Category Archives: Verse of the day

June 19, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

26. Lift up your eyes on high. The Prophet appears to linger too long on this subject, more especially because it presents no obscurity; for he repeats by many statements what is acknowledged by all, that God’s wonderful power and wisdom may be known from the beautiful order of the world. But we ought to observe what I have already said, that we are so wicked and ungrateful judges of the divine power, that we often imagine God to be inferior to some feeble man. We are more terrified frequently by the empty mask of a single man than we are strengthened by all the promises of God. Not in vain, therefore, does the Prophet repeat that God is defrauded of his honour, if his power do not lead us to warm admiration of him; nor does he spend his labour in what is superfluous, for we are so dull and sluggish that we need to be continually aroused and excited.

Men see every day the heavens and the stars; but who is there that thinks about their Author? By nature men are formed in such a manner as to make it evident that they were born to contemplate the heavens, and thus to learn their Author; for while God formed other animals to look downwards for pasture, he made man alone erect, and bade him look at what may be regarded as his own habitation. This is also described beautifully by a poet: “While other animals look downwards towards the earth, he gave to man a lofty face, and bade him look at heaven, and lift up his countenance erect towards the stars.”2 The Prophet therefore points out the wickedness of men who do not acknowledge what is openly placed before their eyes concerning God, but, like cattle, fix their snout in the earth; for, whenever we raise our eyes upwards, with any degree of attention, it is impossible for our senses not to be struck with the majesty of God.

And see who hath created them. By mentioning the stars, he states more clearly that the wonderful order which shines brightly in the face of the heavens preaches loudly that there is one God and Creator of the world; and all who shall observe, that amidst the vast number and variety of the stars, so regular an order and course is so well maintained, will be constrained to make this acknowledgment. For it is not by chance that each of the stars has had its place assigned to it, nor is it at random that they advance uniformly with so great rapidity, and amidst numerous windings move straight forwards, so that they do not deviate a hairbreadth from the path which God has marked out for them. Thus does their wonderful arrangement shew that God is the Author and worker, so that men cannot open their eyes without being constrained to behold the majesty of God in his works.

Bringing out by number their army. Under the word army he includes two things; their almost infinite number, and their admirable arrangement; for a small number of persons do not constitute an army, and not even a considerable number, if there be not also numerous companies. Besides, it is not called an “army,” when men are collected together at random, and without any selection, and in a confused manner, or when they wander about in a disorderly state, but where there are various classes of officers, who have the charge of ten, or a hundred, or a thousand men, and where the ranks are drawn up and arranged on a fixed plan. Thus the wonderful arrangement of the stars, and their certain courses, may justly be called an “army.”

By the word number he means that God always has this “army” at his command. In an army the soldiers may wander, and may not be immediately collected or brought back to their ranks by the general, though the trumpet sound. But it is otherwise with God. He always has his soldiers in readiness, and that “by number;” that is, he keeps a reckoning of them, so that not one of them is absent.

He will call to all of them by name. The same expression occurs, (Psalm 147:4,) and in the same sense. Some explain it to mean that God knows the number of the stars, which is unknown to us. But David and Isaiah meant a different thing, that is, that God makes use of the stars according to his pleasure; as if one should command a servant, calling him to him by name; and the same thing will afterwards be said of Cyrus, whose labours and service the Lord employed in delivering his people. (Isaiah 45:1.) In a word, it denotes the utmost submission and obedience, when he who is called instantly answers to his name.

By the greatness of his strength. Those who explain the preceding clause to mean that the Lord knows the number of the stars, are also mistaken in supposing that by giving them their names is meant their power and office. Others explain it, that there is not a star that has not its own power and energy, because the Lord gave to them those qualities they would always possess. But others connect these words with יקרא, (yĭkrā,) “he shall call;” as if he had said, “The Lord is so powerful that all the stars listen to his commands.” But a meaning which appears to me to be more appropriate is, that God is so powerful, that, as soon as he has issued an order, all the armies of the stars are ready to yield obedience. In this we have an extraordinary proof of his power, when those highly excellent creatures unhesitatingly submit to him, and by executing his orders testify that they acknowledge him to be their Author.

Not one shall be wanting. The word איש (īsh) is applied by Hebrew writers not only to men and women, but also to other animals, and even to inanimate objects, as in a former passage, (Isaiah 34:16,) when, speaking of the birds that should occupy those splendid abodes, he said that “not one should be wanting,” he used the word איש (īsh). These words commend to us the power of God, that we may know that there is nothing in heaven or in earth that does not depend on his will and pleasure. Nothing, therefore, can be more shameful or unreasonable than to compare him to idols, which are as worthless as anything can possibly be.2[1]


26 From the invitation to compare the author moves, as he did in vv. 19 and 20, to a possible comparison, here apparently the heavens. As mentioned above, the heavens are probably alluded to here because they were supposed to be a visible representation of the gods. This was true not only of Babylonian religion but also of Canaanite, as indicated by the reports that the Israelites sometimes succumbed to the temptation to worship “the host of heaven” (2 K. 17:16; 21:3). Here the prophet argues that far from being deities worthy of being worshiped, the stars (implied by their host and numbers them) are not even self-existent. They are contingent creatures who come and go at the command of the Lord as do sheep before a shepherd, or soldiers before a general. Would we compare such as these to the one who created them and rules them?

who created these is sublime in its simplicity. The root brʾ, “create,” occurs 16 times in chs. 40–55, 13 times between this verse and 45:18, 6 times in ch. 45 alone, as against 5 times in the rest of the book (4:5; 57:19; 65:17, 18 [bis]) and only 27 times in the remainder of the OT (11 times in Genesis; 6 times in Psalms; 3 times in Ezekiel; once each in seven other books). It is a fundamental truth for Isaiah that since God has the absolutely uncontingent freedom of the Creator, he is free to save his people. these encompasses in one ordinary word the whole breathtaking array of the night sky. But equally breathtaking is the simple faith involved. The stars have not existed forever; someone brought them into existence once. Who was that? The God enthroned above the cherubim in the temple in Jerusalem, of course. Who else?

Once again, as in vv. 22–23, the rhetorical question is answered with a participle. Who created these? He is the one who brings forth their host by number; by name he calls them all. This passage is describing God’s eternal, unchanging nature. host is a military term, and this sense is heightened by the use of number. So the general musters his troops. The daunting stars, wheeling about the sky imperturbably, are really only the obedient minions of one infinitely greater than they. To him they are not numberless; more than that, he knows them each by name. In the ancient world, to know the name of something was to know its essence, and thereby have power over it. What is the power and wisdom of one who knows each star by name? No wonder no star dares to miss muster!

We must not lose sight of one other aspect of this verse. No doubt the picture of God counting and naming the stars is figurative. Nevertheless, it is important to grasp the sense of the figure. Isaiah has insisted on the absolute transcendence of God: he is not part of the cosmos in any way, and the cosmos is not part of him. But to carry that line to its logical conclusion as Aristotle did is to end with a passionless, colorless force as the source of everything. It is to say that personality is an accident in time. Isaiah will not go that way. He insists on transcendence, but leaves no doubt that the Transcendent is a person with all that that means. When all is said and done, the combination of these two may be Israel’s greatest contribution to human thought.[2]


26. bringeth out … host—image from a general reviewing his army: He is Lord of Sabaoth, the heavenly hosts (Job 38:32).

calleth … by names—numerous as the stars are. God knows each in all its distinguishing characteristics—a sense which “name” often bears in Scripture; so in Ge 2:19, 20, Adam, as God’s vicegerent, called the beasts by name, that is, characterized them by their several qualities, which, indeed, He has imparted.

by the greatness … faileth—rather, “by reason of abundance of (their inner essential) force and firmness of strength, not one of them is driven astray”; referring to the sufficiency of the physical forces with which He has endowed the heavenly bodies, to prevent all disorder in their motions [Horsley]. In English Version the sense is, “He has endowed them with their peculiar attributes (‘names’) by the greatness of His might,” and the power of His strength (the better rendering, instead of, “for that He is strong”).[3]


Ver. 26.—Lift up your eyes, etc. Once more an appeal is made to creation, as proving God’s greatness. “Lift up your eyes on high, and see who hath created these (heavens), bringing out their host (i.e. the stars) by number, or in their full number (Cheyne), and calling them all by names” (comp. Ps. 147:4, 5, “He telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names,” which, however, is probably later than Isaiah). Omnipotence alone could have created the starry host. Omniscience is required to know their number and their names. The Israelites are supposed to have “learned that the constellations had names, in Babylon” (Cheyne, ad loc.); but a special name for each star, which the Babylonians did not give, seems to be here intended. Not one faileth; i.e. “not one star neglects to attend the muster when God marshals the host.” The stars are viewed as his army.[4]


[1] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Vol. 3, pp. 231–234). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Oswalt, J. N. (1998). The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66 (pp. 69–70). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 475). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[4] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1910). Isaiah (Vol. 2, pp. 69–70). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

June 18, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

Judgment Pronounced

After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory. And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.” (18:1–3)

This solemn opening pronouncement of judgment gives two reasons for Babylon’s impending destruction: pervasive demonic activity and wretched sensuality. As it often does in Revelation (cf. 4:1; 7:9; 15:5; 19:1), the phrase after these things marks the beginning of a new vision. While still discussing the general theme of Antichrist’s world empire, destroyed finally by the seven bowl judgments (chap. 16), chapter 18 moves from its religious aspects to its commercial aspects. As this new vision opened, John saw another angel, distinct from the one in 17:1. Some view this angel as Christ, but the use of allos (another of the same kind) instead of heteros (another of a different kind) indicates that this is an angel of the same type as the one in 17:1. He may be the angel who had earlier predicted Babylon’s downfall (14:8). Three features in the text reveal his unusual power and importance.

First, he came down from heaven with great authority. He left the presence of God with delegated authority to act on God’s behalf.

Second, when he arrived, the earth was illumined with his glory. He will make his dramatic appearance onto a darkened stage, for the fifth bowl will have plunged the world into darkness (16:10). Manifesting the flashing brilliance of a glorious heavenly being against the blackness, the angel will be an awe-inspiring sight to the shocked and terrified earth dwellers.

Third, the angel cried out with a mighty voice. No one will be able to ignore him; everyone will hear him as well as see him. His message will add to the consternation and terror caused by his appearance. It will be a word of woe, ill tidings for Antichrist and his followers: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” The judgment predicted in 14:8 will now be carried out. This will be a greater and more far-reaching judgment than the one pronounced in identical words on ancient Babylon (Isa. 21:9). A comparison of this passage with 16:17–19 suggests that this judgment takes place when the seventh bowl is poured out:

Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.” And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.

The first cause given for Babylon’s destruction is that she has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit (a synonym for demons, cf. 16:13–14). It was in the vicinity of Babylon that 200 million formerly bound demons were released at the sounding of the sixth trumpet (9:13–16). They, along with the demons released from the abyss at the sounding of the fifth trumpet (9:1–11), those cast from heaven with Satan (12:4, 9), and those previously on earth, will be confined in Babylon. God will, so to speak, gather all the rotten eggs into one basket before disposing of them.

Babylon will also be a prison of every unclean and hateful bird. That phrase symbolizes the city’s total destruction (cf. Isa. 34:11). Like grotesque carrion birds, the demons will hover over the doomed city, waiting for its fall. The depiction of the demons as unclean and hateful reflects heaven’s view of them.

Babylon’s destruction will also come because all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality. Antichrist’s evil religious and commercial empire will spread its hellish influence to all the nations of the world. Having drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality (cf. 14:8; 17:2), the people of the world will fall into a religious and materialistic stupor. The all-encompassing terms all the nations, the kings of the earth, and the merchants of the earth reveal that Babylon will seduce the entire world. The unregenerate people of the world will lust for Babylon, passionately desiring to commit acts of spiritual immorality with her. Likewise, the merchants of the earth will have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality. In the beginning, the world will cash in on Babylon’s financial prosperity.

Having thrown off any semblance of self-control or self-restraint, sinners will indulge in a wild materialistic orgy. Like those in ancient Babylon, they will be partying when their city is destroyed (cf. Dan. 5:1–30). James’s condemnation of the ruthless wealthy could also apply to them:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. (James 5:1–5)[1]


2 In words very similar to those of the prophets who encouraged God’s people as they faced ancient Babylon, the angel announces that Babylon the Great, mother of all the earthly prostitute cities, has fallen (cf. Isa 21:9; Jer 51:8 with Rev 14:8; 18:2). Again, in words reminiscent of the judgment announced against ancient Babylon, forewarning the city’s habitation only by detestable creatures and evil spirits (Isa 13:19–22; 34:11; Jer 50:39), John hears the same fate announced for this urban mother of prostitutes. “Demons” (daimoniōn, GK 1228) are associated elsewhere with idolatry (see comments at 9:20; 16:14). The “haunt” (phylakē, GK 5871) is a watchtower; the evil spirits, watching over fallen Babylon like night birds or harpies waiting for their prey, build their nests in the broken towers that rise from the ashes of the city (cf. Swete). She who was a great city has become a wilderness.[2]


2 The declaration of the angelic herald is like that of Isa 21:9 when news of the capture of Babylon by Cyrus reached the children of Israel—“Babylon has fallen, has fallen! All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!” With a mighty voice the angel shouts out that Babylon the Great has fallen. Babylon has always been symbolic of opposition to the advance of the kingdom of God. As it fell in times past, so will it be destroyed in the future. Part of the reason for using “Babylon” is that the readers will know what God did to the first Babylon and be quick to recognize that in giving Rome that title he will once again carry out his judgment on the city. The aorist tense denotes the certainty of future fulfillment. It is the prophetic way of declaring that the great purpose of God in triumphing over evil is a fait accompli.

The once-proud city of Babylon is to lie utterly desolate. It is to become the haunt for evil spirits and all kinds of unclean creatures. For background we should turn to Isaiah’s oracle against ancient Babylon. There we find that Babylon once fallen will never again be inhabited except by creatures of the desert (Isa 13:20–21). Satyrs (RSV), demonic creatures having the appearance of hairy goats, will leap about among the ruins to the howling of hyenas and jackals (Isa 13:21–22). There is some question about the meaning of the word twice translated “haunt” in v. 2 as well as the relationship between the parallel clauses. The structure of the verse suggests that the word is roughly parallel to “home.” Demons dwell among the ruins of Babylon, as do unclean spirits and animals. It is not a place of detention11 but a place where they dwell undisturbed. In any case, it is a prophetic picture of absolute desolation where the proud achievements of the human race become the demonic haunts of unclean and detestable creatures. Since Rome is already the habitation of evil spirits, it follows that when she falls nothing will remain but the evil spirits and ceremonially unclean creatures.[3]


18:2–3 / The great angel’s dirge begins by an ironical summary of the great event: Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! (cf. 16:19). That Babylon lies in ruins is indicated by its occupation by demons … every evil spirit … every unclean and detestable bird—all symbols of death and desertion (cf. Isa. 13:20–22; 34:11–15; Jer. 51:37; Luke 11:24–26).

The reasons for its fall suggest its former greatness. It brokered political power with nations … and the kings of the earth. Yet, its relationship with them was profane and illicit in that Babylon demands submission to its secular agenda and interests rather than to God’s reign. The image of adultery to characterize this relationship is an allusion to the familiar prophetic typology of Israel’s idolatry. John’s point, however, is a political one: it is idolatry whenever political values are legitimized by claims of national sovereignty. Only God is sovereign over the affairs of nations. In John’s world, Rome’s political greatness led to its arrogant refusal to submit its aims and purposes to the will of God and to its choosing instead the emperor cultus as the true and approved religion of God.

Babylon’s functional atheism is detected in the economic sphere as well. There the merchants of the earth profited from excessive luxuries. The word for excessive (strenos) occurs only here in the nt and lacks any precise equivalent elsewhere. Beckwith understands it as “self-indulgence with accompanying arrogance and wanton exercise of strength” (Revelation, p. 713), which seems true to the immediate context. The will of the social order and its ruling elite dominates in a world where “might makes right.” Merchants value economic profit, even as kings value national security. Such is the nature of idolatry, which results in self-destruction and divine judgment. Moreover, since God’s judgment is due in part to Babylon’s treatment of God’s people (18:24), John’s point interprets the church’s experience of powerlessness and poverty as well. The eschaton is for those who are now marginalized, whose political and economic conditions will be reversed in revelation of God’s righteousness (cf. Luke 1:51–53).[4]


Ver. 2.—And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying; and he cried with a strong voice, saying. This “strong voice” is characteristic of the heavenly utterances (cf. ch. 7:2; 14:7, etc.). Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen. The event, though future, is described as past, being predetermined in the counsels of God. The words here are a reproduction of Isa. 21:9. And is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird; a habitation … a hold of every_ unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hated bird. “Devils” (Greek, δαιμόνια), inferior evil spirits. The three phrases express the same idea, viz. the loathsome and hateful state to which Babylon is reduced. The language is derived from the prophets (cf. Isa. 13:21, 22; 34:11–15; Jer. 50:39; 51:37). A hold (Greek, (φυλακή, “a strong place”); the natural and fitting stronghold of the devils, rather than a place to which they are involuntarily confined.[5]


2a καὶ ἔκραξεν ἐν ἰσχυρᾷ φωνῇ λέγων, ἔπεσεν ἔπεσεν Βαβυλὼν ἡ μεγάλη, “Then he cried with a mighty voice, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great.’ ” This phrase, which also occurs in 14:8 (see the more extensive Comment there), is probably an allusion to Isa 21:9 (Fekkes, Isaiah, 204–5, 213–14); cf. Jer 51:8 (LXX 28:8), καὶ ἄφνω ἔπεσεν Βαβυλών, “And immediately Babylon fell.” In LXX Isa 21:9 the double verb occurs in MS B (and two lesser MSS): πέπτωκεν πέπτωκεν Βαβυλών, “Babylon has fallen, fallen,” though this is a literal rendering of the Hebrew נָפְלָה בּבֶלָ נָפְלָה nāpĕlâ nāpĕlâ bābel, “fallen, fallen, is Babylon.” The aorist verbs ἔπεσεν ἔπεσεν, “fallen, fallen,” emphasize the certainty of the fall of Babylon-Rome, which, from the standpoint of the speaker, is an event that has not yet occurred (this same phrase also occurs in Rev 14:8). This is an example of the perfectum propheticum, “prophetic perfect,” used to describe a future event with a verb in the past tense as if it had already happened (GKC § 106n; Mussies, Morphology, 338). The phrase “fallen, fallen is so-and-so” originated as a lament uttered upon the death of an individual and is transferred to the actual or anticipated demise of a political unit such as a tribe, city, or nation (Eissfeldt, Introduction, 91–92; Yarbro Collins, “Revelation 18,” 192–93). The term πίπτειν, “fall,” was frequently used in the ancient world in the metaphorical sense of a person’s violent death, usually in war (Exod 32:28; 1 Sam 4:10; 2 Sam 1:19, 25, 27; 3:38; 21:22; Job 14:10 [LXX only]; 1 Chr 5:10; 20:8; 1 Macc 3:24; 4:15, 34; 2 Macc 12:34; Jdt 7:11; Gk. 1 Enoch 14:6; 1 Cor 10:18; Barn. 12:5; Iliad 8.67; 10.200; 11.157, 500; Xenophon Cyr. 1.4.24; Herodotus 9.67). The name “Babylon” occurs several times in Revelation (14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21). (On the title “Babylon the great,” see Comment on 14:8.) While most commentators assume that “Babylon” is a code name for Rome (Bousset [1906] 384; Charles, 2:62–63; Müller, 267, 288–89), Lohmeyer rejects the view that Rome is specifically in view, since “Babylon” is a term used in the OT and Judaism for the earthly power opposed to God; no more specification is necessary (138–39, 147). Kraft identifies Rome with the “Babylon” of Rev 17 but not that of Rev 18 (229, 234), and other scholars understand “Babylon” of Rev 18 to represent Jerusalem (Ford, 285–86, 296–307; Beagley, Apocalypse, 92–102; Provan, JSNT 64 [1996] 91–97). The historical fall of Rome occurred in August of a.d. 410 when the city was pillaged by Alaric and his army of Goths.

2b καὶ ἐγένετο κατοικητήριον δαιμονίων καὶ φυλακὴ παντὸς πνεύματος ἀκαθάρτου, “It has become the habitation of demons … reserve for unclean spirits.” This and what follows is an allusion to Isa 13:21–22a, where the devastation following the destruction of Babylon is graphically depicted using the topos of the deserted city as a dwelling place for wild animals:

21 But wild animals will lie down there,

and its houses will be full of howling creatures;

there ostriches will live,

and there goat-demons will dance.

22a Hyenas will cry in its twoers,

and jackals in the pleasant palaces. (nrsv)

It is also possible that there is an allusion here to Jer 51:37 (LXX 28:37), a possibility made more likely by the presence of seven other allusions to Jer 51 in Rev 18 (see Form/Structure/Setting on Rev 18, III. The Influence of Jeremiah). The MT text of Jer 51:37, which is longer than the LXX text (which probably represents an earlier Hebrew text) is represented here by the rsv:

And Babylon shall become a heap of ruins,

the haunt of jackals,

a horror and a hissing,

without inhabitant.

The aftermath of the destruction of Nineveh is described similarly in Zeph 2:14 (nrsv):

Herds shall lie down in it [Nineveh],

every wild animal;

the desert owl and the screech owl

shall lodge on its capitals;

the owl shall hoot at the window,

the raven croak on the threshold;

for its cedar work will be laid bare.

The same topos is used to gloat over the destruction of Tyre in Isa 23:1 and Edom in Isa 34:11–15 (nb. that Edom eventually became a code name for Rome in Jewish tradition; see 4 Ezra 6:7–10; Gen. Rab. 65.21). The emptiness and aridity of the location of a city punished by Yahweh is mentioned in Jer 50:12; 51:43. In Bar 4:35 it is predicted that the enemy of Israel will be destroyed by fire and inhabited by demons. Demons were associated with unsettled and desolate places (Isa 13:21; 34:14; Tob 8:3; Matt 12:43 = Luke 11:24; Mark 5:10). The threat of desolation is a frequently occurring theme in prophetic denunciations of nations and cities, including Judah and Jerusalem (Jer 4:26–27; 9:10–12; 22:5–6; Ezek 6:14; Hos 2:3; Joel 3:19; Zeph 2:13; Mal 1:3–4).

2c καὶ φυλακὴ παντὸς ὀρνέου ἀκαθάρτου καὶ μεμισημένου, “a preserve for every type of unclean and hateful bird.” This may continue the allusion to Jer 51:37 (LXX 28:37), “And Babylon shall become a heap of ruins, the haunt of jackals, a horror and a hissing, without inhabitant.” Yet similar phrases are used of Jerusalem in Jer 9:11, “I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair of jackals; and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant.” It is of interest that when Trajan visited the famous Mesopotamian Babylon, ca. 115 a.d., he found it largely deserted, consisting mainly of mounds, stones, and ruins (Dio Cassius 68.30).[6]


The Third Word: The Fall of Babylon (18:1–3)

The first angel has confronted John with the mystery of Babylon, and has then made him face one aspect after another of the beast and the woman who comprise it. We may or may not reckon to have grasped the meaning of his long discourse (17:7–18), but have we grasped its menace? The reader who has not been frightened by it has not begun to understand it. The ‘power of evil’ in the Satanism of cheap fiction is a mere pantomime demon compared with this description of the real thing. The angel scours the dictionary of metaphor to find synonyms of power to apply to the beast. Neither dare we underestimate the persuasiveness of the woman. We may react to the glamour of 17:4 with a shudder—‘How cheap, how tawdry!’—because that is what we think is expected of us. But in practice, in daily life, the pearls and the purple and the golden cup have an awful fascination. The world is powerful, its message is attractive, and we know what it is to be like the bird held by the glittering eye of the snake.

This is why the spell needs to be broken by a voice of even greater authority. The second angel comes from heaven, with a glory brighter and a voice more compelling than that of Babylon, to declare again that vital part of the divine message which assures us of her final downfall. It is the message which the finger of God once wrote over the actual historical Babylon: ‘God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end’ (Dn. 5:26). Whether it is totalitarian repression or decadent capitalism which Christians have to cope with, they need to be reminded that neither the beast nor the woman is permanently in power, despite all the symbolism of the ‘everlasting hills’, and that one day their universal dominion will be in retrospect no more than a nightmare from which one has awakened.[7]


2. And he cried with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the Great. And she has become the dwelling place of demons, and the prison of every unclean spirit, and the prison of every unclean bird, and the prison of every unclean and hated beast.”

  • “And he cried with a mighty voice, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the Great.’ ” The Apocalypse is replete with angels who cry out in a loud voice so that everyone on earth is able to hear (7:2; 10:3; 14:7, 9, 15; 19:17). The word mighty reflects the great authority that has been given to this angel. No one can ignore the voice of an angel who announces “an event which is stupefying in its magnitude.” Although his announcement is similar to that of the angel who cried “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the wrathful wine of her fornication” (14:8), there are differences. In this verse he first describes the dwelling place of Babylon by referring to it three times as a prison, and then he elaborates in successive verses.

John has taken the reference to Babylon from Isaiah 21:9, “Babylon has fallen, has fallen!” (see also Jer. 50:2; 51:8). The duplication of the verb to fall for emphasis is a typical feature in Semitic writing. Note that the past tense of the verb is given as if the actual destruction of Babylon had already taken place. The past tense states not merely the expectation but the certainty of this event.

  • “And she has become the dwelling place of demons.” In desert places the goat demons dance and call to each other (Isa. 13:21; 34:14 NRSV). Evil spirits live in deserted places (Luke 8:29) and in a ruined city like Babylon. This ruined place is the home of demons, whose ruler is Satan. It will become a place void of any inhabitant (Jer. 50:39; 51:37). This is a picture of a world without God that is now in the power of evil spirits who can freely vex its people.

Babylon is the prison of every unclean spirit, every unclean bird, and every unclean and hated beast. In this context, the term prison suggests a dwelling place to which these creatures are consigned—not so much a prison, for that is the Abyss, but a place where they dwell. This desolate place is the home of unclean spirits and animals—a picture of a world completely devoid of God and his Word. How different is the city of God, where the Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts and lives of the saints! There the light of the gospel shines brightly and the people live in joy and happiness.[8]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2000). Revelation 12–22 (pp. 178–180). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 750). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (pp. 325–326). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] Wall, R. W. (2011). Revelation (pp. 213–214). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Revelation (p. 431). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[6] Aune, D. E. (1998). Revelation 17–22 (Vol. 52C, pp. 985–987). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[7] Wilcock, M. (1986). The message of Revelation: I saw heaven opened (pp. 166–167). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[8] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, pp. 486–487). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

June 18, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

Disloyalty to God

For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; (11:2a)

The thought of the Corinthians’ being seduced into error by the false apostles was heartbreaking to Paul. Thus, what may have seemed to the Corinthians to be boasting on his part was actually extreme concern, prompted by godly jealousy (literally, “the jealousy of God”). Paul’s jealousy on God’s behalf manifested itself in righteous indignation at the possibility of the Corinthians’ defection.

God’s jealousy for His holy name and for His people is a major Old Testament theme. In Exodus 20:5 God said, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” Exodus 34:14 reveals that one of God’s names is “Jealous.” Deuteronomy 4:24 describes the Lord as “a consuming fire, a jealous God” (cf. Deut. 5:9; 6:15; Josh. 24:19; Nah. 1:2), while Deuteronomy 32:16 and 21 reveal that His holy jealousy is provoked when His people worship idols (cf. Ps. 78:58; 1 Cor. 10:22). In Ezekiel 39:25 God declares, “I shall be jealous for My holy name.”

Like David, who wrote in Psalm 69:9, “Zeal for [God’s] house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach [Him] have fallen on me” (cf. John 2:17), Paul felt pain when God was dishonored. That pain produced a “daily pressure on [him] of concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28), particularly for those believers who were weak and led into sin (11:29). He was especially concerned that the Corinthians offer God the loyal, loving obedience in which He rejoices and of which He is worthy (cf. Deut. 6:5; 10:12; 11:1, 13, 22; 19:9; 30:16; Josh. 22:5; 23:11; Ps. 31:23; Matt. 22:37).

Disloyalty to Christ

for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. (11:2b–3)

Paul expressed his concern over the Corinthians’ disloyalty to Christ by using the analogy of betrothal and marriage. As is the case today, the main elements of a Jewish wedding were the betrothal (engagement) and the actual ceremony. The betrothal period usually lasted about a year (though sometimes couples were betrothed as young children). The betrothed couple, though not allowed to consummate the union physically, was legally regarded as husband and wife; the betrothal could be broken only by death or divorce, and unfaithfulness during that time was considered adultery (cf. Matt. 1:18–19). The betrothal period culminated in the ceremony, marking the completion of the covenant.

During the betrothal period, it was the father’s responsibility to ensure that his daughter remained faithful to her pledged husband. He would then present her to him at the wedding ceremony as a pure virgin.

When Paul preached the gospel to them, he betrothed the Corinthians to one husband. At salvation, they pledged their loyalty to Christ, and Paul wanted to make sure they remained faithful. As their spiritual father (1 Cor. 4:15), Paul was determined to present them as a pure virgin to Christ. Having been engaged to Him at salvation, the Corinthians (like all church-age believers) will be presented to Christ at the Rapture (cf. John 14:1–3) and have their marriage supper during the millennial kingdom (Rev. 19:7–9). Paul’s overriding concern was that the church remain pure for her Bridegroom (cf. Eph. 5:25–27).

The phrase I am afraid expresses the heart of Paul’s concern, both in this passage and in the entire epistle. His defense of his integrity and his ministry, his appeals for the Corinthians’ loyalty, and his confrontation of the false teachers all were motivated by fear. The apostle’s concern was justified, because the Corinthians had demonstrated an alarming susceptibility to being seduced, welcoming those who preached another Jesus and a different gospel (2 Cor. 11:4).

It is every pastor’s fear that some of his sheep might go astray. As noted above, it was Paul’s zeal for their purity that caused the “daily pressure on [him] of concern for all the churches” (11:28). A heartbreaking theme throughout history is the disloyalty of many who claimed to be followers of Jesus Christ. Countless churches that name the name of Christ have been seduced by “deceitful spirits” teaching “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1) and become disloyal to Him.

Satan’s deception of God’s people began in the Garden of Eden when the serpent (Satan; Rev. 12:9; 20:2) deceived Eve. She did not intend to rebel against God, but as Paul wrote to Timothy, “the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:13). Eve thought that the information she received from Satan was correct and acted on it. In Genesis 3:1 Satan began by asking her, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” God had, as Satan knew, clearly said just that. His question was intended to cast doubt on God’s command. Having planted the seed of doubt in Eve’s mind, Satan then proceeded to openly deny the truth of God’s word, brazenly declaring to her, “You surely shall not die!” (3:4). Finally, he offered a lie in its place: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:5). Eve wanted God’s best, so Satan’s counsel seemed perfect. After all, what could be better than being like God? Having thus been thoroughly deceived, Eve ate the forbidden fruit, as did Adam—even though he was not deceived (1 Tim. 2:14). The catastrophic result was that the human race was plunged into sin (Rom. 5:12–19; 1 Cor. 15:21–22). Ever since Satan deceived Eve, false teachers, following his pattern, have portrayed the truth as error and then offered error as the truth.

Paul feared that Satan’s emissaries, using the same craftiness (cf. 2 Cor. 11:13–15) by which their evil master deceived Eve, would lead the Corinthians’ minds (the Greek word could also be translated “thoughts”) astray, thus corrupting or ruining them (the Greek term also has those connotations). Lack of discernment is a major problem for the church (cf. Eph. 4:14), because the spiritual battle is an ideological one (see the discussion of 10:3–5 in chapter 25 of this volume). The church’s willingness to tolerate error in the name of unity, coupled with a lack of biblical and doctrinal knowledge, has crippled its ability to discern. As a result, it is too often easy prey for the ravenous, savage wolves of whom both Jesus and Paul warned (Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29), who wound it and sap its power and testimony.

The essence of the Christian life is simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. To the Philippians Paul wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21; cf. Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:4). To not love Him supremely as Savior and Lord is an act of disloyalty. The danger false teachers pose is that they shift the focus off Jesus Christ and onto rituals, ceremonies, good works, miracles, emotional experiences, psychology, entertainment, political and social causes, and anything else that will distract people.

Loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ is nonnegotiable in the Christian life—so much so that Scripture declares, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed” (1 Cor. 16:22).[1]


2. For I am jealous. Mark why it is that he acts the fool, for jealousy hurries a man as it were headlong. “Do not demand that I should show the equable temper of a man that is at ease, and not excited by any emotion, for that vehemence of jealousy, with which I am inflamed towards you, does not suffer me to be at ease.” As, however, there are two kinds of jealousy—the one springing from self-love, and of a wicked and perverse nature, while the other is cherished by us on God’s account,3 he intimates of what sort his zeal is. For many are zealous—for themselves, not for God. That, on the other hand, is the only pious and right zeal, that has an eye to God, that he may not be defrauded of the honours that of right belong to him.

For I have united you to one man. That his zeal was of such a nature, he proves from the design of his preaching, for its tendency was to join them to Christ in marriage, and retain them in connection with him. Here, however, he gives us in his own person a lively picture of a good minister; for One alone is the Bridegroom of the Church—the Son of God. All ministers are the friends of the Bridegroom, as the Baptist declares respecting himself. (John 3:29.) Hence all ought to be concerned, that the fidelity of this sacred marriage remain unimpaired and inviolable. This they cannot do, unless they are actuated by the dispositions of the Bridegroom, so that every one of them may be as much concerned for the purity of the Church, as a husband is for the chastity of his wife. Away then with coldness and indolence in this matter, for one that is cold will never be qualified for this office. Let them, however, in the mean time, take care, not to pursue their own interest rather than that of Christ, that they may not intrude themselves into his place, lest while they give themselves out as his paranymphs, they turn out to be in reality adulterers, by alluring the bride to love themselves.

To present you as a chaste virgin. We are married to Christ, on no other condition than that we bring virginity as our dowry, and preserve it entire, so as to be free from all corruption. Hence it is the duty of ministers of the gospel to purify our souls, that they may be chaste virgins to Christ; otherwise they accomplish nothing. Now we may understand it as meaning, that they individually present themselves as chaste virgins to Christ, or that the minister presents the whole of the people, and brings them forward into Christ’s presence. I approve rather of the second interpretation. Hence I have given a different rendering from Erasmus.[2]


2 With a jealousy that sprang from God and was like God’s own jealousy for his people (e.g., Hos 2:19–20; 4:12; 6:4; 11:8), Paul was jealous for his converts’ undivided loyalty to Christ in the interval between their conversion (= betrothal to Christ) and their glorification (= presentation to Christ). He pictures himself as the father of the bride (cf. 1 Co 4:15; 2 Co 12:14), whose ultimate purpose in betrothing “the church of God in Corinth” (1:1) to her heavenly bridegroom, Jesus Christ, was to present her as a virgin to her husband at his appearance (cf. 4:14; Eph 5:27; 1 Jn 3:2–3).

Human jealousy is a vice, but to share divine jealousy is a virtue. It is the motive and object of the jealousy that is all-important. There is a place for a spiritual father’s passionate concern for the exclusive and pure devotion to Christ of his spiritual children, and also a place for anger at potential violators of that purity (11:29).[3]


2 The word “For” (untranslated by the NIV) is dominant in v. 2, appearing in both of its unequal sentences, providing the link between Paul’s three ideas in vv. 1b-2: “You do bear with … me. For I am jealous for you … for I betrothed you … to Christ.”16 These ideas are given in reverse order of ministry sequence of his relationship with them. First, he joined them to Christ; second, therefore, he cares about their fidelity to Christ; third, they do, ironically speaking, “bear with”—barely tolerate—him.

Critical to this verse and the next is the apostle’s portrayal of his ministry by the metaphor of betrothal, a practice alien to modern Western culture.18 It is, in all probability, a paternal image whereby a father pledges a daughter in marriage to a prospective husband, taking responsibility for her virginal fidelity to her betrothed in the period between the betrothal and the marriage. The apostle’s pride in his people “on the day of the Lord Jesus” (1:14) is consistent with the marriage imagery used here whereby a father would finally present his betrothed daughter with pride to her husband on the long-awaited wedding day.

By this elaborate metaphor Paul neatly describes the eschatological nature of apostolic evangelism. As the result of evangelism (1:19) a church (“a betrothed”) comes into being, related by “faith” (cf. 5:7) to her physically absent “husband”-to-be, whom she will not see until his appearing, when the marriage is consummated. In the meantime the father-betrother is responsible for the virginal purity of the betrothed until he “presents” her “as a pure virgin”21 to her “one husband.” How outrageous, therefore, that outsiders should come to Corinth and sully their purity, preaching “another Jesus” (v. 4).

Contrary to the practice of much evangelism where the greater effort tends to be concentrated on and limited to proclamation-response, Paul as an apostle operates within a distinct eschatological framework, regarding himself as responsible for the fidelity of the church to her Lord in the period between proclamation and consummation. The ongoing fidelity of the church in prospect of the end time is his concern. But what of the congregation already founded? It is to be inferred from this verse that the pastor of a congregation evangelized beforehand by others enters into the eschatological sweep of the “ministry” (diakonia) of the new covenant, confirming and constantly repeating the gospel by which the church was created, as well as exhorting the believers to remain focused on Christ, as Paul does here with the Corinthians (see, e.g., Col 2:6–7).

Appropriate to this view of his diakonia, Paul declares at the outset, “I am jealous for you with a godly [RSV, “divine”] jealousy.” This sentiment should not be confused with the petty possessiveness that mars human relationships. His words—which could also be rendered “I am zealous for you with God’s own zeal”—reflect an important theme in the (LXX) OT. Yahweh, Israel’s covenantal God, in zeal for his holy name, binds his people to him in a relationship that excludes the worship of other gods (LXX Exod 20:5; 34:14; Deut 4:24; 6:15). The theme of “zeal” also reflects God’s covenantal care for his people (LXX Isa 9:6; 37:32; 63:15–16). The inter-testamental tradition looked back on individuals like Phinehas and Elijah, who took violent action against idolatry and apostasy, as having acted in zeal for their God. Inspired by zeal for Yahweh, the pre-Christian Saul of Tarsus, as a persecutor of the church, stood in the same tradition (Gal 1:13–14; Phil 3:6; Acts 22:3–4). The Christian Paul’s zeal, however, is a converted zeal, free of the violence that characterized his pre-converted days and zealots before him, a zeal now driven by love (see on 5:14).

The Corinthians are not yet in outright apostasy, though there are dangerous possibilities in that regard (see v. 4). Since he is the initiator of the betrothal, it is his responsibility to safeguard the rights of the divine husband, Christ. The apostle bears the responsibility to ensure that the betrothed is kept faithful to the One she will marry, not diverted nor seduced by an interloper to “another” husband. Let the Corinthians and the would-be seducers understand that the apostle has “betrothed” this bride-to-be to “one husband,” to “present” the Corinthians “as a pure virgin” to Christ. The one Christ, as preached by the apostle, was, and is to remain, the focus of ministry and of faith.[4]


11:2 / The reason (gar, untranslated niv) that Paul asks the Corinthians’ forbearance is that he is jealous for them. The term jealousy, or rather “zeal,” is drawn from the character of Yahweh as the sole husband of Israel (cf. Hos. 1–3; Ezek. 16; Isa. 50:1–2; 54:1–8; 62:5), which is spoken of, correspondingly, as his bride (cf. Isa. 49:18).

Mark 2:19 refers to the Messiah as a bridegroom, and Ephesians 5:22–33 applies this image to the relationship between Christ and the church. Just as Phinehas, the ot prototypical zealot (Num. 25:1–13; cf. Ps. 106:28–31; Sir. 45:23–24; 1 Macc. 2:26, 54), was eager to keep Israel pure from foreign influences, especially intermarriage, which would subvert its devotion to the one true God, so also Paul was zealous to keep the church a pure virgin until the Parousia, when Christ will receive the church for himself.[5]


2. For I am jealous—The justification of his self-commendations lies in his zealous care lest they should fall from Christ, to whom he, as “the friend of the Bridegroom” (Jn 3:29), has espoused them; in order to lead them back from the false apostles to Christ, he is obliged to boast as an apostle of Christ, in a way which, but for the motive, would be “folly.”

godly jealousy—literally, “jealousy of God” (compare 2 Co 1:12, “godly sincerity,” literally, “sincerity of God”). “If I am immoderate, I am immoderate to God” [Bengel]. A jealousy which has God’s honor at heart (1 Ki 19:10).

I … espoused you—Paul uses a Greek term applied properly to the bridegroom, just as he ascribes to himself “jealousy,” a feeling properly belonging to the husband; so entirely does he identify himself with Christ.

present you as a chaste virgin to Christ—at His coming, when the heavenly marriage shall take place (Mt 25:6; Rev 19:7, 9). What Paul here says he desires to do, namely, “present” the Church as “a chaste virgin” to Christ, Christ Himself is said to do in the fuller sense. Whatever ministers do effectively, is really done by Christ (Eph 5:27–32). The espousals are going on now. He does not say “chaste virgins”; for not individual members, but the whole body of believers conjointly constitute the Bride.[6]


Ver. 2.—For. This gives the reason why they bore with him. It was due to a reciprocity of affection. I am jealous over you. The word implies both jealousy and zeal (ch. 7:7; 9:2). With a godly jealousy; literally, with a jealousy of God. My jealousy is not the poor earthly vice (Numb. 5:14; Ecclus. 9:1), but a heavenly zeal of love. For I have espoused you; rather, for I betrothed you; at your conversion. I acted as the paranymph, or “bridegroom’s friend” (John 3:29), in bringing you to Christ, the Bridegroom. The metaphor is found alike in the Old and New Testaments (Isa. 54:5; Ezek. 23; Hos. 2:19; Eph. 5:25–27). To one husband (Jer. 3:1; Ezek. 16:15). Our Lord used an analogous metaphor in the parable of the king’s wedding feast, the virgins, etc. That I may present you. The same word as in ch. 4:14. The conversion of the Church was its betrothal to Christ, brought about by St. Paul as the paranymph; and, in the same capacity, at the final marriage feast, he would present their Church as a pure bride to Christ at his coming (Rev. 19:7–9).[7]


2 ζηλῶ γὰρ ὑμᾶς θεοῦ ζήλῳ, “for I am jealous for you, with a jealousy God inspires [in me].” A Pauline pastoral aside, this sentence points to what underlies Paul’s concern for this church as for all the churches (11:28); γάρ, “for,” gives the link. He is consumed with ζήλος, “jealousy” or “zeal,” a term drawn from the character of Yahweh as the sole husband of Israel (Isa 50:1–2; 54:1–8; 62:5; Ezek 16; Hos 1–3), who is spoken of, correspondingly, as his bride. The marriage image is persistent throughout both Testaments. Batey points out that the description of Christ as the bridegroom is often wrongly sentimentalized. One of its main emphases is the assertion of his lordship over the bride, the church.220

ἡρμοσάμην γὰρ ὑμᾶς ἑνὶ ἀνδρὶ παρθένον ἁγνὴν παραστῆσαι τῷ Χριστῷ, “because I have promised you in marriage to a single husband, even Christ, to present you to him an undefiled virgin.” Paul’s role in this partnership between Christ and his bride is one of φίλος τοῦ νυμφίου, “friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29; Heb. šôšĕbîn, “groomsman,” who acted as best man or escort; see Comment on 6:18 and earlier). As such, he is greatly interested in siding with Christ’s desire to have a pure bride, a virgo intacta (παρθένον ἁγνήν), and he expresses his feelings by a recourse to the OT imagery where Yahweh is said to be a “jealous God” (Exod 20:5), which is another side to his love. “All love involves jealousy, if its exclusive claim is set aside”; and Paul shares this attitude as a mark of his love for the Corinthians (see 6:14–7:4, a pledge to be renewed at 12:15). If this is the ruling idea in Paul’s verb ἡρμοσάμην, “I betrothed,” then it seems we should give extra weight to ἑνί, “one,” with ἀνδρί, “husband,” i.e., “one husband,” as much as to “pure virgin.” So ἑνὶ ἀνδρί, “single husband,” implies that the church is united to Christ and to no other alongside or in place of him. To desert him is to forsake the true Pauline gospel—as v 4 makes apparent—for “another Jesus,” a rival spouse.

