Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Jesus' Witnesses" Sermon: John 5:30-47

“Jesus’ Witnesses”

[John 5:30-47]

July 26, 2015Second Reformed Church

            Jesus healed a lame man on the Sabbath day and told him to pick up his bed and to go home.  The Pharisees believed that he was breaking the Sabbath Law by working – carrying his bed – and demanded to know why he was doing this.  He told them that Jesus had healed him and told him to take the bed home, so the Pharisees went after Jesus.

            The Pharisees confronted Jesus about breaking the Law by working on the Sabbath, and Jesus explained that God did not become inactive on the Sabbath day, but stopped doing certain work on the Sabbath day, while continuing to do other work.  In the same way, He, God’s Son, was not engaged in His common work to make a living, but did a work of mercy by healing the man, which is permissible on the Sabbath.

            The Pharisees then condemned Jesus for blasphemy, because He claimed to be God – that He was the same One Being as God the Father – though They are distinct Persons.

            Jesus began His response to the Pharisees by explaining these things to them, as we saw last week.  He continued by telling them that anyone who doesn’t know and believe in the Son and His Gospel, does not know the Father.  Anyone who denies the Son will be denied at the end of the age.  Anyone who does not believe in Jesussavingly will suffer the eternal Wrath of God.

            Since the Father and the Son are the same One God and the Father sent the Son to reconcile a people to God, if we believe in the Son, we believe in the Father, if we believe in the Son, we are reconciled to the Father, if we believe in the Son, we are forgiven and made righteous by the Son before the Father, and we will have eternal life in the Kingdom.

            Now, Jesus explained – from the days of the beginning of the Gospel to Jesus’ return in Glory – now is the time to proclaim that Gospel to the whole world, so all those who will believe will be saved.  For the time will come when Jesus will return as the Judge of humanity on His great while throne, and He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats – those who believe in Him to eternal life, and those who deny Him to eternal death and suffering.

            Jesus goes on in the second half of His response to tell the Pharisees that Jesus has (at least) four witnesses to His being God the Son – co-equal with the Father, and the Promised Savior.

            The point of bringing out four witnesses is both to show the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and to show that He has greater witnesses than anyone else has ever had.  It does not mean that Jesus only has four witnesses to Him – He could have called on thousands of angels and spiritual beings – His point is that the Law requires two or three witnesses to make a claim – so, Jesus presents them with four. 

Jesus said elsewhere, “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Matthew 18:16, ESV).  Our point here is that two or three witnesses make a claim.

Jesus again emphasizes that He and the Father are One Being – One God – but distinct Persons as we continue our text:

            “I can do nothing on my own.  As I hear, I judge and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”

            Remember, we saw last week that what Jesus is saying in talking this way is that He does nothing against the Will of God, because Their Will is the same, even though They are distinct Persons as the Father and the Son.

            “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true.”

            Jesus points to both the Law and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees as He turns to provide witnesses to His claim:  Jesus affirms that one person making a claim does not have legal standing – as we have already stated – two or three must witness to a claim for it to be legal.

However, Jesus is the God Who gave that law to humans, He is God!  God by definition – by virtue of Who He is – does not need witnesses to make His claim true:  God is God and everything He says and does is true.  Still, Jesus condescends to the Law to make His point to the Pharisees – that He is the Giver of the Law, the One True God.

  We see first, John the Baptist witnesses to Jesus being God the Son and Savior.

            “There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony he bears about me is true.  You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.  Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved.  He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”

            Jesus reminds the Pharisees that they went to John and they believed him.  They listened to John’s preaching and they sought to be baptized – “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” (Matthew 3:7, ESV).

            Jesus wanted them to remember:  they went to John.  They heard John preach.  They believed John’s preaching.  They even sought his baptism.  They even asked John if he was the Savior or one of the prophets come back from the dead, but he said, “No.” 

What he did say was this:  “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29, ESV).  And John went on to explain that Jesus is the Savior that He was sent to prepare the way for.

            Jesus said that John was a lamp, and the Pharisees rejoiced in the light that came from him for a while.  What they missed here is that the light does not originate in the lamp.  If you take a lamp and set it on a table, but don’t plug it in – if there is no energy coming into it – what does it do?  It may sit and look nice, but it does not illumine anything.  Likewise, the only reason John was a “burning and shining lamp” was that “fuel” had been put into him – God the Holy Spirit lived in him and shone the Truth of the Gospel out from him.

