed. This means that everyone can be resurrected. But it does not mean that everyone will receive eternal life.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For the love of Christ constrains us; because we judge thus, that one died for all, therefore all died. (15) He died for all, that those who live should no longer live to themselves, but to him who for their sakes died and rose again.
Jesus died and rose again for everyone. Because of Christ’s death for everyone, “all died.” In other words, Christ took away the penalty of eternal death for everyone. The ransom has been paid for everyone (1 Timothy 2:6, quoted above). Everyone has effectively died because Christ died in our place. Therefore, all “will be made alive” in the resurrection.
That is why Christ is the second Adam. Adam brought death for everyone. Christ reversed the consequence of the original sin for everyone. In so doing, Christ has reconciled God to everyone.
1 Timothy 4:10 For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we have set our trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
Just because God has reconciled himself to us does not mean that we have been reconciled (made right) to God. It is only through the journey of sanctification that believers are reconciled back to God. And only those who complete this journey will receive eternal life. Those who do not complete the journey in this life can continue their journey in the age to come after the resurrection.
John 14:4-6 "Where I go, you know, and you know the [road]." (5) Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going. How can we know the [road]?" (6) Jesus said to him, "I am the [road], the truth, and the life. No one [journeys] to the Father, except through me.
The Greek word for ‘way’ in this verse literally means ‘road.’ As we live for Christ we journey back to the Father. You can’t reach the end of the road without traveling over the road. Death is not a short-cut back to the Father. You can’t eliminate the road or the journey. But it doesn’t mean that one goes to hell if he or she doesn’t reach the end of the road during this lifetime. Death is not the end of the journey. Christ has conquered death for everyone. Christ has reconciled everyone back to God. The penalty of death, as given to Adam, has been revoked (ransomed) for everyone. Everyone can be resurrected so that they can complete their journey. But not everyone will desire and choose to return to the Father. The lake of fire (hell) is for the enemies of God.
1 Corinthians 15:21-22 For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. (22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
This verse should be interpreted in the context of Paul’s more elaborate teaching, in Romans 5, about Christ being the second Adam. The point here is that 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 is in the context of Paul’s chapter on the resurrection. Once we understand that the resurrection is for everyone, then the question arises about the difference between the just and the unjust in the resurrection.
Acts 24:15 having hope toward God, which these also themselves look for, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
Paul’s chapter on the resurrection is usually interpreted with the presupposition that only the righteous (just) are resurrected. But once we understand that 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 says everyone will be resurrected, the verses that follow take on a whole new meaning.
1 Corinthians 15:35-39 ESV But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come ?" (36) You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. (37) And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. (38) But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. (39) For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.
Paul asks the question, “With what kind of body do they come?” Paul says there are different kinds of bodies. He first illustrates with the fact that animals have different kinds of bodies. Then he draws the distinction between heavenly (celestial) bodies and earthly (terrestrial) bodies.
1 Corinthians 15:40-42 ESV There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. (41) There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. (42) So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.
There are two kinds of bodies with two types of glory. Then Paul says, “So it is with the resurrection of the dead.” There are both heavenly and earthly bodies. The heavenly bodies have a greater glory than the earthly bodies. And even some heavenly bodies have greater glory than other heavenly bodies. After this point, Paul goes onto describe the glory of the heavenly body in much more detail. So it’s easy to read this text under the presupposition of just one type of body in the resurrection.
But it’s also easy to read Paul as saying the resurrection will have two types of bodies once we realize that Christ is the second Adam for everyone. The body we get depends upon the seed that is planted. If we have been completely sanctified, then we will be resurrected with a heavenly (spiritual) body and have eternal life. If not, we will be resurrected with a natural body and can continue our journey of salvation in the age to come. Terrestrial (earthly) bodies can die a second death. Those who receive their eternal-life bodies will reign with Christ over the nations.
John 12:32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
Christ was lifted up from the earth. Therefore, at some time or other, all people will be drawn to Christ. It goes without saying that some people die having never heard about Christ. Are they drawn to Christ? One would think not. But since Christ’s death allows for the resurrection of all people, of all generations, everyone can eventually be drawn to Christ. Thus, the knowledge of Christ will be given to everyone and everyone will have the opportunity to journey back to the Father. This is why Christ is Lord of both the dead and the living. Every knee will bow, even those who have died.
Romans 14:9-11 For to this end Christ died , rose, and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. (10) But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (11) For it is written, " 'As I live,' says the Lord, 'to me every knee will bow . Every tongue will confess to God.' "
Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, (11) and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord , to the glory of God the Father.
Isaiah 45:22-25 ESV "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. (23) By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: 'To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.' (24) "Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him. (25) In the LORD all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory."
Notice that salvation is given to the ends of the earth. Every knee will bow. So every knee will be resurrected, which is salvation from death. But there is a special glory for Israel and Gentiles who are grafted into Israel. As Paul has stated, some will receive spiritual bodies of glory. Israel is the chosen holy nation.
1 Peter 2:6-10 Because it is contained in Scripture, "Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, chosen , and precious: He who believes in him will not be disappointed." (7) For you who believe therefore is the honor, but for those who are disobedient, "The stone which the builders rejected , has become the chief cornerstone," (8) and, "a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." For they stumble at the word, being disobedient, to which also they were appointed. (9) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: (10) who in time past were no people, but now are God's people , who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
Christ, in due time, will draw everyone to himself. However, Christ’s draw is not irresistible. Just as Adam had the free will to disobey God, everyone has the free will to reject Christ and his salvation.
The only way to eternal life is to be saved from continued sin. Yes, Jesus paid the price for all our sins. He paid the ransom for everyone. But if that becomes an excuse for continued sin, it makes a mockery of Christ's sacrifice:
Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, (5) and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, (6) and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
Hebrews was written to Christian Jews who were considering turning back to Judaism, forsaking Christ. If they did, they would lose their salvation. It's not taking about a weak moment of sin. If the blood of Jesus becomes an excuse for continued sin, then it makes a mockery of Christ's blood. Or if someone deliberately becomes an enemy (adversary) of Christ after receiving the knowledge and powers of the age to come, they become an enemy of God. They will lose their reconciliation with God. They will be thrown into the lake of fire after the great white throne of judgment, at the end of the millennial reign.
Hebrews 10:26-27 ESV For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, (27) but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries .
