Being a neighbor, according to Jesus – Part 1 (Luke 10:25-37)

POST OVERVIEW. Taking a break from our study of James 2:14-26, we will be looking at one of the most famous of Jesus’ parables, the story of “The Good Samaritan” in Luke 10:25-37. This first article focuses on the key question the lawyer asks Jesus and how we are to understand Jesus’ answer.

The gospel of Luke is filled with parables spoken by the Lord Jesus Himself to tell us about mysteries of the kingdom of God. One of the most famous of Jesus’ parables is the story of “The Good Samaritan.” A lawyer (an expert in the Mosaic Law) asks Jesus how a person can “inherit eternal life,” and thus ensues a fascinating dialog. This short series will drill deep into the conversation between the lawyer and Jesus and will explore the meaning and the application of the parable about the traveler from Samaria who helps a fellow traveler. My text will be from the NAS translation of the Bible. I will only quote selected portions of the passage but will assume that the reader is following along in their Bible.

Since Luke writes the scenes of his gospel account “in consecutive order” (Luke 1:3), then we can assume that this encounter between Jesus and the lawyer occurs somewhere in the middle of His earthly ministry. As the scene opens, Jesus has been teaching a group that includes this expert in the Mosaic Law. We do not know exactly what prompts his question, but the lawyer stood up and “put Him to the test” with the question, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (The “rich young ruler” of Luke 18:18ff asks the identical question, so it would be an interesting exercise to study these two dialogs together. See Post #612 on 1/18/2023 for an article on the RYR.) In simple terms, the dialog then goes like this:

  • First, the lawyer tests Jesus by asking how a person can “inherit eternal life.”
  • Second, Jesus tests the lawyer by asking him about the Law.  
  • Third, the lawyer answers his own question from what is written in the Law.
  • Fourth, Jesus confirms that the lawyer’s answer is correct.

Let’s pause here for a second. At this point, Jesus has confirmed the answer to the lawyer’s question. “If you do what the Law demands, then you will inherit eternal life.” (NOTE: It is very interesting that Jesus has indirectly affirmed the theoretical possibility for man to inherit eternal life through the Law.) Therefore, the dialog should end here. But obviously the dialog does not end here. Instead, the lawyer asks Jesus another question. Why? What is going on here?


When Jesus confirms the lawyer’s answer (10:27) by saying, “Do this and live,” Jesus means, “Perfectly love the Lord you God and perfectly love your neighbor as yourself, at all times and in all circumstances, from birth till death, and you will live.” Jesus speaks about obeying the Law in absolute terms, in terms of absolute performance without grace. Thus, there are two possible performances – perfect obedience or abject failure. If a person would inherit eternal life through the Law, then that person must themselves fulfill all the Law’s demands. This is what God the Son means when He says, “Do this and you will live.”


The lawyer’s understanding of “love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbor as yourself” is dramatically different than Jesus’. The lawyer sees obeying the demands of the Law through a relative lens. According to him (or the Pharisee or the scribe), “Do this and live,” means “make sure your performance is relatively good and better than most, and you will achieve eternal life.”

We need to spend a moment here to grasp the chasm that exists between these two ways of thinking. Even though the lawyer and Jesus have agreed on the answer to the lawyer’s question, they are oceans apart in their interpretation of what the answer means. The lawyer is probably a little surprised by how easy it is to inherit eternal life and, at the same time, Jesus knows that He is the only one who will ever fulfill the Law’s demands (Matt. 5:17). The lawyer is fully confident that his performance of the Law is good enough, while Jesus is implicitly teaching the lawyer that his performance will never merit eternal life. Ironically, Jesus’ words that should have served as a severe warning to the lawyer have probably increased the lawyer’s confidence in his self-righteousness.


At this point, then, the lawyer has received from the Teacher his answer to his first question, the question about eternal life. Love God and love your neighbor and you’re good. So now, if the lawyer can just get a little clarification about loving his neighbor, he should be able to move on. It is curious that the lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?” and not, “How do I love my neighbor?” The Law demands that you “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18), but it gives no guidance on how to do that. It is this question, “According to Jesus, how do I love my neighbor as myself?” that prompts Jesus’ parable, and it is to that parable that we turn in our next article.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 6/5/2023                     #656

Justified by faith or by works? (James 2:14-26) – Part 4

POST OVERVIEW. The fourth in a series of articles on James 2:14-26. The purpose of these articles is to give the believer a correct understanding of this passage by providing a number of different approaches to this text. The goal is that, through these studies, the believer will see that James’ teaching here does not conflict with the New Testament’s doctrine of justification by faith. (See also Post #652, 5/24,2023, Post #653, 5/25/2023 and Post #654, 5/30/2023.)

This passage in James 2:14-26, and especially 2:21-25, has caused controversy in the faithful community because it appears that James is, in these verses, directly contradicting the doctrinal teaching of the apostle Paul, that a person is justified by faith alone and not by works. The main point of our study is to demonstrate that James and Paul are in full agreement on the gospel.

In our previous lessons on James 2:14-26, we have seen that, when James teaches that a person is “justified by works,” we need to understand how James uses the word “justify” (δικαιόω in Greek) and what he means by “works.” In Post #653, we showed that James uses “justify” in the sense of “give evidence for a claim” and in Post #654, we discovered that the “works” of James 2:14-26 are not done by unbelievers to merit salvation but are done by believers to make their invisible faith visible through faithful acts. These two lessons alone would be sufficient to defuse the claim of conflict between James and Paul.

But there is yet more evidence in the New Testament that makes a disagreement between James and Paul on such a major point of doctrine impossible. This next point will be about the personal acquaintance that the two men had with one another.


First, we turn to Galatians 2:9. In that verse, James gives to Paul the right hand of fellowship at the “Jerusalem council” because of their agreement on the “truth of the gospel” (2:5). Paul was entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised (2:7) and Peter was entrusted with that same gospel to the circumcised. Note that “those who were reputed to be pillars” gave each other “the right hand of fellowship” because they were in complete agreement on the content of the gospel. After reading passages in Galatians like 1:6-9; 2:14, 16, 21; 3:6-14 and 5:2-6, it is impossible to conceive of Paul giving the right hand of fellowship to James if James was still preaching a gospel of justification by faith plus works. If James was even the least bit fuzzy on justification by faith alone, he would have received from Paul treatment similar to what Peter received in Gal. 2:11-14. As Paul makes abundantly clear in Galatians and in other epistles, justification by faith alone is “a hill to die on.” After conferring together and comparing the gospels they preached (Gal. 2:1-10), there is no possibility that James and Paul did not agree completely on this aspect of the gospel.


