Author: Alice A. Anacioco

Life Lessons from Jonah

Life Lessons from Jonah

Each of the chapters in the book of Jonah records a significant lesson the prophet had to learn. These parallel in many ways the life lessons God consistently and patiently tries to teach each of us along the way.

Overview of the Book of Jonah

Most people are familiar with the story of Jonah that nothing in it surprises them anymore. But what’s the book of Jonah all about?

It’s not simply about a great fish (mentioned only 4 times), or a great city (mentioned 9 times), or even a disobedient prophet (named 23 times).

It’s about God! Do you know that God is mentioned 37 times in these 4 short chapters? And if you eliminate God from the book, the story wouldn’t make sense.

Jonah’s Wrong Attitudes

I’m pretty sure most of us can relate to Jonah. He is one of the characters in the Bible who cause us to sigh and think, “Well, if there’s hope for Jonah, there’s hope for me.”

But then we must understand that the Bible was written for us so that we will not make the same mistakes they made.

You see, in his story, Jonah got into trouble because his attitudes were wrong.

What about our attitudes? Can we honestly say that we have become better people since God recreated us? 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”

Becoming a New Creation

You see, to be a new creation is to be changed. There has to be a change in character, change in viewpoints, change in our motivations, goals, and priorities. This is what we call sanctification, or becoming more and more like Christ.

In this article, I would like us to look at the life of Jonah and use his responses to God and the world around him for self-evaluation. If we find ourselves living out the same worldview as God’s resistant and reluctant prophet, then we are definitely in need of an attitude upgrade.

1. Wrong Attitude toward the Word of God

First of all, Jonah got into trouble because he had the wrong attitude toward the word of God, which is also the Will of God.

When the Word of the Lord came to Jonah, what did he do? He consciously and deliberately disobeyed God.

The Lord asked Jonah to “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). But instead of going 550 miles northeast to Nineveh, Jonah attempted to go 2,500 miles west to Tarshish (modern-day Spain).

Jonah’s Deliberately Disobeys God

As we can see, God’s instruction to Jonah was crystal clear. It’s not as if God was speaking in ambiguity or uncertainty. He wasn’t speaking in parables or some figurative speech either. We must understand that God does not tell us one thing and expects us to do another thing.

Yet Jonah decided to disobey God. Now, why is that?

Jonah’s wrong attitude toward God’s word stemmed from a feeling that the Lord was asking him to do something impossible. Alright, what was God asking Jonah to do exactly?

Well, God told Jonah to go to Israel’s enemy, Assyria, and allow them to repent.

The Great City of Nineveh
Photo Credits: Jesus Way 4 You

Note 1: The city of Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and was also a large and prominent city in its day.

Just a quick refresher, when Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the Babylonians conquered Judah and the Assyrians conquered Israel. And the Assyrians were very abusive toward the Jewish people. Just read Nahum chapter 3 to see how wicked they are.

Jonah’s Patriotism Gets in the Way

For Jonah to preach God’s message of repentance to the Assyrians would be like helping Israel’s enemy. It’s like working with the enemy of your country that wants to destroy your people. Anyone who does that today would be considered a traitor and will be tried for treason.

In his patriotic zeal, Jonah put his country before his God. Jonah didn’t want the notoriously cruel Assyrians in Nineveh to escape God’s judgment. He would much rather have seen the city destroyed.

Note 2: We need to understand that there is a divine order that God has put in place with regard to submission to authorities. God is the one who sets up kings and rulers and we are commanded to submit to them.

But when the governing authorities hold to a position that is in clear and direct violation of the Word of God, we must choose to obey God rather than men (the same way Peter and the other disciples and Daniel’s friends did).

God’s Challenging Commands

What are some of the things God commanded us that we find very difficult to do?

1. Love your enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44, NKJV).

To love your enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who hate or abuse us is easier said than done.

2. Forgive those who have hurt or offended you.

This command is incorporated in the Lord’s prayer.

“Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12, NLT).

Take note that this is in the past tense. It means before we even come to God in prayer, we should have already forgiven our offenders.

Forgive your offenders

The Sovereignty of God

When the word of the Lord came to him, Jonah thought he could take it or leave it. That whether he does what God asked him to do or not won’t matter to God. And that God would leave him alone.

As it turned out, that’s not exactly what happened. God used a creative series of counter-measures to accomplish His desired result.

Lesson 1

Jonah learned the lesson of God’s patience. We can run far, but we can’t run away from God.

Jonah attempted to run as far away as possible from God. But before reaching his desired destination, God took a hold of him. We can see in the next events that took place that God was very patient with Jonah (Jonah 1:4-17).

Although God was no longer speaking to Jonah through His Word; He continued speaking to him through His works. God used the sea, wind, storm, and even the huge fish to carry out His plans. Notice that everything in nature obeyed God, except His servant Jonah.

In the beginning, I said that Jonah got into trouble because his attitudes were wrong. But his disobedience to God also brought trouble to a boatload of pagan sailors.

God had called the Jews to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3) but whenever they were out of the will of God, they brought trouble instead of blessings.

Self-Reflection

Are you a blessing to others, especially to those who do not yet have a relationship with God? Do unbelievers see God’s glory in you? As the saying goes, “You may be the only Bible some people read.” The idea behind this phrase is that Christians should live the “Christian life” for everyone to see.

2 Corinthians 5:20 says we are Christ’s ambassadors. Matthew 5:13-16 says we are the salt and light of the world. Are we living our calling and commission?

Going back to Jonah’s story, Jonah found himself inside the belly of a fish and stayed there for 3 days and 3 nights. He then cried out to God for deliverance and the fish vomited him onto dry land.

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Lesson 2

Jonah learned the lesson of God’s pardon. God forgives those who call upon Him. See Romans 10:11, 13.

While inside the belly of a huge fish, Jonah cried out to God for deliverance. And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land (Jonah 2:1-9).

But it didn’t end there. God gave Jonah a second chance. He gave him the same commission – go to Nineveh and preach the message of God’s upcoming judgment. And Jonah eventually obeyed God.

Think about Jonah’s experience. He had to experience getting stuck inside the belly of a huge fish for 3 days and 3 nights before obeying God.

Do we realize that oftentimes we find ourselves in deep trouble because of our wrong attitudes? We always like to blame Satan for our misfortunes and failures because it’s convenient. It takes away the accountability from us.

But if we would just look deep down, we would discover that we are as much to blame. Our blessings are often delayed because of our disobedience. We often get into trouble because of our rebellion.

When God commands us, we must listen and obey. In the ministry that God has entrusted to us, our part is to obey. In our partnership with God in accomplishing His purpose through us, our part is to obey. Disobedience is NOT an option!

God Gives Jonah Second Chance

What was the message that Jonah preached to the great city of Nineveh?

On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed” (Jonah 3:4, NLT)!

After hearing Jonah’s message, the people believed God, a fast was proclaimed for everyone from the greatest to the least of them and they put on sackcloth, including their animals. The king of Nineveh also got off his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

“For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Everything they did was a sign of repentance, humility, and surrender. But they did not stop there. They also cried out to God, prayed earnestly, turned from their evil ways, and violence (Jonah 3:5-8).

This is perhaps the greatest revival of all time as the entire city of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and cried out to God.

Lesson 3

Once again, Jonah learned the lesson of God’s pardon and forgiveness to those who call upon Him. But then, he also learned the lesson of God’s power as he saw a whole city humble itself before the Lord.

In the end, the Lord’s will has prevailed and Jonah’s efforts to thwart God’s plans were pointless.

This is a powerful reminder not only to Jonah but to us all of the sovereignty of God in every circumstance.

Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:9-10, ESV).

2. Wrong Attitude toward Circumstances

Jonah also had a wrong attitude toward circumstances; he thought they were working for him when they were really working against him.

Let’s break down what happened here in Jonah 1:1-5.

So, Jonah decided to disobey God and run away from Him. He fled to Joppa and found just the right ship waiting for him (ship heading to Tarshish).

He had enough money to pay the fare for his long trip, and he was even able to go down into the lowest part of the ship and fall into a deep sleep that the storm didn’t awaken him.

Hey, look at that! Everything seems to be working out perfectly for Jonah.

Stephen Prado, Jesus is Alive CMNV Monumento

Clearly, we can be out of the will of God and still have circumstances working on our behalf. We can be rebelling against God and still have a false sense of security that includes a good night’s sleep.

Could it be that it’s the devil who is going out of his way to help us disobey and escape from God? Of course! But most of the time we don’t see it this way. It’s because even when we are out of the will of God, things seem to be going smoothly.

3. Wrong Attitude toward the Gentiles

Instead of wanting to help the Assyrians find the true and living God, Jonah wanted to abandon them in their darkness and spiritual death and he wanted them to perish under God’s mighty hand.