We are to look on the cross and believe in Christ to be healed from all our sinful habits. Yes, Christ paid the price for all our sins. But the cross is also about overcoming all our sinful habits. It’s about being completely healed, both spiritually and physically. That's the only true salvation from sin. Would you say to an alcoholic that your sins are forgiven, so even if you continue to get drunk, God considers you to no longer be an alcoholic? Talk like that only makes it worse for the alcoholic.
It’s true that God credits new believers with righteousness. But we must make good on that credit. God is simply giving us time to overcome sin. And God does the greater work in us, by grace, as we repent of our sins and have faith in Christ to overcome all our sinful habits. If we say we will never overcome sin, then we don’t really have true faith in Christ to heal us from sin.
The alcoholic must believe that he can stop drinking. The alcoholic must repent of his or her drinking. We must believe on Jesus Christ, by looking to the cross, so that our sinful habits can be overcome. If you don’t believe that through God’s grace you can overcome all your sinful habits, then do you really believe in Christ? If you don’t believe you can overcome sin, do you really know Christ?
1 John 3:3-6 ESV And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (4) Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (5) You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. (6) No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
You must have faith in Christ to overcome sin. Paul said:
Philippians 2:12-13 ESV Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, (13) for it is God who works in you , both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. As we do the works of the Father, the Holy Spirit fills us, and does the greater work in us to overcome all our sinful habits. But if you don’t believe that God will finish the good work he has started in you, then you set yourself up in Satan’s trap. You set yourself up for continued sin. And the Holy Spirit can’t complete the good work that he is doing in you. It’s like believing in Christ, but not fully. We look to the cross to overcome sin. But we must believe that the cross has this power.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. (2) For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money , proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents , ungrateful, unholy, (3) heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control , brutal, not loving good, (4) treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, (5) having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
This baby-boom generation, since World War II, is the generation of the last days. More than any past generation world-wide, most people who attend church regularly are easily characterized by the things said in verse 2 above. They go to church and believe they are right with God. But they continue to sin because they believe it's impossible to stop sinning. They don't have the true belief in Jesus to stop. So they have an appearance of godliness, but they deny the power of the cross to change us and completely stop sinning.
People quote John 3:16, taking it out of context. There are other verses that are memorized and then quoted out of context. How about Ephesians 2:8-9, which we looked at earlier. We previously discussed the definition of grace and faith while discussing this verse this verse. But what about its context?
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, that no one would boast.
This verse is taken out of the context of the previous verses. Certainly the verse is true. Salvation is a free gift. But that doesn't mean we can continue to sin, saying that it would be work to overcome sin!
Ephesians 2:1-6 You were made alive when you were dead in transgressions and sins, (2) in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the children of disobedience; (3) among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (4) But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, (5) even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (6) and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Paul is not painting a middle ground of sinning just a little. We were dead in our sins. Now we are alive because we don't sin. We were by nature children of wrath. We no longer have that nature. In other words, we used to have a sinful nature. But we are healed from that sinful nature by Jesus as we believe in Jesus on the cross. We become new creatures that do not have sinful natures.
Ephesians 2:8-9 for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, that no one would boast.
Yes, it's by grace that we are saved. But it’s a continual grace by which the Holy Spirit works in us to change us. And it’s a continual faith that we believe in Christ to make us new creatures. Over time, we are made into new creatures by the Holy Spirit because over time we no longer have habits of sin. We no longer sin. It is a gift from God. Grace is not a short-cut ticket to heaven as we remain in our sinful nature. The very next verse reads:
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them.
We are not saved by works of self-righteousness. But because of our faith in Christ, we do works. And if we are not doing these works, then the Holy Spirit does not bring about these changes in our lives. If we are not doing the works, we still have our sinful nature. As we do the works, the Holy Spirit fills us. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit we cannot sin because God is in us and God does not sin. Of course we can give into temptation. And the Holy Spirit backs off if we do. But in doing the works, the Holy Spirit will fill us again. So in doing works we overcome all our sinful habits. In other words, the best way to overcome sin is to do the works that the Father has prepared beforehand.
Most Christians will say that if you have to be perfect in order to get to heaven, then very few people will make it. I would respond with, “True, very few people find the narrow gate.” But the wide gate that leads to destruction does not mean they all go to hell when they die. They simply don’t inherit the kingdom. The wide gate leads to destruction of treasures and wealth accumulated in this age. In the age to come, the meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, will inherit the earth. Inheriting the earth means the wealth of land ownership. The meek store there treasures in heaven in order to inherit the earth.
For everyone else, it’s a wide gate of destruction. It’s a destruction of property and wealth. The foolish, who build their houses on the sand will lose their houses. They lose their wealth. So we must store our treasures in heaven. That means doing the works that the Father has for us. The wide gate does not immediately lead to hell. But if the foolish stay on the wide path in the age to come, they will eventually die the second death and be thrown into the lake of fire.
Those who inherit the kingdom will reign with Christ, during the millennium, over those who don't overcome sin. The point being, we need to go back to the basics of salvation and faith in Christ to completely overcome sin. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
2.2) A Word Study of God’s Grace as God’s Work
There are 121 verses in the New Testament that have the word ‘grace.’ All of them are quoted in this section.
We are saved by grace. Knowing that, most Protestants, when asked, will tend to define grace in terms of how they already view salvation. But most of the New Testament verses which use grace are not talking explicitly about salvation. In order to really confirm one’s understanding about salvation, one should do a word-study of all the verses that contain the word ‘grace.’
Many define grace is God’s mercy, as in unmerited favor. God forgives our sins and thus it’s often assumed that’s grace. The word ‘grace’ is the same word as ‘favor.’ Literally translated, Ephesians 2:7-9 would be: “That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his [favor] in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus; for by [favor] you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast.” Does this really capture Paul’s meaning?
Is grace talking about election? If so, then how does this square with Acts 10:34-35? “Peter opened his mouth and said, "Truly I perceive that God doesn't show favoritism; but in every nation he who fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” And how about Romans 2:10-11 NIV? “But glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.”
Many interpret grace to be ‘unmerited favor.” The problem is that it can be perceived as a passive one-time event, when our sins are forgiven. But as we will see in our word study, grace is a continual on-going gift from God.
In the Old Testament, believers didn’t all receive the Holy Spirit. Those who did were considered to be favored by God. After Pentecost, all believers are filled with the Holy Spirit. All believers are favored by God and receive the Holy Spirit. This starts to get to the meaning of grace. But as we will see, grace is more about the power of the Holy Spirit working inside us to transform us into new creatures. We are saved by that transformation. But in a broader sense, grace is any work of God and is done by the Holy Spirit.
