I receive several phone calls each year from people — some of them ministers — asking me if I think we are in the Tribulation yet. I always respond by telling them that when the Tribulation begins, the people who are on earth will not have to call anyone to find out for sure whether or not it has begun. The Tribulation will be a living hell with a degree of violence that is unparalleled in all of history.
The Bible gives us a lot of information about this horrible period of seven years that is fast approaching. The entire book of Zephaniah is devoted to it. In addition to many other Old Testament passages, like Isaiah 24, fourteen chapters in the book of Revelation focus on it (Revelation 6-19). But despite all this information, there are many myths concerning the Great Tribulation that circulate among Christians. For example, many argue that the first half of this time period will be peaceful and that only the second half will be characterized by intense warfare. Other misconceptions relate to the Antichrist and the Church.
The Biblical Basis
Before we consider some of these myths and misconceptions, let’s familiarize ourselves with the concept of the Tribulation. Where does the idea come from, and what does it mean?
The first mention of the Tribulation in the Bible is found in Deuteronomy 4:27-30. Before the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land, Moses warned them that if they were unfaithful to God, they would be scattered among the nations. He then prophesied that “in the latter days” they would come under “distress,” and the result would be their “return to the Lord.”
Centuries later, Jeremiah used the same terminology when he referred to the Tribulation. He called it “the time of Jacob’s distress” (Jeremiah 30:7). In like manner, Daniel called it “the time of distress,” and he prophesied it would be the worst period of trouble in the history of the Jewish people (Daniel 12:1). Malachi stated it would be a time of refining for the Jews, as when silver is purified by fire (Malachi 3:1-4). And Zechariah used the same imagery when he prophesied that two-thirds of the Jewish people will perish during this time. Of the remnant remaining, he wrote, “I [the Lord] will bring the third part through the fire [and] refine them as silver is refined…” (Zechariah 13:8-9).
The Jews will not be the only ones to suffer during this period of unparalleled trouble. The Bible makes it clear that all the nations of the world will experience catastrophic calamities.
Isaiah says it will be “a day of reckoning” for all the nations of the world (Isaiah 2:10-17). Zephaniah says that “all the earth will be devoured in the fire of God’s jealousy” (Zephaniah 1:18). Here’s how the psalmist Asaph put it: “A cup is in the hand of the Lord, and the wine foams… surely, all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs” (Psalm 75:8).
The prophet Daniel defined the length of the Tribulation. He said God would accomplish all His purposes for the Jewish people during a period of 70 weeks of years (490 years). Sixty-nine of those weeks of years (483 years) would lead up to the death of the Messiah. The final week of years would occur at the end of the age, right before the return of the Messiah (Daniel 9:24-27). This concluding week of years (7 years) corresponds to the Tribulation for, as Daniel put it, it will mark the time when “the prince who is to come” will “make desolate” — a reference to the Antichrist.
The timing established by Daniel is confirmed in the book of Revelation where the Tribulation is divided into two periods of 3 1/2 years each (Revelation 11:3,7 and 13:5). The dividing point between the two halves of the Tribulation will occur when the Antichrist reveals himself by entering the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, stopping the sacrifices, and declaring himself to be god (Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; and Revelation 13:5-6).
The Starting Point
When will this terrible period begin? The Bible says in general terms that it will start after the Jews have been regathered and have been re-established in their homeland and in their sacred city of Jerusalem.
Specifically, the Bible says it will begin at a time when all the world comes together against Israel over the issue of who will control the city of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:2-3). In short, we are on the very threshold of the Tribulation today as we witness the United Nations, the European Union, the Vatican, and the Arab nations demanding that the Jews surrender their sovereignty over Jerusalem.
The specific event that will mark the seven year count down of the Tribulation will be the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and her Arab enemies — a treaty that will allow the Jews to rebuild their Temple (Daniel 9:27).
The unparalleled horror of the Tribulation is spelled out in detail in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. Isaiah wrote that it will be a day of “terror of the Lord” when “the pride of men will be abased” (Isaiah 2:10,17,19). Zephaniah proclaimed that it will be a “day of wrath,” “a day of trouble and distress,” and “a day of destruction and desolation” (Zephaniah 1:15). Men will stumble around like they are blind and “their blood will be poured out like dust” (Zephaniah 1:17).
This dreary picture is echoed in the New Testament. Jesus said it will be a time of tribulation “such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall” (Matthew 24:21). In fact, Jesus said it will be so terrible that if it were not stopped at the end of seven years, it would result in the destruction of all life (Matthew 24:22). The Apostle John states that the chaos will be so great that the leaders of the world will crawl into caves and cry out for the rocks of the mountains to fall upon them (Revelation 6:15-16).
With this biblical background, let’s turn our attention now to some of the misconceptions that exist regarding the Tribulation. Five of the major ones that I would identify are listed below:
The Antichrist will rise to world power through cunning, flatter, and deception.
The whole world will flock to the Antichrist in awe and adoration.
The Jews will accept the Antichrist as their Messiah.
There will be 3 1/2 years of peace followed by 3 1/2 years of war.
The Antichrist will be the most brilliant and effective leader in world history.
The Antichrist’s Rise to Power
The idea that the Antichrist will rise to world power through shrewdness and skilled diplomacy is based on Daniel 8:23-25a. These verses say a king will arise who is “skilled in intrigue” and who “will succeed through the practice of deceit.”
But the same passage also says that he “will destroy to an extraordinary degree.” He will destroy both “mighty men and the people of the saints.” Many of these he will destroy “while they are at peace” (Daniel 8:24-25a).
These verses make it very clear that the Antichrist is going to use both diplomacy and military power to gain control of the world. The likeliest scenario is that he will initially rise to power in Europe through the use of shrewd diplomacy. But he will extend his power from his European base through war.
The World’s “Acceptance” of the Antichrist
I believe his conquering of the world through the use of military power is what is pictured in Revelation 6:1-8. This passage pictures the Antichrist going forth at the beginning of the Tribulation with a bow “to conquer.” A red horse representing war “takes peace from the earth.” The result is widespread suffering and the death of one-fourth of humanity by the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts.
It is a misconception to believe the non-European world will flock to the Antichrist in awe and adoration. The world outside of Europe is not going to submit willingly to the control of the Antichrist, no matter how charismatic and dynamic he may be.
Keep in mind that the nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America have fought for the past 200 years to rid themselves of European colonial rule. They are not going to passively submit themselves to a renewal of that rule. They will fight, and the result, as Revelation 6 so clearly indicates, will be a horrible world war of unprecedented magnitude.
Acceptance of the Antichrist by the Jews
The idea that the Jews will accept the Antichrist as their Messiah during the Tribulation is based upon a statement by Jesus that is recorded in John 5:43. Jesus said, “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another shall come in his own name, you will receive him.”
But the relevant end time passages in Daniel and Revelation seem to make it clear that the acceptance of the Antichrist by the Jews will be as a political redeemer who miraculously works out a peace settlement what will guarantee their safety and will enable them to rebuild their Temple.
There is no indication that they ever accept the Antichrist as a spiritual redeemer — as their Messiah. In fact, when the Antichrist enters the Temple in the middle of the Tribulation and declares himself to be God, the Jews revolt against him (Revelation 12:13-17).
When the revolt occurs, the Antichrist becomes obsessed with annihilating the Jewish people. That is when the “great tribulation” spoken of my Jesus in Matthew 24 will begin.
The Tribulation Holocaust that will occur during the last 3 1/2 years of that terrible period will be far worse than the Nazi Holocaust. Two-thirds of the Jews will be killed (Zechariah 13:8-9). The Antichrist will be possessed by Satan (Daniel 8:24), and Satan is determined to annihilate the Jews.
Satan’s obsession with the Jews stems from the fact that he hates them with a passion. He hates them because they gave the world the Bible. He hates them because the Messiah came through them. He hates them because God loves them, and because God chose them to be a witness of what it means to have a relationship with Him. And Satan hates the Jews because God has promised over and over in His Word that at the end of the Tribulation, He is going to bring a great remnant to salvation through faith in their Messiah, Yeshua (Romans 9-11).
The First Half of the Tribulation
Another misconception relates to the nature of the first half of the Tribulation. Many believe that this period of 3 1/2 years is going to be a time of peace that will be followed by 3 1/2 years of war. Some feel so strongly about this that they use the word, Tribulation, to apply only to the second half of the seven year period.
This view is based primarily on a statement Jesus made that is recorded in Matthew 24. According to this passage, Jesus referred to the last half of Daniel’s 70th week of years as “the great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21). But it must be kept in mind that these words of Jesus were directed specifically to the Jewish people.
The second half of the Tribulation will truly be the “time of great tribulation” for the Jews. That’s because they will live in peace during the first half of the Tribulation under a covenant guaranteed by the Antichrist. During that time, the Antichrist will be focused on conquering the world. Once he has accomplished that goal — as he will (Revelation 13:7-8) — he will go to Jerusalem, enter the Temple, stop the sacrifices, and desecrate the Temple by erecting a statue of himself (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
The Jewish people will be outraged and will respond in a revolt. When they do this, the Antichrist will become obsessed with destroying them. That will be his primary goal during the second half of the Tribulation.
So, to summarize, the Jews will live in peace during the first half of the Tribulation, but not the Gentile nations of the world. The wars of the Antichrist will devastate the world. One-fourth of humanity will die in the initial war (Revelation 6:8). That’s 1.5 billion people in today’s terms. According to Revelation 8 and 9, when the war resumes, one-third of those left alive will die (another 1.5 billion).
The first half of the Tribulation is going to be anything but a time of peace. It will, instead, be a time of unimaginable carnage, for one-half of humanity will die in the first 3 1/2 years!
The Quality of the Antichrist’s Leadership
The erroneous concept that the Antichrist will be the world’s most brilliant and glorious leader is based on Revelation 13:7 where it says he will gain authority over “every tribe, people, tongue and nation” on planet earth — something no other person has ever done.
But the evidence of prophecy points to the fact that his reign will be anything but brilliant and glorious.
For example, his conquest of the world will devastate the earth. It will be like Napoleon’s “victory” in Russia — he will win the battle and lose the war. The Antichrist will end up with a world that is devastated and polluted beyond imagination. Furthermore, the world’s subservience to him and worship of him will be based to a large degree on force, deception, and terror — not just genuine admiration.
Also, his obsession with the Jews will undermine his kingdom and ultimately lead to its destruction. Daniel 11:40-45 indicates that when his attention is diverted to the destruction of the Jews, a worldwide revolt will break out against his kingdom. Nations will send armies against him from the North, East and South.
The Antichrist may prove to be a successful military conqueror, but he will be a miserable leader whose world wide empire will last only 3 1/2 years — and during that time, it will be constantly ravaged by internal revolt.
A Misconception Concerning the Church
Another popular misconception about the Tribulation is that the Church will go through it and suffer mightily at the hands of the Antichrist. This concept is based upon verses like Revelation 13:7 which says that the Antichrist will “make war with the saints.”
But I believe the saints referred to here are those who are saved during the Tribulation. There is going to be a great harvest of souls during the Tribulation. Some will be saved in response to the Rapture. Others will respond to the preaching of the Two Witnesses in Jerusalem (Revelation 11). The response of others will be stimulated by the Tribulation judgments which will motivate many to repent. Still others will respond to the special angel who will be sent by God near the end of the Tribulation to proclaim the Gospel to every living creature (Revelation 14:6-7). Many will be saved, but most of these will be martyred for their faith (Revelation 7:9-17).
There is no purpose for the Church during the Tribulation. This will be a time of God’s judgment upon the unbelieving Gentiles and Jews who have rejected God’s grace, love and mercy expressed in Jesus.
Some argue that the Church must go through the Tribulation to be purged or cleansed. But the true Church has already been purified by the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 John 1:7; and Romans 8:1). The Tribulation is not a Protestant purgatory.
The symbolic imagery of the New Testament focuses on the Church as being the Bride of Christ. Is the Bridegroom going to beat up His Bride for seven years before He comes for her? I think not. The Bible says that Jesus is coming to deliver His Bride from the wrath that is to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Also, Revelation 19:8 and 14 pictures Jesus returning with His Church at the end of the Tribulation, indicating the Redeemed will be taken out of this world before the Tribulation begins.
Revelation focuses on the Church in its first three chapters. Beginning with chapter 4, there is no more mention of the Church during the entire period of the Tribulation. The Church is not referred to again until Revelation 22:16.
What’s it all about? Why is there going to be such carnage? How could a God of grace, mercy and love allow such an outbreak of unbridled terror and bloodshed?