Why do you think Jonah disobeyed God when he was first told to go to Nineveh and announce God’s judgments against it? It’s because he already anticipated what would happen.

Jonah knew that the Assyrians would repent and call out to the Lord for His mercy and forgiveness. And God, being merciful and compassionate, would relent or change His mind about destroying Nineveh. And that was the last thing that Jonah wanted to happen.

He was reluctant to preach God’s message because he didn’t want to give the Assyrians a chance to repent!

Now, think about that for just a moment. Jonah was God’s messenger, a representative of the God of Israel to the Gentiles. But he certainly didn’t act like one. When his one-sentence sermon brought in incredible results, which can be said to be the most responsive evangelistic effort in history, Jonah was displeased.

And when God did not destroy Nineveh, Jonah became angry. Read Jonah 4:1-11.

God’s Love vs. Jonah’s Anger

In the 4th chapter of Jonah, we see God’s love and grace contrasted with Jonah’s anger and lack of compassion. So, God used a plant, a worm, and a wind to teach Jonah a lesson in compassion.

In a humorous but meaningful account, Jonah was forced to see that he had more concern for a plant than for hundreds of thousands of people (120,000). He just didn’t care if the Assyrians perished.

Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city (Jonah 4:10-11, NLT)?

That’s a huge contrast with Abraham who pleaded with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33).

God is compassionate and gracious

Lesson 4

Jonah learned, perhaps the most important lesson of all. Here, he had to learn the lesson of God’s pity, that God has compassion for lost sinners like the Ninevites and His servants must also have compassion.

We may have always thought that God’s desire for the salvation of the Gentiles only came up in the Gospels when the Jews rejected His message.

But the book of Jonah, unlike other Old Testament books, revolves exclusively around a Gentile nation. We see here that God is concerned not only for His covenant people Israel but for the Gentiles as well.

The story of Jonah is one of the clearest demonstrations of God’s love and mercy for all mankind in the entire Scriptures.

How is our attitude towards those who are still in the dark? How do we treat people who do not know the Lord, are hostile to us and are in danger of facing God’s judgment during the Tribulation?

Conclusion

As I said from the start, the book of Jonah is all about God. First, it is about the will of God and how we respond to it. Do you see yourself in Jonah’s shoes? How do you respond to God’s commands? Jesus said this in Luke 6:46.

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?”

To know God’s Word and His will is a privilege. But doing the will of God makes us grow in grace and become more like Christ. We may think it’s hard but God will enable us. We just have to allow God to work in us and He will transform us into His image from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB).

The book of Jonah is also about the love of God and how we share it with others. Incredibly, Jonah brought a whole city to faith in the Lord, yet he didn’t love the people to whom he was preaching. Jonah took God’s repeated pity on his own life for granted while he expected extinction for the sinners in Nineveh.

How often do we expect God to treat us one way while we pray He will treat others according to an entirely different standard? Let us apply Jesus’ words to Jonah’s situation and ours.

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NASB).

In other words, the grace we expect from God, we ought to ask Him to give to others.


Recommended Resource:

The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy by Timothy Keller.

An angry prophet. A feared and loathsome enemy. A devastating storm. And the surprising message of a merciful God to His people.

In The Prodigal Prophet, pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller reveals the hidden depths within the book of Jonah.

Keller makes the case that Jonah was one of the worst prophets in the entire Bible. And yet there are unmistakably clear connections between Jonah, the prodigal son, and Jesus. Jesus in fact saw himself in Jonah.

How could one of the most defiant and disobedient prophets in the Bible be compared to Jesus?

Jonah’s journey also doesn’t end when he is freed from the belly of the fish. There is an entire second half to his story – but it is left unresolved within the text of the Bible. Why does the book of Jonah end on what is essentially a cliffhanger?

In these pages, Timothy Keller provides an answer to the extraordinary conclusion of this biblical parable – and shares the powerful Christian message at the heart of Jonah’s story.

Rapture Versus Second Coming

Rapture Versus Second Coming

Many Christians reject the pre-tribulation rapture due to a lack of understanding that the return of Christ occurs in two stages. Although the Bible seems to present only one event, an in-depth study of these passages shows that they describe two separate events.

On my YouTube channel, I posted a short video of Pastor John MacArthur differentiating between the Rapture and the Second Coming. Almost immediately, people started attacking the pre-tribulation rapture view. They strongly argued that nowhere in the Bible does it teach a pre-tribulation rapture.

In this post, I would like to present the differences between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ.

The Terminology Used

To bolster their view that the coming of Christ is one event, post-tribulationists point to the word used about the said event. They reject any attempt to separate this event into two stages because the same terms appear to be used interchangeably for Christ’s coming.

The three main Greek words used in the New Testament about Christ’s coming are parousia, epiphaneia, and apokalupsis

Parousia means “coming,” “arrival,” or “presence.” This word is found fifteen times in the New Testament, including Matthew 24:27, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 4:15, and 2 Thessalonians 2:8.

Epiphaneia is used about the second coming five times. It means “manifestation.” Among other passages, we find this word in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, 1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 4:8, and Titus 2:13.

Apokalupsis occurs five times and means “revelation” or “unveiling” (1 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7; 1 Peter 1:7; 4:13; Revelation 1:1).

Arguments and Responses

A proponent of the post-trib view, George Eldon says, “The Parousia, the apocalypse, and the epiphany of our Lord are the same event. Christ’s Parousia is His return; His return is His coming; His coming is His second advent. The word used for our Lord’s return lends no support for the idea of two comings of Christ. On the contrary, it substantiates the view that the return of Christ will be a single, indivisible glorious event.”

This might well be a fair argument but it’s not a convincing one. There is biblical precedent for one event to unfold in several stages. For one, there were multiple aspects or phases of Christ’s first coming: His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, and His ascension. These were all part of the first coming and were separated by periods of time.

What is the difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming

In the same way, there are two aspects of the Lord’s second advent: the rapture which takes place in the air, and the return which begins in the air but ends with a return to earth.

Likewise, the Day of the Lord came upon Judah and various Gentile nations in the Old Testament, and the final Day of the Lord won’t come until the end times. Even in the end times, the Day of the Lord will be divided into a judgment phase (the Great Tribulation) and a blessing phase (the Millennium).

Differences Between the Rapture and the Return

There are three main rapture passages in the New Testament: John 14:1-3, 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Among the principal second coming passages are Zechariah 14:1-21, Matthew 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-27, Luke 21:25-27, and Revelation 19:11-21.

The differences between these two groups of passages are striking. They are so striking that they clearly point to two separate contexts.

Certainly, there are some similarities between the rapture and the return. Both events mention a coming, and both mention clouds, symbolizing a heavenly role in both. Yet, the differences demonstrate that these are two distinct stages of the second coming.

John Walvoord notes, “While it is evident that there are some similarities in the two events, these do not prove that they are the same. There are similarities also between the first and the second coming of Christ, but these have been separated by almost two thousand years.”

Below are some of the more significant differences between the rapture and the second coming of Christ as they are described in Scripture.

1) The Signs Given for Each Stage

Before the rapture, there are no signs that must take place. The rapture can happen at any moment. It’s a signless event. None of the rapture passages contain any mention of preceding signs. Believers are enjoined to be constantly looking for the rapture and “to wait” for it (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Before the second coming, specific signs come to pass before Christ will return to earth (Matthew 24:4-28). The same event cannot logically be both signless and yet portended by numerous signs. That is clearly contradictory.

The simplest harmonization of these two different events supports a pretribulation rapture (which is signless and could happen at any moment). The many events taking place during the tribulation are best understood as signs leading up to the second coming.

2) The Place Christ Will Meet Believers

At the rapture, Christians will meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Jesus never sets foot on the earth in any of the rapture texts.

At the second coming, Christ will come to earth with His saints, descending upon the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:2-4; Revelation 19:14).

3) Who Removes People from the Earth

At the rapture, Christ Himself comes and takes believers out of the world. He comes for His saints (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

At the second coming, Christ sends His angels to gather His elect on earth (Matthew 24:31).

4) Who Gets Taken and Who is Left

At the rapture, believers are taken from the earth while unbelievers are left behind (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

At the second coming, living believers on earth are left to enter the messianic kingdom while unbelievers are taken away to judgment (Matthew 13:41-42, 49-50).

5) When the Judgment Takes Place

At the rapture, no mention is made of God’s judgment or any distress taking place. Only promises of blessings and salvation are referenced.

At the second coming, tribulation, distress, apocalypse, and judgment are everywhere (Zechariah 14:2-4; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 19:11-21).