To illustrate this, I listed all the verses in the New Testament with the word ‘grace.’ I’ve substituted “God’s work” or “God’s presence” for all occurrences of grace. Read through all these verses and see if God’s work or presence is a good definition for grace.
This helps us understand the distinction between being under the law and being under grace. Under the law we do works for our own justification. Under grace, God does the work. We are saved by “God’s work,” not our own works.
This is only being done to illustrate a point and to help us understand the true meaning of grace. Grace is not the forgiveness of sins. Christ did a work on the cross, which is God’s grace. And yes, because of Christ’s work God can forgive our sins. But verses with ‘grace’ are not directly addressing the forgiveness of sins. Continual grace is all about being transformed into new creatures, no longer being creatures of sinful habits.
Under the Old Covenant, God stated the law and men struggled to stop sinning. Under the New Covenant, God writes his law on our hearts. This means our very nature is being changed, over time, such that we no longer have the desire to sin. We are being transformed into new creatures by the work of God. This transformation is God’s grace.
Luke 2:40 The child was growing, and was becoming strong in spirit, being filled with wisdom, and the [work] of God was upon him.
John 1:14 The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of [God’s presence] and truth.
John 1:16-17 From his fullness we all received [God’s work] upon [God’s presence]. (17) For the law was given through Moses. [God’s work] and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Acts 4:33 With great power, the apostles gave their testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Great [works of God were] on them all.
Acts 11:23 who, when he had come, and had seen the [work] of God, was glad. He exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they should remain near to the Lord.
Acts 13:43 Now when the synagogue broke up, many of the Jews and of the devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas; who, speaking to them, urged them to continue in the [work] of God.
Acts 14:3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who testified to the word of [God’s presence], granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
Acts 14:26 From there they sailed to Antioch, from where they had been committed to the [work] of God for the work which they had fulfilled.
Acts 15:11 But we believe that we are saved through the [work] of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.
Acts 15:40 but Paul chose Silas, and went out, being commended by the brothers to the [work] of God.
Acts 18:27 When he had determined to pass over into Achaia, the brothers encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him. When he had come, he greatly helped those who had believed through [God’s work];
Acts 20:24 But these things don't count; nor do I hold my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to fully testify to the Good News of the [work] of God.
Acts 20:32 Now, brothers, I entrust you to God, and to the word of [God’s work], which is able to build up, and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
Romans 1:5 through whom we received [God’s work] and apostleship, for obedience of faith among all the nations, for his name's sake;
Romans 1:7 to all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: [God’s presence] to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 3:23-24 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; (24) being justified freely by [God’s work] through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;
Romans 4:2-4 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not toward God. (3) For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." (4) Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as [God’s work], but as debt.
Romans 4:16 For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to [God’s work], to the end that the promise may be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.
Romans 5:2 through whom we also have our access by faith into this [work of God] in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Romans 5:14-21 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those whose sins weren't like Adam's disobedience, who is a foreshadowing of him who was to come. (15) But the free gift isn't like the trespass. For if by the trespass of the one the many died, much more did the [work] of God, and the gift by the [work] of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. (16) The gift is not as through one who sinned: for the judgment came by one to condemnation, but the free gift came of many trespasses to justification. (17) For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; so much more will those who receive the abundance of [God’s work] and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ. (18) So then as through one trespass, all men were condemned; even so through one act of righteousness, all men were justified to life. (19) For as through the one man's disobedience many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one, many will be made righteous. (20) The law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, [God’s work] abounded more exceedingly; (21) that as sin reigned in death, even so [God’s presence] might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that [God’s work] may abound? (2) May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer?
Romans 6:14-15 For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under [God’s work]. (15) What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under [God’s work]? May it never be!
Romans 11:5-6 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of [God’ work]. (6) And if by [God’s work], then it is no longer of [our] works; otherwise [God’s work] is no longer [God’s work]. But if it is of [our] works, it is no longer [God’s work]; otherwise work is no longer work.
Romans 12:3 For I say, through [God’s presence] that was given me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith.
Romans 12:6 Having gifts differing according to the [work of God] that was given to us, if prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith;
Romans 15:15 But I write the more boldly to you in part, as reminding you, because of the [work of God] that was given to me by God,
Romans 16:20 And the God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet. The [work] of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Romans 16:24 The [presence]of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all! Amen.
1 Corinthians 1:3 [God’s presence] to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:3-4 [God’s presence] to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (4) I always thank my God concerning you, for the [work] of God which was given you in Christ Jesus;
1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the [work] of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it.
1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the [work] of God I am what I am. His [work] which was bestowed on me was not futile, but I worked more than all of them; yet not I, but the [work] of God which was with me.
1 Corinthians 16:23 The [presence] of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
2 Corinthians 1:2 [God’s presence] to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom but in the [work] of God we behaved ourselves in the world, and more abundantly toward you.
2 Corinthians 4:15 For all things are for your sakes, that the [presence of God], being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together, we entreat also that you not receive the [work]of God in vain,
2 Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brothers, we make known to you the [presence] of God which has been given in the assemblies of Macedonia;
2 Corinthians 8:4 begging us with much entreaty to receive this [work of God] and the fellowship in the service to the saints.
2 Corinthians 8:6-9 So we urged Titus, that as he made a beginning before, so he would also complete in you this [work of God]. (7) But as you abound in everything, in faith, utterance, knowledge, all earnestness, and in your love to us, see that you also abound in this [work of God]. (8) I speak not by way of commandment, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity also of your love. (9) For you know the [work] of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.
2 Corinthians 8:19 Not only so, but who was also appointed by the assemblies to travel with us in this [work of God], which is served by us to the glory of the Lord himself, and to show our readiness.
2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all [works of God] abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in everything, may abound to every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:14 while they themselves also, with supplication on your behalf, yearn for you by reason of the exceeding [work] of God in you.
2 Corinthians 12:9 He has said to me, "My [work] is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 13:14 The [presence] of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.
Galatians 1:3 [God’s presence] to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ,
Galatians 1:6 I marvel that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the [work]of Christ to a different "good news";
Galatians 1:15 But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me through [God’s work],
Galatians 2:9 and when they perceived the [presence of God] that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcision.
Galatians 2:21 I don't make void the [work] of God. For if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nothing!"
Galatians 5:4 You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from [God’s work].
