When the Apostle John was given the Revelation dream or the vision, he tells us, the reader,
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet,” Revelation 1:10 NASB.
A few years ago, I sat in the living room of a man that led a group study in his home. Truth be known, only three of us met there, but this night there were just two of us. I don’t remember the book’s subject matter we had been reading, but the homeowner said to me, I have never been filled with the Holy Spirit. This conversation makes me think about an interaction that Paul and another brother had.
“It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.” (Acts 19:1-6 NASB)
The subject of the Holy Spirit can be the focus of heated arguments and fights, as false teachings have created an atmosphere of fear and distrust. The bottom line here is that we fear what we do not understand. I do not intend to pursue the subject of the Holy Spirit because it is a study in itself. However, I do want to make an observation about the Spirit, which the Apostles pretty much had to figure out as they went.
With that thought in mind, what do you think John meant when he said, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.”?
Having had a few moments like this, let’s just say, he was lost in the moment. That moment may have been initiated through a time of prayer, or through an open conversation with God, which is also a prayer.
I will add that during my times of pursuing the faith movement, which I don’t do anymore, Brother Copeland came out on stage and continued speaking in tongues. Kenneth motioned for a man who taught in other sessions that weekend and had him take over the teaching for several minutes. It was a most interesting and unusual meeting. Later Brother Copeland explained, I had been in the back talking with God in my spirit, and I got lost in the moment. When I came out here on stage, I simply did not want to leave that moment. The Holy Spirit worked it out beautifully as Jerry Savelle, taught this portion placed in his lap beautifully, and in time handed it back to Kenneth. Kenneth explained that the Holy Spirit does not, and did not take over his body, he said, I merely did not want to step out of God’s presence. You see, it is our choice to let God envelop us in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
I can just about guarantee that the disciples figured out that Jesus is God. Imagine the moment John realized that those conversations that John had had with Jesus, as he laid his head on Jesus’ chest, he was having them with God. It is easy to visualize him, in that cave, reliving that moment now. A couple of my old fishing holes have islands in them. You can throw a rock from end to end; Patmos is quite a bit bigger than that, and may well have other prisoners trying to exist on it. How fortunate John had a cave for shelter. Now imagine yourself very focused, when suddenly you hear a voice, and it seems to be coming from behind you; that would make me jump unless I knew it was an integral part of the vision.
The vision may have been long, nothing short of scary, and exhausting. But, finally, this is all coming to a glorious end. The old earth has passed away, along with the heavens, and they are both made new. The final judgment has come and gone, ending Satan’s career permanently and those who chose to follow Satan by their refusal to follow Jesus. And, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain1.” All the anguish, fear, and pain associated with life are gone forever.
Now we move on to Revelation 21:5,
“And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21:5 NASB)
With a statement like this, “I am making all things new.” you would think God could not be talking about people, as we have already been made new. If He is, consider how the end of judgment has come through the Great White Throne. If Matthew 25 applies here, then those deemed the sheep, whose names are written in the book of life – gain entrance into the eternal kingdom that has been awaiting them from the beginning of time.
Oh, by the way, no one comes into the heavenly kingdom with their old, broken nature. You need to get that idea out of your head. The problem, for many, is the manner in which some of these people are changed. Many think that this change only happens through water baptism; however, the thief on the cross blew that religious belief out of the water.
The Greek word for new is kainos, and it can also mean fresh or unworn. So it becomes easy to visualize that people, the earth, and the heavens will be cleaned up, including all the space debris out there.
Every time I pause, as I am contemplating the end of the Revelation, I envision the wastefulness and destruction we have unleashed upon this earth; it is more than a little disgusting that you have to find someone else’s debris almost everywhere you go. As messed up as I think this planet is, I can still see that there is beauty and wonder in the mountains and the trees. None of this matters, nor is God asking our opinion about what we would like to see. I just know from scripture it will be the most spectacular, and relaxing garden setting that anyone could imagine and somehow be just what our hearts needed.