One reason is to satisfy the justice of God. Yes, God is characterized by grace, mercy and love, but He is also a God of perfect justice, righteousness, and holiness. There fore, He must deal with sin. His justice demands it. Even His love compels it. How could a God of true love simply overlook the actions of a murderer or a pedophile?
The prophet Nahum understood the true nature of God. He wrote that “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him” (Nahum 1:7). That is the love and mercy of God. But the same prophet wrote (Nahum 1:2-3):
“A jealous and avenging God is the Lord; The Lord is avenging and wrathful. The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, And the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.”
Truly, the Lord is “slow to anger.” He allows the iniquities of Mankind to accumulate over long periods of time because He doesn’t wish that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). His desire, instead, is that all should come to repentance. But there is always a day of reckoning, just as there was in the days of Noah, and such a day has been set for this age. Paul referred to it in his sermon in Athens when he said, “He [God] has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31).
A second reason for the Tribulation is to bring people to salvation. Amazingly, even when God pours out His wrath, His fundamental purpose is not to destroy but to save. Isaiah 26:9 explains it this way: “When the earth experiences Your judgments, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.”
The brutal fact is that God often has to hit us over the head with a two-by-four in order to get our attention and motivate us to repentance. The equally brutal fact is that most people respond to such discipline by either cursing God or continuing to ignore Him (Revelation 9:20-21). But some people always respond in humility and are saved. As Billy Graham has put it: “The same sun that melts the butter, hardens the clay.”
When God’s wrath is poured out during the Tribulation, some hearts will be melted, but most will be hardened, illustrating once again that nothing is as “deceitful” and “desperately sick” as the heart of Man (Jeremiah 17:9).
Man is frivolous about sin. God is serious. The Tribulation will be a graphic expression of how serious God is about Mankind’s rebellion against Him.
The signs of the times are shouting that we are standing on the threshold of the Tribulation. The message of the Holy Spirit is “Come out of Babylon” (Revelation 18:4). That message means for us to separate ourselves from the love of this world and prepare ourselves for eternity. For believers, it means a commitment to holiness. For unbelievers it means a commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior before He returns as God’s avenger.
The time remaining is short. The time for action is now.
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)
The power at Pentecost was symbolized by wind and fire. The power was vocalized as the disciples were speaking in strange languages that they’d never learned. And then this power was actualized as seen in verse 4: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” This is the abiding miracle of Pentecost.
Sometimes people say we need another Pentecost. We should be careful. We couldn’t have another Pentecost without an indoor cyclone and tongues of fire sitting on every head. It’s not another Pentecost that we need. We don’t need another Pentecost any more than we need another Bethlehem or another Calvary. Bethlehem is God with us, Calvary is God for us, and Pentecost is God in us. We need to enjoy Bethlehem, enjoy Calvary, and enjoy Pentecost. Pentecost was a special day; it was the birthday of the Church. And the miracles that were given—the mighty rushing wind and the flames of fire—these things were illustrative of the mighty power, the filling of the Spirit of God.
What is true for believers today that was true for the believers at Pentecost?
How do we neglect our access to the Holy Spirit within us when we only seek new signs and wonders of God’s power in our lives?
Make a list of the ways your life is impacted by having access to the Holy Spirit every day.
Our Master Yeshua rose from the dead on the first day of the Omer. He appeared to his apostles “during forty days” (Acts 1:3), after which “he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).
His disciples saw him ascend on the fortieth day of the Omer, ten days before Shavu’ot. Before he ascended, he told them, “Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8).
To get the full impact of the story of Yeshua’s ascension, you need to know the story of the ascension of Elijah. At my home community, Beth Immanuel Messianic Synagogue in beautiful, historic Hudson, Wisconsin, (in years when we are not under quarantine), we have several long-standing Ascension Day traditions. On the eve of the fortieth day of the Omer, the men of the community gather for an evening of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and some story-telling and inspirational teaching. In the morning, the community gathers for an early synagogue prayer service. We augment the regular liturgy with a recitation of the Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134). Naturally, we read the story of the ascension of Yeshua (Luke 24:44-54; Acts 1:1-12), but we also read the story of the ascension of Elijah (2 Kings 2:1-18).
When Elijah was about to ascend, he said to his disciple Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.”
Elisha replied, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” By asking for a double portion, Elisha asked to receive the right of firstborn among the disciples of Elijah. According to the Torah, a firstborn son receives a double portion of his father’s inheritance. If a man died and left behind four sons, his inheritance would be divided into five parts. The firstborn son would receive two shares, and the remaining sons one share each.
In the story of the ascension of Elijah, his disciples are called “sons of the prophets.” Elisha asked to be designated the firstborn through the gift of a double portion of the Spirit of God that rested on his master. He wanted to receive a double portion of the Holy Spirit.
Elijah said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.”
Elisha does see Elijah go up as he is taken from him. He sees him ascend in a whirlwind, as if in a chariot of fire. Elijah’s mantle falls behind him. Elisha picks it up and strikes the Jordan River with it, asking, “Where is the God of Elijah?” When the water splits, the other sons of the prophets all exclaim, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha,” and they prostrate themselves before him.
This story explains the significance of Ascension Day and its connection to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit ten days later on the day of Shavu’ot. Before Yeshua ascended, he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high” and the Holy Spirit had come upon them. He referred to the same Holy Spirit of HaShem that had rested upon him since his immersion in the Jordan River, several years earlier. After his ascension, he intended to bequeath that Spirit to his disciples.
The book of Acts explicitly states that the disciples saw Yeshua ascend, “As they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And … they were gazing into heaven as he went” (Acts 1:9-10). The meaning is not just to say that the disciples saw the miracle but that they saw Yeshua ascend just as Elisha saw Elijah ascend. By pointing out that the disciples saw the miracle with their own eyes, the writer of the book of Acts wants his readers to realize that Yeshua’s disciples stood to receive a double-portion of the Spirit that had rested upon Yeshua, just as Elisha received a double portion of the Spirit that rested upon Elijah. The eleven disciples who saw him ascend were to receive the firstborn’s share, so to speak.
The disciples returned to Jerusalem and waited as the Master instructed them, and they remained “continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:53) until the day of Shavu’ot when they received the double portion. “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1).
This year, I’m going to miss celebrating Ascension Day with brothers and sisters. Nevertheless, even while “sheltering at home,” we will still mark the fortieth day of the Omer by reading the Psalms of Ascent, the story of the ascension of Yeshua, and the story of the ascension of Elijah. I want to invite the rest of the Messianic Jewish world to join us in doing so as we wait for “this Yeshua, who was taken up from you into heaven” to “come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Let’s observe Ascension Day as the beginning of the last ten days of the count-off to Shavu’ot when we anticipate reliving the miracle of the outpouring of God’s Spirit.
Christians have debated for centuries over whether a truly saved person can lose their salvation. Probably the strongest Biblical passage for that position is Hebrews 6:4-6. This is what the text says,
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
Now, exactly what does this passage mean? It seems to indicate that a saved person who has experienced all the blessings in vs.4-5 can in the end fall away and be lost. In this blog I want to refer you to two principles of Biblical interpretation:
1) Remember that Scripture will never contradict Scripture; and
2) Remember that context rules
Scripture Will Never Contradict Scripture:
That first rule of interpretation about Scripture not contradicting Scripture comes into play because there are other passages in Hebrews which seem to teach the opposite position. Let’s take a look at a few other passages which seem to teach that a born again Christian can’t lose their salvation, because they will persevere in faith to the end.
For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end (Heb. 3:14)
This text speaks about something that has already taken place (have become partakers of Christ) if the following condition is met (we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end). The text is not saying that we will become a partaker of Christ if we go on to hold fast the assurance of our faith until the end. Rather, we have already become partakers of Christ if we go on to persevere in faith. Thus, a person who does not hold fast their assurance firm until the end never became a partaker of Christ. Thus Hebrews 3:14 seems to be saying the exact opposite of Hebrews 6:4-6. Now, two mutually exclusive positions can not both be true. Either one of them is wrong, or both are wrong, but both can’t be true. Either it is possible for a true believer to fall away and lose their salvation, or it is not possible for a true believer to fall away and lose their salvation, but it is one or the other.
Furthermore, Hebrews 10:14 says, For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (ESV).
If it is true that Jesus’ offering up of Himself on the cross has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified, then it is not possible for those same persons to fall away and lose their salvation. For those who are indwelt, regenerated and sanctified by the Spirit, they possess a perfect standing before God based on the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, and it is “for all time”! They were not perfected until they fall away, but for all time.
Hebrews 13:20-21 tells us,
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen
This text mentions the “eternal covenant.” Well, in Jeremiah 32:40 we also read of the “everlasting covenant”, which I would presume refers to the same thing. What is the nature of the everlasting covenant?
I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.
This covenant includes two things:
1) God will not turn away from them to do them good; and
2) Those with whom this everlasting covenant is made will not turn away from God because God will put the fear of Him in their hearts.
Now, if God promises that He will never turn away from them, and that they will never turn away from Him, what is our only conclusion? That these people will never fall away and be lost.
I’ve said all of this to highlight our first principle of Biblical interpretation – “remember that Scripture will never contradict Scripture.” It appears that Scripture is contradicting Scripture. But that’s just it. It must be only an appearance of a contradiction. Our understanding of one or more of these texts must be wrong, because God who inspired all of these texts is a God of truth, and doesn’t contradict Himself. So what are we to do? We need to go back to the drawing room, and decide if we have understood Hebrews 6:4-6 correctly.
In order to do that, let’s utilize our second rule of Biblical interpretation – “remember that context rules.” So, let’s go back and look at the context of this passage to see if we can uncover any clues as to its proper interpretation.
Hebrews 5:11-14 – in this section we discover several things about the recipients of this letter.
1) they were dull of hearing
2) they should have advanced to teachers by then
3) instead they needed someone to teach them the elementary principles of the Word of God
4) they were spiritual infants and unable to consume anything except for milk
5) they were spiritually immature.
Now, remember the whole situation in which this letter was written. The Letter to the Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were being tempted to forsake Christ and go back to Judaism. That’s why all the way through the author keeps emphasizing the word “better.” Christ is better than the angels, better than Moses, better than the Aaronic priesthood, He brings in a better covenant, a better hope, better promises, and is a better sacrifice. The author of this letter is urging these new Jewish believers not to forsake Christ and go back to Judaism, for that would mean their spiritual destruction.
Hebrews 6:1-3 – Here the author exhorts his readers to press on to maturity (vs. 1). In other words, they must make progress in their faith. They should have been at the point where they could be teaching others, but were still spiritual babies. They needed to mature.
Hebrews 6:4-6 – Notice that vs. 4 begins with the word “for”, which tells us that the author is giving us a reason why the readers must press on to maturity. It is because if they have received great and precious privileges and blessings, and then have fallen away, they are lost forever. This is a very serious and solemn passage. The author of Hebrews is urgently exhorting his readers to mature in their faith and bear fruit of their salvation, because it is possible that some of them who do not do this may “fall away” and prove that they were never truly saved to begin with.
But you might be thinking, “Brian, how in the world can verses 4-5 be speaking of a person who is not truly saved? Well, let’s look at them. What are these great blessings they had experienced?
2) Tasted of the heavenly gift (probably the gift of the Holy Spirit- Acts 2:38)
3) Partakers of the Holy Spirit
4) Tasted the good word of God
5) Tasted the powers of the age to come
Notice that these readers had “tasted” several of these blessings. Is it possible for someone to taste something, swish it around in their mouth for a while, and then spit it out? Of course it is. No doubt these readers were participating in a Christian church in which the gospel was preached (enlightened, tasted the good word of God), and the power of the Holy Spirit was manifest (tasted the heavenly gift, partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the powers of the age to come). So, if we were to boil down these blessings we could reduce them to two – the gospel was proclaimed and the Spirit was working. And these professing Christians had continually heard the Word and seen the Spirit work. Yet, there was still the possibility that they could “fall away” and find it impossible to be renewed again to repentance.
Many find the expression “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance” to be ironclad proof that these people were truly saved. After all, they had already repented. However, in 2 Cor. 7:10 Paul says, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Evidently there are two kinds of sorrow – one leading to salvation and the other leading to death. Just as there is a saving faith which ushers in a life of good works, and a non-saving faith which does not usher in good works, so there is a true repentance which leads to salvation and a worldly repentance which is merely regret for the misery their sin has caused them.