Galatians 6:18 The [presence]of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
Ephesians 1:2 [God’s presence] to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:4-7 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without blemish before him in love; (5) having predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his desire, (6) to the praise of the glory of his [presence], by which he freely bestowed favor on us in the Beloved, (7) in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his [works],
Ephesians 2:5-9 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by [God’s works] you have been saved), (6) and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (7) that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his [presence] in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus; (8) for by [God’s works] you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of [our] works, that no one would boast.
Ephesians 3:2 if it is so that you have heard of the administration of that [work] of God which was given me toward you;
Ephesians 3:7-8 of which I was made a servant, according to the gift of that [work] of God which was given me according to the working of his power. (8) To me, the very least of all saints, was this [work of God] given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us was the [work of God] given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for building up as the need may be, that it may give [works of God] to those who hear.
Ephesians 6:24 [God’s presence] be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love. Amen.
Philippians 1:2 [God’s presence] to you, and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:7 It is even right for me to think this way on behalf of all of you, because I have you in my heart, because, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Good News, you all are partakers with me of [God’s work] .
Philippians 4:23 The [presence] of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Colossians 1:2 to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: [God’s presence] to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Colossians 1:6 which has come to you; even as it is in all the world and is bearing fruit and growing, as it does in you also, since the day you heard and knew the [presence] of God in truth;
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with [God’s presence] in your heart to the Lord.
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with [God’s presence], seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
Colossians 4:18 The salutation of me, Paul, with my own hand: remember my bonds. [God’s presence] be with you. Amen.
1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the assembly of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: [God’s presence] to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:28 The [presence]of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
2 Thessalonians 1:2 [God’s presence] to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:12 that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the [presence] of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through [presence] ,
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through [God’s presence] , (17) comfort your hearts and establish you in every good work and word.
2 Thessalonians 3:18 The [presence] of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:2 to Timothy, my true child in faith: [God’s presence] , mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Timothy 1:14 The [presence] of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 6:21 which some professing have erred concerning the faith. [God’s presence] be with you. Amen.
2 Timothy 1:2 to Timothy, my beloved child: [God’s presence], mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
2 Timothy 1:9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and [works], which was given to us in Christ Jesus before times eternal,
2 Timothy 2:1 You therefore, my child, be strengthened in [God’s presence] that is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 4:22 The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. [God’s presence] be with you. Amen.
Titus 1:4 to Titus, my true child according to a common faith: [God’s presence] , mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.
Titus 2:11 For the [presence] of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
Titus 3:7 that, being justified by his [works], we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:15 All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in faith. [God’s presence] be with you all. Amen.
Philemon 1:3 [God’s presence] to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philemon 1:25 The [presence] of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who has been made a little lower than the angels, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the [works] of God he should taste of death for everyone.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore draw near with boldness to the throne of [God’s presence], that we may receive mercy, and may find [God’s works] for help in time of need.
Hebrews 10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will he be judged worthy of, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has insulted the Spirit of [God’s presence]?
Hebrews 12:15 looking carefully lest there be any man who falls short of the [works] of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and many be defiled by it;
Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, receiving a Kingdom that can't be shaken, let us have [God’s presence], through which we serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe,
Hebrews 13:9 Don't be carried away by various and strange teachings, for it is good that the heart be established by [God’s works], not by food, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.
Hebrews 13:25 [God’s presence] be with you all. Amen.
James 4:5-6 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously"? (6) But he gives more [of His presence]. Therefore it says, "God resists the proud, but gives [His presence] to the humble."
1 Peter 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with his blood: [God’s presence] to you and peace be multiplied.
1 Peter 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the [God’s presence] that would come to you,
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, be sober and set your hope fully on the [presence of God] that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ--
1 Peter 3:7 You husbands, in like manner, live with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor to the woman, as to the weaker vessel, as being also joint heirs of the [presence of God in] life; that your prayers may not be hindered.
1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, employ it in serving one another, as good managers of the [works] of God in its various forms.
1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, you younger ones, be subject to the elder. Yes, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to subject yourselves to one another; for "God resists the proud, but gives [His presence] to the humble."
1 Peter 5:10 But may the God of all [works], who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
1 Peter 5:12 Through Silvanus, our faithful brother, as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true [presence] of God in which you stand.
2 Peter 1:2 [God’s presence] to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the [works of God] and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
2 John 1:3 [God’s presence], mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
Jude 1:4 For there are certain men who crept in secretly, even those who were long ago written about for this condemnation: ungodly men, turning the [works] of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master, God, and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Revelation 1:4 John, to the seven assemblies that are in Asia: [God’s presence] to you and peace, from God, who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne;
Revelation 22:21 The [presence]of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints. Amen.
For the remainder of this book, I will be quoting verses with this substitution of [God’s works] or [God’s presence] for ‘grace.' This is to remind us that the Old Testament context of ‘favor’ is talking about being filled with the Holy Spirit . These substitutions will be made in this book to help us understand what Romans and Paul’s other letters are really saying. Grace and faith are a journey.
The elect receive God’s favor (grace), which is the filling of the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that God elects those who will be saved. We are favored by God to receive salvation first. Peter speaks of Gentile believers as being a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” This comes directly from Exodus 19:5-6. It’s talking about Israel. We don’t replace Israel. But we are grafted into Israel. We are that chosen nation.
Exodus 19:5-6 ESV Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; (6) and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation . These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel."
This is election. Those who are grafted into the chosen nation of Israel are the elect. Those who were broken off the vine of Israel are no longer a part of that elected nation. This is not “replacement theology.” God will not forsake the natural branches. Many Messianic Jews today have already been grafted back into Israel, which is Christ. And during the great tribulation, the remnant of the Jews in Jerusalem will be grafted back into the vine of Israel.
The important point here is that those who are in Christ are in Israel and thus are the elect. We are heirs of the promise given to Abraham. That promise was not only the One elect heir of Christ, it was also a promise to be a holy nation that will bless all the other nations.
This blessing for all the nations will come during the millennial reign of Israel over the nations when the Messiah returns. Thus, salvation will be brought to all the nations.
Galatians 3:29 ESV And if you are Christ's , then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise .
Genesis 22:17-18 ESV I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, (18) and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice ."
John 6:44-45 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day . (45) It is written in the prophets, 'They will all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who hears from the Father, and has learned, comes to me.
John 12:31-32 Now is the judgment of this world. Now the prince of this world will be cast out. (32) And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
Those who are in Christ are the elect. We not only hear his voice, we obey his voice. We are Israel, the chosen nation. Gentiles are grafted into Israel. Notice that in Genesis 22:17 and Exodus 19:5 (quoted above), the elect are only those who “obey my voice.” The elect are the chosen who are drawn to the Father during this age (John 66:44-45, quoted above). But everyone will eventually be drawn to Christ in the age to come.