The presentation (the verb παρίστημι, “offer, render,” looks on to the Parousia, as in 4:14) of the churchly bride to her future husband is also part of Paul’s task as an apostle, whether as a father figure (1 Cor 4:15; see Comment on 6:12; 7:4) or more probably as an escort. But Paul’s hopes are none too sanguine for the reason given in v 3.

On Paul’s role as betrothing the Corinthians as the bride of Christ [11:2], Harris classifies four sets of interpretation: (1) the friend of the groom or the groomsman, (2) the friend of the bride, (3) the father’s agent, and (4) the father of the bride.[8]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 354–356). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Vol. 2, pp. 339–340). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[3] Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 520). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Barnett, P. (1997). The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (pp. 498–500). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[5] Scott, J. M. (2011). 2 Corinthians (p. 204). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[6] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 316). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[7] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). 2 Corinthians (pp. 262–263). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[8] Martin, R. P. (2014). 2 Corinthians. (R. P. Martin, L. A. Losie, & P. H. Davids, Eds.) (Second Edition, Vol. 40, pp. 517–518). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

June 18, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

15:30 — Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me .…

God loves to answer the faithful prayers of believers that are offered on behalf of other believers. Paul, the great apostle, frequently asked others to pray for him. God wants us praying regularly for each other.[1]


Purpose

Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, (15:30a)

A fifth implied characteristic of a person who faithfully fulfills his divine calling is that of having a clear purpose in his service for the Lord. The preposition by has the sense of “on behalf of,” or “with regard to.” Now I urge you introduces the exhortation to the readers to pray for his protection and ministry. Before giving that exhortation, Paul declared unequivocally that the overriding purpose for his request was to glorify our Lord Jesus Christ. He told the believers at Corinth, “I do all things for the sake of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:23), which is to say for Christ’s sake, the source and power of the gospel. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (10:31).

In a following letter to Corinth Paul declared, “We do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord.… For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:5, 11). “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses,” he confessed, “with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake” (12:10). In his closing remarks to the Galatian churches Paul wrote, “From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brandmarks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). And to the Philippians he said, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

The faithful Christian witnesses for the sake of those who need the Lord and he serves for the sake of those who need help, but his supreme motive always should be to serve His Lord and Savior, in whose name and by whose power he ministers to others.

Paul rejoiced in the fact that, if he succeeded in reaching Jerusalem with the contribution of the churches of Macedonia and Achaia, Christ would be glorified, within the church and before the onlooking world. The Lord would be glorified by the willing and loving generosity of the Gentile contributors as well as by the grateful reception of the gift by the Jews to whom it was sent. Christ is always honored and glorified when His church is unified in His name and in His service.

Not only did Paul minister on behalf of the glory of Christ but also for the sake of the love of the Spirit. This phrase and the idea it expresses are not found elsewhere in Scripture. Some have interpreted this phrase as meaning the Holy Spirit’s love for Paul. As part of the Godhead, the Spirit certainly has the same love for the world as a whole and for believers in particular as do the Father and the Son. The context, however, seems to indicate that Paul was speaking of his love for the Spirit, rather than the Spirit’s love for him. Paul’s great love for God obviously included love for the Holy Spirit as well as for God the Father and God the Son. David expressed a similar sentiment when he wrote, “Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God; let Thy good Spirit lead me on level ground” (Ps. 143:10, emphasis added). In both instances the Holy Spirit is praised and, by implication, is loved.

Devotion to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and love for His Holy Spirit should be the foremost and ultimate motive for all Christian living and service. In gratitude for the divine grace by which Christ saved us and for the divine power of the Holy Spirit who indwells us, everything we think, say, and do should express our love for them and bring them glory and honor.

Prayer

to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints; so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company. (15:30 b–32)

Perhaps the cardinal characteristic of a person who faithfully does the will of God is prayer. And Paul now urges his fellow believers in Rome to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.

Sunagōnizomai (to strive together) is an intensified form of agōnizomai, which means to struggle or fight and is the term from which we get the English “agonize.” The word was originally used of athletic events, especially gymnastics, in which contestants, such as wrestlers or boxers, struggled against each other. Jesus used the word when He told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting [agōnizomai]” (John 18:36).

Prayer is often a battle. Sometimes the “opponent” is our old self, which continues to wage “war against the law of [our] mind, and [makes us] a prisoner of the law of sin which is in [our] members” (Rom. 7:23). Prayer is always, in one way or another, a struggle against sin and evil, whether in us or around us. Sometimes, as Isaiah attests, it is necessary to arouse ourselves, as it were, and “take hold of” God (Isa. 64:7). Although we do not wrestle with the Lord in the way that Jacob did (Gen. 32:24), the spiritual struggle of prayer may sometimes be equally intense. Paul’s struggle on behalf of believers at Colossae and Laodicea doubtless included many hours of agonizing prayer on their behalf, that they would be rightly taught “a true knowledge of God’s mercy, that is, Christ Himself,” and would be protected from those who wanted to delude them (Col. 2:1–4). Near the end of that letter, Paul sent greetings from Epaphras, who was from their fellowship, and who was “always laboring earnestly for [them] in his prayers, that [they might] stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God” (4:12).

Our finite minds cannot reconcile the power of prayer with God’s absolute sovereignty. As with the Trinity, and many other clearly revealed but humanly unfathomable teachings of Scripture, we simply acknowledge their absolute truth. Any seeming inconsistencies are due to the limits of our human comprehension. We know from His own Word that God is sovereign and immutable. Yet we also know from that same Word that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). We have our sovereign Lord’s promise that “everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened” (Luke 11:10). Any theology that belittles the power of prayer or intensity in prayer is heresy.

Although he asks for protection while in Judea, in this present passage Paul is not speaking primarily about struggling in prayer against the forces of evil. His emphasis here is rather on earnestly struggling along with his brethren in Rome in their prayers to God for him. He makes many similar requests in his letters. “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit,” he counsels the Ephesians, “and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf” (Eph. 6:18–19). During his first imprisonment in Rome, he implored the Colossians, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well” (Col. 4:2–3). In his second letter to Thessalonica, he said, “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified” (2 Thess. 3:1).

At the beginning of the letter to Rome, Paul assures believers there that “God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers” (1:9–10). Now he asks those brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for him: for his safety in Judea when he visits Jerusalem (15:31a), for success in his ministry to the saints there (v. 31b), and for personal satisfaction, as he anticipates fellowship with his readers when he eventually reaches Rome (v. 32a, c).

Safety

that I may be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea, (15:31a)

Disobedient is from apeitheō, which carries the basic idea of being obstinate and unpersuadable. In this context it refers to Jews who obstinately refused to believe the gospel and therefore were disobedient to God, whose Son, the Messiah, they rejected. It is therefore rendered “do not believe” in the King James Version. The same verb is translated “disbelieved” in Acts 14:2 (nasb), referring to Jews who “stirred up the minds of the Gentiles, and embittered them against the brethren,” specifically, Paul and Barnabas (see 13:50).

From the time that he first “began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God’ ” (Acts 9:20), Paul was marked for death by Jewish leaders in Damascus (v. 23) and shortly afterwards by Jews in Jerusalem when he began preaching the gospel there (v. 30). By the time he wrote the letter to Rome, he already had endured ridicule, imprisonments, lashings, beatings, and even stoning by Jews who fiercely opposed him and the gospel he preached (see, e.g., 2 Cor. 11:23–25; Acts 14:19; 18:12; 20:3, 19).

Paul’s request to be delivered was not for the purpose of his being spared further persecution or even death. He unselfishly wanted to be delivered only to the extent necessary for him to complete the ministry the Lord had given him. Long before he arrived in Judea, he knew that trouble awaited him. While his ship laid over at Miletus, he told the elders from Ephesus who came out to meet him, “Now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself,” he continued, “in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:22–24).

When Paul and his companions reached Caesarea, they stayed a few days at the house of Philip the evangelist. While there, “a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us,” Luke reports, “he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, ‘This is what the Holy Spirit says: “In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’ ” (Acts 21:10–11).

Paul’s prayer request to be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea was therefore answered positively, to the extent that the unbelieving Jews in Judea were not allowed to take his life. He was beaten and imprisoned, but his life was divinely spared. While being held under guard by the Romans in Jerusalem, “the Lord stood at his [Paul’s] side and said, ‘Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also’ ” (Acts 23:11).

Success

and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints; (15:31b)

Paul’s second prayer request was that, regardless of what dangers might befall him, his service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints. In other words, he wanted his ministry to benefit the Lord’s people there, at the birthplace of the church. He was not concerned for what might be called professional success. He once warned the Galatian believers that, “Even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.… For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Gal. 1:8, 10).

Because he and his Gentile companions from Macedonia and Achaia were bringing a financial contribution to the church at Jerusalem, which was still largely Jewish, the service which Paul mentions doubtless referred, at least in part, to that offering. He wanted the saints in Rome to pray with him that the gift would not offend Jewish believers in Jerusalem but rather would prove acceptable to the saints there. He wanted it to be received with loving gratitude for what it was, a gesture of brotherly love and conciliation.

Paul’s prayer for success in Jerusalem also was answered. “When we had come to Jerusalem,” Luke says, “the brethren received us gladly.… And after [Paul] had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it they began glorifying God” (Acts 21:17, 19–20).

Satisfaction

so that I may come to you in joy … and find refreshing rest in your company. (15:32a, c)

This is Paul’s most personal prayer request of the three. Looking forward to the time when he finally would be able to come to the church in Rome, he hoped that he might do so in joy. He already had told them, “I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while” (15:24).

In the closing comments of his first letter to Corinth, he said, “I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus; because they have supplied what was lacking on your part. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours” (1 Cor. 16:17–18). He rejoiced in the blessings and joy of others. “Besides our comfort,” he later wrote to the same church, “we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all” (2 Cor. 7:13).

Paul’s personal desire to minister in Spain was never realized, but he did reach Rome and found the joy and refreshing rest in their company for which he longed. When he and his companions arrived in Rome, “the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage” (Acts 27:15).

Again we note that above all else, Paul was committed unalterably to the will of God. Soon after he and Barnabas were sent out by the Holy Spirit from the church in Antioch of Syria (Acts 13:2–3), Paul preached in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch (v. 14), in Asia Minor. Twice he referred to David’s obedience to God’s will. Quoting 1 Samuel 13:14, he reminded his Jewish audience of the Lord’s word concerning this greatest king of Israel: “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will” (v. 22). Later in that sermon he noted again that “David … had served the purpose of God in his own generation” (v. 36). From the moment of his conversion—whether as priest, prophet, or pioneer (see Rom. 15:14–21)—Paul sought to do nothing but the will of God, in order that, like David, he also might be a man after the Lord’s heart.

Throughout his letter to the church at Rome, the apostle attests to that desire. As in the present text, he makes clear that his hope to visit Rome in person was qualified by its being in “the will of God” (Rom. 1:10). He previously has declared that one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to intercede “for the saints according to the will of God” (8:27), and urges believers, “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God,” and to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is” (12:1–2). He praised believers in Macedonia because they “gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God” (2 Cor. 8:5). He cautioned believers in Ephesus not to “be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17), and admonished slaves to be “obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (6:5–6).

In the opening verses of his two letters to the church at Corinth, his letters to the churches at Ephesus and Colossae, and his second letter to Timothy, Paul acknowledges that he was “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” The supreme focus of his personal life and of his public ministry was always the will of God.

When the believers at Caesarea begged Paul not to continue on to Jerusalem because of the dangers he would face there, he responded, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13; cf. 20:24). What happened to him was unimportant, as long as he was following the Lord’s will in doing the Lord’s work.

When he testified about his conversion and calling before a large crowd of Jews in Jerusalem, he recounted the words of Ananias, who had said to him, “The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear an utterance from His mouth” (Acts 22:14).

As Paul has already testified in Romans 15, because of his ministering in the will of God, he knew spiritual triumph and could say with perfect humility, “In Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed” (vv. 17–18). By ministering solely in the will of God he experienced the supernatural power “of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit” and could claim “that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (v. 19).[2]


Pray for Me!

Romans 15:30–32

I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.

In the last study we looked at how confident Paul was that when he came to Rome it would be “in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.” I ended by listing the requirements for such blessing, the basis for Paul’s confidence, based on Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches in John 15. Yet Paul undoubtedly also prayed for God’s blessing on his pending visit to Rome and asked other believers to pray too. Paul was confident of God’s richest blessing on his ministry because he had asked God for it.

In the final paragraph of Romans 15 Paul passes to the subject of prayer, urging the Christians at Rome to pray for him. This is not unusual. It was Paul’s regular practice to request prayers for himself and his ministry. We can think of many passages where he does it: 2 Corinthians 1:10–11; Ephesians 6:19–20; Philippians 1:19; Colossians 4:3–4; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1–2. But this is a strong and very impassioned plea, undoubtedly because of the difficulties Paul foresaw in going to Jerusalem. In these verses Paul describes prayer as a struggle and brings in each member of the Trinity: “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me” (v. 30).

John Murray says of this verse, “God answered the prayers but not in the ways that Paul had hoped for or anticipated. The lessons to be derived from verses 30–33 are numberless.” I agree with John Murray, for none of us prays as well, fervently, or with as much understanding as we should.

Prayer Is Not Useless

One of the reasons why we do not pray as we should is that we do not realize the seriousness of what is going on or our part in it. According to Ephesians 6, we are embroiled in fierce spiritual warfare, and prayer is our weapon. Paul realized that intensely, which is why he engages the believers at Rome to join his struggles by praying to God on his behalf.

A great Bible teacher of the early part of this century, Reuben A. Torrey, was at a Bible conference in St. Louis. Another minister was speaking on “The Rest of Faith,” saying that Jesus has won all spiritual victories for us and that all we need to do is rest on Christ’s work. There is a sense in which that is true, of course. But the preacher overextended himself when he exclaimed, “I challenge anybody to show me a single passage in the Bible where we are told to wrestle in prayer.” Torrey was on the platform, and he says that although one speaker does not like to contradict another, this was a challenge he had to take up. So he said softly, “Romans 15:30, brother.” Fortunately the other speaker was honest enough to admit that Torrey was right. For what Romans 15:30 says is that we are to struggle together in prayer and that much depends on it.

It is helpful to know that the Greek word here is synagonizomai, which is a compound made up of the preposition meaning with (syn) plus the word from which we get our words agony, agonize, and antagonist (agonizomai). An agon was an athletic contest. Thus, agonizomai described the struggle that took place in an athletic contest and by extension in any other conflict as well. Jesus used the word when he said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight …” (John 18:36). His word for fight is agonize. In Luke 22:44, this is the word that is used to describe our Lord’s fervent prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke says, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” To return to Paul, both the noun and verb occur in Paul’s summation of his ministry, where he says: “I have fought the good fight” (2 Tim. 4:7).

This, then, is why prayer is not a useless exercise. We are engaged in a great spiritual struggle against the devil and his schemes, and prayer is the only way we can participate in it.

Prayer Is Effective

The second lesson of Paul’s important paragraph about prayer is that prayer is useful. As James says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

It had to be if it was going to help Paul. In verse 31 of this section Paul asks the Roman Christians to pray for two things: first, that he would be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and second, that his service in Jerusalem might be accepted by the saints there. There was ample cause for his anxiety on both counts. Paul was aware of how intensely he was hated by the Jews. They saw him as a Jewish renegade and heretic who was teaching a disastrous theology and undermining Judaism. The proof of their hatred (and of the danger to which Paul was exposed) was seen in their reception of Paul when he arrived in the city and was making his way to the temple. His enemies saw him and stirred up the masses of the people, shouting, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place” (Acts 21:28). This last charge was untrue, but it was effective in causing the people to seize Paul and try to kill him. He was saved from the mob only because the commander of the Roman garrison sent soldiers into the crowd to take him into custody. Yet even as they did, the people kept crying out for his death (v. 36).

What about Paul’s second area of concern, that his service (he means the offering that he had received from the Gentiles) might be acceptable to the Jerusalem saints? We might wonder how any offer of financial assistance could be unacceptable, but we need to remember how fiercely many Jewish Christians felt about the Mosaic law and how fanatically they opposed Paul’s insistence that Gentiles should not be subjected to its strictures. Paul wanted the Gentile offering to heal this division, but it was possible that it could have had a directly opposite effect. It could have been seen as a bribe and only have intensified the hostility.

So what was the outcome? Well, in the first instance Paul was indeed delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, though not in the way he would have wanted or expected. When the riot occurred, he was rescued by the soldiers. And though he spent the next two years in custody in Caesarea and at least two years as a prisoner in Rome, he did at last get to Rome and possibly to Spain as well.

There is also reason to believe that the Gentile offering partially healed the breach between Jewish and Gentile Christianity, for the leaders thanked Paul for his concern and praised God for his ministry, while reminding him that God was also working among them to save many Jews and bless Jewish Christianity (see Acts 21:17–20).

Does prayer work? Yes, in the sense that it changes us. But it also works in the sense that it is God’s appointed means to spiritual victory and right ends. Charles Hodge wrote in connection with these verses, “Prayer (and even intercessory prayer) has a real and important efficacy; not merely in its influence on the mind of him who offers it, but also in securing the blessings for which we pray. Paul directed the Roman Christians to pray for the exercise of the divine providence in protecting him from danger, and for the Holy Spirit to influence the minds of the brethren in Jerusalem. This he would not have done, were such petitions of no avail.”

Earlier I cited James 5:16 to show that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Another verse from that letter, James 4:2, shows that the reason we do not experience the full measure of the blessing of Christ is that we do not ask for it: “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” Unfortunately, we are often woefully deficient in this area.

Let me tell you how Dwight L. Moody became an evangelist. Moody was a shoe salesman who was also the teacher of a boy’s Bible class in Chicago. He was there at the time of the Great Chicago Fire, and after he had done his part in getting together some money to help the poor and buy a building for his own work, he went to England for a rest. He did not intend to preach. He only wanted to hear Charles Spurgeon, George Mueller, and some others. But one Sunday he was invited to preach in a Congregational church in north London, and he accepted.

Sunday morning did not go well. Moody said that he had “no power, no liberty; it seemed like pulling a heavy train up a steep grade.” It was so bad that he tried to get out of preaching the evening service, for which he had also been invited, but the minister would not let him off.

That evening it was quite different. Moody felt unusual power, and when he got to the end he decided to give an invitation. He asked all who wanted to accept Christ to get to their feet, and about five hundred people did. Moody thought there must be some mistake, perhaps they just didn’t understand him. So he asked them to sit down. Then he said, “After this meeting there will be an after-service in the vestry, and I invite all who are serious about receiving Christ to come to that meeting.” There was a door to the vestry on each side of the pulpit, and when the service was over the people began to stream through.

“Who are all these people?” Moody asked the pastor. “Are they yours?”

“Some of them are.”

“Are they Christians?”

“Not as far as I know,” was the reply.

Moody went into the vestry and repeated the invitation in even stronger terms, and the people all once again expressed their willingness to become Christians. Moody still thought there must be some mistake. He said, “I have to go to Ireland tomorrow, but your pastor will still be here and if you really mean what you have just said, come tomorrow night and meet with him again.” A few days later, when he was in Ireland, Moody received a telegram from the minister saying, “There were more people here on Monday night than on Sunday. A revival has broken out in our church, and you must return from Ireland and help me.” Moody did return, and what happened in those days was the basis for the invitations that later took him back to England and then over the whole world as an evangelist.

That alone is a remarkable story, but here is the rest of it. There were two sisters in that north London church, one of whom was a bed-ridden invalid. After the morning service at which Moody had first preached the healthy sister came home and reported that a Mr. Moody had been there that morning.

“Mr. Moody of Chicago?” asked the sister. When told that he was the one who had preached, the sick sister said, “I have read about him in the newspapers and have been praying that he would come to London and that God would send him to our church. If I had known that it was he who would be preaching this morning, I would have eaten no breakfast and have spent the time praying instead. Now leave me alone. Don’t let anyone in to see me. I am going to spend the rest of the day and evening fasting and in prayer.” That is what she did, and the revival in north London resulted.

Is prayer effective? Indeed it is! What is more, it is the only thing that is effective in this great spiritual struggle for the minds and souls of men and women. It is God’s appointed means to revival.

Prayer Is Necessary

The third point this passage teaches is that prayer is necessary. It is not only effective, it is the only thing that is effective. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that we pray to see individuals saved and experience other spiritual blessings and results. Abraham Lincoln once said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.”

I include this point on the basis of Paul’s reference to the will of God in verse 32: “so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.” Does that mean that prayer gets God to change his will so that he conforms to our wishes, or does it mean only that we are changed to accept what he is going to do anyway?

There are two common errors at this point. The first is the error of a superficial Calvinism, which understands that God is sovereign and that his will is always done. It errs in deducing that because this is true, prayer is virtually unimportant except in regard to how it changes us. The second is the Arminian error, which makes God somehow weakly dependent on us. William Evans, in Why Pray, writes, “Prayer does not change God’s purposes and plans; but it releases them and permits God to do in, for and through us all that which his infinite love and wisdom want to do, but which because of lack of prayer he has not been able to do.… Prayer gives God the opportunity to do for us what he wants to do.… [We should not] think that God can do whatever he wants to do without our aid. He cannot.”

Cannot? Unable? Give God the opportunity? Anyone who knows anything about the majestic sovereign God of the Bible knows that there is something terribly wrong with this approach.

The answer is a better understanding of true Calvinism, which realizes that God does not only appoint the end to be obtained, but he also designates the means to attain that end. Therefore, if God has appointed a widespread revival or the salvation of an individual or any other blessing and if he has determined that the means by which that blessing shall be received is prayer, then it is as necessary that we pray as it is that this predetermined blessing come about. Prayer is inseparably linked to election, just as witnessing and the preaching of the Word are linked to it. If God has determined to do something in response to the prayers of his people, then his people must pray. Indeed, he will lead them to do so.

John Calvin said, “The phrase through the will of God reminds us of the necessity of devoting ourselves to prayer, since God alone directs all our paths by his providence.” Torrey declared, “Prayer is God’s appointed way for obtaining things.” He concluded that the major reason for all lack in our experience, life, and work is prayer’s neglect.8

Prayer Is Difficult

So why do we neglect prayer? Maybe because we do not believe that what I have just said is true or important, but perhaps also because prayer is so difficult. It must be difficult, because Paul calls it a struggle. People who pray well know what that means.

The next question is why prayer is difficult. One reason is that prayer is a spiritual battleground. Our enemy is the devil, and we cannot expect things to be easy when we are struggling with Satan for the souls of men and women. Again, prayer is difficult because we do not know God or God’s ways as we ought to know them. Therefore we often do not really know what to pray for. Paul understood this problem well, for he wrote earlier in Romans, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Rom. 8:26). In other words, one of the works of the Holy Spirit is to pray for us and with us and so make up for our great spiritual ignorance and deficiencies.

But let me suggest one other reason why prayer is so difficult for us based on what we find in Romans: We are too self-centered in our prayers. Have you noticed how unselfish Paul’s prayer requests were? They were for his safety and success in Jerusalem, but not simply that he might have an easy time. He wanted his service to be so well received that it would help heal the breach between Gentile and Jewish Christianity. He wanted to be delivered from the unbelievers in Jerusalem so that his ministry among the Gentiles might be continued with God’s blessing. Indeed, the last verse of our passage says, “… so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed” (v. 32).

I am reminded of the story of a little girl who had been to a Sunday school lesson on prayer and had been taught that Jesus said, “If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him” (Mark 11:23). The child could see a large mountain from her bedroom window, and the next day her mother came by her room and heard her praying that God would cast the mountain into the sea. “Why do you want to pray a prayer like that?” her mother asked. “Why would you ever want that mountain thrown into the sea?”

“Oh,” said the little girl, “I’d love to see the big splash it would make when it came down.”

Unfortunately, many of our prayers are only a little less selfish than that. And since selfishness is sin and sin is a barrier to prayer (see Isa. 59:1–3), it is not surprising that we find prayer difficult and that our specific prayers often go unanswered.

Prayer Is Commanded

Paul’s words are a command: “Join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued.”

Jesus also taught us to pray. Remember his story about the unjust judge and persistent widow who kept coming to him until he finally gave her what she wanted (Luke 18:1–8). Jesus did not teach that God is an unjust judge; but he wanted us to know that we “should always pray and not give up” (v. 1). Jesus prayed! So did the apostles. So have all the saints through all the ages. Can we neglect it? Reuben Torrey was right when he said that whatever else we may learn on this subject, what we must certainly learn is this: “I must pray, pray, pray. I must put all my energy and all my heart into prayer. Whatever else I do, I must pray.”[3]


30. Now I beseech you, &c. It is well known from many passages how much ill-will prevailed against Paul in his own nation on account of false reports, as though he taught a departure from Moses. He knew how much calumnies might avail to oppress the innocent, especially among those who are carried away by inconsiderate zeal. Added also to this, was the testimony of the Spirit, recorded in Acts 20:23; by which he was forewarned, that bonds and afflictions awaited him at Jerusalem. The more danger then he perceived, the more he was moved: hence it was, that he was so solicitous to commend his safety to the Churches; nor let us wonder, that he was anxious about his life, in which he knew so much danger to the Church was involved.

He then shows how grieved his godly mind was, by the earnest protestation he makes, in which he adds to the name of the Lord, the love of the Spirit, by which the saints ought to embrace one another. But though in so great a fear, he yet continued to proceed; nor did he so dread danger, but that he was prepared willingly to meet it. At the same time he had recourse to the remedies given him by God; for he solicited the aid of the Church, so that being helped by its prayers, he might find comfort, according to the Lord’s promise,—“Where two or three shall assemble in my name, there in the midst of them am I,” (Matt, 18:20;) and, “Whatsoever they agree in on earth, they shall obtain in heaven,” (Matt. 18:19.) And lest no one should think it an unmeaning commendation, he besought them both by Christ and by the love of the Spirit. The love of the Spirit is that by which Christ joins us together; for it is not that of the flesh, nor of the world, but is from his Spirit, who is the bond of our unity.

Since then it is so great a favour from God to be helped by the prayers of the faithful, that even Paul, a most choice instrument of God, did not think it right to neglect this privilege, how great must be our stupidity, if we, who are abject and worthless creatures, disregard it? But to take a handle from such passages for the purpose of maintaining the intercessions of dead saints, is an instance of extreme effrontery.

That ye strive together with me, &c. Erasmus has not given an unsuitable rendering, “That ye help me labouring:” but as the Greek word, used by Paul, has more force, I have preferred to give a literal rendering: for by the word strive, or contend, he alludes to the difficulties by which he was oppressed, and by bidding them to assist in this contest, he shows how the godly ought to pray for their brethren, that they are to assume their person, as though they were placed in the same difficulties; and he also intimates the effect which they have; for he who commends his brother to the Lord, by taking to himself a part of his distress, do so far relieve him. And indeed if our strength is derived from prayer to God, we can in no better way confirm our brethren, than by praying to God for them.

31. That my ministration, &c. Slanderers had so prevailed by their accusations, that he even feared that the present would hardly be acceptable, as coming from his hands, which otherwise, under such a distress, would have been very seasonable. And hence appears his wonderful meekness, for he ceased not to labour for those to whom he doubted whether he would be acceptable. This disposition of mind we ought to imitate, so that we may not cease to do good to those of whose gratitude we are by no means certain. We must also notice that he honours with the name of saints even those by whom he feared he would be suspected, and deemed unwelcome. He also knew that saints may sometimes be led away by false slanders into unfavourable opinions, and though he knew that they wronged him, he yet ceased not to speak honourably of them.

By adding that I may come to you, he intimates that this prayer would be profitable also to them, and that it concerned them that he should not be killed in Judea. To the same purpose is the expression with joy; for it would be advantageous to the Romans for him to come to them in a cheerful state of mind and free from all grief, that he might in a more lively and strenuous manner labour among them. And by the word refreshed, or satisfied, he again shows how fully persuaded he was of their brotherly love. The words by the will of God remind us how necessary it is to be diligent in prayer, for God alone directs all our ways by his providence.

And the God of peace, &c. From the universal word all, I conclude that he did not simply pray that God would be present with and favour the Romans in a general sense, but that he would rule and guide every one of them. But the word peace refers, I think, to their circumstances at the time, that God, the author of peace, would keep them all united together.[4]


30 At the time of writing, Paul was aware of Jewish opposition to him and his work. The attempt on his life when he was about to leave for Jerusalem (Ac 20:3) clearly shows that his apprehension was justified. Paul had received prophetic warnings of what awaited him in Jerusalem (21:11), and he seems to have had a premonition of what lay ahead (Ac 20:22–25). He had experienced deadly peril before and knew that prayer was the great resource in such hazardous times (2 Co 1:10–11); so he requests prayer now—the kind involving wrestling (“join me in my struggle”) before the throne of grace, that the evil designs of his enemies may be thwarted (cf. Eph 6:18–20). In doing so, he enforces his request by presenting it in the name of him whom all believers adore, “our Lord Jesus Christ”—and adding “by the love of the Spirit.” This is a subjective genitive and could mean the love for one another that the Spirit inspires in believers (Gal 5:22). But since the phrase is coupled apparently equally with that of the person of Christ, it is probably better to understand it as the love that the Spirit has (cf. 5:5). The warmth of the expression is enough to warn us against thinking of the Spirit rather impersonally as signifying the power of God. Paul had already affirmed the Spirit’s deity and equality with Father and Son (2 Co 13:14).

31 The request for prayer includes two immediate objectives. One was deliverance from unbelieving Jews in Judea. This group had forced his departure from the city at an earlier date (Ac 9:29–30), and there was no reason to think they had mellowed. The other objective concerned the attitude of the Jerusalem church to the mission that was taking him and his companions to the Jewish metropolis. Evidently the opposition of the Pharisaic party in the church (Ac 15:5) had not ceased, despite the decision of the Jerusalem Council (Ac 15:19–29). This opposition, as it related to Paul, was nourished by false rumors concerning his activities (Ac 21:20–21), so there was reason for concern. It would be a terrible blow to the unity of the church universal if the love-gift of the Gentile congregations were to be spurned or accepted with only casual thanks. The body of Christ could be torn apart into Jewish and Gentile churches.

32 These two items are intimately related to the successful realization of his hope of reaching Rome safely, coming “with joy” because of the goodness of God in prospering his way, and being “refreshed” (synanapausōmai, GK 5265) in the fellowship of the saints. Yet he knew that all of this, as with everything, was conditional and depended on “God’s will” (cf. 1:10). As it turned out, this meant that he would reach Rome, but not as a free man. Yet that very circumstance enabled him to demonstrate the all-sufficient grace and power of Christ (Php 1:12–14; cf. 2 Ti 4:17).[5]


30  The fulfillment of Paul’s hope to come to the Romans “with the fullness of the blessing of Christ” (v. 29) depends on what will happen when Paul goes to Jerusalem with the collection. And so he “now” “urges” the Roman Christians to pray for him. The word is a strong one,8 and Paul accentuates it by his twofold qualification: “through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit.” The first “through” might be paraphrased “in the name of”: it introduces the authority by which Paul makes his request. The second, on the other hand, identifies the ground of the request.10 “Love of the Spirit” might mean “the love of the Spirit for us;” but, in a context where relations among Christians have been so central, it probably indicates “the love that the Spirit inspires” (REB; cf. TEV);12 for example, the love that believers have for one another, a love “that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”

Paul’s request is that the Roman Christians “strive together” with him in prayers. Paul’s use of the metaphor of fighting or wrestling may imply something about the nature of the prayer that he is requesting: that it involves a “wrestling” with God; or that it must be especially diligent.16 But Paul’s use of the language of “striving” to describe his own ministry might suggest rather that he is inviting the Roman Christians, through their prayers, to participate with him in his “struggle” to complete his ordained missionary work. Though so many are unknown personally to him, Paul can nevertheless ask the Roman Christians to identify with him in his own struggle so that they might sincerely pray on his behalf.18 As Calvin remarks, Paul “shows how the godly ought to pray for their brethren, that they are to assume their person, as though they were placed in the same difficulties.”

31  The first thing that Paul wants the Roman Christians to pray for is his personal safety: “that I might be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea.” “The disobedient” refer to unbelievers; and that Paul had good ground for this request is clear from what happened when he did reach Jerusalem with the collection: the Romans had to take him into custody in order to keep the Jews from killing him (Acts 21:27–36).

But Paul is also concerned about his reception by believers in Jerusalem. Therefore, his second request is that the Roman Christians pray that “my ministry for Jerusalem might be acceptable to the saints.” As the parallel language in v. 25 shows, “ministry” (or “service”) refers to the collection. And it is possible that this second request might be closely related to the first. For Paul might think that it would be pressure put on the Jewish Christians by their unbelieving fellow Jews that would lead them to reject the collection. But Paul does not draw this connection; and the distrust about Paul and his law-free gospel among Jewish Christians themselves was great enough to give him ample reason for the concern he expresses here.22 For, while Paul’s relationships with the Jerusalem apostles were apparently cordial enough at this point, his own letters reveal that various conservative Jewish-Christian groups continued to be hostile toward him.24

32  The purpose clause in this verse could be a third prayer request, parallel to the two in v. 31, but it probably expresses the ultimate goal of those requests:26 that Paul might “come in joy28” to the Roman Christians and find refreshment there with them. “Through the will of God” probably modifies “come” rather than “find rest”;30 but, in either case, Paul thereby reminds his readers that all his plans and hopes are subordinate to the will of God. We find a somewhat ironic confirmation of this in the way in which God “answered” Paul’s prayer here. He was delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, but only by being locked up by the Romans for two years. The collection was, apparently, accepted by the Jewish Christians (or at least most of them [cf. Acts 21:17]), but Paul’s subsequent arrest in the temple precincts must have raised Jewish Christians’ suspicions about him again. And Paul did get to Rome and experience some measure of joy and refreshment (cf. Phil. 1:12–19; 2:25–30), but he arrived there in Roman chains.[6]


15:30–33 / After completing the relief offering, Paul hopes at last to be free to pursue his Spanish mission, stopping in Rome en route “in the full measure of the blessing of Christ” (vv. 28–29). Paul was under no illusions about latent hostility awaiting him in Jerusalem. Neither (apparently) was anyone else. He had already escaped one plot on his life there (Acts 9:29–30), and omens of yet another awaited him (Acts 20:22–25; 21:10–11). It is for good reason that Paul hopes to be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea (v. 31). In no uncertain terms he reckons with the possibility of losing his life at the hands of Jews who were opposed to the messiahship of Jesus. So ominous were impending events that in this, the only direct personal appeal to his readers in the epistle, he solicits their aid in his struggle by praying to God for me (v. 30). In going to Jerusalem Paul was quite literally risking his life for the unity and equality of Gentiles and Jews. In this too he needed prayer, not only that his life would be spared, but that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there.

Events in Jerusalem, of course, transpired quite differently from the hopes of verse 28. Paul fell victim to a misconceived plot and was nearly beaten to death in the temple precincts by an angry mob of Jews (Acts 21:17ff.). After an anxious rescue by Roman soldiers, he languished two years under as many governors in jail in Caesarea. Paul eventually reached Rome, but not as a pioneer missionary. He arrived as a prisoner in chains, and our chief source for these matters, the book of Acts, closes with his awaiting trial under Caesar in Rome.

Whether Paul ever made it to Spain we do not know. The nt leaves no record that he did. The traditional view is that Paul died at the hands of Nero shortly after the end of the narrative of Acts (ca. a.d. 62). There is, however, at least one brief though tantalizing piece of evidence that Paul may have fulfilled his goal of reaching Spain. The early record of 1 Clement (ca. a.d. 95) that Paul “taught righteousness to all the world” and gave his testimony “when he had reached the limits of the west” (5:7) is no negligible witness. It is, of course, possible to take “limits of the west” to mean Rome, but that is rendered less likely considering the fact that Clement wrote from Rome, which was the western limit of neither the empire nor Europe. What 1 Clement says implicitly, the Muratorian Canon (also from Rome, though a century later and of less value) says explicitly: “from the city (of Rome) [Paul] proceeded to Spain.” Whether Paul actually reached Spain is, in the final analysis, of no material consequence for our understanding of Romans. It is largely a point of historical curiosity. Nevertheless, 1 Clement and the Muratorian Canon caution us against foreclosing the question too hastily. Even if Paul fulfilled his goal of preaching “the gospel where Christ was not known” (in Spain), however, he must have been arrested again a few years later and executed in Rome, for tradition is unanimous that he died there sometime during the latter years of Nero’s reign (ca. a.d. 64–68).[7]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ro 15:30). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Vol. 2, pp. 349–356). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The New Humanity (Vol. 4, pp. 1893–1900). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[4] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (pp. 538–541). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[5] Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 223–224). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[6] Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (pp. 909–911). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[7] Edwards, J. R. (2011). Romans (pp. 349–350). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

June 17, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

How to Be Ready for the End Times—Part 2: Be Strong and Courageous

(2 Thessalonians 2:6–17)

And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word. (2:6–17)

A hallmark of false doctrine is its attack on the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout history, mystics, rationalists, legalists, cultists, and other heretics have assaulted Christ’s deity, humanity, and the singular efficacy and sufficiency of His saving work. The Reformation definition of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone was affirmed against the backdrop of attacks on biblical soteriology. Satan apparently devotes his personal efforts not to tempting individual Christians but to devising false systems of religion, which teach lies about Christ (1 John 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7). He is disguised as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). His demon doctrines deceive countless millions, keeping them from the life-giving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is coming a satanic false religion that will dominate the world like no other in history (cf. Rev. 17). Its object of worship will be the most powerful, evil, deceitful person to ever live: the man of lawlessness, the Antichrist. He will be the culmination of Satan’s long war against God, the last and most malevolent manifestation of the antichrist spirit (1 John 4:3). Like his evil master, Antichrist will disguise himself as an “angel of light” and deceive the whole lost world (Rev. 12:9; 13:14).

As noted in the previous chapter of this volume, Paul wrote about Antichrist, called the man of lawlessness and son of destruction, because the Thessalonians had been deceived by the lie that their fears were true, that they had missed the Rapture and were in the judgment of the Day of the Lord. Seeking to correct their error, Paul called on them to remember what he had previously taught them, reassuring them that the Day of the Lord had not come. His argument was simple and irrefutable: Antichrist has not appeared, and his appearance is a necessary precursor to the Day of the Lord. He must appear and commit the ultimate act of apostasy, the abomination of desolation, before the Day of the Lord arrives.

Paul gave six specific exhortations to avoid fear about the end times. Believers must not be deceived, forgetful, ignorant, unbelieving, insecure, or weak. The previous chapter of this volume covered the first two exhortations; this chapter will discuss the last four.

Do Not Be Ignorant

And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, (2:6–10b)

Having discussed the act of apostasy by which the Antichrist will reveal himself for who he really is, Paul takes a deeper look at the man himself. He lists four aspects of Antichrist’s career: his revelation, destruction, power, and influence.

his revelation

And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed (2:6–8a)

As the phrase and you know indicates, the Thessalonians understood what force currently restrains Antichrist because Paul had told them when he was with them. Therefore, he did not repeat it here—a fact that has led to endless speculation as to what it is. The Greek verb translated restrains (katechō; “to hold back,” “to hold down,” “to suppress”) appears in this text as a neuter participle, prompting commentators to suggest numerous options as to the identity of that restraining force.

Some believe that the preaching of the gospel keeps Antichrist in check. Eventually, they argue, the gospel will be fully proclaimed (cf. Matt. 24:14) and the restraint will be removed. Other suggestions for the restrainer include the nation of Israel, the alleged binding of Satan by believers, the church’s influence as salt and light in the world (cf. Matt. 5:13–14), human government (cf. Rom. 13:1–4), the general principle of law and morality in the world, the Roman Empire, and even Michael the archangel (cf. Dan. 10:21).

But none of those opinions is satisfactory. The most significant problem with all of them (except the last) is that they are human forces. Humans preach the gospel; humans make up the nation of Israel; humans attempt to bind Satan; humans comprise the church; humans run the world’s governments; humans agree on principles of law and morality; and humans made up the Roman Empire. But human power, ingenuity, and institutions cannot restrain the supernatural power of Satan that seeks to release Antichrist. And the one supernatural person in the list, Michael, does not have the power to restrain Satan (Jude 9). The most logical of those choices, the church, has never been able to restrain even human evil. It may do so to some extent in the lives of its members, but the outside world continues to grow worse and worse—a situation that will especially characterize the end times (2 Tim. 3:13). If no human or angelic power restrains, that leaves only the power of God to hold back the purpose of Satan for his Antichrist.

And God does the restraining so that in his time he will be revealed. Satan, of course, does not want to operate on God’s timetable. If he could, he would have revealed Antichrist long before now. He longs for the false messiah, through whom he will rule the earth, to appear. But nothing—not even the purposes of hell—operates independently of God’s sovereign timetable. Job confessed, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). In Isaiah 46:10 God declares, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” Therefore, the man of lawlessness will not appear until the time predetermined by God.

God will not allow Antichrist to be revealed until all the redeemed, whom He chose for salvation in eternity past (2:13; cf. Matt. 25:34; Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rev. 13:8; 17:8), are gathered into the kingdom (cf. Rom. 11:25). Evil will not overstep its divinely ordained bounds. The true Messiah was revealed “when the fullness of the time came, [and] God sent forth His Son” (Gal. 4:4); the ultimate false messiah will likewise be revealed in God’s perfect time.

Though Antichrist may be restrained, evil will not be; in fact, the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Mustērion (mystery) describes something “which has been kept secret for long ages past” (Rom. 16:25) and is incapable of being known unless revealed by God. The true character of lawlessness is already at work (cf. 1 John 3:4); and “even now many antichrists have appeared” (1 John 2:18; cf. 4:3). Evil, lies, hypocrisy, immorality, and false religion permeate the world and grow increasingly worse, so that every generation is more wicked than those before (2 Tim. 3:13), but sin’s ultimate manifestation is yet to come. When the restraint is removed and Antichrist appears, the true character of evil will be manifested. It should be noted that not only will the man of lawlessness be revealed, but God will also release demons from being bound in hell to inundate the earth (Rev. 9:1–19).

The change in gender from the neuter participle translated “what restrains” in verse 6 to the masculine participle rendered he who … restrains is significant. The sovereign, divine force that currently restrains Antichrist is exerted by a person—the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13 where Jesus used a masculine pronoun with the neuter noun translated “Spirit”). Only He has the supernatural power to hold Satan in check. The Holy Spirit has always battled wickedness in the world. Addressing the wicked pre-Flood generation, God declared, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever” (Gen. 6:3). Stephen issued this stinging rebuke to the leaders of Israel: “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did” (Acts 7:51). The Holy Spirit also opposes evil by “convict[ing] the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). He will continue His restraining work until the midpoint of the Tribulation. The removal of the Holy Spirit’s restraint therefore cannot be identified with the Rapture of the church, since that event takes place three and a half years earlier, before the Tribulation.

The phrase taken out of the way must not be interpreted to mean that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the world. That is impossible, since He is omnipresent. Nor could anyone be saved during the Tribulation (cf. Rev. 7:14) apart from His regenerating work (John 3:3–8; Titus 3:5). The phrase refers not to the removal of the Holy Spirit from the world, but rather to the cessation of His restraining work.

Summarizing Paul’s teaching on this issue, William Hendriksen wrote:

Accordingly, the sense of the entire passage (verses 6 and 7) seems to be this: Satan, while perfectly aware of the fact that he cannot himself become incarnate, nevertheless would like to imitate the second person of the Trinity also in this respect as far as possible. He yearns for a man over whom he will have complete control, and who will perform his will as thoroughly as Jesus performed the will of the Father. It will have to be a man of outstanding talents. But as yet the devil is being frustrated in his attempt to put this plan into operation. Someone and something is always “holding back” the deceiver’s man of lawlessness. This, of course, happens under God’s direction. Hence, for the time being, the worst Satan can do is to promote the spirit of lawlessness. But this does not satisfy him. It is as if he and his man of sin bide their time. At the divinely decreed moment (“the appropriate season”) when, as a punishment for man’s willingness to cooperate with this spirit, the “some one” and “something” that now holds back is removed, Satan will begin to carry out his plans. (New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981], 182–83. Emphasis in the original.)

