After looking at the lost, there has to be the lingering question on your mind, how are you saved? Of course that’s the goal. The goal is to make it Heaven, to see God’s throne, to meet Jesus, receive your crown, and a stone with your name on it. At least that is what we learn in nominal Christian circles. Why don’t we talk more about Heaven? Why don’t we study more about Heaven? What is with this world? We explore the oceans, dig in the earth for fossils, and remnants from lost civilizations, we’ve even sent people to the moon. We have telescopes and cameras all over the universe, but few people search out a distinct and clear view of Heaven. Why is that so?
I’ve already written a book based on visions of Heaven found in the Bible. I would consider those visions clear and accurate. It was an interesting book to dwell on and write. But books about Heaven just don’t sell. Not at all.
This chapter may not give a view of Heaven, but we will look at what the Bible says about people who are saved. How are they saved and why are the saved? This of course will not be a complete view, but a look at some of the most popular scripture on the subject. Our journey begins in Romans.
Romans 5:15-21 RSVA But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. (16) And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. (17) If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (18) Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. (19) For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (20) Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, (21) so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I’m sure most of you have read this chapter, or at least a few sentences from this chapter. There are three main themes many Christians concentrate on in this chapter. The first is, sin entered this world through one man, Adam. Actually sin came into this planet through Eve, then Adam. The point is, this story leads us back to another story in the Bible found in Genesis.
The part about this story that has confused me for some time is the part about sin entering this world through one man, and grace through of course, Jesus, who is mentioned as one man. What is Paul trying to get to? I had to read this many times and pray about the information Paul presented before I could begin to understand it. Paul is using a simple example. An example we should find easy to understand. To get the meaning of the story, we have to go back a review the story Paul pointed to and used as an example.
Eve was the first person to sin. Eve was of course tempted by Satan. Eve gave into a minor suggestion. Satan appeared to offer more than what God had given Adam and Eve. And Eve fell for that deception. That of course was the first sin. As far as we know, the first sin in the Universe. But Satan was busy in Heaven questioning God, looking for more, and for lack of a better term, plotting a rebellion in Heaven. We have no idea how many years of experience Satan accumulated in Heaven. We do know, Satan became an expert in deception in Heaven. Satan was in daily contact with God. Satan knew Jesus. But Satan decided that was not enough for him. He convinced himself, then thousands of angels that there was more than what God had given them. We don’t know what Satan saw, believed, or was after. That information was not recorded in scripture. We do know, Satan was able to deceive angels. Angels who saw and knew God. Angels who once worshiped in front of God’s throne. If Satan could accomplish that, what chance do we have?
There is something in the fact, Satan was able to deceive Eve. Why didn’t Satan go after Adam? When we look at scripture we see, God warned Adam about the fruit on that tree. It was Adam’s job to inform and protect Eve. Did Adam do his job? There is something mysterious about those circumstances.
Eve was the first to eat the forbidden fruit. Somehow Eve was able to convince Adam to eat the fruit. In other words, Eve was able to accomplish what Satan was unable to do, or maybe afraid to try. Adam took the word of his wife over God. In short, Adam sinned on more than one front.
Paul used Adam as an example for a reason. Is it because Adam took the word of the only other human being on this planet over God’s word? That could be one of the reasons. But to get to the facts, we have to follow that story a little further.
Sin of course introduced a set of curses. On the surface those curses may look simple to understand. But do we look at those curses based on the way this world chose to understand them? Or do we look at those curses from a point of view from Heaven? After all, those curses did originate in Heaven.
Genesis 3:14-19 RSVA The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. (15) I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (16) To the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (17) And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; (18) thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. (19) In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
We all know, that first curse on Satan was a prophecy. It had a spiritual meaning. Why would God move from the prophetic and spiritual state to a physical state of thinking at this point? When we look at the curses as book ends, we find the answer. Adam and all men and women will return to dust. Satan will crawl along his belly and eat the dust of the earth. Put the two together and what do we have? We have Satan eating up people. Is that true? If it is, we can continue along this train of thought.
Satan has one goal in mind. To take as many of us into the pit he is responsible for making. He goal is to eat up people, the dust of this earth. Now let’s go onto the next curse.
There will be a hatred between Eve and Satan. Eve is given the role of a warrior. Her hatred for Satan is the key Eve needs to protect her family. Eve made a mistake she can never make up for and she can never correct on her own. But one of her offspring will crush Satan’s head. Satan heard that. Satan knows that. And of course, Satan did everything in his power to save his own skin. But he failed.
Eve was also cursed with the pain of giving birth. Every woman who has given birth knows about the physical pain. Every good husband has witnessed that suffering and knows how unqualified he is to relieve that pain. There are a host of spiritual lessons attached to those physical attributes. After birth, Eve had to protect her sons and daughters from Satan’s relentless and never ending attacks. Let’s look at the odds. A third of the angles in Heaven were cast down to this planet. They had nothing better to do than to tempt and torture a few human beings. Can you imagine the pressure Adam, Eve, and their family faced? Can you imagine the spiritual pain and suffering Eve had to face everyday of her life knowing she was responsible for the condition of this world. Eve had no choice but to live with it. We can see how that child bearing pain went way beyond the few hours it takes to bring a new life into this world. The curse was no doubt spiritual.
The curse on Adam was of course also spiritual as well as physical. God reminded Adam, he listened to his wife, and took her word over the direct instructions he received from God. In a sense, that hurt God. That struck at God. Adam didn’t fall to the temptation Satan laid on Eve. Adam received his temptation second hand. That made it worse. Sin was rolling downhill and gaining momentum. Now we can begin to see one of the points Paul was making in Romans. People have a choice. They can follow after Adam and take the word of someone who has not received a direct command or message from God, or we can go to Jesus who has chosen to live every minute of His life on this planet being open, willing, and able to receive instructions, knowledge, and wisdom from God. In most cases, which path do people prefer to choose? How can we miss that point in the example Paul laid out for us in Romans?
The curse on Adam gets deeper. The soil Adam, the tree, and that fruit came from was cursed. When God created soil, it was good. Sin changed all of that and more. Thorns and thistles popped up all over the earth. A direct reference to other stories in the Bible and a clear description of the fallen angels who now had a new planet to call their own.
Adam was sentenced to a life of toil. A life of hard word. How else would you describe the relentless attacks those fallen angels launched on the only two people on this planet. Raising a family was not going to be easy. In modern terms, we can never hope to remove all the thrones and thistles in our hearts and lives. That is a never ending battle. Caring for a garden is a prime example. Pull out all the weeds, and you are sure to miss a few. After a few weeks, new weeds pop up all over the place and you find yourself back on your hands and knees sweating just like Adam. At times it all seems hopeless. Paul offered an alternative. The God who created the ground knows how to clean it up once and for all.
Eventually Adam would physically return to the dust God formed him from. The Lord gives and takes away. God knew how to make a man out of dust. And God knew how to make dust out of men. Something we should never forget. God didn’t want Adam to forget about Him. God didn’t want Adam to forget who created him, and who is always in control. That was one of the points Paul was pointing to on his letter.
Paul also mentioned grace in his letter. If we base our salvation on a few choice verses, Romans chapter 5 would contain one of them. Some people look at a verse or two and walk away with the impression, Jesus died for their sins. Jesus fixed what was broken by Adam and there is nothing for anyone to do. That’s not what we learned in previous studies in this book. Finding out about Jesus is only one step in a long journey. Jesus talked about that journey and John recorded key components to that process in his Gospel. But who wants to learn about a process with a number of key steps when the church down the street advertises an easier one step process.
It seems we have a choice. We can follow Adam’s lead, and take the word of another human being, or we can choose to accept what God has told us with His own voice. But this world seems to teach us that, God has left this world on its own. Is that true? Did God leave Adam and Eve on their own? Or did He continue to look over them, and talk to them? If Adam heard God, why don’t we accept that aspect of Adam and make it part of our own lives? God talked with Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, a host of prophets, Jesus, the apostles, and more. Why not you and me? Is God selective, or is it one of our problems? We do have a host of religions who insist, God only talks with a few choice people. Or, after the Bible was finished, there was no reason for God to talk to anyone on this planet. There are a million excuses and false conceptions people have about God. Just because they have a license to preach, a wall full of diplomas, and other credentials handed to them from who knows where, does that mean they have an open line to God we can’t have? Come on now. Let’s look at God and accept Him and His written word with an open mind. Does God love any less than He loved Adam, Eve, Samuel, David, Moses, or His own Son? Could God love one person less than He loves another? Does God have a way of measuring His love and rationing it out? If God’s love is limitless, so is His communication.
Paul outlined a choice. We can either choose to face death, or the free gift of righteousness. Do we need to work for that free gift? What happiness do we receive from any gift if we don’t open the package? Is there work involved in the free gift Jesus has prepared for us? We would have to dig into the subject to find out. Now to ask one question. Is studying the subject of grace work? Would studying grace and learning more about God, Jesus, the plan of salvation, and other related subjects disqualify us from receiving the the salvation Paul wrote about?
Romans 11:29-36 RSVA For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. (30) Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, (31) so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. (32) For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all. (33) O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (34) “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (35) “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” (36) For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen.
It wasn’t by mistake Paul blended mercy with the unsearchable wisdom, knowledge, and judgments of God. It’s true, God has to make a decision. Not everyone will be saved. Paul tells us, we are not going to find that judgment process easy to find nor understand. God’s judgment is way beyond the understanding of this world. Does that mean we give up? Does that mean we leave the search to qualified and specially trained individuals? Who do you think Paul was wring this letter to? When we look at the last chapter in Romans, we see Paul wasn’t writing to institutions of higher learning or church leaders. Paul was writing to common, everyday people. Paul was writing to people who didn’t have all the answers, but were interested in finding them. As a matter of fact, Paul sent them to a place in scripture so they could find a portion of that answer.
Isaiah 40:10-18 RSVA Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. (11) He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (12) Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? (13) Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as his counselor has instructed him? (14) Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? (15) Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the isles like fine dust. (16) Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. (17) All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. (18) To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?
We can instantly see the connection between Romans chapter 11 and Isaiah chapter 40. We should be able to see how Paul was influenced and inspired by Isaiah. We know God is coming. We know God’s strength. Or at least how God’s strength exceeds anything and everything in this world. We also know how Jesus feeds and cares for His flock. What we have to learn is, how this world fails to know God. We have to face the fact, many people prefer to rely on themselves. We learned this lesson when we looked at Genesis. Adam took Eve’s word over God. After that, God explained that mishap in a number of different ways. It is repeated in the Bible so many times, we know this is an important point. No one can do what God has done, can do for us, or is going to do with this world. All we can do is hope to find God, and gain a little more understanding about God. Is that what being saved is all about? Would you consider that a form of works? Of course – searching for God requires a bit of effort. But when Paul tells people to search out God, and blends it in with grace and salvation, do we start messing with the ingredients, or do we follow the recipe?
Who is saved? Paul and Isaiah agree, that is not for us to decide, and difficult for us to understand. Do we avoid teaching about subjects we don’t understand? It is wrong to present yourself as an authority on a subject you know little about. On the other hand, it is healthy to share. There is so much information on the subject of salvation, none of us could learn all the details in a lifetime. But we can share what we know. And we can learn from other people. Isn’t that what Paul told us to do?
Exodus 16:21 KJV And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.
After a number of plagues Pharaoh finally gave up for a time, letting Israel go free. It was an answer to a question Moses asked when he first approached the man he grew up with as a brother. To me it rose the question, why couldn’t Moses reach someone he grew up with as a brother? Look at the discussion when Moses first approached Pharaoh. After his presentation to Israel’s leaders, Moses and Aaron went to meet with Pharaoh. They told him, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go so they may hold a festival in my honor in the wilderness.” “Is that so?” retorted Pharaoh. “And who is the LORD? Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I don’t know the LORD, and I will not let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:1-2 NLTse).
What is the lesson? We all seem to experience the same problem, members of our own family do not know God. It seems this is a lesson repeated time and time again in Israel’s journey through the wilderness. With all the miracles God performed before their eyes, Israel’s faith remained small. God gave the head of the household the responsibility of performing the detailed ceremony for the Passover to show them the role of the priest in the family was not only a right, but a requirement.
After going through all of these experiences, many of the Israelites showed how much their confidence grew in God. As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the LORD, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!'” (Exodus 14:10-12 NLTse).
Looking back a few verses we see how some people doubted, being more concerned about themselves more than God’s plan. Not only had they failed to see God’s power, they also misunderstood the reason behind the sequence of events. “Order the Israelites to turn back and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, across from Baal-zephon. Then Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness!’ And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you. I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD!” So the Israelites camped there as they were told. (Exodus 14:2-4 NLTse).
Don’t we often have the same problem. Isn’t this the reason many people try to avoid God when a trial first arises? We try as hard as we can to fight and worry our way through a problem while the Creator is only a prayer away. We trust and rely more on our limited wisdom than our original manufacturer. If only we knew the plans and details God puts into solving our problems. If we did, we may never worry about, or let those situations get to us.
As Israel journeyed to the promised land it became evident they had not planned properly for the trip. After all, they had no idea where they were going or how long it would take. After a few days the little food they brought ran out. They went to Moses, complaining as usual. If one man’s faith was growing, it was Moses. He turned to God and prayed. He knew God would answer. Moses knew God had a plan.
As God looked down at the more than one million people following Moses out of Egypt, He knew exactly what He was going to do. Part of His plan was to wait a little bit to test each individual faith. Some were going to complain no matter what happened. Others waited for real trials to show up before complaining. Many of them could endure the trial for a time before eventually joining what seemed to be the majority of complainers. How many endured until God moved His hand? Did their joy and praise reflect their faith in God? In a way there is a parallel between testing of Israel’s faith and Jesus’ parable of the sower.
When the time was right, God brought bread from Heaven. We are told the Israelites had no idea what it was and called it manna, which means, what is it? Is this also a type of prophecy? John explains what this manna from Heaven represented. It was not only physical food, but also taught a spiritual lesson.
John 6:33-35 KJV For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. (34) Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. (35) And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
It seems the simple message about this bread is often misunderstood. Jesus had to explain exactly what this means. Today everyone claims to know what the bread represents but do they understand what it means to never hunger or thirst? This was such an important point, Jesus went on to explain it in more detail.
John 6:49-51 KJV Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. (50) This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. (51) I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
When we look at what Jesus is explaining, we see He is referring to His sacrifice, which gives us eternal life. The flesh Jesus gave was His life. How do we eat Jesus’ flesh, His life? How many aspects and details does this cover? All of them?
We need to have Jesus living in our hearts, minds, every part of out physical body and spiritual life. We consume Him through His word, like this study. Every time we open His Word, the Spirit prepares a feast. Jesus comes to our hearts, knocks, and can’t wait to sit down and dine with us. This spiritual connection feeds our faith. He answers our prayers, solves our problems, send us blessings though nature, relationships with others, unexpected blessings, every aspect of our lives. Like Israel’s journey through the wilderness, God knows the trials we will face long before we see them.