The author goes on to say, “since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” Note the little word “and.” These people had once put the Son of God to open shame by valuing other things of the world more than Him. Then they professed faith in Christ and conversion. If they fell away after that, they would be doing the same thing they had done originally, by showing that they valued the rituals and laws of Judaism more than Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 6:7-8 – Notice again that vs. 7 begins with the word “for.” That tells us that he is going to explain what he meant in verses 4-6. Here he gives a little parable of two different kinds of fields. Both of these fields received abundant rains. However, only one field brought forth useful vegetation, while the other brought forth only worthless thorns and thistles. The first kind of field receives a blessing from God, while the latter is close to being cursed and ends up being burned. The author is explaining the person in vs. 4-6 who received the abundant rains of hearing the Word of God, and seeing the works of the Spirit. However, if he did not produce fruit in his life his end would be that of being “cursed” and “burned” (Mt.25:41). This brings us to the final piece of context which we need to examine.
Hebrews 6:9-12 – The author says in vs. 9, “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.” The author believed that his readers were the fruitful and blessed field, not the barren and cursed field. Notice how he puts it – “we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation.” Now, what are the “better things” he’s referring to? Fruitfulness and persevering faith! And, notice that these are the things that “accompany salvation.” When an individual receives salvation, he will produce fruit, and he will persevere to the end, which is exactly what Hebrews 3:14; 10:14; 13:20-21 and Jer. 32:40 all teach.
So, to sum up, I believe that Hebrews 6:4-6 is a strong, sobering, warning for any professing Christian who seems to remain in a spiritually immature condition, rather than pressing on to maturity, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, and persevering in faith to the end. To any professing Christian who has heard the Word of God continually, and seen the powers of the Holy Spirit, and then falls away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. Why? Because they have already received all the light they can receive, and then they have turned their backs on it, and deserted Christ to go back from where they came. They have proven that the things of the world are more valuable to them than Jesus. Thus, repentance becomes impossible for them. [ The author seems to outline an unpardonable sin of falling away which seems to contradict the teaching of the Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-31 ]
I hope this blog is more than an exercise in Biblical Hermeneutics for you. I hope it gives us all a needed and sobering reminder that true saving faith always results in a transformed life, and that we “must show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end (Heb.6:11).” None of us want to hear those terrifying words out of the mouth of our Lord, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness”!
I. Opening Video Information. A Testimony. An Outspoken Jew for Jesus. Dec 3, 2007. The 700 Club. Bob Siegel was a Jew whose mind was poisoned against Jesus at an early age. Then, in college, two strangers shared a message that changed his heart.
II. Subject scripture. Rev 17:5. There are many opinions of this verse. We will discuss the factors of the verse, as well as those of the total 17th Chapter of Revelation. We will consider the worldwide ecumenical religion that is driven by the forces of the antichrist, that will be responsible for the persecution and murder of Jews and Gentiles which choose not to become a follower of this worldwide religion, and will not worship the image of the beast (Rev 13:4-17), but whom come to saving faith in Christ during the tribulation.
A. Revelation 17:5 (NKJV)
5 And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
B. Revelation 17:5 (NAS77)
5. and upon her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”
III. Consider “mystery.”
A. Text. Matthew 13:11 (NAS95)
11 Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.
B. Note. MacArthur Study Bible. the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. “Mysteries” are those truths which have been hidden from all ages in the past and revealed in the NT.
1. Consider “kingdom.” The following verses relate to mysteries being revealed during the time of the Gospels and following times. The Kingdom Of God had been taught to Jews by Old Testament writers. Christ began teaching on the Kingdom Age, which was a mystery to those whom were in His audience of Jews. It was the Gospel of the Kingdom that Christ directed His disciples to teach to Jews (Matt 10:1-8). It is the Gospel of the Kingdom Age that must be taught to all during the tribulation, and will precede the return of Christ to earth at the end of the tribulation (Matt 24:14). It is important to know that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God was taught to Jews prior to his ascension to Heaven (Acts 1:3-7). It is the context of Isa 2:2 (below) that tells of the Kingdom Age (the Kingdom of God). The Gospel of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, with evidence of His being seen (1 Cor 15:1-8), is the “good news” (Gospel) that the apostles and their disciples began to teach to unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, in obedience to Christ’s “great commission” (Acts 1:8, Matt 28:18-20).
2. Consider the “Kingdom Age” mystery, which is also known as the “thousand year” Millennial Reign Of Christ.
a. Isaiah 2:2. (NAS77)
2 In the last days, The mountain of the house of the Lord Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it.
b. Note. MacArthur Study Bible. 2:2 in the latter days. The “latter (or last) days” is a time designation looking forward to the messianic era (Ezek. 38:16; Hos. 3:5; Mic. 4:1).
c. Other Mystery Texts. Mark 4:11; Luke 8:10; Rom 11:25, 16:25. 1 Cor 2:7, 15:51; Eph 1:9, 3:3-4, 3:9, 5:32, 6:19; Col 1:26-27, 2:2, 4:3; 2 Thes 2:7; 1 Tim 3:9, 16; Rev 1:20, 10:7, 17:5, 17:7.
d. Note. 4:11 mystery…parables. A “mystery” in the NT refers to something previously hidden and unknown but revealed in the NT
3. Consider scripture translation of Rev 17:5. “a mystery, Babylon” and “MYSTERY, BABYLON.”
a. Greek Interlinear states, “a mystery” Babylon https://biblehub.com/interlinear/revelation/17-5.htm
b. NIV, NASB, CSB, NET translations state, “a mystery, Babylon.” (The NIV 2011 translation).
c. NKJV, KJV, KJV 2000, American KJV, ASV, ERV translations state, “MYSTERY, BABYLON.”
d. Necessary conclusions.
(1) What is the correct Bible translation that relates to Rev 17:5?
(2) What is the mystery of Babylon?
4. Location Considerations.
a. The city of Babylon.
b. There are 259 OT scriptures that identify the literal place of Babylon. In the NT, the following verses clearly identify the literal location of Babylon (Matt 1:11, 12, 17; Acts 7:43; 1 Pet 5:13; Rev 18:10).
(1) 1 Peter 5:13 (NASB) “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark.”
(2) Rev 18:10, “Babylon, the strong city!” 18:21, “Babylon, the great city.”
IV. Full Text. Revelation 17 (NASB) (Notes taken from MacArthur Study Bible).
A. The Doom of Babylon. Chapters 17, 18 focus on one aspect of those bowl judgments, the judgment of Babylon.
1. Verses 1-7.
1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.” 3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, 5 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” 6 And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly. 7 And the angel said to me, “Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
2. Notes: 17:1-7.
vs 1: “great harlot.” Prostitution frequently symbolizes idolatry or religious apostasy. “sits on many waters.” This picture emphasizes the sovereign power of the harlot. The picture is of a ruler seated on a throne, ruling the waters, which symbolize the nations of the world (see v. 15)
vs 2. “committed fornication.” The harlot will ally herself with the world’s political leaders. Fornication here does not refer to sexual sin, but to idolatry. All the world rulers will be absorbed into the empire of Satan’s false christ. “wine of her fornication.” The harlot’s influence will extend beyond the world’s rulers to the rest of mankind. The imagery does not describe actual wine and sexual sin, but pictures the world’s people being swept up into the intoxication and sin of a false system of religion.
vs 3. “a woman.” The harlot of v. 1, Babylon. “scarlet beast.” The Antichrist, who for a time will support and use the false religious system to effect world unity. Then he will assume political control (cf. v. 16). “having seven heads and ten horns.” This pictures the extent of Antichrist’s political alliances.
vs 5. “forehead.” It was customary for Roman prostitutes to wear a headband with their name on it. The harlot’s forehead is emblazoned with a 3-fold title descriptive of the world’s final false religious system. “MYSTERY.” A NT mystery is truth once hidden, but in the NT revealed. Spiritual Babylon’s true identity is yet to be revealed. Thus, the precise details of how it will be manifested in the world are not yet known. “BABYLON THE GREAT.” This Babylon is distinct from the historical, geographical city of Babylon (which still existed in John’s day). “MOTHER OF HARLOTS.” All false religion stems ultimately from Babel, or Babylon (cf. Gen. 11; see note on 14:8).
vs 6. “the blood of the saints…martyrs of Jesus.” Some see the first group as OT saints, and the second as NT saints—an unimportant distinction since this pictures the martyrs of the Tribulation. John’s point is that the harlot is a murderer. False religion has killed millions of believers over the centuries, and the final false system will be far more deadly than any that preceded it.
vs 7. “mystery.” Not that Babylon is a false system of religion, because that is already known, but that the beast will fully support the harlot and together exert vast influence over the whole earth.
3. Verses 8-13.
8 “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. 9 Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, 10 and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. 11 The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. 12 The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. 13 These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.
4. Notes: Verses 8-13.
vs 8. “The beast.” Both a king and kingdom are referred to by this term. was, and is not, and will ascend. A reference to the Antichrist’s false resurrection (13:3, 4, 12–14). “out of the bottomless pit.” After his “resurrection,” the Antichrist will become possessed by a great demon from the abyss. “perdition.” “Eternal destruction. “This is the lake of fire, the place of Antichrist’s destruction (19:20). “Book of Life.” Written in eternity past by God.
vs 9. “seven mountains.” The Gr. word is often used of hills. the final worldwide system of false religion includes. the 7 mountains in context likely symbolize the 7 kingdoms and their kings of v. 10.
vs 10. “seven kings.” Representatives of the 7 great world empires (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and that of the Antichrist). Cf. Daniel’s image in Dan. 2:37–45. Five have fallen, one is, and the other. When John wrote, the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Greek empires had gone out of existence; Rome still existed; and the Antichrist’s empire had not yet come. When it does, it will be brief (12:12; 13:5) and he will end in perdition.
vs 11. “and is not…the eighth.” The Antichrist’s kingdom is said to be both the seventh and eighth kingdoms because of his supposed demise and resurrection. He is the seventh king before and the eighth king after his “resurrection” when he destroys the harlot’s religious empire and demands exclusive worship of himself (v. 16).
vs 12. “ten kings.” (cf. Dan. 2:41, 42). These kings are sub-rulers under the Antichrist, whose empire will apparently be divided into 10 administrative districts. “no kingdom as yet.” Thus, the kings cannot be identified with any historical figures. “one hour.” Symbolic of the brief 3½ year period of time (cf. 11:2, 3; 12:6, 12, 14; 13:5; 18:10, 17, 19).
B. Victory for the Lamb.
1. Verses 14-18.
14 These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” 15 And he *said to me, “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. 16 And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. 17 For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled. 18 The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
2. Notes. Verses 14-18.
vs 14. “make war.” A reference to the battle of Armageddon (16:14–16), where the Lamb will utterly destroy the kings (19:17–21). “Lord of lords and King of kings.” A title for God (19:16) that emphasizes His sovereignty over all other rulers to whom He has delegated authority.
vs 16. “these will hate the harlot.” After using the false religious system to unify the world kingdoms and gain control of all, the Antichrist—with the help of his 10 sub-rulers—will turn against the system, plunder and destroy it, and seize all power and worship for himself. They will be carrying out God’s will (v. 17). Cf. Gen. 50:20.
vs 18. “great city.” Here is another identification of the capital city of Babylon, centerpiece of Antichrist’s empire.
A. Conclusion 1. “Babylon means Babylon.” The NIV (2011 Translation), NASB, CSB, and NET are correct in their translation of Rev 17:5, “a mystery, Babylon.” The closing video, that is provided by Dr. Andy Woods, provides a clarifying discussion of this subject. Check out my Equipping Site Page, “About Sources,” to see Andy’s credentials, “degrees and linked experiences.”
B. Conclusion 2. The MacArthur note on verse 7 provides the answer to the question about the mystery of the text: “mystery.” Not that Babylon is a false system of religion, because that is already known, but that the beast will fully support the harlot and together exert vast influence over the whole earth.
VI. Closing Video.
A. This video digs deep into the facts that reveal the location of Rev 17 Babylon.
B. Closing Video. This video has a duration of 29:31.
Andy Woods – Revelation (Crash Course) Part IX: Chapter 17-19. Oct 11, 2019. 29:31.
Unravelations. Dr. Andy Woods teaches 10 sessions of 30 minutes covering the entire Book of Revelation. These presentations were featured on the College of Biblical Studies’ TV program entitled “Up With the Son.”
In their book, What If the Bible Had Never Been Written, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe write:
“The impact of the Bible on our culture, on our nation, on world history has been enormous. Author and former Yale professor Williams Lyons Phelps observed, ‘Our civilization is founded upon the Bible. More of our ideas, our wisdom, our philosophy, our literature, our art, and our ideals come from the Bible than from all the other books combined.’
“But what if the Bible had never been written? That’s a frightening thought! And yet, with Christian-bashing the only safe form of bigotry in practice today, it seems that many people wish that were the case.”
