The millennium

At the conclusion of the Great Tribulation, a transition in power takes place that makes it possible for Jesus to begin his millennial reign on Earth. John tells us, “the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” (Revelation 19:20, NKJV). Even though the beast and the false prophet received immediate judgment from God and were punished for their deception of everyone on Earth, John indicated that Satan was only bound with chains and cast in the bottomless pit until the “the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while” (Revelation 20:3, NKJV). Satan’s temporary imprisonment seems to suggest that evil will still exist in the world during the millennium, but it will be restrained by the military force that defeats Antichrist’s political regime (Revelation 19:14, 21). The reason Satan must be loosed at the end of the millennium could be because he is still able to utilize his power until God’s final judgment of mankind begins.

God’s judgment starts in the millennium, but the initial phase seems to be limited to what has just happened during the Great Tribulation. John said, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received the mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:4-5). It’s possible that the first resurrection only applies to the nation of Israel and the promises that God made specifically to his chosen people. If so, this judgment might be based on the Mosaic Law and could determine whether or not the Jews that took the mark of the beast and worshipped Antichrist will be allowed to inherit the eternal kingdom that was promised to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17:8).

According to John’s prophecy, there will be an innumerable amount of people that will join with Satan at the end of the millennium to try and overthrow God’s kingdom (Revelation 20:8). John indicated, “They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:9-10, NKJV). The unusual thing about Satan’s final defeat is that he wasn’t allowed to harm anyone when he and his army surrounded the camp of the saints and the city of Jerusalem. It appears that God might have just been using Satan to identify and eliminate all the rebels that were still left on Earth. The fire that came down from heaven was like a holy cleansing agent that was able to completely rid the world of Satan’s evil influence once and for all.

God’s final judgment of mankind was described by Jesus shortly before he was crucified. Jesus said, ““When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matthew 25:31-33). The throne of glory Jesus referred to is depicted in Revelation 20:11 as “a great white throne.” John said of this event, “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:11-12). The Greek word translated dead, nekros refers to a corpse, but it is “the actual spiritual condition of unsaved men” (G3498). Everyone that is not saved or born again will be judged by God according to their works. Jesus said the criterion for judgment would be the kind of treatment shown to the Jewish people (note on Matthew 25:31-46), but John indicated, “whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

Washing feet

The Apostle John’s account of Jesus’ last night with his disciples focused primarily on the message Jesus delivered in the upper room where he and his twelve apostles celebrated the Passover Feast. John began by stating, “And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; he riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (John 13:2-5).

John was the only person that recorded Jesus’ humble act of washing his disciples feet. It could be that John was particularly impressed by this action because Jesus’ betrayer, Judas was still in the room when Jesus performed this task. John may have wondered afterward why Jesus would go to such great lengths to show kindness to a man that was possessed by the devil, but his account of the conversation that took place showed that Jesus was intentionally trying to teach his disciples a lesson even if they didn’t completely understand it. John stated, “So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?” (John 13:12).

Jesus’ explanation of his act of washing his disciples feet pointed to the fulfillment of prophecy about his betrayer (John 13:18). Evidently, Judas could have resisted the devil’s attempts to make him a traitor. None of the other disciples suspected Judas of any wrong doing. When Jesus told Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly” (John 13:27), John stated, “No one at the table knew why he said this to him” (John 13:28). After Judas left the room, Jesus told his disciples, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (John 13:31). It could be that Judas’ act of betrayal was the final step in God’s plan of salvation. Although Satan intended to stop Jesus from becoming the Savior of the World, he actually helped him by turning him over to the authorities that were able to have him crucified.

In connection with the New Testament that was established during The Last Supper (Matthew 26:28), Jesus told his disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). This commandment might not seem very extraordinary in the light of all that has happened since Jesus died 2000 years ago, but it was what we might call today a game changer. Love was not a characteristic that was typically associated with God or his people. In response to Peter’s claim that he would lay down his life for him (John 13:37), Jesus told Peter, “Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny my thrice” (Mark 14:30).