What other ways do we take Jesus into our lives? How do we take in His spiritual bread and water? What would our lives be without His influence in our life? Are their parts of our lives we still insist we can manage better than Jesus? Why did the manna in the wilderness melt away when the sun rose.
What sets this book of Revelation apart from thousands of other books? Number one, this book is not written to reveal anything about Revelation or any type of future prophecies. On the contrary, the Book of Revelation reveals the meaning of the visions John saw, the symbols God uses, and the timeline recorded in Revelation. The Book of Revelation is designed so we see exactly how John’s book explains each and every detail. It is not my intent to guess at any prophecy or insist I have any type of special gift available to a select few people. I do not rely on the world to fill in the blanks people claim the Book of Revelation has. John’s book has no blank sections. John recorded exactly what he was told to record in the order Jesus provided the information.
Within Revelation is a series of lessons showing us how to read and study the book. As well as other books in the Bible. One of the most important rules is to gather all the information on a particular subject. When chapter one is combined with chapters two and three, that rule is evident. The remainder of Revelation further verifies that rule.
My intent is to go through the Book of Revelation from cover to cover showing how John’s book reveals a few easy to use study rules that must be followed. The entire Book of Revelation was inspired from Heaven. Jesus wrote the entire book and placed special instructions throughout the book. In fact, those same instructions and rules are found throughout the Bible.
One of the first rules we want to test is, the rule of introductions and summaries. The first few sentences in a chapter or book sets the theme for that chapter and of course introduces the main idea. What do we find in the first few sentences in Revelation?
Revelation 1:1-3 NLTse This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, (2) who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (3) God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.
Like many other books in the Bible, John sets the tone for an inspired manuscript by explaining how he received this message and who gave him that message. In this case the message was given to John by Jesus. This should peak our interest. Jesus pointed out one important detail at the beginning of His message. “God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.”
We have to first READ the Book of Revelation. Jesus described the Book of Revelation as one long message. No where in Revelation does Jesus tell anyone to separate or segregate one prophecy in Revelation from the others. The timeline in Revelation is very important. Without the other prophecies, the timeline is lost. That is one thing that causes most of the problems we see in modern day interpretations. The world has adopted a study method not found or explained in the Book of Revelation or anywhere else in the Bible. The art of taking one or two sentences out of the Bible and running to the news media in this world, or any other source originating in this world is a man made study rule. It is a rule designed with no rules at all. Taking one or two sentences out of scripture and using the world to interpret that passage is a free for all, no holds barred form of Bible Study. In this book we will take the Book of Revelation step by step to see how Jesus explained sound study methods. After all Jesus, “blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says.”
One of the first things you want to do when you begin studying anything in the Bible is to look at the introduction. We already saw why that is important. Now we can look at the last few lines in Revelation chapter 1 to see what details Jesus added to His opening message.
Revelation 1:17-20 NLTse (17) When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. (18) I am the living one. I died, but look–I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. (19) “Write down what you have seen–both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen. (20) This is the meaning of the mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
Jesus introduced Himself to John by using a few symbols. This is important. When we see Jesus using symbols to introduce and describe Himself, we know how Jesus set the tone for the entire book of Revelation. Jesus introduced symbols. Jesus knows how to use those symbols, and Jesus knows how to explain what those symbols mean. In short, Jesus is the source of those symbols, and the only reliable source who can explain the meaning of each and every symbol in Revelation. Going outside that source is turning your back on Jesus. Going to other sources can be compared to idol worship. Even relying on yourself crosses the line Jesus established in His conversation with John.
Jesus explained exactly what those seven stars, angels, and lampstands represent. Jesus is the author of Revelation. The author chooses which symbols they will use, and what those symbols represent. No one else in the world can over ride the author. And in this case, the Author of Revelation is the One who will decide the final outcome of the judgment process. When we put the introduction together with the information found at the end of the chapter, we can see the warnings involved. Along with those warnings, we see specific instructions designed to keep us inline with the wishes of the Author. Jesus wants us to understand every detail in Revelation. And Jesus established the foundation of that understanding.
If we were to turn the page, we would see how the end of chapter 1 introduced the subject matter in chapter 2. That tells us, Revelation was written much like any other novel. You would never skip a chapter in a novel that interests you. So why skip chapters in Revelation?
At this point we are going jump to the very end of Revelation to see how it parallels the summation in chapter 1.
Revelation 22:18-21 NLTse (18) And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. (19) And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book. (20) He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (21) May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.
By design the warning at the end of the book echos the information at the beginning of the book. “God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.” The introduction to Revelation contains the blessing. The end of Revelation contains the curses. Put the two together and we see how the first few and last few sentences create book stand to hold the entire book together. The warning in Revelation is obvious to most people. But its spiritual meaning is lost without the blessing. Without the blessing, what do we have?
The blessing establishes the Christlike attitude we need to approach the Book of Revelation as well as share the information revealed. When we put Jesus in the center of our studies, we can’t loose. We may not have everything revealed to us on the first, second, or even twelfth attempt. But we will continue to see details we missed. That is one way Jesus keeps us humble. Don’t forget, Revelation is an inspired book and we have to accept lessons designed for personal, spiritual growth.
We don’t want to skip over any details in Revelation chapter 1. This chapter sets the ground work of understanding. Jesus told us, this book is designed for those in His church to read and understand.
Revelation 1:4-6 NLTse This letter is from John to the seven churches in the province of Asia. Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; (5) and from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. (6) He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
When we see the word, Amen, that tells us, this is a good place to stop, go back, and review the information presented. We see how John introduced himself as the messenger. The one who penned the inspired words. We see how John introduced Jesus using a series of symbols. It may seem rather strange to see how Jesus used those same symbols at the end of the chapter to describe Himself. We have to look at a number of reasons why chapter 1 used that particular pattern.
The Bible uses something referred to as repetition. Certain words or phrases are repeated to attract the readers attention. In most cases, those words and phases carry a spiritual meaning the casual reader will miss. It may seem rather strange for John to introduce Jesus with a set of symbols, then to see Jesus repeat that same series of symbols. Jesus is establishing a few general rules here. Jesus knows the meaning of each and every symbol. In this particular example, Jesus is using John to show us how He is able to meet and work with us on whatever level we are on. Yes there are different levels of learning. There are different levels of spiritual awareness. It wasn’t by accident that Jesus used spiritual symbols to emphasis that point. We know it is an important point based on the fact we see those words and phrases repeated. So remember, the author repeats words and phrases to catch our attention. At that point we have no other choice than to review the information so we do not miss its spiritual meaning.
We also saw how we had to gather all the information in the chapter before the spiritual meaning was unlocked. Collecting all the information on a subject is another important rule we need to follow.
We have the opportunity to collect information. The kingdom of priests is a phrase used in only a few stories in the Bible. The first time it was mentioned was a short time after God freed Israel from the slavery in Egypt.
Exodus 19:3-6 NLTse Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel: (4) ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. (5) Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. (6) And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”
Of course Israel instantly accepted the invitation. But after hearing the Ten Commandment, most of the Israelites changed their mind. They told Moses to talk to God and fill them in on the details.
We just leaned another valuable lesson. The term, kingdom of priests led us to another story with a vital connection. Jesus asks us to follow His commands as a condition to understanding the message. When we look at the original offer to becomes God’s kingdom of priests, we can’t help but notice the Ten Commandments. A link no one in their right mind could deny.
That’s exactly what we are looking for. Links in the Bible that explain the spiritual meaning of the message at hand. What is a priest dedicated to God? The Bible tells us, it is a person who keeps God’s commandments. That is one clue. Of course some people will argue, that is only for the Old Testament people. Is it? We can look at a few additional facts from the Bible.
1 Peter 2:5-10 NLTse And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. (6) As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” (7) Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” (8) And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them. (9) But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (10) “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”
Peter tied in God’s holy priesthood with the spiritual temple designed with Christ as the corner stone. Once we examine the link between these books, we can’t help but find how one story explains the other. Some people find it difficult to explain what that spiritual temple is. When we look at what Peter explained, and what Christ added in Revelation, there is no other definition than God’s people who take up the priesthood originally offered when God took Israel out of Egypt.
Some churches have long drawn out rules and regulations describing what they think a priest is, who can be a priest, and other aspects about priests and pastors they claim are Biblical. The fact of the matter is, Peter described a priest as a part of that spiritual temple. Jesus described that priesthood as anyone who reads and understand His message in Revelation. That can be a can of worms in modern Christianity. Almost every church claims they can read, understand, and interpret Revelation. Many churches claim their powers of interpretation prove they are some type of chosen or special church. Some claim to be the only true church. Many of those claims are centered on the Book of Revelation. Those claims are based on a few select lines in Revelation. When we look at those sentences as they were recorded, and where they lead us, we see quite a different story.
Some of the most popular priests or pastors today host television shows that concentrate on Revelation and prophecy. Week after week they make predictions. Week after week they prove their spiritual connection with Jesus is false and misleading. Their predictions rarely come true. Or as so vague, they hold little water. When we look at the kingdom of priests Jesus, Moses, and Peter described, we see the Biblical meaning of a priest. Which of course is far different than the earthly definition. The same is true for the majority of visions, symbols, and prophecies taken from Revelation and interpreted using any other method than those described in the Bible.
Based on the fact most churches boast about their knowledge of Revelation, no one can argue the fact, Jesus’ priests are those who read and understand His message. There is no other source of training required outside the Bible. With that in mind, we will continue to look at Revelation chapter 1.
Revelation 1:7-8 NLTse Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him– even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen! (8) “I am the Alpha and the Omega–the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come–the Almighty One.”
John took a giant leap from his time to Jesus’ return. John must have jumped ahead for a reason. Remember how we jumped ahead to look at the last few sentences in Revelation? We followed a study rule. Look what we found. Now we find John sending us to the last chapter in Revelation. See how those connections exist inside scripture? We have a guide in Jesus’ Spirit. What more do we need?
Revelation 1:9-11 MKJV I, John, who also am your brother and companion in the affliction, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the island that is called Patmos, for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (10) I came to be in the Spirit in the Lord’s day and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, (11) saying, I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. Also, What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.
Jesus being the first and last, the Alpha and Omega repeat throughout the first chapter. We can’t ignore that fact. We have to put that information in its place. Jesus is the Teacher. He is the first and last source of information for us to rely on. We don’t need any other source of information. We also see how this letter was to go out to the frontier of the Christian world. There is a lesson is that. We still have Christian frontiers.
The testimony of Christ is another phrase we have to look up. It is mentioned in a couple of stories in Revelation. This gives us the opportunity to look at other parts of the story, put the details together, and see what they say.
Revelation 6:9-11 MKJV And when He had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held. (10) And they cried with a loud voice, saying, Until when, Master, holy and true, do You not judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth? (11) And white robes were given to each one of them. And it was said to them that they should rest yet for a little time, until both their fellow servants and their brothers (those about to be killed as they were ) should have their number made complete.
When we read the description of the fifth seal, we see the price may be rather high. Following the testimonies of Jesus, which is described as reading and understanding His message is not going to be a bed of roses, or an easy road to travel. If we were merely reading Revelation, it would have taken us five more chapters before we got to that part of the message. Collecting all the information on what Jesus’ testimony is took us directly to that information.
Revelation 12:15-17 MKJV (15) And the serpent cast out of his mouth water like a flood after the woman, so that he might cause her to be carried away by the river. (16) And the earth helped the woman. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth. (17) And the dragon was enraged over the woman, and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Here John once again tied in God’s commandments with Jesus’ testimony. None of us made that connection a second time. Jesus the Author did. Again we see how rough the road is. We also see who is responsible for adding all those bumps and pot holes in the road. We also see why the devil is angry. He tried to kill the baby Jesus. Satan is angry because he failed. So Satan took that anger and focused it on the people who continued to follow Jesus.
Revelation 19:7-10 MKJV (7) Let us be glad and rejoice and we will give glory to Him. For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself. (8) And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white. For the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. (9) And he said to me, Write, Blessed are those who have been called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he said to me, These are the true sayings of God. (10) And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said to me, See, do not do it! I am your fellow servant, and of your brothers who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Of course Jesus is going to describe the benefits in store for those who follow His Word. The road may be rough, but the destination is well worth the journey. Jesus doesn’t hide anything. He gives us the good news, and the warnings. Jesus tells us how rough the journey is going to be before He explains the benefits.
What is that prophecy John is trying to explain here? When people take that one line out of the story, they tend to drift off in different directions. In most cases they attempt to link that one line about Jesus’ testimony and prophecy to their church, and the advanced knowledge they claim to have. Thus far we have seen no evidence to support such a claim. On the contrary, we have written evidence telling us, Jesus’ church is made up of those who accept the role of priest with full knowledge of the pitfalls and benefits. There is no mention of weekly paychecks, degrees, retirement funds, collecting funds, and the other roles mankind has attached to the priesthood. You won’t find those roles in Revelation because that was never part of Jesus’ message.
On the other hand, understanding this letter is a part of Jesus’ promise, and a part of the benefit package. Not the way the world understands, or tries to explain John’s book. but the way Jesus designed Revelation to be explained and understood. The more we study Revelation, the more will will see and understand that difference.
What does a misunderstanding of the commandments have to do with Jesus’ return? John covered the subject in detail. Preachers today fail to make the connection. Why? Preachers today teach one subject at a time. They fail to cover material designed to lead into the next subject. Once they miss the introduction to a subject, they miss the entire spiritual message contained in the next story. That is one general rule of Bible Study many people miss. Why? There are factions in this world who stand against Jesus’ return and are working hard to spoil that return in any way they can.
John 8:1-59 NLTse Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, (2) but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. (3) As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. (4) “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. (5) The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” (6) They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesusstooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. (7) They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (8) Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. (9) When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. (10) Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” (11) “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (12) Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (13) The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself! Such testimony is not valid.” (14) Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about me. (15) You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. (16) And if I did, my judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. (17) Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. (18) I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other.” (19) “Where is your father?” they asked. Jesus answered, “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who my Father is. If you knew me, you would also know my Father.” (20) Jesus made these statements while he was teaching in the section of the Temple known as the Treasury. But he was not arrested, because his time had not yet come. (21) Later Jesus said to them again, “I am going away. You will search for me but will die in your sin. You cannot come where I am going.” (22) The people asked, “Is he planning to commit suicide? What does he mean, ‘You cannot come where I am going‘?” (23) Jesus continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not. (24) That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” (25) “Who are you?” they demanded. Jesus replied, “The one I have always claimed to be. (26) I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t. For I say only what I have heard from the one who sent me, and he is completely truthful.” (27) But they still didn’t understand that he was talking about his Father. (28) So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I AM he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Fathertaught me. (29) And the one who sent me is with me–he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” (30) Then many who heard him say these things believed in him. (31) Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. (32) And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (33) “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?” (34) Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. (35) A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. (36) So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. (37) Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. (38) I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.” (39) “Our father is Abraham!” they declared. “No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. (40) Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. (41) No, you are imitating your real father.” They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children!God himself is our true Father.” (42) Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. (43) Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! (44) For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. (45) So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! (46) Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? (47) Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.” (48) The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?” (49) “No,” Jesus said, “I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father–and you dishonor me. (50) And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God is going to glorify me. He is the truejudge. (51) I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!” (52) The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say, ‘Anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!’ (53) Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” (54) Jesus answered, “If I want glory for myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who will glorify me. You say, ‘He is our God,’ (55) but you don’t even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But I do know him and obey him. (56) Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.” (57) The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” (58) Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” (59) At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.