Romans 1:18–25 gives a clear and oft-repeated historical example of the removal of restraint so that sin is unleashed:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

The three statements that “God gave them up” or “over” (vv. 24, 26, 28) describe the removal of divine restraint and the flood of immorality, homosexuality, and perverted thinking and behaving that drowns those so judged (cf. Ps. 81:11–12; Prov. 1:23–31; Hos. 4:17).

For the third time in this passage (cf. (vv. 3, 6), Paul notes that the lawless one will be revealed when the Holy Spirit’s restraint ceases. Antichrist will expose the depths of his evil nature by desecrating the temple and proclaiming himself to be God. God’s judgments, which will begin during the first half of the Tribulation, will intensify dramatically as the Day of the Lord arrives in all its judgmental fury (cf. Rev. 4–19). But Antichrist’s reign of terror will be short-lived.

his destruction

whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; (2:8b)

Just as Antichrist will be revealed at God’s appointed time, so also is the moment of his destruction divinely ordained. At the height of his power, when he seems invincible, he will meet his end. Daniel 7:26 says, “His dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever”; Daniel 11:45 notes that “he will come to his end, and no one will help him.” Revelation 17:11 declares that Antichrist “goes to destruction,” and that destruction is graphically described in Revelation 19:20: “And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.”

The most hellish and powerful ruler in human history will be effortlessly crushed; the Lord will slay him with the mere breath of His mouth. The term slay does not mean that the Lord will kill Antichrist (the niv translates it “overthrow”), since Revelation 19:20 says that he will still be alive when he is cast into the lake of fire. Robert L. Thomas notes:

Some have supposed a discrepancy between the fate of these two [the beast (Antichrist) and the false prophet] and that of the man of lawlessness in 2 Thess. 2:8 …, but harmonization of the two accounts of Christ’s return is quite easy. The verb … anelei,“destroy” used by Paul [in 2 Thess. 2:8] does not necessarily mean physical death. It can also refer to relegation to the lake of fire because the literal force of … anaireō [the root form of anelei] is “I make an end of.” (Revelation 8–22: An Exegetical Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1995], 397)

The concept that the Lord will destroy His enemies with the breath of His mouth stems from the Old Testament. Isaiah 11:4 says that the Lord “will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.” Isaiah 30:33 adds, “For Topheth has long been ready, indeed, it has been prepared for the king. He has made it deep and large, a pyre of fire with plenty of wood; the breath of the Lord, like a torrent of brimstone, sets it afire” (cf. Hos. 6:5). Revelation uses the similar picture of a sword coming out of the Lord’s mouth to destroy His enemies (1:16; 2:16; 19:15, 21).

The parallel statement and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming adds a slightly different dimension to Antichrist’s destruction. Katargeō (bring to an end) literally means, “to render inoperative,” “to abolish,” or “to render ineffective.” Not only will the Lord slay (destroy) Antichrist’s person, He will also bring to an end his empire. Christ will annihilate both the man and his enterprise by the appearance of His coming, a reference to the visible manifestation of Christ at His second coming (Rev. 19:11–21).

So Antichrist will rule from the midpoint of the Tribulation until Christ’s return—1,260 days (Rev. 12:6), or forty-two months (Rev. 13:5), both of which equal three and a half years (cf. Dan. 9:27). During that brief reign, so suddenly ended, he will exercise power unparalleled in human history.

his power

that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness (2:9–10a)

Antichrist’s great power will not be his own but will be in accord with the activity of Satan. Energeia (activity), the root of the English word “energy,” describes power in action. It usually refers to God’s power (e.g., Eph. 1:19; 3:7; Phil. 3:21; Col. 1:29; 2:12), but here it describes Satan’s power. Antichrist’s power and signs and false wonders will not only be deceptive tricks, like falsifying his own death and resurrection (Rev. 13:3, 12, 14; 17:8, 11), but also actual manifestations of Satan’s supernatural power. Power (miracles; cf. Matt. 7:22; 11:20, 21, 23, etc.) refers to supernatural acts; signs point to the one who performs them; wonders describes the astonishing results. Antichrist’s miracles will reveal his supernatural power and create wonder, shock, and astonishment. Pseudos (false) modifies all three terms; Antichrist’s miracles, signs, and wonders are false not in the sense that they are fakery but that they lead to false conclusions about who he is. They will cause people to believe the lie that he is a divine being and worship him. John saw that Antichrist’s deluded followers “worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’ ” (Rev. 13:4; cf. (vv. 12–15). Antichrist will mislead the world with all the deception … wickedness has at its disposal; he will muster all of evil’s undiluted, unrestrained, seductive power to tempt the world to give him unprecedented influence over it.

his influence

for those who perish, (2:10b)

Antichrist’s malevolent, deceptive, deadly influence will extend to all those who perish. Only God’s elect will not be taken in (Matt. 24:24). The unregenerate, being children of the arch-liar Satan (John 8:44), will inevitably fall for the lies of his emissary (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:3–4). Through him, Satan will deceive the whole world (Rev. 12:9); all those who “[receive] the mark of the beast and those who [worship] his image” (Rev. 19:20; cf. 2 Cor. 4:4).

Do Not Be Unbelieving

because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. (2:10c–12)

Specifically, unbelievers will be deceived by Antichrist and perish because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. The phrase the love of the truth appears only here in the New Testament, and adds a compelling thought to Paul’s argument. The unregenerate are eternally lost, not because they did not hear or understand the truth, but because they did not love it. The truth includes both “the word of truth, the gospel” (Col. 1:5), and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is truth incarnate (John 14:6; cf. 1:17; Eph. 4:21). Unbelievers do not welcome either Jesus or the gospel He proclaimed. Their antipathy to the truth is not intellectual, but moral, and their self-imposed blindness leaves the unredeemed under a damning level of satanic deception. It is not surprising, then, that Antichrist will deceive the entire lost world.

The Bible clearly teaches that those who go to hell do so because they reject the truth. Speaking of Jerusalem’s rejection of the truth, Jesus lamented, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37). John 3:19–20 says, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” To the unbelieving Jews Jesus declared, “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:38–40). He reiterated that truth later in John’s gospel:

Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.… But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God. (John 8:24, 45–47)

Because the unredeemed did not receive the love of the truth they “do not know God and … do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (1:8). They willfully choose to love their sin, believe Satan’s lies, and hate the gospel and the Lord Jesus Christ. They are like those Jewish leaders described in John 12:42–43 who “believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” In Matthew 10:37 Jesus taught that salvation involves loving Him above all else: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

The terrifying reality is that God will seal the fate of those who hate the gospel by sending upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false. Though, as noted above, Antichrist will deceive people with satanically empowered false miracles, signs, and wonders, his deception only will succeed because it fits into God’s sovereign purpose. He will sentence unbelievers to accept evil as if it were good and lies as if they were the truth. Those who continually choose falsehood will be inextricably caught by it. In the words of Proverbs 5:22, “His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin.” They will be abandoned by God to the consequences of their choice to reject the gospel.

The story of Pharaoh is a grim reminder that God will judicially harden the hearts of those who persist in hardening their hearts against the truth. Because Pharaoh hardened his heart (Ex. 8:15, 32; 9:34; 1 Sam. 6:6), God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, fixing him in a path from which he could never return (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8).

In Isaiah 6:9–10, a passage quoted repeatedly in the New Testament (Matt. 13:14–15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:40; Acts 28:26–27; Rom. 11:8), God said to Isaiah, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.’ Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.” God told Isaiah that He would sovereignly prevent hard-hearted rejecters of the truth from responding to his preaching. Similarly, Jesus spoke in parables not only to reveal spiritual truth to believers but also to conceal it in judgment on unbelievers (Matt. 13:11–13; Luke 8:10). There comes a day that those who persistently reject the truth will be unable to believe it; God will harden their hearts and fix them in the path they have chosen.

God’s use of Satan and Antichrist as instruments of His judgment finds a parallel in the Old Testament. Through the prophet Micaiah, God pronounced judgment on the wicked king Ahab:

Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. The Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.’ Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.” (1 Kings 22:19–23)

Because of Ahab’s rebellion and unfaithfulness, God allowed Satan to deceive him through false prophets. In the future, God will again use Satan as an instrument of His judgment, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. Satan will, through Antichrist and the false prophet, delude the world into believing the lie that Antichrist is God. Unbelievers will be confirmed in that belief because they will choose not to love the truth, but rather to take pleasure in wickedness.

As indicated earlier, Romans 1 also illustrates God’s judicial abandonment of unrepentant sinners: “Even though they knew God [vv. 19–20], they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (v. 21). Because of that, the passage declares three times that “God gave them over” (vv. 24, 26, 28) to the consequences of their own sinful choices (vv. 24–28; cf. Gen. 6:3; Judg. 10:13; 2 Chron. 15:2; 24:20; Matt. 15:14; Acts 7:38–42; 14:16).

Do Not Be Insecure

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2:13–14)

Paul’s fifth exhortation to eliminate fear of the future is to understand the great doctrine of salvation. With a few words, the apostle sweeps the reader across the vastness of God’s redemptive plan to affirm the believer’s security in that plan. Again, Paul’s intent is not pedagogical but pastoral. Those who reject the truth that believers are eternally secure cannot look forward with confident hope to Christ’s coming. To believe that Christians living in unconfessed sin when the Lord returns will go to hell can only engender dread and fear—especially since sinless perfection in this life is unattainable (1 Kings 8:46; Ps. 143:2; Prov. 20:9; Eccl. 7:20; 1 John 1:8, 10).

But the Thessalonians did not need to fear they had lost or could lose their salvation, because God’s choice of them is irrevocable. Salvation began with God’s loving choice in eternity past and will continue until glorification in the future (Rom. 8:29–30). Jesus emphatically declared the utter impossibility that any of God’s elect should ever be lost:

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.… This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.… No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:37, 39–40, 44)

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:27–29)

That glorious truth caused Paul to always give thanks to God for the Thessalonians, knowing that they were brethren beloved by the Lord. In contrast to the unredeemed, who refuse to love and obey the truth, are those who willingly do both; in contrast to those whom God judges are those He redeems; in contrast to those who believe Satan’s lies are those who believe God’s truth; in contrast to those who follow Antichrist are those who follow Christ.

God’s work of salvation began with His sovereign, uninfluenced, undeserved love. That love was the basis for His election of believers (Eph. 1:4–5). God’s electing love is not conditioned on any merit in its recipients, as Moses reminded Israel: “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples” (Deut. 7:7).

Flowing out of God’s predetermined love is His sovereign choice of believers, whom He has chosen … from the beginning for salvation. God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4); He “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9). The redeemed are those whose names were “written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (Rev. 13:8; cf. 17:8). For that reason, the New Testament commonly refers to believers as the “elect” (Matt. 24:22, 24, 31; Mark 13:20, 22, 27; Luke 18:7; Rom. 8:33) or the “chosen” (Matt. 22:14; Rom. 11:7; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1).

The doctrine of God’s sovereign, elective love has several practical benefits. It crushes human pride (Titus 3:5), since God gets all the credit for salvation. It exalts God (Ps. 115:1), as He receives praise for His love. It produces joy (1 Peter 1:1–2, 6, 8), as believers rejoice in their salvation. It grants unimaginable privileges (Eph. 1:3). It promotes holiness in the lives of the elect (Col. 3:12–13). Finally, and most relevant to Paul’s purpose in this passage, it provides security (Phil. 1:6).

God’s sovereign election of believers becomes operative in their lives through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. Sanctification is the work of the Spirit that sets believers apart from sin to righteousness (cf. Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; 1 Peter 1:2). This miracle starts at salvation and includes a total transformation, so that the believer is born again (John 3:3–8) and becomes a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). The sanctification that begins at regeneration does not, of course, mean that believers do not sin (see the discussion above). But it does ensure that those set apart from sin to God will lead lives of progressive sanctification, of increasing holiness toward Christlikeness (John 17:17; Rom. 6:1–22; 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 5:16–25; Phil. 3:12; Col. 3:9–20; 1 Thess. 4:3–4; 5:23; 1 Peter 1:14–16; 1 John 3:4–10).

The human factor in God’s sovereign, loving election and regeneration is faith in the truth. Salvation is “by grace … through faith” (Eph. 2:8). It is those who “believe in the Lord Jesus [who] will be saved” (Acts 16:31). To the Romans Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Rom. 10:9–10). The truth that salvation is by faith in the true gospel permeates the New Testament (e.g., Mark 1:15; John 1:12; 3:15–16, 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; Acts 10:43; Rom. 1:16; 1 Tim. 1:16; 2 Tim. 3:15; 1 Peter 1:9; 1 John 5:1). The Spirit regenerates those who hear and believe the truth by granting them repentance (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25) and the gift of faith (Eph. 2:8–9).

The next element in God’s redemptive plan reaches back chronologically before the third. The apostle’s declaration It was for this He called you through our gospel refers, as always in the New Testament epistles, to God’s effectual call of believers to salvation (e.g., Rom. 1:6, 7; 1 Cor. 1:2, 9, 24, 26; Gal. 1:6; Eph. 4:1, 4). The gracious call of the Holy Spirit is irresistible (Rom. 8:30); the gospel is not merely words and facts but “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

All of those gospel realities lead to the ultimate goal of God’s redemptive plan—that believers may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1:10, 12). That firm statement of the security of salvation reveals that God loved, chose, called, and transformed believers for the purpose of eternally reflecting the glory of Christ to them and through them (cf. 1 John 3:1–2; Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:42–49; Phil. 3:21). Since no purpose of His can be thwarted (Job 42:2), nothing can separate believers from His saving love (Rom. 8:35–39).

Based on this sovereign scheme, there was no need for the Thessalonians to be insecure about their salvation, anxious about the Lord’s return, or fearful that they were in the Day of Judgment of the ungodly. They, like all believers, were not destined for judgment but for glory, for “God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9).

Do Not Be Weak

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word. (2:15–17)

Paul concluded his discussion with a sixth exhortation to the Thessalonians, to stand firm and hold to the traditions which they were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from Paul and his companions (cf. 1 Thess. 3:8). He gave similar exhortations to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:58; 16:13), the Ephesians (Eph. 6:11, 13, 14) and the Philippians (Phil. 4:1). He wanted the Thessalonians not to be weak or vacillating but to hold their spiritual ground and keep their grip on the truth. Specifically, the apostle urged them to hold to the traditions which they were taught. The concept of tradition has been loaded down with a lot of cultural and ecclesiastical baggage over the centuries. But Paul did not have in mind a body of extrabiblical tradition that is equal to God’s revelation in Scripture; in fact, the Bible condemns such human tradition (Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:3, 6; Mark 7:8–9, 13; Col. 2:8). The Greek word translated traditions literally means “things handed down” and refers here to divine revelation (cf. 3:6; 1 Cor. 11:2), whether given by word of mouth or by letter. The Thessalonians were to hold fast to what God had handed down, both orally and in writing, through Paul and the other apostles. Believers must hold fast to the “faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3; cf. 1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:14).

As he did in his first epistle (1 Thess. 3:11–13) and would frequently do in his subsequent epistles to other churches (e.g., Rom. 16:25–27; 1 Cor. 16:23), Paul gave a benediction, praying that God would comfort and strengthen the church. Paul understood that they could not obey his exhortation in their own strength but needed instead to depend on God’s power. He expressed that balanced view of the Christian life when he wrote to the Colossians, “For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Col. 1:29; cf. 1 Cor. 15:10).

The pronoun translated Himself stands in the emphatic position in the Greek text, which could be translated, “Now may Himself our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father.” The pronoun governs both Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father, viewing both as the source of comfort. That provides powerful evidence of Christ’s deity; He is fully equal with the Father in person, power, and respect.

Jesus and the Father loved believers from all eternity. Because of that love, which permanently and irrevocably granted believers eternal comfort and good hope by grace at salvation, the apostle prayed that both Jesus Christ and God the Father would comfort and strengthen the Thessalonians’ hearts in every good work and word by this unshakable promise of future glory.

As they anticipate the return of Jesus Christ for His own, believers must not be deceived, forgetful, ignorant, unbelieving, insecure, or weak. They will not experience the terrible judgment of the Day of the Lord, because their salvation is secure. God loved them, chose them, redeemed them, and would glorify them. They must therefore be strong and courageous, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).[1]


The Mystery of Lawlessness

2 Thessalonians 2:5–8

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way (2 Thess. 2:7)

As we study the important teaching by the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2 on the return of Christ, we might easily overlook an important word in verse 7. Embedded in Paul’s teaching of the dreadful events that will come in the appearing of the Antichrist is a small word that connects directly with us today. The word is now: “Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way” (2 Thess. 2:7). Such a statement reminds us that biblical eschatology pertains to us by showing not only what God has planned for future times but also what God is doing now to shepherd history to his predetermined goal. Along with whetting our desire for the return of our Lord from heaven, biblical teaching about the end times is given to make us wise about the days in which we currently live, moving forward under God’s sovereign control to the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ.

The Restrainer of the Antichrist

One challenge in understanding the teaching of this chapter is that Paul interacts with material that he had taught his readers in person but that he does not repeat in this letter. One of these matters is the “restrainer” to which Paul refers in 1 Thessalonians 2:6–7 and that has kept Satan from unleashing the “man of lawlessness” to bring tribulation on the church. “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?” Paul asks. “And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time” (vv. 5–6). At the time of Paul’s writing, this restraint was keeping the Antichrist in check, and since these final events have yet to take place almost two thousand years later, we must presume that the same restraint is still operating.

The natural question to ask concerns who or what this restraint is that is holding back the Antichrist and his great apostasy. One factor in answering is to observe that in 2 Thessalonians 2:6 Paul describes the restrainer in the neuter gender, so that it is translated impersonally: “what is restraining him.” In verse 7, however, Paul uses the masculine gender and speaks of a person: “he who now restrains it.” Any solution will therefore have to account for both an impersonal and a personal description. Moreover, any answer will need to reflect the fact that Paul does not plainly identify the restrainer, but appeals to his in-person teaching while in Thessalonica (v. 5). The Thessalonians know what the restraint is, but we do not know with the same clarity. With this in mind, the most important thing for us to realize is that some power is at work restraining Satan from fully venting his fury through the coming of the Antichrist. Knowing this, Paul’s readers were not to be confused into thinking that Christ had already returned (v. 2).

In seeking to identify the restrainer, G. K. Beale lists seven primary options, three of which are most worthy of note. One approach identifies the restraining power with the Roman Empire and its system of law and order, personified by the emperor. The thought behind this answer is that the power of law is the ideal restrainer of the man of lawlessness. Since Paul teaches in Romans 13:1–5 that government power is established by God for upholding righteousness, and since Paul himself was protected by righteous rulers on some occasions (including during the period when this letter was likely written; Acts 18:12–16), then the restrainer might have been civil authority.

A second option holds that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit. This is the view held by dispensational Christians, whose teaching includes a secret rapture before Christ’s return. Part of the rationale for the secret rapture is that with the departure of Christians, the Spirit will no longer be in the world. It is in this way that the restrainer is seen to be removed. The major problem with this approach, as we have seen, is that the idea of a secret rapture is utterly contrary to Paul’s description of the second coming in both 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Moreover, while it is true that the Holy Spirit indwells Christians, it is inaccurate to consider his presence bottled up as if Christians were containers in which the omnipresent Spirit could be restricted. Even if Christians were all removed, there is no reason why the Spirit would not continue to exercise his power on earth (see Ps. 139:7–12).

The third main option for the restrainer of the Antichrist is the preaching of the gospel. This idea is attractive in light of Jesus’ teaching that before his return “the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations” (Mark 13:10). In this view, the personified “restrainer” of verse 8 is God himself, who controls the man of lawlessness according to his own redemptive-historical schedule. By God’s will, the present age that began during Paul’s lifetime and continues today is the time for the spreading of the gospel and the ingathering of believers for salvation. The time will come when God will prepare to bring this age of salvation to a close and his restraining hand will be removed, permitting Satan to operate with unusual power in the career of the man of lawlessness. It was Paul’s own preaching of the gospel that was pushing back the forces of darkness in Asia Minor and Greece, and by God’s power that same gospel will hold back a complete rebellion until the time appointed from heaven.

One reason why this last option is probably best is its agreement with a similar passage in Revelation 20:1–3, where John wrote:

I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Notice that in John’s vision there is a restraint that has the effect of curtailing Satan’s activities, which will be removed in the last days. Premillennial Christians take the “thousand years” to represent a literal period during which Christ reigns after his second coming, after which there is a brief rebellion before the final day of judgment. One problem with this view is that Matthew 25:31 clearly places the final judgment at the same time as Christ’s return from heaven: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.” This teaching does not seem to allow for a thousand years between Christ’s return and the final judgment. Moreover, in the visionary literature of the book of Revelation, numbers should be taken symbolically, not literally. It seems best, therefore, especially in light of its correspondence with Paul’s teaching, to identify the “thousand years” of Revelation 20 with the church age. This view is known as amillennialism, so named because of its teaching that the thousand years of Revelation 20 is symbolic for the church age rather than a literal thousand-year period.

Premillennial scholars object to this teaching, since Revelation 20:3 depicts Satan as being completely under wraps. This, they argue, cannot describe any scenario in this present age. This objection fails to note, however, what effect the binding of Satan is said to have: “that he might not deceive the nations any longer” (Rev. 20:3). This deceiving work exactly fits Paul’s description of what Satan and the Antichrist will do once the restraint is removed (2 Thess. 2:9–12). In the meantime, during the age of the Great Commission, which commands Christians to take the gospel throughout the world (Matt. 28:18–20), Satan is kept from effectively hindering that mission by means of deceit. Thus Jesus rejoiced when his seventy-two witnesses returned from preaching the gospel throughout Israel, saying, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Jesus understood the binding of Satan to involve the free rein for the gospel to be preached in all the world. Cornelis P. Venema writes: “Satan is bound so that he can neither prevent the spread of the gospel among the nations nor effectively deceive them. This vision confirms the teaching that the period between Christ’s first coming and his second coming is one in which the gospel of the kingdom will powerfully and effectively go forth to claim the nations for Jesus Christ.” The personified restrainer whom Paul mentions in 2 Thessalonians 2:7—“he who now restrains it”—appears in John’s vision in the form of the angel who came from heaven with “the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain” (Rev. 20:1). This angel probably represents God’s sovereign will, just as the chain signifies God’s binding power. Venema writes of this image: “The angel is properly equipped to execute God’s purpose to bind and restrict the activities and wiles of Satan.” G. K. Beale concludes: “At the very end of the age, God will remove the angel (or its restraining influence), and ‘all hell will break loose.’ ”5

Comparing Revelation 20:1–3 and 2 Thessalonians 2:6–7 argues strongly in favor of viewing the gospel mission of the church as the restraint on Satan’s plans, under God’s sovereign plan for history. If this is the case, then we can see how urgent is the church’s commission to do everything possible to spread the gospel during this present age. There are many kinds of work that the church and Christians are called to do, but the work of this age, which is restraining Satan from deceiving the nations, is the work of proclaiming the gospel. Realizing this priority will cause Christians and churches to rethink the priority they are placing on preaching the gospel, witnessing to unbelievers, and supporting missionary causes. Surely, if Satan is now bound by God for the sake of the gospel, then evangelism and missions should be at the forefront of any biblically zealous church’s priorities, plans, resource allocations, and also prayers.

Lawlessness at Work

In depicting the binding of Satan, Revelation 20:3 uses strong images, such as a pit into which the devil is cast and sealed. The effect is that he is unable to “deceive the nations any longer” until the gospel age is over. It would be mistaken, however, to conclude that this binding keeps the devil from engaging in any form of warfare against God and his people. Revelation 12 takes up similar imagery and language, showing Satan as conquered and cast down from heaven to earth (Rev. 12:7–9). This symbolic depiction of history also shows, however, that a defeated and cast-down Satan is still a terrible and violent dragon. John writes: “When the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child” (v. 13). Though kept from successfully opposing the gospel by deceiving the nations, Satan remains a deadly and active enemy filled with venom against the church. Despite being cast down, Satan makes continual warfare against God’s people and in opposition to the gospel. The fact that this warfare cannot succeed in this age, since Satan’s binding effectively inhibits his effectiveness, does not mean that there is a shortage of evil that Christians need to confront.

Paul makes this very point about the activity of Satan by saying that “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (2 Thess. 2:7). In Paul’s usage, a “mystery” is not a puzzle to be solved but rather a truth that is not capable of clear understanding until its revelation in the coming of Christ. This mystery relates to Daniel’s prophecy of the “abomination that makes desolate” (Dan. 11:31). The prophet foresaw idolatry within God’s temple as the work of the Antichrist. By speaking of the “mystery” of the Antichrist’s work, Paul is saying that Daniel would not have foreseen exactly how this would come about. In particular, in saying that “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work,” the apostle indicates that what Daniel foresaw about the end of history is also a threat that is presently at work within history. Beale writes: “Paul sees that, though this fiend has not yet come so visibly as he will at the final end of history, he is nevertheless already at work in the covenant community through his deceivers, the false teachers.” This teaching agrees with John’s warning that “as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18). Even now, behind the scenes, the same work that will come to mighty expression before the end is opposing the gospel. John Stott writes:

His anti-social, anti-law, anti-God movement is at present largely underground. We detect its subversive influence around us today—in the atheistic stance of secular humanism, in the totalitarian tendencies of extreme left-wing and right-wing ideologies, in the materialism of our consumer society which puts things in the place of God, in those so-called “theologies” which proclaim the death of God and the end of moral absolutes, and in the social permissiveness which cheapens the sanctity of human life, sex, marriage, and family, all of which God created or instituted.

In fact, the lawless work of Satan has been at work throughout history, starting with his deception of our first parents in order that they would fall into sin (Gen. 3:1–7). Even during times when the church is advancing behind mighty gospel works, the agenda of the enemy is striving to keep pace. This opposition is often noted during revivals, when the Holy Spirit’s power is bringing many people to Christ. Satan is also there, distracting with false conversions, infiltrating with false doctrines, and tempting with the false allure of numerical success in ministry. Similarly, in ordinary times of ministry, the devil is always trying to make inroads in order to divide, deceive, or distract people from the gospel fruits of faith and love. In the midst of a wedding service, for instance, the mystery of lawlessness is at work. In gatherings for prayer, in services of worship, and in seminary classrooms, Satan is seeking to lay seeds for his ill-intended fruit. John Bunyan depicted the danger in Pilgrim’s Progress by placing beside the path to the Porter’s Lodge two chained lions, which though roaring could not quite reach Christian as he passed by. Likewise, God is holding Satan back for the sake of the gospel, yet still he roars and, as Peter warned, “prowls around like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8), seeking to devour those who wander off the path of obedience to God’s Word.

Knowing that this lawlessness is at work, believers must not merely look to the future day of trouble but also watch for its precursors now and stand guard over the precious things of God. This was Paul’s concern, so he urged his readers not to be taken in by false teachers. If we respond to his end-times teaching by exclaiming, “I am so glad not to live in the times of the Antichrist!” we fail to heed the warning of “the mystery of lawlessness … already at work” (2 Thess. 2:7). If we do not guard our speech, watch our hearts, and live in careful obedience to Scripture, we may well feel the sting of Satan’s bite and suffer great loss to our churches, our families, and our work because of our carelessness and complacency.

In the Splendor of His Coming

While God is currently restraining our enemy for the sake of the gospel, the day will come when he removes his restraint. “Then,” Paul says, “the lawless one will be revealed” (2 Thess. 2:8). The apostle uses a verb form of the word apokalupsis to speak of this revealing—a word (previously used of Christ’s second coming) that indicates the display of something previously present but hidden to sight (1:7). The mystery of lawlessness has been at work all along, but then the man of lawlessness will appear to have his day.

As we saw in our study of 2 Thessalonians 2:1–4, the coming of the Antichrist will lead to tribulation for the church and deception of the world so that a general rebellion against God will drive the church underground. Christians need to know that God has ordained this day of trouble for the world. More importantly, we need to know that the Antichrist’s revealing will signal the coming of Christ: “Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (v. 8).

The Greek word translated as “kill” is anaireo, which literally means to “take up” so as to remove; it was used of those condemned to be executed. Revelation 20:10 reveals that in Christ’s return, “the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur … [to] be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Leon Morris argues that in verse 8 emphasis is placed on the name “the Lord Jesus” in expressing “the glory of Him who first came in lowliness. Though He had once been despised and rejected, at the supreme moment of history He will be seen in all His glorious majesty.”

The majesty of Christ will be heightened by the ease of his victory over Satan and his Antichrist. Jesus “will kill with the breath of his mouth” (2 Thess. 2:8). The main idea here is simply the indomitable power that Christ wields merely by his breath. But in Revelation, Christ is first revealed with “a sharp two-edged sword” coming from his mouth (Rev. 1:16), the apparent meaning of which is the gospel Word with its power to either save or condemn. Revelation 19 then presents Christ as the conqueror on a white horse, adding that from “his mouth comes a sharp sword” (19:15). With these precedents, we should think of Christ as opening his mouth to overthrow Satan by means of his sovereign Word. In Christ’s coming, all creation will be reminded that the Savior who died on the cross is the Creator Son, who by merely speaking wields almighty power over every creature, small and great. The same voice that cried “Peace! Be still!” on the Sea of Galilee, so that the winds and waves obeyed (Mark 4:39), will speak with commanding power over evil in this world, and Satan’s power will crumble before him.

As Paul foresees it, Satan, the Antichrist, and all who had joined in the great apostasy against the church will come to nothing merely “by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thess. 2:8). The “coming” of Christ (Greek epiphaneia) will display such radiant splendor that as light floods a dark room and immediately subdues every shadow, so will the coming of Christ in glory conquer the entirety of creation with holiness. The Bible proclaims that Christ’s glory is so great that in the courts of heaven even the glorious seraphim cover their faces before him (Isa. 6:2). For believers, the effect of Christ’s appearing will be our own transformation into glory: John says that “when he appears,” believers will “be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The same appearing of Christ will cause Satan to take up the words once spoken by Isaiah the prophet, when he became aware of his sinfulness before the glory of Christ: “Woe is me! For I am lost” (Isa. 6:5). Satan’s destruction will be followed by the judgment of all who worshiped idols and joined in the great rebellion against God. William B. Collyer writes of that coming day:

But sinners, filled with guilty fears, behold his wrath prevailing;

For they shall rise, and find their tears and sighs are unavailing:

The day of grace is past and gone; trembling they stand before the throne,

All unprepared to meet him.

The Present Day of Grace

As we conclude our study of Paul’s teaching on the awesome events preceding Christ’s return, we should take note, first, of the absolute sovereignty of God that this passage displays. Far from drawing the conclusion that Satan’s power is something to shake the foundation of a Christian’s faith, exactly the opposite should result from Paul’s teaching. The apostle can foretell these events because God has foreordained them. Having announced the exact course of the coming of the Antichrist and his great rebellion, God is the One who controls the future and determines its outcome.

In the sure and certain hope of God’s victory, Christians should joyfully submit to God’s care, doing everything in our power to serve him and give praise to his glorious grace. More important even than knowing what is going to happen is knowing who has ordained events by his sovereign will. D. Michael Martin writes: “For the people of God, then, peace and assurance come not from a full knowledge of the times and seasons but from a personal knowledge of the God who rules the times and seasons.” Paul has removed the veil enough for us to know about the coming of the lawless one and the great tribulation of God’s people. In these prophecies, we see even more clearly the sovereign control of the God who holds our salvation and the certain defeat of all that we might fear in the day of Christ’s glorious return.

Second, having been made wise not only about the future man of lawlessness, but also about the present “mystery of lawlessness,” Christians are reminded of our great resource in opposing the evil one now. Elsewhere the apostle James tells us, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Earlier Paul said that the way to resist the devil is by putting on “the breastplate of faith and love” and “for a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8). Now Paul reminds us of the prevailing power of God’s Word. We will see Satan destroyed at Christ’s coming by “the breath of his mouth” (2 Thess. 2:8). Martin Luther powerfully expressed this hope in his most famous hymn:

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us.

The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure;

One little word shall fell him.

Do you doubt the sufficiency of that “one little word”—God’s Word, the Bible—for ministry today? Then consider its effect in the coming of Christ! Let the sword of our Bibles never become rusty through disuse, but let us practice wielding God’s Word for our own salvation and the defense of Christ’s church.

Finally, how important it is, in light of what Paul has revealed concerning history, for each of us to be saved through faith in Christ now. I earlier compared Satan’s woeful demise when Christ appears to the reaction of the prophet Isaiah when he was confronted with a vision of Christ’s majestic holiness. Isaiah responded in the way that all sinners must respond—either now in repentance or in his return with hopeless dismay—when their eyes are opened to see the holiness of Christ: “Woe is me! For I am lost” (Isa. 6:5). How important that you should see your need of forgiveness now, in the day of grace when you can still be saved through faith in Jesus! Whereas Satan will be destroyed by the appearing of Christ’s glorious holiness, Isaiah was saved by calling in faith in the grace of God revealed in Christ. He cried, “My eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (v. 5).

Two things happened when Isaiah responded to the vision of Christ in faith. The first is that he was cleansed of his sins by the atoning blood of Jesus. Isaiah 6:6 depicts this by saying that “one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.” This was a way of saying that the atoning sacrifice was applied to Isaiah’s sin: “he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for’ ” (Isa. 6:7). In this present day of grace, before the gospel restraint is removed, you, too, may be forgiven and cleansed by believing in Jesus—by realizing your sin and trusting his death to atone for your guilt.

Second, Isaiah heard God asking who would go forth to serve him with the gospel: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’ ” (Isa. 6:8). We have seen the holy glory of Christ, experienced the cleansing of our sin by his blood, and now realize what is at stake in the world and what the future holds in the sovereign plan of God. Every Christian should therefore enlist in the service of the Sovereign Lord, each of us answering the call that God sets before us, in whatever way God gives us opportunity to advance his gospel. The cause is glorious, the end is certain, and the present need is great. How is God calling you to serve the cause of his gospel? Seeing in God’s Word the same vision that Isaiah saw of a sovereign, holy, victorious Christ enthroned with grace, surely we, too, must answer every call to pray, to give, to witness, and to serve, “Here am I! Send me.”[2]


8. And then will be revealed—that is, when that impediment (τὸ κατέχον) shall be removed; for he does not point out the time of revelation as being when he, who now holds the supremacy, will be taken out of the way, but he has an eye to what he had said before. For he had said that there was some hinderance in the way of Antichrist’s entering upon an open possession of the kingdom. He afterwards added, that he was already hatching a secret work of impiety. In the third place, he has interspersed consolation, on the ground that this tyranny would come to an end. He now again repeats, that he4 who was as yet hidden, would be revealed in his time; and the repetition is with this view—that believers, being furnished with spiritual armour, may, nevertheless, fight vigorously under Christ, and not allow themselves to be overwhelmed, although the deluge of impiety should thus overspread.2

Whom the Lord. He had foretold the destruction of Antichrist’s reign; he now points out the manner of his destruction—that he will be reduced to nothing by the word of the Lord. It is uncertain, however, whether he speaks of the last appearance of Christ, when he will be manifested from heaven as the Judge. The words, indeed, seem to have this meaning, but Paul does not mean that Christ would accomplish this in one moment. Hence we must understand it in this sense—that Antichrist would be wholly and in every respect destroyed,4 when that final day of the restoration of all things shall arrive. Paul, however, intimates that Christ will in the mean time, by the rays which he will emit previously to his advent, put to flight the darkness in which Antichrist will reign, just as the sun, before he is seen by us, chases away the darkness of the night by the pouring forth of his rays.

This victory of the word, therefore, will shew itself in this world, for the spirit of his mouth simply means the word, as it also does in Isaiah 11:4, to which passage Paul seems to allude. For the Prophet there takes in the same sense the sceptre of his mouth, and the breath of his lips, and he also furnishes Christ with these very arms, that he may rout his enemies. This is a signal commendation of true and sound doctrine—that it is represented as sufficient for putting an end to all impiety, and as destined to be invariably victorious, in opposition to all the machinations of Satan; as also when, a little afterwards, the proclamation of it is spoken of as Christ’s coming to us.

When Paul adds, the brightness of his coming, he intimates that the light of Christ’s presence will be such as will swallow up the darkness of Antichrist. In the mean time, he indirectly intimates, that Antichrist will be permitted to reign for a time, when Christ has, in a manner, withdrawn, as usually happens, whenever on his presenting himself we turn our back upon him. And, undoubtedly, that is a sad departure of Christ, when he has taken away his light from men, which has been improperly and unworthily received,2 in accordance with what follows. In the mean time Paul teaches, that by his presence alone all the elect of God will be abundantly safe, in opposition to all the subtleties of Satan.[3]


8 After this time has elapsed, the Lord Jesus will personally come to earth to “overthrow” the lawless one “with the breath of his mouth” and abolish (katargeō, GK 2934; NIV, “destroy”; NASB, “bring to an end”) him “by the splendor of his coming.” By putting the lawless one to death, the Lord will also halt his program of deceiving the world. “The breath of his mouth” could be a figurative reference to a word spoken by Christ, but a literal sense is satisfactory. The breath of God is a fierce weapon (Ex 15:8; 2 Sa 22:16; Job 4:9; Ps 33:6; Isa 30:27–28; cf. Milligan, 103; Best, 303).

“The splendor of his coming” is his other means of conquest. “Splendor” (epiphaneia, lit., “appearance,” GK 2211) occurs in the Pastoral Epistles as a practical equivalent for the term parousia (1 Ti 6:14; 2 Ti 1:10; 4:1, 8; Tit 2:13). This “appearance” phase of the parousia differs from the “gathering” phase (2 Th 1:1). It concludes and climaxes the period of tribulation instead of beginning it. The visible presence of the Lord Jesus in the world will put an immediate stop to an accelerated diabolical program.[4]


8  The “and then” with which this clause begins appears to stand as an emphatic way of saying, “and not before,” over against whatever was currently circulating in Thessalonica that Paul noted at the beginning (v. 3). It is only after the events enumerated in verses 3b–4 have occurred that the Rebel himself will be “unveiled.” But having got that far, and in typical fashion, Paul immediately shifts his focus onto Christ. To be sure, at the proper time “the lawless one will be revealed”; but Paul is simply incapable of giving him top billing. Thus the rest of the sentence (through v. 10) is composed of two relative clauses, where the “whom” of our verse 8 and the “whose” of verse 9 describe, in turn, first (v. 8), what will happen eventually to the Rebel himself, and, second (vv. 9–10), the nature of the Rebel’s coming that is responsible in turn for his being overthrown by the Lord at his coming.

So what Paul says first about the Rebel is that he will eventually be slain by Christ at his Parousia. The rest of this clause is a moment of rare intertextuality in Paul’s letters, rare because he here uses kyrios (“Lord”) to refer to Christ in a passage whose primary language carries overtones of Jewish messianism. As with 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (q.v.), this appears to be an allusion to Christ as Messiah, speaking of him as presently in heaven awaiting his role in the final judgment of the wicked. In making this point, Paul does two things.

First, he picks up the language of Isaiah 11:4 (LXX) and applies it to Christ’s (second) coming:

Paul

 

Whom the Lord will slay with the breath of his mouth and

will abolish at the manifestation of his Coming

 

Isaiah

 

and he will strike the land with the word of his mouth, and

with the breath of his lips he will slay the ungodly

 

Here Isaiah had prophesied that the coming “shoot from the stump of Jesse” would be characterized by righteousness and justice that will include his slaying of the wicked with “the breath of his mouth.” With help from Psalm 32:6 (for the form of the phrase “the breath of his mouth”) Paul combines the two lines of Isaiah’s poetry into one and attributes this messianic future judgment to “the Lord = Jesus.”

But, second, Paul is not finished; so reflecting his own Semitic (and biblical) background, he turns his own prose into a moment of Semitic poetry, so that the rest of Paul’s sentence functions in very much the same way that synonymous parallelism does in the Psalter. Thus the second part clarifies the first by Paul’s speaking of the Rebel’s destruction in terms of Christ’s “abolishing” him at his (Christ’s) coming. That this is a poetic moment is demonstrated both by the redundancy of this clause in its own right, and by the (otherwise unnecessary) amplification of the “coming” itself. In plain prose Paul could easily have said simply, “at his coming”; but in this more poetic moment, the singular reality is amplified into “the manifestation of his coming,” where “manifestation” is intended to emphasize not just the fact of his coming, but especially its unmistakable and evidential character. That is, Christ’s coming will hardly be “secret,” since this word disallows such an option; rather, Christ’s Parousia will be openly manifest to all, both those who await his coming and those who will be “abolished” when he comes.

At the same time, the poetic nature of this sentence seems to disallow altogether that these two lines of (now poetic) prose intend two different events. Indeed, it is the nature of such synonymous parallelism in Hebrew poetry that the second line usually simply elaborates or intensifies what is said in the first line. Thus it is the poetic nature of this clause that reinforces for the Thessalonian believers that their present persecutors are destined for divine judgment; they will be “slain” by Christ and thus “abolished” at his coming.