An opportunity

The unfolding of the plot to kill Jesus was similar to any situation in which one person decides to betray another. Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve apostles selected by Jesus to be a part of his inner circle. These twelve men spent the majority of their time with Jesus during his three year ministry on Earth. The thing that set the apostles apart from the rest of Jesus’ followers was their intimate access to Jesus’ personal life. The apostles could ask Jesus any questions they wanted to and there were no secrets he kept from them. It was Judas’ intimate knowledge of Jesus’ pattern of behavior that enabled him to betray the man that had been his teacher from the winter of 28 A.D. when Jesus chose his twelve disciples to the spring of 30 A.D. when Jesus was crucified.

Luke’s gospel describes the situation this way:

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd. (Luke 22:1-6, ESV)

Luke’s account of what happened suggested that Judas disassociated himself from Jesus and joined in with the chief priests and officers that wanted to kill him. The Greek word that is translated consented or communed with, sullaleo (sool-lol-eh´-o) is derived from a combination of the two words sun (soon) and laleo (lal-eh´-o). The Greek word sun denotes union; with or together, i.e. by association, companionship, or process (G4862). The Greek word laleo means “to talk” (G2980). The combination of these two words suggests that Judas agreed with everything the chief priests and officers were saying and perhaps even mimicked their sentiments about having Jesus put to death.

It was possible for Judas to promise to provide the chief priests and officers with an opportunity to arrest Jesus when no one was around because he knew where Jesus went when he wanted to be alone. Although the specific location was probably not designated at the time of Judas agreement, it is likely a date and timeframe were specified at the time Judas entered into his covenant with the chief priests and officers (Luke 22:5). Luke’s final statement, “And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude” (Luke 22:6), may have meant that Judas was expected to go back to Jesus and find out where he planned to be at the appointed date and time. Satan’s involvement in the situation suggests that he was unaware of Jesus’ whereabouts.

Judas

Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus was motivated by at least three factors: greed, jealousy, and satanic influence. The Apostle John’s account of the last days of Jesus life indicated that he was at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus when Judas became upset about Mary’s waste of a precious ointment that was used to anoint the feet of Jesus (John 12:3). John recorded, “Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare that was put therein” (John 12:4-6). Matthew indicated Judas was given thirty pieces of silver for cooperating with the religious leaders that wanted to kill Jesus. He said, “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him” (Matthew 26:14-16).

Jesus’ recognition of Mary for her sacrifice was probably a significant factor in Judas’ decision to betray him. When Judas suggested that the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor, Jesus responded, “Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always” (Matthew 26:10-11). Jesus’ public criticism of Judas would have been like a slap in the face. It’s possible that Judas perceived Jesus’ comment to be a sign of his disregard for his service in the ministry. Judas may have thought Jesus was trying to humiliate him by placing Mary above him in the eyes of those that were present. The one thing that seems to be obvious is that Judas was in need of money and was willing to betray his own master in order to get it.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ betrayal is somewhat different than what is found in the other three gospels. Luke attributed Judas’ actions to demon possession. He stated:

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd. (Luke 22:1-6 ESV)

Luke’s remark that Satan entered into Judas seems to suggest that Judas was not responsible for his actions when he betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Although it could be true that Judas had no control over what he was doing, there might have been an intent on Judas’ part to betray Jesus and Satan merely helped him to carry it out. John’s record indicated Satan didn’t enter Judas until the Last Supper (John 13:27), so it seems likely that Jesus’ betrayal was a joint effort between Judas and Satan.