6) Timing of the Resurrection of the Dead

At the rapture, the resurrection of the dead occurs during Christ’s descent from heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

At the second coming, a resurrection of believers who died during the tribulation takes place after Christ has descended on earth.

Note these order of events in Revelation 19:11-21; 20:1-5.

  • The descent of Christ
  • Christ slays His enemies
  • The Antichrist (the beast) and the false prophet are cast alive into the lake of fire
  • Satan is bound and thrown into the pit
  • The resurrection of the saints

7) The People Involved

At the rapture, only believers see Christ and are involved (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

At the second coming, all people will see Jesus coming and are involved (Revelation 1:7; 19:11-21).

8) The Rapture of Living Believers

In the rapture passages, the focus is on the snatching away of living believers on earth to meet Jesus in the air.

In the second coming passages, none of them contains a clear indisputable reference to the rapture. Also, no second advent passages, even the most detailed ones in Matthew 24 and Revelation 19, clearly mention a catching up of living believers to meet Jesus in the air. This omission is inexplicable if the rapture and second coming are supposed to happen simultaneously.

9) The Changes on Earth

At the rapture, all the relevant passages are silent about any topographical changes taking place on the earth.

At the second coming, massive changes in and on the earth result from Christ’s return (Zechariah 14:1-11).

Conclusion

While both the rapture and the second coming describe a return of the Lord and the same terms are used to refer to both, the dramatic differences in the various passages indicate they are describing two unique events that occur at separate times. The dissimilarities are too substantial to merge these two into a single event.

Jesus is coming again. On this point, all Christians agree. But that He is coming before the Tribulation without any warning, to take His bride to heaven is such great comfort.

Let us live looking for His return!


Reference: Can We Still Believe in the Rapture? By Ed Hindson and Mark Hitchcock

Is the rapture Christian fiction or biblical fact?

Today, the hope that all believers on earth will be “caught up” to heaven is being challenged in new waves of criticism. Is the rapture really taught in the Bible? Can we really expect Jesus to gather up His followers before the Antichrist is revealed?

In this well-reasoned and thorough defense, prophecy authors Mark Hitchcock and Ed Hindson examine the concept, context, and consequences of the important and long-expected event known as the rapture.

Discover the answers to such questions as…

  • What is the rapture—and is there any historical precedent for it?
  • Why do some believers object to the idea of a rapture?
  • Does the timing of the rapture really make a difference?

As you explore what Scripture says about the end times, you’ll get a grander glimpse of your glorious future and the deepest hope of every follower of Jesus.

Blessings for Waiting on God

Blessings for Waiting on God

People say that waiting is probably the hardest thing to do. But God promises blessings for those who wait on Him.

Do you know that waiting is a command that is found multiple times in both the Old and New Testaments? Which means there is a blessing (or blessings) that comes with it. God did not give us commands to make life difficult for us or to punish us. On the contrary, God’s commandments were designed to protect and bless us.

The Challenge of Waiting

The game show “Family Feud” is very popular not only in the west but in Asian countries as well. And if we ask one hundred people to name the toughest thing to do, waiting would probably rank at number 1.

My job as a Lab. Tech. Involves performing scientific analyses on blood and other body fluids. This is primarily to aid the requesting physicians in their diagnosis and treatment of patients. So, we collect the sample(s) from the patients and tell them to wait an hour or so for the result.

Why We Should Wait on the Lord

Almost immediately they’d say, “What? That’s too much. I can’t wait that long. I’ve already waited for more than an hour to see the doctor. And now, you’re telling me to wait for another one hour?” To that, I would just wink at them. At times, I would respond, “We will do our best to finish your lab investigations before one hour. Thank you for understanding.”

Our lab receptionist often gets irritated every time patients nag at her about when their results will be ready. This can also be irritating for us because we have to speed up just to keep things calm.

People, in general, hate to wait.

Waiting on the Lord

What does it mean to wait on the Lord? When people in the Old Testament were told to wait on the Lord, most of the time, it meant waiting on God’s providential care. It’s about trusting the Lord to provide for their needs, keep them safe and secure, and work things out for their good.

Check out these two verses:

1. Hosea 12:6 (NIV)

“But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”

2. Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

These are not only commands but encouragements to rely completely on God in regard to their situation.

In the New Testament, waiting on the Lord often refers to Jesus’ second coming. There are a lot of passages that talk about the return of Christ. Let us look at just two of them.

Titus 2:13 (NIV)

“While we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 3:20 (NASB)

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

But in most all biblical instances, waiting on the Lord is expectant trust and hope in God’s movement and activity. It means trusting God to do things in His own timetable.

How do we wait on the Lord?

In my article, “The Power of Waiting on the Lord,” I mentioned the three P’s of waiting:

The Blessings of Waiting on God

The Benefits of Waiting on God

There are several benefits (or blessings) for the Christian who faithfully waits on God. Here are just three of them.

1. Waiting Builds Up Our Relationship with God.

When we do not know what to do about something, we should wait and pray. Prayer should be our first option, not last. Often times we get caught up just doing something that we neglect to hold still, listen, and know that He is God.

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a).

Prayer is two-way communication with God. We don’t just talk, talk, talk, and then walk away without letting God speak. I used to hear one pastor always say, “Communication is relation. No communication means no relation.”

This is true in every relationship. The reason married many couples today end up in divorce is a lack of communication. Both have become so busy with their own careers that they no longer have time to talk with each other. On the other hand, couples who are committed to always find time to talk and bond develop deeper intimacy.

It’s the same thing with our relationship with God. Spending more time talking with and listening to God deepens our relationship with Him. We will get to know God for who He is and learn to trust Him instead of depending on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT).

2. Waiting Allows God’s Perfect Will to be Done.

You may be praying for a better job, a promotion, a life partner, or the salvation of your friends and other family members. Keep seeking the Lord and wait for Him to carry out His perfect will in your life

The reason we end up making the wrong decisions is that we did not seek the Lord. Or perhaps we did. The problem is, we did not wait for His answer. We were in a hurry that we did not just trip. Worst, we ended up falling flat on our faces!

Why? It’s because we got impatient waiting for God’s directions and acted on our impulses. We chose to go with our guts and it turned out, it was a huge mistake. Too late now, huh?

The Benefits of Waiting on God

Patience is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Sadly, many Christians are struggling to let it be manifested in their lives. This fruit of the Holy Spirit, along with the other eight, is given to us the moment we got born again.

But we have to let it rule us, instead of letting the desires of the flesh reign. As the Bible says, the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit (Galatians 5:6-17).

My Will versus God’s

Failing to seek the Lord’s will before making major life decisions such as marriage is almost certain to end up in divorce. This is exactly what happened to my high school best friend, Tess.

Tess is a believer in Jesus and the leader of the dance ministry in our church. Like most single moms, my friend had been praying for a life partner.

While waiting for God’s providence, she focused her time and attention on her ministry in the church. As the leader of the dance ministry, she committed to training future dancers for the Lord.

One day, a fellow church member introduced Tess to her cousin who was at that time working in another country. They then started communicating through their phones. Six months down the road and they officially became a couple. Another six months passed and they decided to meet in person.

They met and the next day the guy proposed. Without taking some time to seek the Lord, Tess said “Yes!” What happened a year later left my friend devastated. It didn’t work out no matter how hard she tried.

Tess’s story is a classic example of “my will versus God’s.” If she would have just waited and consulted with God, she’d be spared of the heartaches and troubles.

So many of us are waiting for something and as we wait, we can become discouraged and start asking when the waiting will ever end. Will God ever answer my prayer?

The point here is, let us all learn to wait and wait patiently for God’s timing (Psalm 37:7a, NASB).


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

3. Waiting Focuses Our Attention on Heavenly Things.

Patiently waiting on God enables us to get our attention off this world and focus on heavenly things (Colossians 3:1-2). How so? To wait on God does not mean moping around doing anything. Being idle causes us to get bored all the more while waiting on the Lord.

Although we cannot tell how long we have to wait, we can be sure that God will answer our prayers in His own time. In the meantime, let us focus on God and His works. Let us be God’s instruments to accomplish His will and purpose on earth.

May we desire heavenly and eternal things over earthly which are only temporary (2 Corinthians 4:18).

As we wait for God’s directions, His answers to our prayers, and His Second Coming, let us continue to occupy. Let’s get down to doing the Father’s business – fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20)!

The Benefits of Waiting on God

Conclusion

What if we get tired of waiting?

Reality check; it doesn’t matter how strong you think you are. There will come a time when you grow old and weak. At which point you begin to lose all the energy needed to keep up with the daily challenges of life.

God’s promise? He will not only give us strength and power; He will also renew our strength from time to time (Isaiah 40:29-31). We just need to learn to wait.