Finally, one should note that the poetic nature of this sentence, and especially Paul’s deliberate borrowing of language from the Greek translation of Isaiah, likewise disallows speculation as to whether “the slain” are truly “abolished” in terms of ongoing existence. Given what Paul says elsewhere about the future of the wicked, one should probably not press what he says here beyond his immediate intent: to reassure a persecuted minority that God has not forgotten either them or their persecutors. Just as the Thessalonian believers have a sure future, so also do their persecutors, but not a future that they should look forward to![5]


The doom of the Antichrist (v. 8)

At some point in history, ‘the lawless one will be revealed’. This third description of the Antichrist is a Hebraism signifying a lawless man and emphasizing his rejection of sound doctrine and true worship and his moral declension (1 Tim. 4:1–5). It is also the third time that Paul has said that he will be ‘revealed’: the Greek word apokalupsis means ‘an uncovering in a moment of time’. The Antichrist is an eschatological figure (Mark 13:14) who will be uncovered in a moment at the end of time; but his decreed end is that he will be utterly consumed and destroyed. The verbs ‘will consume’ and ‘destroy’ (v. 8) doubly emphasize that his power and influence will be extinguished when he is defeated and Christ is victorious. ‘The breath of His [Christ’s] mouth’ will be enough to render the lawless one impotent. The phrase ‘the brightness of His coming’ speaks of the Second Coming of the Saviour and his descent to earth with his angels to judge the world in fulfilment of biblical prophecy (Isa. 11:4; 2 Thes. 1:6–7; 1 Thes. 4:16; 5:2). Paul predicts God’s ultimate verdict on the ‘lawless one’ and Satan and speaks of the glory that Jesus Christ will display at his Parousia, which will reveal his deity. He first came in lowliness and was despised and rejected, but he will come a second time with his attendant angels in glorious majesty (Matt. 24:29–31).[6]


2:8 / And then the lawless one will be revealed. This is the third time that Paul has spoken in these terms (cf. vv. 3, 6). The expression the lawless one (ho anomos) now replaces “the man of lawlessness,” but the same person is meant. Paul gives no details beyond what is said (2:4) concerning his activities or concerning how long he will be active. From the revelation of the lawless one, Paul moves at once to speak about his destruction; he does this not in a separate statement, but as a further description of him, as though he is characteristically the one whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow (for the title Lord, see note on 1 Thess. 1:1). The sovereignty of God is again to the fore in this verse, while its language is largely dependent on lxx Isaiah 11:4. The verb rendered overthrow (anaireō) is a particularly strong one, “annihilate,” and the qualifying phrase, with the breath of his mouth, only here in the nt, underlines the ease of his annihilation—the Lord Jesus will utterly destroy him. As Luther poses it in A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, “A word shall quickly slay him.” Parallel with this and forming with it one clause descriptive of the lawless one is the statement that the Lord will destroy him by the splendor of his coming (see disc. on 1 Thess. 2:19 for parousia). Taken in isolation, destroy might be regarded as an over-translation of the verb katartizō. “To render inoperative” is more the sense, and the suggestion has been made that Paul was now backing off from the first statement. The lawless one would not be annihilated but made powerless. The difficulty lies in knowing how precisely Paul was using these words, but the parallelism with anaireō is probably decisive in accepting destroy. So the splendor of his (Jesus’) coming marks the end of the lawless one and of the evil that he represents. It cannot stand in the presence of the Lord. Two words are employed in this phrase, epiphaneia and parousia. When used alone, each signifies his coming, but in combination they are best expressed as in niv. Epiphaneia often carries with it the idea of splendor (used of Jesus’ second coming in 1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8; Titus 2:13 and of his first in 2 Tim. 1:10).[7]


8. Translate, “the lawless one”; the embodiment of all the godless “lawlessness” which has been working in “mystery” for ages (2 Th 2:7): “the man of sin” (2 Th 2:3).

whom the Lord—Some of the oldest manuscripts read, “the Lord Jesus.” How awful that He whose very name means God-Saviour, should appear as the Destroyer; but the salvation of the Church requires the destruction of her foe. As the reign of Israel in Canaan was ushered in by judgments on the nations for apostasy (for the Canaanites were originally worshippers of the true God: thus Melchisedek, king of Salem, was the “priest of the most high God,” Ge 14:18: Ammon and Moab came from righteous Lot), so the Son of David’s reign in Zion and over the whole earth, is to be ushered in by judgments on the apostate Christian world.

consume … and … destroy—So Da 7:26, “consume and destroy”; Da 11:45. He shall “consume” him by His mere breath (Is 11:4; 30:33): the sentence of judgment being the sharp sword that goeth out of His mouth (Rev 19:15, 21). Antichrist’s manifestation and destruction are declared in the same breath; at his greatest height he is nearest his fall, like Herod his type (Is 1:24–27; Ac 12:20–23). As the advancing fire, while still at a distance consumes little insects [Chrysostom] by its mere heat, so Christ’s mere approach is enough to consume Antichrist. The mere “appearance of the coming” of the Lord of glory is sufficient to show to Antichrist his perfect nothingness. He is seized and “cast alive into the take of fire” (Rev 19:20). So the world kingdoms, and the kingdom of the beast, give place to that of the Son of man and His saints. The Greek for “destroy” means “abolish” (the same Greek is so translated, 2 Ti 1:10); that is, cause every vestige of him to disappear. Compare as to Gog attacking Israel and destroyed by Jehovah (Ez 38:1–39:29), so as not to leave a vestige of him.

with the brightness of his comingGreek, “the manifestation, (or appearance) of His presence”: the first outburst of His advent—the first gleam of His presence—is enough to abolish utterly all traces of Antichrist, as darkness disappears before the dawning day. Next, his adherents are “slain with the sword out of His mouth” (Rev 19:21). Bengel’s distinction between “the appearance of His coming” and the “coming” itself is not justified by 1 Ti 6:14; 2 Ti 1:10; Tit 2:13, where the same Greek for “appearing” (English Version, here “the brightness”) plainly refers to the coming itself. The expression, “manifestation (appearing) of His presence,” is used in awful contrast to the revelation of the wicked one in the beginning of the verse.[8]


Ver. 8.—And then; namely, so soon as he that restraineth is taken out of the way. Shall that Wicked; or, that lawless one, in whom the mystery of lawlessness is realized; not different from, but the same with, the “man of sin, the son of perdition.” Be revealed; appear unveiled in all his naked deformity. No longer working secretly, but openly, and in an undisguised form; no longer the mystery, but the revelation of lawlessness. The apostle now interrupts his description of the man of sin by announcing his doom. Whom the Lord; or, as the best-attested manuscripts read, whom the Lord Jesus. Shall consume; or rather, shall slay (R. V.). With the spirit (or, breath) of his mouth. Various interpretations have been given to this clause. Some refer it to the Word of God, and others to the Holy Spirit, and suppose that the conversion of the world is here predicted; but this is evidently an erroneous interpretation, as the doom of antichrist is here announced. Others refer the term to a cry or word, and think that the sentence of condemnation pronounced by the Lord Jesus on the wicked is intended. But the words are to be taken literally as a description of the power and irresistible might of Christ at his coming—that the mere breath of his mouth is sufficient to consume the wicked (comp. Isa. 11:4, “He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked”). And shall destroy (or, annihilate) with the brightness (or, appearance) of his coming. The two words, epiphany and parousia, which are elsewhere used separately to denote the coming of Christ, are here employed. There is no ground for the assertion that the first is the subjective and the second the objective aspect of Christ’s coming (Olshausen). The brightness of Christ’s coming is not here expressed; but the meaning is that the mere appearance of Christ’s presence will annihilate the wicked.[9]


8. καὶ τότε, “and then”—when the restrainer has been removed.

ἀποκαλυφθήσεται ὁ ἄνομος, “the lawless one will be revealed.” For the third time the passive of ἀποκαλύπτειν is used to denote the epiphany of the counterfeit Christ, lawlessness incarnate. But he is revealed only to be destroyed.

ὃν ὁ κύριος [Ἰησοῦς] ἀνελεῖ τῷ πνεύνατι τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ, “whom the Lord [Jesus] will destroy with the breath of his mouth.” This clause is based on Isa 11:4, LXX, where the coming Prince of the house of David is to “smite the earth with the word of his mouth (τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ) and destroy (ἀνελεῖ) the wicked one (ἀσεβῆ) with breath (πνεύματι) through his lips.” There “the wicked one” is generic; here he is the particular individual (ὁ ἄνομος) in whom the mystery of lawlessness is made public.

καὶ καταργήσει τῇ ἐπιφανείᾳ τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ, “and will bring (him) to an end with the dawning of his Advent.” This is the only NT occurrence of ἐπιφάνεια outside the Pastoral Epistles, where it used once (2 Tim 1:10) of the first coming of Christ and four times (1 Tim 6:14; 2 Tim 4:1, 8; Tit 2:13) of his Advent in glory (παρουσία does not occur in the Pastorals). If ἐπιφάνεια (“manifestation”) were synonymous with παρουσία here, the construction would be pleonastic; it more probably means “dawning,” as in Polybius, Hist. 3.94.3, τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν τῆς ἡμέρας (“the dawn of day,” “daybreak”). The bright dawn of Christ’s Parousia will consume the man of lawlessness; we may compare the “flaming fire” of 1:7, 8.

This picture of the warrior Messiah has OT precedent (cf. Isa 11:4 quoted in preceding comment; Isa 66:15, 16 and Mal 4:1 quoted in comment and explanation on 1:8; also Yahweh’s portrayal as a man of war in Isa 42:13, 25; 59:15b–19; 63:1–6). It passed into apocalyptic imagery, as in the Ascension of Isaiah (4:14), where “the Lord will come with his angels and with the armies of the holy ones from the seventh heaven with the glory of the seventh heaven, and he will drag Beliar into Gehenna together with his armies,” and in the detailed picture of Rev 19:11–21, where the “Word of God,” mounted on a war-horse, smites his enemies with the sharp sword proceeding from his mouth and throws the “beast” (corresponding to the man of lawlessness) and his agent the false prophet into the lake of fire and brimstone.[10]


The outbreak of the rebellion (2:6–8)

Paul does not specify what form the rebellion will take. But the word he uses for it, apostasia (3), meant in classical Greek either a military revolt or a political defection, whereas in the lxx it applied to religious apostasy, namely Israel’s rebellion against God. Presumably Antichrist’s revolt, therefore, being directed against God and Law, will even infiltrate and engulf the nominal church.

Not yet, however. For the rebellion will not take place until the chief rebel has emerged (3). And, Paul adds, you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time (6). Paul’s preoccupation here is with the time of the rebellion. He uses a series of time references, in order that the Thessalonians may grasp the order of events: ‘Now you know what is restraining him, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For already the mystery of lawlessness is at work secretly; but the one who now restrains it will continue to do so until he is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed’ (6–8). Two processes are now already going on simultaneously. On the one hand the secret power of lawlessness is … at work surreptitiously and subversively. On the other hand, the restraining influence is also at work, preventing the secret rebelliousness from breaking out into open rebellion. Only when this control is lifted will first the revolt and then the Parousia take place.

The nature of what is holding him back (6), which is later personalized as the one who now holds it back (7), has caused commentators many headaches. Once again we stand at an initial disadvantage, because Paul’s Thessalonian readers knew what the restraining influence was (6), since he had regularly taught them about these things (5), whereas we have not had the benefit of the apostle’s initial instruction. It is not altogether surprising, then, that even the great Augustine, reacting against unprofitable conjectures, declared, ‘I frankly confess I do not know what he means.’

Before we are in a position to weigh the possible interpretations, it may be helpful to bring together the four facts about the ‘restraint’ which Paul clarifies. First, it is at work now and is effectively stopping the outbreak of the rebellion. Secondly, ‘it’ may also be referred to as ‘he’ (7). The restraint is both neuter and masculine, something and someone, a pressure and a person. Thirdly, at the right time this ‘it’ or ‘he’ will be removed, and the removal will trigger the final timetable, namely the revelation first of Antichrist and then of Christ. Fourthly, there must be some reason, in addition to the Thessalonians’ knowledge, which prompts Paul to write about the restraint and its removal in such guarded, roundabout and even cryptic terms. Here, then, are our four guidelines. The ‘restraint’ must be socially effective, capable of a personal manifestation, historically removable and delicate enough to be talked about in whispers and enigmas. Three main explanations have been proposed.

First, the restraining power is the Holy Spirit and the work of the church. In this case, the ‘he who restrains’ would be the Spirit himself, while the ‘it who restrains’ would be the church he indwells. Certainly Jesus intended his people, like salt in meat, to exercise a restraining influence on society. But why should Paul write of the Spirit and the church in such enigmatic terms? And the concept of the church being ‘removed’ before the rebellion would mean that it would not be there to greet Christ on his return.

The second suggestion is that the restraint is Paul and the preaching of the gospel. One or two of the early fathers held this view, and Calvin wrote: ‘Paul declared that the light of the gospel must first be spread through every part of the world …’. Again, ‘I hear Paul speaking of the universal call of the Gentiles’. The ‘restraint’ on this showing is the necessary ‘delay’ until the world is evangelized. Oscar Cullmann took up and developed this theme, emphasizing Paul’s unique role as the apostle to the Gentiles. In this case the masculine ‘restrainer’ is ‘a self-designation of the apostle’ and the neuter ‘restraint’ is his ‘missionary preaching’.39 But if the reference is to himself and his evangelism, why should he need to be so cryptic about it? Besides, did he really see himself at the centre of the eschatological stage, so that the rebellion awaited his removal from the scene? And how could his removal (presumably by death) be reconciled with his apparent hope of surviving until the Parousia (1 Thes. 4:13ff.)?

The third and most widely held view is that the restraining influence is Rome and the power of the state. Tertullian seems to have been the first church father to enunciate this: ‘What obstacle is there but the Roman state …?’ Not that the reference need be limited to the Roman Empire; every state, being the guardian of law and order, public peace and justice, meets the case equally well. It is true that in Revelation 13 the state is portrayed as satanic, and that when it appears in this guise it can hardly be conceived as the restrainer of Antichrist. Indeed, it is this which led Cullmann to declare the interpretation of the state as the restrainer ‘the least probable hypothesis’. Nevertheless, Paul regarded the state as God’s agent for the punishment of evil.42 In fact, there are four main arguments in favour of this interpretation:

  1. It makes good sense. As Plummer wrote, ‘the natural restrainer of lawlessness is the law, and in the first century the great organizer and executor of the law was the Roman Empire’. He even wrote that this explanation fits so well that ‘it is almost a waste of time to look for any other’.44
  2. It tallies with Paul’s known view and experience of the state. He and Silas as Roman citizens had recently experienced Roman justice both in Philippi and at the hands of the politarchs in Thessalonica itself, and the proconsul Gallio’s fair handling of a potentially ugly situation in Corinth might be fresh in Paul’s mind. Further, he would soon be expounding to the Romans his conviction that the state was God’s servant to punish evil and promote good.46
  3. The combination of the neuter and the masculine is easily explained. ‘Think’, wrote Hendriksen, ‘of the empire and the emperor, of justice and the judge, of law and the one who enforces it.’
  4. The enigmatic reference would be explicable, since there were obvious prudential reasons for not openly and explicitly predicting that the state would be ‘taken out of the way’ or ‘removed from the scene’ (reb).

Meanwhile, even during the period of restraint, and before the lawless one is revealed, the secret power of lawlessness is already at work (7a). ‘The secret power’ translates to mystērion. It cannot here bear its usual meaning in Paul’s writings of ‘a truth once hidden but now revealed’, since it is still secret and is contrasted with the coming ‘revelation’ of the man of lawlessness. Before he is revealed openly, however, the lawlessness he embodies is operating secretly. His anti-social, anti-law, anti-God movement is at present largely underground. We detect its subversive influence around us today—in the atheistic stance of secular humanism, in the totalitarian tendencies of extreme left-wing and right-wing ideologies, in the materialism of the consumer society which puts things in the place of God, in those so-called ‘theologies’ which proclaim the death of God and the end of moral absolutes, and in the social permissiveness which cheapens the sanctity of human life, sex, marriage and family, all of which God created or instituted.

Were it not for some remaining restraints (which preserve a measure of justice, freedom, order and decency) these things would break out much more virulently. And one day they will. For when the restraint is removed, then secret subversion will become open rebellion under the unscrupulous leadership of the lawless one who will be revealed (8a). Then we can expect a period (mercifully short) of political, social and moral chaos, in which both God and Law are impudently flouted, until suddenly the Lord Jesus will come and overthrow him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendour of his coming (8). ‘There is no long battle’, writes Ernest Best, ‘victory comes at once.’[11]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2002). 1 & 2 Thessalonians (pp. 275–289). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Phillips, R. D. (2015). 1 & 2 Thessalonians. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 347–357). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[3] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (pp. 334–336). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[4] Thomas, R. L. (2006). 2 Thessalonians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 472–473). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] Fee, G. D. (2009). The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (pp. 290–292). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[6] McNaughton, I. (2008). Opening up 2 Thessalonians (pp. 49–50). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[7] Williams, D. J. (2011). 1 and 2 Thessalonians (pp. 128–129). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[8] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, pp. 397–398). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[9] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). 2 Thessalonians (pp. 25–26). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[10] Bruce, F. F. (1982). 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Vol. 45, pp. 172–173). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[11] Stott, J. R. W. (1994). The message of Thessalonians: the gospel & the end of time (pp. 167–171). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

June 17, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Riches of Poverty

Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life.” (19:27–29)

With hope perhaps tinged with uncertainty, Peter ventured to ask Jesus, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” “We came on Your terms, didn’t we?” he said in effect. “Do we thereby qualify for eternal life? The rich young ruler refused to surrender his possessions and his life to You, and he forfeited the kingdom. But we forsook our jobs, our families, our friends, and everything else we had in order to be Your disciples. We have repented of our sins and surrendered to Your lordship. Just as You commanded, we have denied ourselves and taken up our crosses for your sake. Doesn’t that qualify us for a place in Your kingdom?”

Peter was speaking for all of the Twelve, because he had no suspicion of Judas’s betrayal. As that false disciple would soon make evident, he had not forsaken everything for Christ but was instead seeking to use Him for his own ends. He expected Jesus to overthrow Rome and set up His own earthly kingdom, with the disciples given the highest places of honor and power. Judas was much further from the kingdom than the rich young ruler, who at least knew he needed eternal life and had a certain desire for it. Judas, on the other hand, was totally concerned with his present, earthly life.

But the rest of the Twelve, despite their small faith and slowness to understand Jesus’ teaching, had truly given themselves to Him. They shared with Judas many of the common Jewish misconceptions about the Messiah and His kingdom. They may still have been expecting Him to establish the kingdom during their lifetimes and therefore could not bring themselves to accept the idea of His suffering and death. But they nevertheless continued to follow and obey Him. As Peter had declared in behalf of the Twelve, “You have words of eternal life. And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68–69).

Although Peter and the others were still confused about much of Jesus’ message and mission, they knew they truly belonged to Him and that He truly loved them and would not forsake them. They were certain He had something divinely good in store for them, even if they had a distorted idea of what it was. Peter therefore asked to hear from Jesus’ own lips concerning what then will there be for us? “What are the benefits of Your kingdom for us?” they wanted to know “What do we have to look forward to as Your disciples?”

Some have criticized Peter for his expectation of blessing and reward. But Jesus gave no hint of dissatisfaction with the question. Instead, He acknowledged that they were indeed His true and sincere disciples, referring to them as you who have followed Me. The Greek aorist participle characterizes them as His followers.

Next, He gave them the marvelous and unique promise that in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

The term palingenesia (regeneration) literally means new birth. It was used by Josephus for the new birth of the Jewish nation after the Babylonian Captivity and by Philo of the new birth of the earth after the Flood and after its destruction by fire. It is used only twice in the New Testament, here and in Titus 3:5, where Paul uses it to refer to the personal new birth of believers. In the present passage, however, Jesus uses it to represent the rebirth of the earth under His sovereign dominion at the time of His second coming. It will be paradise regained and a global parallel to the individual rebirth of Christians.

The earth and the world of men will be given a new nature, described in great detail by the Old Testament prophets and by John in Revelation 20:1–15. Just as they have been given spiritual life and a new nature in Jesus Christ but are not yet perfected, so there will be a rebirth of the earth that is divinely recreated. Although it will not yet be a totally new earth (Rev. 21:1), it will nevertheless be wonderfully superior to the present fallen and unredeemed earth. It was the belief of the Jews that Messiah would renew the earth and heavens, based on the prophecy of Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22. Peter called it “the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient times” (Acts 3:21).

All believers will sit on the throne of Christ (Rev. 3:21), exercising authority over the people of the earth (Rev. 2:26), while the apostles are uniquely ruling restored Israel. This cannot be the eternal state described in Revelation 21:12–14, where twelve gates in the New Jerusalem are inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes and twelve foundations are inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles.

At the time of the restoration of the earth, righteousness will flourish, peace will abound, Jerusalem will again be exalted, health and healing will prevail, the earth will produce food as never before, the lion will lay down in peace with the lamb, the deserts will blossom, and life will be long. The age-old curse that began with the Fall will then be limited, in anticipation of its being eliminated completely in the eternal state to follow (Rev. 22:3).

As God had long before predicted, the Messiah, the Lord’s Anointed, will then receive all the nations as His inheritance and have the very ends of the earth as His possessions. “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron,” the psalmist declared; “Thou shalt shatter them like earthenware” (Ps. 2:2, 8–9). Then the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). This is a reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13–14, where God, “the Ancient of Days,” gives the kingdom to the Son of Man. Jesus is affirming the reality that He will rule in the coming kingdom.

At that time the redeemed of all the ages will also reign with Him. “Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him” (Dan. 7:27; cf. 1 Cor. 6:2; Rev. 20:4). The nation of Israel will be restored, and sharing Christ’s rule over her will be the Twelve apostles, who also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthias, who took Judas’s place among the apostles shortly before Pentecost (Acts 1:26), will join the other eleven on the twelve thrones (cf. Dan. 7:22 and Isa. 1:26).

Because amillennial interpreters do not believe in a literal thousand-year kingdom on earth or in Israel’s national restoration, they take the twelve thrones and the twelve tribes as being purely figurative. One such writer made no attempt to discern Jesus’ meaning but simply commented, “Now we have to wonder what our Lord meant by the twelve tribes of Israel.”

If Jesus was referring to a real reigning on His part when He spoke of His throne, He must be referring to literal thrones that the apostles would sit upon while literally judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And as already noted, this millennial truth is also revealed elsewhere in Scripture.

The Word makes clear that in the reign of Christ over the world, He will be sovereign and rule over Jews and Gentiles with righteousness, peace, and immediate justice. He will be worshiped as supreme Lord, and His kingdom will bring prosperity, healing, health, and blessedness.

Not only that, Jesus continued, but “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive as much, and shall inherit eternal life.” Those who renounce their possessions and become poor for Christ’s name’s sake are going to share with the apostles in His triumph and reign. Mark reports that Jesus said the person who gives up those things for His sake and the gospel’s “shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age” (Mark 10:30).

When a person comes to Jesus Christ he must often have to turn his back on certain relationships, even with those who are very dear to him. Many times his conversion turns his own family and closest friends against him, in some cases even to the point of seeking his disinheritance or even his life. But the one who gives up everything for Christ’s sake, not only will inherit eternal life but also the family of God in this present life. He will have a host of new fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters with whom he will forever be united in God’s divine family. Wherever he goes, he meets spiritual loved ones, many of whom he has never seen or heard of before. Throughout the world he finds those who will share his sorrows, encourage his spirit, and help meet his needs, material as well as spiritual.

The believer in Jesus Christ will have blessings now, blessings in the millennial kingdom, and blessings throughout all eternity. To be poor for the sake of Christ is to be rich indeed. Jim Elliot, a young missionary martyred by the Auca Indians of Ecuador whom he was seeking to reach for Christ, wrote shortly before his death, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”[1]


28. Verily I say to you. That the disciples may not think that they have lost their pains, and repent of having begun the course, Christ warns them that the glory of his kingdom, which at that time was still hidden, was about to be revealed. As if he had said, “There is no reason why that mean condition should discourage you; for I, who am scarcely equal to the lowest, will at length ascend to my throne of majesty. Endure then for a little, till the time arrive for revealing my glory.” And what does he then promise to them? That they shall be partakers of the same glory.

You also shall sit on twelve thrones. By assigning to them thrones, from which they may judge the twelve tribes of Israel, he compares them to assessors, or first councillors and judges, who occupy the highest seats in the royal council. We know that the number of those who were chosen to be apostles was twelve, in order to testify that, by the agency of Christ, God purposed to collect the remnant of his people which was scattered. This was a very high rank, but hitherto was concealed; and therefore Christ holds their wishes in suspense till the latest revelation of his kingdom, when they will fully receive the fruit of their election. And though the kingdom of Christ is, in some respects, manifested by the preaching of the Gospel, there is no doubt that Christ here speaks of the last day.

In the regeneration. Some connect this term with the following clause. In this sense, regeneration would be nothing else than the renovation which shall follow our restoration, when life shall swallow up what is mortal, and when our mean body shall be transformed into the heavenly glory of Christ. But I rather explain regeneration as referring to the first coming of Christ; for then the world began to be renewed, and arose out of the darkness of death into the light of life. And this way of speaking occurs frequently in the Prophets, and is exceedingly adapted to the connection of this passage. For the renovation of the Church, which had been so frequently promised, had raised an expectation of wonderful happiness, as soon as the Messiah should appear; and therefore, in order to guard against that error, Christ distinguishes between the beginning and the completion of his reign.

Luke 22:28. You are they who have continued with me. Although Luke appears to relate a different discourse of Christ, and one which was delivered at a different time, yet I have no doubt that it refers to the same time. For it is not a continued discourse of Christ that is here related, but detached sentences, without any regard to the order of time, as we shall shortly afterwards have occasion to state. But he employs more words than Matthew; for he declares that, as the apostles had accompanied him, and had remained stedfastly in his temptations, they would also be partakers of his glory. It is asked, in what sense does he call them his temptations? I think that he means the contests by which God tried him and the apostles in common. And properly did he use the word temptations; for, according to the feeling of human nature, his faith and patience were actually tried.[2]


27–28 Peter, impressed by “impossible” and speaking for his fellow disciples, thinks Jesus’ words are unfair to the Twelve. Peter emphatically replies, “We have left everything to follow you” (cf. 4:20). Even here, he and the others are thinking in terms of deserving or earning God’s favor. Yet Jesus does not castigate his disciples for being mercenary. They have made sacrifices and deserve an answer. But what he says—that the blessing to come, whether belonging exclusively to the Twelve at the renewal (v. 28) or to all believers now (vv. 29–30), far surpasses any sacrifice they might make—implies that it is a gentle rebuke.

Verse 28 has no parallel in Mark and only a loose one in Luke 22:28–30. The solemn “I tell you the truth” points to something important. Jesus looks forward to the session of the Son of Man (see comments at 8:20). He will sit on his “glorious throne” (lit., “throne of glory”; see Zerwick, Biblical Greek, para. 41; Turner, Syntax, 214; cf. 7:22; 16:27; 25:31–34) at the palingenesia (“renewal” of all things), a word used only twice in the NT, the other occurrence dealing with “rebirth … by the Holy Spirit” (Tit 3:5). Here it has to do with the consummation of the kingdom (RSV, “in the new world”). (For its use elsewhere, see TDNT, 1:686–89; NIDNTT, 1:184–85; cf. 13:32; Ac 3:21; Ro 8:18–23, 2 Pe 3:13; Rev 21:1, 5; 1QS 4:25.)

Contrary to Schweizer, there is no allusion to the endless Stoic cycles of conflagration and “renewal”; the idea moves strictly within Jewish teleological and apocalyptic expectation. But the remarkable feature of this verse is that the Twelve will “sit on twelve thrones,” sharing judgment with the Son of Man. The idea that believers will at the consummation have a part in judging is not uncommon in the NT (Lk 22:30; 1 Co 6:2). What is less clear is whether (1) the twelve apostles exercise judgment over the twelve tribes of Israel physically and racially conceived, or whether (2) the twelve apostles will exercise some kind of judgment over the entire church, symbolized by “Israel” (cf. Rev 21:12–14), or whether (3) the Twelve represent the entire assembly of Messiah, who will exercise a juridical role over racial Israel. The third supposition has no scriptural parallel; the second is possible but an unnatural way of taking “Israel” in a book that, though applying OT promises to Gentiles and Jews alike—namely, the “church” of Messiah—distinguishes between the two. The most plausible interpretation is the first one. At the consummation, the Twelve will judge the nation of Israel, presumably for its general rejection of Jesus Messiah. (On the symbolism, see Joseph M. Baumgarten, “The Duodecimal Courts of Qumran, Revelation, and the Sanhedrin,” JBL 95 [1976]: 59–78, esp. 70–72; France, Jesus and the Old Testament, 65–66.)[3]


28 Yes, says Jesus, there is a “reward” for leaving everything to follow him. It takes two forms: in v. 28 a position of unique authority (this is only in Matthew at this point) and in v. 29 (shared with Mark and Luke) a manifold recompense and eternal life.

The emphatic thrones-saying (see on 5:18 for “I tell you truly”) is a more elaborate version of the promise Jesus makes at the Last Supper in Luke 22:30, which itself picks up an earlier promise to the “little flock” that he will give them the kingship (Luke 12:32). Each of these Lucan sayings in its context similarly contrasts their present experience of sharing Jesus’ renunciation and suffering with the royal authority they are also to share. In Matthew’s version that theme is further developed by a clear allusion to the language of Daniel 7, the vision of the enthronement of the Son of Man. In 25:31–34 that imagery will be even more fully deployed to describe the Son of Man as “king” on his glorious throne of judgment. In 25:31–46 the scene is apparently of the final judgment, and that eschatological perspective seems required here too by the term hē palingenesia, “the rebirth” (translated “new age” above), a term which is more typical of Stoic philosophy than of Jewish writers,14 but which aptly sums up the OT eschatological hope of “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa 65:17; 66:22 etc.).

In that new age the Son of Man will be openly enthroned as king, but the remarkable new dimension in this saying is that Jesus’ kingship will be shared. The theme of believers sharing in Christ’s kingly power is developed elsewhere in the NT in 1 Cor 4:8; 6:2; Eph 2:6; Rev 1:6; 3:21; 20:4–6. In the vision of Daniel 7 the individual figure of the “son of man” represents the corporate “people of the holy ones of the Most High” (i.e. Israel as the people of God), to whom in Dan 7:22 “judgment was given, and they possessed the kingdom.” While Jesus generally used the figure of the son of man as a model for his personal destiny, as he does here in speaking of the Son of Man on his glorious throne, in this saying the original corporate dimension of that figure also comes into view in the twelve thrones of the disciples (cf. the plural “thrones” which were set up in Dan 7:9). Consistently with the imagery of Dan 7 the function of the enthroned disciples is to judge, but whereas in Dan 7 the son of man figure represented Israel itself exercising judgment over other nations, now it is Israel that is being judged. The significance of this shift of imagery depends on what sort of “judging” is intended. If the term carries the sense of an appointed ruler, as in the OT “judges” who led Israel before the time of Samuel, the disciples may be understood as the leading representatives of the community to which they themselves belong. But if it carries its more normal sense of judicial decision, the disciples (though themselves Jewish) are set over against Israel, with authority to pronounce judgment on it. In NT Greek there is no other example of the verb “judge” being used in the sense of “rule,”20 so that the normal sense of the verb should probably be understood here. In that case, this saying reflects the distinctively Matthean ideology in which Jesus’ disciples under the leadership of the Son of Man constitute a “new Israel” over against the old, failed régime, a theology which will reach its clearest expression in the parables of 21:28–22:14 and in the discourse of ch. 24. The choice of the Twelve as his task-force was already a pointer in that direction, and now the significance of the number as representing the tribes of Israel is made explicit23—cf. the linking of the twelve tribes with the twelve apostles in Rev 21:12, 14.[4]


19:27–30 / Somewhat incongruously, Peter asks what reward there will be for the disciples who have given up everything in order to follow Jesus. The answer is that at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is enthroned, the twelve disciples will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The Greek word translated the renewal of all things (palingenesia) occurs only here and in Titus 3:5 in the New Testament. It is a technical term developed by the Stoics, who expected a periodic renewal of the universe following its destruction by fire. In Jewish thought, regeneration referred to the renewal of Israel that would accompany the establishment of God’s earthly kingdom. Christians linked the concept with the enthronement of the Son of Man.

The idea of judging (v. 28 has the participle krinontes) should be taken in the sense of ruling. The Hebrew judge was virtually the ruler of Israel. The symbolism of the twelve tribes is carried over into New Testament to represent the Christian church (cf. James 1:1). Everyone who has forsaken home and family will be rewarded a hundred times over and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first (those who have not made the sacrifice of family in order to follow Jesus) will be last, and many who are last (such as the disciples) will be first. That there are twelve followers is symbolic: it does not ensure a place in the New Age for Judas.[5]


Ver. 28.—Verily I say unto you. Christ does not reprove the apostle for his seemingly bold self-assertion, but, replying to Peter’s question, he gives a grand promise to him and his fellow-disciples. Ye which have followed me, excluding all the half-hearted, the self-seeking, the Judaizers. In the regeneration (τῇ παλιγγενεσίᾳ). The word means “new birth,” or “renovation, renewal.” It occurs in Titus 3:15 in reference to baptism, “through the washing [laver] of regeneration.” It has been variously interpreted in the present passage. Some have connected it with the participle preceding, “ye who have followed me in the regeneration,” and explained it to mean the reformation and spiritual renovation commencing with the preaching of John the Baptist, and carried on by the ministry of Christ. But more generally and correctly it is taken with what follows, Ye shall sit, etc. The meaning, however, is still disputed. Some say that the Christian dispensation is intended, and an intimation is given of the work of the apostles in the unseen world in directing and guarding the Church. But this seems hardly to satisfy the language of the promise. Others regard the term as signifying the resurrection, when the mortal shall put on immortality, and we shall be changed, remade, reconstituted. This is true; but it seems more suitable to refer the term to the new creation, the new heaven and the new earth spoken of by Isaiah (65:17) and by St. John (Rev. 21:1, 2; cf. 2 Pet. 3:10, 13). This is the reparation of the whole creation described by St. Paul (Rom. 8:19, etc.), which is to take place at the great consummation, and which, remedying all the evils which sin has impressed on the material and spiritual world, on man and his habitation, may well be called new birth. This is the mysterious period when Christ’s promise shall be accomplished. Shall sit. It is not “when he shall come,” but when he shall have taken his seat (ἐπὶ, with genitive) as Judge upon his glorious throne. Ye also (ὑμεῖς … καὶ ν̔μεῖς). The pronoun is repeated to give greater emphasis to the amazing assertion. Shall sit upon (καθίσεσθε ἐπὶ, with accusative); shall be promoted to, taken and placed upon. Twelve thrones. Judas forfeited his position; Matthias and Paul and Barnabas were after-wards added to the apostolic band; so that the number twelve must not be pressed as defining and limiting. Rather it expresses the completeness of the judicial body, regarding not so much the persons as the position of its members. With reference to papal claims, it may be observed that Peter has no pre-eminence here, no throne to himself; he merely shares with his colleagues in the session. The apostles and those who have been proved to be of like mind with them (for the number is not limited) shall be assessors with Christ, as in an earthly court, where the judge or the prince sits in the centre, and on either side of him are posted his councillors and ministers. Judging. So in Daniel we hear of thrones being placed, and judgment given to the saints (Dan. 7:9, 22); “Know ye not,” says St. Paul (1 Cor. 6:2, 3), “that the saints shall judge the world … that we shall judge angels?” (comp. Rev. 20:4). Of course, the great Judge is Christ himself. What part his assessors shall take is not revealed. The verb “judge” sometimes signifies “govern or direct,” and perhaps may be here used to denote that the saints shall, in the new Messianic kingdom, be Christ’s vicegerents and exercise his authority. The twelve tribes of Israel. There is considerable difficulty in interpreting this portion of the promise. If it means that the beatified apostles shall judge the actual descendants of Abraham, then we must believe that the distinction between Jew and Gentile will be maintained in this regeneration—an opinion which seems to be opposed to other texts of Scripture (see 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28, etc.). The judging in this case would be condemnation of them for not receiving the gospel. One does not see how this can be held forth as a great and happy reward, however high a position it may imply. More probably Israel means the spiritual Israel, or the whole body of the Church; and the number twelve (as above) imports the complete number of those who are to be judged. They who have followed Christ devotedly and sincerely, as his disciples, shall be placed next to him in his glory, shall have pre-eminence over all others, and be associated with him in assigning their due portion to all believers, or in governing the Church. Nothing is here said about the final judgment of unbelievers and heathen.[6]


28 The first part of Jesus’ response is given with a similar emphasis, ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, “truly I say to you” (see Comment on 5:18). The ὑμεῖς, “you,” and καὶ ὑμεῖς, “even you” (which is partly resumptive), lend great emphasis to the reply and correspond to the emphatic pronouns of v. 27. In a similar way οἱ ἀκολουθήσαντές μοι, “those who have followed me,” corresponds to the ἠκολουθήσαμέν σοι, “we have followed you,” of v. 27. The temporal dative phrase ἐν τῇ παλιγγενεσίᾳ, “in the renewing of the world,” probably modifies what follows rather than what precedes; i.e., it is at that time, when the Son of Man assumes his throne, that the disciples will also sit on thrones. παλιγγενεσία, which literally means “rebirth” or “regeneration” (the only other NT occurrence of the word, in Titus 3:5, is used in a personal sense; cf. John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:3; 2 Cor 5:17), refers here to the eschatological renewal of the world at the end of the present age (cf. ἀποκατάστασις, “restoration,” in Acts 3:21; cf. Rom 8:21–23; Rev 21:1–4; 2 Peter 3:13; given the extensive background for this understanding of the word, Derrett’s suggestion that the word should be translated “resurrection” is unconvincing; see Sim, who relates the word to the reference to the passing away of this world in 5:18; 24:35). Although the word was familiar in Greco-Roman (esp. Stoic) circles as referring to the cyclical renewal of the world (see BAGD, s.v.), it is the Jewish background that is more important here. Josephus (Ant. 11.3.9 §66) uses the word to refer to the rebirth of the Jewish nation following the exile; Philo (Mos. 2.65) of the new earth following the flood (cf. 1 Clem 9.4). For OT background see such passages as Isa 65:17; 66:22; and for intertestamental literature see 1 Enoch 45:3–5; 72:1; 2 Apoc. Bar; 32:1–4; 44:12; 57:2 (cf. at Qumran, & 1QS; 4:25; & 1QH; 13:11–12). If the phrase is taken as modifying the preceding, it would mean “those who follow me in personal regeneration” and thus be a phrase more reminiscent of the Johannine or Pauline writings rather than typically Matthean apocalyptic. The reference to the time when καθίσῃ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπὶ θρόνου δόξης αὐτοῦ, “the Son of Man will sit upon his glorious throne,” alludes to Dan 7:9 (cf. the dependence on Dan 7:13 in the references to a glorious coming of the Son of Man in 16:27, 24:30; 25:31). The number of the twelve disciples (cf. 10:1–2, 5; 11:1; 20:17; 26:20) is now seen to correspond to the twelve tribes of Israel. The eschatological rule of disciples with their Lord is also found in Rev 3:21; 20:6 (cf. the parable in Luke 22:30; 1 Cor 6:2–3; with regard to “judgment” given to the people of God, cf. Dan 7:22, 27; cf. Wis 3:8 for κρίνειν in the sense of “ruling over”). The rule of the twelve over τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ,“the twelve tribes of Israel,” however, has special symbolic significance referring to an eschatological Israel with the reconstituted twelve tribes (nine and a half of which were “lost” by the day of Jesus). The idea of an eschatological “judging” (κρίνοντες) of the φυλὰς λαοῦ, “tribes of the people,” is found in Pss. Sol. 17:26 (cf. Pss Sol 17:29). (cf. Philo, Quest. in Ex. 2.114; T Judah 25 for the rule of the twelve patriarchs in heaven.) The twelve disciples, representing the true Israel, will thus be vindicated before unbelieving Israel by assuming authority over them—an authority to judge or rule over them delegated to the twelve by the Son of Man himself (cf. Rev 21:12, 14; see Baumgarten). The disciples, who have given up everything now and appear insignificant, can expect in the future to become powerful figures of rule and authority.[7]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 3, pp. 203–206). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 2, pp. 405–406). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 480–481). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew (pp. 742–744). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co.

[5] Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew (p. 185). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[6] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). St. Matthew (Vol. 2, p. 252). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[7] Hagner, D. A. (1995). Matthew 14–28 (Vol. 33B, pp. 564–565). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

June 17, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

4. Enter his gates. The conclusion of the psalm is almost the same as the beginning of it, excepting that he adopts a mode of speech which relates to the worship of God which obtained under the law; in which, however, he merely reminds us that believers, in rendering thanks to God, do not discharge their duty aright, unless they also continue in the practice of a steady profession of piety. Meanwhile, under the name of the temple, he signifies that God cannot be otherwise worshipped than in strict accordance with the manner prescribed in his law. And, besides, he adds, that God’s mercy endureth for ever, and that his truth also is everlasting, to point out to us that we can never be at a loss for constant cause of praising him. If, then, God never ceases to deal with us in this manner, it would argue the basest ingratitude on our part, if we wearied in rendering to Him the tribute of praise to which he is entitled. We have elsewhere taken notice of the reason why truth is connected with mercy. For so foolish are we, that we scarcely feel the mercy of God while he openly manifests it, not even in the most palpable displays of it, until he open his holy lips to declare his paternal regard for us.[1]


Call to Give Thanks (100:4)

4 The communal confession arouses another invocation to give thanks to the Lord. The worshiping community entered the temple courts (cf. 96:8) through the gates. The verb “enter” (bōʾû), identical to the verb in v. 2 translated “come,” resumes the invocation to praise. In fact, when vv. 1, 2, and 4 are read as a unit, the imperatival parallelism is clearer:

  1. 1–2: “Shout for joy … Worship … come”
  2. 4: “Enter [‘come’ in v. 2] … give thanks … praise”

Verses 1–2 bring out the joyful acclamation of God’s kingship, whereas v. 4 stresses the communal act of worship. They come “with thanksgiving” and “with praise.” These are the appropriate sacrifices of “thanks” to his name for all the benefits. Thanksgiving and praise go together, because the Lord reveals himself both in his perfections and acts (cf. 139:1; cf. Jer 33:11).[2]


100:4 / In Israelite religion “entering [Hb. bōʾû] the temple gates and courts” was tantamount to “coming [Hb. bōʾû] before him” (v. 2). The temple was not a building conveniently constructed for congregational worship—it was Yahweh’s dwelling. We should not attempt to see a progression in entering his gates with thanksgiving (Hb. tôdâ) and then into his courts with praise (Hb. tehillâ), as though praise were a higher form of worship. Following and balancing this imperative to enter are two more imperatives, the first of which is give thanks (from Hb. hôdâ). This offering of thanksgiving (Hb. tôdâ), noted both in this verse and the superscription, could refer either to a thanksgiving sacrifice (116:17; Lev. 7:12–15) or to a thanksgiving psalm.[3]


Ver. 4.—Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise. The mention of “gates” and “courts” points primarily to the temple-worship, but the reference may be, as Professor Alexander suggests, “typical or metaphorical” rather than literal, and may extend to all the faithful and to all places of worship. Be thankful unto him; or, give thanks unto him (Revised Version). And bless his Name (comp. Pss. 96:2; 145:21).[4]


4. “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving.” To the occurrence of the word thanksgiving in this place the Psalm probably owes its title. In all our public service the rendering of thanks must abound; it is like the incense of the temple, which filled the whole house with smoke. Expiatory sacrifices are ended, but those of gratitude will never be out of date. So long as we are receivers of mercy we must be givers of thanks. Mercy permits us to enter his gates; let us praise that mercy. What better subject for our thoughts in God’s own house than the Lord of the house. “And into his courts with praise.” Into whatever court of the Lord you may enter, let your admission be the subject of praise: thanks be to God, the innermost court is now open to believers, and we enter into that which is within the veil; it is incumbent upon us that we acknowledge the high privilege by our songs. “Be thankful unto him.” Let the praise be in your heart as well as on your tongue, and let it all be for him to whom it all belongs. “And bless his name.” He blessed you, bless him in return; bless his name, his character, his person. Whatever he does, be sure that you bless him for it: bless him when he takes away as well as when he gives; bless him as long as you live, under all circumstances; bless him in all his attributes, from whatever point of view you consider him.[5]


[1] Calvin, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 4, pp. 85–86). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 743). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Hubbard, R. L. J., & Johnston, R. K. (2012). Foreword. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Psalms (p. 387). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Psalms (Vol. 2, pp. 352–353). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[5] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 88-110 (Vol. 4, p. 234). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

June 16, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

The Restoration

Then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all. (15:24–28)

The third aspect of the resurrection plan that Paul discusses here is what may be called the restoration. The apostle summarizes some of the things that will happen in the last times.

Then (eita, “after this”) may imply an interval of time between the resurrection at His coming and the establishment of His kingdom. That would coincide with the teaching of our Lord in Matthew 24 and 25, where He tells of all the signs that will precede His kingdom, even the sign of the Son of Man in heaven and the gathering together of the elect (24:30–31).

Telos (end) not only can refer to that which is final but also to that which is completed, consummated, or fulfilled. In the final culmination of the ages, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, all things will be restored as they were originally designed and created by God to be. In the end it will be as it was in the beginning. Sin will be no more, and God will reign supremely, without enemy and without challenge. That gives us great insight into the divine redemptive plan. Here is the culmination: Christ turns over the restored world to God His Father, who sent Him to recover it.

Christ’s final act will be to conquer permanently every enemy of God, every contending rule and authority and power. They will forever be abolished, never to exist again, never again to oppose God or to deceive, mislead, or threaten His people or corrupt any of His creation.

This final act of Christ, the turning over the world to His Father, will be worked out over the period of a thousand years, during the millennial rule of Christ on earth. As vividly and dramatically portrayed in the symbols and statements of Revelation 5–20, Christ will take back to Himself the earth that He created and that is rightfully His. The scene of Revelation 5 depicts the Son taking rightful possession of the title deed to the earth, His going out to take it back from the usurper to present it to the Father. In doing that He will quell all rebellions and subdue all enemies. He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. It is necessary for Him to rule.

The figure of putting His enemies under His feet comes from the common practice in ancient times of kings and emperors always sitting enthroned above their subjects, so that when the subjects bowed they were literally under, or lower, than the sovereign’s feet. With enemies, a king often would literally put his foot on the neck of the conquered king or general, symbolizing the enemy’s total subjection. In His millennial reign, all of Christ’s enemies will be put in subjection to Him, under His feet, so that God’s sovereign plan may be fulfilled.

During the Millennium no open rebellion will be tolerated, but there will still be rebelliousness in the hearts of Christ’s enemies. Because His enemies will not submit to Him willingly, He will have to “rule them with a rod of iron” (Rev. 19:15). But they will be ruled. At the end of the thousand years Satan will be unleashed for a brief period to lead a final insurrection against God and His kingdom (20:7–9), after which he, with all who belong to him, will be banished to hell, to suffer eternally in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10–15).

The last enemy, both of God and of man, is death, which, with all the other enemies, will be abolished. Christ broke the power of Satan, “him who had the power of death” (Heb. 2:14), at the cross, but Satan and death will not be permanently abolished until the end of the Millennium. The victory was won at Calvary, but the eternal peace and righteousness that victory guarantees will not be consummated and completed until the enemies who were conquered are also banished and abolished. Then, His final work having been accomplished, Christ delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father.