The good shepherd

Jesus often used parables and analogies to describe the kingdom of heaven to those that wanted to know about the spiritual life that awaited them after their physical death. One of the ways Jesus portrayed himself in the believer’s journey to heaven was a shepherd caring for his flock of sheep. Perhaps, the most famous psalm written by King David was Psalm 23 which stated, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want, he maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalm 23:1-2). The role of the shepherd was to protect and guide his sheep along a pathway that was usually predetermined in order to keep them safe and well fed. When Jesus referred to himself as the “good shepherd” (John 10:11), he meant that he was perfectly suited for or well adapted to the circumstances of a shepherd (2570). The reason why that was true was because Jesus made it as easy as he possibly could for believers to go to heaven by making it a free gift that one could obtain simply by believing that he was who he said he was, the Savior of the World. Essentially, you could say that Jesus paved our way to heaven through his death on the cross.

Jesus’ statement, “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7), was a reference to the gate that had to be passed through in order for a sheep to enter the sheepfold, a place for him to rest at night. Jesus went on to say, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9). The connection between entering the sheepfold and being saved was evident in the purpose of the sheepfold, to keep the sheep from the death they would certainly face if they were to be left out in the open, unattended overnight. Jesus depicted Satan as a thief that wanted to steal, kill, and destroy his flock of sheep (John 10:10). In order to drive home the point that Satan would stop at nothing to damage God’s kingdom, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Jesus also stated that his death was a voluntary act that he was predestined for. He said, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17-18).

An aspect of Jesus’ analogy that may have been difficult for his listeners to grasp was the reference he made to his sheep hearing and knowing him by his voice (John 10:3-4). In the same way that someone today might be labeled crazy if he said he had heard God speak to him, the people that lived in Jesus’ time didn’t expect God to speak to them directly. Up to that point, God had always spoken to his people through prophets who were considered to be his spokespersons or quite literally his mouthpieces (5030). Something that Jesus made clear was that his voice was a unique identifier that made it possible for his followers to distinguish him from strangers (John 10:5), and more specifically, to prevent believers from being influenced by satanic forces that might try to lead them astray (John 10:8). Jesus’ primary goal as the good shepherd was to protect his sheep from anything that might harm them. One thing that made Jesus more than just a good shepherd was his ability to fulfill every spiritual need of those that chose to follow him. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The Greek word translated abundantly, perissos can mean to go beyond or exceed (4053). In other words, the life Jesus gives us exceeds our expectations.

Temptation

Before he began his public ministry, Jesus was “led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew 4:1). The phrase led up of the Spirit tells us that it was God’s will for Jesus to go through this 40 day temptation experience which began in the desert region of the lower Jordan Valley. Jesus’ personal encounter with Satan involved three temptations or tests that proved his ability to defeat his enemy in the most extreme type of spiritual warfare. Jesus had no inward desire or inclination to sin. “Because he was God He did not sin in any way, whether by actions or word or inner desire (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26; 1 Pet 2:22; 1 John 3:5). Yet Jesus’ temptation was real, not merely symbolic. He was ‘in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin’ (Heb 4:15)” (note on Matthew 4:1-11).

Through his encounter with the devil in the wilderness, Jesus gave us an example of how to successfully deal with temptation and overcome the spiritual forces that entice us to sin against God. Each time Jesus was confronted by Satan, he used “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). One of the key tactics Satan used to tempt Jesus was to question his identity. He said, “If Thou be the Son of God, command these stones be made bread” (Matthew 4:3). Jesus was declared the Son of God when he was baptized by John in the Jordan river (Matthew 3:17) and he was capable of transforming the stones into bread, but Jesus didn’t do what Satan asked him to, instead he responded by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Jesus’ declaration of spiritual truth showed that he was able to defeat his enemy, Satan without using any of his supernatural powers. The weapon Jesus used, the word of God, is available to everyone and the scriptures he quoted were taken from a single book of the Bible, Deuteronomy, so an extensive knowledge of the Bible wasn’t necessary. In his temptation, Jesus demonstrated to us that his human nature wasn’t subject to the devil, but was transformed by the word of God into a weapon more powerful than the strongest of all evil forces. After passing his spiritual test in the wilderness, Jesus immediately began his public ministry and continuously used his spiritual authority to cast out demons and to heal people of all kinds of diseases (Mark 1:34).