Indeed, many do wish that were the case. Last week, various news media carried the shocking story of Portland protesters burning stacks of Bibles and the American flag.
Twitter user Ian Cheong, who posted a video of the Bible burning, asked, “I don’t know what burning the Bible has to do with protesting against police brutality. Do not be under the illusion that these protests and riots are anything but an attempt to dismantle all of Western Civilization and upend centuries of tradition and freedom of religion.”
Amidst the destruction of the sacred Scriptures, there were silent voices which weren’t that way a decade ago when the pastor of Dove World Outreach Center, Terry Jones, announced his plan to burn copies of the Koran.
Then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decried the plan, saying that it was “outrageous and distressful,” and a “disgraceful plan.”
Then-President Barack Obama said of Jones, “I just hope he understands that what he is proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans, that this country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance.”
Crickets. Crickets. Where are these voices today on the burning of Bibles? What does it say about the Democratic Party when its flag bearers are mute on an issue of such significance? Seems the Presidential nominee for the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, is silent too. Does silence equal violence in this case?
No book in human history has suffered more from suppression and the attempt to destroy it than the Bible. Evil men hate it because of its essential goodness. It advocates the rights of the individual, claiming that even the humblest and lowest of society is of the utmost value to God. Its content has always been, and will forever remain, a rebuke and irritant to the tyrannical.
Over and again, throughout the centuries, there have been efforts to get rid of the Bible.
Roman emperors decreed that along with the early church and its sacred writings, the Scriptures should be hunted down and torched.
Later came the nefarious forces inside the church itself that bitterly opposed every effort to translate the Bible into the common language and make it readily available to the masses. The worst of this opposition, unfortunately, came from the religious authorities. Thank God for courageous men like John Wycliffe, the English scholar and theologian, whose purpose was to translate the Bible and get it into the hands of everyone possible. He was so despised for his work and love of the Bible, after his death his body was exhumed and burned.
William Tyndale, who was also well-known for his translation of the Bible from its original languages, was the object of much disdain. He was tied to a stake, strangled with a rope, and then burned. The bishop of London had ordered that every copy of Tyndale’s translation be collected and burned. Nevertheless, the Scriptures and Tyndale’s translation for the commoners survived and would later be immortalized in the King James Version.
Foxes Book of Martyrs tells the stories of a seemingly exhaustive number of people who gave their lives at a time when even the possession of Holy Writ was a crime. Yet despite the persecutions, and the Bible burning that went on in those days, the sacred book lives on.
In more recent years, at least until Portland, the attack on the Bible was less direct, and more of an effort to discredit its content. There have been assaults on its historicity, claims that it is anti-science and full of myths and fables. But repeatedly, contrary to the claims of the so-called experts, the sciences have proven the Bible’s claims, and never successfully disproven any of them.
John Clifford’s poem, The Anvil of God’s Word, has a pointed message for the current generation of Bible haters:
Last eve I paused beside a blacksmith’s door, And I heard the anvil ring the vesper chime; Then looking in, I saw upon the floor, Old hammers worn with beating years of time.
“How many anvils have you had,” said I, “To wear and batter all these hammers so?” “Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye, “The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”
“And so,” I thought, “The Anvil of God’s Word, For ages skeptic blows have beat upon, Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard, “The Anvil is unchanged, the hammers gone.”
The Bible burners in Portland have no concept of the futility to which they set their hands when they literally and symbolically struck a match to its pages.
“What if the Bible had never been written? Consider the implications of such a scenario,” concluded Kennedy and Newcombe. All of these things came about because of the Bible:
“There would be no salvation, no Salvation Army, no YMCA, virtually no charity, no modern science, no Red Cross. There would likely be no hospitals, for hospitals as we know them were born in the Christian era, and Christians have built hundreds of hospitals all over the globe. There would be no universities; they were created in the Middle Ages in order to reconcile Christian theology with the writings of Aristotle. There would probably be no capitalism, no accounting, no free enterprise. Millions of people would have been killed off by STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) – without any kind of inhibition against sexual promiscuity. Literacy and education might well be the exclusive domain of the elite. Many of the languages around the globe would never have been written down because there would have been no motive to do so. Many of the barbarians the world over would have never been civilized. Cannibalism and human sacrifice and the abandonment of children would still be widespread, even as abortion and infanticide plague us as we continue to move away from the Bible. Slavery might still be practiced, as it is in pockets of the world where the Bible is forbidden. And we might not even be in the New World – as Columbus clearly stated, it was the Lord who inspired him to make his historic voyage. If the Bible had never been written, there would be no Wilberforces, no George Washingtons, no Lincolns, no Dantes, no Miltons, no Shakespeare’s, no Dickenses. [We might also add no Frederick Douglas’, no Booker T. Washingtons, no Martin Luther King, Jrs.] Above all, if the Bible had never been written, we would be cut off from God, groping in the darkness and without hope.”
Burning Bibles is not just wishing away its incomparable message on vast subject matter fundamental to human happiness; its not only wishing away what made Americans the most liberated people on record, its the same as wishing away hope!
God forbid that these foolish people would be allowed to deprive us of our hope. The Bible will survive their assaults, but we won’t survive without the Bible.
Rev. Mark H. Creech is executive director of the Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina Inc.
I’ve been meditating on this series that we’re doing on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, of how serious a thing it is to attempt to worship God in a way that He rejects. And I keep going back in my mind to the book of Exodus and in the 32nd chapter of Exodus, while Moses was up on the mountain, getting the law of God, communing with God, people down below made a golden calf, and they had sort of an interesting explanation. When Moses came down and found this golden calf made out of everybody’s gold thrown into a fire, the answer of the people was something like this: “Well, you know, we just threw it all in a fire and – look what came out.” And that was their explanation, that it was some kind of an esoteric experience.
And the Lord spoke to Moses and said, “You’re going to have to go down there because the people have corrupted themselves. They have made for themselves a molten calf and worshipped it, sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’”
This was a total misrepresentation of the nature of God. And it was more than that; it was a total misrepresentation of the work of God because they began to do things that were ungodly, immoral, and ugly around that golden calf, and God called for the slaughter of thousands of them, as you remember, and before the day was over, many thousands died, and a promise came from God that many more thousands would die as well. The point being: You can’t make God into any form you would like Him to fit into. You can’t make God in your own image, according to your own specifications.
And in a sense, that is precisely what has been going on for a number of years now in the so-called Charismatic movement, and particularly, they have not only tampered with God seriously, as the Father, stripping Him of His sovereignty, stripping Him of His absolute authority, they’ve done some serious tampering with the person of Jesus Christ, reducing Him from the all-glorious One that He is, but particularly, they have decided to make a kind of golden calf out of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit in the Charismatic movement is completely unrecognizable when compared with the biblical teaching concerning this third member of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit that they talk about, that they have created, is a golden calf. Oh, it just happened, they just sort of threw themselves into the fires of human experience and look what Holy Spirit came out. And I would submit that no movement in the last 50 years has done more to damage the cause of the gospel, the cause of the kingdom, and the cause of biblical truth than the Charismatic movement. It’s had far-reaching implications.
First of all, that movement, with its aberrant view of God, who is not sovereign, its aberrant view of the gospel, an Armenian view of the gospel, that man can pull himself up by his own bootstraps, and certainly an aberrant view of the Holy Spirit, that movement has demanded acceptance. It has demanded to be accepted in the mainstream of evangelicalism, and largely, evangelicalism has rolled over and said, “Come on, you can get in bed with us, we’re just all one in Christ.” It has demanded acceptance and with the acceptance of the Charismatic movement comes the Trojan Horse, and the Trojan Horse gets inside the city and the horse is opened and the troops are set loose and a myriad of things die. The church is then corrupted by a thousand different attacks, and its discernment is blunted, and its will to expose error is stilted.
And so what happens is the church literally becomes the haven for all kinds of error and all kinds of self-promoters whose brash egotism drives these errors. They have spilled over with that brash egotism into the mainstream church so that even people who aren’t part of that movement have picked up their self-promoting ways. It has given place to wild emotion-driven music that is called worship but may be the farthest thing from it, and much of it is offered to not the Holy Spirit genuinely but a golden calf misrepresentation. It has polluted the biblical doctrine of prayer seriously. I’m going to talk about that in a couple of Sunday nights, the corruption of the doctrine of prayer in this movement. It has corrupted the concept of faith, made faith some kind of creative power by which you can speak into existence whatever you want. It has given an opportunity for every imaginable and unimaginable form of unbiblical teaching to find its way into popularity, and at the same time, it continues to condemn the people who fight for biblical integrity.
In earlier generations, the Charismatic movement would have been labeled as heresy. Instead, they now set the rules for what is acceptable and dominate the media with their deviations. They claim – and this is the amazing part – to be the purest, most powerful, and truest form of Christianity, and they make sure that they get massive crowds so it appears that God is blessing them. And all who reject them, they say, are in danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
Well, there’s the rub, isn’t it? They who blaspheme the Holy Spirit accuse us of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. They are doing what I said is the opposite of what the Pharisees did. They attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. These people attribute the work of Satan to the Holy Spirit. No group has done more to misrepresent the Holy Spirit than this movement in its public face, its media face for sure. And in the light of that, I just feel like I’m not here, as I said last week, to defend the Holy Spirit, He can take care of Himself very well, and judgment is certainly being pronounced as to when it will fall, one can only wait to see. But the incessant misrepresentation of supposed miracles by the Holy Spirit, supposed visions given by the Holy Spirit, people who see past things, past sins on a screen, prophecies from the Holy Spirit, trips to heaven, trips to hell, divine revelations in a myriad of forms, 3D dreams that are divine revelation. All of this all over the place in this movement and dribbling over the edges into the broader world of evangelicalism like some kind of a fountain. Very serious way to treat the Holy Spirit, who is not a part of these things.
There’s a word in the New Testament that I will call to your attention. Turn to Hebrews 10:29 before we get to Romans 8. In Hebrews 10:29, there is a word, and it’s a word that you would not necessarily pull out of the text because it just looks at first kind of like a little addition at the end of a very important set of words. In verse 29 of Hebrews 10, it’s very serious to read “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who trampled underfoot the Son of God?” We get that far and we say, “Wow.” That means there’ll be degrees of punishment in hell – and I’m going to preach on hell as well in a few weeks. There will be degrees of punishment in hell. Hell will not be the same experience for everyone who is there. There will be severe degrees, and more severe degrees, and more severe degrees for those who are in hell. There will be degrees of punishment in hell.
The severest degree of punishment will be upon those who trampled underfoot the Son of God and regarded as unclean the blood of the Covenant. In other words, treated His sacrifice on the cross ratifying the New Covenant, providing salvation, treating it with disdain, trampling it, seeing it as unclean, that will bring about the hottest hell. That is to say that somebody living in some part of the world that never heard about Christ will perish and go to hell because without Christ, people go to hell, but that hell of that person will not be as severe a time of punishment as the one who heard the gospel, knew the gospel, understood the gospel, and rejected the gospel.
And we get that far in the verse and we say, “That is such a very frightening verse,” but we don’t often get to the end of it, which says, “and insulted the Spirit of grace.” Here is an equally severe pronunciation of judgment on somebody who insults the Holy Spirit. In this immediate verse, it is obvious that it is an insult to the Holy Spirit to reject Christ and His sacrifice because, as I pointed out in Hebrews last week, He offered Himself by the Spirit. The Spirit was empowering through His whole life all that He did and said and was even there empowering Him, strengthening Him through His death. And the Spirit points to Christ after the cross, points to His death, points to His resurrection, points to Him as the only Savior. That’s what Jesus said: “The Spirit will point to Me. He will direct you to Me. He will bring My words to your remembrance. He will glorify Me.” So when you reject Christ, you commit an insult against the Holy Spirit. You’re insulting the Holy Spirit by treating lightly and demeaning the fact that He is pointing to this glorious work of Christ.
That introduces the concept: What does it mean to insult the Spirit of grace? Keep in mind that He’s called the Spirit of grace. The whole idea is that He wants to do something that is a gift of grace. You have insulted the Spirit of grace. The word here in the Greek is an interesting word, enubriz is how it sounds in Greek, enubriz. It has a root verb hubriz. You know that word – at least you’ve heard that word – because there’s an English form of hubriz and it’s the English word “hubris.” Have you seen that word or read that word? It’s not used often but it is a very good word. Hubris is an English word that means audacity. It means to be insolent. It means to treat with contempt, to have an attitude of animosity. In fact, the Greek verb – you can look in the lexicon, will tell you this, hubriz is to outrage, to insult. The hottest hell is going to be for people who insulted the Holy Spirit. This is not hubriz, which means to outrage or to insult. This is enubriz, and whenever you put a preposition at the front of a Greek verb, you get an intensification of the word. That’s how those prepositions function.