I have to admit. I spent years looking forward to writing about John’s book. I always considered John’s Gospel the most passionate of the four gospels. Some of his chapters capture a unique relationship with Christ as well as the necessary and personal connection God is looking for from each of His servants. But those last two chapters and this one paint an entirely different story.
John has been focusing on frustrations Jesus faced throughout His ministry. The disappointment Jesus faced when dozens of His followers walked away. John wrote about the human side of Christ. You can imagine what He felt when those people turned and walked away because they either didn’t get their way, or couldn’t understand. Jesus felt that sinking, empty feeling in His chest. His heart ached. Jesus felt the sting of rejection.
After spending generations planning each event, talking with His prophets, and recording every detail, Jesus finally came to this world. He had to grow up like every other child. He worked in the home and helped His mother like any little boy. Jesus worked with His father like any other young man. Finally His Heavenly Father told Him it was time and Jesus began the ministry He trained for all His life.
Jesus had hopes and dreams like all of us. He had a desire to succeed like most people do. Jesus wanted to make a better life for His family like every father sets out to do. This world is Jesus’ family. All of us are like brothers and sisters to Christ. We are more important than children to His Father. Jesus dreamed of success. He thought of how the day would go, always expecting the best. Constantly praying and most importantly, listening to God’s voice and of course following directions. Jesus knew if He followed each and every step in the plan of salvation recorded in scripture, everything would work out. Of course Jesus knew He had to suffer. But could anyone or anything prepare Jesus for the continual heartache and disappointments He faced day after day?
Jesus was constantly hounded and hunted by religious leaders of all types. Those religious leaders couldn’t agree among themselves on hardly any subject, but something brought them together. They united to put an end to Jesus’ ministry and His life. But that wasn’t the tip of the iceberg when it came to disappointments and set backs Jesus had to endure. People constantly pierced His heart and tried to nail His hands and feet long before they put Him on that cross. Not physically restraining Jesus, but spiritually.
Priests tried to stop Jesus from using His hands to heal because he healed on the Sabbath. Pharisees tried to stop Jesus from moving forward when they questioned His view on the law. Other religious factions attempted to hold Jesus back in every way they could imagine. All of them were guilty of condemning Jesus without a trial. But this was only a small portion of the trials Jesus faced.
People from the town He grew up in doubted Him and spread rumors about Him. They focused on the miracles and how they could profit from them. They insisted Jesus was born in Galilee and joined the priests in hiding His real birth place, Bethlehem. If people knew, it wouldn’t be good for business.
People followed Jesus around because of the miracles He performed. Gentiles and even the Samaritans turned away from Jesus as soon as the miracles passed. It was like a repeat of the Exodus when Israel and all the people with them forgot the miracles they saw in Egypt. No wonder Isaiah told us the path to God’s throne is on a mountain. It always seems like an uphill battle. If life’s road is not that easy, why would the path to eternal life be any easier?
A Woman Caught in Adultery
John 8:1-11 NLTse Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, (2) but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. (3) As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. (4) “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. (5) The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” (6) They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesusstooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. (7) They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (8) Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. (9) When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. (10) Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” (11) “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
Jesus returned to Jerusalem after the Festival of Shelters. Also known as the Festival of Tabernacles. He wasn’t going to give up. The previous chapter showed how Jesus was rejected by groups of religious leaders as well as people He grew up with in Galilee. Was Jesus returning to face more of the same treatment? How many of us would have given up?
One strange thing I’ve noticed about John’s style of writing over these past few chapters is Jesus’ disciples are hardly mentioned. John called attention to the people Jesus was trying to reach. John put the emphasis on how Jesus was able to reach people and what He had to deal with when people didn’t want to accept Him or His message. It’s evident, John left us with a valuable training tool.
Were the disciples there when those religious leaders brought that woman to Him? We don’t know for sure by only looking at John’s book. What we see is a few words and phrases Jesus and John repeated to focus our attention. We see the words taught, teachers, and teacher. So we know those words are drawing attention to a lesson.
We also see the phrase, “caught in adultery,” repeated. We should ask how the Pharisees caught the woman in the act and what happened to the man? Doesn’t adultery take two? Those are the types of questions most people ask and preach on. It’s only natural. Those are details on the surface. But we are searching for the spiritual messages in each story.
Looking at other key words, we find an unusual combination in accusers and condemn. When we look at the story, we can see how the Pharisees wanted Jesus to either condemn the woman or let her go. If Jesus forgave her, the Pharisees would have accused Jesus of acting like he’s greater than the law and condemned Him.
How did this woman get herself in that position. She was at the mercy of the Pharisees who put her at Jesus’ mercy. In later chapters we will see the same attempt at shifting responsibility in condemning a person. John didn’t tell us how the woman got into that position, but we can look back to see how John led us into this story.
Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked. They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself–no prophet ever comes from Galilee!” Then the meeting broke up, and everybody went home. (John 7:50-53 NLTse).
John wanted to make it evident those religious leaders condemned people without a trial out of habit. You might say it was one of their traditions. Now that we have that information, we can see one of the reasons they didn’t want to listen to Jesus. That’s one major reason He had such a hard time reaching them. What lesson can we learn from that?
Look at people you’ve tried to reach. It seems for the most part, Christians reach out to other Christians. There seems to be three major groups. People who support you, who actually support one another. People who are looking for help and answers. The third group is Christians with all the answers who look for people to either debate or argue with. The Pharisees belonged to which group?
People who like to argue also tend to condemn people without knowing them. Like those Pharisees, their mind is made up and no one is going to change it. They may also try to trick you so they’ll have something to use against you. I think of those people as modern Pharisees. I think you’ll agree, they can’t see that in themselves. I have no idea why.
I wish we knew what Jesus wrote in that dust. But John doesn’t seem to give us any hints. If we followed general rules of context, we can look back to see if John included any hints. We can take a look at a list of verses that may give a clue.
My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me.
Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.
Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves
Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly
These are only a few. Other texts may be in previous chapters. Part of the answer may be seen later in this chapter. So far we see, Jesus had a message. He wanted to get that message across to them. Jesus knew their pride. Maybe if they wouldn’t listen to His messages, they might read them in the dust on the ground. Whatever He wrote, it made them leave. The older, wiser men left first, followed by younger Pharisees. Jesus got them to look below the surface. There is one more place we can look for an answer, in the summation.
Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.” (57) The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” (58) Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” (59) At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.
We don’t see a lot here telling us what Jesus wrote in the dust, unless it had something to do with Abraham. But we see something. They couldn’t stone the woman, so they picked up stones to kill Jesus. Another example of playing judge, jury, and executioner. Jesus kept returning because those Pharisees needed a lot of help. In a way, Jesus took the place of that condemned woman.
I Am the Light
John 8:12-20 NLTse Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (13) The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself! Such testimony is not valid.” (14) Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about me. (15) You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. (16) And if I did, my judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. (17) Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. (18) I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other.” (19) “Where is your father?” they asked. Jesus answered, “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who my Father is. If you knew me, you would also know my Father.” (20) Jesus made these statements while he was teaching in the section of the Temple known as the Treasury. But he was not arrested, because his time had not yet come.
When John pointed out Jesus spoke to the people once more, he showed us how much Jesus cared. He wasn’t about to give up. He couldn’t give up. Jesus introduced another new symbol, light. Jesus kept this new symbol simple and provided the spiritual interpretation. Jesus is the light given to this world. He is the light that leads to eternal life. What Jesus didn’t do was repeat the word darkness, nor did He define it. That’s not to say He didn’t point to it’s interpretation. But the emphasis is on Jesus the light that leads to eternal life.
The Pharisees had no idea what Jesus was talking about. What happened to that lesson they learned when they dropped their stones and walked away? That was the problem. As soon as they began learning, they walked away. After showing they understood what Jesus wrote in that dust, it didn’t take long for them to go back to their way of thinking and way of doing things. Who was really guilty of adultery?
Jesus fired back at the Pharisees with the truth, they didn’t really know Jesus. They already showed they didn’t know where Jesus was born. Or they wanted to hide that information. Their comments showed how they didn’t understand what Jesus taught, or didn’t want to hear. Jesus pointed out their ignorance in a way they didn’t understand.
Jesus also pointed out their flawed judgment. It was only human. If those Pharisees were honest, they would have found one point they could agree with Jesus. But their instincts put them on the defense.
Jesus also told them how He and His Father are one and how God is His witness as well as He is God’s witness. This is a new concept for everyone in Jesus’ time. I don’t know why Jesus kept introducing new concepts at such a rapid rate. John chapter 7 and 8 took place over a few days. Over that time period Jesus introduced quite a number of subjects. He told them He brought a message from God. His teaching is from God. God sent Him. He will return to God. Jesus introduced the symbol bread and living water. He also told them to search scripture for proof of what He told them. Then Jesus told them, He is the light.
Jesus could have explained a lot more details about all the subjects He was teaching. If only they would listen. Jesus couldn’t force them and Jesus couldn’t wait for them to decide when they wanted to learn. Jesus was on a tight schedule. Another subject those religious leaders didn’t understand.
Jesus couldn’t make it any clearer. If they didn’t know Him, they didn’t know the God. It was true when Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem and it’s still true today. There is a process with specific steps. God works with people where they are, but the goal is always the same. People have to know Jesus to be saved. They have to know both Jesus and God to get ready for eternal life.
You Cannot Come Where I Am Going
John 8:21-32 NLTse Later Jesus said to them again, “I am going away. You will search for me but will die in your sin. You cannot come where I am going.” (22) The people asked, “Is he planning to commit suicide? What does he mean, ‘You cannot come where I am going‘?” (23) Jesus continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not. (24) That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” (25) “Who are you?” they demanded. Jesus replied, “The one I have always claimed to be. (26) I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t. For I say only what I have heard from the one who sent me, and he is completely truthful.” (27) But they still didn’t understand that he was talking about his Father. (28) So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I AM he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Fathertaught me. (29) And the one who sent me is with me–he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” (30) Then many who heard him say these things believed in him. (31) Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. (32) And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
We suddenly see a pattern forming here. As we look back, we can’t help but see the same event occurring. Jesus talks to people and they walk away. A group of Jews and Gentiles sailed across the lake, found Jesus in Californium, listened to Him, then walked away. Jesus’ brothers told Jesus what they thought He should be doing, then left for Jerusalem to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. Jesus went to Jerusalem, talked to one group of religious leaders after another, and many groups of people. Jesus introduced one symbols after another, and one piece of a puzzle after another that would open up their understanding of the plan of salvation, and understanding all the prophecies about the Messiah. They all walked away. They all had one thing in common, none of them understood. They all questioned Jesus because they didn’t understand. Instead of listening to Jesus and learning about the Spirit He was trying to point them to, they walked away and left Him and His message behind. Instead of opening scriptures Jesus sent them to, they shut the door to understanding and God’s Spirit.
The scary part about this whole situation and one of the lessons in this story shows how all those religious factions united against Christ. Something drew them together to destroy and silence Him. This created a new religious movement known as unity. The first man made religious unity put Jesus on that cross.
That man made unity was broken when Jesus rose from that tomb defeating death and the grave. Jesus gave the world a clear and unmistakable view of God’s Spirit. After all those prophecies were fulfilled and Jesus, along side of God’s Spirit explained how and why each of those prophecies were fulfilled on time and to the letter, people could see solid evidence of God in His Word. For the first time in world history since Enoch, people had an understanding of God and how to communicate with Him. The new Christian church grew at a rapid pace because they knew how to teach others how to communicate with God.
Generations later, people began to forget how to listen to God’s voice. They forgot how to understand His Word. Men introduced their own messages one after another. Some groups clung to one message, others to another message. The church became fragmented. The work slowed. It finally stood still. Without God’s Spirit, the work stopped and so did the message which was soon forgotten.
No one knows where it started or who came up with the idea, but it made sense to a lot of men. If people all worshiped the same thing at the same time, God would once again hear us. The world thought a universal church where everyone followed the same course would bend God’s ear to this world once again. It sounded like a good idea, so a central church was formed, approving what they referred to as a unified form of worship.
A committee wrote out a step by step form of worship distributed throughout the world. When the world united in a single form of worship, God would once again hear us. Everyone who agreed followed their step by step worship service and preached the same message week after week. But there was no evidence God heard. So they standardized the way priests dressed, the appearance of the churches, and created new traditions for people to follow. One detail was added upon another in the hopes it would please God and they could find His Spirit once again.
Finally they decided what they really needed was to follow one man. So they elected one man to be the source of communication between Christ and His church. That seemed to work. People were so far removed from God’s Spirit and His word, they thought that one person who they choose could hear. When that one man told them he heard God, they believed him.
To them all of that made sense. After all, God had one service for His Tabernacle in the wilderness. But they forgot how that Tabernacle was arranged so every item, detail, and color pointed to Christ and His ministry. God dressed all the priests alike. But they forgot how that priestly order was abused and Christ died to put and end to it. They borrowed other points from scripture and changed them around to suit their needs and concepts of worship. But without God’s Spirit, all they had was one more man made from of worship. Copying it thousands of times did nothing to please God. What they needed to do was get back to what Jesus came to teach. They also needed to go back to understanding prophecies Jesus fulfilled. The prophecies taught by the early church at Jesus’ command.
Every change initiated under the disguise of unity shut God’s Spirit out of worship and sucked God’s Spirit out of each member of what they called their church. There was no way for people to communicate with God’s Spirit when every facet of worship and study was locked in chains of human control. Men recreated the system Jesus came to abolish.
Jesus warned about a big change about to come. People will search for Him but not find Him. We can’t restrict that search to Jesus’ resurrection. People didn’t stop searching for Him after His resurrection. Common sense tells us, that is when people began searching for Jesus. That was one giant landmark in earth’s history that changed this planet forever.
Jesus told them one important detail about their search. “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not.” There is no way anyone is going to find Jesus if they don’t put away their worldly views and what the world told them about searching for Jesus.
I’ve noticed one thing most preachers have in common. Some are very good preachers. They can cover a lot of good points in their sermons. They tell people not to trust any man, or woman. They tell people to search scripture. They tell people how their lives depend on it. They don’t have a problem backing up what they say with scripture. But what most preachers can’t do is teach people how to study God’s Word on their own. They have no idea how to sit down and show people the step by step process. Most preachers follow a particular process to study but they don’t have the ability to sit down and show people what they do. That is a different spiritual gift from the same Spirit.