When He took the assignment of salvation from His Father, Christ came to earth as a baby, and lived and grew up as a man among men. He taught, preached, healed, and did miraculous works. He died, was buried, was raised and ascended to His Father, where He now intercedes for those who are His. When He returns He will fight, conquer, rule, judge, and then, as His last work on the Father’s behalf, forever subdue and finally judge all the enemies of God (Rev. 20:11–15), re-create the earth and heavens (Rev. 21:1–2), and finally deliver the kingdom to the God and Father.

The kingdom that Christ delivers up will be a redeemed environment indwelt by His redeemed people, those who have become eternal subjects of the everlasting kingdom through faith in Him. In light of Paul’s major argument in this chapter, it is obvious that his point here is that, if there were no resurrection, there would be no subjects for God’s eternal kingdom; and there would be no Lord to rule. Unless He and they were raised, all of God’s people eventually would die, and that would be the end—the end of them and the end of the kingdom. But Scripture assures us that “His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:33), and He and His subjects will have no end.

Lest any of his readers misunderstand, Paul goes on to explain the obvious: But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. God the Father is the exception who will not be subject to Christ, for it is the Father who gave the rule and authority to the Son (Matt. 28:18; John 5:27), and whom the Son faithfully and perfectly served.

From the time of His incarnation until the time when He presents the kingdom to the Father, Christ is in the role of a Servant, fulfilling His divine task as assigned by His Father. But when that final work is accomplished, He will assume His former, full, glorious place in the perfect harmony of the Trinity. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all. Christ will continue to reign, because His reign is eternal (Rev. 11:15), but He will reign with the Father in trinitarian glory, subject to the Trinity in that way eternally designed for Him.

When God created man He made him perfect, righteous, good, and subservient. At the Fall, this supreme creature of God, along with all the rest of His creation, was corrupted and ruined. But the new men He creates through His Son will never be corrupted or ruined. They will be raised up to live and reign eternally in His eternal kingdom with His eternal Son.[1]


26 The destruction of the last enemy—death—will occur at the time when the dead “who belong to [Christ]” (v. 23) will be raised again and receive new bodies. Prior to that, though Paul does not say so explicitly, Christians can expect to die like anyone else. That final victory has still not taken place.[2]


26 The grammar of this sentence is somewhat puzzling; nonetheless, its point is certain. This is Paul’s own interpretation of the “last enemy” that must be put under the reigning Messiah’s feet, death itself, and thus is the reason for this entire explanation in the first place. The sentence literally reads, “The last enemy is being destroyed, namely death.” The difficulty lies with the present tense and passive voice of the verb, plus the fact that no conjunction or particle joins it to what has preceded. F. C. Burkitt53 suggested that it serves as the apodosis of the two “when” clauses in v. 24, with “the end” being understood adverbially (= “at the end”) and v. 25 as a parenthesis explaining the twin protases of v. 24. Thus: “Then at the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power (for he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet), the last enemy is being destroyed, death itself.” Attractive as that is as a way out of the grammatical difficulty, the reading of v. 25 as a parenthesis when the content of v. 26 is dependent on it seems to nullify it.

Nonetheless, Burkitt is probably on the right track in terms of understanding Paul’s intent. The asyndeton (lack of conjunction) gives the sentence a “strong and decisive prominence” between the two scriptural adaptations. The present passive is best understood as referring to what takes place at the time of v. 24; that is, it refers to Christ’s destroying “every dominion, authority and power.” In a sense death, the final enemy to be subdued, is already being destroyed through the resurrection of Christ; but Paul’s concern here is with its final destruction, which takes place when Christ’s own resurrection as firstfruits culminates in the full harvest of the resurrection of those who are his. Death is the final enemy. At its destruction true meaningfulness is given to life itself. As long as people die, God’s own sovereign purposes are not yet fully realized. Hence the necessity of the resurrection—so as to destroy death by “robbing” it of its store of those who do not belong to it because they belong to Christ! This is precisely the point made again at the end of the argument in vv. 53–57.[3]


15:26 / The Gk. verb katargeitai that is translated to be destroyed (here and in v. 24) more exactly means “to be brought to nothing, to be rendered useless, to be abolished, or to be canceled.” Paul knows and frequently uses the simple verb for “destroy” (Gk. apollymi) elsewhere; cf. Rom. 2:12; 14:15; 1 Cor. 1:18–19; 8:11; 10:9–10; 15:18; 2 Cor. 2:15; 4:3, 9. Paul has already used forms of the verb katargeō at 1:28; 2:6; 6:13; 13:8, 10–11; 15:24. The nuance connoted by this verb outside this chapter has consistently been “to nullify” or “to bring to nothing,” and that sense of action is almost certainly what Paul wished to communicate here.[4]


26. shall beGreek,is done away with” (Rev 20:14; compare Rev 1:18). It is to believers especially this applies (1 Co 15:55–57); even in the case of unbelievers, death is done away with by the general resurrection. Satan brought in sin, and sin brought in death! So they shall be destroyed (rendered utterly powerless) in the same order (1 Co 15:56; Heb 2:14; Rev 19:20).[5]


Ver. 26.—The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. This rendering might imply that other enemies should still exist, though Death should be the last who would be destroyed. The original is more forcible, and implies. “Last of enemies doomed to annulment is Death;” or, as in Tyndale’s version. “Lastly, Death the enemy shall be destroyed;” or, as in the Rhemish Version, “And at the last, Death the enemy scal be distried.” The present, “is being annulled,” is the præsens futurascens, or the present of which the accomplishment is regarded as already begun and continuing by an inevitable law. Death and Hades and the devil, “who hath the power of death,” are all doomed to abolition (2 Tim. 1:10; Heb. 2:14; Rev. 20:14).[6]


26. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.

Among the hostile forces is the power of death. For the human race, this force has continued to rule from the time of Adam’s sin (see Gen. 2:17; 3:17, 19) until the present. We view death as a power that is foreign to the human race; it became triumphant over humanity when Satan induced man to sin. Adam’s disobedience resulted in the death of himself, his wife, and all his descendants. But Jesus conquered death through his resurrection and will abolish it in the consummation.

The adjective last describes death and should be interpreted to mean that death is the last foe among the demonic forces that exercise rule, authority, and power over humanity (v. 24). This domination, however, is abolished when all Christ’s people have been raised from the dead and are glorified.

Paul writes the verb to abolish in the passive voice and intimates that God is the agent who will terminate the power of this destructive force. God brought Jesus back to life and has given his followers the assurance that they also will be raised from the dead. If there is no resurrection, death continues to sway its power. But if there is a resurrection of all the believers, the power of death ends once for all.

Those Corinthians who denied the resurrection also failed to realize Christ’s triumph over death, for he holds the keys of death and the grave (Rev. 1:18). According to the apostle John, both death and Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire which is the second death (Rev. 20:14). In the renewal of heaven and earth, death will be no more (Rev. 21:4).

Scholars note an attractive symmetrical structure in verses 24–28 (see the illustration below). Verse 26 (E) is at the center. Verse 25 (D) corresponds with verse 27 (D´), verse 24 (C) with verse 27 (C´), verse 24 (B) with verse 28 (B´), and verse 24 (A) with verse 28 (A´). The verses that show parallels reinforce each other and reiterate their meaning.

In verse 25, Paul alludes to Psalm 110:1 with its message of the subjection of all Christ’s enemies under his feet. In verse 27, he broadens this message to include everything (in similar wording taken from Ps. 8:7). Further, the phrase then comes the end in verse 24 signifies that God is all in all as supreme ruler in this universe (v. 28).

(A) 24. Then comes the end,

 

(B) when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father,

 

(C) after he has abolished all rule, and all authority and power.

 

(D) 25. For he must rule until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

 

(E) 26. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.

 

(D´) 27. For he has put all things under his feet.

 

(C´) And when he says, “All things are put under him,” it is clear that the one who subjected all things to him is excepted.

 

(B´) 28. And when all things are subjected to him, then even the Son himself shall be subjected to the one who subjected all things to him

 

(A´) so that God may be all in all.[7]

 


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 419–421). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 397). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (pp. 756–757). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] Soards, M. L. (2011). 1 Corinthians (p. 336). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 293). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[6] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). 1 Corinthians (p. 487). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[7] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, pp. 553–554). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

June 16, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Changes in the New Heaven and the New Earth

and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” (21:4–6a)

Heaven will be so dramatically different from the present world that to describe it requires the use of negatives, as well as the previous positives. To describe what is totally beyond human understanding also requires pointing out how it differs from present human experience.

The first change from their earthly life believers in heaven will experience is that God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (cf. 7:17; Isa. 25:8). That does not mean that people who arrive in heaven will be crying and God will comfort them. They will not, as some imagine, be weeping as they face the record of their sins. There is no such record, because “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), since Christ “bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24). What it declares is the absence of anything to be sorry about—no sadness, no disappointment, no pain. There will be no tears of misfortune, tears over lost love, tears of remorse, tears of regret, tears over the death of loved ones, or tears for any other reason.

Another dramatic difference from the present world will be that in heaven there will no longer be any death (cf. Isa. 25:8). The greatest curse of human existence will be no more. “Death,” as Paul promised, “is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). Both Satan, who had the power of death (Heb. 2:14) and death itself will have been cast into the lake of fire (20:10, 14).

Nor will there be any mourning, or crying in heaven. The grief, sorrow, and distress that produce mourning and its outward manifestation, crying, will not exist in heaven. This glorious reality will be the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:3–4: “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” When Christ bore believers’ sins on the cross, He also bore their sorrows, since sin is the cause of sorrow.

The perfect holiness and absence of sin that will characterize heaven will also mean that there will be no more pain. On the cross, Jesus was “pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). While the healing in view in that verse is primarily spiritual healing, it also includes physical healing. Commenting on Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, Matthew 8:17 says, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.’ ” The healing ministry of Jesus was a preview of the well-being that will characterize the millennial kingdom and the eternal state. The glorified sin free bodies believers will possess in heaven will not be subject to pain of any kind.

All those changes that will mark the new heaven and the new earth indicate that the first things have passed away. Old human experience related to the original, fallen creation is gone forever, and with it all the mourning, suffering, sorrow, disease, pain, and death that has characterized it since the Fall. Summarizing those changes in a positive way, He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” The One who sits on the throne is the same One “from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them” (20:11). As noted in chapter 17 of this volume, the present universe will be uncreated. The new heaven and the new earth will be truly a new creation, and not merely a refurbishing of the present heaven and earth. In that forever new creation, there will be no entropy, no atrophy, no decay, no decline, and no waste.

Overwhelmed by all that he had seen, John seems to have lost his concentration. Thus, God Himself, the glorious, majestic One on the throne said to him “Write, for these words are faithful and true” (cf. 1:19). The words John was commanded by God to write are as faithful and true (cf. 22:6) as the One revealing them to him (3:14; 19:11). Though the present “heaven and earth will pass away,” still God’s “words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33). There will be an end to the universe, but not to the truth God reveals to His people. Whether or not men understand and believe that truth, it will come to pass.

Also by way of summary, the majestic voice of the One sitting on heaven’s throne said to John, “It is done.” Those words are reminiscent of Jesus’ words on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Jesus’ words marked the completion of the work of redemption; these words mark the end of redemptive history. It is the time of which Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:24–28:

Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

The One who sits on the throne is qualified to declare the end of redemptive history, because He is the Alpha and the Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet; cf. 1:8), the beginning and the end (cf. Isa. 44:6; 48:12). God started history, and He will end it, and all of it has unfolded according to His sovereign plan. That this same phrase is applied to the Lord Jesus Christ in 22:13 offers proof of His full deity and equality with the Father.[1]


5 Now, for the second time in the book, God himself is the speaker (cf. 1:8). From his throne comes the assurance that the one who created the first heaven and earth will indeed make all things new (panta kaina, GK 4246, 2785). This is a strong confirmation that God’s power will be revealed and his redemptive purposes fulfilled. Since these words are, in truth, God’s words (cf. 19:9; 22:6), it is of utmost importance that this vision of the new heaven and the new Jerusalem be proclaimed to the churches.[2]


5 The silence of God in Revelation is broken by his declaration, “I am making everything new!”24 The throne upon which God sits (cf. 4:2, 9; 5:1, 7; 6:16; 7:10, 15; 19:14) symbolizes his sovereignty and majesty. It is from this position of awesome power that he announces his intention of creating the new order. The renovation of the universe was a familiar concept in apocalyptic literature. Jub. 1:29 spoke of a “new creation when the heavens and the earth shall be renewed” (cf. 1 Enoch 91:16; 2 Bar. 57:2; 44:12; 2 Esdr 7:75; etc.). Through the prophet Isaiah God had promised, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isa 65:17). The transformation that Paul saw taking place in the lives of believers (2 Cor 3:18; 4:16–18; 5:16–17) will have its counterpart on a cosmic scale when a totally new order will replace the old order marred by sin.

Most scholars hold that the command to write in v. 5 comes from an angel, as in 14:13 and 19:9. The interpretation is based primarily on the changes in tense of the verb “to say” in vv. 5 and 6 (lit., “said … says … said”). It is argued that since the first and third utterances are from God, why would the second be altered if the speaker were the same? It is of equal weight, however, to argue that there is no reason why the second verb should not be altered for stylistic reasons and God be the one who speaks throughout. In 1:19 the glorified Christ had also instructed John to write. The content of what he is to write is contained in the vision of eternal blessedness given in vv. 1–5. He is to write it because the revelation is trustworthy and true.[3]


Ver. 5.—And he that sat upon the throne said; that sitteth (cf. ch. 20:11 and Matt. 25:31). Behold, I make all things new. As in ver. 1. So in Matt. 19:28, “Ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory,” etc. And he said unto me, Write; and he saith, Write. Probably the angel (cf. ch. 19:9; 14:13). The change from εἶπεν to λέγει and the immediate return to εἶπεν appear to indicate a change of speaker. For these words are true and faithful; faithful and true. So also in ch. 19:9; 3:14, etc.[4]


5a καὶ εἶπεν ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῷ θρόνῳ ἰδοὺ καινὰ ποιῶ πάντα, “Then the One sitting on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making everything new.’ ” This is a clear allusion to Isa 43:19, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” The apocalyptic theme of cosmic renewal may be reflected in 1QH 13:11–12 (tr. Vermes, Dead Sea Scrolls, 199), “For Thou hast shown them that which they had not [seen by removing all] ancient things and creating new ones [ולברוא חדשׁות wĕlibrôʾ ḥădāšôt].” A microcosmic application of the apocalyptic notion of the recreation or renewal of the world is found in 2 Cor 5:17, where Paul says that those in Christ are a καινὴ κτίσις [cf. Gal 6:15]· τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν, ἰδοὺ γέγονεν καινά, “new creation; what is old has disappeared; behold, it has become new” (see D. E. Aune, “Zwei Modelle der menschlichen Natur bei Paulus,” TQ 176 [1996] 28–39). This is probably also an allusion to Isa 43:18–19 (cf. Isa 65:17). It is clear that the short speech in vv 5–8 is attributed to God himself and is the only such speech in Revelation, with the exception of the brief self-disclosure in 1:8.

5b καὶ λέγει· γράψον, ὅτι οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι πιστοὶ καὶ ἀληθινοί εἰσιν, “He also said, ‘Write, for this message is trustworthy and true.’ ” This is the last of several commands to write that apparently have the entire composition in view (Rev 1:11, 19; 21:5; cf. 10:4) rather than just the partial texts that are the objects of the commands to write in 14:13 and 19:9. The phrase οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι πιστοὶ καὶ ἀληθινοί, “this message is trustworthy and true,” occurs again verbatim in 22:6 (in both passages πιστοὶ καὶ ἀληθινοί, “trustworthy and true,” is a hendiadys, i.e., one idea expressed through two different words), while in 19:9 we find the parallel phrase οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι ἀληθινοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσιν, “these are the true words of God.” In Greco-Roman divinatory charms there is a major concern, as there is here, with emphasizing the truthfulness of the revelation, implying the obvious possibility of unreliable revelations (PGM I.320; II.10, 115; III.288; IV.913, 1033, 2504; V.421; VII.248, 571; XIV.6–7; cf. Daniel-Maltomini, Supplementum Magicum 2:65, line 67 [commentary]).[5]


21:5. In chapter 21 the first speaker was an unidentified voice from the throne. John now hears a second speaker. The throne is the great throne of heaven, first seen in 4:2, but most recently the place of final judgment (20:11). The Judge of the final reckoning was Christ. Now he speaks, as Creator rather than as Judge. Isaiah had foreseen this new creation (Isa. 65:17). During his earthly life Jesus had pledged, “I am going there [to my Father’s house] to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2), suggesting a process of creation. Now his statement that I am making everything new emphasizes both the process and settled determination of Jesus to establish this eternal reality.

The angel in charge of this vision had commanded John earlier to write a “blessed” followed by a solemn affirmation of its divine trustworthiness (19:9). Now Jesus himself urges John to write this down, apparently the entire vision sequence. An equally solemn affirmation follows, applying especially to the words just spoken. They are trustworthy and true words because they issue from the one whose name is “Faithful and True” (19:11; the vocabulary is identical in the original).[6]


5. And the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making all things new,” and he said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

The phrase the one seated on the throne is a circumscription of the divine name that recalls the throne room setting (chapter 4). It is a recurring phrase in Revelation and Old Testament passages. Avoiding the use of God’s name, John allocates the origin of the voice to the throne. Now not an angel but God himself speaks and instructs John (vv. 5–8). Several times from his throne God directs a message to his people (v. 3; 1:8; 16:1, 17), but this is the last time in Revelation that he directly utters an announcement.

God tells the readers of the Apocalypse that he is making all things new (compare Isa. 43:19, which lacks the words all things). But here is the glorious outcome of God’s redemptive plan that Christ fulfilled: the renewal of all things. Notice that God calls attention to the fact that he is presently doing it, not that he will eventually do it. This utterance, therefore, is a direct revelation from God, who recreates, and as such it is one of the most important verses in Revelation. God renews sinful human beings through the work of Christ and makes them into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). In addition to human beings all things are renewed. This is God’s promise that points forward to the consummation, the transformation of heaven and earth, and the renewal of his entire creation (see 4 Ezra [=2 Esdras] 7:75).

Once again John is told to write (1:11; 14:13; 19:9), so that the content of Revelation may be preserved for countless generations. The reason for recording these words is that they are faithful and true. They are not hollow sounds, nor words that in time lose their meaning, but they express unqualified and lasting trustworthiness. God, who in Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of this world, will honor his word in bringing about a new heaven and a new earth. The words faithful and true are repeated in 22:6 (compare 19:9).[7]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2000). Revelation 12–22 (pp. 268–271). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 780). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (pp. 384–385). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Revelation (p. 510). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[5] Aune, D. E. (1998). Revelation 17–22 (Vol. 52C, pp. 1125–1126). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[6] Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, pp. 395–396). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[7] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, pp. 558–559). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

June 16, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

5. That we may rejoice in thy salvation. This verse may be explained in two other ways, besides the sense it bears according to the translation which I have given. Some consider it to be a prayer, as if it had been said, Lord, make us to rejoice. Others think that the faithful, after having finished their prayer, encourage themselves to entertain good hope; or rather, being already inspired with an assured hope of success, they begin to sing, so to speak, of the victory, even as it is usual with David to intermingle such kind of rejoicings with his prayers, thereby to stir up himself to continue with the more alacrity in prayer. But upon considering the whole more carefully, my opinion is, that what is meant to be expressed is the effect or fruit which would result from the bestowment of the grace and favour of God, for which the people prayed; and, therefore, I have thought it necessary to supply the particle that, in the beginning of the verse. The faithful, as an argument to obtain the favour of God towards their king, set forth the joy which they would all experience in common, in seeing it exercised towards him, and the thanksgiving which they would with one accord render for it. The import of their language is, It is not for the preservation and welfare of one man that we are solicitous; it is for the safety and well-being of the whole Church. The expression, In thy salvation, may be referred to God as well as to the king; for the salvation which God bestows is often called the salvation of God; but the context requires that it should be rather understood of the king. The people lived “under the shadow of the king,” to use the words of Jeremiah, (Lam. 4:20;) and, therefore, the faithful now testify, that as long as he is safe and in prosperity, they will all be joyful and happy. At the same time, to distinguish their joy from the heathen dancings and rejoicings, they declare that they will set up their banners in the name of God; for the Hebrew word דגל, dagal, here used, means to set or lift up a banner. The meaning is, that the faithful, in grateful acknowledgment of the grace of God, will celebrate his praises and triumph in his name.[1]


Rejoicing in Anticipation (20:5)

5 When the Lord responds to the prayer, he will demonstrate his presence and favor by giving victory to the king. The people pledge loyalty to the king by affirming their joy in his victory. They are confident that he is God’s chosen servant for the occasion and look forward to his return in victory. They also pledge loyalty to the Lord by raising their banners “in the name of our God.” Moses raised a “banner” to the Lord after the war with the Amalekites as a token of perpetual war as long as the Amalekites existed as a people (Ex 17:15–16). Here the raising of the banners signifies God’s victory over the enemies (cf. Dahood, 1:128). They trust that the king who goes out “in the name” of Yahweh (vv. 1, 5) will experience his presence and favor. They are prepared to raise the banners as an expression of confidence in the forthcoming victory. The people conclude their prayer with a petition for the Lord’s blessing.[2]


Ver. 5.—We will rejoice in thy salvation. David’s “salvation” is here his triumph over his enemies, which the people confidently anticipate, and promise themselves the satisfaction of speedily celebrating with joy and rejoicing. And in the Name of our God we will set up our banners. Plant them, i.e., on the enemy’s forts and strongholds. The Lord fulfil all thy petitions. A comprehensive prayer, re-echoing the first clause of ver. 1 and the whole of ver. 4, but reaching out further to all that the monarch may at any future time request of God. The first part of the psalm here ends, and the people pause for a while.[3]


5. “We will rejoice in thy salvation.” In Jesus there is salvation; it is his own, and hence it is called thy salvation; but it is ours to receive and ours to rejoice in. We should fixedly resolve that come what may, we will rejoice in the saving arm of the Lord Jesus. The people in this Psalm, before their king went to battle, felt sure of victory, and therefore began to rejoice beforehand; how much more ought we to do this who have seen the victory completely won! Unbelief begins weeping for the funeral before the man is dead; why should not faith commence piping before the dance of victory begins? Buds are beautiful, and promises not yet fulfilled are worthy to be admired. If joy were more general among the Lord’s people, God would be more glorified among men; the happiness of the subjects is the honour of the sovereign, “And in the name of our God we will set up our banners.” We lift the standard of defiance in the face of the foe, and wave the flag of victory over the fallen adversary. Some proclaim war in the name of one king and some of another but the faithful go to war in Jesu’s name, the name of the incarnate God, Immanuel, God with us. The times are evil at present, but so long as Jesus lives and reigns in his church we need not furl our banners in fear, but advance them with sacred courage.

“Jesu’s tremendous name

Puts all our foes to flight;

Jesus, the meek, the angry Lamb

A lion is in fight.”

The church cannot forget that Jesus is her advocate before the throne, and therefore she sums up the desires already expressed in the short sentence, “The Lord fulfil all thy petitions.” Be it never forgotten that among those petitions is that choice one, “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am.”[4]


[1] Calvin, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 1, pp. 337–338). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 226–227). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Psalms (Vol. 1, p. 139). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[4] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 1-26 (Vol. 1, p. 302). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

June 15, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

Hope

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (16:33)

Understanding God’s love and placing one’s faith in Him—the things of which Christ had just spoken to the disciples—brings peace despite the hostility of the world and the relentless tribulation it brings. These words were spoken just one evening after our Lord had told the disciples how much tribulation there was to be in the world before His return:

And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.” Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:8–24)

Still, in the midst of all that, believers will enjoy divine peace. That is more than enough reason to take courage and have hope. The believer’s hope is in the Lord (Pss. 31:24; 38:15; 39:7; 42:5, 11; 43:5; 62:5; 71:5; 130:7; 146:5; Lam. 3:24; 1 Tim. 1:1), His Word (Pss. 119:49; 130:5; Rom. 15:4), the salvation He provides (Ps. 119:166; Eph. 1:18; 4:4; Titus 1:2), and the eternal glory that awaits in heaven (Col. 1:5, 27; 1 Thess. 5:8). That hope is made possible because Jesus Christ has overcome the world and conquered sin (John 1:29; Heb. 1:3; 9:26, 28; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 3:5; Rev. 1:5), death (John 14:19; 1 Cor. 15:26, 54–55; 2 Tim. 1:10), and Satan (Gen. 3:15; Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). In Him, Christians too are overcomers (Rom. 8:37; 1 John 4:4; 5:4–5; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7), for whom the Lord will work all things to their good (Rom. 8:28).

After the resurrection and the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the disciples would be radically transformed from men of fear to men of courage. Though they abandoned Jesus on the night of His arrest, they would boldly stand before the Jewish leaders less than two months later. In Acts 2, the Twelve (with Matthias replacing Judas Iscariot) “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (v. 4). None other than Peter, who had denied Christ on three occasions (Mark 14:66–72), publicly took “his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared” to the crowds in Jerusalem that they should repent (v. 14; cf. v. 42). A little while later, he and John healed a lame man in the temple (Acts 3:6) and boldly preached the gospel there (vv. 11–26). They were quickly arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. But instead of cowering in fear, they bravely proclaimed the truth to the same Jewish leaders who had crucified Jesus. “There is salvation in no one else,” declared Peter of Christ. “For there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Noting his courage, the Jewish leaders were astonished. “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed” (v. 13).

That same supernatural courage and boldness is reflected in the examples of Stephen (Acts 7:54–60), Philip (8:5, 26–30), Ananias (9:10–19), Barnabas (13:46), Silas (16:25), Apollos (18:25–26), and Paul (26:19–21). Filled with the Holy Spirit and marked by personal conviction, these men were not intimidated by the threats of the world. Instead, they bravely proclaimed the truth of the gospel and rejoiced when they were persecuted (cf. 5:41), being confident of the promise that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

The peace and hope that characterized them is the same that has characterized true believers in every age. Being assured of what they believed and hoped for, and convinced of what they did not see (cf. Heb. 11:1), the saints of old “were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (vv. 37–38). Believers today can find that same courage of conviction when their “faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21). They need not fear persecution or even death, because they know “the God of hope” (Rom. 15:13) and Jesus Christ, “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27; cf. 1 Tim. 1:1). Having trusted in the death and resurrection of Christ, they are eternally secure in His love—knowing that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate [believers] from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus [their] Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).

Significantly, Jesus’ last words to His disciples in the upper room, before praying for them and departing for Gethsemane, were words of love, faith, and hope. In the face of their greatest trial in the next few days, the Lord reminded them of those three foundational truths—truths that would subsequently mark their ministries for the rest of their lives and also mark all the saints to follow them. Having done all He could to prepare them for what was about to take place, Jesus now turned in prayer to His Father, knowing that only He could truly protect the disciples in the following hours.[1]


Christ’s Disciples Scattered

John 16:31–33

You believe at last!” Jesus answered. “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

There are two reasons why the Lord Jesus Christ was not as impressed by his disciples’ professions of faith as they themselves were. First, their faith had been a long time coming. Second, it was about to evaporate. In the verses that close the sixteenth chapter of John, Jesus had been answering the questions of the disciples without their having actually asked them, and this had led them to exclaim, “Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God” (v. 30). This claim was honest, but really quite pretentious. They claimed to believe. They said that they were sure in their belief, but they were actually weak in commitment. Thus, instead of being impressed with his disciples’ faith, Jesus goes on to foretell their confusion and scattering at the time of his crucifixion.

This whole exchange should be a lesson for Christian people, for we are often quite confident in our faith, and yet are not as strong as we imagine ourselves to be. We say, “Now I believe; now I am sure.” But in a short while we find ourselves doubting the very thing we affirmed.

A Realistic Appraisal

A number of years ago my first assistant at Tenth Presbyterian Church told me something that he had remembered from his early childhood. He had been helping his father put some things on the dining-room table, and he had asked to carry something that his father judged to be too heavy for him. He argued with his father, making many protestations. “Please, Father, I know I can carry it. I am sure I can.” At last his father let him try. He started out confidently and carefully, but suddenly he dropped the container and the liquid spilled. He told me that he learned one of the great lessons of his life that day as he stood staring down at the spilled mess and the broken container. He felt absolutely chagrined; he had been so sure of himself. But his father had been right after all, and he was wrong.

Everyone has had such experiences, and it is these that will help us understand the profession of the disciples and their feelings as Jesus gently revealed the future to them. They were so sure of their faith. But in a short while—in fact, within hours—their faith would be gone.

Notice three things that Jesus prophesied concerning them. First, he revealed that they would soon be scattered. Now they were together, and, as is often the case, there was encouragement in numbers. And, of course, there was Jesus. If they had known the song, they might well have sung, “Give me ten men who are stouthearted men, and I’ll soon give you ten thousand more.” But they did not really know themselves. So before long, much to their chagrin, they would be scattered. Most scampered back over the Mount of Olives toward Bethany at the time of Christ’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter followed the arresting party back into Jerusalem, but afar off. After the crucifixion Cleopas and Mary returned to Emmaus, and the others were undoubtedly making plans for their own departure.

Second, Jesus foretold their confusion. This is involved in his questions about their belief, for when he exclaims, “You believe at last!” it is as much as to say that the time was coming when they would no longer believe and all would be confusion. Now they were sure that he was the Messiah, come forth from God. But how could they be sure of that following the harsh reality of Christ’s crucifixion? Like the Emmaus disciples they would all be saying, “But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21).

Third, Jesus revealed that they would soon be isolated, for each would be scattered “to his own.” When we read that phrase the first time we find ourselves asking, “Scattered to his own what? To his own house? City? Friends?” Jesus is saying that each would be scattered to his own little world and that each would be isolated in it. With the center gone, there would no longer be any cohesion to the little itinerant band. It is as if the devil, the disrupter, would have his way and that this heroic attempt to bind the sinful and scattered race of Adam into that glorious new unity of the church would come to ruin.

Well, what of it? Surely that is not our case, now that we have understood the meaning of the cross and stand on this side of Christ’s resurrection! Is that right? Are we never scattered? Never confused? Never isolated? Of course, we are! We are scattered—sometimes by persecution, sometimes by schism within the denominations, sometimes merely by our suspicion of other Christians. We are confused, for even believers do not always have a sure answer to give to those who ask them a reason of the hope within. Circumstances, sickness, and other troubles rattle us. We are isolated, for Christians are often terribly alone. I have had Christians write to me with problems because of having heard me over the Bible Study Hour, and they have said, “I have no one to turn to; there is no other person with whom I can share my problems.”

I want you to notice that in all of these respects—scattered, confused, isolated—Jesus is the exact opposite of the disciples. They scattered at the time of his arrest, but Jesus stood firm. He stood firm even to the point of death, as a result of which, after his resurrection, he became a magnetic point about which they regathered. They were confused, but he was strong in faith, as a result of which they recovered faith from him. They were isolated. But he, even though he was abandoned by them, could say, “But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” They emerged from their isolation when he came to them again following the resurrection.

I am glad that the Lord accepts weak, stammering, even ignorant faith. If he did not, what would become of us? Who could be saved? But having said that, let us not imagine that our faith or perception is the crucial thing, for “weak, stammering and ignorant” is an accurate description of it. Our strength is not in our faith but in him who is the object of it. It is in Jesus.

Christ’s Legacy

The second lesson of these verses is Christ’s parting legacy to his disciples. He had gently exposed the weakness of their supposedly strong faith. But not wishing to leave them with the exposure, he immediately goes on to talk of that which really is strong and which will endure even in tribulations. He talks about peace, his peace. It is the same peace he had spoken of in the fourteenth chapter: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled” (14:27). It was announced of Christ at his birth that he had come to bring peace—“peace on earth, good will toward men.” This he did, and he left it behind at his departure.

In 1874 a French steamer called the Ville du Havre was on a homeward voyage from America when a collision with a sailing vessel took place. The damage to the steamer was considerable, and as a result it sank quickly with the loss of nearly all who had been on board. One passenger, Mrs. Horatio G. Spafford, the wife of a lawyer in Chicago, had been en route to Europe with her four children. On being informed that the ship was sinking she knelt with her children and prayed that they might be saved or, if not, that they might be willing to die, if that was God’s will. When the ship went down, the children were all lost. Mrs. Spafford was rescued by a sailor who had been rowing over the spot where the ship had sunk and found her floating in the water. Ten days later, when she reached Cardiff, she sent her husband the message: “Saved alone.” This was a great blow, a sadness hardly comprehensible to anyone who has not lost a child. But though a great shock, it did not destroy the peace that either of the parents, who were both Christians, had from Jesus. Spafford wrote as a testimony to the grace of God in his experience:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea-billows roll—

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed his own blood for my soul.

This is the meaning of the Christian’s peace. It is not an absence of conflict or any other kind of trial or disappointment. Rather it is contentment and trust in God in spite of such circumstances.

Two Conditions

But it is not automatic. That is, it is not ours regardless of whether or not we meet Christ’s conditions for entering into this inheritance. The conditions he lays down in this passage are two.

First, the peace Christ gives is for those who are “in him.” This could mean simply that peace is for Christians, for when we become Christians God places us in Christ so that we may properly be said to have died and risen with him and to be sitting now with him in heaven. But this is probably not what Christ is talking about here. We must remember in interpreting this verse that the discourses in which they occur have been full of admonitions to “believe on” Christ and, more importantly, to “remain in” him. This is not the kind of being “in” Christ that corresponds with being saved but rather a conscious dependence on him and staying close to him that is the prerequisite to joy and fruitfulness in the Christian life. It is this that Christ has in mind as he closes these discourses. Jesus gives peace. But the gift of peace is appropriated only by those who depend on him, trust him, and remain close to him in their living of the Christian life.

Moreover, this interpretation of being “in” Christ is reinforced by the second of the two conditions: that the words of Christ might be in his followers. Jesus indicates this when he says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace” (v. 33). What things are these? They are the doctrines of this section of John’s Gospel. We previewed these at the beginning of our study of this section.

First, there is the fact of Christ’s love for the disciples. Chapter 13 begins with this truth: “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (v. 1). The chapter that is introduced by that verse contains a great demonstration of the love of Christ for his own, the foot washing, which is at the same time both a true demonstration of Christ’s condescending love and an illustration of his humbling of himself in order to be able to die on the cross. Throughout the discourses there is repeated evidence of Christ’s concern for his own. He is concerned to instruct them, warn them, and prepare them for his departure.

Second, Jesus spoke about heaven, saying that he was going to prepare a place for his own in heaven and that, if he was going, he would return and take them to himself so that where he was there they would be also (14:2–3). What was new in this teaching was not the mere fact of heaven, but rather that Jesus had an interest in it and would guarantee a personalized place in heaven for his followers.

Third, Jesus had spoken about the coming of the Holy Spirit. This was a tremendously new thing, for although the Old Testament had much to say about the Spirit of God, and although several of the Old Testament prophecies had spoken of a day when the Holy Spirit should be poured forth in power, no one had been associating that with Christ’s ministry or gifts. Now the disciples were told that Christ would himself send the Spirit and that he would come to be in them and work through them. According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit would comfort the disciples. He would also perform a ministry toward the world, for he would convict the world “of sin, righteousness and judgment” (16:8).

Fourth, Jesus spoke of a work that the disciples were to perform and for which he was leaving them in the world. He spoke of it in different ways. In the fourteenth chapter he spoke of it in comparison with his own work, saying that it would be even greater: “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (v. 12). In the fifteenth chapter he spoke of it in terms of his commissioning of them to fruitful service: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (v. 16). Having work to do in this world, their lives would be meaningful.

Fifth, the Lord spoke about prayer, giving us some of the most exciting promises in the Bible concerning it. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it” (14:13–14). “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (15:7). “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (16:24). The Lord also told them that he would pray for them. In the seventeenth chapter, we have a magnificent example of just such intercession.

Finally, even as Jesus reminds the disciples of what he has already taught, he adds another teaching: “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (16:33).

Christus Victor

This is the point at which we should end—the point of Christ’s victory. He overcame the world in three areas: in his life, in his death, and in his resurrection. He overcame it in life because, in spite of abundant griefs and temptations, he pursued the course God had set before him without deviation, sin, or error. He said of Satan, “The prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me” (John 14:30). He overcame the world in death because his death was the price of sin and thus broke sin’s hold upon us. He overcame the world in his resurrection because by his resurrection he began his return to the throne of heaven from which he now rules the church and from which he will one day come again to put down all authority and power.

“I have overcome the world.” These words were spoken within the shadow of Golgotha, at the very foot of the cross. They were spoken on the verge of what surely seemed a defeat. But they were true then. And if they were true then, it is even more abundantly demonstrated that they are true now. Do you believe them? Is Christ the victor? If you do and if he is, then stand with him in his victory. Possess that peace that he dispenses, and in your turn also overcome the world. Does the world deride Christ’s gospel? So much the worse for the world. Do circumstances press us down? He has overcome circumstances. Stand with him then. He is the King. He is God over all, whose name is blessed forever.[2]


Christ Overcoming the World

John 16:28–33

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

As Jesus concluded the teaching of John 16, he was perhaps drawing near to the garden of Gethsemane, where he would offer up his High Priestly Prayer, awaiting his betrayal and arrest. The time had therefore come for direct speaking. In the previous passage, he had taught of an hour to come when he would speak “plainly about the Father” (John 16:25). Now, poised at the brink of his own hour, Jesus spoke plainly about himself: “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (16:28). Jesus pressed on the disciples the important realization that “in this world you will have tribulation.” His final words offered the antidote for their troubles: “But take heart; I have overcome the world” (16:33).

Easy to Believe

Jesus began these final verses with a statement “concerning his true nature, his heavenly origin, and his heavenly destiny, [that] is profound but, at the same time, so simple that the disciples listening to him were led to exclaim, ‘Now you are speaking clearly.’ ” As Jesus recounts the basic facts of his life and ministry, we are struck that he spoke not as one acting under compulsion, but One who came and went by his free will and sovereign choice: “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (John 16:28). This statement sets forth Jesus’ first coming in four great movements. He came from the Father, came into the world, is now leaving, and will return to the Father. These are vital facts that structure the truth of Jesus’ person and redeeming work.

First, Jesus speaks of his eternal and divine origin, saying, “I came from the Father.” This was a truth that the disciples clearly grasped, saying, “We believe that you came from God” (John 16:30). William Hendriksen explains: “This refers to Christ’s perfect deity, his pre-existence, and his love-revealing departure from heaven in order to dwell on the sin-cursed earth.” Here is a direct claim to deity on the part of Jesus, presented as an essential element of saving faith.

Second, Jesus emphasizes his incarnation, the great miracle by which God the Son was born in the virgin womb and took up a human body and true human nature. It is noteworthy that Jesus spoke of his departure from heaven in the past tense, as a completed action. But he refers to his incarnation in the perfect tense, that is, as a past action with continued effects. “I … have come into the world,” Jesus says (John 16:28). This includes his virgin birth, his sinless life, and his ministry with its miracles and teaching. Most importantly, Jesus came into the world to lay down his life as an atoning Sacrifice for sin. “The Son of Man came,” Jesus stressed, “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Donald Grey Barnhouse illustrates Christ’s purpose in the incarnation with a judge who imposes strict justice on a convict, but then steps down from the bench to pay the fine himself. He does this because the guilty party is his own beloved child. Likewise, though very God, Jesus stepped down from heaven to pay in his blood the debt that his own divine justice demanded for our sins.

Moreover, Jesus came to reveal the glory and grace of the Father in his own person and work. We see why the perfect tense is rightly used for Jesus’ incarnation: though he has departed from our world, his coming produced effects that not only continue today but will endure forever.

Third, Jesus moves to the present—the action that he was about to initiate—saying, “Now I am leaving the world,” by way of the cross. Notice again that Jesus’ death and departure was not thrust on him by some outward compulsion. Earlier, he had told the disciples, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:17–18). According to the New Testament, Jesus left the world via the cross in order to remove completely the guilt of his people’s sins. Psalm 103:12 sings of him: “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

Fourth, and last, Jesus declares that after departing the world, he is “going to the Father” (John 16:28). Jesus’ resurrection from the grave reveals God’s acceptance of his atoning death, so that we may be certain that satisfaction has been made for our sins. Moreover, in returning to the Father, Jesus assumed the place from which he can dispense spiritual gifts and blessings to his people. Most important of these gifts is our new birth into saving faith by means of God’s Word (1 Peter 1:23). Finally, Jesus went to the Father that he might take up his ministry of intercessory prayer for all believers. Paul wrote that Christ “is at the right hand of God … interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34). There, Jesus displays in his body the marks of his atoning sacrifice, presenting our covenant claims through his blood. We sing:

Arise, my soul, arise, shake off thy guilty fears:

The bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears;

Before the Throne my Surety stands,

Before the Throne my Surety stands,

My name is written on his hands.

These are the plain facts of the Christian faith, articulated by Jesus himself. We should notice that there is nothing difficult to grasp here; the gospel is easy to understand and believe. Jesus came from heaven, came to earth, departed the world, and returned to the Father. This shows that objections to the Christian gospel stem not from the obscurity of our teaching but rather from a moral objection to the claims made by Jesus. People reject the idea that God’s Son came to this world from heaven because they refuse to surrender to him the reins of their lives. They object to Jesus’ departure via the cross because they refuse to acknowledge the righteousness of divine condemnation and admit their need to be forgiven of their sins.

The disciples responded to Jesus with belief, stating that his words struck a chord in their hearts: “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God” (John 16:29–30). It seems that Jesus had answered a question that was lurking in their minds. If we will open the Bible and read with an open mind, we will likewise find that the Scriptures lay bare the thoughts and motives of our heart (cf. Heb. 4:12). True faith in Jesus does not consist merely in intellectual understanding, but comes to life as the flint of Christ’s words strikes the stone of our hearts and sets us inwardly ablaze.

The Hard Reality

It seems, however, that Jesus was not so impressed by their faith: “Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe?’ ” (John 16:31). Some commentators see Jesus’ reference to “now” as a complaint regarding their tardiness in believing, and others see a prediction that they would soon deny him. However Jesus meant “now,” it is clear that he was challenging the disciples to realize that believing would not be as easy as it then seemed. Once God gives us eyes to see, the gospel is easy to believe. But there is a hard reality about following Jesus that every Christian must realize. Speaking of the trial facing the disciples—one in which their faith would waver—Jesus told them: “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone” (16:32).

This reminds us that we should not take lightly the challenge of believing in Jesus in this world, nor should we indulge in self-confidence as Christians. The disciples failed to anticipate the weakness of the flesh, the power of Satan’s afflictions, and their vulnerability in the hour of trial. J. C. Ryle comments: “Like young recruits, they had yet to learn that it is one thing to know the soldier’s drill and wear the uniform, and quite another thing to be steadfast in the day of battle.” If we have felt the challenge of Jesus’ words in our own lives—“Do you now believe?”—we will pray in earnest to be delivered from temptation, we will abide constantly in God’s Word, we will regularly attend to the means of grace in the worship of Christ’s church, and we will live in close communion with fellow believers who can encourage us to walk in the light through faith. Knowing that our faith will be tried by difficulties, the mature Christian is not one who has advanced beyond careful attention to God’s Word, prayer, and regular worship in the church. Instead, mature believers have learned not to neglect the God-given means of grace that preserve our faith.

For the first disciples, these lessons would be learned in the events of that very night. Jesus foretold their scattering after his arrest, and the Gospels speak unanimously about the flight of the disciples. Matthew 26:56 reports, “Then all the disciples left him and fled” (cf. Mark 14:50). The only exceptions were Peter and John. Luke mentions that Peter followed Jesus at a distance (Luke 22:54), only to deny him three times outside the high priest’s house. John, being acquainted with the ruling priests, entered into the courtyard to watch Jesus’ mock trial (John 18:15) and later appeared with Jesus’ mother at the cross. Still, Jesus’ summary was borne out in general by the disciples: “you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone” (16:32). This fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 13:7: “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”

Jesus mentions two dangers when Christians are troubled in the world: God’s people, first, are scattered and, second, are tempted to renounce Jesus. Consider how Christians are scattered today, sometimes by persecution, sometimes by disagreements, and sometimes by false doctrines and practices. As the winds of heresy, worldliness, and fleshly pride blow across the church, we find ourselves scattered by argument, resentment, and suspicion. What is the way to reconciliation among scattered Christians? The answer is Jesus himself. To the extent that our doctrine and lives are centered on Jesus, we will avoid being scattered as believers, despite differing experiences and some differences in our teaching.