            The same thing is said about all believers:  “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of the darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

            “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, so that the surpassing power belongs to God and not us” (II Corinthians 4:6-7, ESV).

            We are jars of clay – we are lamps – and it is specifically because we cannot produce light by ourselves – because the fact that the Source of the Light must be outside of us – that God indwells us in the Person of the Holy Spirit – so the world will look at us and see the Gospel and know it is not our creation, but we are witnesses to it, and the Truth of the Gospel is witnesses to in the Power and the Glory of God Who is ever praised.

            Jesus told the Pharisees:  “My first witness to My being God, the Son and Savior, is John the Baptist – whose message you heard – whose message was about Me – and you rejoiced and believed in it for a while.”

            Second, the works that Jesus did witness to His being God the Son and Savior.

            “But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John.  For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”

            Nicodemus, the Pharisee, the teacher of Israel, admitted this while an unbeliever:  “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:3b, ESV).

            Jesus told the Pharisees what they very well knew – what Nicodemus and others had admitted – the signs and works they were seeing Jesus do witnessed – at the very least – to His being sent and empowered by God.  The things Jesus was doing were impossible for a mere human being, unless He is carrying out the Will of God and being empowered to do them.

            Looking back from our vantage point, we can add to the works Jesus did at this point in His life, to His unimaginable suffering at the hands of men, and His taking on the full Wrath of God for the sins of all we who would ever believe, along with keeping every word and letter of God’s Law for our sake, and then His Physical Resurrection and Ascension back to His throne at the right hand of the Father.

            Is this not all great witness to Jesus being God the Son and Savior?

            There is the witness of John the Baptist and of the works that Jesus did according to the Will of the Father –

Third, God the Father witnessed to Jesus being God the Son and Savior.

            “And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.”

            We may say that the Father witnesses to Who Jesus is in many ways, but, surely, one of the most public was at His baptism when Jesus came amidst the crowd to the Jordan River and asked John to baptize Him:

            “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him, and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17, ESV).

            What did the crowds at the Jordan think of this?  We’re not told – with one exception – John the Baptist said, “And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34, ESV).  John saw what happened and told others, but what about all of the others?  We’re not told.

            Still God the Father visibly and audibly witnessed to Jesus being God the Son and Savior – here – and throughout His life.

            Have we any reason to believe the witness of God?

            Fourth, the Scriptures witness to Jesus being God the Son and Savior.

            “His voice you have never heard, his form you have not seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.  You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

            Jesus prefaces the fourth witness by saying – in effect – “You have never heard the Voice of the Father, but I have.  You have never seen the Form of the Father, but I have.  You do not have the Word of God abiding in you, or you would believe that I am God the Son and Savior.”

            And Jesus charges them – that the keep searching the Scriptures, learning everything they say, dividing them and drawing up the laws, trying to find that way that they can be accounted righteous before God and received into His Kingdom – because they believe – somewhere – the way to eternal life can be found in the Scripture itself.

            But is it not the Scripture itself that saves a person – no one can work through the Scripture and merit salvation.  No, the Scriptures all point to Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior, the Only Way to Salvation.  The study of the Scripture – the righteous, persistent study of the Scripture, which we should all be involved in – does not save us, but leads us to the One Who is the Only Way.

            We remember that – after the Resurrection – Jesus was walking with two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus, and Jesus rebuked them:  “’O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25b-27, ESV).

            The ultimate purpose of all of the Scripture is to point to Jesus the Son of God and Savior.  First and foremost, the Scripture has been superintended over by God so that a person who reads it indwelt by the Holy Spirit will conclude that Jesus is and must be God the Son and Savior.  There are lots of other wonderful things in the Scripture – and there are things for us to do and know as Christians, but first, the Scripture tells us that this One is the Promised Savior and He is – and must be – God Himself.

            Do we see Him?  Does it make a difference that we see that all Scripture concerns Jesus?

            Jesus answered the Pharisees with four witnesses to His being God the Son and Savior:  John the Baptist witnessed to this truth.  Jesus’ works witnessed to this truth.  God the Father witnessed to this truth.  And all of the Scripture witnesses to this truth.
             But, how well can a dead man respond to the truth?
             Jesus continued:

“I do not receive glory from people.  But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.  I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me.”