Luke gives a more detailed account of this same “Jerusalem council” in Acts 15 and we would do well to review this event to corroborate our findings from Galatians. James and Paul both take major roles at this meeting. At that time, James was the leader of the Jerusalem church and Paul was emerging as the apostle to the Gentiles. Peter is also there, still as an apostle but by this time his leadership of the gospel movement has passed to James.

In the proceedings of the council, the apostle Peter declares that “God made no distinction between us and them (the Gentiles), cleansing their hearts by faith” (15:9). Thus Peter asserts justification by faith alone, saying that the Gentiles do not need to obey every jot and tittle of the Law of Moses to be saved (15:10). Then, in a statement that removes all doubt, Peter says, “But we believe that we (the Jews) are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way that they (the Gentiles) also are” (15:12). In this way, Peter has spoken for the circumcised and has made clear that Jews and Gentiles are saved in the same way. There is no need to add the Law to their faith. And if the Law does not need to be added to our faith, then it follows that neither do our “works.”

After Peter, as an apostle and a Jew, has declared that Jew and Gentile are saved by faith through grace, “Barnabas and Paul related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles” (15:12). It is certain that, as these two were describing their experiences among the Gentiles during their first missionary journey, they were also telling of how the Gentiles had been saved by the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18-24) and not by works.

After hearing Peter, the apostle to the circumcised, give his testimony of salvation by faith for both Jew and Gentile, and then hearing Paul, the apostle to the uncircumcised, give the same testimony, James leads “the apostles and the brethren who are elders” (15:23) to send men to Antioch “with our beloved (Barnabas and) Paul” telling the Gentile believers at Antioch that they do not need to adhere to the Mosaic Law in order to be saved.

SUMMARY. Having looked carefully at Acts 15, we see again that James and Paul were not at odds on the doctrine of justification by faith. Even at this early stage of the church, as the gospel was expanding into the territory of the Gentiles, it has already become firmly established among the apostles and church leaders that salvation is by faith apart from works of the Law. James believed this just as much as Paul did. Both men respected each other and were in firm agreement on the contents of the gospel. James could not write to the church at Antioch of our beloved Paul is he secretly rejected Paul’s most essential gospel doctrine.

We must conclude, therefore, that James is not teaching a doctrine of justification by works that is in contradiction to Paul’s teaching.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 6/2/2023                     #655

Justified by faith or by works? (James 2:14-26) – Part 3

POST OVERVIEW. The third in a series of articles on James 2:14-26. The purpose of these articles is to give the believer a correct understanding of this passage by providing a number of different approaches to this text. The goal is that, through these studies, the believer will see that James’ teaching here does not conflict with the New Testament’s doctrine of justification by faith. (See also Post #652, 5/24,2023 and Post #653, 5/25/2023.) This fairly long article focuses on the concept of “works.”

This is the third article in a series of studies of James 2:14-26. Let’s take a moment to review where we have been so far, where we are going in this article, and where we hope to go with the rest of the series.


In my first post (#652), I had explained the main interpretive difficulty in the passage; namely, that it can seem that, in James 2:14-26, and particularly in 2:21-15, James is contradicting the core teaching of the New Testament about justification by faith. The apostle Paul teaches throughout his epistles that a sinner is “justified” (meaning “declared righteous”) solely on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, in Galatians, Paul states that a variation in the gospel on this point is anathema (Gal. 1:8, 9) and that those who preach this “other” gospel are cursed. Because of the New Testament’s teaching on “justified” and on “justification,” “justification by faith alone” became one of the five “Solas” of the Reformation. So, this is not a minor point. In my first post, I had proposed a plan of study that would allow us to examine James 2:14-26 using several different approaches to demonstrate that James is not contradicting any of the Bible’s teaching on what it means to be “justified.”

The second post of the series (#653) had begun to work through the points of the plan of study. Our first piece of information was that the verb “justify” has at least two meanings. Understanding how James uses this verb (and its related terms) in James 2:21-25 helps immensely in defusing the difficulties of the passage.

In this third article, we will focus most of our efforts on understanding the word and the concept of “works.”


Broadly speaking, the concept of “works” relates to human effort or accomplishment. “Works” are things which the human does that affect the human’s relationship with the living God, either positively or negatively. The primary factor that determines whether “works” are pleasing to God or are perceived as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) is whether or not the one doing the “works” has believed in God and has been reconciled with God. In our day, the question would be, “Are you a follower of the Lord Jesus?” If the answer is yes, then your works are generally pleasing to God and, if not, then your works are an offense to Him and a stench in His nostrils.

Let me explain this a bit further and then clarify “works” by giving some examples. I said that the primary factor for evaluating “works” is whether or not the person working is a follower of Jesus. Why is that? It is because, when a person comes to faith in Jesus, their motivation for the “works” dramatically changes.


When a person is not a believer in Jesus, he may still desire to benefit from religious activity or religious works. (In fact, a good working definition of a religion is a system of man-made human efforts intended to achieve some spiritual benefit.) Thus the unbeliever will do things prescribed by their particular religion to try to relieve themselves of guilt or to impress others or to make themselves good enough to be acceptable to their god(s) or to God. The point is that the one who “works” in this way is using their human effort to earn favor with the gods or with God.

The problem with these “works” is that they are as offensive to the living God as perhaps anything can be. These “works” offer man’s sinful efforts and his religious rituals as the means of making him acceptable to God, when God has sent His only Son Jesus into the world to be crucified on Calvary’s cross as the only acceptable sacrifice for sin and as the only means of reconciling God and man. In Acts 4:12, Peter declares,

“And there is salvation in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

The only way to be justified before our holy God is to bow the knee to Jesus and confess Him as Lord and Savior. But, instead of repenting of sin and submitting to Jesus, man wants to continue in his wicked ways and to continue in his sin, so he offers to God a token performance of “works.” Jesus has willingly come from heaven to earth to die on the cross as the only means of rescue from the wrath of God, but by means of his “works,” man rejects the Son of God and offers instead his sin-stained man-made efforts. This is why Paul and the other New Testament writers and solid Christian churches today vigorously oppose any teaching that claims that we can be declared righteous by our “works.” Justification is by faith alone in Christ alone.