Second, since they would be scattered, Jesus said that the disciples would “leave me alone.” This in part reflected the reality that, as Herman Ridderbos explains, “Jesus must walk the road alone, and can do so as the good Shepherd who gives his life for his sheep so that not one of them is lost.” It remains true, however, that the disciples were torn away from Jesus by fear and self-concern, so that they abandoned him to face the cross alone.

How different was Jesus! Whereas the disciples were scattered, Jesus stood firm in his calling as our Savior. Whereas the disciples were confused, Jesus remained master of the situation. Whereas the Eleven departed, each to his own isolated refuge, Jesus said, “Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me” (John 16:32). This is our hope: that Jesus persevered in his saving work in communion with the Father. Even when crying out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46), Jesus was still one with the purpose and will of the Father in making the sacrifice for our sins. Bearing God’s wrath by dying in his human nature, Jesus remained unified with the Father in his undying divine being.

Since Jesus died for sinners, there is hope for faltering but true disciples such as the original Eleven and us today. Thank God that we are not saved by our faith—as if our believing achieved our salvation—but we are saved by Christ through faith. Thus, a weak and failing faith is saved by a strong and faithful Savior. The disciples would fail Jesus and abandon their faith—how could they ever be restored? Paul answers: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).

Meanwhile, whenever a Christian is scattered by persecution, failure, or even our own sin, we can know that we, too, are never truly alone. Whenever our faith turns to the Lord and our prayer reaches up for deliverance, God is near us to save. James wrote, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

Christ’s Promise of Peace

Because the Father would remain with him, and because he would be faithful in making his sacrifice for sins, Jesus followed his warning with words of comfort: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace” (John 16:33). Though the disciples faced trouble, Jesus would leave them a legacy of his own peace. He had spoken of this same gift earlier, saying: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (14:27).

Leon Morris describes a painting that matches Jesus’ meaning. It depicts a storm beating against a rocky shoreline with waves crashing and foam flying high. A ship has been driven up against the rock and is falling apart, bodies falling into the deep. But in the foreground is seen a mighty rock with a crack. In the crack is a dove nesting securely, the storm unable to reach within. This expresses Jesus’ gift of peace. Morris explains: “Believers are not immune to the storms of life. They must bear them.… But they are secure. The Rock of Ages is their sure refuge and there they have peace.”

Jesus qualifies his offer of peace in two ways. First, he says that we may have peace “in me.” Believers have peace only in Christ; he is the Rock in the cleft of which we are secure. In Christ we enjoy peace with God, knowing that our sins are all forgiven. Believers also experience the peace of God, as the Holy Spirit works assurance and hope in our hearts. We gain this peace through prayer. Paul told us: “with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7). If you have not turned to Christ in saving faith, this might explain the restlessness of your heart. Our hearts were made to be given to him, and “he himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). James Montgomery Boice notes that not only do we gain peace by first coming to Christ in faith, but we must also realize that “a conscious dependence on him and staying close to him … is the prerequisite to joy and fruitfulness in the Christian life.”

Second, Jesus says that believers gain his peace through the teaching of his Word: “I have said these things to you,” Jesus said, “that in me you may have peace” (John 16:33). “These things” that Christ has said refer to the whole of this Farewell Discourse, the purpose of which was to provide peace to the disciples in light of Jesus’ coming death and departure. All through the Farewell Discourse, Jesus expresses his care and concern, which apply not only to the original disciples but also to us. Knowing Christ’s loving care gives peace to our hearts. Jesus promised to secure a place for every believer in heaven: “In my Father’s house are many rooms.… And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (14:2–3). Believers know that whatever else happens to us as we follow Jesus in life, the destination will be our own prepared place in the glorious eternity of heaven. What a source of peace this should be to every Christian heart!

When it comes to following Christ in this world, Jesus also told about the provision of God’s Holy Spirit to comfort, encourage, empower, and lead us. Not only will the Spirit “take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14), but he will grant divine conviction to empower our ministry to the world: “he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (16:8).

Finally, Jesus’ teaching has repeatedly stressed our great privilege in prayer by appeal to his name. What a source of peace it is to know that God in heaven hears my cry and attends to my plea! Jesus taught, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (John 16:23). This provides us with every incentive to try out our access to God in prayer, and to lay our anxieties into the Father’s hands, requesting his gift of peace. Peter learned this in future years, urging us to cast “all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Are you living in the peace that Jesus has left to believers? If you are not a believer, you have every reason to turn to Jesus, seeking peace with the Father through the forgiveness of sin and the peace of the Father as he lives in you by his Spirit. If you are a believer living without peace, does this warn that you are not living in close communion with our Lord or that you are failing to derive the blessing of his teaching in God’s Word? Many Christians struggle for peace in their hearts, some because of their sinfulness and others because of their weakness. All Christians should turn to Christ, turn from our sin, and seek his blessing. Jesus gives his people peace, and we should make sure that we receive this peace in him, through his Word, and in answer to our prayers.

Two Great Truths

John 16:33 concludes Jesus’ farewell teaching with plain and direct words that emphasize two great truths that his disciples would need to know. Jesus began this final passage with plain teaching about his own mission, and he concludes with two direct statements that are to serve as watchwords for his church: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (16:33).

Are we surprised by the trials of this present life? We should not be, given Jesus’ clear warning. Here is a promise that is certain to come true if only we live for a little while: “In the world you will have tribulation.” The English word tribulation derives from a Latin word for the flail that was used to separate the wheat from the chaff. The world is the place of testing where our faith is revealed and made strong through trial. A. W. Pink writes: “While the Christian is left down here he suffers from the weakness and weariness of the body, from temporal losses and disappointments, from the severing of cherished ties, as well as from the sneers and taunts, the hatred and persecution of the world.” “Men design to cut [believers] off from the earth,” notes Matthew Henry, “and God designs by affliction to make them [ready] for heaven; and so between both they shall have tribulation.”10 Though in Christ we have peace, in the world we have tribulation: we should therefore direct our hearts not to the things of the world but to the blessings of Christ, which alone convey peace.

The second great truth answers the need of the first. “Take heart,” he says; “I have overcome the world.” John’s Gospel was written to display the whole range of Jesus’ victory over sin, Satan, and death—all the powers of the world arrayed against Christians. It is probably best, however, to understand Jesus’ victory in the terms that he gave the disciples in this final passage.

Jesus said, “I came from the Father and have come into the world” (John 16:28). Jesus overcame the world as the incarnate God-man by obeying the will of the Father in his perfect and sinless life, and by overthrowing the powers of Satan and sin. Jesus added, “Now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (16:28). Jesus overcame the world in his death, because he offered his sinless life to pay the sin debt of all who trust in him, thus breaking the power of sin over us. Jesus then conquered death through his resurrection, and ascending to heaven he assumed “the throne of heaven from which he now rules the church and from which he will one day come again to put down all authority and power.” Because Christ has overcome the world, we now must only hold fast to him to gain our own victory, dividing his spoils by faith. John wrote in his first epistle, “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Notice two final points. Jesus said, “I have overcome the world” in the very shadow of Golgotha, where he would suffer God’s wrath at the hands of evil men. Jesus spoke of victory as he stepped forward to embrace his apparent defeat, knowing that through his sacrifice God would grant salvation to his people. You may rely on his victory when you feel yourself at the end and on the brink of failure. Our victory is Christ crucified for our sins and Christ living with power at God’s right hand. Take heart! Christ has overcome the world!

Finally, be encouraged that Jesus knew that his disciples would falter in their faith and foretold it in advance, yet did not forsake them. Jesus knows that you will have tribulations; your trials do not suggest that you have fallen outside of Christ’s will or plan for your life. Jesus knows in detail every cross that you bear, especially when you bear it for him. The Eleven would return to faith because Jesus would return to them from the dead. You, too, through faith alone, are kept safe in his hand; even your faith is secured by Christ’s unfailing grace (John 10:28). Take heart! Christ has overcome the world![3]


33. These things I have spoken to you. He again repeats how necessary those consolations are which he had addressed to them; and he proves it by this argument, that numerous distresses and tribulations await them in the world. We ought to attend, first, to this admonition, that all believers ought to be convinced that their life is exposed to many afflictions, that they may be disposed to exercise patience. Since, therefore, the world is like a troubled sea, true peace will be found nowhere but in Christ. Next, we ought to attend to the manner of enjoying that peace, which he describes in this passage. He says that they will have peace, if they make progress in this doctrine. Do we wish then to have our minds calm and easy in the midst of afflictions? Let us be attentive to this discourse of Christ, which in itself will give us peace.

But be of good courage. As our sluggishness must be corrected by various afflictions, and as we must be awakened to seek a remedy for our distress, so the Lord does not intend that our minds shall be cast down, but rather that we shall fight keenly, which is impossible, if we are not certain of success; for if we must fight, while we are uncertain as to the result, all our zeal will quickly vanish. When, therefore, Christ calls us to the contest, he arms us with assured confidence of victory, though still we must toil hard.

I have overcome the world. As there is always in us much reason for trembling, he shows that we ought to be confident for this reason, that he has obtained a victory over the world, not for himself individually, but for our sake. Thus, though in ourselves almost overwhelmed, if we contemplate that magnificent glory to which our Head has been exalted, we may boldly despise all the evils which hang over us. If, therefore, we desire to be Christians, we must not seek exemption from the cross, but must be satisfied with this single consideration, that, fighting under the banner of Christ, we are beyond all danger, even in the midst of the combat. Under the term World, Christ here includes all that is opposed to the salvation of believers, and especially all the corruptions which Satan abuses for the purpose of laying snares for us.[4]


33 Jesus concludes the discourse proper by encouraging his disciples with a reminder that he has told them “these things” (all the promises in the preceding chapters) so that in him they “may have peace.” Peace in the biblical sense is more than tranquility. It is the šalôm (GK 8934) of God, the sense of complete well-being that characterizes the life lived in accordance with the design of God. Peace comes from acting on the promises of God. The close relationship between prayer (vv. 23–24) and peace (v. 33) is reflected in Paul’s words to the Philippian church: “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Php 4:6–7).

In this world the followers of Jesus are destined to have trouble. (Thlipsis, GK 2568, is commonly used in the NT for the persecutions of the church; see, e.g., 2 Co 8:2; 1 Th 1:6.) But “take heart!” says Jesus, “I have overcome the world.” There is solid reason for joyful confidence. The world will do its worst to me, yet I will come through victoriously. The victory that I will win will be yours as well. The verb “to overcome” (used only here in John’s gospel) is a military term and denotes victory in warfare. The perfect tense (nenikēka, GK 3771) emphasizes the abiding nature of that victory. The strong adversative alla (“but”) suggests that something is to follow for which the circumstances have not prepared us (cf. Morris, 714 n. 80).

The chapter closes with a strong contrast. In this world the disciples will have trouble, but in Christ they will have peace. Believers were never intended to be exempt from sorrow or difficulty in this world. We are, however, expected to be at peace because by faith we have been brought into an inseparable union with Jesus Christ and share his victory over sin and Satan. “Cheer up,” is the Living Bible’s translation. The enemies of God are defeated, and before long that victory will be universally proclaimed (cf. Php 2:9–11).[5]


33 For “I have told you these things” see on 14:25, and for “peace” on 14:27. Jesus’ words to the disciples conclude on the notes of peace and victory. There are three contrasts here: “in me” is set over against “in this world,” “you may have” over against “you will have,” and “peace” over against “trouble.” The second of these does not, of course, mean that there is any doubt that those who are “in” Christ have peace. Rather it points to the contrast between the life that all must lead, a life in this world, and a life that all do not lead, a life in Christ. All must live in the world and thus have trouble. But people may also live in Christ, and when they do they have peace. The speaking of these words just at this time has a significance rather like the reference to the trials that would befall them in verse 4. When they had all forsaken Jesus they might well feel so ashamed that they would remain uneasy whenever they thought of him. But he predicted their desertion in the very saying in which he assured them of the peace he would give them. He loved them for what they were and despite their shortcomings. When in the future they looked back on their desertion they could reflect that Jesus had predicted it. And, in the full knowledge that they would act in this way, he had promised them peace. The world will infallibly bring them “trouble.” That is its characteristic. But he can bid them “take heart!”83 He had overcome85 the world, the perfect tense denoting an abiding victory. This statement, spoken as it is in the shadow of the cross, is audacious. The cross would seem to the outsider to be Jesus’ total defeat. He sees it as his complete victory over all that the world is and can do to him. He goes to the cross not in fear or in gloom, but as a conqueror.[6]


33 The expression, “These things I have spoken to you,” finally does what the reader expected it to do all along. It brings the discourse to a close. Here (as in 15:11; 16:1, 4) it is followed by a purpose clause: “These things I have spoken to you so that in me you might have peace. In the world you have distress, but take courage, I have overcome the world!” (v. 33). Earlier, he stated his purpose both positively (to bring joy, 15:11), and negatively (to warn against “stumbling,” 16:1, 4). This time he combines warning and assurance, with the good news that in the end assurance and hope have the last word. He visualizes the disciples after his departure living simultaneously “in me” (as in 14:20; 15:2, 4–7), where they will have “peace,” and “in the world,” where “distress” awaits them. His final word to them is “Take courage, I have overcome63 the world.” If chapters 15 and 16 are indeed a “second” farewell discourse, as many have proposed, then the second discourse ends on a note reminiscent of Jesus’ words near the close of the first, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let no one’s heart be shaken, nor let it be fearful!” (14:27). The dualism is evident in both places. Jesus and his disciples are at war with “the world,” and “the world” is already defeated in principle. His victory over the world is theirs as well, a victory confirmed and accomplished in the long prayer to follow (17:1–26), and explicitly claimed for Christian believers both in 1 John (see 2:13–14; 4:4; 5:4–5) and in the book of Revelation (see 3:21; 5:5; 12:11; 15:2; 17:14; 21:7). But as for the disciples on the scene, they are not heard from again.[7]


33. These things I have spoken unto you—not the immediately preceding words, but this whole discourse, of which these were the very last words, and which He thus winds up.

that in me ye might have peace—in the sublime sense before explained. (See on Jn 14:27).

In the world ye shall have tribulation—specially arising from its deadly opposition to those who “are not of the world, but chosen out of the world.” So that the “peace” promised was far from an unruffled one.

I have overcome the world—not only before you, but for you, that ye may be able to do the same (1 Jn 5:4, 5).[8]


Ver. 33.—These things have I spoken (ταῦτα; all the farewell discourses. The tone of these last triumphant words reminds them of the finest and noblest of his previous assurances, his promises of peace, courage, and victory over all the evil and power of this world) to you, that in me ye might have peace (see note, ch. 14:27†, 28†) The entire issue of the discourse is the conference oil his disciples of his own secret of peace—the adequate support amid the crushing force and vehement hostility of the world (cf. Ps. 46:2–4, “Though the earth be removed … there is a river,” etc.). Peace is the balance of equilibrating forces; and man needs a Divine force behind and within him to encounter the tremendous odds arrayed against him, in mysteries of life, temptation of the devil, infirmity of the flesh, and antagonism of the world, so that we need not be surprised to hear him say, In the world ye have tribulation. It is the fundamental condition of Divine life in this world. Christ’s disciples may take that for granted (see 1 Thess. 1:6; 3:4), but the most striking and unique note of the true faith is that this sorrow is blended with an inward rapture which transforms it into peace. The blending of fear and love, of law with promise, of righteousness with mercy, of the sense of sin with that of pardon, of a great peace with a crushing tribulation, is one of the most constant tokens, signs, or marks of the mind of Christ. But be of good courage. This is the practical uprising of the soul into the joy of the Lord (cf. also ch. 14:1, 28). (The word itself is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον in John, though found in Matt. 9:2 and Mark 10:49.) Ἐγω, I—very emphatic—have overcome the world. “A vous encore le combat, à moi dès à présent la viotoire! Mais en moi la meme victoire à vous vous aussi” (Reuss). The royal sublimity of this last word, on the eve of the Passion, became one of the perpetually recurring thoughts of John (1 John 5:4 and Rev. 2, 3, where the ὁ νίκων is again and again referred to). Christ’s victory already assured to him becomes theirs. So “by similar anticipation we have ἐνίκησαν in Rev. 12:11, and a ἡ νικήσασα in 1 John 5:4.” The victory had been, however, already achieved over the world’s temptations, and over the bitterness of internal treachery, and the vast sum of human ingratitude; and this may in part explain the use of the perfect tense, “I have overcome.”[9]


33 Jesus’ last word to his disciples is not of condemnation but encouragement, for he anticipates their speedy recovery. He has spoken “these things” (i.e., the discourse, not simply v 32) that in him they may have peace. He has already assured them of the possession of joy (vv 22, 24); peace and joy are two primary realities of the saving sovereignty that Jesus brings, and they are gifts of the present—even in tribulation! If the latter is the disciples’ lot in this world, tribulation (θλῖψις) is the precursor of the triumphant kingdom of God. And the victory that brings the kingdom has already been won! “I have conquered the world” is the word of the Victor who, by his enduring θλῖψις in obedience and unwavering love, conquered the evil in the world, as he overcame the “prince” of this world (12:32). And in him every disciple shares his victory (a conviction strongly emphasized in I John: the believer conquers the evil one, 2:13–14, the Antichrists of this world, 4:4, and the world itself, 5:4–5).

Explanation

The relationion of the time of Jesus and his disciples with that of the risen Lord and his Church in the Gospel becomes acute in the Last Discourses of chaps. 15–16, particularly in view of their forward look, which is concerned with the future relations of the disciples to the “world,” especially as represented by the Jews, and the anticipated ministry of the Paraclete.

  1. The relation to Israel of Jesus and his disciples and of the Lord and his Church is ambivalent. It is remarkable that the allegory of the Vine contains no polemic. Its utilization of the imagery of vine and vineyard, so familiar from the OT, is compatible with the continuation of Israel-Church as the people of God. Even the epithet “true Vine” does not exclude that observation, since the prophets used the figure almost uniformly to denounce the false vine, Israel (Jer 2:21 is characteristic: “I planted you as a choice red vine, true stock all of you, yet now you are turned into a vine debased and worthless!” [neb]). If, as F. C. Burkitt once remarked, the Church in the teaching of Jesus is to be seen as “Israel made new in the Remnant,” the Vine imagery is thoroughly compatible with his consciousness of mission to Israel, in the Fourth Gospel as well as in the synoptics. The true Vine can emerge only through the redemptive ministry of him in whom Israel may be made new. It is the Redeemer with those united in him through faith and love. By definition this excludes from the true Vine those in Israel who rejected Jesus and his revelation, represented above all in the leaders who finally brought about his death. From the beginning the consciousness of this divorce between believing and unbelieving Israel could not be erased from the Church’s mind, not even from that of the wholly Jewish Church. In the time of the Fourth Evangelist’s ministry it will have been particularly vivid in view of the churches’ experience of opposition from the synagogue leadership, comparable to that which Jesus suffered. The difference between the later and earlier churches on this issue will have been the clearer understanding of the later community that the true Vine includes believers from all nations (as 10:16; 12:12–32 envisages), whereas unbelieving Jews numbered themselves with the Gentiles who oppose the gospel and the Church that preaches it.

So within the Fourth Gospel a clear recognition comes about that the “world” in its opposition to Jesus and his Church finds its prime representatives in Israel’s leaders. We have already observed that in our Gospel the concept “world” has a similar ambiguity to “Israel.” The world as created by God through the Logos is the scene of the incarnation of the Logos, and the object of the divine love and redemptive work of the Son of God (e.g., 3:16–21; 4:42; 12:47); hence the Redeemer is “lifted up” to heaven in order to draw all in the world to him (12:31–32). But the world is also the scene where its “prince” holds sway. The passages that mention him show that he is a defeated power (12:31; 14:30; 16:11), but he is still able to inspire hostility to the followers of Jesus, as he did to Jesus himself. In such passages as 15:18–19, 25 the “world” and unbelieving Israel are virtually identified, as in 16:1–4 the militant opposition to the disciples is attributed to the synagogue. When opposition of this order was experienced by the churches of the Evangelist’s time, the concept of “false” Israel as representatives of the world and its prince that right Jesus and his Church would have been intensified. The modification of the Twelfth of the Eighteen Benedictions to include a curse on the Christians, at whatever date that may have taken place, will have seemed to the Christians the topstone that crowned their convictions. That in the vastly changed situation of the twentieth century, when the boot has been on the other foot and the Church’s traditions have led to literally annihilating persecutions of Jews, this evaluation requires drastic modification goes without saying; but it needs to be said, loudly and clearly, as the Evangelist himself would undoubtedly have acknowledged.

  1. The function of the Spirit in the Church is placed firmly in the future in the Last Discourses, and his role is more extensively described in the discourses of chaps. 15–16 than anywhere else in the Gospel. The Paraclete sayings raise the question as to the relation of the Paraclete-Spirit to the revelation in Jesus in the continuing life of the Church.

In 16:25 the teaching of Jesus to his disciples is acknowledged to be obscure, and the full revelation of his teaching promised for the future. There is a certain tension here, inasmuch as in 18:20 Jesus declares to the chief priest Annas that he had “spoken openly (παρρησίᾳ) in the world,” had always taught in the synagogues and in the temple, and had said nothing in secret. Yet the elusiveness of his teaching and the exasperation of at least some of his hearers is illustrated in the occasion when “the Jews” surrounded Jesus in the temple and asked him, “How long are you going to provoke us? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly (παρρησίᾳ)” (10:24). Jesus replied that he had done so, and they had not believed. The necessity for faith to grasp the truth made known by Jesus is similarly asserted in 8:46–47. It is evident that if the teaching of Jesus is to be understood there must be a readiness to receive it, and equally a readiness to progress in understanding. The disciples were willing enough, but their grasp of the revelation in Jesus was fragmentary, and therefore they were apt to misunderstand it. They were in need of a translation of the message and a continual illumination of its meaning, in other words of being “led” in the entire truth. The Paraclete’s task is to disclose the truth of the gospel as he constantly draws on the fullness of the revelation made known in Jesus. The heart of his instruction is indicated in 16:14: “He will glorify me, inasmuch as he will receive what is from me and disclose it to you.” The revelation, then, is Jesus; not a system of doctrines, but him. That the teaching of Jesus, with his life, death, and exaltation, entail doctrine is evident, and dogmatic formulation that endeavors to do justice to what was said and done by him is immensely important. But dogmatic formulations and exposition can never take the place of the revelation in Christ; they can never exhaust that revelation; of necessity they are always relative to the times in which they are expressed and they have to be restated for different ages and cultures. More importantly, the knowledge of the revelation is intended to lead to the experience of it, for through it the living Christ confronts the believer with the demand for faith and obedience, and for life in union with him (cf. “Abide in me, and I in you …”). It is in this context that the “prophetic” ministry of the Spirit-Paraclete is to be understood. The Spirit enables not only an understanding of the revelation, but also the expression of it in such a manner that both believer and unbeliever may grasp it and respond to it. All are ready to acknowledge that the greatest monument to the presence of this prophetic inspiration of the Spirit in the Church is the Fourth Gospel itself. It was early perceived to be the “spiritual” Gospel, in that it enables the believer to penetrate beyond the exterior of the life and teaching of Jesus to its heart—one is inclined to say to his heart. And at the same time it constantly demands the response of reader and hearer to the Christ so presented. It was surely part of the Evangelist’s intention to make it plain that the Paraclete who illumined the minds of those about Jesus continues the same ministry in the church, that the revelation in Christ may constantly be freshly perceived and powerfully expressed. of this ministry Blank wrote,

Prophecy liberates the Christian message from the fetters and incrustations of a paralyzing traditionalism. Its primary function is to relate the Christian message to the present age with its experiences and problems and to interpret it for the people of every today. If the message is to remain alive or to become alive again, the Church of every age and especially of today needs authoritative, Spirit-filled prophecy. Part of the task is to bring to light the contradiction between the message and the wretched reality of Church and world (According to St. John, 150–51).[10]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2008). John 12–21 (pp. 230–232). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 1239–1244). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Phillips, R. D. (2014). John. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (1st ed., Vol. 2, pp. 373–382). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[4] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Gospel according to John (Vol. 2, pp. 161–162). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[5] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 596). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[6] Morris, L. (1995). The Gospel according to John (p. 633). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[7] Michaels, J. R. (2010). The Gospel of John (pp. 855–856). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[8] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 159). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[9] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). St. John (Vol. 2, p. 310). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[10] Beasley-Murray, G. R. (2002). John (Vol. 36, pp. 288–291). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

June 15, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

13. Behold, my servant shall have prosperous success. After having spoken of the restoration of the Church, Isaiah passes on to Christ, in whom all things are gathered together. Some explain ישכיל (yăshkīl) to mean shall “deal prudently;” but, as it is immediately added that he shall be exalted, the context appears to demand that we shall rather understand it to denote “prosperous success,” for שכל (shākăl) also signifies “to be prosperous.” He speaks, therefore, of the prosperity of the Church; and as this was not visible, he draws their attention to the supreme King, by whom all things shall be restored, and bids them wait for him. And here we ought carefully to observe the contrasts which the Prophet lays down; for the mightiness of this king whom the Lord will exalt is contrasted by him with the wretched and debased condition of the people, who were almost in despair. He promises that this king will be the head of the people, so that under him as the leader the people shall flourish, though they be now in a state of the deepest affliction and wretchedness; because he shall have a prosperous course.

He calls Christ “his Servant,” on account of the office committed to him. Christ ought not to be regarded as a private individual, but as holding the office to which the Father has appointed him, to be leader of the people and restorer of all things; so that whatever he affirms concerning himself we ought to understand as belonging also to us. Christ has been given to us, and therefore to us also belongs his ministry, for the Prophet might have said, in a single word, that Christ will be exalted and will be highly honoured; but, by giving to him the title of “Servant,” he means that he will be exalted for our sake.[1]


13 Behold, my servant introduces the new section with the same words as the first discussion of the Servant in 42:1. Here, as there, Behold serves not only as a stylistic element to mark the beginning of a new segment but also as a call to pay attention to this one who is going to be described. Here is the one through whom Israel’s covenant will be restored and through whom light will come to the nations. Thus it is not surprising that verbs of seeing and attending to are prominent in the first two stanzas (52:15; 53:1–3). If what this passage says about this man’s capacity for taking away sin is true, then by all means we should fix every bit of our attention on him.

accomplish his purpose. śkl is usually translated “be wise” or “prosper,” but neither of those translations gathers up the full sense of the context here: to act with such wisdom that one’s efforts will be successful (cf. Josh. 1:8; Jer. 10:21). Thus the text is not saying that the Servant will merely be a wise man. Even more so, it is not saying that the Servant will be a rich man. Rather, it is saying that he will both know and do the right things in order to accomplish the purpose for which he was called (Isa. 42:1; 49:2–3; 50:7–9). Whatever the intervening intimations of failure might be (49:4), the Servant and the world should know that he will not fail.

In consequence of the servant’s success in his mission, he will be high and lifted up, and very exalted. One must not overlook the significance of these words. “High and lifted up” (rwm and nśʾ) are used in combination four times in this book (and no place else in the OT). In the other three places (6:1; 33:10; 57:15) they describe God. Whom do they describe here? The same point may be made concerning exalted. The section 2:6–22 speaks forcefully against every exaltation of the human; v. 17 says that God will humble the exaltation of man, so that only God will be lifted up. Is it here, then, being said that the nation of Israel will be exalted to the place of God? Is it a prophet of Israel? In each case the answer must be no. This is the Messiah or no one. Paul’s great hymn in Phil. 2:5–11 is almost certainly a reflection on this passage (“taking the form of a slave, … he humbled himself”), and his declaration that God has “highly exalted” Jesus (v. 9) gives us his understanding of the referent here.[2]


13. Here the fifty-third chapter ought to begin, and the fifty-second chapter end with Is 52:12. This section, from here to end of the fifty-third chapter settles the controversy with the Jews, if Messiah be the person meant; and with infidels, if written by Isaiah, or at any time before Christ. The correspondence with the life and death of Jesus Christ is so minute, that it could not have resulted from conjecture or accident. An impostor could not have shaped the course of events so as to have made his character and life appear to be a fulfilment of it. The writing is, moreover, declaredly prophetic. The quotations of it in the New Testament show: (1) that it was, before the time of Jesus, a recognized part of the Old Testament; (2) that it refers to Messiah (Mt 8:17; Mk 15:28; Lu 22:37; Jn 12:38; Ac 8:28–35; Ro 10:16; 1 Pe 2:21–25). The indirect allusions to it still more clearly prove the Messianic interpretation; so universal was that interpretation, that it is simply referred to in connection with the atoning virtue of His death, without being formally quoted (Mk 9:12; Ro 4:25; 1 Co 15:3; 2 Co 5:21; 1 Pe 1:19; 2:21–25; 1 Jn 3:5). The genuineness of the passage is certain; for the Jews would not have forged it, since it is opposed to their notion of Messiah, as a triumphant temporal prince. The Christians could not have forged it; for the Jews, the enemies of Christianity, are “our librarians” [Paley]. The Jews try to evade its force by the figment of two Messiahs, one a suffering Messiah (Ben Joseph), the other a triumphant Messiah (Ben David). Hillel maintained that Messiah has already come in the person of Hezekiah. Buxtorf states that many of the modern Rabbins believe that He has been come a good while, but will not manifest Himself because of the sins of the Jews. But the ancient Jews, as the Chaldee paraphrast, Jonathan, refer it to Messiah; so the Medrasch Tauchuma (a commentary on the Pentateuch); also Rabbi Moses Haddarschan (see Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament). Some explain it of the Jewish people, either in the Babylonish exile, or in their present sufferings and dispersion. Others, the pious portion of the nation taken collectively, whose sufferings made a vicarious satisfaction for the ungodly. Others, Isaiah, or Jeremiah [Gesenius], the prophets collectively. But an individual is plainly described: he suffers voluntarily, innocently, patiently, and as the efficient cause of the righteousness of His people, which holds good of none other but Messiah (Is 53:4–6, 9, 11; contrast Je 20:7; 15:10–21; Ps 137:8, 9). Is 53:9 can hold good of none other. The objection that the sufferings (Is 53:1–10) referred to are represented as past, the glorification alone as future (Is 52:13–15) arises from not seeing that the prophet takes his stand in the midst of the scenes which he describes as future. The greater nearness of the first advent, and the interval between it and the second, are implied by the use of the past tense as to the first, the future as to the second.

Behold—awakening attention to the striking picture of Messiah that follows (compare Jn 19:5, 14).

my servant—Messiah (Is 42:1).

deal prudently—rather, “prosper” [Gesenius] as the parallel clause favors (Is 53:10). Or, uniting both meanings, “shall reign well” [Hengstenberg]. This verse sets forth in the beginning the ultimate issue of His sufferings, the description of which follows: the conclusion (Is 53:12) corresponds; the section (Is 52:13; 53:12) begins as it ends with His final glory.

extolled—elevated (Mk 16:19; Eph 1:20–22; 1 Pe 3:22).[3]


Ver. 13.—My Servant shall deal prudently; rather, shall deal wisely; i.e. shall so act throughout his mission as to secure it the most complete success. “Wisdom is justified of her children,” and of none so entirely justified as of him “in whom were all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hid away” (Col. 2:3). Exalted and extolled; or, high and lifted up—the same expressions as are used of the Almighty in ch. 6:1 and 57:15. Even there, however, seems to the prophet not enough; so he adds, “and exalted exceedingly” (comp. ch. 53:10–12 and Phil. 2:6–9).[4]


13 ישׂכיל עבדי, “my servant succeeds.” This optimistic assertion is typical of ones made in the Vision about the work of emperors chosen to do YHWH’s work, from Tiglath-Pileser through Cyrus. It is especially true of the Persians. God chose unlikely men for the task, those not necessarily in line for the throne. This was true of Cyrus and of Darius, and it will be true of Artaxerxes. They gained the seat of power, then each decreed that the temple in Jerusalem be built (Ezra 1–6). Here the unlikely successor who has now established himself on the throne of the Persian Empire is introduced in Jerusalem.

Baltzer (395–96) notes that this verse exalts the servant three times: he will rise, he will be carried up, and he will be very high. He compares this to the depiction of Moses in Deut 34 where Moses climbs a mountain, dies, and is buried there. He also notes other exaltation texts including those in the Testament of Moses.[5]


Startled at the Servant’s exaltation (Isa. 52:13). The Servant suffered and died, but He did not remain dead. He was “exalted and extolled, and [made] very high.” The phrase “deal prudently” means “to be successful in one’s endeavor.” What looked to men like a humiliating defeat was in the eyes of God a great victory (Col. 2:15). “I have glorified Thee on the earth,” He told His Father; “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do” (John 17:4).

Jesus was not only raised from the dead, but His body was glorified. He ascended to heaven where He sat at the right hand of the Father. He has all authority (Matt. 28:18) because all things have been put under His feet (Eph. 1:20–23). There is no one in the universe higher than Jesus. What an astonishment to those who esteemed Him the lowest of the low. (See Phil. 2:1–11.)[6]


52:13. Two important points are made in this verse: the Servant will act wisely, doing what the Lord wants Him to do, and He will be … highly exalted. His being lifted up refers not to the kind of death He died on the cross, but to His being exalted at God’s right hand (Phil. 2:9; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22).[7]


52:13 Jehovah’s Servant dealt prudently throughout His earthly ministry. He was exalted in Resurrection, lifted up in Ascension, and made very high in glory at God’s right hand.[8]


52:13 Exalted and extolled and be very high may refer to three successive events, describing the Servant’s resurrection, ascension, and glorification (Rom. 4:24, 25). Or the three phrases might simply emphasize the great exaltation of the Lord’s servant (Phil. 2:9–11).[9]


52:13 high … lifted up … exalted. Ultimately, when the Servant rules over His kingdom, He will receive international recognition for the effectiveness of His reign (cf. Phil 2:9).[10]


52:13 act wisely. Succeed at his task (cf. ESV footnote). high and lifted up. See note on 6:1. In John 12:38–41, John brings the vision of Isaiah 6 together with the fourth Servant Song and says that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory; this repeated phrase justifies John’s reading.

52:13 Exaltation of the servant, the Messiah, follows his suffering (v. 14; 53:3–9; see note on 51:17).[11]


52:13 my Yahweh begins to speak again. This section in vv. 13–15 is a prologue about what the Servant will accomplish and what will happen to him in 53:1–12.

servant In 49:3, the Servant of Yahweh has inherited the role of God’s people, the entire identity of the people of Israel. He is acting on their behalf—carrying out their vocation.

shall achieve success The Servant will act according to Israel’s wisdom traditions, primarily articulated in the book of Proverbs.

Personified Wisdom in the Old Testament

and he shall be lifted up The Servant shares in Yahweh’s role as the restorer of His people and—within the larger context of Isaiah—is the way Yahweh brings reconciliation.

he shall be very high The Servant is being elevated to the status of a king, in respect and renown. The kings will be astonished at this. See note on v. 14.[12]


52:13 act wisely. The Servant will discern and perform God’s will, and as a result achieve His glorious purpose (Luke 24:26; 1 Pet. 5:10).[13]


[1] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Vol. 4, pp. 106–107). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Oswalt, J. N. (1998). The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66 (pp. 378–379). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, pp. 489–490). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[4] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1910). Isaiah (Vol. 2, p. 280). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[5] Watts, J. D. W. (2005). Isaiah 34–66 (Revised Edition, Vol. 25, pp. 786–787). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

[6] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Comforted (p. 134). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[7] Martin, J. A. (1985). Isaiah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1107). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[8] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 978). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[9] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 862). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[10] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 52:13). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[11] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1337). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[12] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 52:13). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[13] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1028). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

June 15, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

1. Clap your hands, all ye peoples. As the Psalmist requires the nations, in token of their joy and of their thanksgiving to God, to clap their hands, or rather exhorts them to a more than ordinary joy, the vehemence of which breaks forth and manifests itself by external expressions, it is certain that he is here speaking of the deliverance which God had wrought for them. Had God erected among the Gentiles some formidable kingdom, this would rather have deprived all of their courage, and overwhelmed them with despair, than given them matter to sing and leap for joy. Besides, the inspired writer does not here treat of some common or ordinary blessings of God; but of such blessings as will fill the whole world with incredible joy, and stir up the minds of all men to celebrate the praises of God. What he adds a little after, that all nations were brought into subjection to Israel, must, therefore, necessarily be understood not of slavish subjection, but of a subjection which is more excellent, and more to be desired, than all the kingdoms of the world. It would be unnatural for those who are subdued and brought to submit by force and fear to leap for joy. Many nations were tributary to David, and to his son Solomon; but while they were so, they ceased not, at the same time, to murmur, and bore impatiently the yoke which was imposed upon them, so far were they from giving thanks to God with joyful and cheerful hearts.

Since, then, no servitude is happy and desirable but that by which God subdues and brings under the standard and authority of Christ his Son those who before were rebels, it follows that this language is applicable only to the kingdom of Christ, who is called a high and terrible King, (verse 2;) not that he makes the wretched beings over whom he reigns to tremble by the tyranny and violence of his sway, but because his majesty, which before had been held in contempt, will suffice to quell the rebellion of the whole world. It is to be observed, that the design of the Holy Spirit is here to teach, that as the Jews had been long contumeliously treated, oppressed with wrongs, and afflicted from time to time with divers calamities, the goodness and liberality of God towards them was now so much the more illustrious, when the kingdom of David had subdued the neighbouring nations on every side, and had attained to such a height of glory. We may, however, easily gather from the connection of the words the truth of what I have suggested, that when God is called a terrible and great King over all the earth, this prophecy applies to the kingdom of Christ. There is, therefore, no doubt, that the grace of God was celebrated by these titles, to strengthen the hearts of the godly during the period that intervened till the advent of Christ, in which not only the triumphant state of the people of Israel had fallen into decay, but in which also the people, being oppressed with the bitterest contumely, could have no taste of the favour of God, and no consolation from it, but by relying on the promises of God alone. We know that there was a long interruption of the splendour of the kingdom of God’s ancient people, which continued from the death of Solomon to the coming of Christ. This interval formed, as it were, a gulf or chasm, which would have swallowed up the minds of the godly, had they not been supported and upheld by the Word of God. As, therefore, God exhibited in the person of David a type of the kingdom of Christ, which is here extolled, although there followed shortly after a sad and almost shameful diminution of the glory of David’s kingdom, then the most grievous calamities, and, finally, the captivity and a most miserable dispersion, which differed little from a total destruction, the Holy Spirit has exhorted the faithful to continue clapping their hands for joy, until the advent of the promised Redeemer.[1]


1 In anticipation of God’s kingship, the nations must joyfully acclaim Yahweh as the Great King by clapping their hands (cf. 2 Ki 11:12; for nature, cf. Isa 55:12). The heavenly beings already sing praises to him (cf. 29:1; Isa 6:3). The kingdom of God will only be established when the “nations” on earth join with the heavenly choirs in celebration of his universal and everlasting kingship. While clapping, the people joyously “shout” a cheer of victory (20:5).

2 The people are struck with awe (65:8; 76:7, 12) on account of the mighty works (vv. 3–4) of the Great King. Here the emphasis is on God, who is Yahweh Elyon, “the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth” (see Reflections, p. 152, Yahweh Is El Elyon.) The movement from v. 1 with its reference to God climactically ends on the presentation of Israel’s God as “the great King.” Kings in the ancient Near East loved to designate themselves by this title because with it were associated superiority, suzerainty, and the power to grant vassal treaties (cf. 2 Ki 18:19; Isa 36:4). Any king assuming this title could not tolerate competition. So it is with Yahweh. He alone is the Great King over all the earth (cf. Mal 1:11, 14)![2]


Ver. 1.—O clap your hands, all ye people; rather, all ye peoples. The nations of the earth generally—not Israel only—are addressed. The events which have taken place—the great extension of God’s kingdom, by David’s conquests, are for the advantage of all, and all ought to be thankful for them. Shout unto God with the voice of triumph; or, with a voice of joy. Professor Cheyne renders, “in ringing tones.”

Ver. 2.—For the Lord Most High is terrible (comp. Deut. 7:21; and see also Pss. 65:5; 68:35; 76:7–9). God is “terrible”—i.e. awful to contemplate—on account of his vast power and his absolute holiness. He is a great King over all the earth. Not only over Israel, or over the nations which David has conquered, but over every nation on the face of the earth (comp. Pss. 95:3, 4; 96:10; 97:1, etc.).[3]


CLAP your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.

1. “O clap your hands.” The most natural and most enthusiastic tokens of exultation are to be used in view of the victories of the Lord, and his universal reign. Our joy in God may be demonstrative, and yet he will not censure it. “All ye people.” The joy is to extend to all nations; Israel may lead the van, but all the Gentiles are to follow in the march of triumph, for they have an equal share in that Kingdom where there is neither Greek nor Jew, but Christ is all and in all. Even now if they did but know it, it is the best hope of all nations that Jehovah ruleth over them. If they cannot all speak the same tongue, the symbolic language of the hands they can all use. All people will be ruled by the Lord in the latter days, and will exult in that rule; were they wise they would submit to it now, and rejoice to do so; yea, they would clap their hands in rapture at the thought. “Shout,” let your voices keep tune with your hands. “Unto God,” let him have all the honours of the day, and let them be loud, joyous, universal, and undivided. “With the voice of triumph,” with gladsome sounds, consonant with such splendid victories, so great a King, so excellent a rule, and such gladsome subjects. Many are human languages, and yet the nations may triumph as with one voice. Faith’s view of God’s government is full of transport. The prospect of the universal reign of the Prince of Peace is enough to make the tongue of the dumb sing; what will the reality be? Well might the poet of the seasons bid mountains and valleys raise their joyous hymn—

“For the Great Shepherd reigns.

And his unsuffering kingdom yet will come.”

For the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.

2. “For the Lord,” or Jehovah, the self-existent and only God; “Most high,” most great in power, lofty in dominion, eminent in wisdom, elevated in glory. “Is terrible,” none can resist his power or stand before his vengeance; yet as these terrors are wielded on the behalf of his subjects, they are fit reasons for rejoicing. Omnipotence, which is terrible to crush, is almighty to protect. At a grand review of the troops of a great prince, all his loyal subjects are filled with triumph, because their liege lord is so able to defend his own, and so much dreaded by his foes. “He is a great King over all the earth.” Not over Judea only, but even to the utmost isles his reign extends. Our God is no local deity, no petty ruler of a tribe; in infinite majesty he rules the mightiest realms as absolute arbiter of destiny, sole monarch of all lands, King of kings and Lord of lords. Not a hamlet or an islet is excluded from his dominion. How glorious will that era be when this is seen and known of all; when in the person of Jesus all flesh shall behold the glory of the Lord![4]


47:1–2. The psalmist called on all the nations (cf. vv. 3, 8–9) to rejoice in homage to the Lord Most High, who is the great King (cf. vv. 6–7) over all the earth (cf. v. 7). Such shouts of joy (cf. v. 5) could come only from willing subjects of this King.[5]


[1] Calvin, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 2, pp. 205–207). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 411). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Psalms (Vol. 1, p. 365). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[4] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 27-57 (Vol. 2, pp. 352–353). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

[5] Ross, A. P. (1985). Psalms. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 829). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

June 14, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

5. O house of Jacob. He sharply rebukes the Jews by holding out the example of the Gentiles; for since, in consequence of the spread of his kingdom, God would give law to all nations from Mount Zion, so as to ingraft them into the body of his chosen people, nothing could be more strange than that the house of Jacob should revolt from him, and that, when strangers were drawing near, the members of the household, who ought to have been foremost, should withdraw. This is, therefore, not only an exceedingly vehement exhortation, but also a heavy and sharp complaint. Accordingly, he addresses them by an honourable name, saying, O house of Jacob, come; that he may express more strongly their ingratitude, which appeared in this, that though they were in the Church God’s first-born, they utterly renounced that right of inheritance which they held in common with others.

There is, therefore, an implied comparison, as if he had said, “Lo, the Gentiles flow together to Mount Zion, and every one exhorts and urges on his neighbour; they submit to receive instruction from God, and to be reproved by him; and why do you, O Israelites, you who are the inheritance of God, why do you draw back? Shall the Gentiles submit to God, and shall you refuse to acknowledge his authority? Has so great a light been kindled in every part of the world, and shall you not be enlightened by it? Shall so many waters flow, and will you not drink? What madness is this, that when the Gentiles run so eagerly, you sit still in idleness?”