Yes, we get tired; we become weak. But God will enable us to do what we need to do. Here’s more, God will let us soar during a crisis. Do you know what they always say? Walking in the ordinary pressures of life can be much more difficult than flying like an eagle in a time of crisis.

We are also able to run when the challenges are many and to walk faithfully in the routine day-to-day demands of life.

As another Christian blogger said, “Prayer is powerful. But always remember that God works according to His timetable, not yours. Be patient.”

But we need to trust God and wait patiently for Him to carry out His perfect will. If we take the time to pursue God’s direction and wait for His response, we will get much better results.

When we trust in God to direct our steps, rely on His timing, and live for Him, He will see us through to victory.

Here’s a beautiful and encouraging song by Don Moen, “Like Eagles.”

 

God’s Will On Prayer

God’s Will On Prayer

I am certain that every Christian knows how to pray. But believers in Jesus Christ must know God’s will on prayer. We may be able to communicate with God constantly and regularly. We can even recite the longest prayers. But not knowing the will of God on prayer often leads to disappointments.

How so? That’s because we may not receive the answers that we’re expecting. In other words, God may not grant our prayers and petitions. But knowing what God wants us to pray about and presenting them to Him will lead to a desirable outcome.

The Christian’s Prayer Life

We often hear people say that the backbone of the Christian life is prayer. That being said, a Christian who spends less time in prayer may not be able to withstand trials and difficulties. On the other hand, a Christian who always takes the time to seek God’s counsel even on the simplest matters will be victorious.

How often should Christians pray, and how long? In this post, we will look at just two of the passages that talk about the will of God on prayer.

The Will of God on Prayer

Encouragement on Prayer

The Bible verse that is often quoted when exhorting and encouraging believers to maintain a healthy prayer life is 1 Thessalonians 5:17. We read, “Pray without ceasing.”

Reading the complete sentence, this is what it says.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Understand that in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Paul addresses the believers in Thessalonica concerning the Day of the Lord. He assures them that when this dreadful day comes, it will not overtake them as it does those who are in darkness. He then goes on to encourage them to remain sober and watchful.

In light of this future event, Paul exhorts them to comfort, uphold and be patient with each other (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15). Finally, he gives them three important instructions:

  • Rejoice always
  • Pray without ceasing
  • In everything give thanks

Rejoice Always

Other translations render this verse as “Always be joyful.”

Now, we must clarify that happiness is synonymous with joy. Although most people use these words interchangeably, they are not the same thing. I’d say happiness is always superficial and is dependent on external factors.

For instance, one’s happiness stems from having a successful professional career or having all the money to buy his or her wants. But whenever they fail to reach their goals, their happiness will quickly turn to sadness and disappointment. In short, the source of happiness is worldly possessions and accomplishments.

Happiness vs. Joy

In contrast, joy starts from the inside which inevitably extends outwardly. Joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is rooted in God; the source of joy for the Christian is God.

When the Word exhorts Christians to “rejoice always,” this goes to say that we are to be joyful not only in happy times but in sorrows also. And we can do this because our joy is not based on circumstances but on God.

Keep in mind that although circumstances change, God does not!

Pray without Ceasing

It is the will of God for Christians to pray continually.

I know what you’re thinking. Sure, we can’t close our eyes, bow our heads, be on our knees, or fold our hands non-stop. It does not mean we keep mumbling our requests and petitions to God. You see, these are customs of prayer, not prayer itself.

We all know what prayer is. It is how we communicate with God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:13-14; 1 Timothy 2:5). Prayer is communicating with God. And we can live each minute of the day in a constant, flowing, conversation with God.

This is not to eliminate the significant value of setting a time when we shut out all other distractions and focus on God in a time of closet prayer (Matthew 6:6). But there is also room – and great value – in every moment-of-the-day fellowship with God.

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

We must understand what this phrase is saying. We don’t give thanks FOR everything but IN everything.

Imagine having to comfort a friend or relative whose loved one just got murdered. How are you supposed to tell them to thank God for what just took place?

There will be times when we have to deal with difficult and impossible situations. God does not command us to thank Him for any tragedy that He allows. Rather, we thank God despite what happened because we recognize that His sovereign hand is in charge. Scripture assures us that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Things happen not by fate or chance, as some often claim. God is still on the throne and He is in control. Nothing happens that God does not allow.

Charles Spurgeon quote on prayer

The Will of God for Christians

After each one of these exhortations: rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, we are told to do this because it is the will of God.

The idea here is not that this is the will of God so we must do it. Rather, we can do it because this is God’s will. It isn’t easy to always be joyful, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, but we can do it because it is God’s will.

The will of God in prayer and every aspect of life is doable not because we are tough or capable. We can do all things because God enables us to. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).

Persistence in Prayer

The story of the widow and the judge and Jesus’ illustration while teaching His disciples how to pray (Luke 11:1-13) are very telling. They give us a very important principle on prayer – be persistent. This means we should always pray and never give up.

In Luke 18:1-8, a widow came to a judge seeking justice in a dispute with her enemy. This judge is described as someone who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. Initially, the judge ignored the woman’s plea. But because she kept bothering him, the judge finally decided to avenge her.

In Jesus’ teaching on prayer, He used the example of a friend who went to his neighbor at midnight to borrow some bread for his unexpected guest. At first, his neighbor refused to help because they are already tucked in bed. But the man kept knocking and showed no sign that he was giving up.

Jesus said although the neighbor won’t do it for friendship’s sake, he will get up and give the man whatever he needed because of his persistence.

Partnering with God

The principle Jesus taught His disciples on prayer still applies to Christians today.

We are to learn a lesson from the unjust judge who rendered a just decision in the end. When we cry out to God day and night, He will surely bring about justice for us and will not delay (Luke 18:6-7).

How to Pray the Will of God

After Jesus’ illustration on the importance of persistence to His disciples, He says this in Luke 11:9-10.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (See also Matthew 7:7-11.0

Now, don’t get me wrong. When we pray persistently, it’s not that we are trying to persuade God to do anything.

Persistent prayer isn’t about convincing God to do anything. Rather, it is about passionately partnering with God in what He already wants to do.

Final Thoughts

It is the will of God for His people to never give up on prayer. Although there will be times when God seems to be ignoring our prayers and petitions, He assures us in the Word that He is always listening.

To make our prayer effective, we need to pray under God’s will.

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14).

We pray for the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 7:10) and realize that God always answers prayers.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy KellerChristians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful.

In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act.

With his trademark insights and energy, Keller offers biblical guidance as well as specific prayers for certain situations, such as dealing with grief, loss, love, and forgiveness. He discusses ways to make prayers more personal and powerful, and how to establish a practice of prayer that works for each reader.

Dr. Keller’s previous books have sold more than one million copies. His Redeemer Presbyterian Church is not only a major presence in his home base of New York, it has also helped to launch more than two hundred fifty other churches in forty-eight cities around the world.

His teachings have already helped millions, the majority of whom pray regularly. And with Prayer, he’ll show them how to find a deeper connection with God.

Peter’s Vision of Unclean Food

Peter’s Vision of Unclean Food

One passage that is often grossly misinterpreted by some Christians is Peter’s vision of unclean food (or animals) in Acts 10:9-16. Accordingly, this account in the New Testament shows how believers today are free to eat anything and everything. Unlike the OT saints who had to adhere strictly to several dietary restrictions, we can consume all kinds of meat, including the blood of animals.

By the way, this post is not about whether Christians can eat blood or not. It is also not about eating foods sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8:4-13). I have another article that tackled this problem among believers in the church at Corinth.

Peter’s Vision in Acts 10

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.

Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven (Acts 10:9-16, NIV).

Interpreting Peter’s Vision

The most important principle of Bible interpretation is to do it in the context of the passage. This is because context determines the meaning.

We must always consider the immediate context. What do the surrounding verses say? What’s the overall theme and train of thought of the passage? Or the overall context or theme of the entire book? To correctly assess the meaning, the interpreter should look at all the circles of context.

Hermeneutics: Basics of Bible Interpretation

The church was born on Pentecost as followers of the risen Lord gathered in one place, and the Holy Spirit came to rest on each of them (Acts 2:1-2). Scripture tells us that they were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5). We see that the focus of Christ’s ministry was the lost sheep of Israel, the Jews (Matthew 10:5-6, 15:24).

But when we get to chapter 10, we see a pivotal shift in the book, for it records the salvation of the Gentiles.

The Gentiles Hear the Good News

What Peter saw had nothing to do with food; what’s clean or unclean. Instead, God used a vision about food to teach Peter that the Gentiles were not unclean. Peter was hungry, and a vision about food would certainly speak to his condition. Furthermore, the distinction between “unclean” and “clean” foods was a major problem between the Jews and the Gentiles in that day.