Consider these biblical examples. Cain offered to God his “works” of the fruit of the ground (Genesis 4) and he was rejected by God and perished. It was his religious “works” that Saul of Tarsus offered to God (Phil. 3:5-6), but for the apostle Paul those works were all “rubbish” (3:8). Nadab and Abihu offered religious “works” of strange fire before the LORD and were consumed in the flame (Leviticus 10). In the gospels, the Pharisees had all their religious rules, but Jesus repeatedly called them hypocrites. “Works” can never bring an unbeliever closer to God or forgive the unbeliever of one single sin. Any “work” that is using human effort or human performance to achieve favor with God is cursed.


We have just described the “works” of the unbeliever and have seen that they are offensive to God, since they offer human effort as a replacement for the death of Christ. So, if this is the only kind of “works” known in the New Testament and if James is suggesting that the unbeliever is justified (“declared righteous”) by his own “works,” we have a major contradiction and a major problem.

But what we find as we examine Scripture is, first, that there are “works” which are entirely appropriate to the believer and which are, indeed, expected for every believer, and second, that James is certainly not suggesting that an unbeliever is justified (“declared righteous”) by his own “works.” Let’s take these two points one at a time.

In our previous post (#653), we have already demonstrated that, in James 2:21-25, “justified” is used in the sense of the believer giving outward, visible evidence of their inward, invisible faith. Their claim of faith is “justified” when they give sufficient evidence of their faith. But not only does James use “justified” in a non-salvific way in our study passage, but we also see that his examples, Abraham and Rahab, are people who are already believers and who already possess saving faith. (We will address this further when we look at Hebrews 11 in parallel with this passage in James in a later post.) Abraham and Rahab are presented not as examples of those who earned saving faith by their works, but rather as examples of those who demonstrated their saving faith by radical acts of faithfulness.

Finally, then, this passage cannot be about how the unbeliever achieves his own salvation by his “works,” because there is not even an unbeliever anywhere in the passage.

What we see instead is that it is incumbent upon the genuine believer to live a life marked by “good works” which give evidence to his claim of salvation. Calls for “good works” or “good deeds” which attest to an already-possessed salvation are common in the New Testament, and this is certainly the type of “works” that James has in mind here.

The following are places where this type of “works” appears in the New Testament:

Matthew 5:16 “Let men see your good works.”

Ephesians 2:10. It is instructive to read Ephesians 2:9 and 2:10 together. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, not as a result of works. For we are created in Christ Jesus for good works.” “Works” do not save, but “good works” should follow salvation.

Philippians 2:12. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

Colossians 1:10. Paul prays they would “bear fruit in every good work.”

2 Thessalonians 2:17. “Strengthen your hearts in every good work.”

1 Timothy 2:10; 5:10; 6:18. Good works are a mark of a faithful believer.

2 Timothy 2:21; 3:17. “prepared/equipped for every good work.”

Titus 2:7, 14; 3:8, 14. Believers are to be “zealous for good deeds.”

Hebrews 10:24. “Stimulate one another to love and good deeds.”

1 Peter 2:12. The Gentiles glorify God because of your good deeds.


We have seen that “works,” which are presented by the unbeliever as an attempt to merit or earn from God a declaration of righteousness (to be “justified”), are offensive to God and are condemned because these “works” are offered instead of faith in the crucified Christ.

We have also seen that “good works,” which are produced in and by the believer as a visible manifestation (a “justification”) of their invisible faith in Jesus, are expected and are approved by God because these “good works” are wrought through the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is this latter category of “works” that James has in view in James 2:14-26.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 5/30/2023                   #654

Justified by faith or by works? (James 2:14-26) – Part 2

POST OVERVIEW. The second in a series of articles on James 2:14-26. The purpose of these articles is to give the believer a correct understanding of this passage by providing a number of different approaches to this text. The goal is that, through these studies, the believer will see that James’ teaching here does not conflict with the New Testament’s doctrine of justification by faith. (See also Post #652, 5/24,2023.)


Having given an introduction to this series of studies (See Post #652, 5/24/2023), we will begin with an examination of “justify.” This portion of our study will be a little technical, but it is necessary for us to look at definitions and to understand how this word and its related terms are used in the New Testament.

THE FIRST USE OF “JUSTIFY.” As we mentioned above, in the New Testament, the English word “justify” is a translation of the Greek word “δικαιόω.” This word is of profound significance in the gospel of salvation, because its most common usage has the meaning of “declare righteous.” The main message of the gospel is that any sinner who believes (“places their faith”) in the Lord Jesus Christ is immediately declared righteous, forgiven of all their sins, saved from the wrath of God, and has eternal life. In short, by faith he “has been justified.” (This is the passive use of the word “justify.”) This entire set of effects of faith in Jesus has been abbreviated as “justification by faith.” The consistent and abundant teaching of the New Testament is that we are “justified” (declared righteous, etc.) by faith and by faith alone in Christ alone and not on the basis of works. (See later in this series for a deeper understanding of “works” and also for how many times the Bible insists that being justified/justification is not by works.) This use of “justify” (declare righteous) is what the apostle Paul uses almost exclusively in his doctrinal teaching about the gospel of the Lord Jesus and his letters of Romans and Galatians are particularly filled with this doctrine. For this reason, most believers automatically think of “justify” and “to be justified” in terms of “not by works” and “justification by faith alone,” and become concerned and vocal when someone suggests that a sinner can earn salvation (be justified) based on his works. It thus becomes obvious why James 2:21-25 has created some confusion and controversy among believers because James blatantly affirms that Abraham and Rahab were justified by their works. What do we do with that?

A SECOND USE OF “JUSTIFY.” And here it is necessary for us to realize that, while the overwhelming majority of uses of “justify” or “be justified” relates to declaring someone righteous based on their professed faith in the Lord Jesus, there is also a minority use of the word, and it is this minority use of “justify” that James uses in our study passage. James uses “justify” in the sense of “giving outward evidence of an inward reality” or of “supporting a claim to possess an invisible quality.” Other synonyms could be “exhibited,” “demonstrated,” “proved,” or “gave evidence for.”