So enubriz is to violently insult – to violently insult. You don’t want to violently insult the Holy Spirit, and yet anybody who rejects Jesus Christ, rejecting the knowledge of the gospel, and turning his or her back on Jesus Christ has committed a violent act of outrageous audacity and insolence against the Holy Spirit. No wonder hell will be hottest. You not only have committed an act of audacious insolence against the Father who said, “This is My beloved Son,” but against the Son Himself by trampling underfoot the blood of the Covenant, but you’ve also been audaciously insolent and outrageously condemning to the very word of the Holy Spirit Himself. A violent insult. I don’t think people understand that you just can’t tread on the Trinity. This warning is very clear. For people who insult the Holy Spirit, there is a warning of severe judgment.
Now, I know that the context here is talking about those who insult the Holy Spirit by rejecting Christ. But any insult against the Holy Spirit constitutes a breach of what is appropriate response to the blessed, pure Holy Spirit. Such outrages occur against Him all the time. He is to be worshipped, He is to be honored, He is to be exalted, He is to be praised, He is to be thanked. He is to be glorified at all times, as is the Father, as is the Son equally, for all that He is and all that He does. He is yet the – on the one hand, the forgotten person in the Trinity by many and on the other hand, the abused person in the Trinity by many. So I think it’s time for us to get the sense of what He does right. He is to be loved and honored by the people He serves. He is to be adored and worshipped as the one who gave us life and lives in us and sanctifies us and leads us and empowers us and enables us and seals us to eternal glory in the day that He, the Holy Spirit, raises us from the dead.
All of that is here in Romans 8, and I read it to you. This is an overview of His gracious and powerful help, the Spirit of grace. Who would ever insult – outrageously, audaciously insult the Holy Spirit? Only a fool.
Now let’s go to Romans chapter 8 with those in our minds, those passages, one from the Old, one from the New. Romans chapter 8 starts with this great statement of confidence: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That sets the tone at the beginning of the chapter. We are in a no-condemnation status. If we’re in Christ Jesus, we will never be condemned – never. That’s how the chapter begins and also how it ends. If you go over to verse 34, it asks the final question, “Who is the one who condemns?” Well, it’s not Christ and then it’s not anything else, and it goes through the litany of things all the way down to the end where nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. So it begins by saying we’re not under condemnation. It ends by raising all of the possible ways we could be condemned and eliminating every one of them. So it’s a no-condemnation affirmation from verse 1 to verse 39.
This is one of those chapters that every believer ought to live in. You ought to live in this chapter. This is all glorious promise for no condemnation for those who are in Christ. This is your security here. This is where you need to live and rejoice that you are set for eternal glory. And how does it all happen? By the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Yes, yes, based upon the will of the Father. The Father chose. Yes, based upon the sacrifice of Christ, who provided the necessary substitution for our punishment, but also through the application of the Holy Spirit. The whole plan designed by the Father, ratified by the Son, and applied by the Spirit. I am what I am today in Christ because God chose me, Christ died for me, but I am what I am today in Christ because the Holy Spirit re-created me. This is the magnificence of this ministry of the Trinity.
So as we come into chapter 8 and we talk about what has happened in our salvation to put us into this no-condemnation status and to take us all the way to glory, we are going to be introduced to the fact that this is all being done by the Holy Spirit. And I’m going to take you through this chapter, and this is what you’re going to learn: that the Holy Spirit frees us from death. We saw that last time, right? Verses 2 and 3, the Holy Spirit frees us from death – from sin and its consequence, death. Today we’re going to learn that the Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the law by changing our nature. The Holy Spirit frees us from sin and death, gives us life. The Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the law by changing our nature here and now. Thirdly, the Holy Spirit will raise us one day to immortality. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit empowers us for victory over sin. The Holy Spirit confirms our adoption, guarantees our glory, and aids our prayers. And that is why we end up with a no-condemnation status – because of the work of the Holy Spirit.
You know, the odd irony is that the people who celebrate all of this crazy stuff that they attribute to the Holy Spirit largely deny this true work of the Holy Spirit. They don’t necessarily believe that regeneration is a divine work; they think that there is in man enough prevenient grace that it all comes down to his willingness to believe, that it’s not the work of the Holy Spirit, it’s the faith of every individual. That’s Armenian theology. They would also say that as fast as you could do something to gain that salvation, you could just as fast do something to lose it. You have no guarantee of glory. In fact, if you die with an unconfessed sin, you’re probably going to go to hell. You are not actually in a no-condemnation status as an absolute and permanent fact. You are in a no-condemnation – only in a conditional sense. As you meet the conditions, you will stay in a no-condemnation status. As soon as you stop meeting the conditions, you will be condemned.
So the people who advocate all the wrong things about the Holy Spirit get the theology as wrong as they get the rest of it. They do not have any idea of what the Holy Spirit is doing in permanently and for good, freeing us from death and giving us everlasting life, enabling us to fulfill the law by permanently changing our nature, one day raising us to immortality. In the meantime, empowering us for victory, confirming our adoption as permanent, guaranteeing our eternal glory and, in the meantime, securing that glory by interceding for us always according to the Will of God, and as a result of all that, securing our salvation everlastingly.
So if you’re going to buy the Charismatic version of the Holy Spirit, you’re not going to find Him in Romans 8. If you’re going to come to Romans 8, you’re going to get the true Holy Spirit; not the golden calf. This is the real work of the Holy Spirit.
Now, last time, we talked about the fact that He frees us from sin and death by giving us life – verses 2 and 3 – “For the law of the Spirit of life” – there, He’s called the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus because “He sets you free from the law of sin and death.” The word “law” here is not used in the moral code sense, or the legal sense, but as a principle, the principle or the reality or the dominating power. So it would read like this, “For the reality of the Spirit of life, or the power of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, to set you free from the power of sin and of death.” You’ve been taken out of the realm of sin, which produces spiritual death and ultimately eternal death, and you’ve been given life by the Spirit of life.
How could He do that? The law couldn’t do it, verse 3 says. The law couldn’t do it because the flesh is too weak. You can’t keep the law. So God did it. How did He do it? He sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as an offering for sin and condemned sin in the flesh. We said last time the law can condemn the sinner, the law condemns the sinner, that’s its purpose, that’s what it does, but it can’t condemn sin. But God condemns sin in Christ. Christ came in the likeness of the sinful flesh, though not sinful, and was a sacrifice for us, the substitute, took our place, and because Christ took the penalty for all the sins of all who will believe, the Spirit then gives them life because the justice of God has been satisfied. This is the great doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the doctrine of imputed righteousness that’s given to us on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ.
So God did, by the death of Christ, what the law couldn’t do. The law can’t save because the flesh is weak, can’t keep the law. Romans 3: “By the deeds of the law, no flesh will be justified.” But God did what the law couldn’t do. The law could condemn the sinner, but Christ in His death condemned sin. The law kills the sinner, but God in Christ kills the power of sin. Amazing truth, and that is the work of the Holy Spirit.
You will live forever in heaven. You have been forgiven. You have been covered with the righteousness of Christ. You have gone from being dead to being alive, spiritually dead to being spiritually alive, eternally dead to being eternally alive, and that by the work of the Holy Spirit, decided by God, ratified by Christ, and applied by the Holy Spirit. You are a product of the Spirit’s work. That’s the first thing.
Now, there’s a second aspect that I’m going to try to talk to you about a little bit, but there’s a lot to say. Number two, here is what happens as a result: He enables us to fulfill God’s law by giving us a new nature – He enables us to fulfill God’s law by giving us a new nature. He changes us. Now, listen to this because it’s really very foundational, very important truth. Verse 4: “So that” – this is consequence. Because you’re now alive, been given life, been justified, your sins paid for, death satisfied, justice satisfied, wrath satisfied, you are now alive by the Holy Spirit, you have been born again, given life, regenerated. That’s possible because of the sacrifice of Christ. So as far as you’re concerned, sin is condemned, you are not.
Now, what are the results? This is such a dramatic change, that’s talking about imputed righteousness, but it’s such a dramatic change and it is regeneration, that it has another component which we could call imparted righteousness. You don’t want to mingle the two because they’re different. But notice verse 4: “So that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” Not in Christ. The requirement for the law was first fulfilled in Christ, and what did the law require? The wages of sin is what? Is death, so that requirement was fulfilled in Christ. He took our sin, died our death, paid our penalty, received our punishment.
But now, as a result, the requirement of the law can be fulfilled in us. This is because we aren’t the same persons we used to be. It is not just a forensic thing, this salvation. It is not just a divine declaration. It is not just a change in your status. It doesn’t just move you from one sort of divine box to another. It isn’t only categorical, and that’s what I mean by forensic or legal. It is also real, experiential. That’s what conversion is.
Some years ago I did a series on being delivered, all the ways we are literally transferred, transformed. Now look what can happen. The righteousness of the law – that is, the righteousness of the law is nothing more than the righteousness of God, which is reflected in His law. Do you understand that? God’s law is simply a reflection of His own righteous nature. Whatever is right or wrong as indicated in the revelation of His law is a reflection of the One who Himself is perfect holiness. How can that be? How can the righteousness of the law be fulfilled in us? Because before this miracle of life from the Holy Spirit, we couldn’t fulfill the law. Romans 3 says none righteous, no not one, none that does good, none that seeks God, can’t do anything right, your righteousness is filthy rags, Isaiah says. By the deeds of the law, no flesh can be justified. You cannot please God. You’re alienated from the life of God. You’re corrupt, you do what your father, the devil, does. His desires and lusts you follow. How in the world can we now all of a sudden do the things that are in the law?
That’s the second great work of the Holy Spirit – that’s the second great work of the Holy Spirit. You not only have been forensically separated from the consequence of sin, but you have been actually separated from the power of sin. This is sanctification. Something real happened. You had a death. Go back to Romans 6, right? You died with Christ. And you rose to walk in what? Same old life? No, newness of life. You rose to walk with a new life. You’ve been born again. You’re not the same. You’re a new creation. Second Corinthians tells us, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation” – chapter 5 verse 17. So you’re new and here’s how your newness is defined – listen to this – back to verse 4. How is it that you can now fulfill the requirement of the law? “Because you do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” You have an entirely new resident power. You’re a new creation, and you now are the temple of the Spirit of God. It’s a combination of a new person, you, and a new person, the Holy Spirit, being in you.
Please, folks, that’s a fact, that statement at the end of verse 4. It’s a fact, notice it, it’s not a command, it’s not a request, it’s a fact. You do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. When you’re a Christian, you’re different. I’ve been trying to get this across for 40 years. Don’t tell me you’re a Christian if you’re not different, don’t tell me you’re a Christian if you’re walking according to the flesh. Don’t tell me you’re a Christian if your life looks like all the other people who are not Christians, with the exception that you show up at church once in a while.
This is not a responsibility here. Oh, we’ll get to that when we get to verses 12 and 13 because there will be a responsibility, just like with salvation. That’s an act of God but not apart from our faith. Sanctification is a work of the Sprit but not apart from our obedience. The Bible is written by the Holy Spirit but not apart from the writer’s willingness. You’re secure to heaven but not apart from your perseverance. That always comes in, doesn’t it? There’s always that human-responsibility side to every one of those great truths. But for now, what the Word is saying is, “You do not walk after the flesh anymore, you walk after the Spirit.” Walk is the most ancient expression to describe daily direction, daily conduct, one’s disposition, one’s bent. It’s a fact – it’s a fact.
In fact, verse 5 expands the fact. “Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh. Those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” So here’s – here’s an expansion. You walk according to the Spirit because your mind is set according to the Spirit. You think differently and so you act differently. That’s not, again, a request, not a command, that’s a fact. It’s like Ephesians 2:10, that you have been saved by grace through faith, that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works that any man should boast, but unto good works which God has before ordained that you should walk in them. The inevitability is your life will change and your direction will change, your disposition will change, your bent will change, your behavior will change, your affections will change, everything will change – everything.
This is such a critical verse. I don’t know how we could even come up with anything more helpful to understand the foundation realities of who we are in Christ than to get this right. We’re not talking here about personal virtue, some kind of isolated thing that you hope a believer is going to kind of have show up in his life. We’re saying this is how you will live if you’re a believer. This is how you will live. And in all honesty, this is why a true penitent, a true believer, comes to Christ to start with. There are two things going on there. What do you want when you came to Christ? What are you looking for? Well, one, you wanted to be rescued from eternal hell. Is that fair? Two, you wanted to be delivered from your sin. It’s a beatitude attitude. The people who were in the kingdom hungered and thirsted after righteousness, and they mourned over their sin, and they were distraught over their wretchedness.