And we will walk in the light of the Lord. When he adds we will walk, he means that the light is placed before their feet, but that they disregard it by shutting their eyes, and even extinguish it as far as lies in their power; and yet its brightness draws to it distant nations.[1]


5 Isaiah frequently accuses God’s people of not walking in his ways (42:2–4; 58:2; 63:17), although English translations do not always translate the verb “walk” literally. Micah 4:5 contemplates the idolatry of the nations and expresses, on the part of his people, Judah’s determination (probably superficial as far as they are concerned) to walk in the ways of the Lord. Isaiah views the future obedience of the nations to the true God as a challenge to the house of Jacob to walk in his ways. The nations are not yet coming to Jerusalem to be taught by the Lord, but Israel already has his word. How unthinkable then that she should continue to walk in darkness! The Christian is faced by the same kind of challenge in Ephesians 5:8–20. Motyer (1999, in loc.) says that the poem is rooted in the universalism of God’s promise to Abraham (Ge 12:2–3; 22:16–18) but that here Isaiah brings out of it a challenge to his contemporaries.[2]


5 Many commentators see this verse as the work of a later editor (Marti, Gray, etc.) supplying a transition to the following passage. Transitional it may be, but its very fitness for the passage argues in favor of its originality, unless one assumes that Isaiah himself had no hand in the present order. The verse clearly harks back to the statement of the Gentiles in v. 3, Come, let us go up … that he may teach … and that we might walk. As Delitzsch commented, the prophet is attempting to use the example of the Gentiles to provoke God’s people to a holy jealousy. The emphatic position of House of Jacob and its correlation with God of Jacob in v. 3 supports this contention. Surely, he seems to be saying, if the Gentiles will come seeking the truth we have (see also 9:17–24 [Eng. 18–25]; 24:14–16; 42:10, 12; 66:18–21), if they will come to the light we hold (9:1 [Eng. 2]; 60:1–3, 19), then we ought to walk in that light. Thus, as noted above, the passage is intended to function in a motivational way, to encourage both present and future generations to leave their foolish rebellion and to embrace their calling in God. This truth is no less applicable to the Church today than it was to Israel then. The Church’s future is secure. The only question is whether we choose to be a part of that future through present obedience to the Lord of the Church.[3]


Ver. 5.—O house of Jacob. “House of Jacob” is the common expression in Isaiah, instead of “house of Israel” (see ch. 8:17; 10:20; 14:1; 29:22; 46:3; 48:1; 58:1). It has no particular force, merely signifying “Israelites.” Come ye, and let us walk. The same words as those of the “nations” in ver. 3, “Come ye, and let us go up.” As the nations will invite each other “in the last days.” so the prophet now invites his country men to walk with God.[4]


5 The verse responds to the picture of a new day for the temple with a call for Israel to “walk in the light of YHWH.” The metaphor has changed, and the verse introduces the contrast between light and darkness that runs through the entire Vision of Isaiah.[5]


2:5. Isaiah closed this short section with an exhortation for his readers to walk (live) in the light of the Lord.

The prophet called Israel the house of Jacob, a reference to Jacob’s descendants. Isaiah used this term eight times (vv. 5–6; 8:17; 10:20; 14:1; 29:22; 46:3; 48:1) whereas it is used only nine times by all the other prophets. When great truths about the future are given in the Scriptures, readers are often reminded of how they should live in the present (e.g., 1 Thes. 4:13–18; 5:1–8; 2 Peter 3:10–14; 1 John 3:2–3). In view of the fact that in the Millennium all nations will stream to Jerusalem to learn God’s Word, it would be sensible for Israel, already knowing that Law, to follow it (walking in its “light”) until the Lord sets up His glorious kingdom.[6]


2:5 Isaiah includes himself with the godly remnant and encourages them: let us walk. Even though they could not see the glorious future of Zion, they continued to place their faith in God’s promises and obey His law. Light is a metaphor for God’s law, which illuminates the path that leads to everlasting life (Ps. 119:105).[7]


2:5 Isaiah calls the people of God to live now in the light of the promised future. His exhortation applies the nations’ future rallying cry in v. 3 to the people of God in the present. Judah is part of God’s unfolding story, starting with Abraham’s call, and the individuals within Judah must embrace their role in that story by faithfully keeping the covenant.[8]


2:5 let us walk in the light of Judah is urged to repent in response to the depicted peaceful future; continuing on their own in pride and self-reliance will only bring judgment.[9]


2:5 light. Light stands for God’s blessings, presence, and revelation (9:2; 30:26; 42:6, 16; 60:1–3). The Lord is the light in blessing and in judgment (10:17; 60:19, 20; cf. John 1:4; 8:12). People who exchange His light for the darkness of their corrupt minds (5:20; 8:20), will experience His judgment and live in the darkness of separation from God (5:30; 13:10; 59:9; cf. John 3:19, 20).[10]


2:5 Some scholars believe this call to obey God’s way concludes the previous pronouncement. If so, it invites Israel to follow God as the least they can do in anticipation of the fact that the nations will turn to God in the future. However, v. 6 begins with “For,” marking the verses that follow as motivation for the repentance of Israel called for in this verse.[11]


[1] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Vol. 1, pp. 102–103). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 482). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Oswalt, J. N. (1986). The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39 (pp. 118–119). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1910). Isaiah (Vol. 1, p. 31). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[5] Watts, J. D. W. (2005). Isaiah 1–33 (Revised Edition, Vol. 24, p. 55). Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

[6] Martin, J. A. (1985). Isaiah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1038). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 808). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[8] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1244). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 2:5). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[10] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 953). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[11] Longman, T., III. (2017). Isaiah. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1044). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

June 14, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

10. Say, it shall be well with the righteous. Before quoting the opinions of others, I shall point out the true meaning. As punishments so severe commonly present to pious minds an exceedingly sharp temptation, and especially since hardly any public calamities occur which do not involve good men along with the bad; so the Prophet—at least, in my opinion—reminds them of the providence of God, which never confounds anything, but even, when there is apparent confusion, never ceases to distinguish between good and bad men.

But there are various ways in which this passage is explained; for some render it, “Say to the righteous man, because he is good, therefore he shall eat the fruit of his hands.” From that interpretation this meaning is obtained: “I wish and command the godly to be of good cheer; for with whatever severity I may punish the crimes of the nation, still it shall be well with the godly.” But a more suitable meaning is this: Say; that is, hold it to be a settled point; for in Scripture to say often means to think, and to be convinced; as David writes, I said, I will take heed to my ways, (Ps. 39:1,) and in a thousand instances of the same kind; so that he does not bid them tell the righteous man, but he bids every man be fully convinced, that happy will be the condition of the righteous man, though he may now appear to be unhappy.

Besides, I consider טוב, (tōb,) to mean a happy and prosperous condition; as in the former verse he employed the word רעה, (rāgnāh,) with which טוב is now contrasted; and thus I do not think that רעה, (rāgnāh,) means wickedness, but a miserable condition. Now since it literally runs, Say to the righteous man, כי טוב, (ki tōb,) that it shall be well; either the particle כי, (ki,) has an affirmative sense, as in many other passages, or it appears to be superfluous, though the probability is, that it is intended for confirmation. Surely it shall be well with the righteous man; that is, let every ground of doubt be removed, and let us be fully convinced, that the condition of the righteous man will be most excellent and prosperous. It is difficult to believe this, and therefore it is added, he shall eat the fruit of his doings; that is, he shall not be defrauded of the reward of his good conduct. Others consider to say as meaning to exhort, and render the two words, כי טוב, (ki tōb,) that he will do well; but I reject it as a forced interpretation.[1]


10. The faithlessness of many is no proof that all are faithless. Though nothing but croaking of frogs is heard on the surface of the pool, we are not to infer there are no fish beneath [Bengel]. (See Is 1:19, 20).

fruit of doings—(Pr 1:31) in a good sense (Ga 6:8; Rev 22:14). Not salvation by works, but by fruit-bearing faith (Is 45:24; Je 23:6). Gesenius and Weiss translate, Declare as to the righteous that, &c. Maurer, “Say that the righteous is blessed.”[2]


Ver. 10.—Say ye to the righteous. The mention of the fact that the men of Jerusalem have permanently injured their moral natures by sin, and thus “rewarded evil to themselves,” leads the prophet to declare at this point, parenthetically, the general law, which extends alike to the evil and the good—that men receive in themselves the recompense of their deeds. The righteous raise their moral nature, become better, and, in becoming better, become happier. “It is well with them, for of the fruit of their doings they eat.” The wicked deprave and corrupt themselves, lower their moral nature, become worse than they were, and, in becoming worse, become more miserable. “Woe, unto them! with them it is ill; for the achievement of their hands is given them.”[3]


10 A chorus agrees with YHWH’s statement but hopes for a favorable judgment on the righteous. Only the wicked will be judged.[4]


3:10 — “Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.”

God always rewards faithful and obedient behavior. Although God would judge Judah for her sin, He wanted to encourage the few righteous believers who remained to continue living for Him, for He would remember their good deeds.[5]


[1] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Vol. 1, pp. 136–137). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 432). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[3] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1910). Isaiah (Vol. 1, p. 52). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[4] Watts, J. D. W. (2005). Isaiah 1–33 (Revised Edition, Vol. 24, p. 66). Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

[5] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Is 3:10). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

June 14, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

46. Let Jehovah live. If it is thought proper to adopt this reading, which is in the optative mood, expressing a wish that God might live, the manner of expression may seem somewhat strange; but it may be alleged in defence of it, that it is a metaphor borrowed from the custom of men, who not only use this manner of speaking when they wish well to any one, but likewise utter it with loud and applauding acclamation, when they intend to receive their princes with due honour. According to this view, it would be an expression in which praise is ascribed to God, and suitable for a triumphal song. It may, however, be very properly considered as a simple affirmation, in which David declares that God lives, in other words, that he is endued with sovereign power. Farther, the life which David attributes to God is not to be restricted to the being or essence of God, but is rather to be understood of the evidence of it deducible from his works, which manifest to us that he liveth. Whenever he withdraws the working of his power from before our eyes, the sense and cognizance of the truth, “God liveth,” also evanishes from our minds. He is, therefore, said to live, inasmuch as he shows, by evident proofs of his power, that it is he who preserves and upholds the world. And as David had known, by experience, this life of God, he celebrates it with praises and thanksgiving. If we read the first clause in the present tense, The Lord liveth, the copula and, which follows, has the force of an inference; and, accordingly, the words should be resolved thus:—Jehovah liveth, and, therefore, blessed be my strength. The epithet, My strength, and the other which occurs in verse 48th, My deliverer, confirm what I have already stated, that God does not simply live in himself, and in his secret place, but displays his vital energy in the government of the whole world. The Hebrew word, צורי, tsuri, which we have translated my strength, is here to be understood in a transitive sense for Him who bestows strength.[1]


Ver. 46.—The Lord liveth. God was known to Israel as “the living God” from the time of Moses (Deut. 5:26). The epithet exalted him above all other so-called gods, who were not living (comp. 2 Kings 19:4; Isa. 37:4, 17; Dan. 6:26). But it had also a very precious, absolute meaning. God’s life was the source of man’s. It was through God (who had life in himself) breathing into man the breath of life that man became a living soul (Gen. 2:7). Hence “the living God” (Ps. 42:2) is “the God of our life” (Ps. 42:8). And blessed be my Rock (see vers. 1, 31). In blessing “his Rock,” David blesses God for his qualities of firmness, steadfastness, and trustworthiness. And let the God of my salvation be exalted. “The God of my salvation” is a favourite phrase with David (see Pss. 25:5; 27:9; 38:22; 51:14; 88:1). Other writers use it rarely. When David prays that the God of his salvation (i.e. the God who continually saves him and preserves him) may be “exalted,” he probably desires that he may be praised and honoured of all men.[2]


46. “The Lord liveth.” Possessing underived, essential, independent and eternal life. We serve no inanimate, imaginary, or dying God. He only hath immortality. Like loyal subjects let us cry, Live on, O God. Long live the King of kings. By thine immortality do we dedicate ourselves afresh to thee. As the Lord our God liveth so would we live to him. “And blessed be my rock.” He is the ground of our hope, and let him be the subject of our praise, Our hearts bless the Lord, with holy love extolling him.

Jehovah lives, my rock be blest!

Praised be the God who gives me rest!

Let the God of my salvation be exalted.” As our Saviour, the Lord should more than ever be glorified. We should publish abroad the story of the covenant and the cross, the Father’s election, the Son’s redemption, and the Spirit’s regeneration. He who rescues us from deserved ruin should be very dear to us. In heaven they sing, “Unto him that loved us and washed us in his blood;” the like music should be common in the assemblies of the saints below.[3]


[1] Calvin, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 1, pp. 303–304). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Psalms (Vol. 1, pp. 120–121). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[3] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 1-26 (Vol. 1, p. 248). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

June 13, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

21. Wo to them that are wise in their own eyes! Here he proceeds to rebuke those on whom no instruction can produce a good effect, and who do not allow any wise counsels or godly warnings to gain admission. In short, he pronounces a curse on obstinate scorners, who set up either the lusts of the flesh or a preposterous confidence in their wisdom, in opposition to God’s instruction and warnings. And not only does he rebuke those who are puffed up with a false conviction of their wisdom, and are ashamed to learn from others, but he likewise pronounces a general condemnation on all who, through prejudices in their own favour, refuse to hear God speaking, and to listen to his holy warnings.

This fault has been too common in all ages, and we see it in very many persons at the present day, who, though they would shrink from openly rejecting the doctrine of godliness, are yet so far from being truly obedient and teachable, that they haughtily reject everything that does not please them. They acknowledge that they need some bridle, but, on the other hand, are so much blinded by their presumption, that, when God points out the way, they immediately rebel; and not only so, but break out into violent indignation at the censure passed on their proceedings. Nay, where is the man who renounces his own judgment, and is ready to learn only from the mouth of God? But nothing is more destructive than this deceitful show of wisdom; for the beginning of piety is willingness to be taught, when we have renounced our own judgment and follow wherever God calls.

Nor is this false belief condemned solely on the ground of its rendering men disobedient to God, and thus being the cause of their ruin, but also on the ground of being in itself what God cannot endure. We must become fools if we desire to be God’s disciples. But it is also certain that mad rebellion reigns wherever there is not found that modesty and humility which leads a man willingly to yield subjection. In their own eyes means what we say in French, à leur semblant, that is, in their own conceit.[1]


21 This verse, too, may have a link with the previous “woe,” for the reversal of values expressed there (v. 20) may form the basis for the new “wisdom” of the godless, which is antagonistic to the divine wisdom (cf. 1 Co 1:17; 2:16; 3:18–23). The relationship with earlier “woes” also comes into clearer focus when we note that ʿēṣâ (“plan,” v. 19) is often rendered “counsel” or even “wisdom.”[2]


Ver. 21.—Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes. The fifth woe. Self-conceit is the antithesis of humility; and as humility is, in a certain sense, the crowning virtue, so self-conceit is a sort of finishing touch put to vice. While a man thinks humbly of himself, there is a chance that he may repent and amend. When he is “wise in his own eyes,” he does not see why he should change.[3]


21. Fifth Woe—against those who were so “wise in their own eyes” as to think they knew better than the prophet, and therefore rejected his warnings (Is 29:14, 15).[4]


21 חכם, “wise,” and נבון, “prudent,” are qualities expected in the greatest of men from Joseph (Gen 41:38–39) to David (1 Sam 16:18) and to the Davidic king (Isa 11:2). They are gifts from God that are recognized as needed for the good of all. For these to be used for self-aggrandizement is a perversion of values. (Cf. Prov 26:12, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (niv); cf. Prov 26:5, 16; 28:11.)[5]


Pride (Isa. 5:21). Instead of listening to God, the leaders consulted with one another and made decisions based on their own wisdom. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:22; see 1 Cor. 1:18–25). “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil” (Prov. 3:7, NKJV).[6]


Woe to conceited ones (5:21)

5:21. Thinking themselves wise and clever, some people were not relying on God’s power to deliver the nation. They thought they could protect themselves.[7]


5:20 call evil good: Those who pervert God’s evaluation of what is good by calling evil good are heading down a dangerous path—one that leads to judgment.[8]


5:21 wise in their own eyes. The object of the fifth woe was the people’s arrogance. “Pride goes before destruction …” (Pr 16:18).[9]


[1] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Vol. 1, pp. 187–188). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 503). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1910). Isaiah (Vol. 1, p. 81). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[4] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 434). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[5] Watts, J. D. W. (2005). Isaiah 1–33 (Revised Edition, Vol. 24, p. 94). Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

[6] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Comforted (p. 27). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[7] Martin, J. A. (1985). Isaiah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1043). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[8] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 812). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[9] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 5:21). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

June 13, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

14. Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Ahaz had already refused the sign which the Lord offered to him, when the Prophet remonstrated against his rebellion and ingratitude; yet the Prophet declares that this will not prevent God from giving the sign which he had promised and appointed for the Jews. But what sign?

Behold, a virgin shall conceive. This passage is obscure; but the blame lies partly on the Jews, who, by much cavilling, have laboured, as far as lay in their power, to pervert the true exposition. They are hard pressed by this passage; for it contains an illustrious prediction concerning the Messiah, who is here called Immanuel; and therefore they have laboured, by all possible means, to torture the Prophet’s meaning to another sense. Some allege that the person here mentioned is Hezekiah; and others, that it is the son of Isaiah.

Those who apply this passage to Hezekiah are excessively impudent; for he must have been a full-grown man when Jerusalem was besieged. Thus they show that they are grossly ignorant of history. But it is a just reward of their malice, that God hath blinded them in such a manner as to be deprived of all judgment. This happens in the present day to the papists, who often expose themselves to ridicule by their mad eagerness to pervert the Scriptures.

As to those who think that it was Isaiah’s son, it is an utterly frivolous conjecture; for we do not read that a deliverer would be raised up from the seed of Isaiah, who should be called Immanuel; for this title is far too illustrious to admit of being applied to any man.

Others think, or, at least, (being unwilling to contend with the Jews more than was necessary,) admit that the Prophet spoke of some child who was born at that time, by whom, as by an obscure picture, Christ was foreshadowed. But they produce no strong arguments, and do not show who that child was, or bring forward any proofs. Now, it is certain, as we have already said, that this name Immanuel could not be literally applied to a mere man; and, therefore, there can be no doubt that the Prophet referred to Christ.

But all writers, both Greek and Latin, are too much at their ease in handling this passage; for, as if there were no difficulty in it, they merely assert that Christ is here promised from the Virgin Mary. Now, there is no small difficulty in the objection which the Jews bring against us, that Christ is here mentioned without any sufficient reason; for thus they argue, and demand that the scope of the passage be examined: “Jerusalem was besieged. The Prophet was about to give them a sign of deliverance. Why should he promise the Messiah, who was to be born five hundred years afterwards?” By this argument they think that they have gained the victory, because the promise concerning Christ had nothing to do with assuring Ahaz of the deliverance of Jerusalem. And then they boast as if they had gained the day, chiefly because scarcely any one replies to them. That is the reason why I said that commentators have been too much at their ease in this matter; for it is of no small importance to show why the Redeemer is here mentioned.

Now, the matter stands thus. King Ahaz having rejected the sign which God had offered to him, the Prophet reminds him of the foundation of the covenant, which even the ungodly did not venture openly to reject. The Messiah must be born; and this was expected by all, because the salvation of the whole nation depended on it. The Prophet, therefore, after having expressed his indignation against the king, again argues in this manner: “By rejecting the promise, thou wouldest endeavour to overturn the decree of God; but it shall remain inviolable, and thy treachery and ingratitude will not hinder God from being continually the Deliverer of his people; for he will at length raise up his Messiah.”

To make these things more plain, we must attend to the custom of the Prophets, who, in establishing special promises, lay down this as the foundation, that God will send a Redeemer. On this general foundation God everywhere builds all the special promises which he makes to his people; and certainly every one who expects aid and assistance from him must be convinced of his fatherly love. And how could he be reconciled to us but through Christ, in whom he has freely adopted the elect, and continues to pardon them to the end? Hence comes that saying of Paul, that all the promises of God in Christ are Yea and Amen. (2 Cor. 1:20.) Whenever, therefore, God assisted his ancient people, he at the same time reconciled them to himself through Christ; and accordingly, whenever famine, pestilence, and war are mentioned, in order to hold out a hope of deliverance, he places the Messiah before their eyes. This being exceedingly clear, the Jews have no right to make a noise, as if the Prophet made an unseasonable transition to a very remote subject. For on what did the deliverance of Jerusalem depend, but on the manifestation of Christ? This was, indeed, the only foundation on which the salvation of the Church always rested.

Most appropriately, therefore, did Isaiah say, “True, thou dost not believe the promises of God, but yet God will fulfil them; for he will at length send his Christ, for whose sake he determines to preserve this city. Though thou art unworthy, yet God will have regard to his own honour.” King Ahaz is therefore deprived of that sign which he formerly rejected, and loses the benefit of which he proved himself to be unworthy; but still God’s inviolable promise is still held out to him. This is plainly enough intimated by the particle לכן, (lāchēn,) therefore; that is, because thou disdainest that particular sign which God offered to thee, הוא, (,) He, that is, God himself, who was so gracious as to offer it freely to thee, he whom thou weariest will not fail to hold out a sign. When I say that the coming of Christ is promised to Ahaz, I do not mean that God includes him among the chosen people, to whom he had appointed his Son to be the Author of salvation; but because the discourse is directed to the whole body of the people.

Will give you a sign. The word לכם, (lāchĕm,) to you, is interpreted by some as meaning to your children; but this is forced. So far as relates to the persons addressed, the Prophet leaves the wicked king and looks to the nation, so far as it had been adopted by God. He will therefore give, not to thee a wicked king, and to those who are like thee, but to you whom he has adopted; for the covenant which he made with Abraham continues to be firm and inviolable. And the Lord always has some remnant to whom the advantage of the covenant belongs; though the rulers and governors of his people may be hypocrites.

Behold, a virgin shall conceive. The word Behold is used emphatically, to denote the greatness of the event; for this is the manner in which the Spirit usually speaks of great and remarkable events, in order to elevate the minds of men. The Prophet, therefore, enjoins his hearers to be attentive, and to consider this extraordinary work of God; as if he had said, “Be not slothful, but consider this singular grace of God, which ought of itself to have drawn your attention, but is concealed from you on account of your stupidity.”

Although the word עלמה, (gnălmāh,) a virgin, is derived from עלם, (gnālăm,) which signifies to hide, because the shame and modesty of virgins does not allow them to appear in public; yet as the Jews dispute much about that word, and assert that it does not signify virgin, because Solomon used it to denote a young woman who was betrothed, it is unnecessary to contend about the word. Though we should admit what they say, that עלמה (gnălmāh) sometimes denotes a young woman, and that the name refers, as they would have it, to the age, (yet it is frequently used in Scripture when the subject relates to a virgin,) the nature of the case sufficiently refutes all their slanders. For what wonderful thing did the Prophet say, if he spoke of a young woman who conceived through intercourse with a man? It would certainly have been absurd to hold out this as a sign or a miracle. Let us suppose that it denotes a young woman who should become pregnant in the ordinary course of nature; everybody sees that it would have been silly and contemptible for the Prophet, after having said that he was about to speak of something strange and uncommon, to add, A young woman shall conceive. It is, therefore, plain enough that he speaks of a virgin who should conceive, not by the ordinary course of nature, but by the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit. And this is the mystery which Paul extolls in lofty terms, that God was manifested in the flesh. (1 Tim. 3:16.)

And shall call. The Hebrew verb is in the feminine gender, She shall call; for as to those who read it in the masculine gender, I know not on what they found their opinion. The copies which we use certainly do not differ. If you apply it to the mother, it certainly expresses something different from the ordinary custom. We know that to the father is always assigned the right of giving a name to a child; for it is a sign of the power and authority of fathers over children; and the same authority does not belong to women. But here it is conveyed to the mother; and therefore it follows that he is conceived by the mother in such a manner as not to have a father on earth; otherwise the Prophet would pervert the ordinary custom of Scripture, which ascribes this office to men only. Yet it ought to be observed that the name was not given to Christ at the suggestion of his mother, and in such a case it would have had no weight; but the Prophet means that, in publishing the name, the virgin will occupy the place of a herald, because there will be no earthly father to perform that office.

Immanuel. This name was unquestionably bestowed on Christ on account of the actual fact; for the only-begotten Son of God clothed himself with our flesh, and united himself to us by partaking of our nature. He is, therefore, called God with us, or united to us; which cannot apply to a man who is not God. The Jews in their sophistry tell us that this name was given to Hezekiah; because by the hand of Hezekiah God delivered his people; and they add, “He who is the servant of God represents his person.” But neither Moses nor Joshua, who were deliverers of the nation, were so denominated; and therefore this Immanuel is preferred to Moses and Joshua, and all the others; for by this name he excels all that ever were before, and all that shall come after him; and it is a title expressive of some extraordinary excellence and authority which he possesses above others. It is therefore evident that it denotes not only the power of God, such as he usually displays by his servant, but a union of person, by which Christ became God-man. Hence it is also evident that Isaiah here relates no common event, but points out that unparalleled mystery which the Jews labour in vain to conceal.[1]


14 If Ahaz will not ask for a sign, God in his sovereignty will give one in any case. It is impossible to ascertain whether this is the sign God intended to give had Ahaz asked, or whether it is especially given in view of Ahaz’s refusal to ask. At any rate, it is the one he receives. As noted above, it confirms Isaiah’s earlier promise (vv. 4–9), but it also confirms the foolishness of not trusting that promise. That the positive side would have applied had Ahaz received the sign in faith lends some weight to the idea that this was the intended sign. Had Ahaz received it in faith, Immanuel would have appeared solely as the vindication of the house of David. As it was, he was to appear as a shame to the house of David: they had not believed, and so received the just result of that unbelief. Nevertheless, God, in faithfulness to his own promise, would raise up from the wreckage a true Son of David.

a maiden shall conceive. It is not possible to be dogmatic as to why Isaiah used the ambiguous ʿalmâ here instead of the unambiguous beṯûlâ. Nor is it clear what meaning should be assigned to ʿalmâ. Typically, the meaning given is “a young woman of marriageable age,” with the clear implication that the conception is a natural one. However, conservative scholars have frequently pointed out that the word is never used of a married woman in the OT.21 So they have argued that the word denotes a sexually mature, but unmarried, young woman. It would be axiomatic in Hebrew society that such a woman would be a virgin. While the viginity would not be the main focus, as with beṯûlâ, nonetheless it would still follow. The English “maiden” comes very close to having the same denotations and connotations. Such an understanding has the significant virtue of explaining the origin of the LXX parthénos, “virgin,” something those commentators opting for “a young woman of marriageable age” do not mention. Unless ʿalmâ had overtones of virginity about it, the LXX translation is inexplicable.

But if Isaiah wished to stress the virginity of the mother here, why did he not use beṯûlâ? Young, noting that beṯûlâ is frequently accompanied by some such statement as “she had not known a man,” argues that it was the ambiguous term. However, this is manifestly not so, for beṯûlâ has no implication in addition to virginity, whereas ʿalmâ does. The conclusion to which we are driven is that while the prophet did not want to stress the virginity, neither did he wish to leave it aside (as he could have done by using ʾišŝa or some other term for “woman”). In fact, he may have used this term precisely because of its richness and diversity. The Ugaritic cognate (ǵlmt) is used with reference to a goddess who was understood to be a perpetual virgin. Without conceding that Isaiah has merely adapted a myth,24 one may still think that he adapted well-known linguistic forms which would make it plain that whatever might occur along the way, the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy would be no ordinary event.

Possibly, then, it is the dual focus of the oracle that explains the use of ʿalmâ here. In the short term, the virgin conception does not seem to have had primary importance. Rather, the significance is that a child conceived at that moment would still be immature when the two threatening nations would have been destroyed (vv. 16, 22). Had Isaiah used beṯûlâ here, Ahaz would probably have been so caught up with that thought that he would have missed the specific linkage to his own time.

On the other hand, the very two-sidedness of the sign in Ahaz’s time demanded something more. Yes, the disappearance of Syria and Ephraim could be seen as evidence that God was with them. But what of Assyria, foolishly trusted and soon to turn on its hapless client? Was God still with them in that? And suppose even greater powers than Assyria strode onto the world’s stage, what then? If we can believe that the transcendent One is really immanent, and the immanent One truly transcendent, then there is reason to live courageously and unselfishly. But no child born to a young woman in Ahaz’s day is proof of God’s presence in all times. But if a virgin overshadowed by God’s Spirit should conceive and give birth, it would not only be a sign of God’s presence with us. Better than that, it would be the reality of that experience. So Ahaz’s sign must be rooted in its own time to have significance for that time, but it also must extend beyond that time and into a much more universal mode if its radical truth is to be any more than a vain hope. For such a twofold task ʿalmâ is admirably suited.

she will call his name Immanuel. The custom of the mother’s naming her child is not uncommon in the OT (cf. Gen. 4:1, 25; 29:31–30:13, 17–24; 35:18; Judg. 13:24; 1 Sam. 1:20; 4:21), especially if the mother has reason for a unique emotional investment in the child or if the father cannot perform the task. This emphasis upon the mother and the corresponding de-emphasis of the father’s role cannot help but be suggestive in the shaping of the ultimate understanding of the sign. No man sired by a human father could be the embodiment of “God with us.”

In contrast with Shear-jashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, both of whom are treated in a straightforward manner as Isaiah’s sons, there is an aura of mystery about the Immanuel figure. This is so even without the NT quotation of 7:14. His father is not identified at all and his mother only generally. He is touched upon only briefly, but then appears again suddenly in 8:8 as possessor of the land and yet again in 8:10 by means of a wordplay. The enigmatic nature of the references makes it extremely difficult to identify the child of Ahaz’s time. In the context of the house of David and being spoken of as owner of the land, it is tempting to think of a newly conceived crown prince. The recognition that curds and honey represent food of royalty in some Mesopotamian texts lends further credence to the idea, as does the thought that through Hezekiah God was able to demonstrate his faithful presence. However, that Hezekiah was twenty-five years old at his accession in 516 (2 K. 18:2) means that he was born in 741, at least six years before these events. To hold that the child was “the crown prince, as yet unborn,” raises again the question of Hezekiah. Are we to think Isaiah did not know that the crown prince was already born? Furthermore, if Ahaz was to father this child, it seems very odd that the fact should be ignored. Finally, v. 22 makes it very plain that curds and honey are not intended as symbols of royalty but of the generally depopulated nature of the region.

The suggestion that no particular child was intended is even less attractive, in the light of the particularity of Isaiah’s children as well as of 8:8 and of the description here. The facts of a child’s conception and birth are significant to the framework of the sign. The child will be born in a certain time frame, and its specific existence in that time frame is intrinsic to the function of the sign. It would not be necessary that Ahaz know of the birth, only that at some point he become aware that the promised child had been born.

Perhaps the most attractive option is that Immanuel and Maher-shalal-hash-baz were one and the same. If this were so, this passage would form a more poetic statement of the child’s identity, pointing to the ultimate Immanuel, whereas 8:1–4 would constitute a more prosaic account and be limited merely to the person of Maher-shalal-hash-baz. The references to his conception and birth in 8:3 lend support to the connection, as does the reference to Immanuel in 8:10, shortly after the discussion of the birth of Isaiah’s son.[2]


14. himself—since thou wilt not ask a sign, nay, rejectest the offer of one.

you—for the sake of the house of believing “David” (God remembering His everlasting covenant with David), not for unbelieving Ahaz’ sake.

Behold—arresting attention to the extraordinary prophecy.

virgin—from a root, “to lie hid,” virgins being closely kept from men’s gaze in their parents’ custody in the East. The Hebrew, and the Septuagint here, and Greek (Mt 1:23), have the article, the virgin, some definite one known to the speaker and his hearers; primarily, the woman, then a virgin, about immediately to become the second wife, and bear a child, whose attainment of the age of discrimination (about three years) should be preceded by the deliverance of Judah from its two invaders; its fullest significancy is realized in “the woman” (Ge 3:15), whose seed should bruise the serpent’s head and deliver captive man (Je 31:22; Mic 5:3). Language is selected such as, while partially applicable to the immediate event, receives its fullest, most appropriate, and exhaustive accomplishment in Messianic events. The New Testament application of such prophecies is not a strained “accommodation”; rather the temporary fulfilment of an adaptation of the far-reaching prophecy to the present passing event, which foreshadows typically the great central end of prophecy, Jesus Christ (Rev 19:10). Evidently the wording is such as to apply more fully to Jesus Christ than to the prophet’s son; “virgin” applies, in its simplest sense, to the Virgin Mary, rather than to the prophetess who ceased to be a virgin when she “conceived”; “Immanuel,” God with us (Jn 1:14; Rev 21:3), cannot in a strict sense apply to Isaiah’s son, but only to Him who is presently called expressly (Is 9:6), “the Child, the Son, Wonderful (compare Is 8:18), the mighty God.” Local and temporary features (as in Is 7:15, 16) are added in every type; otherwise it would be no type, but the thing itself. There are resemblances to the great Antitype sufficient to be recognized by those who seek them; dissimilarities enough to confound those who do not desire to discover them.

call—that is, “she shall,” or as Margin,thou, O Virgin, shalt call;” mothers often named their children (Ge 4:1, 25; 19:37; 29:32). In Mt 1:23 the expression is strikingly changed into, “They shall call”; when the prophecy received its full accomplishment, no longer is the name Immanuel restricted to the prophetess’ view of His character, as in its partial fulfilment in her son; all shall then call (that is, not literally), or regard Him as peculiarly and most fitly characterized by the descriptive name, “Immanuel” (1 Ti 3:16; Col 2:9).

name—not mere appellation, which neither Isaiah’s son nor Jesus Christ bore literally; but what describes His manifested attributes; His character (so Is 9:6). The name in its proper destination was not arbitrary, but characteristic of the individual; sin destroyed the faculty of perceiving the internal being; hence the severance now between the name and the character; in the case of Jesus Christ and many in Scripture, the Holy Ghost has supplied this want [Olshausen].[3]


Ver. 14.—Therefore. To show that your perversity cannot change God’s designs, which will be accomplished, whether you hear or whether you forbear. The Lord himself; i. e. “the Lord himself, of his own free will, unasked.” Will give you a sign. “Signs” were of various kinds. They might be actual miracles performed to attest a Divine commission (Exod. 4:3–9); or judgments of God, significative of his power and justice (Exod. 10:2); or memorials of something in the past (Exod. 13:9, 16); or pledges of something still future. Signs of this last-mentioned kind might be miracles (Judg. 6:36–40; 2 Kings 20:8–11), or prophetic announcements (Exod. 3:12; 1 Sam. 2:34; 2 Kings 19:29). These last would only have the effect of signs on those who witnessed their accomplishment. Behold. “A forewarning of a great event” (Cheyne). A virgin shall conceive. It is questioned whether the word translated “virgin,” viz. ’almah, has necessarily that meaning; but it is admitted that the meaning is borne out by every other place in which the word occurs in the Old Testament (Gen. 24:43; Exod. 2:8; Ps. 68:25; Prov. 30:19; Cant. 1:3; 6:8). The LXX., writing two centuries before the birth of Christ, translate by παρθένος. The rendering “virgin” has the support of the best modern Hebraists, as Lowth, Gesenius, Ewald, Delitzsch, Kay. It is observed with reason that unless ’almah is translated “virgin,” there is no announcement made worthy of the grand prelude: “The Lord himself shall give you a sign—Behold!” The Hebrew, however, has not “a virgin,” but “the virgin” (and so the Septuagint, ἡ παρθένος), which points to some special virgin, preeminent above all others. And shall call; better than the marginal rendering, thou shalt call. It was regarded as the privilege of a mother to determine her child’s name (Gen. 4:25; 16:11; 29:32–35; 30:6–13, 18–21, 24; 35:18, etc.), although formally the father gave it (Gen. 16:15; 2 Sam. 12:24; Luke 1:62, 63) Immanuel. Translated for us by St. Matthew (1:23) as “God with us” (μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν ὁ Θεός). (Comp. ch. 8:8, 10.)[4]


7:14 Like many prophecies, this one seems to have had an early fulfillment (in the days of Ahaz) and later, complete fulfillment (in the First Advent of Christ). Verse 14 points irresistibly to Christ—the Son of the virgin whose name indicates that He is Immanuel, God-with-us. Again we quote Vine:

“Behold”, in Isaiah, always introduces something relating to future circumstances. The choice of the word almah is significant, as distinct from bethulah (a maiden living with her parents and whose marriage was not impending); it denotes one who is mature and ready for marriage.[5]


[1] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Vol. 1, pp. 244–249). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Oswalt, J. N. (1986). The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39 (pp. 209–213). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 437). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[4] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1910). Isaiah (Vol. 1, pp. 127–128). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 945–946). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

June 13, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

10:24, 25 — And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together .…

This is the most explicit text in the New Testament about the necessity of believers gathering for corporate worship, instruction, encouragement, and “good works.” God simply did not design us to grow in isolation.

No Christian has ever been called to “go it alone” in his or her walk of faith.

Heb. 10:24, 25

The writer of Hebrews knew that his audience, Jewish Christians who had just come to faith, were struggling with how to incorporate their Jewish heritage into their walk with Christ. The author therefore spends a great deal of time explaining that Jesus Christ prepared the way for uninterrupted fellowship with the Father. He is the new High Priest. His death provided the way for individuals to have personal access to God without a series of complicated steps.

That was difficult for the Jewish Christians to accept. They were accustomed to participating in a variety of ceremonial washings and offerings to be cleansed from their sins; immediate access to God apart from those things was something new. But the writer insisted they could go directly to the Father through Christ. The author also knew the challenge facing these recent converts to remain faithful to their newly formed faith. So he exhorted them to “hold fast.”

Then he took it one step farther. He instructed his readers to help one another “hold fast.” He knew they would tend to drift from the truth. He anticipated their need for other believers to help them stay on track. So he said, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). The Greek term translated “stir up” literally means “to irritate.” In essence he was instructing them to spur one another along, watch out for one another, take responsibility for one another.

With that backdrop, he instructed them not to stop meeting together (10:25). They needed one another. To give up meeting together would spell disaster. In meeting together they found the mutual encouragement to keep going.

God wants His children to regularly meet with other believers. He wants His people in church! Many believers don’t take this admonition seriously because they don’t know the reason behind it. How often I have heard this refrain: “I can worship God at home. I don’t need to go to church.” Many believers believe the sole reason we meet together is to worship—and understandably so. After all, we call it a worship service.

If worship were the only reason we are commanded to meet, then those who claim they can worship at home would have a strong argument. But worship is not the sole reason we are commanded to meet together. Nor is it so that we can be taught the Word. We can turn on our radios and televisions and hear good Bible teaching. On the surface, it would seem that anything we can do at church, we can do just as well at home, alone.

So why are we commanded to meet? Why go to church?

The writer of Hebrews says it is to safeguard against drifting.

Forces around us work to blow us off course. Sheer individual commitment is not enough to keep us in line. At times we feel as if our faith makes no difference. We see no fruit in our lives and we don’t seem to be making any difference in anyone else’s life, either. During those times, we feel tempted to pull up anchor and drift. After all, isn’t everybody else?

Then we drag ourselves to church and discover that we are not alone. We hear others testify how God came through for them in a tight spot. Someone else describes the pain suffered when he left the faith. A new believer tells her story and rejoices in God’s grace. And then something begins to happen inside us. We are spurred on to faithfulness!

The accountability and encouragement found in church anchor us against the tides that work to sweep us away. To neglect the regular assembly of fellow Christians is to miss out on this essential element in the development of our faith.

God desires a close relationship with His children. By becoming active in a local church, you safeguard yourself against missing out on all that God has for you. Your participation in a local church protects your personal fellowship with God. When you drift away from the family of God, it is only a matter of time until you drift away from fellowship with God.

Church should encourage you to cling to the hope that is in you. If yours doesn’t, then I recommend you visit another church. Keep in mind, however, that there is no perfect church. Find one that accurately presents Scripture and practically demonstrates God’s love. And remember that you too have a responsibility to actively use your spiritual gifts for the benefit of other believers.[1]


Encourage in Love

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near. (10:24–25)

The third mark of a positive response to the gospel is love. The particular expression of love mentioned here is fellowship love. The Jewish readers were having a hard time breaking with the Old Covenant, with the Temple and the sacrifices. They were still holding on to the legalism and ritual and ceremony, the outward things of Judaism. So the writer is telling them that one of the best ways to hold fast to the things of God—the real things of God that are found only in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ—is to be in the fellowship of His people, where they could love and be loved, serve and be served. There is no better place to come all the way to faith in Christ, or to hope continually in Him, than the church, His Body.

The day drawing near could refer to the imminent destruction of the Temple, which brought all the sacrifices and rituals to a close. The Old Covenant simply could not function without the Temple, which, when the book of Hebrews was written, was about to be destroyed by Titus. But I believe the primary reference is to the coming of the Lord, which makes the passage apply to all of us. The only place where we can remain steadfast until He returns is with His people. We need each other. We need to be in fellowship with each other, as we mutually strengthen each other and encourage each other.

Some years ago, a young man sat next to me on a plane and we struck up a conversation. When he discovered I was a minister, he said, “I used to belong to a church, but it seems to me that a person’s relationship to Christ ought to be personal, not institutional. What do you think?” After thanking the Lord silently for providing such an open opportunity for witness, I said, “I certainly agree with you.” He then asked if I knew how he could have a personal relationship with Christ—to which I also answered in the affirmative. I thought to myself, “He certainly seems to feel his need for Christ,” and so I asked if he had studied the truth of the gospel and the evidence for Christ’s claims. He replied, “Yes, but I just don’t know how to get to Him.” “Are you ready to commit yourself to Him?” I asked. He said that he was, and as we prayed together he made the commitment. The next Sunday he was in our morning worship service, and afterward asked me if our church had anything going on during the week that he could become involved in. This young man gave every evidence of being a true believer. He felt his need, he studied the evidence, he made a commitment to Jesus Christ, and was showing every desire to hold fast to Christ and to have fellowship with His people.

The writer is saying very simply, “The door is open, the way is made available to enter into God’s presence. Come in and stay and fellowship with His people, and enjoy God’s company forever.”[2]


24. And let us consider one another, &c. I doubt not but that he addresses the Jews especially in this exhortation. It is well known how great was the arrogance of that nation; being the posterity of Abraham, they boasted that they alone, to the exclusion of all others, had been chosen by the Lord to inherit the covenant of eternal life. Inflated by such a privilege, they despised other nations, and wished to be thought as being alone in the Church of God; nay, they superciliously arrogated to themselves the name of being The Church. It was necessary for the Apostles to labour much to correct this pride; and this, in my judgment, is what the Apostle is doing here, in order that the Jews might not bear it ill that the Gentiles were associated with them and united as one body in the Church.

And first, indeed, he says, Let us consider one another; for God was then gathering a Church both from the Jews and from the Gentiles, between whom there had always been a great discord, so that their union was like the combination of fire and water. Hence the Jews recoiled from this, for they thought it a great indignity that the Gentiles should be made equal with them. To this goad of wicked emulation which pricked them, the Apostle sets up another in opposition to it, even that of love; for the word παροξυσμὸς, which he uses, signifies the ardour of contention. Then that the Jews might not be inflamed with envy, and be led into contention, the Apostle exhorts them to a godly emulation, even to stimulate one another to love.

25. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, &c. This confirms the view that has been given. The composition of the Greek word ought to be noticed; for ἐπὶ signifies an addition; then ἐπισυναγωγὴ, assembling together, means a congregation increased by additions. The wall of partition having been pulled down, God was then gathering those as his children who had been aliens from the Church; so the Gentiles were a new and unwonted addition to the Church. This the Jews regarded as a reproach to them, so that many made a secession from the Church, thinking that such a mixture afforded them a just excuse; nor could they be easily induced to surrender their own right; and further, they considered the right of adoption as peculiar, and as belonging exclusively to themselves. The Apostle, therefore, warns them, lest this equality should provoke them to forsake the Church; and that he might not seem to warn them for no reason, he mentions that this neglect was common to many.