When I was a purchasing manager several years ago, I had a supplier whose name was Jim Cooper. Jim was a big man. He was probably 6’ 5” and was broad and “thick.” When I shook his hand, my hand almost disappeared into his. He was big. One day we were talking and he mentioned that he was having some pain in his knees. “Yeah, it was probably from too many years playing football.” I paused for a second, then asked, “When did you play football? Were you ever a professional football player?” He said, “I played for the Dallas Cowboys in the late 70’s and 80’s.” I remembered the Cowboys of that era and that they were powerful teams, so I asked, “Do you have a Super Bowl ring?” “Yes, as a matter of fact I do. Super Bowl XII for the 1977 season.” “Would you mind bringing that ring in so I could see it? I have never seen a Super Bowl ring.” “Sure thing. Next time I come over I will bring it.”

Now, I did not doubt for a second that Jim could produce that ring. First, he was an honest man, so he was not lying to me, but second, he was a big man, and the possibility that he had played for the world champion Dallas Cowboys was not a stretch, at all. But at that point in time, Jim’s claim of having a Super Bowl ring was not justified. Jim would not “be justified” until his invisible claim of being on the 1977 Dallas Cowboys was validated (“justified”) by the visible evidence of a Super Bowl ring from Super Bowl XII.

And, true to his word, the next time Jim and I got together, he put his Super Bowl XII ring on the conference table so I could take pictures of it with my phone. Because he had produced tangible visible evidence of his unseeable claim, he was fully “justified.” Jim Cooper claimed to be a member of the World Champion Dallas Cowboys and then produced the ring that proved his claim. In this way, he was “justified.”

If, on the other hand, Jim had claimed to be on the Dallas Cowboys in 1977 but had no Super Bowl ring, there would have been a lot of doubt about his claim. Without tangible, visible evidence to validate his claim, his football career would remain a mere claim, a mere maybe.

This is the way that James uses the word “justify” in 2:21, 24, and 25. If a man claims to have saving faith, then he needs to “justify” (prove, validate) that claim by giving tangible supporting evidence. And the tangible evidence that James is seeking is the evidence of “works.”


After carefully examining the word “justify” and seeing that James uses the word in a very different sense than Paul and the other New Testament writers, we can conclude that there is no conflict or contradiction in James 2:14-26 when compared to other New Testament doctrinal teaching.

NEXT ARTICLE. In this article we have carefully looked at the word “justify.” In the next article, we will examine “works” by first defining what the biblical writers mean by “works” and second, by considering what the role of works is both before and after salvation (Point #2 in our list in Post #652, 5/24/2023). We will conclude the next article by documenting the verses in the New Testament which explicitly teach that “being justified” (“declared righteous”) and justification are always “by faith” and are never “by works.”

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 5/25/2023                   #653

Justified by faith or by works? (James 2:14-26) – Part 1

POST OVERVIEW. The first in a series of articles on James 2:14-26. The purpose of these articles is to give the believer a correct understanding of this passage by providing a number of different approaches to this text. Through these studies, the believer will see that James’ teaching here does not conflict with the New Testament’s doctrine of justification by faith. (Also see previous Post #393, 4/26/2021, on this same passage.)

“But how can a man be in the right before God?” – Job 9:2


From the time of the fall of man in Genesis 3 until the apostolic preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Job’s crucial question went unanswered. But after Pentecost, first the apostles and then the faithful church began to proclaim the good news that, now that Jesus has atoned for sins on the cross, all who repent and believe in Him can be declared righteous and can receive eternal life. That is the gospel we proclaim and by which we are saved. We are justified by faith alone in Christ alone.


But with this as a background, how do we understand James when he declares in his epistle, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works?” (James 2:21)? Perhaps even more unsettling is what we read a few verses later in James 2:24: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Then finally James writes, “Was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works?” (2:25). Is James teaching another gospel in which the sinner is justified by faith plus his own works? Has James abandoned “justification by faith alone,” the central doctrine of the Reformation? Does the Holy Spirit-inspired Bible teach that there are actually two ways to be saved, one by faith in Jesus and another by faith plus works?

These are important questions that I want to address in a series of articles which consider James 2:14-26 and discern what James is teaching in this section of his epistle. As we go through these teaching articles, there are several key points that we will consider.

  1. The word that is translated “justify” (δικαιόω in Greek) or, in the passive, “to be justified,” has two different meanings depending upon the author’s intent. Therefore, we need to understand more about this word “justify.”
  2. An understanding of “works” in the New Testament. What do we mean by “works?” The difference between the role of works before salvation and the role of works after salvation must be considered.
  3. The personal relationship between Paul and James and their complete agreement on the content of the gospel.
  4. The New Testament’s abundant, explicit teaching that justification (God’s declaration of righteousness) is never by works.
  5. A comparison of Hebrews 11 with James 2 allows us to conclusively determine that James is using “justify” in a non-salvific sense.
  6. Finally, a careful, unbiased reading of James 2:14-26 makes the author’s purpose and meaning unambiguously clear.

This, then, will serve as an introduction to this mini-series on James 2:14-26. My plan is to work through each of these points in the list above (not necessarily in order) so that we remove any confusion about justification that might be created by this passage and we also pay attention to the warning that James is communicating here.

My next post will be about the meanings of “justify.” (Point #1 from the list above.)

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 5/24/2023                   #652

The first resurrection (Revelation 20:4-6)

POST OVERVIEW. An interpretation of the meaning of “the first resurrection” from Revelation 20:4-6 that occurs during the “thousand years.”

Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrectionBlessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. – Revelation 20:4-6 (NAS)

The passage before us presents several interpretive difficulties, but we are going to focus our investigation on the meaning of “the first resurrection” as it appears here. What is the Scripture teaching us here about the resurrection?


As we begin our investigation, the first thing to observe is where this scene takes place. This scene is in heaven. In the book of Revelation, thrones (20:4) are always in heaven, so we know that this takes place in heaven. We also know when this takes place, since it is explicitly stated that this takes place during the “thousand years.”