To the thief on the cross, the newness was about to become a reality, as Jesus said, “this day, you will be with me in paradise.” The religious explanations for what Jesus said have to add to the idea that, while the thief may be momentarily relaxed and comforted, there has to be an accounting for his sins. Considering that Jesus is God, don’t you would think He would have discussed that with this man if it had been necessary, or, Jesus could have done a supernatural download of information into the man’s head (Yes, I am being sarcastic about that download stuff.)
The word Jesus used for the place He was inviting this man next to Him to is the Greek word paradeisos and it was understood by many to be the most spectacular garden you could imagine. I tell you this because we are told in scripture that heaven is beyond our wildest imaginations.
(In Dubai’s small but very wealthy nation, there is a garden that must have come out of Alice in Wonderland. In the pictures I have seen, it has the feel of giant lollipops, gumdrops, and the best of the Rose Parade floats. It is eye candy and lavishly absurd, especially when considering that their water supply is from the ocean and must be desalinated.)
So, for this man on the cross, whom we call the thief, there was no holding zone – purgatory, as all of his shortcomings, were instantly erased. This man was changed (in the twinkling of an eye,) made new, and went straight to paradeisos when he died. For those hung up on details, the question is, when did this change happen? That is not clearly defined, but it happened. Perhaps it was when the thief told the other, “do you not fear God?” This was very like one of those Peter moments, for when Jesus asked “who do men say that I am,” Peter responded with, “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” As Amir Tsarfati, recently taught, in his teaching “Get behind me Satan,” that NO ONE in Israel would recognize or teach what Peter said. But the thief on the cross said it. I contend that this statement indicated an acceptance and acknowledgment of the deity of Christ.
Now, as for Jesus. I was asked, where then did Jesus go when He died?
The mystery of the gospels and the New Testament lies in all that this God-man did. A massive clue and part of the answer comes from the book of Acts. Peter, preaching boldly to the thousands on the Day of Pentecost, quoted from Psalms 16:10, when he said of Jesus,
“For You will not leave My soul in hell; You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”
The Holy Spirit would not have made a statement like this unless Jesus had gone to hell. You can play word games, hoping to convince others that Jesus was being held in Abraham’s bosom. The problem with that logic is that there is no corruption recognized there.
Why would Jesus, a sinless man, go to hell?
Because Satan had Him falsely accused as a blasphemer because He said He was the Son of God; the high priest – the law of the Jewish community, had Jesus scourged, based on those false accusations, few lived through such punishment; and, He died a criminal’s death on a Roman cross. Satan thought he owned Him. If you recall, Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if He would just bow to him in worship. If Jesus had done that it would have been game over for everyone, and, without a doubt, Satan would have owned Him. But, praise God, none of that happened. Look at what Paul said.
And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a sepulcher. But God raised him from the dead:
(Acts 13:28-30 KJV)
I used to drive quite a bit for a job I had and I entertained myself by listening to “Christian” radio. One of those voices was the Bible Answer Man, Hank Hannegraf. I did not like him. Hank would say, those who teach that Jesus would have gone to hell are blasphemers and false teachers. Obviously, Mr. Hannegraf did not have all the answers.
I do not see how, even for a moment, that Jesus’ adventure into hell, in any way diminishes His Godhead or authority, as He stripped Satan of all his “power and authority”, took away his keys, preached to the captives, and set the prisoners free.
Does that sound diminished?
Hardly. All this may have taken place right before that dear man on the cross died. You know, the one who has been promised to be with Christ in paradeisos. So run a streak of logical thoughts and tell me where that “thief” on the cross went when he died. He went where Jesus went when the Father, only seconds later, reached down His mighty hand and pulled His own Son out of hell. A son, by the way, who voluntarily put Himself through this mire, just for you and I.
Do you know how hard it is to type when your eyes are filled with grateful tears that long to be with the one who did all this for us.
And he also said,
“It is finished!
I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End.
To all who are thirsty
I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.
(Revelation 21:6 NLT)
This is like listening to a sports announcer do the after-game wrap-up. It’s over, and yet, having spoken these words so long ago, He saw fit to cry out to those who thirst for His love, come.
