Discover what God’s grace does in our lives based on Titus 2:11-14.
I want to make as an integral part of Grace for Life the opportunity to interact and answer some questions you may have about the Bible, God, Christ, salvation, end-times, etc. I believe we learn much more by interacting with others and allowing God to sharpen our ideas so that they align with His truth. So…got questions? You may submit them in many ways:
1) Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will post your question (anonymously) and the answer on the blog.
2) Send me a message on Facebook (either under David Palmer or Grace for Life Page (facebook.com/graceforlife)
3) Send me a tweet @graceforlife
4) Text your question to me: 760-895-1GFL (1435).
Look forward to hearing from you. God bless.
In our last post, we examined Jesus’ words to His disciples recorded in Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus asserts that He WILL build His church using the witness of the Apostles of the gospel and the gates of hell would NOT prevail against it. We also saw that Jesus gave the Church the keys to the kingdom, that through the proclamation of the gospel, they would render the loosing and binding that is already established in heaven by the Sovereign Lord.
So, how does this tie into Revelation 20? Revelation 20:1-6 is the apocalyptic version of Matthew 16:13-20. In other words, John puts into symbolic form what Jesus instructed the disciples concerning the Church. Therefore, Revelation 20:1-6 is a picture of the Church and the Church age carrying out the very words of Jesus. How so?
In this post we will focus upon Revelation 20:1-3 (we will cover verses 4-6 in the next). These verses pertain to the binding of Satan. In verse 1, there is an angel (messenger) coming from heaven (the place of absolute authority, where Jesus is today), with a key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. Is this a literal key and literal chain? Of course not, this is apocalyptic language. Like in Matthew 16, the key represents authority. Listen to Jesus’ words in Revelation 1:17, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” By nature of His death and resurrection (the gospel), Jesus has the keys of authority over death and Hades (hell). These are the same keys invested to the disciples in Matthew 16. This angel is exercising the authority of Christ, the authority of the gospel, over Satan, the chief leader at the gates of hell (Hades). And what about the chain? It is simply a symbol of binding, imprisonment, limited power and effect. That is, Satan’s power is real, but limited–limited to what takes place from the bottomless pit (the source of demonic activity in the Revelation).
Please note that Satan is not completely incapacitated in these verses, but his power is limited that “he might not deceive the nations any longer.” The binding of Paul in the book of Acts did not completely hinder Paul. He was limited, but still able to write and minister. In terms of the binding of Satan, the verse specifically states the purpose is so that he cannot ultimately stop the progress of the gospel. Why? Because Jesus has the keys, has given them to the Church, the Church proclaims the gospel, and now we enter into the strongman’s house (as Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfilled Matthew 12:29) and reverse what Satan started in the Garden of Eden, as the children of God are brought forth from all nations, the world (Matthew 28:19-20; Revelation 5:9). Since the death and resurrection of Jesus, the kingdom is no longer restricted to or centered upon Israel, but now it advances through the whole world (the fullest expression of OT anticipations). And, the gates of hell CANNOT prevail (literally, succeed in overpowering or defeating) against it.
But secondly, and primarily in this passage, the inhibition to deceive the nations relates to Satan mounting a global attack against the Church, an attack that will happen at the end of the age (see Revelation 20:7-10), that ultimately results in his final defeat, the consummation of what started at the cross and resurrection of Christ, and the complete and final fulfillment Genesis 3:15 will take place. When will this occur? At the end of the 1,000 years, which is to be taken symbolically (because everything else in the Revelation is symbolic). This is the complete period of the gospel kingdom’s work on earth, the Church age, the period between the first and second coming of Christ.
So, John simply states what Jesus promised concerning the Church Matthew 16. Though Satan roams around like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour, and while he deceives and accuses the saints of God, he CANNOT have final victory over the Church. He cannot extinguish Christ’s New Covenant Community. The gates of hell WILL NOT prevail against the Church.