They may also have a great relationship with God. They may pray 90-99% of the day. They know how to see God in His Word, see Him in action in this world, wonder about Him in nature, and praise Him in song and prayer. But few pastors are able to preach a sermon telling people the step by step process to read and understand God’s Word.
This book is designed to show you patterns in God’s Word so you can learn to use them in your own studies. Like in this section of the book. You can see how I’ve taken my time over these last three chapters. It takes 1-3 days to write a chapter. That gives God’s Spirit a long time to confirm what He is telling me. I’ve had people call me and confirm what I was thinking about or writing at the moment. I’ve chatted with people half way around the world who were influenced at that moment to share details I was just about to write about or had written a few minutes before. None of those people had any idea what I was writing about. God will always confirm His message.
Look at the Old Testament. How many prophets did God send to the Jews when Jerusalem fell? I never counted all of them, but there is a whole list of them. What about the time they spent in Babylon and scattered all over the world? Got sent prophets where they were. God confirmed His messages then and He still follows guidelines He established. And He will continue to do so no matter what men think or say.
“That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” Is there a difference between accepting Christ and knowing Him? How can you accept Jesus if you’ve never known Him? How can you know Jesus if you’ve never met Him or His Spirit? How do you meet the Spirit Jesus promised to send?
I hope I’m not getting ahead of God or John’s book at this point, but there are a few details I think we need to cover. God still speaks to us as clearly as Jesus spoke to those crowds. The problem is, we spend too much time arguing or making excuses. In other words, the lack of reception is our fault. God didn’t loose control or have His connection go bad. We’re at fault. Admitting we’re the problem is the first step.
I don’t really think it matters what you do to talk to God. Everyone I’ve talked to about this subject has their personal way of talking with God. All of them are simple. Some people actually use a prayer closet. Other people find a quite place. The key is a quite place to listen. When people begin to listen to God the enemy is there with a thousand demons to shut out God’s voice, which is like a thought, but clear, unexpected, and if you listen to those preachers who back up what they say with scripture, you better get ready to listen to the Preacher who wrote the book. He is going to flood your mind with so many pieces of scripture you’ll think your swimming in it. Every scripture will be related to the others in ways you never imagined. Things you didn’t understand will become so clear you’ll feel like smacking yourself because you didn’t see it before. You’ll hear God’s voice as soon as you learn to shut out distractions from the world. It takes a little practice.
As you progress, scripture will have a new meaning on everyday life. You’ll see connections you never imagined. You are going to places most people never thought about or knew existed. You’ll see how God’s Word lives, breaths, grows, and multiplies, all without leaving the page. Congratulations, you just found Jesus!!! You are finally following Him.
One thing I need to warn you about. Your meeting with Jesus is personal. Like everyone who talks with Jesus, you’ll remember a great deal of the information He shared with you, but you’ll only be able to explain about 10%. But when He gives you a message to share, He will always confirm that message. Jesus will confirm the message in His written Word. When you read the Bible you’ll see the exact same message within a day or two. Jesus will also send His followers, your friends with faith will confirm the message, and you’ll be able to freely discuss it with them.
Keep in mind, almost all the messages Jesus gives you will be close and personal like the examples we’re seen with Nicodemus and the women He met at that well. And don’t forget, some people will immediately understand the message while other people will be like Nicodemus and take years to understand.
I found out writing is a good way to talk with God. It slows me down. He has a way of showing when it’s time to stop. That’s a signal it’s time to pray or go back and read scripture for the day as I read through the Bible in about 6-9 months. I don’t know how He does it, but He always seems to have a part of the lesson I’m working on in the scripture I read that day.
Sometimes life events blend into the lesson God is teaching at the time. So I have to wait to go through a personal experience before I understand what lesson God is teaching at that moment. Or like I’ve mentioned before, God will send someone with that missing piece of the message.
This may all seem strange to some people but I know, this is the way God works and I know why. God’s method of talking to us and teaching us is designed to keep us humble all the time. When I receive one message from 3-4 different sources, it can never be my message. Only God could have arranged all of those events. We can see the events of our lives unfold and pages of our life story turn like pages in scripture. God is perfectly consistent with the methods He uses. If God created the perfect method of teaching in His Bible, how could he improve on it when it comes to teaching us lessons in our own lives?
Now you can see why I keep showing the simple methods of looking back and comparing scripture, and looking for connections. Those study methods aren’t only used to study the Bible, they are used to listen to God when He teaches us about lessons we need to learn in our lives.
“I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t. For I say only what I have heard from the one who sent me, and he is completely truthful.” Jesus doesn’t condemn, but I have to warn you. When you first begin talking with His Spirit, Jesus can be surprisingly honest. I’m talking about an honesty that cuts to the bone and pierces the heart. Jesus used that method with that woman at the well. He will tell you personal details only you know about.
“Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I AM he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Fathertaught me.” This shows how we won’t understand what Jesus tells us until after we experience it. And like the Gospels tell, Jesus will have to explain those details.
None of those people understood what Jesus was talking about until after His resurrection and He explained all the details to them. Jesus will share details you won’t understand at the moment. You’ll have to be like His disciples and the rest of those people and wait until the event unfolds. Then you’ll have to return for another talk so Jesus can explain all the details in your life.
“The one who sent me is with me–he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” All the messages you receive from Jesus will be directly from God and will follow all of God’s laws. This is also why important lessons will be verified with scripture.
Many who heard him say these things believed in him. Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
But remember, only a few understood while many walked away. Not everyone will accept messages you deliver even when your certain they came from God and have been verified a number of ways. Look at the process and learn from it. God put people in your life you can share your success and disappointments with. Look how many times Jesus was disappointed over the past few chapters. Don’t expect your path to be all downhill. The only path up God’s mountain is uphill. God be with you.
We Are Descendants of Abraham
John 8:33-41 NLTse “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?” (34) Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. (35) A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. (36) So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. (37) Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. (38) I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.” (39) “Our father is Abraham!” they declared. “No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. (40) Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. (41) No, you are imitating your real father.” They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children!God himself is our true Father.”
John showed the selective memory those people had. If we look back a few verses, we see Jesus was talking to the people who believed in Him. We also see an illustration of selected beliefs. People listen to Jesus up to a point. They listen to what sounds good to them and what they agree with. But when something gets a little rough, they change their minds about Jesus.
Those people forgot the Jewish captivity in Babylon. They mentioned Abraham. That goes back generations before the captivity in Babylon when most of the Jews were carried away as slaves. Jesus had to explain, He was talking about being slaves to sin.
Before Jesus was telling them they were going to die in their sins. Now He is telling them they are slaves to sin. Put the two together and you have people dying as slaves. What a life to live. But people don’t feel like their slaves. I’ve heard dozens of people say, “God gives us freedom of choice.” I often wondered what people meant by that. I finally found out when my ex-wife started an affair then filed for divorce. I couldn’t believe people in church thought that cliché took precedence over God’s law. Jesus had another definition for it. He called sin slavery leading to death. Jesus never called sin an option.
Of course Jesus had His own way of explaining this new symbol He introduced. Jesus used the illustration of a family. Some people own slaves who are in their homes but not really part of the family. Slaves are bought and sold. Some owners treat slaves well, other not so well. You can imagine. But children are family. Compared to a slave, family is free. We have to remember, Jesus is talking about being part of God’s family. We can’t confuse God’s family with any family in this world, no matter how good they may be. Jesus used family as another illustration to remind us, we have to leave the world behind when we consider spiritual matters and lessons.
Some of those people in that crowd wanted to kill Him. Jesus was addressing a wide range of personalities. Some accepted His message while others ignored it. What was He supposed to do? Jesus couldn’t make people listen. I guess that was the freedom of choice people were talking about. Jesus summed up that choice in His own way. “I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.” You are free to choose who you want to listen to.
It didn’t matter what Jesus said or how He tried to reach them. Those people who made up their minds to kill Him thought they were following God and everyone else was lost. I’m sure you’ve faced the same dilemma. Not much has changed in two thousand years.
Children of the Father of Lies
John 8:42-47 NLTse Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. (43) Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! (44) For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. (45) So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! (46) Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? (47) Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”
This is a subject I looked at, and didn’t really want to get into. My marriage and divorce keep coming to mind. I wonder how a woman can be married for six years and live what was nothing less than a split personality. She eventually told me, she never intended to stay married. Her plan was to marry and have me support her while she finished her degree and got a job. She told me it was all my fault it took her six years to finish her degree. She planned on only two years, three at the most. So she blamed me for the delay. And took her anger out on me in ways I never imagined anyone was capable of.
Her mother and sister told me, it was tradition from where they came from. They were never meant to remain married to American men. It was their custom to marry American men until they were ready to move on. Even though my ex-wife had been in the US since she was eight years old. Those traditions were still strong. Stronger than common sense. Stronger than God’s law.
God only wrote ten commandments. One of them tells us not to lie. Since when is tradition an excuse to dishonor God’s law? I was shown how lies lead to breaking all the commandments. Lying dishonors God and parents. In her case, lies led to adultery which led to more and more lies. In her anger, she made twisted attempts to drive me over the edge. To use my emotions against me. She went as far as trying to push me into taking my own life by using more lies. She tried to commit murder. Lies also led to character assassination. She tried to do those things because she had no idea Jesus was a far greater force. I saw how Jesus used truth to battle lies. He brought back to mind all the warnings He sent me before I married her. It was not easy to take, but I could not argue with the truth.
I often look at presidents. They look young or at least normal when first taking office. But after four or eight years in office, they often leave, looking like tired old men. Especially now when I see a president younger than me looking so old. Hair turns gray. Faces develop lines. Their bodies show a distinctive stoop. Many people say it is the pressure from all those decisions they have to make. I wonder if it is pressure from trying to keep tract of all the lies they tell.
I saw my wife once, just before she filed divorce papers. I took a few pictures. I was still deeply in love and as we know, love can be blind. I looked at those pictures after I came to terms with the divorce and saw how old she looked. Those lies took a deeper toll on her than they did on me. I healed, but she still lives with the effects of all those lies.
Jesus called the devil the father of lies. He didn’t call him the father of lies to set up a comparison with His Father. Jesus would never compare the two. Not even in a contrast. Jesus called attention to the way the devil spawns lines. The devil cannot create anything. He doesn’t have power to create. All he can do is manipulate. Jesus referred to his followers as children. This is a contrast to God’s children like life and death are contrasts. But the devil cannot produce children. Looking back a few verses we see, all he can do is change them into slaves. His slaves.
The point Jesus was making is, the more we hear lies, the harder it is to hear God. The difference between lies and truth isn’t like a light switch where we have control to turn one on or off. It’s not like we flip a switch and suddenly our lives are filled with light and truth. It is an uphill battle to get away from those lies. This is the point Jesus was trying to make when He said, “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not.”
People can and will get so deep into lies they control every aspect of their lives. One little white lie turns into another. I don’t have to explain the process or effect. What people don’t realize is how the devil uses lies to turn people away from God. How lies make people mistrust God to a point, they are repulsed by God because He is truth. “Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”
Anyone Who Obeys Will Never Die
John 8:48-59 NLTse The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?” (49) “No,” Jesus said, “I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father–and you dishonor me. (50) And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God is going to glorify me. He is the truejudge. (51) I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!” (52) The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say, ‘Anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!’ (53) Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” (54) Jesus answered, “If I want glory for myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who will glorify me. You say, ‘He is our God,’ (55) but you don’t even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But I do know him and obey him. (56) Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.” (57) The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” (58) Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” (59) At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.
Those people proved the point. As soon as they were faced with the truth, they were repulsed by it. Notice how they changed the subject? Jesus just told them the devil is the father of lies. They didn’t take it well when Jesus called them his children. That struck a sour cord. They shot back without thinking. They called Jesus a Samaritan devil. A little while ago they said Jesus was from Galilee. Now they claim He is from Samaria. Which is true and which is false? Notice how they jumped into a lie to defend themselves?
Now we see how far lies will draw people away from God and what they do to people. Those people showed they had no concept of eternal life. Those people showed how little they knew about God. In this lesson Jesus told the cold, hard truth. Something few people are able to accept. Lies pull us away from God as well as eternal life and and understanding of both. Lies distort our concept of right and wrong just like they did in Eden.
Satan wasn’t trying to give Eve anything. He wanted her to serve him. Like Jesus pointed out, Satan wanted to make Eve his slave. That tree didn’t do anything for Eve other than show her what it was like to sin and eventually the consequences. It didn’t give any special powers to her to be like God. She knew the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. But one lie from Satan made the sin look more attractive then the consequences.
How far did the truth get Jesus? He tried to tell them He is the living water. They couldn’t go where He was about to go. They would search for Him but not be able to find Him. For that they tried to arrest Him. Jesus told them if they never sinned, they have the right to cast the first stone. Jesus told them He is the light to this world. He has been given the right to judge, but He prefers not to judge people. Jesus gave them one view of His ministry after another using signs and symbols. But those teachers and priests couldn’t understand.
Jesus once again told them, they couldn’t follow Him to where He was going because they were going to die in their sins. They already proved they were sinners when they dropped those stones and walked away. But they couldn’t bring themselves to accept Jesus and all He was offering them. A portion of their sins were lies, which led to other sins and more lies. Their thoughts proved they were sinners and in need of healing and a savior. They just didn’t want to be saved in the manner Jesus offered them.
Why do you boast about your crimes, great warrior? Don’t you realize God’s justice continues forever? All day long you plot destruction. Your tongue cuts like a sharp razor; you’re an expert at telling lies. You love evil more than good and lies more than truth. You love to destroy others with your words, you liar! (Psalms 52:1-4 NLTse).
Jesus knew all of those trials and disappointments were coming. They didn’t take Jesus by surprise. Neither did their answers or the way they tried to change the subject. Jesus knew what was behind their lies and mistrust. Jesus knew money and status played a major role. But what could Jesus do? He kept on course and introduced lessons they had to hear. Yes, God gave us freedom to choose. Look at the choices those religious leaders and other people made. We see how they made those choices and if we look a little deeper into those stories, we can see why they made those choices.
Finally those people wanted to pick up stones and kill Jesus. They couldn’t do that to the woman caught committing adultery, but they wanted to stone Jesus. Why? Who was committing spiritual adultery in Jerusalem that day?
I felt I had to take a break from Revelation to add in a sort of educational chapter. After reading and writing about Revelation chapter 4, I asked a number of people if it was still possible to approach God’s throne. For the most part, people didn’t want to answer, or didn’t know the answer. But a few did.
Approaching God’s throne is a personal matter. Each person has their own unique way of approaching God’s throne. Some people skip God’s throne while still meeting personally with Jesus while others grasp onto the theme in Hebrews chapter 4 telling us to, “boldly stand before God’s throne.” Let’s face it, personally talking with God and Jesus have been a rather obscure subject to say the least. Either people will agree or disagree. Few people will look at the subject of approaching God’s throne and a learning opportunity. There are a few, but that is a minority of people. An even smaller minority are those who want to share their moments at God’s throne. Those people are few and far between.