The elect are the true believers. We are excited because of our faith. Our faith is the only thing that really matters in our lives. We love to obey the desires that the Father has planted in our hearts, which is to serve Christ and our neighbors. The elect will naturally stop sinning over time because the Holy Spirit transforms us on the inside. But how can you have faith to overcome sin if you believe it’s impossible? That can become a huge obstacle to the natural work of the Holy Spirit. The elect can grieve the Holy Spirit. Even the elect can wind up in great shame and become one of the foolish virgins who will not inherit the kingdom.
Abraham was promised that his offspring would be a great nation that would bless all the other nations. This nation will also possess the gates of all God’s enemies. Paul says that if we are in Christ, then we are Abraham’s offspring, and heirs to that same promise that was given to Abraham.
Is God saying the non-elect of Old Testament times all go to hell? Israel is a nation of people chosen by God who would bring forth the Messiah and be a blessing to all nations. The elect are simply the firstfruits of the harvest (Jeremiah 2:2-3 , Romans 8:23, 2 Thess. 2:13, James 1:18). We are chosen to receive eternal life first. The rest of the harvest is after the resurrection. Everyone else will have the opportunity to mature in Christ in the age to come.
Notice the journey of sanctification, election, and the fact that we are firstfruits of the harvest in this verse:
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 ESV But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. (14) To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Eternal life is given to those who overcome sin before the resurrection. Those who still sin will also be resurrected. They will still have the opportunity to overcome sin and receive eternal life. This is the blessing of Abraham, through his offspring, to all the nations of the earth. But those who reject Christ’s reign over their lives will eventually die the second death.
Since the sin of Adam has been removed for everyone, we all are no longer under the penalty of death. All will be resurrected. The exceptions are those who forfeit their reconciliation by blaspheming or rejecting Christ. They knowingly keep on sinning, refusing to be reconciled.
Adam walked with God before disobeying God. He had no excuse. Since God has reconciled himself to everyone, no one will receive God’s wrath without a sin that is comparable with Adam’s sin. "For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:26-27 ESV).
Everyone has been reconciled to God. But you can lose your reconciliation if you willfully turn away from God and keep on sinning. The following verse is talking about those who have seen the miracles of Christ. They know that he must be the Messiah. But they deliberately turn against Christ and become one of his enemies.
The Holy Spirit does the miracles. Those who deny what they see with their eyes are denying the Holy Spirit. They hardened their hearts to the point where even the Holy Spirit cannot draw them back. This sin is not forgiven in this age, nor in the age to come. Thus, there will be sinners during Christ’s millennial reign who will deny the authority of Christ and lose their reconciliation.
Matthew 12:30-32 "He who is not with me is against me, and he who doesn't gather with me, scatters. (31) Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. (32) Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in that which is to come.
Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians. They were considering turning back to Judaism. The author warns they would no longer have the blood of Christ. So their sins would no longer be forgiven. And it would be impossible to be brought back into repentance because it would require the crucifixion of Christ all over again.
Hebrews 6:1-9 Therefore leaving the doctrine of the first principles of Christ, let us press on to perfection--not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, of faith toward God , (2) of the teaching of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (3) This will we do, if God permits. (4) For concerning those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, (5) and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come , (6) and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify the Son of God for themselves again, and put him to open shame. (7) For the land which has drunk the rain that comes often on it, and brings forth a crop suitable for them for whose sake it is also tilled, receives blessing from God; (8) but if it bears thorns and thistles, it is rejected and near being cursed, whose end is to be burned. (9) But, beloved, we are persuaded of better things for you, and things that accompany salvation, even though we speak like this.
The writer feels compelled to skip foundational background teachings and get onto his important point. Those who have seen the miracles of Christ can lose their reconciliation. Likewise, those who really know the powers of the Holy Spirit, if they turn away from Christ, can also lose their reconciliation. This is not talking about a weak moment and falling to the temptations of sin. It’s talking about the deliberate decision to reject Christ. They would lose their reconciliation. We know this because the writer says it would require Christ to die again on the cross in order to get it back again.
Some point to verse 9 saying this is only theoretical and would not actually happen. “Once saved, always saved,” they say. But Scripture never says, “Once saved, always saved.” The author of Hebrews would not be giving this warning if it doesn’t actually happen. He simply has hopes that they will heed his warning. Later, the author says the same thing with slightly different words:
Hebrews 10:26-27 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which will devour the adversaries.
A study of 1 John reveals that brothers who at one time were in fellowship with John really did become enemies of Christ and lost their salvation.
1 John 2:18-19 Little children, these are the end times, and as you heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen. By this we know that it is the final hour. (19) They went out from us, but they didn't belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have continued with us. But they left, that they might be revealed that none of them belong to us.
John is probably talking about the early formation of the Gnostics. They denied that Christ had died on the cross. They claimed the Spirit of Christ came upon the man named Jesus at the time of his baptism. Then Christ as a Spirit left before Jesus was crucified. John condemns this belief and associates it with the spirit of antichrist, which means against Christ. When you come against Christ, becoming his enemy, you are committing a sin that cannot be forgiven. It causes you to lose your reconciliation because it’s the same as Adam’s sin of disobedience against God after really knowing God.
John distinguishes this sin as the sin that leads to death, just as Adam’s sin led to death. John says we do not need to pray for brothers who have committed this sin. Again, this is the sin of the Gnostics, which is from the spirit of antichrist. On the other hand, sins not leading to death would be sins of disobedience in a weak moment. These sins do not lead to death because Jesus has paid the price for our sins. They don’t lead to death because these sins do not involve becoming enemies of Christ, who died for our sins. John says that if we see a brother committing these sins, not leading to death, that we should pray for our brother and God will give him life.
1 John 5:16-20 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life for those who sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death . I don't say that he should make a request concerning this. (17) All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death. (18) We know that whoever is born of God doesn't sin, but he who was born of God keeps himself, and the evil one doesn't touch him. (19) We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (20) We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding, that we know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
Most people commit ongoing sins that do not lead to death. A few are guilty of unpardonable sin that leads to death. There is a third type of person being described here. “All sin is unrighteousness” (verse 17). And “whoever is born of God doesn’t sin” (verse 18). People have a hard time with this. But that’s exactly what John teaches. We can mature in Christ until we no longer have sinful habits. Those who no longer have sinful habits are “born of God.” This means they will be resurrected with a spiritual body.