I think this is clearly substantiated by church and modern history. The more the enemies of the Church have tried to stop and extinguish the Church, it has only caused it to grow and flourish. This is true in Communist China, the Middle East, and hostile Africa. We can show statistically that as men under Satan’s control have tried to kill and wipe out the Church, numerically it has grown substantially. This has happened in the first century and the modern era. The point is, Satan is attacking the Church violently (using the Beastly governments, the False Prophets of religious error, and Babylon the seductress of this world’s riches). At times, it seems he is gaining a foothold over the Church (like using Babylon and False Prophets to lull the American Church to compromise and ineffectiveness). But the TRUE Church will always prevail against the kingdom of darkness, meaning that true believers who make up these churches will also gain the victory. On what ground—the already attained victory secured by the death and resurrection of Christ! As my former NT professor used to say, “D-day has occurred, V-day is assured.”
Do you belong to the true Church of Jesus Christ, the One purchased by His blood and brought to life through His resurrection power? Do you belong to the local community of the saints of God, sharing life together in the Spirit? Then you belong to the Invincible Church. In our next blog, we will finish looking at Revelation 20:4-6 and show how the saints gain final victory over the weapon of hades—death.
Matthew 16:13-20 is one of the most powerful sections in the Gospels related to the Church. In fact, just recently I heard an incredible exposition of these verses at a conference. As the speaker was boldly preaching this text, a thought triggered in my mind. What Jesus says to His disciples in Matthew 16 about the invincibility and victory of the Church founded on Him is exactly what John portrays in Revelation 20:1-6! The parallels are inescapable.
In Matthew 16, after asking His disciples who the people of Israel identified Him as, He turns to His own disciples and asks, “But who do you say that I am?” (15). Of course, Simon Peter’s response is a classic identification of the reality of who Jesus is–“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (16) Jesus acknowledges clearly that Peter didn’t come up with this on his own, but simply responded to the revelation that was given to him from the Father Himself, an evidence that Peter has been blessed. (17)
It is what Jesus says in response (18) that we want to direct our attention toward in this post. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus says that on the confession of Peter (who Jesus is) and the ministry of Peter (and the other Apostles), He will build His church. It is not that Jesus might build it if things go well, nor is it that the building of the Church is entirely dependent upon human willing and exertion. Jesus is the builder of His Church, His called out ones, His elect. And He will do it because He is the sovereign Lord and Cornerstone of His Church. He will build the New Covenant Community, the fulfillment of the OT promises of a new humanity, the New Israel, the Church.
This implies something significant for our study–“and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Notice the certainty of Jesus’ statement. The gates of a city represented not only an entrance/exit, but also a place of power, a place where the leaders gathered to make decisions, a place of authority. Hell here is “Hades,” the realm of the dead. The gate of hell not only represent Satan and his demonic authorities in their attack against the church, but also Satan’s prime weapon–death. In other words, neither Satan nor death will be able to prevail against Christ’s Church.
What is the means by which the Church would prevail over Satan and death? Jesus answers this in verse 19: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Keys are symbolic in this context, as Jesus doesn’t give the disciples a bunch of metallic door openers on a giant ring. Keys symbolize authority, in this case, not an authority inherent in Peter and the other apostles, but an authority that is given by Jesus Himself. These are the keys of the kingdom over the means of entrance into the kingdom–the Gospel. Entrance to the Church would come only through the gospel–the word of God centered upon the meritorious work of Christ, namely, His perfect life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection from the grave.
The authority given to the disciples (and I would argue for the Church at-large) is to bind and loose. Two important notes on this. First, whatever is bound or loosed has already been done so in heaven. The disciples are carrying out the divine orders from God Himself, not doing anything by their own initiative or authority. Second, binding and loosing was language of Jesus’ day to represent allowing or restricting a certain activity. If the Scripture loosed someone to do something, they were free to do it under God’s blessing. But if they were bound, they were inhibited, restricted, even prohibited on the basis of God’s authority.