Jesus told them that He did not need the people to glorify Him.  But the fact that they were against Him and did not believe that He is God the Son and Savior was proof that the love of God was not in them – how could they love God if they did not love Jesus, Who is God?

A friend of mine recently posted that he didn’t understand why people of different religions were at odds with each other – (which is why he claims to now be an atheist) – when all religions boil down to the same thing:  love each other and be good people.

Beloved, that is a lie.  Christianity – biblical Christianity – does not boil down to “love each other and be good people.”  Christianity boils down to:  God came to earth in the person of Jesus, lived a perfect life under God’s Law – which He credits to all we who believe, died – receiving on Himself the debt for sin – God’s Eternal Wrath – physically rose from the dead and ascended back to His throne at the right hand of God.

That’s Christianity!  That – and that alone – the history of what God has done in the person of Jesus – is what matters – it’s what changes everything!

Jesus continued:

“If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.  How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”

Jesus showed the Pharisees and He shows us the hypocrisy of turning away from Jesus, Who has the witnesses of John the Baptist, His works, God the Father, and all of Scripture, while receiving people with no witnesses who say they are the Messiah – the Savior.

Shortly after Jesus ascended back to the Father, Theudas said that he was the savior, then Judas of Galilee said he was the savior, and in the second century, Barkochba said he was the savior, and on and on (Hedriksen, John, 210).

Jesus said it would happen:  “See that no one leads you astray.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray” (Matthew 24:4b-5, ESV).  The final false Christ is called the anti-Christ; he is already a defeated foe, so let no one follow him.

Jesus left them with these frightening words:

“Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father.  There is one who accuses you:  Moses, on whom you have set your hope.  For if you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me.  But, if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Jesus told the Pharisees – and He tells anyone who claims to believe the Scripture and yet denies Jesus as God and Savior – Jews, Muslims, and Christians who don’t really believe – who are Christian in name only:  “I am not going to bring an accusation against you to My Father.  I am going to judge you by the Scripture you so diligently search for the way to be right with God.  But if Moses wrote about Me, and you don’t believe in Me, you don’t believe in Moses, and where does that leave you?”

God has made it clear through the witness of John the Baptist, Jesus’ works, God the Father, and the Scriptures, that Jesus is God – the same One God with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, though They are also Three distinct Persons.  God the Son came to earth in the Person of Jesus to be the Savior of all those who will believe.

That is the truth, and it is backed up with these witnesses.

Do you believe?

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for sending Your Son to be our Savior and for providing many witnesses to Who He is and what He has come to do and has accomplished.  We pray that the Holy Spirit will help us to see and believe the Light that comes from the lamp, and we ask that You would use us as lamps to be lights to the world of Your Gospel.  And help us to see how all Scripture witnesses to Jesus that we would have more reason to worship You and be better able to spread Your Gospel to the world.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: "From Tablet to Table"

Don’t buy this book.

I have just finished reading Leonard Sweet’s From Tablet to Table:  where community is found and identity is formed.

Sweet begins by making the excellent point that churches that are losing members are not going to regain their members through methodologies and programs.  The church must be what only the church can be – that is what makes the church different.  We must focus on “finding our identity in Jesus” (2).

Sweet rightly warns that we ought not to have a faith that is hung merely on selected verses, but on the whole story of the Bible, and we ought to find ourselves telling and discussing the stories of the story over food, as we see so often exemplified in the Scripture (40).

Sweet goes on to show the value of family meals and meals with friends for unity, strength, and love – and these are all true – things which have largely been lost in modern American culture.  But he strays away from the point of the story of the Bible.

In fact, he goes on to deny the story of the Bible:

Sweet states:  “Thus the first untruth, the first lie, is that our sin has made God our enemy” (91).

Paul states:  “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10, ESV).

Sweet states:  “We are to be not imitators but incarnators of Christ” (57).

Paul states:  “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1, ESV).

Sweet states that the best definition of the Gospel he has ever heard is, “Jesus ate good food with bad people” (4).

Paul states:  “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:  that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (I Corinthians 15:3-5, ESV).