It is important to observe who this vision sees. John saw “souls.” John did not see glorified saints, but he saw “souls.” This is very similar to the scene described in Revelation 6:9 when John also sees the “souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God.” These “souls” are believers who have physically died but who have not yet been glorified in the Resurrection. And this is exactly what we would expect to find during the “thousand years.” We would expect to find those who had died as faithful witnesses of Jesus and who now await the Resurrection on the Last Day.


Now we will consider the part of the passage that talks about “the first resurrection.”

“And they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” – Rev. 20:4

Who are these who came to life and reigned? There are two groups of believers included here, and one group is a subset of the other group. The first group, the subset, is “those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus.” These are the martyrs, the ones who had been faithful even unto violent death, “who have been slain because of the word of God” (Revelation 6:9). The martyrs are a subset of all faithful believers, “those who had not worshiped the beast or his image (Revelation 13) and had not received the mark” (20:4).

Therefore, those who came to life and reigned with Christ for the “thousand years” are all faithful believers who physically died during the “thousand years.”

The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. – Revelation 20:5a

This first sentence in Revelation 20:5 should be seen as parenthetical. “The rest of the dead” is referring to all unbelievers who physically died during the “thousand years.” This parenthetical comment about unbelievers makes abundantly clear that not everyone is included in those who came to life. This simple sentence declares that only those who die in Jesus are going to be reigning with Christ during the “thousand years.” Only faithful believers will “come to life.” Only faithful believers are in heaven with Christ awaiting the glorious Resurrection. “The rest of the dead” are elsewhere awaiting the terrifying great white throne judgment that comes later (Revelation 20:11-15).

This is the first resurrection. – Revelation 20:5b


Here John mentions “the first resurrection.” Some have been unnecessarily confused and distressed by this expression. John is certainly not here introducing the idea of some sort of two-stage resurrection. There is no biblical support anywhere in the Scripture to suggest that there are two literal Resurrections for the saints. This term “the first resurrection” is meant to be understood figuratively to describe the transition that occurs when any believer physically dies and then “rises” to spend the remainder of the age in the spirit in heaven with Christ awaiting the final, real Resurrection.

What do we know about everyone “who has a part in the first resurrection?” We know that the one who has a part in the first resurrection is “blessed and holy.” We know that “over these the second death has no power,” so we know that they will never be threatened with the lake of fire. We know that all these “will be priests of God and of Christ” (confirm in 1 Peter 2:9). Finally, we know that they will reign with Christ for the “thousand years.”

But not all believers will experience this first resurrection. Some believers will not reign with Christ for the “thousand years.” Why? Because the first resurrection is only for those believers who physically die before the coming of Christ, and not all believers will physically die. We know that “we will not all sleep” (1 Corinthians 15:51). We know that there will be some believers “who are alive and remain” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) when the Resurrection occurs. We know that the Resurrection is for those who have fallen asleep, and it is for those who are still living. These still-living believers will not experience the first resurrection because they will be glorified in the Resurrection without going through physical death.

So, not all believers will experience “the first resurrection,” but all believers will certainly experience the Resurrection on the Last Day.


In commenting about the unrighteous from this passage, the ones referred to as “the rest of the dead” in 20:5a, it should be understood that none of the unrighteous has a part in “the first resurrection.” For this reason, none of the unrighteous “came to life and reigned with Christ for the thousand years.” None of the unrighteous is “blessed and holy.” Over the unrighteous “the second death” has all power, because all the unrighteous will experience both physical death and “the second death.” (For a fuller understanding of “the second death,” see “The great white throne judgment” in Rev. 20:11-15.)

Perhaps these statements will help make things clearer:

  • If anyone experiences the first resurrection, then he will not experience the second death.
  • If you are a believer, then you are guaranteed the Resurrection on the Last Day.
  • If you are a believer, then physical death (the first death) is optional.
  • If you are an unbeliever, then you are guaranteed both physical death (the first death) and the lake of fire, which is the second death (Revelation 20:14-15).


In summary, then, “the first resurrection” of Revelation 20:4-6 is a figurative term for the transition that takes place when any believer physically dies and their soul goes to heaven to await their glorification in the Resurrection on the Last Day.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 5/16/2023                   #651

Resurrection lessons from 1 Corinthians 15 (Part 3)

POST OVERVIEW. The third of a three-part study of 1 Corinthians 15, the great chapter on the Resurrection of the righteous that will occur on the last day. (See Post #648, 5/8/2023 and #649, 5/11/2023, for the first two parts of this study.) The objective of this series of posts is to give the Bible student a firm grasp of the doctrine of the Resurrection.

The previous post in this series (#649, 5/11/2023) finished with the “problem” presented by Paul at the end of 15:50; namely, that no believer in Christ who has a natural, earthly body, whether alive or dead, can inherit the kingdom of God. How, then, does a believer inherit the kingdom of God?

15:51. The solution to the problem is that, in the Resurrection, all believers will receive a glorified body that can inherit the kingdom of heaven.


KEY CONCEPT. In this verse, Paul “tells us a mystery.” In the New Testament, a “mystery” is an event or a detail that is currently unknown but that is certain to be revealed in the future. So here, the mystery that is yet to be revealed will explain what happens to those who are still alive when the Resurrection occurs.


Here is what I mean. Up to this point in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul has only been talking about believers who are dead in Christ when the Resurrection occurs (e.g., 15:42). We also note that the Bible’s supreme example of resurrection, the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead, was obviously a raising from the dead. Thus, by the undeniable fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead as “first fruits” (15:23), we can understand how the dead in Christ would likewise be raised from the dead at the final Resurrection. As Jesus was raised from the dead with a glorified body, so the dead in Christ will also be raised from the dead with glorified bodies. We can readily grasp this analogy.

It is also interesting that other prominent biblical pictures of the Resurrection are pictures of saints who are raised from the dead. In Isaiah 26:19, we see a picture of the Resurrection as “Your dead will live, their corpses will rise.” Isaiah gives us a picture of the dead being raised. In Ezekiel 37, the prophet is “in the middle of a valley and it was full of bones. Behold, there were very many bones on the surface of the ground, and very dry” (37:2). But then the Lord GOD says, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves” (37:12). This is obviously a vision of God raising His people from the dead. When Jesus speaks of the Resurrection in the gospel of John (5:28-29), He says, “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice (the Son of Man), and (all) will come forth.” Jesus is speaking about the dead being raised in the Resurrection. All these are pictures of those who are dead in Christ being raised from the dead on the last day.