So what Jesus is simply saying is that by means of the preaching of the gospel, entrance to the kingdom is either allowed or prohibited. On what condition? On condition that those they preach to either receive or reject the Christ of the gospel. Remember, the gospel is not only a message of freedom from sin and death and life in God, but it is also a message of condemnation. So the disciples (and Church) is invested with power through the gospel to allow or prohibit entrance to the kingdom, in which the Church is the representation of Christ’s kingdom on earth, AND this Church WILL be build by Christ and His work, and Satan and death will never prevail against it.
How does this tie into Revelation 20? That will be answered in the next post. For now, we should be assured by this passage of these vitally practical points:
1) Jesus is the sole builder of the Church. No human is ever the ultimate church-builder. Jesus takes this role exclusively.
2) Jesus WILL build His Church. His purpose, the eternal purpose of God from before the foundation of the earth, will be accomplished. The Church is not plan B, it is the culmination of all that was foretold and foreseen in the Old Testament.
3) Christ builds His Church through His disciples. That Christ uses us as instruments of grace to reach people and bring them into the Church is an amazing and humbling thing. It also gives us great missionary responsibility.
4) Christ builds the Church through the gospel. The gospel is the only message ordained by God to bring people into the Kingdom of God. There is no other way. To reject the gospel is to be bound to sin, and prohibited from the gift of eternal life through Christ.
5) Satan and the gates of Hades will NEVER prevail against the Church. They will use every scheme and weapon available, and even kill and deceive Christians, but can NEVER thwart God’s eternal purposes.
This means that to belong to the Church is to belong to the invincible and indestructible Church. Do you, by nature of being a disciple of Christ, a Christian, belong to His Church? And do you belong to the local expression of that Church? Do you take the call to proclaim the gospel seriously? Do you walk in the already accomplished victory that is ours through Christ as His New Covenant Community?
God bless and I look forward to resuming this great topic in our next post on this subject.
Listen to Pastor David preach on John 8:31-32, asking the question “Are You Free?” This message was preached at Trinity Baptist Church in Indio (ourtrinityfamily.com) on July 1, 2012.
Hello Grace for Life Blog, Twitter, and Facebook Friends,
Several years ago I started working on a manuscript that captured the essence of what “Grace for Life” means, in light of being resolved toward a mission in life. I have finished the manuscript, but I need your help. I would like you to be a part of the process of getting this book published in the near future.
So how can you help? By downloading the .pdf version of Chapter 1 below, and carefully reading the chapter with these few questions in mind:
1) Is the language easy to follow? Are there minor/major grammatical mistakes/errors?
2) Can you sense from the first chapter the main thesis of the book and where the book is heading? What does this book seek to address/answer?
3) Would you be compelled to read more than just this chapter?
4) Do the illustrations adequately and properly illustrate the points they are intended to?
5) Any part/point really confusing, or needs more clarity, or should be condensed to make the same point?
6) Any suggestions to make it better.
If you would like to be part of the process, just send your constructive criticism/ideas to me via email at email@example.com. I truly appreciate your help in this, and I pray it can be used by God to help others live biblically for His glory. David.
Secret Millionaire is a show on ABC that follows the journey of a millionaire who leaves the comforts of home to go to a impoverished area to see how they might help those in need. The show I saw involved a single millionaire mom who left the comforts of Bel Air to live in the highly homeless populated Long Beach. While there, she came across a young boy who fed the homeless sandwiches, someone who ran an organization to help children and horses, and a couple that helps families work through the grieving process of losing a loved one. Of course, the premise is that the secret millionaire in the end reveals who they are and then gives thousands of dollars to help these charities continue their work in helping those in their city.
As I watched this, two blaring thoughts came to my mind. First, the incredible joy, to the point of tears, of those who receive the generous donation by the secret millionaire. Often their excitement involves crying, shaking, screaming, and hugging. But why? The conclusion I came up with is that is has nothing to do with greed. It has everything to do with the commitment these people have to the organizations they head and the impact this money will have on the lives of others who are desperately in need. In other words, it is their passion that fuels their response.