The great tribulation is coming soon. The Antichrist is coming soon. The spirit of antichrist in John’s day was the Gnostics. The only religion of today which teaches that Christ didn’t die on the cross is Islam. It’s the end-times global religion of the coming Antichrist.
Those who have overcome all their sinful habits are ready for the coming great tribulation and the return of Christ. Those who are still struggling will find it very difficult to overcome during the great tribulation. But at the same time, tribulation and persecution brings holiness. But there is danger of denying Christ in the face of great tribulation. Doing so is taking the mark of the beast. How many are willing to face beheading when forced to convert to Islam? Even today, converts from Islam are put to death by their own families.
Matthew 10:21-22 "Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child. Children will rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death. (22) You will be hated by all men for my name's sake, but he who endures to the end will be saved.
Matthew 24:42-44 NIV "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (43) But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. (44) So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Jesus is equating the need to watch with the need to be ready. Both are equated to not knowing the day he will return. The Greek word for “watch” means to stay awake. It’s associated with the night watchman who watches for signs of the coming of an enemy. Christ is not our enemy. But when he comes, the world will experience sudden destruction (see verses 36-39), as it was in the days of Noah.
Why is the need to watch associated with the need to be ready? If we are (past-tense) saved, doesn’t that mean we are ready? And if we are (past-tense) saved, why do we need to watch the signs? Most pastors today seem to believe that the study of the end times is unimportant, and sometimes even something to be avoided. But Jesus told the foolish virgins, who didn’t get into the wedding banquet, to watch because they don’t know the hour of his return.
Matthew 25:11-13 Afterward the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us.' (12) But he answered, 'Most certainly I tell you, I don't know you .' (13) Watch therefore, for you don't know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
Think about this. The foolish virgins are very surprised that they do not get into the wedding banquet. What is the difference between the wise and the foolish virgins? Both are asleep when the Bridegroom arrives. Both believe that Christ was raised from the dead because both await his return. Both call Jesus their “Lord.” The only difference between the two groups is that the foolish virgins do not have enough oil. They have to go to the market and buy more oil. They believe in Christ as their Savior. But they are not ready for Christ to return. What do they lack? Jesus tells them, “I never knew you.” “Watch Therefore,” says Jesus. They need to watch the signs because they don’t know the day nor the hour. What does watching the signs have to do with getting into the wedding banquet?
Why does Jesus advise the foolish virgins to watch the signs, when pastors today seem to believe that the study of the end times is unimportant? Why do pastors today say that no man will know the day or hour when that seems to be the very problem that Jesus addresses with the foolish virgins? The virgins say “Lord, Lord” because they believe they know Christ when they don’t. We also find the same language in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus tells preachers who prophecy in his name that he never knew them.
Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) Many will tell me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?' (23) Then I will tell them, ' I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.'
Foolish virgins who say “Lord, Lord” do not enter the wedding banquet. Preachers who say “Lord, Lord” do not enter the kingdom of heaven. In the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, the foolish build their houses on the sand. Both the foolish virgins and the foolish preachers are told, “I never knew you.” They are not the wicked who will not be resurrected. They are, however, the foolish who remain in their sins and thus do not really know Christ.
1 John 2:3-6 This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments. (4) One who says, "I know him," and doesn't keep his commandments , is a liar, and the truth isn't in him. (5) But whoever keeps his word, God's love has most certainly been perfected in him. This is how we know that we are in him: (6) he who says he remains in him ought himself also to walk just like he walked.
1 John 3:6 Whoever remains in him doesn't sin. Whoever sins hasn't seen him, neither knows him.
John is saying those who continue to sin do not know Christ. Jesus will say, “I never knew you.” They will not be able to enter the wedding banquet. They will not be able to enter the kingdom of heaven. They have insufficient oil of the Holy Spirit in that they have not overcome all their sinful habits. But they will be able to live in the nations and be taught righteousness by the wise, under the reign of Christ and his true Bride.
The foolish virgins and the foolish preachers do not know Christ because they continue in their sins. They do not do the will (commandments) of the Father. They continue to sin, even claiming that it’s impossible to stop.
But what does all this have to do with watching the signs? Jesus tells the foolish virgins that they don’t know the hour of his return. Why is it important to know the day and the hour of Christ’s return when pastors today seems to be saying that no man will know? To really understand Matthew 24, we need to interpret it in the context of Daniel.
Matthew 24:15 NIV "So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel, let the reader understand.
Here we have a major clue that Jesus is thinking about the prophet Daniel. As we will see, the phrase, “let the reader understand” is actually a strong clue that Jesus is making specific reference to Daniel 12. But before we get into that, we need to see that much of what Jesus said is better understand in the context Daniel as a whole. That’s not to say that the rest of the Old Testament is unimportant. But the concept of the “kingdom of heaven” comes from Daniel. And much of what Jesus said is about the kingdom. When we really understand Jesus in the context of Daniel we will see why Jesus told the foolish virgins watch the signs.
Daniel 2:34-35 You saw until a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet that were of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. (35) Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken in pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that no place was found for them: and the stone that struck the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
In the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, The Rock (Christ) that struck the feet became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. Mountains are symbolic of kingdoms. The previous kingdoms, as represented by the head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron represent historic earthly kingdoms. Likewise, the mountain that fills the earth is an earthly kingdom. It’s the kingdom of heaven because it’s God’s kingdom here on the earth. This is what the people of Israel would have understood when Jesus talked about the “kingdom of heaven.” When the Messiah comes, he will set up an earthly kingdom and Israel will reign over the earth with Christ.
At the time of Daniel, Jerusalem was desolate and the Jews were in captivity in Babylon. Daniel understood from the prophet Jeremiah that the captivity would last 70 years (Daniel 9:2). This was one year for every year that Israel had neglected to give the land a Sabbath’s rest (1 Chronicles 36:20-23). They had sinned for 490 years, which is 10 jubilees. Understanding this, Daniel prays for the forgiveness of Israel’s sins and for the desolation of Jerusalem to come to an end. In response to Daniel’s prayer, God said there would be 70 more weeks of years in which Jerusalem would not be desolate. After this time, the Messiah would come. When Israel rules the world with the Messiah, they will teach righteousness to the nations. But Israel must first become righteousness before they can teach righteousness. Israel was given 490 years to stop sinning.