But what about those who are still alive when the Resurrection occurs? We have no solid example from Scripture or analogy from nature that pictures this. How can those “who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:15) be raised from the dead in the Resurrection? It doesn’t seem to make sense. And so this is the “mystery” that Paul is going to discuss. To repeat the question from above, “What happens to those who are still alive when the Resurrection occurs?”

To answer this question, two things are required. First, we must remember the biblical definition of Resurrection. As we have already seen, it is common for believers to mistakenly think of resurrection only in terms of “being raised from the dead” because Jesus was raised from the dead in His resurrection (see above), but the biblical definition of Resurrection is “the receiving of our glorified bodies.” Being glorified is the primary event of the Resurrection, and both those who are dead in Christ and those who are alive are guaranteed to receive their “spiritual body” (15:44). So first, remember what you have already learned.

But second, we must read our Bible carefully and thoughtfully to understand what Paul is teaching. Paul has told us he is going to be teaching us about a mystery. Therefore, our attitude in reading these verses is to understand exactly what the apostle is telling us about the resurrection of those in Christ who are alive on the last day. Except for what is revealed to us in the Scriptures, we are wholly ignorant of this subject. We are “strangers on the earth” (Psalm 119:19), therefore we come to the Scriptures humbly to gain knowledge and understanding. What, then, does Paul teach us here about those who are alive at the Resurrection?

 Paul announces the mystery: “we will not all sleep,” which simply means that not all believers will physically die before they are resurrected. Some believers will sleep, but some will be physically alive at the Resurrection. (see 1 Thess. 4:15-17). But all believers, whether asleep or alive, will receive a glorified body because “we will all be changed.”

15:52. Paul gives a number of details of the Resurrection in this verse.

The Resurrection (“the change”) will be instantaneous, for it will happen “in the twinkling of an eye.”

The Resurrection will occur when the last trumpet sounds (see “trumpet” in Isa. 27:13, “in that day;” Matt. 24:31; 1 Thess. 4:16). 

“The dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” The dead in Christ (the “perishable”) are raised with glorified (“imperishable”) bodies, and those who are alive (“flesh and blood,” 15:50) are instantly glorified (“changed”). (This latter occurrence is the mystery.)

Note that this description of the Resurrection is in perfect agreement with what Paul writes in 1 Thess. 4:16-17. The dead in Christ are raised and glorified and those who are alive in Christ are changed and glorified. (See also Isaiah 26:19; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2.)

It is also important to note that, although Paul does not mention Christ’s coming (παρουσία) in this passage, the Scriptures make plain that the Resurrection occurs simultaneously with Jesus’ coming. From the lips of Jesus Himself, we also know that these events of the Resurrection occur on the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54).

15:53. We know that “this perishable” refers to those who are dead in Christ (15:42, 52). What must occur for them? “This perishable must put on the imperishable.” The “imperishable” refers to the glorified body (15:42). The dead in Christ must put on their glorified bodies.

The Greek word for “must” is δεῖ, which can be translated “is (absolutely) necessary,” “is inevitable,” or “must.” What is being communicated here is that the only way that “the perishable” (those who are dead in Christ) can inherit the kingdom of God (see 15:50) is for them to “put on the imperishable.” For them to be fit for eternity in heaven, the dead in Christ must receive their glorified body. There is no other way.

Likewise, “this mortal must put on immortality.” “Mortal” here refers to those who are still subject to death, which is those who are still alive. The only way that “the mortal” can inherit the kingdom of God (see 15:50) is for them to “put on immortality.” For them to be fit for eternity in heaven, they must receive their glorified body. There is no other way.

15:54. When all the dead in Christ are raised in their imperishable glorified bodies, and when all those who are alive in Christ have been quickly changed into their immortal glorified bodies, then death will have been swallowed up in victory. All “those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor 15:23) will have donned their eternal glorified bodies and death will have been forever defeated.


We should take a moment after this study to summarize what we have learned, for we have received strong teaching about the doctrine of the Resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15.

  • The Resurrection of all the righteous will occur on the last day (15:23-24).
  • The Resurrection occurs at the same time that the Lord Jesus descends from heaven. So it includes all “those who are Christ’s at His coming” (15:23).
  • The Resurrection speaks primarily about the event when those who are in Christ receive their glorified bodies.
  • All those who are in Christ are guaranteed to receive a glorified body at the Resurrection (15:44, 49).
  • The Resurrection will include the glorification of all the “dead in Christ” and all those who are “alive and remain.”
  • The Resurrection will be instantaneous (15:52).
  • The Resurrection will occur at the sounding of the last trumpet (15:52).

Finally, it is important to remember that, although we have discovered these doctrinal truths by carefully studying 1 Corinthians 15, the truths we have discovered are universal truths. That is, the doctrinal truths about the Resurrection discovered in 1 Corinthians 15 are true for the Resurrection wherever it is mentioned in the Bible. So there is not the doctrine of the Resurrection according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and a different set of doctrines in Isaiah or in the gospel of John or in 1 Thessalonians. The events of the Resurrection as described in 1 Corinthians 15 must agree with the events surrounding the Resurrection in the other passages in Scripture because the Holy Spirit is the author of all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16) and He does not contradict Himself. Other Scriptural passages about the Resurrection may add new details or may present the truths with other word pictures, but other Scripture cannot present a different Resurrection. An interpretation of the Resurrection that conflicts with the one taught in 1 Corinthians 15 should be replaced with the one taught in the Scriptures.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 5/15/2023                   #650

Resurrection lessons from 1 Corinthians 15 (Part 2)

POST OVERVIEW. The second of a three-part study of 1 Corinthians 15, the great chapter on the Resurrection of the righteous that will occur on the last day. (See Post #648, 5/8/2023, for the first part of this study.) The objective of this series of posts is to give the Bible student a firm grasp of the doctrine of the Resurrection.

In the first part of this study of 1 Corinthians 15 (post #648, 5/8/2023), we had established some basic understandings of the Resurrection. First, when we use the word “Resurrection,” we are referring to the general resurrection of all the righteous that will occur on the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24) at the same time that the Lord Jesus descends from heaven with a shout (1 Thess. 4:16). Also, although there are several events that occur in the Resurrection, the primary and defining event is that all the righteous of all time will receive their eternal glorified bodies.