This caused me to think, what am I passionate about? What are you passionate about? Are we passionate about what is truly worthy or about unworthy greed? As Christians, what is (and must be) most worthy to us is God and the gospel. We have been the unworthy recipients of something far greater than a donation of thousands of dollars–we have been given the gift of eternal life through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we think about this act of charity, we should react with as much or even greater depth of emotion and joy, which we call worship. Worship is not just a mental acknowledgement of doctrinal truths, but it is the turning of the affections of our whole selves to God and His great benevolent love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). When is this last time our “religious affections” (to use Jonathan Edwards’ terms) matched the greatness of the gift of the gospel? When was the last time we were thrilled with God and God alone?
This leads to my second thought, now thinking about it in terms of the secret millionaire. Even the unsaved millionaire on the show realizes that life is not all about money, but about enjoying what you have in meaningful terms (like family) and receiving the joy in giving to others in need. If my first observation is true, that we should be so gripped by the gospel to be moved to deep worship of God, then that worship should express itself horizontally (missionally) as well. We are to be not-so-secret-“millionaires,” who because we have received something infinitely greater than money from God, must be willing to share that something, namely the gospel, to those around us who need to be saved from their sin and freely enjoy the greatness of God through Christ. And this, according to the New Testament, is not in word only (which the words of the gospel are vital and necessary), but also in deed. This is the expression, according to the book of 1 John, of true love. God didn’t just tell us He loved us, but proved it by giving to us His only Son to die so we would not have to, and to raise Him from the dead so we too could be raised to newness of life (Romans 6).
So how are we giving to others in response to the gift that has been given to us from grace? Are we trusting and living in grace in such a way that our worship is deeply expressed both to God and then in love toward others? Let us ponder these lessons from the “Secret Millionaire.”
In John 2, a monumental shift takes place in redemptive history. What exactly is that shift? The beauty of God’s covenantal relationship with His image bearers is that He promises, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” This relationship has always been unilateral, meaning, that God’s relationship with humanity is always initiated and maintained by Him alone. This point is clear in the opening two chapters of Genesis, where God not only enters into relationship with Adam and Eve by creating them, but also He sets the terms and stipulations of that relationship, which lead to either blessing or cursing. What is even more astounding is when God enters into covenantal relationships, He does not do so in an austere or distant fashion. When God is in relationship with someone or a people, His presence is also with that people. While He is altogether transcendent (above all things and superior to all things), He is also immanent; He is near.
God’s holy presence is a mediated presence. In the Garden of Eden, the Garden becomes the place where God’s presence dwells with our first parents. In fact, Eden was the archetypal temple of God, where God would walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. In this temple God and Adam were unhindered by sin, nothing distorted their relationship with each other, as the first people were naked and not ashamed. Adam and Eve also were in perfect relationship with each other. In this temple were also reminders of God’s covenant relationship with Adam and Eve–a tree of life, symbolizing the abundant life of God Himself which was given to them as a gift, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a reminder of God’s holy and righteous standard for His people. They were to worship and adore God alone, and never take it upon themselves to turn their affections toward themselves or any other created gift. Of course, through the deception of the Serpent, Adam and Eve rebelled against God and were expelled from the Garden Temple, with the cherubim set at the east entrance of the Garden, guarding the way to the tree of life, lest man take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.
Would this forever be the end of God’s covenant relationship with humanity? Of course not, as God would enter into relationship with Noah and his family, as well as with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their offspring. God walked with these individuals and His presence was with them as He fulfilled His promises to them. But through Moses, God would once again mediate His presence with His people, now the nation of Israel, through a Garden-temple called the tabernacle. The instructions for this building are found in Exodus 35-40. What is fascinating is that its entrance was to the east, just like the Garden of Eden. Cherubim would be part of its makeup, as their wings spread over the Ark of the Covenant. Inside this tabernacle would be symbolic reminders of God’s holiness and reminders of man’s need for atonement for sin. Although God is omnipresent, His covenantal presence would be mediated through the tabernacle, through the Aaronic priesthood. All of Israel’s worship centered on this moving tabernacle and to be cut off from the tabernacle was to be cut off from the presence of God and any hope of a relationship with Him.
