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).

Unshakable faith

Paul’s appeal for endurance in his letter to the Hebrews pointed to the ultimate goal of God’s plan of salvation, that believers inherit the kingdom of heaven. Comparing the Israelite’s interaction with God on Mount Sinai with the believer’s entrance into heaven, Paul stated:

But instead, you have come to the mountain of Jerusalem. It is the city of the living God. It is the Jerusalem of heaven with its thousands of angels. You have gathered there with God’s children who were born long ago. They are citizens of heaven. God is there. He will judge all men. The spirits of all those right with God are there. They have been made perfect. Jesus is there. He has made a way for man to go to God. He gave His blood that men might worship God the New Way. The blood of Jesus tells of better things than that which Abel used…On Mount Sinai, God’s voice shook the earth. But now He has promised, saying, “Once more I will shake the earth and the heavens.” (Hebrews 12:22-24, 26 NLV)

The Greek word translated shake in Hebrews 12:26, seio (si’-o) means to rock or vibrate sideways moving to and fro like an earthquake. Seio is used figuratively “to throw into a tremor (of fear or concern)” (G4579). Paul’s mention of God’s promise to shake the earth and the heavens probably had to do with the universal battle that will take place at the end of the great tribulation that results in Satan being cast into the bottomless pit and shut up for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3).

Paul went on to say that God’s promise to shake the earth and the heavens signified the establishment of his kingdom on earth. He explained, “When God says, ‘Once more,’ He means He will take away everything of this world that can be shaken so the things that cannot be shaken will be left” (Hebrews 12:27, NLV). The Greek word translated shaken, saleuo (sal-yoo’-o) means to waver or to be insecure about what we believe in (G4531). Paul’s reference to things that cannot be shaken related back to the acts of faith that he mentioned in Hebrews chapter eleven. What Paul was getting at had to do with his definition of faith. Paul said, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:1-3).

Paul’s understanding of faith was that it causes God’s kingdom to be made visible on earth. Jesus eluded to this in his parable of the sower. In his explanation of the parable, Jesus told his disciples:

And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:10-15, NKJV)

Jesus indicated that God’s word becomes fruitful in our lives when we keep it or translate it into action (G2722). In other words, we have to do what God’s word tells us to in order to reap the benefits of it.

Paul described the results of Abraham’s faith in terms of dwelling in the Promised Land. He said, “By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10, NKJV). In Hebrews 13:14, Paul linked all believers to Abraham’s inheritance by stating, “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.”

The city Paul was referring to was depicted by the Apostle John in the book of Revelation. John stated, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God'” (Revelation 21:1-3, NKJV).

The interesting thing about John’s description of the New Jerusalem was that he likened it to a bride adorned for her husband and John said, “the tabernacle of God is with men” (Revelation 21:3). Revelation 19 portrays the union of believers with Jesus as a marriage ceremony and it states specifically in Revelation 19:7-8 that, “‘ the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (NKJV), the phrase “the righteous acts of the saints” means an equitable deed or a demonstration of faith (G1345). According to John, the visible manifestation of God’s kingdom on earth will involve the body (bride i.e. church) of Christ being transformed into a unified physical structure that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:27), coming down from heaven and becoming the eternal dwelling place of God (Revelation 21:3).

Adoption into God’s family

The Apostle Paul may have had a more difficult job preaching the gospel to the Gentiles than those who preached the gospel in Israel because of the pagan worship practices of the heathen. The Gentiles were used to offering human sacrifices to please their gods. In many ways, human sacrifice confused the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross. Paul’s first and probably his primary challenge in preaching the gospel was to establish the concept of grace as the basis for salvation. In order to do that, Paul focused on the belief that the Gentiles would be excluded from God’s kingdom. Paul stated in Galatians 3:28-29, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Paul wanted the Galatians to see themselves as children of God that were entitled to the same inheritance as the Jews. Because the Gentiles had been excluded from God’s blessing for thousands of years, it was probably difficult for them to believe God had included them in his plan of salvation.

Paul used the concept of adoption to explain how a person could become a child and receive the rights of inheritance through redemption. In essence, what Paul was doing was leveling the playing field and making it possible for anyone to enter the kingdom of heaven. Speaking of the Jews, Paul said, “Even so we when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:3-6).