Sweet has taken an important issue for the Church, brought it forth, yet turned away from the very Gospel everyone needs to hear.

The issues surrounding hospitality and food in the Scripture, in our lives, and as a means of knowing the Gospel are profound ones.  

There are very good books written on the subject, such as: 

This book is not one of them.

[I received this book free for an honest review from Tyndale Publishing.  This review appears on my blog and] #FromTablettoTable

"Equal Authority" Sermon: John 5:19-29

“Equal Authority”

[John 5:19-29]

July 19, 2015Second Reformed Church

            After Jesus healed a lame man on the Sabbath, He explained to the Pharisees that when the command was given to us to rest on the seventh day, it did not mean that we are to be inactive, but that we are to stop our regular work – giving ourselves a rest and trusting that God will provide for us when we “only” worksix days out of seven.  The seventh day is to be given over especially for the worship of God with other Christians, but works of mercy and necessity are also allowed.

            Jesus explained that though His Father stopped creating on the seventh day, He did not become inactive – otherwise, everything would have fallen apart – God was sustaining and providing for all those things He created.  Therefore, since His Father did such works on the Sabbath, it was right for Him to do such works on the Sabbath, because He and the Father are equal – They are the same One God.

            This threw the Pharisees into a rage:  not only was Jesus breaking the Sabbath Law – as they interpreted it – He was committing blasphemy in saying that He is God – He deserved the death penalty.

            If the Lord is willing, we will look at Jesus’ response to the Pharisees claim that He committed blasphemy over the next two weeks. 

            Let us turn to our text:

            “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.  For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.’

First, the Father and the Son are the same Being.

Let us notice first off that Jesus says, “Truly, Truly, I say to you.”  Let us remember that repetition in Hebrew is for emphasis, so when a sentence starts, “Truly, truly, I say to you,” what is being said is:  “What I am about to say is very important – make sure you listen.”

Then, let us notice that this is a passage that the ancient Arians and their descendants – like the Jehovah’s Witnesses – grab on to.  These heresies teach that Jesus – the Incarnate Son of God – is a lesser being that God the Father.  They say that Jesus is a created being, not the Creator.  They say Jesus is the incarnation of another being – such as the angel Michael – not God Himself.  But they interpret this passage incorrectly.

They look at it and see that it says that Jesus cannot do anything of His own accord – He can only do what He sees the Father doing.  Therefore, they wrongly conclude, Jesus is less than God.

What was Jesus saying?

The Pharisees had accused Jesus, saying that He had sinned by healing – working – on the Sabbath.  Jesus explained that God the Father stopped one type of work on the Sabbath – creating – but continued works of mercy and necessity.

Therefore, just as the Father did works of mercy and necessity on the Sabbath, so did Jesus.

In saying that He could do “nothing of His own accord,” Jesus – the Son – was saying He could do nothing against the Will of the Father; all that Son can do is what the Father does, because Jesus – the Son – and the Father are equal – They are the same One God – They are the same One Being.

Jesus was saying that He was not sinning against the Father because He and the Father are the same Being – it is not possible for Him to do something against Himself, and it is only possible for Him to do those things which He can do and wills to do.

Jesus was saying that the Father and the Son and united in Their action and Their Will – what They desire to do and what They do are the same because They are the same One Being.

It’s similar to the idea of my saying I can do nothing of my own accord, but only what I see Peter A. Butler, Jr. doing.  I can only do those things that I do, because I am the same person as Peter A. Butler, Jr.  (Of course this is not a perfect example, but, hopefully the idea that “the Father and the Son can only do the same thing because They are the same Being” will get across.)

Jesus began by telling the Pharisees to listen very carefully because what He is saying is very important:  He did not sin, because the Father and the Son are the same Being and can only act uniformly – in the same way.  The Father and the Son cannot act against One Another, so the Son cannot act against the Father.  Everything the Son does is according to the Will of the Father – not because the Son is inferior to the Father, but because the Father and the Son are the same One Being.

The Father loves the Son because They are united in Their Being and what They desire and what They do.

Jesus continued:

‘And greater works that these will he show him, so that you may marvel.  For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, so also the Son gives life to whomever he will.  The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father,  Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life.’

Second, the Father and the Son are distinct Persons.