As Israel moved to a monarchy, there was the desire of King David to build God a house. In 2 Samuel 7, we find that it is not David who would build a house for God, but God would build a house for David–a line of kings culminating in an eternal King who would sit upon David’s throne forever. It would not be David but his son Solomon who would be given the gift of grace to build God a temple. Now that Solomon had secured peace throughout the kingdom, Jerusalem the capital would be the permanent place of God’s temple. We read that God’s presence, after Solomon’s prayer of dedication, floods the temple and again God’s presence is mediated to His people.
Yet, if Israel disobeyed God’s law, and went after idols, just like Adam and Eve faced the consequences of God, so Israel would also face severe consequences. This time, instead of being expelled from the Garden, Israel would be expelled from her land to captivity in a foreign land. As a sign of God’s judgment, the temple, the symbol of God’s presence, would be destroyed. But it is not that YHWH Himself would be destroyed, for He would simple remove His presence from the temple, as recorded in Ezekiel.
As you look in the prophets, the threat is always ultimate judgment in the destruction of Jerusalem and exile. Yet, God floods all the prophets with words and images of restoration. He will not forsake His people forever, for to do so would mean that God would break His own covenantal word, which He cannot do, for God cannot lie. The challenge when reading the prophets is to understand exactly how God would do this, as the prophets often use symbolic language tied into things they were familiar with in their own day to project something future that is greater. What we can ascertain is that this future restoration would involve a New Covenant, a greater temple, a restored land (which would include a renewed earth), and a new people. In other words, the greatest expression and fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.
The key to understanding how these prophecies were fulfilled is found in the New Testament. It is found in the Christo-centric hermeneutic presented by Jesus Himself and carried through in the writings and preaching of the Apostles. The New Covenant is accomplished through the death of Christ on the Cross. The Greater Temple, according to John 2, is Christ Himself, the Word made flesh who “tabernacled” among us. This temple would be destroyed and raised into a glorious new temple, a resurrected temple, which ascended into the heavenly temple to intercede as high priest. What about the restored land? Some believe that this will be during what is called the Millennium, a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ from Jerusalem over the whole world. Yet, a closer examination NT text indicate that the land is now the whole world to be reached with the gospel of the New Covenant (see the Great Commission). But even greater, the restored land is ultimately the New Heaven and Earth, which is the land that Abraham was looking for (Hebrews 11:10,16) and was promised, which is the land that we read of in Revelation 21-22.
And this new people? It is the New Covenant Church which is the fulfillment of Old Covenant promises and prophecies. Time does not allow in this already lengthily article to expound, but a careful reading of the book of Acts shows that the Apostles understood that what was happening from Pentecost on was the fullest expression of Israel’s anticipations. It’s not a replacement, but a fulfillment. As ethnic Jews are brought to salvation in God through Jesus Christ, they become the Church, Abraham’s true offspring because they come by faith in Abraham’s Seed–Christ. Yet, as even the Old Testament looked forward to the inclusion of Gentiles, so we see this in full expression as Gentiles are now grafted in to God’s redemptive tree. So both Jews and Gentiles make up the new temple of God, the church, as the church is referred to numerous times in the NT as God’s temple, building, or holy place.
By consequence, this means that a literal rebuilt temple cannot be part of God’s redemptive program, because this program is fulfilled completely in Christ already. In our day and age (the eschatological age), we are simply seeing the outworking of God’s kingdom purposes. This will all be consummated at the return of Christ, when God and the Lamb will be the Temple, and we will dwell again in a perfect Eden, a perfect Temple, the New Heavens and Earth. So we see the great shift in the idea of the Temple–from shadow to substance, promise to fulfillment, type and antitype–all leading to the exaltation and glory of God through the finished work of Christ, applied by the Holy Spirit, to the temple of God, the Church.
Praise God for His perfect work! Now let’s go in the power of the Spirit to be a part of God’s temple building plan for the New Covenant age–making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all Christ commands–all with the promise of God’s presence, the presence of Immanuel, with us to the end of the age.