Peter’s Christian friends criticized him for eating with the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-3). Yet, God used this centuries-old regulation (Leviticus 11:1-47) to teach Peter an important spiritual lesson. Peter got the message, loud and clear (Acts 10:28, NIV).

The fact that Peter invited the three men (Gentiles) who came looking for him to lodge with him (Acts 10:19-23) is another indication that the walls were coming down. The following day, He set out with the men and some of the other believers from Joppa. When they arrived in Caesarea, Cornelius and his relatives and close friends met with them.

God Shows No Partiality

Faith comes only through the Word (Romans 10:17) and Peter preached that Word.

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

Christian Jewelry and Wall Decors - Lord's Guidance

You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil because God was with Him” (Acts 10:34-38, NIV).

God does not show partiality when it comes to sin and salvation (Romans 2:11; 3:22-23; 10:1-13). He is no respecter of person as far as nationality and race are concerned. All people have the same Creator (Acts 17:26) and all people need the same Savior (Acts 4:12).

The Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit

As Peter was just getting started in his message, the people believed, and the Holy Spirit came on all of them (Acts 10:44).

“And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, ‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have” (Acts 10:44-47)?

“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God” (Acts 11:15-17).

The witness of the Spirit was crucial, for this was God’s own testimony that He had indeed saved the Gentiles.

With this event, the period of transition in the early history of the church ended. Believers among the Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles have all received the Spirit of God and are united in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27).

The Same Gift for All: Salvation

As soon as he returned to Jerusalem, Peter was met by members of the strong legalistic party in the church of Judea (the Jewish believers). They rebuked him for fellowshipping with Gentiles and eating with them.

Note: Keep in mind that these Jewish believers did not yet understand the relationship between law and grace, Jews and Gentiles, and Israel and the church.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free

Acts 11:5-12

“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance, I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’”

“I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house.”

Peter told them the story from the beginning. And when he was finished, the Jewish legalists dropped their charges and glorified God for the salvation of the Gentiles (Acts 11:18).

Closing Words

The vision of Peter shows us that salvation was made available to all who believe (John 3:16). “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

As Christians, we are to receive one another and not dispute over cultural differences or minor matters of personal conviction.

Some of the Jewish Christians in the early church wanted the Gentiles to become Jews. And some of the Gentile believers wanted the Jews to stop being Jews and become Gentiles. This attitude can create serious division in the church even today. So, we must follow the example of Acts 11:18.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

Living By the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by Howard G. Hendricks (Author), William D. Hendricks (Author), Charles Swindoll (Foreword)

Living by the Book, The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by by Howard G. Hendricks and William D. Hendricks For every person who draws strength and direction from the Bible, there are many more who struggle with it. Some call it a long book with fine print and obscure meaning. Some call it a mystery, a chore to read, or an undecipherable puzzle.

The good news is you can easily solve this problem. With over 300,000 sold, this revised and expanded edition of Living by the Book will remove the barriers that keep Scripture from transforming your life. In a simple, step-by-step fashion, the authors explain how to glean truth from Scripture.

It is practical, readable, and applicable. By following its easy-to-apply principles, you’ll soon find yourself drawing great nourishment from the Word—and enjoying the process! The Living by the Book Workbook is the perfect compliment to provide practical application of lessons.

Is John the Baptist “The Elijah?”

Is John the Baptist “The Elijah?”

Believers and non-believers alike have heard about John the Baptist. He is not only known to be the cousin of Jesus; he’s also the forerunner of the Messiah. But why do some people say that John is the “Elijah” that is to come?”

John the Baptist: Spokesman for God

John is one of the most prominent figures in the Bible. He was the first prophet called by God some 400 years after Malachi. John fulfilled the prophecy given in Isaiah 40:3.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for God.”

John the Baptist in the Spirit of Elijah

Some biblical prophets, including Isaiah, had prophesied a new exodus, by which God could gather His people from exile (Isaiah 11:16; Jeremiah 23:7-8; Hosea 3:14-15). He would establish a way through the wilderness, as He had led His people through the wilderness of old.

John was a herald preparing the people for this event and for the coming of “the Lord” by which the Hebrews text of Isaiah referred to God Himself.

A Voice from the Jordan

It was down the hills of Jordan that curious people from Judea came to hear “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (Luke 3:4). John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, by preaching sermons of judgment against sin (Luke 3:7-18). He also baptized in the Jordan River those who heeded his message and repented (Luke 3:2).

Have you ever asked why John started preaching in the wilderness? Accordingly, the wilderness was one of the few places where prophetic figures could safely draw crowds, but of course, it lacked the amenities of civilization.

A first-century Jewish historian, Josephus, also reports that John baptized people in the wilderness, inviting them to spiritual transformation. Josephus, however, adapts his description of John to appeal to Greek readers, as he depicts the “sects” of Judea (Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes).

The Gospels, however, portray John in a way more in keeping with authentic Judean prophets, a preacher of the imminent new era of God’s reign.

John the Baptist in the Spirit of Elijah and Elisha
Photo Credits: Aleteia.Org

In the Spirit of Elijah

John the Baptist ministered in the spirit and power of Elijah, for he was the Elijah-to-come spoken of by Malachi 450 years earlier (Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 11:2-15; 17:9-13). Like Elijah, John the Baptist wore rough clothing (2 Kings 1:8; Mark 1:6; Luke 7:25) and ate what he could from the land.

More important, like Elijah, he stood unwaveringly before unjust religious and political authorities. He was also bold to judge them according to God’s standards (Matthew 3:7-9; 11:7; Luke 3:19-20). (Note: See 1 Kings 17:1; 18:21-40 for further reference.) Yet Jesus Himself was even greater!

As Elijah departed for heaven, his successor Elisha, received a double portion of his spirit (2 Kings 2:9-15). As if in confirmation of this fact, the writer of the biblical books of the Kings records twice as many miracles performed by Elisha than by Elijah.

Similarly, Jesus’ ministry far surpassed that of His predecessor, John the Baptist (Luke 3:15-17).

In the Spirit of Elisha

Most Christians appreciate the prophetic ties which connect Jesus to both John the Baptist and Elijah. The ministry of Jesus, however, can also be compared to that of Elisha, with John the Baptist playing the key intermediate role. The diagram below shows this:

John the Baptist Like Elijah

Both Elisha and Jesus moved about the towns and village of Galilee and Samaria, doing good among the common folk by healing lepers (2 Kings 5:1-27; Luke 17:11-19). They have multiplied loaves of bread for hungry multitudes (2 Kings 4:42-44; Luke 9:12-17) and raised the dead (2 Kings 4:18-37; Luke 7:11-17).

Nain, where Jesus raised a dead boy was less than two miles from Shunem, where Elisha did the same, prompting the residents of Nain to exclaim, “A great prophet has risen up [again] among us” (Luke 7:16).

Was John the Baptist Elijah?

The Bible calls John the Baptist “the Elijah to come” because he came in the spirit and power of Elijah. But he was not Elijah in a literal sense. John was the New Testament forerunner who pointed the way to the arrival of the Messiah, just as Elijah filled that role in the Old Testament.

John did not only deny that he was the Christ, he also specifically denied that he was Elijah (John 1:19-21).

Now, this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then, are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.”

John identified himself as the messenger of Isaiah 40:3, not “the Elijah” (Malachi 3:1).

One other thing, Elijah himself appeared with Moses at the Mount of Transfiguration after the death of John the Baptist. This would not have happened if Elijah had changed his identity to John.

Conclusion

John the Baptist is not Elijah. Scriptures such as Mark 8:28 and Mark 6:14-16 show that both King Herod and the people distinguished between Elijah and John the Baptist.

But how do we reconcile the teachings that Jesus identified John as Elijah and John the Baptist denying that identification? We must not overlook the key phrase that Jesus used. He said, “And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:14).

Jesus’ identification of John the Baptist as Elijah did not rest on the premise that John was the actual Elijah. Rather, it hangs on the people’s response to his role. If the people willingly believed in Jesus as the Christ, John functioned as Elijah. But if they rejected Jesus, as the Pharisees did, John did not perform this role.

John the Baptist is a type of Elijah. As he announced the first coming of Jesus, the prophet Elijah announced the Second Coming of the Lord. Malachi 4:5-6 says Elijah will return before the Tribulation.


Reference Materials:
  1. The Transformation Study Bible (Edited by Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe)
  2. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
  3. NKJV Prophecy Study Bible (Edited by John Hagee)

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: Systematic Theology, Second Edition: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem

Systematic Theology by Wayne GrudemThis new edition of Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem may be the most important resource you can own for helping you understand Scripture and grow as a Christian.