When Paul first started preaching, he used his experience on the road to Damascus as a dramatic testimony of his conversion. Some of the Galatians may have been eye witnesses to his altered way of life, therefore, his preaching had a big impact on them. Over time, as the Gentiles became more integrated into the Christian community, Paul was concerned that the Galatians had forgotten they were equal with the Jews in their standing with God. Paul used the story of Abraham and his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, to illustrate the change in status of the Gentiles. Paul pointed out that the Israelites were in bondage to sin, just as much as the Gentiles were, before Jesus came and established a new covenant with them (Galatians 4:25). Then Paul stated, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise” (Galatians 4:28). Paul’s reference to the Galatians as brethren was intended to clarify that all believers were not only members of God’s family, but descendants of Isaac by faith.

Paul wanted the Galatians to realize that their salvation was just as secure as the Jews’ was. On the day they put their faith in Jesus Christ, they became co-heirs of God’s kingdom. Paul concluded his argument with the admonition, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). The Greek term that is translated stand fast, steko (stay’-ko) means to be stationary or to hold your position (4739). Basically, what Paul was saying was the Galatians needed to persevere and not give up the victory over sin Jesus had won for them at Calvary.

Be prepared

Jesus talked frequently about the kingdom of heaven and used parables to teach his followers about the principles of the spiritual realm in which God exists. After he instructed his disciples to watch for his return (Matthew 24:42) and warned them about the punishment of unfaithful servants (Matthew 24:51), Jesus used the parable of the ten virgins to emphasize the importance of being prepared for his imminent return. He said, “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps” (Matthew 25:1-4). The picture Jesus painted to illustrate his return was a wedding ceremony in which the bridesmaids were looking for the bridegroom’s signal to start the processional. The lamps Jesus referred to were torches that consisted of a long pole with oil-drenched rags at the top. The lamps were trimmed by cutting off the charred ends of the rags and adding oil. “Torches required large amounts of oil in order to keep burning, and the oil had to be replenished about every 15 minutes” (notes on Matthew 25:1, 7, 9).

The initial point Jesus made in his parable of the ten virgins was the need to be prepared ahead of time for a lengthy wait. Jesus stated previously, “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up” (Matthew 24:43). It can easily be assumed from these two examples that Jesus’ return will be an unexpected event. It is possible that no one will be looking for Jesus to return when he finally does come back to Earth. He stated in his parable, “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept” (Matthew 25:5). The Greek word translated tarried, chronizo means “to take time, i.e. linger” (G5549). Chronizo as a verb, means literally “to while away time.” This seems to suggest that time is being wasted, but Jesus made it clear that he would return at a set or proper time (Luke 19:44). It could be that Jesus’ delay is due to his preoccupation with activities in heaven. Jesus told his disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).

A correlation between Jesus preparing a place for us in heaven and his return to Earth may be found in his example of the wise virgins that were ready when the bridegroom arrived. Jesus said, “And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:6-10). The separation of the wise virgins from the foolish ones indicated some people that appear to be Christians might be attempting to enter the kingdom of heaven under false pretenses. Jesus’ preparation of a place in heaven for believers might be his way of determining who belongs in his kingdom and who does not based on something like a reservation system that indicates a particular room or space has been set aside for a specific individual.

Chosen

Jesus used the parable of a marriage dinner to illustrate the process God is using to populate his kingdom. Jesus began by stating, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come” (Matthew 22:2-3). Initially, the family of Abraham, which later became the nation of Israel, was chosen by God to be his heir and was given the land “from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18). After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites entered the Promised Land and occupied it continuously (except for the 70 years they were in captivity in Babylon) until Jesus, their Messiah was born. Jesus’ arrival on Earth was similar to a wedding because it signified the joining together or physical union of God and his chosen people.

Jesus indicated in his parable that when it was time for the wedding, those who had been invited wouldn’t come (Matthew 22:3). The word Jesus used that is translated bidden in Matthew 22:3, kaleo suggested the wedding invitation came in the form of a public announcement. Jesus may have been referring to his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. When he rode into town on the back of a donkey, Jesus was not only making an intentional effort to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy about Israel’s Messiah (Zechariah 9:9), but he was also acting out a tradition that he knew would be recognized by everyone that was of Jewish descent (1 Kings 1:33). The important thing to note about Jesus’ parable was that the intended guests made a conscious decision to not attend the wedding. He said, “But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them” (Matthew 22:5-6).

Jesus explained in his parable of the marriage dinner that God planned to use an alternate method to populate his kingdom. He said:

But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burnt up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. (Matthew 22:7-9).