Jesus told the Pharisees that they would see greater works that the simple healing of a lame man – works that are so great that they will marvel at what has been done.

Jesus explained that the Father and the Son are both the Author of Life.  However, the Father raises the dead and gives them life, and the Son gives life to whomever He will.

Later, we read, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6, ESV).

How do you become right with God, sinner?

How do you rise from spiritual death?

How do you live through the judgment at the end of the age?

Through believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that God the Son came to earth in the person of Jesus, lived a perfect life under God’s Law – gave all those who will believe the credit of that perfect and holy life, died – praying the debt for the sins of everyone who would ever believe in Him, physically rising from the dead, and ascending back to His throne at the right hand of the Father.

God in the Person of the Father has made the requirement of reconciliation with Him – being made right with Him – believing and receiving the work of His Incarnate Son.  Jesus said there is absolutely no other way to be right with God – it is utterly impossible to become right with God in any other way.  No matter how much truth any other religion has in it, without Jesus, the Son of God, and His Gospel, it is impossible to be right with God.

And when Jesus says it is impossible – He doesn’t mean that there are very few ways.  He doesn’t mean you can believe some part of the Gospel.  He doesn’t mean you can believe in a religion that is similar or makes you live a “good” life.  There is no other way.

God the Father gave each of us life, and God the Son raises all we who believe to life through faith in Him and His Gospel Alone.  Two Persons – One Purpose.

Then, Jesus tells them that the Father is not the Judge at the End of the Age, the Son is.  The Person of the Son has been given the right to judge all who have ever lived throughout time and space.

The reason that Person of the Son is the Judge is so all will honor the Son in the same way and to the same degree that they honor the Father – that is because the Father and the Son are different Persons, but the same One God. 

So, anyone who does not honor the Son, Pharisees, does not honor the Father.  If you despise the Son, you despise the Father.  If you do not believe that Jesus is God the Son and Savior, you do not believe in the One Sovereign and Almighty God and Father of all we who believe.  If you do not believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you do not believe in God.

And we think, “That’s not very nice to say.”

Perhaps we think, “That’s not fair.”

I have a friend who says, “God doesn’t care what we believe, so long as we believe something and try to be good people.”

That sounds nice, doesn’t it?  But can we apply it to any other area in life?

If you are at college and get every answer wrong on your exam, would you go to your professor and say that you really thought you deserved an “A,” because, even though you go all the answers wrong, you studied and answered every question?

If you have a job and you managed to drive people away and give them the wrong change and sell things for the wrong price and make a disaster out of your bosses’ business, would you dare go to your boss and ask for a raise, because, even though you have put him on the edge of bankruptcy, you interacted with the people and did the best you could?

Someone might say, “Well, those are not the same at all – you’re talking about grades in school and competency at work…”

You’re right – these are not the same things.  And we have sense enough to know that these exams and that poor performance at work would get you booted out.  Yet we still say we can stand before the Almighty God and say that we sinned against You and rejected Your salvation, but we want to be received into Your Kingdom because – compared with Your Holiness and Your Word – we were “good enough”?

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you” – “Listen to Me, this is important” – if you believe that I am God the Son that the Father sent to incarnate for the salvation of all those who will believe, you will have eternal life.  If you do not you will die and be judged and suffer the Wrath of God for all of eternity.

And He continued:

            “‘Truly, truly I say to you, and hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.  And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.  Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in their tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.’”

            Third, how we respond now is linked to Jesus’ response at the judgment.

            Again, Jesus says, “Truly, truly I say to you” – “this is very important – listen up – don’t miss what I am saying.”

            Jesus talks about two different hours in this section:

            First, there is an hour that is coming and is now here.

            This hour is when the Son will raise the dead by His voice.  The dead will rise as Jesus – the Incarnate Son – preaches the Word.

            This first hour – which began with the Incarnate Son’s preaching the Gospel – is the Word-based spiritual resurrection.  Although Jesus did raise some from physical death during His time on earth – all of those He physically resurrected died again.  God the Son’s coming to earth in the Person of Jesus was the hour for the spiritual resurrection of souls through the preaching of the Gospel.

            This hour continues today and continues until the day that Jesus returns to judge at the End of the Age.  Now is the time to preach the Gospel, and – as God is pleased – all those who believe spiritually rise from the dead, never to taste the second death.