The most widely used resource of the last 25 years in its area, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem has been thoroughly revised and expanded (all 57 chapters) for the first time while retaining the features that have made it the standard in its field: clear explanations, an emphasis on each doctrine’s scriptural basis, and practical applications to daily life.

If you are someone who thinks theology is hard to understand or boring, then this new edition of Systematic Theology will likely change your mind.

Psalm 51 Devotional

Psalm 51 Devotional

Today’s post is a devotional and reflection on Psalm 51. In this chapter, we read of King David’s confession and repentance after the prophet Nathan rebuked him of his sin (See 2 Samuel 12:1-14).

Living in a No-Fault Society

We live in a society where most people have adopted the “I’m-not-responsible” mentality. Every time we do something wrong, we say, “Oh no, not my fault!” We blame our parents, others, and even God, but never ourselves.

Picture this scenario after the fall:

Adam was out walking with his sons Cain and Abel. As they passed by the gates of the Garden of Eden, one of the boys asked, “What is that dad?” Adam replied, “That’s where your mother ate us out of house and home.”

See? Adam faced responsibility like a modern man – he blamed his wife.

But isn’t this what Adam did? Oh yeah! When he and his wife were caught in disobedience and God confronted them, Adam immediately pointed his finger at Eve. And Eve in her defense blamed the serpent.

We’ve been living in a no-fault generation since the time of Adam and Eve.

You Are the Man!

In Psalm 51, Prophet Nathan has confronted David with a story of wrongdoing: “King David, a poor man’s lamb was stolen and eaten by a rich man giving a party. What shall be done?” David, reacting instantly said, “The man who did this should die!”

Nathan looked at the ashen face of King David and said, “You are the man!”

Psalm 51: David's Confession and Repentance

Right there and then, King David confessed and repented. The fountains of his soul broke as the pent-up passion of remorse, shame, guilt, and anxiety released the flood of tears. He approached God’s throne sobbing and said:

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness. According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:1-3).

Taking Full Responsibility

Without hesitation, David took full responsibility. As king, he held absolute power, living beyond the reach of the people. Why confess? There was not a reporter waiting to ask, “Is it true that your subordinate set up a rendezvous with Bathsheba?” No one else knew about this. Yet, David confesses of his “transgressions, iniquity and sin (Psalm 51:1-3).

While a modern man would say, “It’s the woman’s fault for bathing naked in the moonlight on the roof. She should have used a shower curtain. She did it on purpose!” Or turn at the prophet of God and say, “You, Nathan, are out of step with the new morality.”

David claimed the sin as his own without ever mentioning Bathsheba. He never tried to blame Uriah either.

How do you react when a servant of God confronts you with a sin you thought nobody else knew? Do you immediately confess and repent? Or do you harden your heart and point out the hypocrisy of others, especially your church leaders?

David’s Three-Part Confession

David’s confession had three parts, not one thought three times, but three different views of one repentance.

“My transgression” was the open rebellion against God, knowing what he did was wrong, yet he did it anyway. “My iniquity” refers to David’s deception in trying to hide his sin. To conceal the fact that David got Bathsheba pregnant, he murdered Uriah.

There is no such thing as a secret sin. Sooner or later, God will expose all deception and shout it out from the rooftops. “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17).

“My sin” was David’s murder of Uriah, breaking his fellowship with God. David acknowledged his sin before God and said, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight.” (Psalm 51:4).

Psalm 51 Devotional

To restore his fellowship with God, David cried to God, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).

Hyssop was the branch with which the blood of the lamb was applied over the doorposts of Jewish homes in Egypt in the night of Passover. Once the blood was applied, that home was safe from the death angel.

The Bible says, “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission from sin (Hebrews 9:22).

A Plea for Restoration

David was a musician since childhood. He had played for Saul and brought gladness to his heart. But because of his sin, he could no longer enjoy music. Sin had destroyed his song and so he begged this of God:

“Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which You have broken may rejoice” (Psalm 51:8).

Sin consumed him like the excruciating pain of a broken bone.

Nathan told David that God would forgive him, but the sword would not depart from his house (2 Samuel 12:10). David suffered deeply for his sin. His first child with Bathsheba died shortly after its birth (2 Samuel 12:15-18). His daughter Tamar was raped by her half-brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13:1-20). Absalom became a rebel who wanted to kill him (2 Samuel 15 – 17).

David first asked God to “blot out his sin” and then to “wash it away” (Psalm 51:1-2). The Hebrew word for wash meant “to trample.” In those days, women put clothes in the stream and trampled them clean with their feet.

There is no English word for the Hebrew word here translated “cleanse.” The closest word would be to “unsin.” It means that when David stands before God, He will say to him, “I find no fault in this man. He is whiter than snow.” God will not say, “Oh, David, you had a great career but you ruined it by committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah.”

David Looks Ahead

After David’s confession, Nathan said, “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Samuel 12:13). David’s sin was gone – forgiven instantly. David continued to be open to the word of prophecy, and as he looked into the future, he saw the millennial reign.

“Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem” (Psalm 51:18).

What a joy and encouragement to know that God will not count our sins against us when we confess and repent. When we cry out to God, He does not retain His anger forever and pardons our iniquity. He will show us compassion and casts our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).

Concluding Thoughts

We must take responsibility for our lives and stop making silly excuses. When we go astray from the will of God, we must accept that we are “guilty as charged” and confess our sins. God will rush to blot them out, never to remember them again (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12).

We must not try to conceal our sins, nor blame them on others. We must, by all means, avoid doing things that we know full well are in rebellion against God.

Each of us must choose the New Jerusalem or the Lake of Fire. Our eternal soul is at stake. When we come before God and cry out to Him, He promises to forgive and restore us.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: Praying with the Psalms: A Year of Daily Prayers and Reflections on the Words of David by Eugene H. Peterson

Prayer is both our most human action and our most human language. But, as with any other language, we may find ourselves clumsy and undisciplined in our attempts at it.

Praying with the Psalms can help Christians become fluent in the language of prayer, encouraging us to pray even when we don’t feel like it, and to learn prayers that are both honest and right.

Based on the life and words of David, the Psalms provide insightful reflections on depression, anger, frustration, fear, and insecurity, as well as joy exhilaration, triumph, and gladness.

Praying with the Psalms offers daily readings to guide us in expressing to God the wide range of human emotions. Through this enriched communication with God, we are led to a deeper understanding and a truer following of his will.

The Power of Great Faith

The Power of Great Faith

The great faith of the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13 is one of the well-known stories in the Bible on the power of faith to heal. This centurion was a man of power and influence. Everything about this officer should have prevented him from coming to Jesus.

The centurion was a professional soldier, and Jesus was a man of peace. He was a Gentile, and Jesus was a Jew. Yet, when this one centurion’s servant became ill, he sought help from the Great Physician. Why?

It’s because this soldier had one thing working for him. He was a man of great faith. He understood that Jesus, like himself, had authority and was under authority. All Christ had to do was speak the word, and the disease would obey Him the way a soldier obeyed his officer.

Faith to Heal

When the centurion came to Jesus asking for help, Jesus said that He would come to his house to heal his servant (Matthew 8:5-7). But the centurion said Jesus did not have to come to his house. “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8).

Jesus marveled and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Matthew 8:10)! And his servant was healed that same hour.

So, you see, faith is not only a saving faith but a healing faith. The Word of God promises divine healing and miracles (Psalm 107:20).

The Power of Great Faith

Jesus Promises Healing

In the first promise of healing, the Lord said this in Exodus 15:26:

“If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

David said that God’s medicare program was so successful for the Israelites that …

“He also brought them out with silver and gold, and there was none feeble among His tribes” (Psalm 105:37).

The Agent of Healing

Healing is not a result of wishful thinking. The centurion didn’t wish healing upon his servant. Instead, he sought out the One who had the power to heal, Jesus the Son of God.

We read this in Isaiah 53:4-5.

“Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes, we are healed.”

The words borne and carry denote more than sympathy. They represent actual substitution and the removal of the thing being borne. When Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), death and all its power were conquered, including the power of sickness. Disease is subservient to Jesus.

The healings of Jesus were continuous. Jesus never turned away anyone seeking healing.

“When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:16-17).

Healings in the Church Today

Does Jesus’ ministry of healing continue until today? This is the question that many Christians are asking. Let us look at what Scriptures say about this.

To the church, Jesus said this:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:12-13).

This promise has never been rescinded. At the beginning of the New Testament church, this power was committed not only to the apostles, who would soon pass away. It was also passed on to the elders (James 5:14).

People could be healed in every church where elders would pray the prayer of faith and anoint with oil in the name of Jesus. The power of Jesus to heal has never been diminished. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 12:8).

The centurion said, “Speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8). We, too, can call on Jesus to heal us. We call on Jesus and exercise great faith because the power of great faith to heal is still at work today.