We were in the process of examining the meaning of 1 Cor. 15:42-44, and now we continue that examination by looking at 15:44. In this section, Paul is comparing the physical body that we are given for our earthly life with the heavenly body that we will be given in the Resurrection, particularly in relation to the physical body when it has died. Paul uses the word picture of a seed that is sown into the ground to describe our physical body when it is finally “sown” into the grave.

44 it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

15:44. At our death, our natural body is sown into the ground, having lost all its usefulness. All the parts of the body are there, but there is a complete absence of life. The purpose of the natural body was to carry us and be our servant from birth to death, but now that death has come, the purpose of our natural body has gone and thus it is thrown into the ground.

But the resurrection body, our “spiritual” body, is not like that. We will be raised with a spiritual body that is completely unlike the natural body that went into the grave. Our spiritual body will be useful to us throughout all of eternity. The purpose of this spiritual body is to allow us to serve and worship the King of kings in sinless joy forever, and that purpose will never change or become obsolete.

And Paul punctuates this verse with a promise, that if the believer in Jesus had a natural body, then there will certainly be for that believer a spiritual body. In other words, every believer is promised a glorified spiritual body that will allow them “to stand before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes (indicating that our glorified bodies will be clothed in heaven), and palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice, saying ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Rev. 7:9-10).

This amazing chapter culminates in 15:50-54 with more teaching about the Resurrection as the apostle tells us about the actual event itself. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit is evident in this passage as we see that this description of the Resurrection is in complete agreement with other Scriptures about this event.

50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.

In this five-verse theological masterpiece, we will see that, in each verse in this passage, Paul addresses both those who are asleep (“the dead in Christ”) and “those who are alive and remain until the coming (παρουσία) of the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:15). This is significant because it tells us that all those who are in Christ at the Lord’s return will be resurrected to receive their glorified bodies.  

EXEGETICAL NOTE: Paul consistently uses the words “perishable” and “imperishable” to refer to those who are dead in Christ at the Resurrection. Since this is the case, we can use “dead in Christ” and “perishable” interchangeably.

15:50. Paul says that those who have “flesh-and-blood” bodies at the Resurrection are completely unprepared for eternal life in the kingdom of God. In other words, those who are physically alive in Christ “cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” But Paul adds that “the perishable,” those who are physically dead in Christ (15:42), also “cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Paul has thus presented a problem; namely, that no believer in Christ who has a natural, earthly, physical body, whether alive or dead, can inherit the kingdom of God. What is the solution to this problem?  

We will explore the answer to this question in the next post in this series, and we will also solve Paul’s “mystery” from 1 Corinthians 15:51. Go to Post #650 for more teaching on the Resurrection.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 5/11/2023                   #649

Resurrection lessons from 1 Corinthians 15 (Part 1)

POST OVERVIEW. The first of a two-part study of 1 Corinthians 15, the great chapter on the Resurrection of the righteous that will occur on the last day.

The apostle Paul expresses some of his clearest doctrinal teaching about the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. A correct understanding of Paul’s teaching here allows the student of eschatology to avoid many of the most common end-times errors and instead to see the consistency of the Holy Spirit-inspired Scriptures. This article will explore 1 Corinthians 15 and identify key points in the doctrine of the Resurrection.


Before we begin our investigation, we need to define our terms. When we use the word “Resurrection,” we are referring to the general resurrection of all the righteous that will occur on the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24). There are several events that characterize the Resurrection. First, Jesus Himself is the One who “will raise up” the righteous (again, John 6:39, etc.). The Resurrection occurs at the same time that the Lord Jesus descends from heaven with a shout (1 Thess. 4:16). The Resurrection includes both all those who are dead in Christ at His coming (παρουσία) and all those in Christ who are alive at His coming (1 Thess. 4:15-17).


The primary event in the Resurrection is that all the righteous of all time receive their eternal glorified bodies. Technically, “resurrection,” as used in reference to the general resurrection, does not mean merely rising from the dead (for those who are living will also be resurrected), but means “being glorified.” In the Resurrection, then, all the righteous of all time are glorified. Much of the teaching about our glorification comes from the chapter we are studying, namely 1 Corinthians 15.

Now that we have established the meaning of Resurrection, we will dig into select verses from 1 Corinthians 15.

23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 Then comes the end. . .

Paul is writing about the order of the resurrection. He has begun his teaching in this chapter by establishing the fact of the general resurrection from the fact that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is an indisputable, undeniable fact, and since Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, we know that we also will be resurrected.

“But what will be the timing of our resurrection?”

First, Paul describes Jesus’ resurrection as the “first fruits of those who are asleep” (see 15:20, also). “First fruits” was a term from the Old Testament which devoted the best of the harvest to the Lord and which also anticipated that the full harvest was certainly coming in. So here, Christ is the first and the best of those who will be resurrected and His resurrection guarantees that all His people will also be resurrected.

When will they be resurrected? In complete agreement with other Scriptures (see above), the Resurrection of all those who are Christ’s will occur at His coming (παρουσία) on the last day and will occur just before the end. Whether alive or “asleep,” all the righteous will rise glorified to meet their King as He descends with a shout to judge the earth. And then comes the end.

Thus from 15:23 we learn that 1) Christ’s resurrection guarantees the resurrection of all those who are in Christ; 2) the general Resurrection occurs at Jesus’ coming (παρουσία) 3) on the last day; 4) the end immediately follows.

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

The apostle now goes on to explain the difference between our natural body and our glorified resurrection body. He is answering the rhetorical question asked in 15:35, “And with what kind of body do they come?”

15:42. First, he says, we go into the ground “in corruption.” This is the literal translation of the Greek. Anyone who has seen a dead body understands what Paul is saying. The dead physical body is no longer of any use and lies motionless and cold, but it will soon be “sown” into the ground where it will gradually decompose and return to dust (Gen. 3:19). Thus it is sown in corruption.

But the resurrection body is not like that. When we are raised, we will be given glorified bodies that will never see corruption or decay (Psalm 16:10b).