Daniel 9:24 NIV "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression , to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.
The culture and teaching of Daniel is not that no one would know the day of the Messiah’s coming. It was that 490 years are given for Israel to stop sinning before the Messiah comes. This gives a whole new meaning to “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It starts to explain why Jesus told the foolish virgins that they don’t know the day of his return. The wise will know and be ready by overcoming all the sinful habits in their lives.
The rest of this vision, however, is a bit confusing. The 70 weeks are split into two groups, one being 62 weeks and the other being 7 weeks. Also, that adds up to 69 years and not 70. I believe the vision is intentionally designed so that it can be fulfilled in one of three ways. Would Israel really be ready for the Messiah to come by overcoming sin?
The Pharisees and teachers of the Law probably believed they were ready. They were “clean” on the outside but not on the inside. Even today, Jews believe that sins are only those acted out on the outside. Lust and anger in the heart is not considered to be sinful. So they were not ready for the Messiah to come. Their sinful hearts prevented them from even recognizing the Messiah.
The vison, however, was designed so that it could be fulfilled in more than one way. The seven weeks, which would be one final jubilee, was split off into the future. But only the Father knew how far into the future the final jubilee was moved.
In Paul’s chapter on the resurrection, (1 Corinthians 15) Paul spoke of the resurrection as being at the last trumpet (verse 52). The Hebrew word “jubilee” means “trumpet” or “blowing of the trumpet.” I believe Paul was referring to the last jubilee of Daniel’s seventy weeks. But would the Church be ready at the end of this last jubilee?
Today, we are finishing the last jubilee. But today, the Bride is not ready for the Messiah to come. Pastors and teachers of grace say you can’t stop sinning. Christ will return but the Bride will not be ready for the rapture. Only a few will be ready because only a few will have overcome all their sinful habits. The good news, however, is that the vision can be fulfilled a third way.
Some will argue that we are not Israel. “Your people and your holy city” is not the Church, they would say. Is it impossible for the Bride to stop sinning and yet possible for Israel? They even say the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth with the pre-tribulation rapture. Will Israel be able to overcome sin without the Holy Spirit while the Church says it’s impossible to do so even with the Holy Spirit?
We are grafted into Israel. We will reign with Christ when the Messiah sets up his kingdom. God’s purpose for Israel, which is to reign with the Messiah is the same as the purpose for the Gentile Church. We are a part of Israel.
The New Jerusalem will appear but the Bride will not be ready for the rapture. But according to the third way of fulfillment in Daniel’s vision, the Messiah can confirm a covenant with many for one more week. This is after the seventy weeks are finished. The Bride will make herself ready by the end of the seven years (Revelation 19:7) and then we will have the wedding banquet.
Christ told the foolish virgins to watch the signs, for they did not know the day of his return. In the context of their culture, knowing the time of the Messiah’s coming was to be wise. It meant that they should stop sinning so that they would be ready to reign with the Messiah over the nations. Let’s revisit what Jesus said about watching because we didn’t know the day the Lord would come.
Matthew 24:42-44 NIV "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (43) But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. (44) So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Interpret this in the context of Daniel. The wise servant generally knows when his master will return. But in this case, Israel didn’t recognize the Messiah so the last jubilee is moved off into the future. Therefore, the wise servant watches the signs so that he will know, and so that he will be ready by overcoming all his sinful habits.
This is the meaning of the thief-in-the-night parable. This parable is the first of four parables given as part of what Jesus taught when the disciples asked when he would return. The thief-in-the-night parable became a symbol that was used later in Scripture by Paul and John. We must interpret this symbol in the context of the parable, which says only the wise servant will know the day when the Messiah will return. This symbol associates not knowing the time of the Messiah’s coming with remaining in sin. It’s just like the foolish virgins who don’t really know Christ. In that culture, based on Daniel, the wise servants overcome sin because they know when their Master is returning.
1 Thessalonians 5:2,4 For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. … (4) But you, brothers, aren't in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief.
Revelation 3:3 KJV Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
Read this verse carefully. It’s in a letter from Jesus Christ to a church, and is written well after the crucifixion and Pentecost. The church is being told to repent. If this church does not repent, then Christ will come on them like a thief. And they will not know what time that Jesus will come.
Again, most pastors today say we will not know when Christ will come. But Jesus is characterizing not knowing as a bad thing. It’s something that happens to those who will not repent. Most pastors today are unknowingly casting themselves as wicked because they are not interpreting the words of Jesus in the context of Daniel. There is more in Daniel that shines light on these words of Jesus. The following words of Jesus make specific reference to Daniel. And as we will see, Jesus is taking about Daniel 12.
Matthew 24:15 NIV "So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel, let the reader understand.
Here we have a major clue that Jesus is thinking about the prophet Daniel. Jesus says, “Let the reader understand.” What are we to understand? If we are the readers, then who is the author? When Jesus said this, he could not have been talking about the gospel writer because Matthew would not be written for a number of years later. Some have said that Matthew was adding these words as a commentary. But Mark’s account has the exact same words (Mark 13:15).
The author of the words we are to understand is Daniel. The words of Jesus must be interpreted in the context of Daniel. The disciples asked, "Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:3). Back in Daniel 12, we find the very same question with the very same answer. We are to watch the signs, especially for the abomination of desolation.
When told about an astonishing event such as the resurrection, one would naturally want to know when it will happen. The question was asked by an angel. “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?” The question was answered but Daniel didn’t understand the answer. Jesus is saying that if we watch the signs, the wise will understand the answer to the disciple’s question. In Daniel’s natural desire to understand, we read:
Daniel 12:6-10 ESV And someone said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, "How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?" (7) And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished. (8) I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, "O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?" (9) He said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end . (10) Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.
The context of this passage is the resurrection in verse 2. It’s also the millennial reign in verse 3. During the millennial reign, the wise, who “shall shine like the brightness of the sky above,” will bring righteousness to the nations. But the time in which this will occur was not known. There were also many questions about these “wonders” for which Daniel desired the answers. But Daniel was told to seal the words until the time of the end.
The wise, at the time of the end, will understand. But the wicked will continue to be wicked and will not understand the answer to the question. They will not know the answer to the question asked by the angel in Daniel, and also asked by the disciples. But the wise who watch the signs will understand the answer to the question. The wise will know the day of Christ’s return before it happens. The wicked will not understand because they will not be watching and will not really care. In other words, the wicked will continue sinning even in the time of the Messiah’s return.