Revelation 21:7 NASB “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”
Obviously, the NASB uses the word overcomes, but so do about half the translations. The translations, many of which were meant to be at an elementary school understanding, will say, “Those who win the victory.” I have to tell you, I have days in which I feel like I did neither. But as I wrote I kept hearing these words screaming within me, but you have overcome in Jesus. It might also be said, in Christ, you are a victor.
If you could do a word search for the simple phrase, “in Christ” you would find that Paul used this phrase at least 26 times, which kind of implies he was serious about the fact that, as believers, we are in Christ.
- Romans 3:22 God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. God does this to all who believe in Christ because there is no difference at all.
- Ephesian 2:7 “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
- Philippians 3:9 “… not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ,”
- Colossians 1:28 “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.”
I hope you got the general idea that we believers are, by adoption, in Christ. All we need to do is believe and trust. I would like to tell you this is easy, but we have an enemy and he is always blasting us with doubts about our relationship. This blasting is always one-sided, as it never comes from the Father because He loves you. Alright, now the peculiar part.
Revelation 21:8 NASB “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
If I did not lose you, you have a general idea that the world, as we understand it, is over. Revelation 21:1-7 paints that picture for us. If it’s over, that means all the judgments are past and the only persons left are those whose names are written in the book of life.
Take a look at the Contemporary English translation, and pay attention to these alternate words.
“But I will tell you what will happen to cowards and to everyone who is unfaithful or dirty-minded or who murders or is sexually immoral or uses witchcraft or worships idols or tells lies. They will be thrown into that lake of fire and burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (CEV)
This book of life thing is not exclusive to particular denominations, as some believe, for we can see mercy being shown to some, through Matthew’s account2.
Then who are these people and why are they now having an impact?
If you have read the Revelation with the intent of understanding, you noticed that many passages look backward into history. By doing this those scriptures are giving you the background and reasons for God pouring out His wrath upon Israel and the nations. Examples of this can be seen in,
- (Revelation 12:1-6 NASB)
Here, it speaks of a sign. This astronomical sign was a reality and reoccurred recently. The woman is Israel, and the child is Christ. Satan tried to kill Christ but failed, and three and a half years after starting His ministry on earth we see Satan try again. This time he thought he got Him, but a short time later we see Him caught up to heaven. The rule over the nations primarily points to the millennial reign. The visual of a red dragon is created through words. The horns and heads were and will be world rulers and leaders. Angry that he could not kill Jesus, Satan went after the woman who fled into the wilderness where she *had a place prepared by God so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. This is significant because it puts this final attempt in the second half of the seven years.
- (Revelation 12:7-9 NASB)
Satan was thrown down to earth. The passage tells us that there was war in heaven, but it does not specify when this happened. Indeed, this happened long before the birth of Christ. Still, the plans and attempts to derail God’s plan continued throughout the centuries. It was Satan, in the form of a four-legged serpent, who deceived Eve in the garden. So, the deception has been an ongoing process.
- (Revelation 12:10-11 NASB)
And finally, the retribution of Satan against Israel and God’s people. The scriptures, having just told us that Satan was thrown down, tell us that Satan goes on a rampage against anything that looks like Jesus.
The passage says, “…Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down…” It is a little confusing and puzzling at best when the Holy Spirit sees fit to say things like “they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony,” and “rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them…. knowing that he has only a short time.” For many of us, the battle has been deadly. Oh, sure, by the Father’s standards, we overcame, but it does not look like we did as an outsider looking in. (Yes, I let my humanness get involved in Bible study.)
With all that in mind, Revelation 21:8 describes people from among the nations that walk the earth through the millennium and up to the great white throne. This is the time frame that includes Jesus coming back to earth as the warring Messiah, the beginning of Christ’s millennial reign, and the final judgment at the end of those thousand years. This description works because the Holy City comes down quickly, and Jesus’ throne is set in the middle of the city, where He reigns along with the martyred saints through the thousand years. So, in the simplest of terms, that one verse is a recap and description of the kind of people that continue to live with their free wills intact throughout this time.
I get it; this clashes with what you have been taught. If only we would read our Bibles, we would be less prone to accept false teachings that lead you astray from truth and create a massive hole in what you think the character of God is.
2Matthew 25: 31-46