Look, if the preacher says God wants you to be happy, then multitudes of the people who want to be happy will flock to Jesus. “Jesus, make me happy.” If the preacher says if you’re sick, you’ve got a marriage problem, financial frustration, or loneliness, “Look to Jesus, who will satisfy the desires of your heart.” Then all the people who are lonely and have bad marriages and don’t want to be lonely will come running to Jesus. Each conceives of the ultimate joy as personal satisfaction, right? The ultimate joy would be to be well. Or the ultimate joy would be to be happy. Or the ultimate joy would be to be married to the perfect man. Or the ultimate joy would be to have that house that I want so much. The ultimate joy would be to get a promotion. Well, if that’s what you offer people in the name of Jesus, you’ll fill up a Houston stadium and they’ll all come running in. They’ll sing all the songs and they’ll run to Jesus, and Jesus, they hope, will give them all the things that’ll make them happy.
People who are saved aren’t looking for happy, they’re looking for holy. That’s what they’re looking for. Big difference – big difference. They’re looking for holy. They want to escape the power and the penalty of their sin. That’s why Hebrews 12:14 says, “Follow holiness, without which no man will see the Lord.” You don’t get there coming the path of happy; you get there coming in the path of holy. Until people are compelled by their sin to seek a Savior and pursue righteousness, they don’t come to Christ truly, truly. Christ met the penalty of the law of God for us so that we could keep the law of God by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Christ met the penalty for us; the Spirit fulfills the law in us.
When the sinner leaves the court of God, the court of God’s pure justice, with a pardon for sin, he’s not finished with the law. He’s not finished with the law. Not at all. The moral law of God runs right through the heart of the kingdom. It runs right through the heart of every true Christian. The moral law of God is nowhere – listen – more at home than in the middle of the kingdom of grace because God’s law is a reflection of Him and his Will. The moral law can’t make us holy, but God can enable us by regeneration in the presence of the Holy Spirit to progressively become holy and to fulfill the law. This is a fact. If you’re a believer, you are in the process of this progressive sanctification.
What aids that? What enables that? Exposure to truth, right? Second Corinthians 3:18: “As you gaze at the glory of the Lord” – where do you see that? Where do you look and find the glory of God? Where is it revealed? Scripture. The more you gaze at that, the more you’re changed into His image from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next, by the Holy Spirit. What tool does the Holy Spirit use to sanctify you? The Word. As you gaze at the Word and you see the majesty and glory of Christ and God and the Holy Spirit in the Word, the glory that’s revealed there, you literally are shaped into that image from one level of glory to another, ascending, ascending. That’s progressive sanctification and that’s the work of the Holy Spirit.
And what does it mean to be sanctified and separate from sin? It means to become obedient to the law of God, obedient to the will of God, to do what pleases God and He’s revealed what pleases Him. Listen, law obedience is not – cannot be the ground of our justification, but it is the fruit of our justification. And it is the evidence of our sanctification. Those who are justified are also sanctified under the influence of the Holy Spirit by whose power we now live and we can fulfill the divine law, and it’s not burdensome. What did David say? “Oh, how I love Your law. Your law is my delight,” Psalm 119, over and over, 175 times, and then a final verse on his own admitted wretchedness. We love the law. It’s our bent. It’s our desire. It’s our hunger. It’s what we want.
You can think of it this way, sort of in the big-picture sense: God’s loving commands, which are right and true and holy and good, He revealed to Adam for the sake of Adam’s fellowship and joy in the Garden. You understand that Adam didn’t know anything intuitively. You don’t find God intuitively. That’s why God walked and talked with Him in the cool of the day every evening. What was that about? I’ll tell you what, it wasn’t Adam telling God anything. It was divine revelation. It was God unloading the agenda on Adam. Adam knew that when he woke up that morning and there was a creature there the likes of which he had never seen, he was supposed to take her as a wife because God told him. Adam knew what his responsibility in the Garden was because God told him. Adam knew what he wasn’t supposed to do because God told him. Adam knew what he knew because God told him. God was always the source of truth. God gave Adam behaviors that were reflection of the Will of God and what would please God.
So we would say this, that God’s loving commands, which He gave to Adam, were for the purpose of Adam’s joy as he obeyed them, right? Then the fall, then what happened? The rules don’t change. The law’s the same but now it’s negative, it’s restrictive, it’s prohibitive, and it doesn’t produce fellowship with God, it produces separation from God. Everything’s gone bad. It doesn’t bring about joy, it brings about sorrow. It doesn’t have a future anticipation of continued blessing, it has a future anticipation of damnation. Same law, same God revealing the same things in Eden produces love, fellowship, joy, hope, blessing. Same law after the fall, negative, prohibitive, restrictive, separates the soul from God, condemns man, makes him guilty, without peace, without hope, headed for judgment.
Then comes the gospel. Same commands, exact same commands that God gave in the Old Testament, consistent with His nature, that damned us and condemned us now become the very things that we long to do because they define our fellowship with God, our joy with Him, don’t they? “These things I write unto you,” John said, “that your joy may be full.” “Happy is the man who hears My Word and keeps it.” If you want a relationship with God, if you want joy in that relationship, blessing in that relationship, hope in that relationship, then you do the things that please Him. And the things that please Him and honor Him are the things that He has revealed as right and good and holy. Before you couldn’t do that, so it was all condemnation. Now, you have been given life, you are a new creation. You have a capacity now to do what you could never do in the past. Not only do you have a capacity to do it because you’re a new creation, but you have an attending, divine helper: the Holy Spirit.
It was Augustine who said, “Grace was given that the law might be fulfilled.” And it can be fulfilled because the Holy Spirit has changed our nature and taken up residence in us. I don’t want to overstate this, but do you understand that’s a very personal ministry? Very, very personal ministry to every single one of us? Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit – not just the church collectively but you as an individual. The Spirit is there aiding and helping that new creation to fulfill the law of God. That’s your bent, that’s your disposition, that’s what you love, that’s what you want if you have been born again. The comfort which comes to us from the Holy Spirit is connected to our obedience. The assurance which comes to us from the Holy Spirit is connected to our obedience. Joy is connected to our obedience. Absence of fear and anxiety and doubt is connected to our obedience. And we have the capacity because we have been made new and we have the resident Holy Spirit empowering us. What an amazing gift.
Now let’s go back for just a moment to verse 5. There are only two kinds of people in the world – and we’ll get in to verse 5 next time more – those who are according to the flesh, and they set their minds on the things of the flesh, and those who are according to the Spirit, who set their mind on the things of the Spirit. And, of course, the mind set on the flesh is death and the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.
This might simplify your world for you a little bit. I want to give you a worldview helper here. Two kinds of people in the world, my grandpa used to say, the saints and the ain’ts. That may be sort of a little oversimplification, but there are only two kinds of people in the world. The two kinds of people in the world are those who function according to the flesh and those who function according to the Spirit. The people who function according to the flesh, who do what the flesh tells them to do – the lust with the eyes, the pride of life, the lust of the flesh – those are things in the world, 1 John tells us. They’re the people who follow that, who follow their father, the devil. They’re liars like him and they’re killers like him, at heart if not actually. They follow his lusts. That’s one kind of people, the people who operate according to the flesh.
There, then, are the only other kind of people in the world: those who operate according to the Spirit. Listen to this: God never divides people by race – never. God never divides people by sex. He does divide them by sexual preference because that’s sin, but He never divides people by culture, education, race, sex, economic status, social status – none of that. All people are divided into two categories, those who live according to the flesh and those who live according to the Spirit. Those who mind the things of the flesh, those who mind the things of the Spirit. Those who walk according to the flesh, those who walk according to the Spirit. Christians are the people who function in the Spirit, they live in the Spirit, they think in the Spirit, they walk in the Spirit. That’s it. That’s the only difference God recognizes. In Christ, there’s neither Jew, Gentile, Greek, male, female, bond, free. That’s what I love about our church. We don’t make any distinctions here except this one.
David Brown, many years ago, wrote: “Men must be under the predominating influence of one or the other of these two principles. And according as the one or the other has the mastery will be the complexion of their life and the character of their actions.” And then Hodge, the great theologian, said: “The bent of the thoughts, affections, and pursuits is the only decisive test of character.” The bent of the thoughts, affections, and pursuits. What do you think? What do you want? How do you walk?
And as I said, you can just take another look at verse 5 – and we’ll look at this more. You can see there in verse 5 the word mind, set their minds, and then you see it again in verse 6, mind, and then you see it again in verse 7, mind, twice in verse 6. Mind, mind, mind, mind – what produces walk, walk, walk, walk is mind, mind, mind, mind. Walk, that’s behavior. Mind, that’s thinking. According to, that’s nature. So if you walk according to the flesh, that’s your unconverted, unregenerate nature, and you think fleshly things, and you do fleshly things; however, if you are according to the Spirit as to your nature, you think the things of the Spirit and you walk in the ways of the Spirit. That’s marvelous clarity there in the flow of Paul’s thought. So here we are, wanting with all our hearts, desiring, longing to fulfill the law of God because we have desires coming up out of us that we didn’t have before we were converted, and they’re placed there by the transformation of our nature and by the ever-resident Holy Spirit. What a gift – what a gift.
Let’s treat the Holy Spirit the way He deserves to be treated. Let’s honor Him for what He’s truly doing and not assign to Him all kinds of horrible things that He would never ever accept. Let us never be guilty of insulting Him. More next time.
Father, we thank You again this morning. Your Word is a light to us and life. How rich we are because of the truth that we have brought before us week after week. Just amazing, glorious truth, and our hearts hunger for it, embrace it, love it. When we chew on it and meditate on it, it brings us joy. It directs us. It produces in us praise and worship and song. Thank You for all of this. Thank You, O Holy Spirit, for Your work. Be honored in this generation. Be honored, be exalted, be lifted up. You’re worthy. Amen.
As you know, we are in a study of the person and work of the Holy Spirit, the member of the Trinity that often gets overlooked by some, and by others, things are attributed to Him which He would have nothing to do with. We started out kind of talking about contemporary blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, grieving of the Holy Spirit, quenching of the Holy Spirit, and even showing disdain toward the Holy Spirit just to kind of give you the picture of what’s out there so that we know how important it is for us to have a true and correct understanding of the Holy Spirit.
I want to continue our study, and we are going to continue in Romans chapter 8& nbsp;– that’s kind of our anchor passage for this – but I’m doing more than just expositing Romans 8. We’ve done that through the years. I’m trying to draw out of this those things that are important for us to understand about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Why is that important? Why is that critical? Because you are, as a believer, the temple of the Holy Spirit. You have been baptized by the Holy Spirit, placed into the body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit has subsequently taken up residence in you, lives in you. You are commanded to be filled with the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, to manifest faithfully the gifts of the Spirit, to give honor to the Holy Spirit. It would be true to say that the very power of your spiritual life is the Holy Spirit, and so for us to understand the true ministry of the Holy Spirit over against those things that are falsely attributed to Him is very, very important.
And as I was thinking about a way that we can kind of come to grips with the full ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives, I was drawn to the fact that the best way to understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is to understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus Christ, in the life of our Lord and our Savior. And that’s what I want to do this morning, and we’re going to end up in the next little section in Romans 8 verses 12 and 13 but not for a while.
The Holy Spirit was Christ’s inseparable companion – inseparable companion. One writer put it this way: “From womb, to tomb, to throne.” All activities in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, all activities in His life from His birth through His death, through His resurrection, until His ascension occurred in the full presence and by the full power of the Holy Spirit.
We often talk about the fact that Christ is our model. He is the one that is our example. Paul says, “Be followers of me as I am of Christ, that in understanding of the person of Christ and the life of Christ sets for us the course as to how to live.” But I don’t hear that discussed very often in the light of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Lord Jesus Christ, but that is the best way to understand the Christian life, to understand that Christ lived the life that He lived because of the ministry of the Spirit of God, and then to understand that you having the Spirit in you can follow the pattern that is demonstrated in Christ. He’s the model of the Spirit-controlled life. He’s the model of the Spirit-filled life. He’s the model of the Spirit-empowered life. He shows us what that is in its perfection. In its perfection.