When it comes to direct communication with God, doubters go as far back as Moses. No one heard God’s voice for about 400 years. Then one day this well known figure, who could have, and should have done something about slavery in Egypt when he was next to Pharaoh’s throne shows up dressed like a common shepherd. What happened Moses? You were a prince then disappeared. Now your back here telling us God is going to free us from slavery. Why didn’t you do something about it when you were a prince?
It seems God placed Moses in a tight spot. Moses could have taken action when he was next to Pharaoh’s throne. In a sense, Moses did take action by killing a single Egyptian. That didn’t solve anything. Moses had no idea about the big picture. Maybe God had a plan to use Moses when he was in Pharaoh’s court. We have no way of knowing if Moses altered God’s plan to a certain degree. That will be interesting to find out when we get to Heaven. In the long run, God had a plan that worked. In hindsight, Moses placed himself in a tight spot.
No Israelite in Egypt heard God’s voice for over 400 years. Of course they prayed. If you were a slave, you would be praying to. But God didn’t answer. So when Moses showed up and said he talked with God, people doubted. We are still plagued with that mentality. Try sharing something new with someone who thinks they have a direct line with God. Some people have the attitude, “if God didn’t go through them with a message, that message must have come from the other side.” I’ve run into that mentality many times. I ask them how they communicate with God, and they normally shot back with a few verses about false prophets, which has nothing to do with the subject at hand. But those verses about false prophets is their man made defense mechanism they use for every circumstance they don’t agree with.
It took a few choice miracles or plagues, depending on their point of view to convince people, Moses was meeting with God and delivering messages from God. And then there was Pharaoh. The guy who knew each and every one of those Egyptian gods were fake. He thought he was in control and that God Moses talked about was as fake as the gods Pharaoh and his family made up. Pharaoh was a tough nut to crack. In his world everything outside his control was fake. People still have that mentality today.
Eventually God got Israel out of Egypt and into an environment they could mellow out and think. One day God decided to show Himself to Israel so they could believe He was real and could talk to them. Of course every Israelite that left Egypt with Moses saw all those plagues. They saw Egyptian crops being ruined as their crops flourished. They saw Egyptian cattle dying when not one of their cows or sheep showed any signs of being sick. They saw water turn to blood, hail from from the sky, frogs, locusts, and other bugs controlled by God. They should have had a firm belief in God. Something went wrong. After spending their entire lives learning how to fear every god from A to Z, that fear clung onto Israel like the chains that kept them as slaves. Since they were used to someone telling them what the gods demanded, they asked Moses to play that part as a go between themselves and God.
God offered the priesthood to every Israelite that came out of Egypt. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. (Exodus 19:6 KJV). They turned down that offer.
We see the same pattern repeated when Jesus began His ministry. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way, (Luke 4:28-30 KJV).
No one seemed to hear God’s voice for a few hundred years between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. Once again God was silent for a time, and people just thought that pattern would continue. Or they invented new ways to make people think, God spoke to a select few in some mysterious way. So don’t ask for details, just follow their lead.
After the apostles, the same thing happened. No one seemed to hear God’s voice. It seemed the contact with the Holy Spirit Jesus promised was meant for a few choice people, and when they died, this world was left to figure things out on their own. The world grew dark and it seemed it needed a new religious leader. So a group of people got together and selected the most likely candidates God would eventually speak to. One after another was set in solitude to see if they heard God’s voice. After a number of attempts, one man came out of the room and told the committee, he heard God’s voice. That was good enough for that pious committee. They made that man their new leader and created a new religion based on the belief that God talks to one man here in earth, and the rest of the world has to follow dictates from that single man for God to bless this earth. That concept has stuck with this world ever since, and people who don’t fall in line are looked upon as outcasts or part of a cult. The devil won. He convinced the majority of this world that concept of one man between themselves and God was the only choice this world had. For some reason people read the Bible, and instead of taking God’s Word, and following God’s instructions, they decided to take the word of slaves. They decided that the choice that group of slaves made was the only choice. Scholars sipped right over God’s offer to be a nation of priests and clung onto the decision that Israel made. They convinced themselves and much of this world that Israel’s decision was somehow inspired. Reading that story the way it was written shows how Israel rebelled against God. But Satan took out the few words he needed to form a new religion, and had his agents spread it all over the world. Satan thought he had his prison door shut and locked. But God has always been at His best when it came to reaching people in prison.
Today it is rare to find people who approach God’s throne. It is rare to find people who know anything about approaching God’s throne. Or are open minded enough to learn anything about approaching God’s throne. Why is that? We just covered a few of the concepts the devil found to be effective. There are more. Take out a few choice lines in the Old Testament, add in a long speech about how God chose a few choice prophets to talk to, and you have a theology that forges the same chains that one man concept created. In the long run, the devil doesn’t want anyone to approach God’s throne, talk to Jesus, work with the Holy Spirit, or read scripture. Those are a few things the devil fears the most.
As soon as you enter God’s presence, you are in a place the devil can’t touch you. His influence is gone, and you are opening yourself to total, untainted truth. The thing is, you have to learn to put away so many thing this world has taught you. But when you approach God’s throne, you take the first step to separating truth from fiction.
I’ve talked to a number of people over the past week to get their view points on approaching God’s throne. It’s good to know God still has a number of people who will talk to Him. It may seem rather strange to think of God as feeling lonely or rejected. After all, God has billions or requests to deal with from billions of people everyday. God hears their prayers. People ask for favors, blessings, and ask God to deal with countless situations every second of every day. God knows how to deal with each of those situations. If you ever approached God’s throne, you know how God will tell you how to deal with your situation. God will give you step by step instructions you can’t argue with. If you follow those instructions, the problem is solved. The problem is, the devil is watching, and launches a hundred more attacks.
At times God will take you back a few steps to remind you how you got yourself into that mess. God is also a Teacher and Father who never wants you to repeat your mistakes. Correction from God may be a little difficult for some people to accept. That is one reason some people avoid God’s throne. You just have to learn to get over your pride.
I have may own way of approaching God’s throne. It may not be right for you, but at least you have something to think about. I look at Jesus as a way to God’s throne. To me it makes sense to cleanse myself, to make myself pure enough to approach God’s throne. After all, Aaron the high priest had to wash himself and dress in the proper way to enter the Tabernacle and to offer a sacrifice. I ask Jesus to be forgiven for my sins and to be cleansed. Then I find myself in God’s presence. Not so much to make requests, but to listen and learn. I may ask one question, then another. I may go through three or four questions before I hear a response. When I do hear a response, I know it is God’s voice. I could never second guess or argue with any of the answers God offers. They make total sense. God backs them up with stories from scripture. God’s answers are often verified by real life events that confirm His answers and messages.
There are of course as many ways to approach God’s throne as there are people. We all have our own unique personalities. One person may see God’s throne as this, another as that. When we approach God’s throne, we have respect for other people and their stories about being at God’s throne. There is no doubt about that.
The thing about books like Revelation is, people tend to get caught up with trying to figure out the future. That’s something the devil has planted in our brains. The devil wants people to believe, if they can figure out the future, that somehow draws them closer to God. That could not be further from the truth. Common sense tells us, God knows everything about the future. So why would anyone think, God wants us to figure out the future, then tell God what the future holds? That is reverse thinking. It is actually insane. All God wants is people to go to Him for answers. But this world has been trained to go to every other source but God. People have been convinced, God doesn’t talk to this world. But David tells us different story.
The one thing I ask of the LORD– the thing I seek most– is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the LORD with music. Hear me as I pray, O LORD. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” (Psalms 27:4-8 NLTse).
If David could enter God’s Sanctuary, why not us? If God protected David, why not us? God does not play favorites. God can’t love one person more than another. So why does the world teach us, God favors some people over others? That doesn’t make sense when we take the Bible as a whole. It’s time to make a decision. Is your view of God based on what the world wants you to think, what the devil wants you to believe, or direct contact and communication with God? What is our source of information?
What is Bible Study? You may have pondered that question yourself. Or you may never have given it much thought. What is Bible Study? Did you ever wonder how some people came up with facts they took out of the Bible? Where did they get those facts from? How or why did they jump from one book in the Bible to another? It seemed to sound good. All the information seemed to fit together. The subject at hand seemed to be thoroughly explained. The teacher seemed to have gathered information from the Bible to explain the subject at hand. But did they? Was their study guided by the Holy Spirit?
Has anyone ever explained to you what Bible Study is? Have you ever asked anyone to explain the process they used to study the Bible? There are processes to use. We can refer to each of those steps as Bible Study rules, guides, standards, or styles. I prefer the term style. Others may prefer the term rules. Does the Bible contain a set of rules to follow? To an extent the Bible contains and explains its own set of rules and procedures for Bible Study. The serious student of Bible Study will see those patterns, or styles established by scripture.
Ebook ready for download on this site.
Do you have a favorite author? What do you like about that author? Each author has a particular writing style. Writing styles can be much like fingerprints. Every fingerprint may look similar to one degree, but a closer look will reveal unique differences. Think of writing styles more along the lines of DNA. Who really knows what DNA is? You may have have seen an artists conception of DNA drawn on a computer. It looks something like multiple beads arranged along a spiral shaped strand. Every strand is different for each person, animal, bug, and plant in this world. DNA can’t be seen with the human eye, so we are taking the information we read with a measure of faith. That faith requires a degree of trust. Which is in fact a lot like Bible Study. When we receive information from other people, we really don’t see or understand how they put their facts together, so we assume they knew what they are doing. In other words, we are placing a measures of faith and a degree of trust in the hands of some person. Does that sound about right?
Every Christian should know what is at stake. We face two options, eternal life, or eternal death. Okay, there are variations on that choice, but that fact brings up the point, how do we really know? Which brings up the ever popular Bible Study method of, let’s see who can collect the most amount of information on a subject to see who wins the debate. Is that how we are supposed to study the Bible? Do we collect as much information on a subject to see which team on the debate can collect more words? Is there a precise way of measuring those words so we can place our faith and trust on the proper outcome? That may be like trying to identify DNA with the naked eye.
There is another far safer way of researching subjects using the Bible. God’s writing style is unique to say the least. How do you think a group got together to choose those sixty six books we find in most Bibles? Do you think those people on that committee read those books and decided, this one sounds good, that one looks reliable? How deep do you think that committee looked into the available books to decide which made the cut and which didn’t? We have to keep in mind, that committee had to look for books that were inspired by God. Each book had to show links to the other books, the same writing style, patterns, and other details such as sentence structure, use of symbols, key words, and a host of other evidence designed to examine the fingerprint or DNA that went into each book we find in the Bible today. Don’t you think God had that all planned out before He had Moses pen the first word?
Fingerprints, DNA, writing samples, and signatures are all admissible evidence in a court of law. All the evidence is introduced, examined, and presented in a very formal and precise manner in every court system. Why don’t we use the same care and common sense when it comes to Bible Study? Lives are at stake in courtrooms. What do you think is at stake whenever you read and study the Bible? The question is, what kind of evidence do you look for? How do you examine God’s writing style? Is one Bible more reliable than another? How do you know you can trust Bible translators? Don’t people have a tendency to interject personal thoughts and creeds into the Bible translation they are writing? Do transactions loose God’s DNA mark on His Word? Has the fingerprints been wiped clean? It seems we will never run out of questions about Bible Study. What is Bible Study?
God had a monumental task in front of Him when He told Moses to start writing things down. God had to trust Moses. Moses had to know God’s personality to a certain degree. Moses began to write a book God was prepared to spread over generations before it was complete. God had to ensure His writing style survived over a number of generations and could be recognized while using two major languages. Then those Hebrew and Geek manuscripts had to be translated into dozens of different languages all over the world. On top of that, each language was going to have dozens of different translations printed and distributed. Some of those transactions were word for word. That didn’t pose much of a problem or threat. But then the English language came on the scene. English sentence structure is quite different than Hebrew and Greek sentence structure. Other languages posed their own issues to deal with. Somehow God had to put together a collection of books recorded over generations, then deal all those translations, and still maintain the unique signature of the original Author. That sounds like an impossible task. But we have to realize, God created all those languages.
There are a number of ways to examine an author’s writing style. Their choice of words. Each author has a series of favorite words they use though out the books they write. Some authors thrive on using big, important sounding words. Most books on Bible Study are packed with words the average person never heard of, has trouble pronouncing, and in most cases, has no idea what those words mean. That is one signature or writing style to examine. Other authors stick to simple words. Words people can easily associate with and know what those words mean. An authors choice of words is normally consistent.
Writing is a way to convey information. There are technical styles, informal styles, suspenseful styles, descriptive styles, and other variations that a writer develops. An author may use a few of those styles in a book and mix them into any given chapter. That is one type of fingerprint an author leaves on the pages they write. In addition to an author’s choice of words, the combination of styles they use, sentence structure is another piece of evidence to look at. Are sentences short, long, drawn out, how does the author pose questions, comments, and follow up with questions they pose? There are different styles. Some authors are born teachers. That brings up a set of styles to look into. Many teachers like to provide answers before posing questions. Other authors or teachers prefer to ask questions then explain the answers.
All great teachers repeat important details to draw attention to the main theme at hand. How the author chooses to repeat important or key words is another fingerprint an author places in their books. Some authors think nothing about repeating the same word over and over again. Other authors repeat the key word once or twice then substitute similar words with the same meaning. And some authors love to use contrasts to teach a lesson. How an author repeats key words is one of the most important aspects of a writing style to examine.
How does an author flow from one subject to another? How does the author introduce a new subject? How does the author link their thoughts? Are their thoughts scattered, is there a consistent flow from one detail to the next? Does the author emphasis distinct links between one particular subject and the next in their book? The way an author links details is another aspect to examine.
How does an author introduce a subject? Does the author clearly point out the main subject, elaborate, then add a short summary at the end? Does the author pin point the subject, add in the details to make their point, then shift to the next matter to discuss? How concise are the points, how are they presented, and how does the author follow up on details presented? Those are all styles to consider.
Some authors are very good at writing scenes. They can arrange words in such a way, you can picture the scene in your mind. Other authors write in more of a technical manner. You are given enough facts to picture a scene in your mind, but specific details are scattered here and there. Setting the scene is a way of introducing the reader to what is about to happen in the story. Each author has a unique way of introducing a subject or scene.
Every good teacher will summarize subject matter. How an author summaries the lesson they are teaching is another unique writing style to examine. The summary will generally follow the same pattern or style as the introduction. Technical writes will use a technical slant, suspense writers will have their own style, and descriptive writers will generally use one style for an introduction, and another style of writing to sum up that part of the story, or the chapter.
When we look at the Bible, we have to notice how God repeated words. We should be asking why God repeated words. Repetition is not only a good way to teach, but a great way of keeping the student’s mind on the right subject. When we see the God of the Universe repeating Himself, that should tells us there is a good reason to pay attention. One of the most important aspects of Bible Study is to examine the words God repeated, then ask why He repeated certain words. Repetition is one of the most important ways of identifying the author, and extracting information. In Bible Study we refer to that as the General Rule of Repetition. At least in this book I will refer to it as the Rule of Repetition.