            Jesus explained that just as the Father has life in Himself – calling all things into life that live, the Father has given the Son to also have life in Himself – specifically to bring all those the Father has chosen to spiritual life through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus.

            John speaks about this symbolically in the book of Revelation:

            “Then I saw the thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed.  Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their forehead or their hands.  They came to reign with Christ for a thousand years.  The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.  This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection!  Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4-6, ESV).

            What was John telling the Christians throughout the empire suffering under the oppressive rule of Rome?  (Remember, the book of Revelation is written in first-century symbols, and it is a book of comfort.)

            Jesus is reigning sovereignly now with all those who believe in Him savingly – even those who are put to death by Rome – or anyone else – for refusing to worship the emperor – or any other false god.  Those who die believing in Christ reign with Him from the time of Christ’s Ascension until He returns to judge the world.  These are those who have received the first resurrection – and the second death – being condemned to eternal suffering under the Wrath of God – cannot possibly happen to those who have died savingly believing in Jesus and His Gospel.

            Jesus told the Pharisees – and all who have ears to hear – now is the time to hear the Gospel and believe in the Savior God sent.  Now is the time to believe and be right with God.  No matter what may happen to you – no matter how much you may suffer – even if you are put to death for Christ – now is the time to believe in Him – and should you die before He returns – you will reign with Him in His Kingdom and you will never be subject to the second death of eternal Hell.

            Second, there is an hour that will come and has not come yet.

            When this hour comes, the authority that the Father has given to the Son will be executed:  Jesus will sit on His throne and judge every person who has ever lived throughout time and space.

            And Jesus told the Pharisees why God gave Him the authority to judge all those who ever live:  Jesus is the prophesied Son of Man.  He is that Messianic figure that the prophets said would come to make the way of salvation for all those who will believe.

            Jesus told the Pharisees – not only am I the Son of God – the same God – the same Being – as God the Father, though a distinct Person – I am the prophesied Savior – the Only Way to be right with God – and I am the Judge of all peoples at the End of the Age.

            Jesus explained that when He returns, everyone who has ever lived will be physically resurrected from the dead – the ashes and molecules of persons will be reunited, the flesh will come back upon the bones, everyone from Adam until the one who took his or her last breath before Jesus appeared triumphant in the clouds before the whole world will come back to life in his or her physical body and stand before Jesus for judgment.

            And we must be careful to keep all of Scripture in context – Jesus said that “those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”

            Is Jesus saying something like “he who has the most toys wins”?  Of course not.

            We understand that all people are born sinners, unable to do good in the eyes of God – we are born spiritually dead.  The only way a person can do any good in the eyes of God is if that person has been born a second time – if he has been saved – if he has believed savingly in Jesus.

            So we see throughout the Scripture that only those who believe savingly in Jesus can do good and receive the resurrection of life, and everyone else has done evil – the only thing we can do in our natural and fallen state, meriting the resurrection of judgment.

            John portrays this day symbolically as well:

            “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it.  From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  Then another book was opened, which is the book of life.  And the dead were judged by what is written in the books, according to what they had done.  And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.  Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the second dead, the lake of fire.  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15, ESV).

            In the first part of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees about His healing on the Sabbath and saying that He is equal with God:

            Jesus said that what He did was right, because God the Father was not inactive on the first Sabbath, and He is the same One God Who created everything that is.

            Jesus explained that though there is only One God, the Father and the Son are two distinct Persons of the One God and They are equal in all ability and authority and will.

            Still, Jesus explained, as separate Persons, the Members of the Godhead have different, but interrelated roles.  And it is the Son Who will judge everyone throughout space and time at the End of the Age.  All those who believe savingly in Jesus and His Gospel reign with Jesus now and will not suffer the second death through the Judgment.  However, all those who reject Jesus and His Gospel are eternally damned.

            Let us pray:

            Almighty God, we acknowledge that You are One God in Three Persons:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  You are One God, and You are Three distinct Persons.  Help us to believe this and rest in the truth You have told us, though our minds are so small.  Comfort us with the knowledge that we are forever saved with Jesus, our God and Savior, and help us both to suffer for Your sake with joy and look forward to Jesus’ return, even as we urgently plead with the world to believe the Gospel and repent of their sins.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.