We have to start at the beginning. Let’s look at Luke chapter 1 – Luke chapter 1 verse 26. In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel comes to earth from the presence of God in heaven and arrives in Galilee at a town called Nazareth, and he comes to a young virgin, probably around 12 or 13 years of age, and he wants to make an announcement. She is engaged to a man named Joseph. They are both descendants of David. Her name is Mary. He comes to this young girl and says, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you. A visitor from heaven.” This never happened. This is shocking. She is perplexed. She’s trying to figure out what’s going on. The angel says in verse 30: Don’t be afraid, you’ve found favor with God. You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great. He will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His Father David and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. You’re going to be the mother of the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
Now, this whole thing is staggering beyond comprehension, but the first problem is the one that hits her immediately. “How am I going to be pregnant? I don’t yet have a husband and I’m a virgin.” She’s a pretty practical girl. It all sounds wonderful but “I’m a virgin.” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Those are synonymous statements. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The power of the Most High is the same thing as the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s power in motion, the ruach of God, remember that? The violent force and energy and power of God. When the Holy Spirit comes on you, it is in His person the arrival of the power of the Most High. It will overshadow you. It will hover over you. Does that sound like a familiar scene? If you go back to the creation, you have the Holy Spirit hovering over the formless void of the material elements that God was going to create from, and the Holy Spirit hovers and moves over the face of the waters and brings it into specific creation as identified in the six actual days of divine creation.
In the same way, in the same kind of a creative act and expression of power, supernatural power, the Holy Spirit will come, and divine power will hover over you. And for that reason, for the reason of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Most High God, the holy child shall be called the Son of God. You’re going to have a child by the creative power of the Holy Spirit while you’re still a virgin with no man involved. This is a divine, creative act, and that child will be the Son of God. That child will be a holy child. The very incarnation, the initial creation of the incarnate Son of God is a work of the Holy Spirit. A work of the Holy Spirit. The birth of Jesus Christ, an act of the Holy Spirit. Even more importantly, the conception of Christ, the Son of God, the God-man in the womb of Mary, a creative act by the Holy Spirit. And from that moment, the Holy Spirit never left the presence of that life. Through nine months in the womb and through the rest of his life to the ascension, the Holy Spirit is the constant, inseparable companion to the incarnate One, the Son of God. He is born holy. He is born holy.
Then you look at His youth and you ask, “What about those 30 years between His childhood, His infancy, and the beginning of His ministry? What’s going on in His life?” Well, we get a glimpse of that. We only have one incident and it is at the age, as you remember, of 12 when He goes with His parents to the temple. But although it is only one incident, if you look at the next chapter of Luke, you will find that it describes an entire period of His life, an entire process of His life. In the second chapter of Luke and verse 40, we read this, referring to Christ: “The child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him.” And then you read in verse – later in verse 49: “He has an awareness that God is His Father. His theology is now clear in His mind and He has to be in His Father’s house, doing His Father’s business. And in verse 52, “He kept increasing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” Although that is one occasion in His life at the age of 12, it describes His entire life, the entire period of His development and His growth. And just mark the words: He becomes strong, increasing in wisdom, grace is upon Him, knowledge increases as He becomes aware of His Father’s business and gives Himself to it. He increases in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man.
What is the power that is producing that? If you go back into the Old Testament, you find the answer to that question. In the 11th chapter of Isaiah, there is a wonderful prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah writes in chapter 11 verse 1 that a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, Jesse being the father of David, and the far son of David, the Messiah, would come out of the line of Jesse, a branch from his roots will bear fruit. And this is a messianic prophecy. And notice what it says. Without regard to some period of time or some events in the life of Jesus, this is a definitive statement about Him. “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him.” And if I may add what exactly the Spirit of God Himself has Isaiah write, it is “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of the knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and He will delight in the fear of the Lord.”
The growth of Jesus, His development, His strength, His wisdom, His knowledge, the grace of God being upon Him is a direct result of the fact that from the beginning of His conception on through all the years of His life, the Spirit of the Lord was resting on Him. The Spirit was resting on Him.
In the 42nd chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy, in another messianic prophecy, it says this: “Behold My servant whom I uphold,” again referring to the suffering servant, the Messiah. “My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him.”
Do we understand that any kind of spiritual growth in any of us is the product of the work of the Holy Spirit? Then we have to understand that in the incarnation, Jesus sets aside the independent exercise of His own attributes and fully submits Himself, becomes a slave of God, empties Himself of all those prerogatives and comes all the way down to a servant, all the way down to submit completely to the plan of the Father, through the power of the Spirit. And everything that happens in His life is a product of the working of the Spirit in the God-man, the increase in wisdom, the increase in knowledge, the increase in grace, the increase in comprehension of the Father’s plan, all of that is the work of the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge and strength and power that rests on Him.
So at the point of His conception, through His birth, through His life, the Spirit of God is the resource that develops Him into the one that God has ordained that He would be. You could say it this way: The Spirit is shaping Him because He is obedient to the Spirit’s power in setting aside His own attributes and allowing the Spirit to mold Him and make Him according to the plan of the Father. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that produces in Him the spiritual development and maturity that we read of in Luke 2.
After those years of preparation are complete, the first event that we need to note in His public ministry as it begins is in the first chapter of Mark. Mark chapter 1, a very significant event, Mark chapter 1 and verse 10, coming up out of the water at His baptism, John the Baptist has baptized Him, coming up out of the water He saw the heavens opening and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon Him. The Spirit is not a dove. There was no dove there. It’s okay if you have a dove somewhere in your house to symbolize the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit has never been a dove, never appeared in dove form. He came down and lit on Jesus in some visible form, the way a dove might come down and gently settle on a man’s shoulder. That’s the idea, like a dove might come out of the sky and rest. It’s just an analogy or a metaphor. But what you see here is the Spirit descending upon Him.
The Spirit has already been with Him. The Spirit has been there since His conception. He goes on in His life in progress because of the shaping work of the Holy Spirit in Him. And yet here, the Holy Spirit comes down. What does this signify? First of all, it signifies the approval of heaven. Verse 11: “A voice out of heaven, the voice of the Father, ‘You’re My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.’” This is the official announcement that this man Jesus is the Son of God. He is the Son of God.
Another official announcement comes in verse 15. “The time is fulfilled.” The long time of waiting for the arrival of the Messiah has come to pass. “The kingdom of God is at hand” because the King is here. “Repent and believe in the gospel.” So what you have here, then, is the Holy Spirit affirming His deity. The Father declaring His deity, He is identified as the long-awaited Messiah. He is the Son of God. He is the suffering servant. And He is anointed in a special way for specific service. He is the anointed one. Again, it’s “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel.” “The Spirit is on Me, He’s anointed Me to preach the gospel,” that’s Isaiah 61. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,” Isaiah 42. “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me” – Isaiah 61 – “to preach the gospel.”
So He has the Holy Spirit as a constant companion, an inseparable companion, and yet in addition to that, there is an official declaration, affirmation, visible indication that He is being granted a ministry and a special anointing. We would understand that from the Old Testament when David prays, “Take not Your Holy Spirit from Me,” as we saw in Psalm 51. He’s not saying, “Don’t take the Holy Spirit away from Me,” in My spiritual life because He couldn’t survive. Even Old Testament saints were sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit. He’s saying, “Don’t take the Holy Spirit away” in the sense of “My anointing, My special calling for special service.”
So the Holy Spirit is the one who hovers over the body of Mary and by a divine miracle creates an embryo in her womb and He follows the development of that embryo with His presence in the womb and at the birth and through His life and becomes the one who shapes Jesus into the perfect Messiah, the perfect Savior, the perfect servant of God, the manifest Son of God, fully realized holiness – fully realized holiness, shaped on the submissive Son by the perfect Holy Spirit. And then there is this anointing as the Holy Spirit sets Him apart in addition to His work on the inside for a particular ministry that He needs to do on behalf of the world.
The next event in the ministry of our Lord comes in the next verse, verse 12 of Mark 1. This is a very important thing. Immediately after His baptism and after the Father had declared Him His beloved Son, the Spirit drove Him – the verb is to drive – drove Him into the wilderness. And when He went into the wilderness 40 days, tempted He was by Satan. The Holy Spirit is there in His temptation. The Holy Spirit is not only there in His temptation, the Holy Spirit is not there to pick up the pieces of the temptation, the Holy Spirit is the one who drove Him into the conflict, okay? Everything Jesus did in His life was driven by the Holy Spirit. Remember the ruach Elohim? The violent force of God is operating in the person of Jesus Christ, driving Him into conflict with Satan. At the end of that conflict, Matthew 4:10 says that Jesus dismissed Satan. He had vanquished him. The Holy Spirit is the one who drove Jesus into the conflict. The Holy Spirit, in a sense, is the battle planner. He’s the strategist who maps out the battle terrain and directs the warrior king, Jesus Christ, into the holy war.
Why does He do this? To demonstrate the invulnerability of Jesus Christ, to declare His triumphant conflict with Satan. The conflict didn’t end there. He waged war with the kingdom of darkness throughout His whole ministry, didn’t He? Casting demons out, day after day after day for the period of three years of His ministry, but always He was triumphant. There’s a sense in which what the Holy Spirit is doing here is driving Him into conflict with Satan so that He can give evidence of His power to take over all enemy territory. And He’s going to take over all the enemy’s territory for His own kingdom one day and bind Satan with a chain at first, and then cast him forever into the Lake of Fire. The Holy Spirit literally drives Him into conflict so He can overcome the enemy and be triumphant and claim territory for His own kingdom that belonged to Satan.
After that temptation, He began His ministry. How did He begin His ministry? He began His ministry, Luke tells us, the same way everything else had occurred in His life. Luke 4:14, the devil had finished every temptation he could throw at Jesus unsuccessfully and then immediately after that, in Luke 4:14, Jesus returned to Galilee – here’s the key – He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit – in the power of the Spirit. It was in the power of the Spirit – verse 15 – that He began teaching in the synagogues. His whole ministry was in the power of the Spirit. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit. That power was demonstrated in His ability to do miracles, cast out demons, dismiss disease, overcome death, do physical miracles. It was all the power of the Holy Spirit – all the power of the Holy Spirit.
The testimony to that is given by Peter. Peter was there for all those three years. Listen to what Peter says in Acts 10:38 – Peter is preaching to Gentiles and he’s talking about Jesus Christ – and he says, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power.” Okay? “God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and that meant that God was with Him because that’s the Spirit of God.
All these passages remind us the essence of the incarnation is such a total self-emptying that Jesus is completely submissive to the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, who is shaping Him in every sense into the holy one that God has designed Him to be. Whatever He did, whether He was teaching, He was teaching under the power of the One He called the Spirit of truth. He referred to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth many times. Or He was healing. It was in the power of the Holy Spirit. Or He was casting out demons in the power of the Holy Spirit, or calming storms in the power of the Holy Spirit. That is why when the Jews said, “You do what You do by the power of Satan,” in Matthew 12, He said, “You blaspheme not Me, but You blaspheme the Holy Spirit.” He is the sinless one. He is the holy one. He is the incarnation of fully realized holiness. He walks perfectly in the Spirit. He displays all the fruit of the Spirit. He uses all the gifting of the Spirit. It is all the power of the Spirit coming through Him. This is His life. This is His ministry.
Even when He comes to His death, if you look at Hebrews chapter 9, and He faces the cross, and all that’s involved, this amazing statement, Hebrews 9:14, says that the blood of Christ was offered without blemish to God. Christ offered His blood as a sacrifice, a blameless, without-blemish sacrifice to God – verse 14 – through the eternal Spirit. Even the power that took Him through the Garden, even the power that caused Him to endure the cross was the power of the Holy Spirit – was the power of the Holy Spirit.
It was the Holy Spirit that gave Him the power to say, “Not My will be Yours be done.” It was the Holy Spirit who gave Him power to say, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they do.” It was the power of the Holy Spirit that allowed Him to stay there until He could say it is finished. It was in the power of the Holy Spirit that He said, “Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.”
What about His resurrection? Well, if you go back to Romans 1, we are introduced in Romans 1 verse 3 to the Son of God, born of a descendant of David according to the flesh. Mary was a descendant of David. But please notice verse 4, Romans 1:4: “who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness.” Who raised Him? The Spirit. The Holy Spirit raised Him from the dead.
First Timothy chapter 3 gives us that wonderful hymn at the end of the chapter, an early church hymn, no doubt, because of the structure in the Greek. The mystery of godliness that is the amazing mystery of God in Christ, the God-man, fully man, fully God. And then it looks at His resurrection. This is a hymn on the resurrection. He was revealed in the flesh. He had a bodily resurrection. And this bodily resurrection was a vindication in the Spirit. Here again, testimony to the fact that it is the Holy Spirit who was the power that raises Jesus from the dead. It is His power.