Highlighting a copy of the Bible can get you to see details a lot of other people will often miss. As soon as the chapter is highlighted, you can focus on key words God repeated, which sets your mind on the main thought in that chapter.
God not only has a unique way of repeating words, God has His own unique way of introducing a subject. How do you think that committee broke Bible books into chapters? The people who translated that Bible recognized God’s unique writing style and knew when a new subject was being introduced. God also has His own way of summarizing every subject. When the Bible was broken into chapters and verses, it was easy to follow God’s writing style to determine when one subject began, ended, and a new subject or thought began. In Bible Study we refer to that as the Rule of Introductions and Summations. The beginning of every chapter in the Bible contains an introduction to the main theme in that chapter. The end of every chapter in the Bible contains a summary of that subject.
Linking words is another unique style God used from Genesis to Revelation. Every inspired writer used God’s pattern or style of writing. Linking words were an important part of that pattern. When we see a chapter in the Bible begin with a simple word line, “and,” we know the present chapter at hand somehow followed the previous chapter. God used the simple word, “and,” to establish a link He wanted us to see. God also used other simple words and terms such as, “then,” and, “after that.” Those may seem like simple words of little consequence, but they are more important than many people thinks they are. For one thing, linking words establish an inspired link between one chapter and the next. In many cases linking words established a chain of events showing how one event followed another.
Whenever we read the Bible, we have to realize, we are making a connection with the God of the Universe. We have no idea how large that Universe is, how many beings God has to look over, what God has to do to keep the Universe functioning, or how much of God’s time is absorbed by the rest of the Universe. Here we are on this dismal little planet, with no way of knowing how the rest of God’s kingdom lives, what they do, what they eat, how long they sleep, or how they communicate. We can assume a lot of those details, but the point is, God sets apart time to explain the inspired book He gave this world. Do we appreciate the time God sets apart for us? Do we properly use that time God sets apart for us?
If we really knew God, we would see His DNA or fingerprint in every verse in the Bible. We would recognize a forgery in a second. We would find ourselves in God’s loving care 24/7. We would never have to rely on another living soul past, present, or future to explain a single detail in scripture. We would know how to call up God’s help line and go to the only reliable source for every answer, the original Author of the Bible.
There is something referred to as the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the most important ingredient in Bible Study. You cannot efficiently or accurately study the Bible without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our Guide, interpreter, and will reveal all the mysteries in the Bible. That is, the mysteries we are ready, willing, and able to accept. When we study the Bible with the Holy Spirit, we should be able to explain how we made contact with the Spirit, how the Spirit led us to the information, what the Spirit showed us, and what we were told to do with that information.
Some people think the devil knows how to read and interpret scripture. The devil does not have the Holy Spirit to guide him. At best, Satan can only guess at what the Bible says. The devil proved he has no idea what the Bible says when he tried to use scripture to tempt Jesus. Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.'” (Luke 4:9-11 NLTse). The devil used a few lines out of the Bible to try to make a point. In Bible Study we refer to that as proof text. What the devil didn’t see was the next few verses that told the outcome of his encounter with Christ. For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot. Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. (Psalms 91:11-14 RSVA).
That story basically sums up the common proof text method running rampant all over the world today. Just pick out a verse that suits your needs. Who cares about the time and effort God put into writing that series of books. After all, isn’t that God’s job to fulfill our needs? That is not the way Bible Study works. The Bible was not created to fulfill our desire of looking smart, answering questions, or putting people to the test. Most people who use that proof text method will insist the devil knows scripture better than anyone who has ever lived. The Bible proved Satan does not know scripture and his goal is to hid certain facts from us. Like the fact, Jesus is going to walk all over that snake.
I don’t want to concentrate on all the wrong ways people study scripture. That would never accomplish a thing. I could never list all the mistakes people make when studying the Bible using less than reliable methods. Even if I was able to make a list and tell the world, the devil would create another hundred bad study methods.
I did search Bible Study on the Internet. For the most part I find studies that jump all around the Bible to prove a point. People try to identify symbols, solve prophecies, and explain subjects with a handful of text, or maybe one or two. Is that a proper study method? Doubtful. Would you ever sum up a classic novel using a few sentences out of a few chapters? No one in their right mind would to that. Then why are some of the most respected theologians doing that to the Bible? A better question would be, why are people falling for such inadequate and unorthodox studies?
The first step in any Bible Study is to make contact with the Holy Spirit. Most people refer to that as prayer, which is opening up a direct channel to God’s throne. After that contact is made, who is the teacher and who is the student? I think you have those roles figured out. Once that contact is made, and you are at the foot of God’s throne, what do you do? You can be a little like David and throw in a praise or two. You can tell God how great He is and how you appreciate the time and attention He gives in your life. Then you may want to ask a question. This is where people get their wires crossed. People tend to think, since they are dealing with the all knowing God of the Universe, they should have no problem asking a dozen or so questions. Then what happens? In most cases nothing. In an attempt not to cross wires, God remains silent. Why? You just asked a dozen questions, and if you are like me, I don’t remember the order. If God started answering questions, chances are we would mix up the questions with the answers and be in worse shape then before we prayed.
Get into the habit of asking God one question, waiting for an answer, then if you don’t hear an answer, go onto the next question. As soon as you receive an answer, there will be no doubt the answer is from God. You will hear a hundred ideas, stories from the Bible explaining more than you could ever think of, and more than you are ever going to remember. If you sit down to write about your experience, many of the details will come back to mind.
When you are studying the Bible with the Holy Spirit, you will see dozens of details you never saw before. Give the glory to God. He wrote the book.
Now we are about ready to look at a few methods to study the Bible. Each example contains scripture as an example of what to look for, how to see the patterns, links, and connections God placed in His word, and the step by step methods used so you can use them in your own studies. Now let’s get started, and don’t forget to pray before each lesson.
Although Ezra and Nehemiah are written about the same time, different events tell a different spiritual lesson. I was thinking about Ezra, a book we studied as a group some time ago. One deals with rebuilding the temple, the other the wall. Many people look at the rebuilding of the temple without ever considering the story of Ezra as a whole. They think because it was fulfilling prophecy it must have been a good thing. Looking at the details tells another spiritual lesson.
Ezra 3:3 NLTse Even though the people were afraid of the local residents, they rebuilt the altar at its old site. Then they began to sacrifice burnt offerings on the altar to the LORD each morning and evening.
On the surface this may seem to be a good thing, but was it? Which alter did they rebuild? A previous king of Jerusalem tore down the original alter replacing it with a pagan design.
2 Kings 16:10-12 NLTse King Ahaz then went to Damascus to meet with King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria. While he was there, he took special note of the altar. Then he sent a model of the altar to Uriah the priest, along with its design in full detail. (11) Uriah followed the king’s instructions and built an altar just like it, and it was ready before the king returned from Damascus. (12) When the king returned, he inspected the altar and made offerings on it.
God knew this was going to happen. That is why He gave Moses specific orders concerning the altar.
Exodus 20:26 NLTse And do not approach my altar by going up steps. If you do, someone might look up under your clothing and see your nakedness.
Many theologians think the altar patterned from Damascus would have steps leading up to the platform.
The book of Ezra teaches an important lesson. Ezra had a heart that only wanted to follow God and do the right thing. But, he was constantly influenced by people who thought they had a better idea. As long as it appeared they were serving God, they could do no wrong. Here is a short run down of the sequence.
Ezra 7:26-27 NLTse Anyone who refuses to obey the law of your God and the law of the king will be punished immediately, either by death, banishment, confiscation of goods, or imprisonment.” (27) Praise the LORD, the God of our ancestors, who made the king want to beautify the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem!
The problem began in Babylon when King Artaxerxes told Ezra to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Does forcing religion on people ever show the benefits of serving God? What spiritual lessons do we learn from this? Notice where this took place.
The sequence continues after Ezra’s prayer to God.
Ezra 10:1-5 NLTse While Ezra prayed and made this confession, weeping and lying face down on the ground in front of the Temple of God, a very large crowd of people from Israel–men, women, and children–gathered and wept bitterly with him. (2) Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, a descendant of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God, for we have married these pagan women of the land. But in spite of this there is hope for Israel. (3) Let us now make a covenant with our God to divorce our pagan wives and to send them away with their children. We will follow the advice given by you and by the others who respect the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law of God. (4) Get up, for it is your duty to tell us how to proceed in setting things straight. We are behind you, so be strong and take action.” (5) So Ezra stood up and demanded that the leaders of the priests and the Levites and all the people of Israel swear that they would do as Shecaniah had said. And they all swore a solemn oath.
Did you notice one very important missing detail? Ezra did not receive an answer from God. Shecaniah stepped in and offered his own idea of how to handle the situation. Instead of finishing his prayer and waiting for God’s answer. Ezra takes Shecaniah’s advice. Do we still see that happening today? Notice how the Bible points out, “swear that they would do as Shecaniah had said.” What happened to God in this picture? Paul repeated the same mistake when he returned to Jerusalem even though he was instructed not to. Some of the other disciples convinced Paul to offer a sacrifice in the temple to calm down the Jewish believers. Instead of solving the problem, it created a whole new problem for Paul.
I wanted to point this out because I have seen people taking out bits and pieces of Ezra to justify divorce and go way beyond. They side with one party and condemn the other. The church uses bits and pieces of Ezra to make the same mistake he made. They do not finish their prayer to God, but rely on the advice of other people to judge others. They think they are being Christians by accepting one party in a divorce while using Ezra to condemn the other. They didn’t stop there.
Ezra 10:7-8 NLTse Then a proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem that all the exiles should come to Jerusalem. (8) Those who failed to come within three days would, if the leaders and elders so decided, forfeit all their property and be expelled from the assembly of the exiles.
Once they think they have the authority to make decisions it grows like a cancer. First the marriage then the property. Is this what God wanted? No! God never creates new ways of dividing His people. As long as the majority think the decision benefits them, they are more than happy to give all the authority to their leaders.
Ezra 10:14 NLTse Let our leaders act on behalf of us all. Let everyone who has a pagan wife come at a scheduled time, accompanied by the leaders and judges of his city, so that the fierce anger of our God concerning this affair may be turned away from us.”
Of course people also point to Ezra as proof of a God led remnant. But were they? Look at all the parallels between Ezra and the complaining done on the way from Egypt to the promised land. Both groups had only a few people who looked at the way the majority was acting and stood on their own beliefs.
Ezra 10:15 NLTse Only Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah opposed this course of action, and they were supported by Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite.
Once you see how Ezra, a faithful man fell into the trap of following the crowd all the pieces begin to fall into place. You can see why Jesus’ disciples had such a difficult time to put away popular beliefs and understand what Jesus was teaching. Remember how Jesus taught all those lessons in the temple court. When they left the minds of the disciples were still stuck on the grandness of the temple structure. They missed the point Jesus was trying to teach. The disciples still wanted to be like the religious leaders. Imagine Jesus’ followers wanting to model themselves after the people who were about to kill their teacher.
In this series of Bible Studies we will concentrate on patterns in the Bible. Many people miss those patterns because they do not read the previous stories, they are looking for a specific answer to prove a specific point. They do not read enough of the Bible, or they refuse to spend the time required to understand the level the Bible was written. There could be a hundred reasons why people do NOT understand patterns in the Bible. It would be a waste of our time to try to think of all the reasons people do NOT search the Bible the way it was designed to be investigated. The fact of the matter is, the Bible can and will reveal certain patterns and consistencies beyond any and all human forms of literature. Among other things, Patterns in the Bible are living proof this world has a God who created this world, the universe, and has a rather large and soft spot in His heart for this planet that has gone astray.
We live in a world like no other in this Universe. We are the only planet that has fallen to sin and decided we can run this world better than God can run the Universe. Of course this world has made mistakes. No one can argue that point. Millions of people have given their lives to prove this world is not perfect. And there is nothing man can do to restore this world to its perfect state. We’ve lost sight of true paradise, and the God who created that paradise. What can we do to recapture that image of God this world has lost? The first step is to realize and admit, there is no way you can ever explain the image and personality of God you have found. There is no record of Enoch explaining the God he talked to, and transported him to Heaven. Elijah also went to Heaven. But Elijah’s view of God was distorted at best. God was great whenever He performed a miracle and showed how powerful He was. But a little while later Elijah forgot all about the God looking over him.
Elijah may be a rather poor source to study patterns in the Bible. We don’t have enough information about Enoch to study the patterns and consistency he saw in God. But we do have 66 books to look through.
Often times patterns are found in a series of stories. In the New Testament patterns are found in the events recorded about Jesus’ life on this planet. Jesus was a very consist teacher. Most people prefer to think Jesus jumped around from one subject to another. Or people Jesus met knocked Him off His course for a short time. But that was never true. As a human, Jesus could not look into the future any better than you or I can. But through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit coupled with total cooperation with God, Jesus had a very good idea concerning the missions He was on that day. Many of those missions included fulfilling hundreds of prophecies recorded about His life. Each and every one of those prophecies had to be fulfilled in the proper order, in the proper way, and on time. That was an awesome responsibility. There was a pattern that had to be followed. We have the ability to see and follow that pattern. The plan of Salvation is in sense a pattern. We can see that pattern only after reading about the plan of salvation from all the different view points recorded from Genesis through Revelation.
I can show you little bits and pieces of that pattern to help prepare you on what to look for. But I cannot show you all the patterns in the Bible. The Holy Spirit can and will show you more patterns in the Bible if you chose to spend some time studying scripture at the Spirit’s side. That is our choice.
John 11:1-57 NLTse A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. (2) This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. (3) So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” (4) But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” (5) So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, (6) he stayed where he was for the next two days. (7) Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” (8) But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?” (9) Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. (10) But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.” (11) Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” (12) The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” (13) They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. (14) So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. (15) And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” (16) Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too–and die with Jesus.” (17) When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. (18) Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, (19) and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. (20) When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. (21) Martha said to Jesus,“Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. (22) But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” (23) Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” (24) “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” (25) Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. (26) Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” (27) “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” (28) Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” (29) So Mary immediately went to him. (30) Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. (31) When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. (32) When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (33) When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. (34) “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” (35) Then Jesuswept. (36) The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” (37) But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” (38) Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. (39) “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” (40) Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’sglory if you believe?” (41) So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. (42) You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” (43) Then Jesusshouted, “Lazarus, come out!” (44) And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” (45) Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. (46) But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (47) Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. (48) If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.” (49) Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time, said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! (50) You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” (51) He did not say this on his own; as high priest at that time he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation. (52) And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world. (53) So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus‘ death. (54) As a result, Jesus stopped his public ministry among the people and left Jerusalem. He went to a place near the wilderness, to the village of Ephraim, and stayed there with his disciples. (55) It was now almost time for the Jewish Passover celebration, and many people from all over the country arrived in Jerusalem several days early so they could go through the purification ceremony before Passover began. (56) They kept looking for Jesus, but as they stood around in the Temple, they said to each other, “What do you think? He won’t come for Passover, will he?” (57) Meanwhile, the leading priests and Pharisees had publicly ordered that anyone seeing Jesus must report it immediately so they could arrest him.