15:43a. We go into the ground “in dishonor.” There was a time when our body was young and supple and strong and we proudly walked on the beach in our bathing suit. But the natural body does not bear the test of time, and soon we are stooped and stiff and saggy. Then finally we enter the ground in complete humiliation. All beauty is gone from our earthly body.

But the resurrection body is not like that. The resurrection body will be revealed in dazzling glory (Phil. 3:21). Our resurrection body will be like the glorified body of Jesus (1 John 3:2), whose glory is so powerful that just a momentary glimpse blinded Saul the Pharisee for three days (Acts 9:3-9). So will our bodies be, unimaginably beautiful and sinless and perfect.

15:43b. We go into the ground “in weakness.” There is nothing so weak and useless as a dead body. At the instant of death, all remaining strength vanishes. If standing, the body collapses to the ground. If lying down, all muscles immediately go limp. The earthly body that goes into the ground is the supreme example of weakness.

But the resurrection body is not like that. Our resurrection body will be marked with power, and that power will never diminish. We will have, in our glorified bodies, the power to do whatever works we are called to do throughout eternity with never a trace of fatigue.

We have more to learn about the Resurrection from the apostle Paul. Our study of this chapter will continue in the next post.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 5/8/2023                     #648

And the day of vengeance of our God (Isaiah 61:2)

POST OVERVIEW. The second part (see #646, 5/2/2023) of a study of Isaiah 61:1-2 as quoted by Jesus in Luke 4 when He was in Nazareth. This one on “The day of vengeance of our God” (61:2).

In our last post (#646, 5/2/2023), we had begun to discuss Isaiah 61:1-2 and to consider why Jesus had quoted part of these verses when He was in His hometown of Nazareth in Luke 4. In that scene in the gospel of Luke, Jesus announced that He was the promised Messiah and that His appearance was ushering in “the favorable year of the LORD” (Luke 4:19). Now for a long time God’s mercy will welcome believing sinners into His kingdom as sons and daughters. With the first advent of the Messiah, today is “the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

But we see from Isaiah 61:2 that the favorable year of the LORD will not last forever. The favorable year will end and then there will come “the day of vengeance of our God.” It is understanding this day of vengeance that will be our focus in this post.


But before we explore the day of vengeance which will occur at Jesus’ second advent, I want to consider the nature of His first advent. Why did Jesus’ earthly ministry during His first appearance have the character that it did?

The main point to be grasped is that, for there to be a “favorable year of the LORD,” Jesus had to perfectly accomplish the work He had been given to do in His Incarnation. Jesus was not merely born in Bethlehem, but much more than that, He was sent by the Father to fulfill His mission. The Son of God was sent from heaven to accomplish the work of atonement that He had been given to do (John 17:4). In His life, He was to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17) by perfectly obeying it so that He could be a sinless sacrifice for the sins of His people (Hebrews 10:10, 12, 14). When He had perfectly obeyed the Father in His suffering and had humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross (Phil. 2:8), He was able to shout the victory cry, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)


So, Jesus did not come in His Incarnation to judge the world (John 3:17) but came to be a ransom for many (Mark 10:45) so that many would be saved through Him.


The good news is that Jesus has accomplished His work of atonement and has made it possible for sinners to be reconciled to a holy God. Now through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ anyone who believes will be saved from the wrath of God.

With His death on the cross, Jesus finished His work of atonement.

Now, during “the favorable year of the LORD,” the church has been given the work of making disciples and of proclaiming the gospel to the ends of the earth.

But on the last day, Jesus Christ will appear in His awesome Second Coming to execute His work of judgment. This will be the terrifying “day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:2), and it is to this subject we now turn.


Jesus did not mention this day of vengeance in the synagogue in Nazareth, but all the Scriptures make clear that there will certainly be a day of judgment at the end of the age and the Scriptures will certainly be fulfilled. There will be an end to the favorable year of the LORD and a beginning to the day of vengeance. The time of mercy and grace and compassion will pass away and the day of wrath and fury and recompense for all wrongs will come upon the world like a flood and like thief in the night, and there will be no escape.

The Bible has much to say in Old Testament and New about this day of vengeance, this “day of the LORD.” These awesome scenes of powerful destruction are given to the unrighteous as warnings to drive them to repentance (Romans 2:4-9). The wicked should fear the judgment of the Lord and flee from the wrath to come (Luke 3:7).

And Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords is the One who will execute the judgments of that day. Jesus is the One who will tread the great wine press of the wrath of God (Rev. 14:19). Jesus is the One who will carry out the wrath of the Lamb on the great day (Rev. 6:16-17). Jesus is the Rider on the white horse who is called Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11). On that day He will strike down the nations with His sharp sword and will rule them with a rod of iron, and He will tread the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty (Rev. 19:15).

The day of vengeance of our God is the same thing as the day of the LORD in the Old Testament prophets. The prophet Joel tells of a day of darkness and gloom, of clouds and thick darkness. This is a day that comes as destruction from the Almighty. Blood and fire and columns of smoke. In Micah, the Lord declares, “in that day I will execute vengeance in anger and wrath on the nations which have not obeyed” (Micah 5:15). Nahum declares, “The LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies” (1:2). “The hills dissolve. Indeed, the earth is upheaved by His presence (1:5). Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire” (1:6). Zephaniah cries out, “Near is the great day of the LORD, near and coming very quickly (1:14). A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom (1:15). Their blood will be poured out like dust and their flesh like dung” (1:17). And time would fail me if I listed all these passages in the prophets.

This “day of vengeance” is the same thing as “that day” in many passages in Isaiah. In Psalm 110, the Lord (“Adonai” in the Hebrew; this is Jesus) “shatters kings in the day of His wrath. He judges among the nations. He fills them (the nations) with corpses. He will shatter the chief men across a broad country” (110:5-6). In 2 Thess. 1:7 during the day of vengeance, “The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God.” When describing Jesus on the day of judgment, the author of Hebrews says, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:31), and later he says, “Our God is a consuming fire” (12:29).

SUMMARY. The message is clear. Jesus has died and Jesus has risen and He has given sinners a season of mercy when they can repent and a reason for hope if they will believe in Him. Yes, Jesus has died and Jesus has risen, but Jesus is coming again. Now is the day of salvation, for when He comes again, He will come in terrifying vengeance.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 5/3/2023                     #647