You say, “Well, after His resurrection, did He take over? Did He say, ‘That’s good enough, Holy Spirit, You’ve certainly done Your share. I can handle it from here’?” Turn to Acts chapter 1. After His resurrection, 40 days went by and then He ascended into heaven. Forty days went by, and you can see what He did for 40 days in chapter 1 verse 3. Chapter 1 verse 3: “For a period of 40 days He was speaking of things concerning the kingdom of God.” He was preaching and teaching His own. For 40 days, He was preaching and teaching. Back to verse 2: “Until the day when He was taken up to heaven after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.” Who was the power of the 40 days’ teaching? The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit continued to empower Him for 40 days, it says that. He was giving orders to the apostles, which is another way of saying He was speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God, and it was all by the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know if you ever looked at the ministry of Christ and the life of Christ in this way, but it’s a stunning thing, it really is. And can you imagine this? They’re used to this. They’re used to this – they know He attributes all of this to the Holy Spirit. They know the Jews have attributed it to Satan and He said, “You blaspheme the Holy Spirit.” They were there. Do you remember when in the Upper Room discourse, Jesus said to them, “He has been with you,” speaking of the Holy Spirit? The Spirit of truth, “He has been with you”? Chapter 14 verse 17: “He shall be” – where? – “in you.” You remember when He said that? There’s something there that maybe you haven’t thought about. “He has been with you” is a very special statement. How had the Holy Spirit particularly been with them? In Christ. “Has been with you.” “I’ve been with you, He’s been with you.” “He’s been with you” and it’s been wonderful – it’s been wonderful. You’ve seen it all, you’ve heard it all. What an incredible experience. “He has been with you.” But He also said, “He shall be” – where? – “in you.” That’s better. “You’ve seen Him in Me and He’s going to be in You.” “You’ve seen His power in Me; the same power is going to be in you.”
I mean this is a stunning promise. That’s why in John 16:7, He says to them, “It’s better for you if I go away because if I don’t go away, that’s not going to happen. But if I go away, I will send the Holy Spirit and He will be in you.” If I had been standing there when He was talking like that, I’d have been overwhelmed with expectations. Right here in Acts 1, Jesus says in verse 5, “You’re going to be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” “A few days, it’s going to happen.”
Earlier, in John 20, after His resurrection, during that 40 days, He said to them in verse 22, “Receive the Holy Spirit” and breathed on them, like power is coming Your way. Earlier than that, back in the seventh chapter of John and verse 37, “If any is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me as the Scripture says from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” Again, this is power. This is a force. “This He spoke of the Spirit whom those who believed in Him were to receive for the Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” That’s the same idea. “You’re going to have a powerful rushing river inside of you and you haven’t received that, you’ve seen it in Me. I’ve been with you and He’s been with you, but when I am glorified I will send the Holy Spirit and He will be in you.”
Back to Acts 1. What’s going to happen when that happens? Verse 8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” “You will receive power.” What did we learn in Romans 8? “That if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, He’s none of His.” That’s kind of where we were last time. So if you’re a believer, you have the Holy Spirit, right? Haven’t we been saying that? Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in you. That’s what happened on the day of Pentecost. It’s incredible. It happened just a few days. Chapter 2 verse 1, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place; suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind.” We know who that is, don’t we now? The ruach Elohim, the violent rushing wind, symbol of the Holy Spirit.
And not only that, not only is there a violent rushing wind, there are little pieces of fire that look like dancing tongues of fire on top of people. Another symbol of the force and power of the Holy Spirit. And verse 4: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And the promise that Jesus gave had come to pass. And every single believer since that day has received the Holy Spirit, and with the Holy Spirit, the power comes.
Now, let’s use Jesus as our model because the same things that Jesus saw the Spirit of God do in His life are the very things the Spirit does in your life. Let’s start at the beginning. He gave life to the incarnate Christ and He gives us life. “You must be born of the Spirit.” He’s the one who regenerates. It is the Holy Spirit who grew Jesus in wisdom and knowledge. It is the Holy Spirit who grows us. Second Corinthians 3:18: As we gaze at the glory of the Lord, as we gaze at the glory of Christ, we’re moved from one level of glory to the next “by the Lord who is the Spirit.” The Spirit is the one growing you up. The Spirit is the one teaching you, He’s the anointing from God. The Spirit is the one who grows you in grace and wisdom and knowledge. Not only does He give you the resource in the Word, but He’s the internal teacher that illuminates you. He’s the force of growth in your life.
It was the Spirit who came down at Jesus’ baptism, and it is, according to 1 Corinthians 12, the Holy Spirit who is the means by which Christ places us into the body of Christ. We’re baptized by the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion into the body of Christ. And we become especially a part of the body of Christ, and we bear the anointing that falls on Him, and we take up His responsibility in the world. We are Christ in the world. He’s our head. We’re His body. We are sort of the church, the second incarnation of Christ. We’ve been set apart for special service in the world as Christ to the world by the baptizing of Christ through the means of the Holy Spirit.
It is the Holy Spirit, by the way, who provides the path of victory in the midst of conflict with Satan, right? It is the Holy Spirit who gives us power. We defeat all of the wiles of the devil, all of the tactics of the enemy by the sword of the Spirit. Not only by the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, but by the power of the Spirit within us. He gives us the victory in our temptation. He is the one who helps us overcome. The promise of Scripture is this: “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.”
When Jesus went to the cross, it was the Holy Spirit who gave Him power over the pain, power over the suffering, to endure the cross. And He is the same Spirit who gives us power in our suffering for the sake of the cross. That’s why Peter said in 1 Peter that if you suffer for the sake of Christ – listen – the Spirit of grace and glory rests on you. The reason you can endure suffering and pain, all the difficulties of life that come, is because the Holy Spirit gives you strength. He is the Spirit of grace and glory that rests on you. And when Christ came out of the grave, it was the Holy Spirit that raised Him from the grave, and so it is with us, and that’ll get us to Romans 8.
Romans 8 verse 11: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.” Do you see that? “Through His Spirit who dwells in you.” He gave you life, He grows you into Christ’s likeness, He baptizes you, He provides victory in the face of temptation, power to defeat Satan, He gives you power to go through suffering, and one day He will raise you immortal from the grave.
In the meantime, there’s one other thing that He does and that’s Acts 1:8: “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall be” – what’s the next word? – “witnesses.” He empowered Christ to preach. He empowered Christ to proclaim. And He does the same with us. He empowers us to proclaim. And if you question that, look at Acts chapter 2 and see what happens. This is kind of the end product. What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit giving us life? What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit growing us into Christ’s likeness? Placing us into the body? Providing victory over sin and Satan? What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit in making us mature through sufferings, through victory and suffering? What is His purpose in all of that? His purpose is to make us effective witnesses so that – listen – so that the great commission can be fulfilled. You know when Jesus said, “Go into the world and preach the gospel to everyone”? That was to fulfill an Old Testament promise that He would be a light to the Gentiles, that God – Psalm 2 – listen to me – would give Him the nations as His inheritance. Give Him the nations as His inheritance.
What the Holy Spirit wants to do in the end is to make you a powerful witness to the glory of Christ and the transforming power of the gospel. And you get a preview of it on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit comes down and what happened? What happened was there were – verse 5 – people there from every nation under heaven. People there from every nation under heaven. And what happened, the sound occurred, the mighty rushing wind, the crowd came together, and every one of them was hearing the 120 believers speak in His own language. You know what this demonstrates? That the purpose for which the Spirit does His work in Christ and in you is to fulfill the great commission to take the message of salvation to the ends of the earth, and the preview of that is at the very moment the Spirit first comes.
And all of a sudden, people start hearing. Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, districts of Libya, around Cyrene, visitors from Rome, Jews, proselytes, Cretans, Arabs, and they’re all hearing in their own language the mighty deeds of God, the great redemptive story, the salvation story, empowered by the Holy Spirit. And you get a preview there of the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
When the Father promised the Son, “I will give You the nations for Your inheritance,” do you think He’ll keep that promise? Go to Revelation and get a glimpse of people from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation gathered around the throne. And the means by which that prophecy will be fulfilled and the Father will give the nations as an inheritance to His Son is the work of the Holy Spirit through believers like you and me. A staggering thing. It’s a staggering thing.
Talk about important. You just happen to be the greatest force in the world for the fulfillment of the plan of the Creator and Redeemer of men. What does the Holy Spirit want to do in your life? He wants to shape you into the very image of Christ. Now, He’s got a whole lot less to work with than He had with Jesus. When you were born, no one said, “Oh, another holy one.” This is what He desires to do, is to take you from one level of glory to the next, to the next, increasing in the image of Christ. One day He will raise you and make you exactly like Christ. In the meantime, He’s working on it.
Now, with that in mind, look at Romans 8. Just a comment. You say, “Oh, this is great. I know what to do, I’ll just relax and let Him do His work.” Oh yeah, that’s the old – let go and let God. That was a whole movement, you know, Keswick movement, deeper life, Quaker quietist movement. No. Verse 12, with all this incredible work the Holy Spirit is doing with us, brethren, we’re under obligation. You have an obligation. You have a debt – that’s the word for debt. What’s your debt? Certainly not to live according to the flesh, right? You don’t owe the flesh anything. What did the flesh ever do for you? If you’re living according to the flesh, you’re going to die, that’s describing a non-believer. But you don’t have any obligation to your flesh. What that means is there are no excuses now because the power of the flesh has been broken. It is not a dominating force. There are no excuses.
You live by the Spirit, and if you live by the Spirit, you are putting to death the deeds of the body. You will live. Another way to say it, you have life. What do believers do? They kill the remaining deeds of the body. This is what we call remaining sin. You know, you’re not like Christ who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, the Holy One. We have to battle sin. But in the same way that the Lord Jesus triumphed over Satan, we have the power of the same Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit who will fight the battle in us, but you can’t let go and let God, that’s not in the New Testament. You don’t find that attitude anywhere. That idea of surrender is not in the Bible.
What the Bible says is beat your body into submission so you don’t become a cast-out. What the Bible says, Paul says, is: I run, I run a race; I box, I fight with all my might. I work to the point of sweat and exhaustion. I labor hard, he says. Over and over again he says things like that. The language here, “Put to death the deeds of the body,” you have to kill these things. This isn’t a matter of floating around. The Holy Spirit is at work in this mighty way, and your responsibility is to use all the powers that you have in His strength to kill remaining sin in your life. That’s what people who live do. That’s what people in the power of the Spirit do.
Father, we thank You that we’ve been able to consider some of these things, just some ways. Lightly, compared to all the richness that these things contain. But I ask that You’ll help these dear folks to grasp, maybe in a new way, in a fresh way, the reality of Your wonderful ministry in us as believers. May we love You more, thank You more consistently, pray for Your grace and filling and empowering. May we, as Christ did, manifest the fruit of the Spirit. May we, as Christ did, use the gifts of the Spirit that have been given to us. May we be faithful to the calling that is given to us as He was faithful to the calling that was given to Him by Your Spirit.
O Holy Spirit, we ask that we would bring honor to the Son. That’s Your desire as You shape us into His image, as You show us Christ and we gaze at His glory. May we increasingly be like Him that the world may see Him on display and be drawn to Him.
Thank You for all the work that You do in us, and we are so unworthy of it all but so grateful. May we be faithful to kill the remaining sin that is in us so that we can be everything that would please You and the Son and the Father. Amen.
Any Christian who has not discovered the tremendous power of kingdom authority is living beneath his privileges.
However, Adrian Rogers says, “God will never place you over those things that He means to put under you, until you get under those things that He has put over you.”
Many of us fail to think of the Holy Spirit as a person with authority, yet the Holy Spirit has authority to rule and reign in our lives. In fact, kingdom authority is mediated by the Holy Spirit.
Romans 5 reveals why we should be under the authority of the Holy Spirit.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).
Adam was the first man created by God, and was given dominion over the Earth. But Adam sinned, he forfeited his dominion to sin. And because we are his offspring, we are identified with Adam in this slavery to Satan. Through Adam, we received weakness rather than power and gained ungodliness rather than godliness. We also received wrath rather than approval, warfare instead of peace. We inherited our sinfulness from Adam: not only when we do as we shouldn’t, but also in failing to do as we should.
But Romans 5 also reveals what we receive through Jesus when we join the kingdom of light:
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17).
When we submit to the authority of the Holy Spirit, we receive justification of our sins and reconciliation with the Father. Through the Holy Spirit, we have the fellowship with God that was severed when Adam sinned. We’ve also been regenerated and made righteous to reign through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Apply it to your life
Each one of us is either with Adam in the kingdom of death, or we are with Christ reigning in the kingdom of life. Choose Jesus today; choose kingdom authority through the Holy Spirit.