Does God Always Heal?

If God still works miracles today and His healing ministry continues, why is it that some people don’t get healed? Perhaps you know somebody who was terminally ill and had been prayed over many times but did not receive their healing.

I used to have this question too. I wondered why God heals some and lets the others succumb to death. What could be God’s basis for deciding who gets healed and who doesn’t?

I wrote an article as to why doesn’t God heal everyone who asks in faith for healing. In it, I shared the story of a former Muslim who came to faith in Christ. After studying and comparing the Quran and the Bible, he concluded that the evidence for Christianity is more compelling.

You can read all about it here.

At the end of the day, we need to acknowledge that God is sovereign. We may not have the answers to all our questions but we need to trust God for He knows what He is doing.

Closing Thoughts

Twice the Gospels record that Jesus was amazed (or marveled) at the faith of the centurion: 1) Matthew 8:10-12 and in Luke 7:9 and 2) at the unbelief of the Jews (Mark 6:6).

This is an early indication that the Jews would not believe, but the Gentiles would. Also, in both of these miracles, our Lord healed from a distance. This was a reminder of the spiritual position of the Gentiles “being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise” (Ephesians 2:12).

Praise God for healing; praise God for miracles!

How is your faith? Can you say with confidence that you have great faith? The kind of faith that heals?


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: Faith Believing in the God Who Works on Your Behalf by Yonggi Cho and Wayde Goodall

Faith by Yonggi Cho and Wayde Goodall What can we learn from the Scriptures about how to trust God no matter what, and believe in something that is not yet seen?

As a young man with only weeks to live, Yonggi Cho was healed of terminal illness, saw the resurrected Jesus, and quickly began sharing God’s hope with others. Those listeners became the world’s largest church.

In Faith, Pastor Cho and Dr. Wayde Goodall share how to:

  • Understand and grow in your faith.
  • Walk with the Holy Spirit and produce the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Overcome mistakes and continue to depend on Christ in times of discouragement.
  • Believe for and trust God’s supernatural power.
  • Use every situation to accomplish tremendous things for God’s kingdom.

For our lives to work, we need faith—the kind of faith that gives birth to hope and chooses to believe in every circumstance. God will answer prayer, heal, and perform signs and wonders as we walk daily by faith. You can trust God as your source, security, and assurance.

Who is the Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2?

Who is the Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2?

2 Thessalonians 2 describes the revelation of “the man of sin,” who is believed to be the Antichrist. Paul tells us some of the things he will do, but he says that for now, his identity remains secret until the restrainer is taken out of the way.

But who or what is the restrainer mentioned by the apostle in verses 6 and 7 that is holding back the man of sin from being revealed?

Bible Verse: 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7

“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.”

The Restrainer is the Spirit-Indwelt Church

The Identity of the Restrainer

We know that God is at work restraining evil in general. But the exact identity of the restrainer has baffled expositors with multiple solutions offered. Paul must have told the church at Thessalonica who the restrainer was. He says, “And now you know what is restraining…” (2 Thessalonians 2:6).

However, he does not tell us in this or any other of his letters. What he tells us is that the restrainer is at work until He is taken out of the way (2 Thessalonians 2:7b).

So, who is this person, or what kind of entity is it that is restraining the appearance of the Antichrist?

Down through the centuries many candidates have been suggested:

  • The Roman Empire
  • The Jewish State
  • The Apostle Paul
  • The Preaching of the Gospel
  • Human Government
  • Satan
  • Elijah
  • An Unknown Heavenly Being
  • Michael the Archangel
  • The Holy Spirit
  • The Church

Clues to the Identity of the Restrainer

Saint Augustine was transparent when he confessed not knowing who the restrainer is. But several clues can help us identify the “one who is holding back.”

First, the restrainer holds back the man of sin. Second, the restrainer is referred to with both neuter and masculine verbs (participles). The phrase “what is restraining” uses a neuter verb, suggesting a principle. The phrase “He who now restrains” uses a masculine verb, suggesting a person.

Third, whatever the restrainer is, he or it must be removable. Last, the restrainer must be powerful to hold back the outbreak of evil under the Antichrist.

Lord's Guidance Christian Jewelry and Apparel

These four clues permit only one satisfactory identification for the restrainer – God Himself. In this case, it is God the Holy Spirit who is the restrainer. But that still leaves some loose ends. Why is the Holy Spirit referred to as both a principle and as a person – like a what and a who?

And how can the Holy Spirit, who is omnipresent, be removed from the earth? These are legitimate questions. The Holy Spirit is omnipresent and cannot be removed from the earth.

Moreover, millions of people will be saved during the Tribulation (Revelation 7:9-14). The convicting, drawing, regenerating ministry of the Holy Spirit is essential for anyone to be saved both now and in the Tribulation. (See John 3:5; 16:7-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3.)

So, how can the Holy Spirit be the restrainer? The answer is that the Holy Spirit is at work during this age in and through the church.

The Spirit-Indwelt Church

There are four key reasons for identifying the restrainer to be the church indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

First, this restrainer requires omnipotent power. Second, this view adequately explains the change in gender – from neuter to masculine (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). In Greek the word pneuma (Spirit) is neuter. But the Holy Spirit is also consistently referred to by the masculine pronoun He, especially in John 14–16.

Third, Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit as restraining sin and evil in the world (Genesis 6:3) and the heart of the believer (Galatians 5:16-17). Finally, the Holy Spirit uses the church and its proclamation and portrayal of the gospel as the primary instrument in this age to restrain evil.

We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). We are the temple of the Holy Spirit both individually and corporately (1 Corinthians 3:17; 6:19; Ephesians 2:21-22).

The restrainer then is the work of the Holy Spirit through His people in this present age. Amazingly, our present age is described as the age of restraint. The presence of believers in the world exerts a powerful influence upon the wicked world.

Worship with the City Harvest Church with their song “Come Holy Spirit.”

The Removal of the Restrainer

The Rapture will change everything. When the rapture occurs, the Spirit-indwelt church and its restraining influence will be removed. That will release the world to sin as it never has before.

Christians who stand for civic righteousness and law and order will no longer be present exerting their influence. The church’s salt and light will be extracted from the earth. For a time at least, only unsaved people will hold government office. Satan will be able to put his plan into full swing by bringing his man onto center stage to take control of the world.

Evil will erupt and expand unchecked beyond anything known in the history of man. It will be like the removal of a huge dam. The world will be inundated with evil of unimaginable scope and severity.

However, the Holy Spirit’s return to heaven will not be a complete withdrawal from the earth, but a reverse Pentecost of sorts. His activity will be like it was in the Old Testament.

Donald Grey Barnhouse says this:

“During the Great Tribulation, the Holy Spirit will still be here on earth, of course! How can you get rid of God? But He will not be indwelling believers as He does now. Rather, He will revert to His Old Testament ministry of coming upon special people.”

Conclusion

The Holy Spirit (that indwells the believers) is hindering, standing in the way, and restraining the powers of evil. Until He is taken out of the way, and immediately the man of sin (the lawless one) then shall be revealed.

As soon as the church is removed from this world, there will be no more restraining forces against evil. As a result, the man of sin will take over using the powers that will be given to him by Satan. The world will be plunged into darkness such as the world has never seen before, or will ever see again.

The forces of darkness are at work now. But the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church is keeping Satan from taking absolute control over all the earth.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

The End by Mark HitchcockReference: The End, A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days by Mark Hitchcock.

The end times have seen a great amount of interest within the last two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive overview of biblical prophecy and eschatology for more than five decades.

Mark Hitchcock’s book is that comprehensive resource for the twenty-first century The End will do for eschatology what Randy Alcorn’s Heaven did for people’s understanding of heaven.

It will provide a solid biblical foundation for Christians to explore the essential truths around this topic―the end of the world.

The Exclusivity and Sufficiency of Jesus Christ

The Exclusivity and Sufficiency of Jesus Christ

One of the biggest objections against Christianity is its claim of exclusivity. Christianity asserts that it alone has the truth about God and salvation. In other words, it is the only true worldview. Christianity claims that Jesus Christ is the only way for salvation and His sacrifice on the cross is sufficient to redeem man from eternal destruction.

But how could there be only one true religion? What about the billions of people in the world who are sincerely worshiping God the best way they know how? How could a good God send them to hell for not believing in someone they have never heard of?

Aren’t all religions the same? Some people believe that all religions may be superficially different but fundamentally the same. However, one of the greatest Christian apologists in the twenty-first century said it’s the opposite. He said all religions are fundamentally different and at best superficially the same.

In today’s post, I would like us to take a closer look at one of the most common Bible verses Christians use to defend their claim that salvation can be attained through Jesus and Jesus alone.