Here is one chapter in John consisting of one major story. Based on what we’ve seen in other chapters, we have to look at the story as a whole and compare details to the story as a whole. Here we see Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave. At first Lazarus was sick and finally died. Jesus waited a few days to go see Mary and Martha. Why did Jesus wait? Many people seem to think Jesus waited so there wouldn’t be any question Lazarus’ death. That wasn’t the only reason.
Compare introductions from a series of chapters in numeric sequence, such as chapter 9 and 10. If chapters share the same or similar introductions, it is a repeat of the same lesson. The inspired author is drawing attention to the same subject because additional information is being provided. The series of stories in each connecting chapter are arranged to add details and emphasis to the same lesson.
Jesus wanted to emphasize the waiting period which encompassed a vital part of Jesus’ ministry as well as our personal ministries and life in general. Waiting is what Jesus had to do. As we’ve seen in previous chapters, Jesus had to wait for the right time to go to Jerusalem during the Festival of Tabernacles. He had to wait for God’s Spirit to establish the proper sequence of events to reach the right people as well as teach lessons the way they needed to be presented and taught.
Jesus’ longest and most difficult wait was for His sacrifice and death. Imagine knowing how and when your going to die. Few people can put themselves in that position to feel what Jesus felt. Condemned prisoners and some people with certain diseases are among the few. Imagine sitting there, helpless to a large degree, hoping, praying something would happen to save you. What goes through your mind as days, hours, and minutes tick away and there is nothing you can do to stop time?
I’m in the Real Estate business and I often run across this scenario of waiting and hoping. When people have equity in their homes and miss a few payments, banks have procedures to follow. Some of them are not that pleasant. The bank demands payment while adding fines and penalties. They may offer a restructured loan but often times when the bank is in a position to take back a home where the loan amount is far below fair market value, it is in the bank’s best interest to foreclose and resell at a profit. So the bank uses laws to protect itself while making it impossible for the homeowner to dig their way out of that financial pit. After three months the bank offers a restructured loan with terms the homeowner cannot afford to pay. The bank demands payments of 150% of the original loan payment for a period of six months to bring the account back in order. After six months the same offer is made to pay back 150% of the original loan amount for a year. If the homeowner cannot afford to pay, the back refers the loan to an attorney. New fees and penalties are added to the loan amount and the foreclose goes through the court system. After that, the homeowner has one hope, to pay the entire loan amount plus thousands of dollars in fines, penalties, and extra charges in one lump sum. The only hope is to sell the property to make the payment.
Months, weeks, days, and hours tick by as the homeowner waits for an offer. Buyers in the real estate market are looking to make a killing. Any buyer who finds out the home is in foreclosure wants to put pressure on the homeowner to sell at the break even point. After years of making payments and building equity in a home, the world wants to steal it all and justifies their actions based on the simple battle cry from the enemy, “everyone does it.” Hours tick away as prayers go out to send one buyer with a sense of justice while the world tries to squeeze the homeowner into submission.
Many people don’t realize what it takes to sell a house. Most often a sale relies an the sales of the buyer’s existing home. Now here is how the world likes it to work. The buyer thinks he should get thousands over market value for their house while they want the seller to sell for thousands under fair market value. It is a difficult profession to work in when you have to constantly explain what fair market value is, and it is not right to expect others to perform a major sacrifice for another person to make a major profit. In other words, it is not right to expect others to sacrifice for your benefit. But isn’t that what Jesus did?
When I look at this world and how one portion of the plan of salvation works, I am shocked at what I see. I have no idea how the world approaches God with ideas to restructure His offer. Look at how it is supposed to work. God will bring down a city He called New Jerusalem. It is roughly half the size of the United States and a few hundred feet tall. The size of the city is beyond imagination. How do people react to that? All God wants people to do is give up their puny homes in exchange for a free place to live. Of course we need to give up everything else but look what we get in return. Free food, clothes, and everything we need. Compare the quality and nutritional of the food God will provide to what we find in stores. There won’t be any comparison at all. In Heaven our clothes won’t wear out. That doesn’t compare to the clothes we get here. We don’t know the cloths we’ll get from God, but we know we’ll also be giving up expensive prices and defects, as well as obsessions to keep up with the latest styles. Not to mention slave labor often used in the manufacture of fashion clothing. People who are saved have a million reasons to leave this world without looking back. If they can see the world for what it is.
Most Christians say they’re waiting for Jesus’ return. But are they waiting for His return with that same feeling of watching the minutes and days go by with any type of anticipation? Many Christians look at Jesus’ return with the same type of emotions as the homeowner waiting for the bank to foreclose. Most of them won’t admit it, but they look at Jesus’ return as a time they have to give up everything. Not as a day they gain everything. Look at those previous chapters. How could Jesus offer all those groups eternal life, understanding, and more, while their first and only reaction was to turn it down? There was more at play than traditions and doctrines. There was a whole lot of selfishness at stake. There is a lot of this world they don’t want to give up.
People try to explain the delay in Jesus’ return, but how many people try to understand it? How many people ask Jesus why it is taking much longer than most people expected. People try to convince themselves this delay is another example of God’s love. They may be right on one aspect. But why limit the delay on the first thought that comes to mind? What about examining Jesus’ delay from other aspects.
The best place to begin is in the mirror. Are you ready? In return for giving us everything, all God asked in return is to have everyone follow His laws. That shouldn’t be difficult. There are only ten of them. It should be easy enough for a child to memorize. But some people want to wheel and deal with God. They want to rewrite those terms. I got news for them. It doesn’t get any better than free. As far as following the law, what kind of Heaven do you want? A lawless society with absolutely no laws. Imagine a world like that. Sounds like a science fiction story. Every man for himself. Soon people would create a society worse than Sodom. It wouldn’t take long to become a lawless society where the strongest ruled. How long would it take for them to make their own laws? And people teach something like that would last an eternity. The question is, are you ready to accept God’s law? His Kingdom’s happiness depends on everyone keeping all His laws.
What does all that have to do with Jesus raising Lazarus from his tomb? This story goes beyond physically raising a dead man. It gives us a glimpse of looking at many situations where people had had to wait, including ourselves.
Once again, I’d like to take a look at how John led us into this story about Lazarus. Remember, John didn’t write this book with chapters. He wrote his book to tell us steps Jesus took in His ministry and how Jesus received instructions from God through the Spirit. Here we have a great source to learn from.
Here is one of the most important Bible Study steps you want to learn and use:
Always look back to see how the author led into the event at hand. Most of us know in original scripture, neither the Old or New Testaments were divided into chapters and verses. That came much later. That has little to do with this rule, but to understand scripture, we have to look for patterns. One of those is how the author lead from one event to the next.
Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.” Once again they tried to arrest him, but he got away and left them. He went beyond the Jordan River near the place where John was first baptizing and stayed there awhile. And many followed him. “John didn’t perform miraculous signs,” they remarked to one another, “but everything he said about this man has come true.” And many who were there believed in Jesus. (John 10:37-42 NLTse).
What a way to lead into this story. Jesus just told them to watch the work He does for His Father. Actions always speak louder than words. Jesus didn’t tell them what was about to happen, but He did tell them to watch and learn. Could anyone else raise a dead man other than God? If we look closely, we can begin to understand the underlying lesson of timing. We also see another factor of timing. Jesus had a lot of people following Him at that time. That detail was a factor. Did God want to perform such a fantastic miracle without witnesses?
John began this story with a detail we see in other books and chapters. Most people miss this detail because it’s not the answer they’re looking for. John gave us some background on the main story in this character. John told us about Lazarus’ family. On the spiritual side, this puts the lesson into context. John told us this is a close, personal family matter. John took that concept a step further by telling us a little about the relationship Mary had with Jesus. Which of course is an extension of the family relationship introduced in the previous sentence. Not only does one chapter and story blend together, so do sentences within those stories.
Martha and Mary sent a message to Jesus reminding Him Lazarus was His friend and was in need of His help. What does that tell us about people Jesus met? It should mean a lot when they considered God’s Son their friend. After all, wasn’t that part of Jesus’ ministry? John made certain to point out all three members of the family were involved.
Jesus immediately pointed out, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” Jesus gave the glory to God from the very beginning. Jesus also pointed out something had to change with the way many people perceived Him. One of the things Jesus was trying to teach is how He and God worked together. People have to first understand that concept before they can move to the next level, working with God themselves.
John told us, Jesus stayed where He was for two days. Later we see Lazarus was dead for four days. Jesus must have been at least one day journey from Bethany. If it took the message a day to reach Jesus and another day for Jesus to travel to Bethany, Lazarus must have died a short time after Martha and Mary sent for Jesus.
When Jesus told His disciples it was time to go to Judea, his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?” We can see the time frame of this story did not take long and closely followed the previous story. The time frame plays an important part in this story and also the spiritual implications it covers. This is such an important lesson showing how Jesus used time as a symbol. Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.”
Jesus wanted to point out a mistake the disciples made because they weren’t paying attention. He already told them how Lazarus’ sickness was meant to bring glory to God and Himself. Now you have to ask yourself why the disciples would want to keep Jesus away from the glory He just told them about. You can see, the disciples remembered what happened a few days ago, but forgot what Jesus told them a few minutes ago. They obviously didn’t get the message the first time. Jesus remembered the past few days in Jerusalem and how He had to keep repeating Himself. Now He finds Himself with His disciples getting the same response. What was He going to do? Jesus walked around the group with His head hung low facing the ground. The disciples could see the disappointment in Jesus’ body language. Jesus gave them time they needed to think and review what He already told them. Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.”
When something is unusual, it is time to pay attention.
When God repeats Himself, it is time to pay attention.
Jesus introduced a new symbol. One the disciples should have known and recognized. Jesus was a little surprised at their answer. The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. Jesus kept looking at the ground as He shook His head. Jesus knew the disciples answered quickly because they really weren’t thinking. He wondered where they got that habit from and how He was going to cure them of it. So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.”
This is kind of a strange story when we look at the details. Jesus was about to rise Lazarus from the grave. God could give Jesus the power to bring a man back from the dead, but he couldn’t get His disciples to slow down and listen. It’s not like they weren’t dedicated. Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too–and die with Jesus.” They wanted to do a good job supporting Jesus any way they could. They wanted to serve Him and follow Him, but it seems they always fell short. They had too much of the world in them.
John didn’t record what they talked about on the road, what Jesus taught them, or how He prepared them for what they were about to see. Jesus knew what He was going to do. He already gave the disciples a hint.
When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. John has a way of recording certain details. To catch the spiritual meaning, we have to pay attention. When we see lesson after lesson repeated, we have to pay attention. God has a sense of humor and His own way of pointing us back. He wants us to remember how He likes to use contrasts. In this case God is using a contrast to teach. God wants to show how we can review details, look back, and learn. Then consider the way all those people, including His disciples applied what Jesus told them.
John wanted us to know they were close to Jerusalem. He didn’t abandon them, but kept His distance. We have to remember, God is about to perform a miracle and news will quickly spread. Jesus just showed us how we have to back away and let God’s Spirit work with the little work we’ve done for Him. This is an illustration showing how all things work together for the good of God.
John also showed people came from Jerusalem to comfort Martha and Mary. This should remind us about the summation in the previous chapter we reviewed. So we can see how John’s account of the story is reminding us of what we need to do to see the whole story, or confirm whar we have read. To accomplish that task, we need to follow the correct steps.
Something strange happened when Jesus arrived. When we look back at another story, Martha was so busy preparing a meal for Jesus and His disciples, she didn’t have enough time to sit down to listen to Jesus. This seems like a piece of the puzzle that doesn’t seem to fit into this lesson. When we look at what Martha said to Jesus, it appeared Martha listened.
When Martha got word Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus,“Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”
Martha must have learned about the resurrection from some where? Was it from her sister Mary who listened to Jesus? Or did they have their own copy of scripture to study? Another detail we have to remember is the Old Testament was translated to Greek and freely distributed more than two hundred years before Jesus’ birth. John didn’t fill us in on the details, but he did point us to another important detail.
Even Martha misinterpreted Jesus when He tried to comfort her. But in an understandable way. Not many people would have expected Jesus to raise Lazarus from the grave. We see how Jesus tried to comfort Martha when He repeated the word believe. It was good for Jesus to hear someone tell how much they believed in Him. That comforted both of them.
Martha is the symbol of someone who really believes and follows Jesus. In her grief she reached out to comfort Jesus. She would have done it for anyone. It is a quality all of Jesus’ followers posses. The ability to always look to God and find a way to use grief and a trial to help others. We see this confirmed when Martha left Jesus, found her sister, and told her where Jesus was. We can see Martha’s personality when she stayed in the house with the guests who came to comfort them.
We can see another contrast when we see Mary’s meeting with Jesus. It was quite different from Martha’s. When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She almost blamed Jesus for her brothers death. Now when we look at that other story about Martha and Mary, things really seem odd. Mary was the one who sat a Jesus’ feet and listened to Him. Now we have a strange scenario to consider. How can the sister who appeared to be listening to Jesus not really know Him, but the one who appeared to miss what He was teaching knew so much?
This brings us back to those copies of the Old Testament distributed all over the known world. There were also Hebrew copies of the Old Testament sold for a much higher price. Based on Mary’s reaction, it doesn’t appear Martha learned what she said from Mary. We also have another possibility. Martha developed a close relationship with God’s Spirit. A combination of God’s Word and His Spirit is the most obvious answer and the best we can hope for.
When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesuswept.
I remember having an on line discussion about Bible Study. I was introducing a few simple study methods to help people get more out of the Bible and draw into a closer relationship with God’s Spirit. One man opposed everything. He complained it was too confusing to learn. He accused me of making up the rules of context. He insisted the Bible is literal with no hidden meanings or spiritual messages. In other words, each verse explains itself.
He used this verse as an example, Jesus wept. Since it is the shortest verse in the Bible, he thought his comment was safe. But why did Jesus weep? We can’t tell from two words. A single sentence can express the emotion and anguish, but when we don’t learn from trials, we’re doomed to repeat them. With that in mind, we have to pay close attention to trials Jesus faced.
Looking back for information works the same way and teaches the same lesson the disciples had to learn when it came to healing and helping people. Looking back relies on God’s Word and His Spirit.
One of the rules of context tells us to look back for answers. This takes attention off preconceived ideas and things we’ve been taught. Some times we have to consider the source. When we look back at what made Jesus weep, we don’t have much of a problem seeing how people didn’t want to listen. People wanted to arrest Him, stone Him, and tried as hard as they could to discredit Him. They didn’t want to believe or accept the miracles He performed. We also saw how Jesus knew what He was going to do before He traveled to Bethany. What reasons did Jesus have to weep? He was looking into the future and saw how many people wouldn’t accept the miracle He was about to perform. Jesus looked forward to His return where millions would be raised from the grave. Jesus saw how many people would be missing. Why can’t we see the future like Jesus saw it?