Matthew 24:15 NIV "So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel, let the reader [of Daniel] understand [the answer to the question.]
Daniel is told, which was not understood, that “it would be for a time, times, and half a time.” The specific question was, “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?” “The end of these wonders” would include the millennial reign from verse 3. The millennial week was understood by both Jews and early Christians as seven thousand years beginning with Adam. So a “time, times, and half a time” would be the second half of the millennial week from the time of Daniel until the end of Christ’s millennial reign.
The other thing Daniel is told is “that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things [will] be finished.” The Hebrew word for “power” is also the word for “hand” in the following verse. It’s the first verse in the Bible that uses this word. The meaning of the Hebrew word is that if you hold out your hand and grasp it like a fist, it’s a show of power.
Genesis 3:22-23 ESV Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil . Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever--" (23) therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.
Christ is the second Adam. Adam was told that on the (millennial) day he ate the fruit that he would surely die. Adam was given a death sentence for him and all his children. But Christ paid the ransom and that death sentence has been removed for everyone. But we must now overcome sin and start being completely obedient to the commands of God. Only then can we be given eternal life, which at least figuratively is to eat from the tree of life.
For the nations, this “power” will finally be broken during the course of Christ’s millennial reign. That “power” is the knowledge of good and evil. For most, the overcoming of sin will not happen until Christ’s millennial reign. This truth has been a mystery of God. The words were “sealed” until the time of the end. During the course of this baby-boom generation, since World War II, the seals of Revelation 6 are being broken by Christ. The wise followers of Christ in this generation have been given an understanding that not even Daniel was allowed to understand. It has been a mystery of God.
But why can this understanding be given to this end-time generation and not all the previous generations? It’s because this is the generation that will face the antichrist and the great tribulation. This is the generation that will see clearly that Christ has returned, and be forced to choose between denying Christ and beheading. Those who take the mark of the beast will lose their reconciliation. They will not have the opportunity to be resurrected and live during the millennial reign of Christ. For this generation, putting God off until after the resurrection is simply not an option.
Matthew 10:21-22 ESV Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, (22) and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved .
Matthew 24:11-14 ESV And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. (12) And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (13) But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Mark 13:13-14 ESV And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (14) "But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
Why does Jesus say, “The one who endures to the end will be saved?” During the great tribulation, waiting for the resurrection and the millennial reign before one repents does not seem to be an option. Those who take the mark of the beast will not be resurrected. We must interpret most of what Jesus said about the end times in the context of Daniel.
Daniel 12:1-2 ESV "At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. (2) And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt .
In verse 1 of Daniel 12, we have the great tribulation at the time of the end. Then it says those whose names are in the book of life will be delivered. Does this means they will be delivered from the great tribulation? No, because there will be many saints who will not be delivered from great tribulation. Yet they would be in the book of life.
The Hebrew word for “delivered” is more generally translated as “escape.” They are not delivered from tribulation. Instead they “escape” the grave (verse 2). Those who are in the book of life will “escape” from the grave.
Verse 2 says that “many” of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake. “Many” does not mean “all.” The wicked will not be resurrected. But of those who are resurrected, there are two groups. Some are resurrected to life. Others to “shame.” The wise will teach the foolish.
Jesus says we must keep watch, because we “do not know on what day hour Lord will come.” Many, if not most people today interpret that as saying that we will not know when Christ will come before it happens. It’s used to argue against the speculation of a specific date based on an interpretation of signs and some calculations.
But when we interpret the words of Jesus in the context of Daniel, it would seem that only the wicked will not know the answer to the question, as asked by the disciples. The wicked will not understand the answer to this question that was given in Daniel. But the wise will understand and will know the day and time of Christ’s return.
Verse 10 of (Daniel 12) says, “Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.” Thus, only the wise will understand the answer to the question.
The Greek words for not knowing means that we currently do not know. It doesn’t mean that no man will know in the future. But only the wise will know the day and the time of Christ’s return. The wicked will not understand and will not know the time before it happens and sudden destruction comes. To “watch and be ready” means to “purify themselves and make themselves white.” The wise make themselves holy through the help of the Holy Spirit.
Paul wrote that we should be “blameless” and “completely sanctified” at the coming of the Lord. This comes from that same cultural context that the wise will know the timing of Christ’s return and thus will stop sinning by the time that the Messiah comes.
1 Thessalonians 3:13 ESV so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (24) He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Watch and be ready. In Revelation, the Bride makes herself ready just prior to Armageddon. It’s towards the end of the great tribulation (Revelation 19:7). This does not mean that God is going to pour out his wrath on the Bride. The wrath of God is not until after the post-tribulation resurrection. And it will not be directed against God’s people.
Today, the Church is not ready for the rapture. Studies have shown that morality in the evangelical church is statistically no different than that of the world.
It will be through great tribulation that the Bride finally gets serious about overcoming sin and will make herself ready. The wise will “purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined.” This will bring a great awakening in the Church. As the Church is allowed by God to be persecuted, the Church will be made herself holy. The Bride will make herself ready.
Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad, and let us give the glory to him. For the marriage of the Lamb has come , and his wife has made herself ready."
Context is king. The Old Testament should be the context for understanding the New Testament. The Old Testament has an after-life hope that is solely based on the resurrection. Most people will be resurrected to live on the earth where Israel will rule and bring righteousness to the nations. But this doctrine became known as “Jewish fables.”
The early Church distanced themselves from the Jews, believing that they had replaced the Jews in God’s redemptive plan. Old Testament Jewish beliefs in an earthly-reign kingdom of heaven were replaced with the more Greek-like paradigm of heaven-or-hell when you die. Those in the Church are forgiven for their sins. Purgatory became the solution for those who continue in their sins.
The Old Testament was reinterpreted in allegorical and figurate ways to force it to fit this newer paradigm known as amillennialism. The Church had replaced Israel. This drove on-going antisemitism in the Church and fueled the belief that Millennialism was superstition at best, and a reason for murder at the worst. (Anabaptists were murdered for their belief in water baptism and millennialism.) Later, dispensationalism recognized the literal meaning of the Old Testament with regard to the Jews. They created two purposes of God with two groups of people: Israel and the Church. New Testament interpretation didn’t really change.
But God’s purpose does not change. When the New Testament is really interpreted in the context of the Old Testament, the words of Jesus make better sense and the words of Paul can be seen in harmony with the words of Jesus. Now that we have seen all this background in these first two chapters, it’s time to dive into Romans. We will be covering the first 8 chapters of Romans, verse by verse.