Bible Verse: John 14:6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

What is Jesus saying here? Whom is He saying these words to? First, we need to read the entire passage beginning from verses 1 to 6 of John chapter 14. It reads:

John 14:1-6

Jesus Comforts His Disciples

Going back to chapter 13, we read the scene where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. That was before the feast of the Passover when He already knew that His hour had come to go back to the Father (John 13:1).

Jesus then revealed this to His disciples (John 13:33) which made them very sad. So, when we go to chapter 14, we read Jesus comforting them. He tells them to not lose heart because He’s not abandoning them. He is going back to the Father but promises to come back for them once everything in heaven is ready.

Jesus had been preparing His disciples to deal with this event (His leaving them and going back to the Father). Yet, they failed to grasp the reality that it was going to happen sooner than they expected.

Thomas then asks where Jesus was going and how they can know the way (John 14:5). To which Jesus replied, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Christianity’s Exclusivistic Claim

While people who hold to a different worldview criticize Christians for their claim, the truth of the matter is every religion makes an exclusivistic claim. Exclusivism is not only true of Christianity; it’s also true of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and every other religion. This is why there are no Buddhist Christians or Islamic Hindus.

What makes Christianity different from the rest of these religions? While all the other worldviews hold to a work-based salvation, in Christianity you are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). You are saved by placing your faith in something God has done, not something you can do.

No one can earn their way into heaven no matter how they try to live a good life. No one is good enough. Perhaps, using man’s standards, some would qualify. But based on the standards of God, no one will be able to meet the requirements. The bible says, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

Jesus is the Way to the Father

Notice that Jesus said He is the way. He did not say, “a way,” which could mean “one in many.” Jesus specifically said He is the way, as in “the one and only.”

Here’s a video of Oprah Winfrey in one episode of her show wherein she denied that Jesus is the only way. Thankfully, someone in her audience boldly argued that what the Bible teaches is clear; that there is one way and only one way and that is through Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to come to the Father?

1. To Obtain His Favor

To come to the Father is to obtain His favor. 

God’s favor generally refers to His acceptance and approval. Well, who does not want God’s approval? Who does not want to make the Father proud? If children do all they can to have their earthly father’s “thumbs up,” how much more do God’s children want to please Him? In short, it’s about what we can do.

But almost everywhere in the New Testament., the word favor is translated as grace. God’s favor is not necessarily material or financial. It’s simply the undeserved kindness of God. We do not have to do anything for God to bestow upon us His blessings

Romans 8:31 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

2. To have Access to His Throne by Prayer

To come to the Father is to have access to His throne by prayer.

Jesus’ teaching for us to pray in His name is explicit in Scriptures such as John 14:13-14 and John 15:16. By teaching us to pray in His name, Jesus is claiming to be the mediator and reconciler between man and God. It is only through praying in Jesus’ name that believers can approach God.

Paul acknowledged this in 1 Timothy 2:5 when he said, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”

Romans Catholics believe they can pray to Mary, making her a co-mediator and equal with Christ. But there is no biblical support for this. It is only through Jesus that we can approach God’s throne of grace.

3. To Enter His Kingdom

To come to the Father is to finally enter His Kingdom.

Where is the Father and where is His Kingdom? The Father is in heaven. We see this stated in Isaiah 66:1 and repeated in Acts 7:49. However, this does not mean that God’s access is limited.

God is transcendent; He is omnipresent and omnipotent.

Jesus’ understanding of Himself as to how we can approach God is exclusive. He said this in John 10:9 (NIV), “I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved.”

No other options are open. If you want to gain access to the Father in heaven you must go through Jesus, not Mary, or anyone else.

Jesus’ audience clearly understood this. Peter clearly understood this that’s why he said in Acts 4:12 (NIV), “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

No man can obtain any of these things except by the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. It meant coming in His name and depending on His merits.

All Roads Lead to Rome

There is an old saying that “All roads lead to Rome.”

This is often used as a way to understand different religions; that they each lead to God in their own way. Oprah Winfrey argued that people may not necessarily call it heaven. But at the end of the day, no matter which path we choose to take we will all end up in the same beautiful place.

That cannot be further from the truth. I would like to use a maze, as an illustration, to prove that there can only be one way to heaven. If you choose the wrong path, you will surely end up in a different place.

Do All Roads Lead to Heaven?

There are only two destinations for man after his life on earth: heaven or hell. There’s no such place as purgatory. When a person dies, his fate has been sealed and cannot be reversed. His final destination has been decided (Hebrew 9:27).

In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, heaven is a real place and so is hell. But do you know that most people who believe in literal heaven refuse to believe in a literal hell?

They say that hell is just a “concept;” that hell is the darkness inside of you. Again, that is not what the Bible teaches. Jesus talked a great deal about heaven but he talked three times more about hell than He did heaven.

Does God Send People to Hell?

If Jesus is the only way, what about those who have never heard of Jesus? Will God condemn them to hell for not believing in someone they have never heard of?

In one of Dr. Frank Turek’s apologetics lectures, somebody in the audience asked the same question. Dr. Turek said there’s something wrong with the question. People are not condemned to hell only on the occasion of not believing in Jesus; they are already condemned because of sin. (See John 3:17-18.)

We have to understand that we’re not going to hell because we do not believe in Jesus. It’s like asking, “Am I going to die because I did not go to the doctor?” No! You will die because you have a disease! So no, you will not go to hell for not believing in Jesus, you’re going to hell because you sinned (Romans 3:23).

Let’s get this crystal clear. God doesn’t send people to hell. Hell is not God’s choice for men, heaven is. Hell is the choice of men who want to reject God. When God created man, He created him with “free will.” We were not created to be robots!

So ultimately the choice we make for eternity is made by the submission of our will to our heavenly Father. God will not violate our will because it is a sacred gift that He gave to us.

Going to Hell is a Choice Quote

Jesus is the Truth

When Jesus said He is the truth, you must understand that He is not just referring to an idea. The TRUTH here is a person – the Lord Jesus Christ! (See John 8:32, 36.)

Jesus said He is the truth. So if Jesus is the truth, it doesn’t matter what other people think and believe because truth is truth whether we believe it or not.

Earlier, we asked the questions: How can Christianity be the only true religion? What about the billions of religious people around the world who are sincerely worshiping God in the best way they know how?

What makes faith valuable is its object, not its sincerity. If the object is false then sincerity is irrelevant. Should believers be sincere in their beliefs? Absolutely! But sincerely believing something doesn’t make it true.

If I believe that two plus two equals five, I’m dead wrong, no matter how sincerely I believe it.

People who hold a different worldview, such as the Muslims, acknowledge Jesus to be a morally good person; they believe in His virgin birth and that He performed miracles but they do not believe He is the Son of God and that He is God.

What one believes about Jesus is crucial. In Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13-20), Jesus asked His disciples the most important question, “Who do you say that I am?”

Why Christianity is True

Jesus is the Life

Christ is the author and giver of life, natural, spiritual, and eternal. Eternal life in heaven is made possible only through Christ.

Let’s take a look at these Bible verses:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12).

Conclusion

If Jesus is not the exclusive way to salvation, but just one way, then why did He have to suffer and die? In fact, why did He live at all?

For what possible reason would God become incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, live a life of perfect obedience, service, and self-denial, suffer torture, and then executed in one of the most horrible ways imaginable if there were other avenues to God?

The truth of the matter is, no one, regardless of reputation, achievement, special knowledge, or personal holiness can come to God the Father except through Jesus. We cannot save ourselves from eternal damnation in hell through our own efforts. We cannot attain eternal life no matter how much we try to live a moral life.

Salvation in Christianity

Is salvation exclusive to those who will put their faith in Jesus Christ? Absolutely! Is Jesus’ sacrificial death sufficient to redeem us? Absolutely! Jesus said, “It is finished!” He has conquered death and emerged victoriously and we too can have the victory in Christ. But have we surrendered our lives completely to Jesus?

Jesus doesn’t merely point the way, He is the Way. Jesus does not teach us truth, He is the Truth. Jesus does not represent one avenue to life, He is the Life. “Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24, NASB).


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel

The Case for Christ by Lee StrobelIs there credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God? Former atheist and Chicago Tribune journalist Lee Strobel takes an investigative look at the evidence from the fields of science, philosophy, and history.

In this revised and updated bestseller, The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel cross-examines a dozen experts with doctorates from schools such as Cambridge, Princeton, and Brandeis, asking hard-hitting questions – and building a captivating case for Christ’s divinity.

Strobel asks challenging questions like:

  • How reliable is the New Testament?
  • Does evidence for Jesus exist outside the Bible?
  • Is Jesus who he said he was?
  • Is there any reason to believe the resurrection was an actual event?