Why did Jesus stay at the tombs instead of traveling all the way to Martha and Mary’s house to see them? There must have been a good reason. What was at those tombs? Jesus taught us, we have to face our demon’s alone. After Jesus was baptized, God’s Spirit led Him into the wilderness to face Satan alone. But He was never alone. God was always with Him. That was one lesson we all have to learn from every trial, with every demon we face. Why alone?
If we face those demons around people many things can go wrong. We could accept poor advice. Demon’s can use people we think we can trust and draw as further under their control. Demons will find new ways to block out communication with God. Our only safe way of defeating them is to trust totally in God and totally unite with Him. Other people may support and encourage us, but only God should give us direction and orders.
The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” John showed us how some people trust in Jesus and some people doubt Him. How can we know for certain which Christians are for real and which are not?
Miracles are another matter. Miracles need witnesses who believe. Notice how John pointed out believers were present before Jesus raised Lazarus. Some people have come up with some strange interpretations about this story to explain how Jesus raised only one person in a graveyard. They question God’s power and this miracle He performed. By questioning, they miss a majority of the spiritual lessons associated with this miracle.
We see how often the key words dead and tomb are repeated. John made certain they couldn’t be missed. Anyone reading this story will see that point. One word we don’t see repeated is angry. Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”
John used an unusual Greek word to express Jesus’ anger at the time. It is a physical but subtle display of anger. Not a verbal display, but translated as a snort or sigh. Jesus told some men to roll that stone away. Another reason Jesus needed people present. This showed how we play a part in miracles. A small but important part. Notice how Jesus had the disciples distribute food when He fed thousands. Don’t you think God could have easily taken care of that detail if He wanted to?
Martha told Jesus about those four days to display her doubts. This is one of the things we face before God is about to perform a miracle. Don’t we all have a shadow of doubt when things look darkest and it appears there is nothing to do but give up? That is how it is going to be just before Jesus returns, but much worse than we could image. God will send signs. Most of them will be ignored. Or the enemy will find ways of explaining them, covering them up. Like people at that tomb, there will be a lot of people who follow Jesus but will express doubts. There isn’t enough doubt in this world to stop God.
Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’sglory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Jesus gave out one last call and demand. Once again Jesus had to repeat Himself. Jesus reminded us how He repeats Himself when something is important. Jesus pointed out another key word, believe.
Jesus remained by the tombs. He went away by Himself to pray for a while before Martha, then Mary and the others would come to see Him. When they arrived, they found Jesus among the tombs. There were many of tombs in that graveyard. Some with stones covering the entrance. Others were open, waiting for someone to fill them. Many of them were in different states of preparation. Piles of stones lay near their entrances showing how one thin layer of stone was cut from the tomb like layers of stone covering the heart of a nonbeliever ready to be released.
It was early spring. The cold bitter winter had passed. New life was sprouting up from the ground everywhere. Even in a graveyard there are reminders of new life. Jesus’ familiar image was easy to distinguish among the rocks and tombs. People flocked to Him. Some with anticipation, others with doubts.
As soon as they were gathered and settled down, Jesus said a silent prayer to His Father. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesusshouted, “Lazarus, come out!”
Jesus allowed people to express their doubts before He proceeded with that miracle of a life time. Some accepted their doubts as a trial and learned from it. With all the proof Lazarus was dead for four days, no one could argue or deny God’s power. The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
This story shows how some people will not believe no matter what God does. They doubted all of the other miracles they heard about and witnessed. They doubted their eyes. They were spiritually blind, their hearts harder than the rock that entombed Lazarus. Where did those people go? Right back to their religious leaders.
We see the same scenario today. People see a miracle, they learn something new. Instead of investigating the matter themselves, and with God’s Spirit, they run off to their religious leaders for advise. They have demons, but refuse to face them alone on God’s ground. They can’t accept what they’ve see with their eyes, yet they prefer the advise of men over God’s miracles. What a twisted faith they follow.
Jesus repeated another lesson to show the role we have in miracles. We not only have a small role in the preparation of a miracle, our work extends past the act of a miracle. Moses told the people to remember what they saw in Egypt and tell it to their children so they can tell it to their children.
Now Jesus had the leading priests and Pharisees on the ropes. How could they explain Lazarus’ resurrection? “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.” They immediately jumped to conclusions expecting the worse. They failed to pray and ask God what it all meant and where it would lead.
Next John recorded a very unusual lesson. But one we see repeated throughout the Bible. No matter how vialed a person is, no matter how far away from God they’ve run, God’s Spirit can still reach them. Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time, said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” He did not say this on his own. As high priest at that time he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation. And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world.
God has a way of using some of the strangest people as prophets. People love to place a personal interpretation on a prophet. But God has His own spiritual interpretation of a prophet. The two definitions don’t necessarily agree. You can look back in the Bible on your own to see some of the people God used to deliver messages or put events into motion to perform miracles and bring glory to God.
So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus‘ death. As a result, Jesus stopped his public ministry among the people and left Jerusalem. He went to a place near the wilderness, to the village of Ephraim, and stayed there with his disciples. John pointed out how doubt casts a shadow on Jesus, the miracles He performed, and slows down Him ministry. Doubt, fueled by jealousy and hatred can stop the message from reaching places. In this case Jerusalem was used as a symbol. At that time Jerusalem was the religious capital of the Jewish faith much more than it is today. Like that day Jesus rose Lazarus, that same jealousy, hatred, and greed still blocks Jesus from a major portion of Jerusalem.
It was now almost time for the Jewish Passover celebration, and many people from all over the country arrived in Jerusalem several days early so they could go through the purification ceremony before Passover began. They kept looking for Jesus, but as they stood around in the Temple, they said to each other, “What do you think? He won’t come for Passover, will he?” Meanwhile, the leading priests and Pharisees had publicly ordered that anyone seeing Jesus must report it immediately so they could arrest him.
John gave us a clue how far religious leaders will go to silence the competition. Arresting people for their beliefs? Does that make sense? Now look at the timing of this event. God’s timing may be one of the most difficult subjects to understand, but once you see how it works, it will open up the Bible like you never imagined.
God’s timing is best explained using what we view as a linear, or strait, one dimensional timeline. God of course has a different view of time. He knows nothing but eternity and has the power to see future events, as well as having a perfect memory of the past. Since we do not possess those qualities to the same degree as God, He arranged the Bible in a manner we should find easy to understand. The fulfillment of a prophecy represents one point on that linear timeline. As we study, using the basic rules of context, we find events and lessons intersecting that point. In this example, John’s conception and birth are intersected by the prophecy in Malachi chapter 4. Some fulfillments have a number of lines intersecting their point in time. Each intersecting line teaches a lesson. Each line travels on an angle in its own associated time period. In this case, the symbol, Sun of Righteousness, covers the same time period in one aspect of time, and much more.
In this example we have a number of events happening on the same day in the same sequence of time. Lazarus rose from the grave just before Passover. What does this bring to mind? It is a prelude to Jesus’ resurrection. We have a time line with one point, Lazarus’ resurrection. To see the extent of the full lesson we have to consider Jesus’ resurrection, which is one intersecting line. John pointed out another, Mary anointing Jesus. When we see how that story intersects this point in time and compare the stories, we learn a new series of lessons. Most of which we never saw before. Thomas also made an unusual statement. “Let’s go, too–and die with Jesus.” This draws attention to Peter at another moment in Jesus’ ministry, adding another intersecting timeline and its associated lessons.
When you visualize a timeline like this, you have to see how Lazarus’ resurrection intersects Jesus’ time line when He died and rose from the grave. There are other associated events on those time lines that are related. When we compare them, we begin to see deep spiritual lessons and how one story helps to explain details about the other.
One of the subjects we see explained is how people doubted. This coincided with how people doubted when Jesus rose from that tomb. Another detail is the scenes and how they are described. Of course we have to compare the people who believed. Mary is one person linking the people at Lazarus’ tomb with those at Jesus’ tomb. That comparison showed a transformation. The point is, scripture is filled with details most people skip over when they’re reading God’s Word and not allowing His Spirit to guide Him. They don’t hear His voice, so they missed a lot of those details designed to open new understanding and a closer relationship with Jesus. We see those lessons in this story and the series of stories that led to this event. John repeated the fact many people didn’t listen for a reason.
Now that you’ve learned a few simple methods to study your Bible, pray and open it up. Take a look. What does God have to tell you? What are you willing to learn? It’s up to you. What you learn is only limited by time and how willing you are to listen. I know one thing for sure. Once you start, it’s hard to put down God’s Word. It may take only a few minutes a day, or an hour or so. Try writing. That will slow you down enough to hear God’s voice. You can study with a hard copy Bible or use a computer Bible program like I do.
Here is a Bible Study step you want to learn:
I use a free Bible Study program called E-Sword. With this free program, you can add a number of free Bibles. One you have to download is called the KJV+. This is the version containing Strong’s numbers and works with the Strong Concordance, a very important Bible Study tool containing Hebrew and Greek dictionaries. One of the Bibles you may want to buy is the NLTse (New Living Translation, second edition).
Using a Bible program allows you to highlight and underline texts, copy and paste, set bookmarks, provided a set of cross reference texts, and much more. You can quickly switch from one Bible version to another as well as look at definitions in the Greek and Hebrew dictionaries in the Strong’s Concordance. Bible Study programs can speed up studies as well as make it easy to organize your studies. You’ll also want to use a good word processor. I prefer the free version offered by Open Office. Linus offers a similar program called Libre. We have so many tools and when we look for new lessons, so much time. And if you don’t have enough time, remember, God can always make more.
When something is unusual, it is time to pay attention.
When God repeats Himself, it is time to pay attention.
When you see patterns forming, list them in a chart. Charts make it much easier to see the connection between related events and where they are leading.
Once a pattern is established, and we see a break in it, this is an indication to pay attention. It often indicates a movement into a new event. Often a break in an established pattern leads into a sever warning or a wonderful promise of fulfillment.
There is one thing about patterns in the Bible. People can and will see different patterns. I’ve seen a few patterns in the Bible, other people see different patterns in the Bible. If you see any patterns not listed in this book, or on this Internet Post, let me know. We can share and increase our knowledge of Patterns in the Bible.
That’s one of the ways God works. That is a pattern of teaching God uses. God will show one person a bit of information or a pattern in the Bible, and another person other information, and a whole different pattern in the Bible.
How do you find patterns in the Bible. The only way to find Patterns in the Bible is to read a whole lot of the Bible. Reread and reread the Bible. Compare chapters, stories, the Old Testament with the New Testament, and go back and do it over again and again. God shares the most interesting details with His most dedicated students.
This is another chapter in a book I am writing about Bible Study. I want to see if I can get any feed back on this book before finishing and publishing it. Learning how to study scripture should not be difficult to learn. So your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Don’t forget to subscribe for updates.
Chapter 13 Looking Back in Scripture
Looking back for information works much the same way as introduction and teaches the same lesson the disciples had to learn when it came to healing and helping people. Looking back relies on God’s Word and His Spirit.
Here is one of the most important Bible Study steps you want to learn and use:
Always look back to see how the author led into the event at hand. Most of us know in original scripture, neither the Old or New Testaments were divided into chapters and verses. That came much later. That has little to do with this rule, but to understand scripture, we have to look for patterns. One of those is how the author led from one event to the next.
Looking back in scripture is much like looking back at the summary of a chapter to explain the main theme. The difference is, when you look back in scripture, you are normally looking back at how the previous chapter ended. In other words, you are comparing the introduction of one chapter to the summary in the previous chapter. This is a rather easy study method to learn, us, and teach.
On some cases looking back to the first time that particular word, person, or thing was mentioned in the Bible can become a real asset. That is often referred to as the rule of first mention. In any case, the main theme and context of the stories has to be compared to ensure the same lesson is being addressed. I rarely use the rule of first mention.
The Gospels tell us to look back at scripture to find answers. Many of the same basic stories follow one another from one Gospel to the next, to the next. We have four chances to see the patterns and sequences. If we miss those, it is not God’s fault.
Some of the stories in the Bible were not recorded in the same order. One Gospel will contain information others do not. One Gospel may omit information found in the other three. Some people are alarmed or concerned about that fact. What we need to do is set aside the questions the world asks and concentrate on what we have in the Bible. One series of stories may be easy for you to relate to the first time you read them, and another series of stories may be easier for me to relate to. The Bible is designed to reach billions of people over a number of generations, and all those people are on different learning levels. Learning from the Bible has to be direct as well as personal. Using different story arrangements seems to be one of the most effect manners to accomplish such a task.
We almost never pick up on all the lessons in the Bible the first time we read through it. There are times we get to one story and it seems we can’t understand a thing. Our mind is filled with questions, and we have no idea where to turn for the answers. If we paid attention, we would know those questions are placed in our heads by the Holy Spirit. Those questions are telling us, we missed something and need to go back and review previous stories. It is as simple as that.
Why is it important to look back in scripture? Not only will looking back in scripture provide the answers we are looking for, looking back will also teach us an important lesson about how God’s Spirit communicates with this world. You can look back at your own life at any moment to see how God has been trying to communicate with you.
When you finally decide to pray and look back in your life, you will see a series of events, a series of choices, and your present life will show the results of those choices. You have to learn a few things before you can hear the connection between the Holy Spirit and your life. You have to learn to be totally honest, humble, and how to listen when you pray.
When you open up your ears in prayer and look back in your life, you will hear about choices you were offered, both sides of those choices. You will also hear about the warnings Jesus tried to send, but you may have ignored them. While praying, you will be amazed at the perfect order those thoughts and memories enter your mind, and how detailed those memories become. You will actually be able to see how things would have turned out if you made different choices. Especially if you finally understand those warnings you chose to ignore. Jesus will go over a series of warnings He sent to show you, He was always there. You may have missed those warnings, or written them off as something that was not related to the decision at hand. Or you may have made up your mind on the matter and nothing was going to change your decision. That is when pride steps in and common sense flies out the window. That is why it takes so much effort to look back and understand the warnings that were ignored. Pride has to be done away with. Which may not be easy for some people.
Looking back in your life may be the biggest and most exciting blessing you may ever receive. At times it may not be easy. And Jesus will not skip over the times you let Him down, ignored His warnings, and refused to help one of His brothers or sisters. People don’t want to face that type of conversation with Jesus. That is a sort of fear you have to learn how to overcome. It can be done. Putting aside your pride will show you, Jesus has something far better to replace that void. Looking back on your life can bring such a peace you will wonder why you have not been doing that your entire life.
This series of chapters in this book will show you how to look back in scripture. You will see how people in the Bible missed warnings, didn’t listen to Jesus or God, made the wrong choices, and the results of those choices. You will also see how Jesus gave people a second chance to look back in their lives, realize the mistakes they made, and ask to be forgiven.