We now understand the design of the Apostle, and what was the necessity that constrained him to give this exhortation. We may at the same time gather from this passage a general doctrine:

It is an evil which prevails everywhere among mankind, that every one sets himself above others, and especially that those who seem in anything to excel cannot well endure their inferiors to be on an equality with themselves. And then there is so much morosity almost in all, that individuals would gladly make churches for themselves if they could; for they find it so difficult to accommodate themselves to the ways and habits of others. The rich envy one another; and hardly one in a hundred can be found among the rich, who allows to the poor the name and rank of brethren. Unless similarity of habits or some allurements or advantages draw us together, it is very difficult even to maintain a continual concord among ourselves. Extremely needed, therefore, by us all is the admonition to be stimulated to love and not to envy, and not to separate from those whom God has joined to us, but to embrace with brotherly kindness all those who are united to us in faith. And surely it behoves us the more earnestly to cultivate unity, as the more eagerly watchful Satan is, either to tear us by any means from the Church, or stealthily to seduce us from it. And such would be the happy effect, were no one to please himself too much, and were all of us to preserve this one object, mutually to provoke one another to love, and to allow no emulation among ourselves, but that of doing good works. For doubtless the contempt of the brethren, moroseness, envy, immoderate estimate of ourselves, and other sinful impulses, clearly shew that our love is either very cold, or does not at all exist.

Having said, “Not forsaking the assembling together,” he adds, But exhorting one another; by which he intimates that all the godly ought by all means possible to exert themselves in the work of gathering together the Church on every side; for we are called by the Lord on this condition, that every one should afterwards strive to lead others to the truth, to restore the wandering to the right way, to extend a helping hand to the fallen, to win over those who are without. But if we ought to bestow so much labour on those who are yet aliens to the flock of Christ, how much more diligence is required in exhorting the brethren whom God has already joined to us?

As the manner of some is, &c. It hence appears that the origin of all schisms was, that proud men, despising others, pleased themselves too much. But when we hear that there were faithless men even in the age of the Apostles, who departed from the Church, we ought to be less shocked and disturbed by similar instances of defection which we may see in the present day. It is indeed no light offence when men who had given some evidence of piety and professed the same faith with us, fall away from the living God; but as it is no new thing, we ought, as I have already said, to be less disturbed by such an event. But the Apostle introduced this clause to shew that he did not speak without a cause, but in order to apply a remedy to a disease that was making progress.

And so much the more, &c. Some think this passage to be of the same import with that of Paul, “It is time to awake out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” (Rom. 13:11.) But I rather think that reference is here made to the last coming of Christ, the expectation of which ought especially to rouse us to the practice of a holy life as well as to careful and diligent efforts in the work of gathering together the Church. For to what end did Christ come except to collect us all into one body from that dispersion in which we are now wandering? Therefore, the nearer his coming is, the more we ought to labour that the scattered may be assembled and united together, that there may be one fold and one shepherd. (John 10:16.)

Were any one to ask, how could the Apostle say that those who were as yet afar off from the manifestation of Christ, saw the day near and just at hand? I would answer, that from the beginning of the kingdom of Christ the Church was so constituted that the faithful ought to have considered the Judge as coming soon; nor were they indeed deceived by a false notion, when they were prepared to receive Christ almost every moment; for such was the condition of the Church from the time the Gospel was promulgated, that the whole of that period might truly and properly be called the last. They then who have been dead many ages ago lived in the last days no less than we. Laughed at is our simplicity in this respect by the worldly-wise and scoffers, who deem as fabulous all that we believe respecting the resurrection of the flesh and the last judgment; but that our faith may not fail through their mockery, the Holy Spirit reminds us that a thousand years are before God as one day, (2 Peter 3:8;) so that whenever we think of the eternity of the celestial kingdom no time ought to appear long to us. And further, since Christ, after having completed all things necessary for our salvation, has ascended into heaven, it is but reasonable that we who are continually looking for his second manifestation should regard every day as though it were the last.[3]


24 The readers will be the more apt to confess their hope courageously and unhesitatingly if they encourage one another. Christian faith and witness will flourish the more vigorously in an atmosphere of Christian fellowship. “We ought to see how each of us may best arouse others to love and active goodness” (NEB). The word “stimulate” (AV/KJV, ERV/ARV “provoke”; RSV “stir up”; NEB “arouse”) is a strong one; it appears in one other place in the New Testament, and there in a very different way, of the “sharp contention” that broke out between Paul and Barnabas when they could not agree on taking Mark with them on a second apostolic visit to Cyprus and South Galatia (Acts 15:39). Perhaps this Greek word paroxysmos, like our English “provocation,” is more commonly used in the unfavorable sense of irritation than in the more pleasant sense used here by our author. It is the former sense that Paul has in mind in 1 Cor. 13:5 when, using the cognate verb paroxynō, he says that love “is not provoked.” But here love is provoked in the sense of being stimulated in the lives of Christians by the considerateness and example of other members of their fellowship.

25 This will never happen, however, if they keep one another at a distance. Therefore, every opportunity of coming together and enjoying their fellowship in faith and hope must be welcomed and used for mutual encouragement. Our author exhorts his readers to continue meeting together the more earnestly because he knows of some who were withdrawing from the Christian fellowship. Paul had urged the Roman Christians to welcome one another for God’s glory, as Christ had welcomed them (Rom. 15:7). But toward the end of the apostolic age we are made aware of a tendency in some quarters to withdraw from the Christian fellowship. “At first and indeed always,” says Harnack, “there were naturally some people who imagined that one could secure the holy contents and blessings of Christianity as one did those of Isis and the Magna Mater, and then withdraw. Or, in cases where people were not so short-sighted, levity, laziness, or weariness were often enough to detach a person from the society. A vainglorious sense of superiority, and of being able to dispense with the spiritual aid of the society, was also the means of inducing many to withdraw from fellowship and from the common worship. Many, too, were actuated by fear of the authorities; they shunned attendance at public worship, to avoid being recognized as Christians.” What appears to have underlain the withdrawal which our author here describes as “the custom of some”?

We may find a clue in the word translated “meeting together.” Basically this is the word which we know in its English form “synagogue,” but here it carries the prefix epi, which in this place may conceivably have the force “in addition,” as though the word were to be translated “episynagogue.” If this meaning were accepted, then we might think of a group of Jewish believers in Jesus who had not yet severed their connection with the synagogue in which they had been brought up, but who in addition to their synagogue services had special meetings of their own in a “Christian appendage to the Jewish synagogue,” as William Manson puts it.117 In that case, our author fears that the discontinuance of their special Christian meetings will mean their complete merging in the life of the larger Jewish community with the loss of their distinctive Christian faith and outlook. What he would really like to see would be their decisive separation from the synagogue—this is what he means by “let us go out” or “let us come out” in 13:13—but if they are not ready for that, let them, as they value their lives, maintain their common meetings as believers in Jesus and so encourage one another in their common hope.

It may be pointed out, however, that there is no evidence elsewhere for the use of “episynagogue” in a different sense from “synagogue” or “meeting”; and our author may simply be urging his readers not to give up attending the general meeting of the church, as some were doing.119 Under the various pressures which were being brought to bear upon them, to withdraw from the society of their fellow-believers was to court spiritual defeat; only by remaining united could they preserve their faith and witness.

Instead of growing slack in the practice of their Christian fellowship, they are bidden to encourage one another—“and all the more so, as you see the Day approaching.” It is plain from the closing verses of this chapter that the apparent postponement of the parousia was having its effect on their minds; at least the sense of tension created by the knowledge that they were living in the end-time was weakening. Not only for them, but for their fellow-Christians in many other places, the necessity of coming to terms with the church’s continued existence in history as a community completely separated from Judaism involved an “agonizing reappraisal.” The first generation of believers was passing away; a new generation was growing up. At this point in time other shocks were in store for them: the rather sudden hostility of the imperial power (with which the church had henceforth to live for two and a half centuries) and the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem.

Before a.d. 70 those Christians who remembered and took seriously Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple were scarcely in a position to keep it distinct in their minds from the final coming of the Son of Man and the ingathering of his elect, which he also foretold. Only after the events of a.d. 70 was it possible to appreciate clearly that two separate epochs were involved in the twofold question of the disciples in the form given to it in Matt. 24:3: “(a) When will this [the destruction of the temple] be? (b) and what will be the sign of your parousia, and of the consummation of the age?” It may be that our author, writing (as we think) before a.d. 70, had the impending fall of Jerusalem and dissolution of the old order in mind when he spoke of “the Day” as approaching. The words “you see the Day approaching” suggest that signs of the impending catastrophe in Judaea were already visible to men and women of discernment; and the fulfilment of that phase of Jesus’ prediction pointed on to the fulfilment of the final phase. Yet for our author, as for the other New Testament writers, “the Day” is primarily the final phase, the day of Christ’s parousia. Whatever was implied by the church’s adaptation in her thought and life to the conditions of a second and further generations of Christian existence in the world, her teachers continued, long after a.d. 70, to emphasize the certainty, and indeed the nearness, of the parousia. The period between the first advent of Christ and his parousia is the end-time, the “last days.” Whatever the duration of the period may be, for faith “the time is near” (Rev. 1:3). Each successive Christian generation is called upon to live as the generation of the end-time, if it is to live as a Christian generation. This being so, “the question is: How can the tension between the eschatological and historical existence of faith be retained over a period of time?” The most satisfactory answer is the Pauline answer which, while given in the first Christian generation, is equally applicable to every Christian generation: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25)—for the Spirit is the pledge and the firstfruits of the heritage of glory to be entered by believers at the parousia of Christ (cf. Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:13f.). In keeping with this answer, our author insists that since Christ appeared once for all, “at the end of the ages,” to offer himself to God as the perfect sacrifice for his people’s sin, those who acknowledge him as apostle and high priest have already experienced “mighty works of the coming age” and receive the “kingdom which is unshakable” (Heb. 6:5; 12:27f.). Thus they anticipate here and now the consummation for which they hope; let them hold this hope fast by unswerving loyalty to Christ.[4]


24 We noted the significance of this third exhortation in the introduction to 10:19–25 (pp. 464–65). It is most appropriate for those who draw near through Christ in anticipation of receiving God’s promised reward to encourage one another in the life of love. Thus, the pastor brings these exhortations to a climax with, “Let us give attention to one another for the provoking of love and good works.” Such mutual concern, in turn, creates and sustains a community conducive to perseverance in a hostile world. It is only right that those called to give full attention to Christ as all-sufficient Savior and example of perseverance (3:1; 12:2–3) should give such caring attention to God’s people. The hearers are, after all, members of the “house of God” over which Christ is both “Son” (3:6) and “Great Priest” (10:21). The pastor once charged them to show mutual concern lest “an evil heart of unbelief” cause them to be separated from that “house” in imitation of the wilderness generation (3:12–14). He now urges them to “give attention to one another for the provoking of love and good works” as those who participate with the faithful of all time (11:1–40) in the glorious fellowship of the people of God (12:22–24).

Translations like the NRSV (cf. RSV; ESV; T/NIV; NASB) are misleading: “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works.” The pastor would draw his hearers’ attention first to their sisters and brothers rather than to the act of provoking: “Let us give attention to one another for the provoking of love and good works” (italics added). “Provoke” adequately expresses the negative connotation of the underlying Greek term.57 Thus, with intentional irony the pastor underscores his exhortation: as forcefully as some “provoke” others to anger, God’s people should “provoke” one another to “love and good works.” This love is no mere sentimentality but an orientation of the heart that expresses itself in appropriate action. Such “good works” are the opposite of the “dead works” (9:14) from which Christ has cleansed the believer. They are works of goodness beneficial and pleasing to those who receive them and appropriate and acceptable in the eyes of God. In 13:1–6 the pastor will describe these works as deeds of brotherly love, hospitality, concern for the suffering, sexual purity, and generosity. The pastor’s hearers have practiced such conduct in the past (6:10). He would have them continue to encourage one another in this behavior, for it is the full expression of the community life appropriate for God’s people.

25 How do God’s people “provoke” each other to such works of love? The pastor answers with two instrumental participles: first, by “not abandoning” the meetings where Christians gather for worship and fellowship; second, by “exhorting” one another. In order to make this long sentence more manageable and to show the relationship of the participles to the previous exhortation we have begun this verse by adding, “We will accomplish this by.” Nevertheless, the reader must not forget that these participles share the admonitory force of the exhortation in v. 24: the pastor is urging his hearers not to “abandon” meeting together and to “exhort” one another.

The first, negative concern is prerequisite to the second and positive: those who absent themselves from God’s people can do nothing to “provoke one another to love and good works.” Thus the pastor begins with, “by not abandoning our [own] assembly.” Those who thus “abandon” other believers leave them in the lurch and thus deprive their brothers and sisters of needed support. The temptation to abandon God’s people may have been due to fervor dulled through the passage of time, by “neglect” (2:3; cf. 10:32) and “sluggishness” (5:11–14). One need not posit a date late in the first century to account for such loss of enthusiasm. Perhaps the hearers were discouraged because Christ had not yet returned. However, it also appears that disapproval and rejection from an unbelieving society played a significant part in the hesitancy of some to continue their identification with those who believed in Jesus (10:32–34; 12:4–11). The pastor will give examples of those who braved such resistance and persecution in 11:1–40. Whatever the cause, then or now, such abandoning of God’s people has tragic results.

What were they “abandoning”? The word translated “assembly” is an unusual term that can be used for the process of “assembling” (2 Thess 2:1) or for the group that has assembled, that is, an “assembly” (cf. 2 Macc 2:7). This word is followed by the intensive “ourselves,” which can be taken as an objective genitive, “the assembling of ourselves,” or a possessive, “our [own] assembly.”64 The latter is more concrete and sharpens the pastor’s concern that the hearers regularly identify with the gathering of God’s faithful. Some have suggested that “our own” suggests conflict with another assembly, perhaps Jewish or even heretical. There is, however, little else in the context that would sustain such a contrast.66 The pastor is speaking of the “assembly” that is proper for those who profess faith in Christ. They must not abandon the Christian assembly when it has gathered for worship and for the mutual encouragement enjoined by the pastor. The word “synagogue,” to which this word for “assembly” is related, was used with this connotation in the Apostolic and Post-Apostolic Fathers. In addition, by using a word similar to “synagogue” the pastor strengthens his emphasis on the unity of his hearers with God’s faithful people of all time. On the other hand, both the noun used here in Hebrews (2 Macc 2:7; 2 Thess 2:1) and its related verb (Mark 13:27; Matt 23:37) are employed by Scripture for the final “assembly”/“assembling” of God’s people at the last Judgment. Thus it is an apt designation for the meetings of those who enjoy the end-time blessings brought by Christ and participate in the fellowship of the heavenly city (12:22–24) even as they “see the Day [of Judgment] drawing near.” Those who habitually abandon this assembly when it has gathered for worship risk exclusion from the community of the faithful, and thus forfeiture of the ultimate salvation that Christ provides for his own.

The pastor’s concern is urgent because such abandonment has become “the custom” or habit of part of the congregation he is addressing. Instead of such desertion, provoke each other to loving works by “continuing to exhort” one another. The word “exhort,” used without a qualifier, encompasses the full range of meaning available for this term—“rebuke,” “warn,” “encourage,” “comfort.” The pastor wants his hearers to do for each other what he has done for them in this “word of exhortation” (13:13) with which he has addressed them. They must encourage and warn each other by reminding each other of the sufficiency of Christ and the magnitude of the privileges to be gained or lost by drawing near to God through him.

The privileges now available in Christ (vv. 19–21) are both the guarantee of future blessing and the means of attaining it at Christ’s return (9:25–28). Thus it is no surprise that the pastor directs his hearers’ attention to this future “hope” as motivation for perseverance and assures them that “the One who has promised” is “faithful” (v. 23). We can feel added urgency in his voice when, at the end of this final exhortation, he urges them to “exhort” one another “all the more as we see the Day approaching.” Warning joins hope as motivation for perseverance. The time of full salvation is also “the Day” of judgment. The intensity of their mutual concern should increase as they “see” this day “drawing near.” Those who “see” Jesus seated at God’s right hand with the eyes of faith (2:9) also see his approaching return with those same eyes. “As you see the Day approaching” provides a smooth transition to the warning that follows in vv. 26–31.[5]


10:24–25 / The third exhortation in this section directs the readers to be concerned with the welfare of others in the community of faith. There is a need to spur (or “stimulate”) one another on toward the basic Christian conduct of love (cf. 13:1) and good deeds. It is worth noting that we have encountered the three great virtues of faith (v. 22), hope (v. 23), and love in three successive verses (cf. 1 Cor. 13:13). The mutual encouragement that our author has in mind can occur, of course, only in the context of Christian fellowship. But some, perhaps even in this community, had been neglecting to come together. The avoidance of public meetings on the part of Jewish Christians may have been caused by the understandable desire to escape persecution, whether from the Romans or from the non-Christian Jewish community. Perhaps in the light of past experiences (see vv. 32–34) as well as threats concerning the imminent future (12:4), it was deemed wise to avoid attracting attention. Despite the twofold let us (both are added by niv) in verse 25, no new exhortations are present; rather, the material in this verse supports the exhortation of verse 24. The way in which the readers can manifest their concern for one another is through active participation in fellowship, on the one hand, and through mutual encouragement, on the other. Christians need each other, and especially in trying circumstances. The whole matter, moreover, is to take on a special urgency with the increasing sense of the imminence of the eschaton, as you see the Day approaching (cf. the quotation of Hab. 2:3 in v. 37).[6]


24. Here, as elsewhere, hope and love follow faith; the Pauline triad of Christian graces.

consider—with the mind attentively fixed on “one another” (see on Heb 3:1), contemplating with continual consideration the characters and wants of our brethren, so as to render mutual help and counsel. Compare “consider,” Ps 41:1, and Heb 12:15, “(All) looking diligently lest any fail of the grace of God.”

to provokeGreek,with a view to provoking unto love,” instead of provoking to hatred, as is too often the case.

25. assembling of ourselves together—The Greek,episunagoge,” is only found here and 2 Th 2:1 (the gathering together of the elect to Christ at His coming, Mt 24:31). The assembling or gathering of ourselves for Christian communion in private and public, is an earnest of our being gathered together to Him at His appearing. Union is strength; continual assemblings together beget and foster love, and give good opportunities for “provoking to good works,” by “exhorting one another” (Heb 3:13). Ignatius says, “When ye frequently, and in numbers meet together, the powers of Satan are overthrown, and his mischief is neutralized by your likemindedness in the faith.” To neglect such assemblings together might end in apostasy at last. He avoids the Greek term “sunagoge,” as suggesting the Jewish synagogue meetings (compare Rev 2:9).

as the manner of some is—“manner,” that is, habit, custom. This gentle expression proves he is not here as yet speaking of apostasy.

the day approaching—This, the shortest designation of the day of the Lord’s coming, occurs elsewhere only in 1 Co 3:13; a confirmation of the Pauline authorship of this Epistle. The Church being in all ages kept uncertain how soon Christ is coming, the day is, and has been, in each age, practically always near; whence, believers have been called on always to be watching for it as nigh at hand. The Hebrews were now living close upon One of those great types and foretastes of it, the destruction of Jerusalem (Mt 24:1, 2), “the bloody and fiery dawn of the great day; that day is the day of days, the ending day of all days, the settling day of all days, the day of the promotion of time into eternity, the day which, for the Church, breaks through and breaks off the night of the present world” [Delitzsch in Alford].[7]


Ver. 24.—The duty and design of mutual consideration. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love,” etc. An interesting connection of our text with the preceding verses of this paragraph is pointed out by Delitzsch. “How beautifully is the exhortation here disposed in conformity with the Pauline triad of Christian graces (1 Cor. 13:13; 1 Thess. 1:3; 5:8; Col. 1:4, 5)! First, the injunction to approach in the full assurance of faith; then that to hold fast the confession of our hope; and now a third, to godly rivalry in the manifestation of Christian love.”

  1. The duty of mutual consideration. “Let us consider one another.” This exhortation does not warrant any impertinent interference in the concerns of others, or sanction the conduct of busybodies and gossips. It calls upon us to cherish a mutual regard, and to exercise a kind consideration one for another. We should consider the wants, weaknesses, temptations, trials, successes, failures, and varying experiences of each other. With a brother in his shortcomings and sins we should be patient and forbearing, slow to condemn, but quick to raise and restore. “Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass,” etc. (Gal. 6:1, 2). With each other we should sympathize in our respective joys and sorrows. Our religious duties, motives, aims, trials, joys, and hopes are very similar in their character; therefore “let us consider one another,” sympathize with one another, and strengthen one another.
  2. The design of mutual consideration. “To provoke unto love and good works.” “To provoke” is here used in a good sense—to excite, or to call into activity for a worthy purpose. “Consider one another” in order to produce in each other a generous rivalry in love and good works. Mark the importance of these two things. 1. Love. It is the supreme grace of Christian character (1 Cor. 13:13). It is the most Christ-like. It is the most God-like. “God is love.” It is that which most truly represents our Saviour to the world. It is that which is most extolled in the sacred Scriptures. The Bible abounds in exhortations to love one another and to love God (Lev. 19:18, 34; Deut. 6:5; 10:19; Matt. 22:36–40; John 15:12; 1 Cor. 13.; Col. 3:14; 1 Tim. 1:5; 1 Pet. 4:8; 1 John 3:11–24; 4:7–21). On earth and in time love exalts and imparts an attractive lustre and beauty to the character. And it qualifies for the glories of heaven and eternity. 2. Good works; beautiful actions. Love is the fountain of all beautiful deeds. Our works are beautiful in proportion as love is our motive and inspiration in them. That which is done selfishly, grudgingly, or in the spirit of a hireling, has no goodness or beauty. Love is the purest and mightest inspiration. No difficulties deter love; no dangers appall it; no toils are too arduous or prolonged to be accomplished by it. The venturing and enduring power of love is wonderful. And, thank God! illustrations of it are not scarce. See it in the unwearying vigil and the unfailing ministry of the mother, night and day, day and night, by the couch where her sick child lies; or the wife by the bed of her afflicted husband, etc. Love delights in self-sacrificing service for the beloved. “Provoke unto love and good works.” To teach a class well in the Sunday or the Ragged school; to visit the neglected, the sick, and the dying; to comfort some troubled heart or cheer some depressed spirit; to perform common duties with diligence and fidelity, or irksome duties with cheerfulness; to bear physical pain or social trial patiently; to suffer long by reason of the faults of others, and still be kind to them;—these are “good works,” beautiful works. It is to love and good works that we are to provoke one another, and for this purpose we have to kindly consider each other. Put no obstacle in the path of any true worker, but cheer him, strengthen him. Perhaps the best way to stimulate others to love and good works is to set a good example in respect of these things. Learn here the most effective method of preventing strife and securing unity amongst Christian brethren. Kindly mutual consideration, love, and good works preclude disagreement, and unite hearts in sacred and blessed fellowship.—W. J.

Ver. 25.—Warning against the neglect of social worship. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the custom of some is; but exhorting one another.” This exhortation is not a positive command, but arises out of the nature of things, and the need of man as a spiritual being. Social worship does not become obligatory because it is commanded in the Scriptures; but we are exhorted not to neglect it because it is needful for us. The obligation springs not from the exhortation, but from the necessities of our being. Let us consider—

  1. Man’s need of social worship. 1. Man needs worship. A god is a necessity of man’s being. He must have something to worship, even if it be only a fetich. This arises from the presence and influence of the religious and devotional elements and faculties in human nature. As these are refined and educated, so man is able to receive pure and exalted ideas of God. One of the bitterest of human wails is, “Ye have taken away my gods, and the priest; and what have I more?” The loss of even a false god is deemed ruinous by those who confided in it. The cry of the man whose religious nature has been enlightened by Divine revelation is, “My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” The body needs the exercise of manual labour, or of athletics, or gymnastics, or it becomes weak and incapable. The mind must be employed in the acquisition of truth, in reflection upon truth and life, or its powers must be called forth in some other way, or it will sink into a condition of feebleness and decay. And the principle is equally applicable to the religious soul. If its powers be not employed in the worship of the Divine Being and in the effort to live usefully and holily, those powers will perish; the eyes of the soul will become blind, its ears deaf, its aspirations extinct. Man needs worship for the life and growth of his own religious nature. 2. Man needs social worship. He is a social being. His heart craves friendship. In sorrow and joy, in labour and rest, we long for companionship and sympathy. We are formed for fellowship and for mutual help. Hence, social worship is a necessity of our being. This need was divinely recognized in Judaism, and provision was made for it in the temple, in the great religious festivals, etc. Our Lord recognized this need in various ways (Matt. 18:17–20; Luke 4:16). So also did the apostles. Even in the darkest seasons in the history of the Church of God, devout souls have felt this need and have sought satisfaction for it. “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another,” etc. (cf. Mal. 3:13–17). 3. Social worship is often very beneficial and blessed. Our Lord has promised that the unanimous prayers of such worshippers shall be answered, and that he himself will meet with them (Matt. 18:19, 20). In such assemblies of believers devotion and holy feeling pass from heart to heart until all hearts are aglow. Mutual prayer strengthens the weak disciple. One man is cast down and almost faithless, but his faith is invigorated and his soul encouraged by the influence of another who is believing and hopeful. Nor is worship the only engagement of these assemblies. Our text speaks of mutual exhortation. “Exhorting one another.” Brotherly counsel and encouragement and admonition are profitable to strengthen faith, incite to diligence, guard against declension, and promote the progress of the soul.
  2. Man’s neglect of social worship. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the custom of some is.” Notice: 1. The causes of this neglect. As our Epistle does not speak of the neglect of worship by the irreligious, but of the desertion of the Christian assemblies by those who themselves were avowedly Christians, we shall confine our attention to the causes of the neglect of social worship by those who manifest some respect for religion. (1) The necessity of social worship is not recognized, or inadequately recognized. The neglecter says, “There is no need for my frequent attendance at church; I can read the Bible or a sermon by my own fireside; and as for worship, we have that in the family.” But reading a sermon is not attendance upon the divinely instituted preaching of the gospel. And family worship is not enough for man as a social being. Religion itself is social. As we need friends beyond our own domestic relations, so we need in religious exercises a wider circle than the home one. (2) Absorption in temporal and worldly affairs is another cause of the neglect of the Christian assemblies. The interests and occupations of this world and time fill the whole being; spiritual and eternal interests are disregarded; the soul and its needs are neglected; thus men are unjust to their own higher nature. (3) Decline in the spiritual life is another cause of this neglect. 2. The danger of this neglect. They whose custom it was to forsake the assemblies of Christians were not yet apostates from the Christian faith and confession. But the admonition and exhortation of the text suggest that they were in danger of apostasy. And the awful warnings which immediately follow more plainly indicate the dread peril. He who neglects the Christian assemblies is likely ere long to forsake the Christian Church and renounce the Christian faith, and he may even go on to tread underfoot the Son of God, and do despite unto the Spirit of grace.—W. J.[8]

24–25 The third appeal is a summons for the continued caring for one another that finds an expression in love, good works, and the mutual encouragement that active participation in the gatherings of the community makes possible. The note of Christian love completes the triad of faith (v 22), hope (v 23), and love (vv 24–25), which is developed by means of the coordinated cohortatives in vv 22–25 (cf. 6:10–12 for this same triad).

The exhortation κατανοῶμεν ἀλλήλους εἰς παροξυσμὸν ἀγάπης καὶ καλῶν ἔργων, “let us keep on caring for one another for the stimulation of love and good works,” centers on the responsibility of Christians to exhibit practical concern for one another. By considerateness and example, they are to spur one another on to the love and good works that had distinguished them as a community in the past (see Comment on 6:10). Exemplary service of fellow Christians had once been the hallmark of the congregation (cf. vv 33–34) and seems to have persisted in some measure. But the writer urges that the expression of love within the fellowship be deepened and extended. In this context ἀγάπη is not a technical term for the meal at which the Eucharist was celebrated (as urged by Glombitza, NovT 9 [1967] 143–46), but a caring response to need in the lives of other Christians. “Good works” are tangible expressions of caring love, as in 6:10. Active support and concern for the welfare of one another are matters of critical urgency in the life of a community exposed to testing and disappointment (cf. F. F. Bruce, 253; Peterson, “Examination,” 271).

The appeal in v 24 is supplemented by two participial phrases in the present tense, μὴ ἐγκαταλείποντες τὴν ἐπισυναγωγὴν ἑαυτῶν, “not discontinuing our meeting together” and ἀλλὰ παρακαλοῦντες, “but rather encouraging one another” (v 25). These contrasting phrases indicate the importance of the regular gathering of the local assembly for worship and fellowship. The contrast serves to define the specific character of the term ἐπισυναγωγή, “meeting together”: it is the place or occasion for mutual encouragement and exhortation (cf. P. E. Hughes, 417–18; Mora, La Carta a los Hebreos, 49–50; Schrage, TDNT 7:841–43). The present tense of the participles expresses the common responsibility for these mandates (Michel, 347).

The failure of the writer to specify why some members of the community had stopped taking an active part in the meetings of the house church has invited a wide range of conjectures (see Schrage, TDNT 7:843, nn. 11–15). The reference to “custom” or “habit” (ἔθος) implies a situation of indifference and apathy, which is consistent with other indications throughout the sermon (2:1–3; 3:7–15; 4:1; 5:11–14; 10:23) (cf. Mora, La Carta a los Hebreos, 50). It is natural to think that the neglect of the meetings was motivated by fear of recognition by outsiders in a time of persecution, or by disappointment in the delay of the parousia, or by some other acute concern. It is sobering to discover that in the early second century in Rome it was simply preoccupation with business affairs that accounted for the neglect of the meetings of a house church (Herm. Sim. 8.8.1; 9.20.1). Whatever the motivation, the writer regarded the desertion of the communal meetings as utterly serious. It threatened the corporate life of the congregation and almost certainly was a prelude to apostasy on the part of those who were separating themselves from the assembly (so H. Montefiore, 177–78; Williamson, Philo, 261; Thompson, Beginnings of Christian Philosophy, 34). The neglect of worship and fellowship was symptomatic of a catastrophic failure to appreciate the significance of Christ’s priestly ministry and the access to God it provided.

The reason the meetings of the assembly are not to be neglected is that they provide a communal setting where mutual encouragement and admonition may occur. The parallel passage in 3:13 (ἀλλὰ παρακαλεῖτε ἑαυτοὺς καθʼ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν, “but encourage one another every day”) may actually presuppose a daily gathering of the house church for mutual encouragement. The verb παρακαλεῖν includes the notions of warning and reproof as well as encouragement, with the implication that reproof should be given in a loving way (cf. Forkman, Limits of the Religious Community, 47–50). The entire community must assume responsibility to watch that no one grows weary or becomes apostate. This is possible only when Christians continue to exercise care for one another personally (Dahl, Int 5 [1951] 411–12).

The urgency for encouragement and reproof is that the community experiences an unresolved tension between peril and promise so long as it lives in the world. The neglect of the meetings of the assembly by some of the members sufficiently attests the reality of spiritual peril. The promise is indicated by the approaching “Day of the Lord” (v 25b), when God’s plan for his covenant people will be brought to realization. The sober reminder that the Day of the Lord is drawing near offers a further incentive for continued active participation in the life of the community. It indicates that the tension between peril and promise will ultimately be resolved eschatologically. The description of the parousia in 9:28 as the return of the heavenly high priest with salvation to those who wait for him is supplemented here with a complementary OT formulation implying judgment as well as salvation (cf. Marshall, Kept by the Power, 144; A. L. Moore, The Parousia in the New Testament [Leiden: Brill, 1966] 148–49).[9]


Mutual encouragement (10:24–25a)

Since in the teaching of this letter Christians are brothers in the same family, partners in the same enterprise6 and members of the same household, they have a responsibility not only to ‘hold fast’ themselves, but also to encourage their fellow believers to do the same. John Wesley often reminded the early Methodist people of the words of a friend: ‘The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.’ In the teaching of this passage, the exhortation is not simply to the exercise of fellowship, but to the stimulation of compassionate activity in the work of Christ. Many early nonconformist congregations included these words in the covenant which members were required to sign on joining the local church: ‘We engage to watch over one another in love.’

But is this an impossible ideal in the twentieth century? Aware of the selfish and materialistic pressures of contemporary society, and convinced of the need for a more distinctively Christian life-style, some believers have turned from the institutional churches to communities. The ‘Jesus People’ movement of the late sixties, the charismatic movement and the 1974 Lausanne call to ‘radical discipleship’ have all contributed to the popularization of community living. Derek Tidball has shown that, although the biblical arguments for this type of communal life-style may not, on careful examination, be specially convincing, the practical reasons for this quest need to be considered. He observes that enthusiasts for communities focus their pragmatic arguments on the issues of resources and relationships. First, there is a financial asset, the saving of costs—no mean contribution in a materialistic age especially if the surplus money is then released for the crying needs of others. In addition, however, there is the spiritual and emotional asset. It is claimed that the community meets an immediate human need, the longing for fellowship, clearly recognized by the writer of Hebrews at this point in the letter.

Such thinking must surely challenge the contemporary church which can be just as materialistic and selfishly preoccupied as secular society. It is because some people have not found within our churches the warmth, care and concern for which they hoped that they have turned away from the organized or institutional churches to religious communities and house churches, some of them, vibrant with a more intimate commitment to fellowship and caring. Despite the danger of authoritarian leadership tendencies, and the insularity and lack of evangelistic outreach in some of these groups, their supportive compassion surely challenges the churches to a radical re-examination of their priorities and a willingness to change any activity if it fails to encourage the life of God’s people as a loving, caring and serving fellowship.

At this point it is important to emphasize that the writer of Hebrews would hardly have encouraged separatist splinter-groups of any kind. We have noted earlier that some scholars believe the letter may well have been addressed to a group of believers in danger of isolating themselves from their fellow Christians in the local church. Its teaching reminds us that the church’s defects present us with an opportunity for earnest prayer, careful thought, loving discussion and united action to correct the deficiencies and not run away from them. Calvin’s observation on these verses is as important now as in the sixteenth century: ‘There is so much peevishness in almost everyone that individuals, if they could, would gladly make their own churches for themselves … This warning is therefore more than needed by all of us that we should be encouraged to love rather than hate and that we should not separate ourselves from those … who are joined to us by a common faith.’

  • Spiritual incentive (10:25b)

Believers must engage vigorously in this ministry of encouragement, because their opportunities are at the same time both immense and limited. At present there are many avenues of service, but the Day is drawing near when we can no longer witness and serve in this way. When the Day is here rather than near, we shall all wish we had done so much more. In the light of Christ’s return the writer issues the positive and negative injunction: believers must stir each other up and not absent themselves from the Christian meeting.[10]


10:24. The third exhortation calls us to responsibility to one another. The appeal to consider demands concentrated attention. The goal of this attention was to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. As Christians we have a corporate responsibility. We must help others who stumble and falter. We must concentrate on the needs of others and not on our individual salvation only.

We can spur people toward either good or bad works. Hebrews calls us to lead others to a practical expression of love and an attractive display of unselfish deeds.

The three important virtues of faith, hope, and love are mentioned in three consecutive verses (see 1 Cor. 13:13). Faith provides assurance. Hope promises an incentive to obedience. Love provides a foundation for prodding believers to godly living

10:25. To spur other believers forward in the Christian life, followers of Christ must meet together. Some of the readers of Hebrews were neglecting to meet together for worship, and this limited their ability to give and receive encouragement toward good works.

Christians who meet together with the aim of promoting godliness and love for one another can be remarkably successful in their ventures. Regular fellowship with believers is an essential ingredient in Christian growth. The readers of Hebrews knew that the Day of Christ’s return was drawing near. The closeness of this day compelled them to stimulate one another in an outburst of energy and concern.

Persecution may have led some believers to drop out of the fellowship. The remedy they needed was to begin meeting again. The verses following in 26–31 showed the final outcome of neglecting to meet with other believers. Such careless living could produce a contempt for Jesus and a renunciation of Christianity.[11]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Heb 10:24–25). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 267–268). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews (pp. 238–242). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[4] Bruce, F. F. (1990). The Epistle to the Hebrews (Rev. ed., pp. 256–260). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[5] Cockerill, G. L. (2012). The Epistle to the Hebrews (pp. 478–481). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[6] Hagner, D. A. (2011). Hebrews (pp. 165–166). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[7] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 468). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[8] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Hebrews (pp. 282–284). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[9] Lane, W. L. (1998). Hebrews 9–13 (Vol. 47B, pp. 289–290). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[10] Brown, R. (1988). The message of Hebrews: Christ above all (pp. 186–188). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[11] Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, p. 187). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

June 12, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

2. The people walking in darkness hath seen a great light. He speaks of future events in the past tense, and thus brings them before the immediate view of the people, that in the destruction of the city, in their captivity, and in what appeared to be their utter destruction, they may behold the light of God. It may therefore be summed up in this manner: “Even in darkness, nay, in death itself, there is nevertheless good ground of hope; for the power of God is sufficient to restore life to his people, when they appear to be already dead.” Matthew, who quotes this passage, appears to torture it to a different meaning; for he says that this prediction was fulfilled when Christ preached along the sea-coast. (Matt. 4:16) But if we take a just view of the comparison, it will be found that Matthew has applied this passage to Christ correctly, and in its true meaning. Yet it does not appear that the view generally given by our commentators is a successful elucidation of the passage; for they merely assert that it belongs to the kingdom of Christ, but do not assign a reason, or show how it accords with this passage. If, therefore, we wish to ascertain the true meaning of this passage, we must bring to our recollection what has been already stated, that the Prophet, when he speaks of bringing back the people from Babylon, does not look to a single age, but includes all the rest, till Christ came and brought the most complete deliverance to his people. The deliverance from Babylon was but a prelude to the restoration of the Church, and was intended to last, not for a few years only, but till Christ should come and bring true salvation, not only to their bodies, but likewise to their souls. When we shall have made a little progress in reading Isaiah, we shall find that this was his ordinary custom.

Having spoken of the captivity in Babylon, which held out the prospect of a very heavy calamity, he shows that this calamity will be lighter than that which Israel formerly endured; because the Lord had fixed a term and limit to that calamity, namely, seventy years, (Jer. 25:11, 12, and 29:10,) after the expiration of which the light of the Lord would shine on them. By this confident hope of deliverance, therefore, he encourages their hearts when overpowered by fear, that they might not be distressed beyond measure; and thus he made a distinction between the Jews and the Israelites, to whom the expectation of a deliverance so near was not promised. Though the Prophets had given to the elect remnant some taste of the mercy of God, yet, in consequence of the redemption of Israel being, as it were, an addition to the redemption of Judah, and dependent on it, justly does the Prophet now declare that a new light has been exhibited; because God hath determined to redeem his people. Appropriately and skilfully, too, does Matthew extend the rays of light to Galilee and the land of Zebulun. (Matt. 4:15)

In the land of the shadow of death. He now compares the captivity in Babylon to darkness and death; for those who were kept there, were wretched and miserable, and altogether like dead men; as Ezekiel also relates their speech, Dead men shall arise out of the graves. (Ezek. 37:11, 12) Their condition, therefore, was such as if no brightness, no ray of light, had shone on them. Yet he shows that this will not prevent them from enjoying light, and recovering their former liberty; and that liberty he extends, not to a short period, but, as we have already said, to the time of Christ.

Thus it is customary with the Apostles to borrow arguments from the Prophets, and to show their real use and design. In this manner Paul quotes (Rom. 9:25) that passage from Hosea, I will call them my people which were not my people, (Hos. 2:13,) and applies it to the calling of the Gentiles, though strictly it was spoken of the Jews; and he shows that it was fulfilled when the Lord brought the Gentiles into the Church. Thus, when the people might be said to be buried in that captivity, they differed in no respect from the Gentiles; and since both were in the same condition, it is reasonable to believe that this passage relates, not only to the Jews, but to the Gentiles also. Nor must it be viewed as referring to outward misery only, but to the darkness of eternal death, in which souls are plunged, till they come forth to spiritual light; for unquestionably we lie buried in darkness, till Christ shine on us by the doctrine of his word. Hence also Paul exhorts, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. (Eph. 5:14) If therefore we extend the commencement of the deliverance from the return from Babylon down to the coming of Christ, on whom all liberty and all bestowal of blessings depends, we shall understand the true meaning of this passage, which otherwise has not been satisfactorily explained by commentators.[1]


1 (2) Following the lead of the previous verse, this verse explains why there will be no gloom where in fact the darkness had been absolute. With the suddenness of dawn (cf. 60:1) comes the announcement that light has appeared to these people. They did not produce it nor are they responsible for it. Where they had been groping in darkness, or sitting in the land of death’s shadow, they suddenly find themselves blinking in the light. Throughout the Bible, God’s presence is equated with light (42:16; 2 Sam. 22:29; Job 29:3; Ps. 139:11, 12; 1 John 1:5). So here, there is light for these people because their sin and rebellion are not enough to keep God from manifesting himself to them. True, they could not continue to choose their sin and have the light, but if they wished to be freed from their sin, nothing could prevent God’s light from shining, as it, in fact, has in Jesus.

All these events are manifestly in the future from the prophet’s point of view, yet the verbs are all in the perfect tense. Apparently these are prophetic perfects. Isaiah has a point of view different from the normal one. In the uncertainty of his own milieu he nonetheless can look at a future moment and describe its events with the certainty of completed actions. No medium or spiritist could do that. The spirits could not explain the origins of the earth, much less the end of it (cf. 41:21–24). But God could give that kind of insight to his prophet.[2]


Ver. 2.—The people that walked in darkness (comp. ch. 8:22). All the world was “in darkness” when Christ came; but here the Jews especially seem to be intended. It was truly a dark time with them when Christ came (see Döllinger’s ‘Judenthum and Heidenthum,’ vol. ii. pp. 301–335). Have seen; rather, saw. The “prophetic” preterite is used throughout the whole passage. A great light. “The Light of the world,” “the Sun of righteousness,” “the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” first broke on man in that northern tract “by the way of the sea,” when Jesus came forward to teach and to preach in “Galilee of the Gentiles.” For thirty years he had dwelt at Nazareth, in Zebulon. There he had first come forward to teach in a synagogue (Luke 4:16–21); in Galilee he had done his first miracles (John 2:11; 4:54); at Capernaum. “upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim.” he commenced his preaching of repentance (Matt. 4:13–17). The “light” first streamed forth in this quarter, glorifying the region on which contempt had long been poured.[3]


9:2. With typical Hebrew parallelism the prophet described the effect of the Messiah on this northern part of Israel. The people were in darkness (cf. 8:22) and in the shadow of death. Then they saw a great light and light … dawned on them. Matthew applied this passage to Jesus, who began His preaching and healing ministry in that region (Matt. 4:15–16).[4]


9:2 Have seen: The future event is described by the prophet, under the impulse of the Spirit, as having already occurred. Light stands for God’s blessings, presence, and revelation (2:5), that is incarnate in Jesus (58:8; 59:9; 60:1, 2, 19, 20; John 8:12). Shadow of death means “deep darkness” (compare 60:2; Ps. 23:4). Here this Hebrew word complements the more commonly used word for darkness.[5]


9:2 — The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light .…

Jesus grew up in Nazareth of Galilee, where many gentiles lived. His parents learned that He would be “a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32), and He called Himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12).[6]


9:2 a great light … light. The coming of the Messiah is synonymous with the coming of light to remove the darkness of captivity (42:16; 49:6; 58:8; 60:1, 19, 20).[7]


9:2 The people who walked in darkness. Such people as those who refused the appeal of 2:5 (cf. also 5:30; 8:22; John 3:19–20). on them has light shined. Not subjective wishful thinking but an objective, surprising joy breaking upon sinners through the grace of Christ (cf. Isa. 42:6; 49:6; John 1:5; 2 Cor. 4:6).[8]


9:2 The Assyrian invasion brought great devastation (darkness), but the people still had great reason to hope (light has dawned). The verbs in this section are in what is often called the “prophetic perfect.” Though the events were in the future, they are described as if they had already happened. Isaiah 9:1–2 is quoted in Mt 4:15–16 in reference to Jesus’s ministry.[9]


[1] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Vol. 1, pp. 298–300). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Oswalt, J. N. (1986). The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39 (pp. 242–243). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1910). Isaiah (Vol. 1, pp. 165–166). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[4] Martin, J. A. (1985). Isaiah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, pp. 1052–1053). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 818). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[6] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Is 9:2). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[7] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 9:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[8] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1257). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] Longman, T., III. (2017). Isaiah. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1055). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.