Jesus depicted the spreading of the gospel as a type of roundup in which everyone that was available was invited to come to his wedding. In ancient times, highways represented a “a course of conduct” or “way of thinking” (G3598). In Jesus’ parable, the servants may have been sent to the highways in order to find people that were seeking a godly way of life or perhaps to look for individuals that were on a quest to find the meaning of life. The travelers on the highway were shown to be in active pursuit of something when they were contacted and invited to the wedding.

After stating that a man was cast into outer darkness because he wasn’t wearing the designated wedding garment, Jesus concluded his parable by making the point that certain types of individuals would be removed God’s kingdom. He said, “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The primary difference between the Greek words translated called, kletos (klay-tos´) and chosen, eklektos (ek-lek-tos´) appears to be the conscious choice of selecting a favorite. What I believe Jesus meant by this was that the free gift of salvation entitles an individual to entrance into heaven, but it doesn’t exempt that person from meeting God’s standards or the expectation of appropriate conduct in heaven. When a person is born again, he must exhibit genuine repentance and want to be changed in his character. The evidence that I have not only been invited into the kingdom of heaven, but have also been chosen by God to be there is that I will behave like the Bible says a Christian should.

Ambition

James and John were one of two sets of brothers that were included in Jesus’ twelve member exclusive team of evangelists. Jesus told these men, “in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28). James and John were often singled out and given special privileges such as witnessing Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:1) and the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:37). In his list of the twelve apostles, Mark said of these two men, “And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; (and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:). The name Boanerges could also be translated sons of commotion (G993), but in its original form, the word Jesus used stood for violent anger or rage (H7266). It is likely that James and John had a reputation for losing their tempers and may have been raised in a home where violence was used to discipline them.

One of the few incidents of conflict among Jesus’ twelve apostles is recorded in Mark 9:33-34 where it says, “And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.” James and John took this conflict one step farther when they approached Jesus and asked him to give them the seats next to his in his throne room (Mark 10:37). James and John’s ambition appeared to be driven by a desire to be equal with Jesus (Mark 10:38-39). Jesus told them, “Ye shall drink indeed of my cup. and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, in not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23). The Greek word translated prepared, hetoimazo (het-oy-mad´-zo) means to prepare or make ready (G2090). Hetoimazo refers to those things which are ordained by God, such as future positions of authority.

Jesus told his disciples, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). The word Jesus used that is translated prepare in this verse is also hetoimazo. The Greek word translated place, topos suggests that Jesus is building his kingdom based on our prayers or requests for occupancy in a particular spot that might be available (G5117). In this sense, you could say that Jesus is currently taking reservations and assigning spots to believers inside his Father’s house. James and John’s request may not have been all that unreasonable, but it was determined that their ambition to be seated next to Jesus was not at his discretion. Jesus revealed that the top spots in his kingdom were reserved for God’s elect and said, “whosoever will be great among you let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).

The Greek word translated minister in the phrase “let him be your minister” (Matthew 20:26) is diakonos (dee-ak´-on-os). Diakonos refers to “an attendant that is (generally) a waiter (at a table or in other menial duties)” (G1249). This term is used specifically in reference to a Christian teacher or pastor who is technically supposed to be a deacon or deaconess. Jesus identified himself as a minister and stated the purpose of his service was to “give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). In other words, the job Jesus was assigned by his Father was to die for the sins of the world. This was the position God prepared for him and the reason Jesus would be located at the head of the table or in the top spot in God’s eternal kingdom. When Jesus asked James and John, “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Matthew 20:22), he may have been asking them if they were willing to make the same kind of sacrifice that he was expected to. When they responded, “We are able” (Matthew 20:22) James and John were basically volunteering to become martyrs.

Spiritual treasure

Jesus told an innumerable multitude of people that he referred to as his friends to “beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops” (Luke 12:1-4). The warning Jesus gave was directed at those among the crowd that wanted to kill him. Even though the multitude of people were interested in hearing what Jesus had to say, there was probably only a small percentage of people that actually believed and intended to follow his teaching. It says in Luke 12:13, “And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus rebuked this man and went on to say, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:14-15).

Hypocrisy and covetousness were deep seated problems that Jesus had to deal with in order to reach the people that appeared to be hungry for the spiritual truth he came to share with God’s chosen people. Some of the things Jesus said were most likely meant to weed out the people that were trying to trip him up or start an argument. It says in Luke 11:53-54, “the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.” As Jesus neared the end of his ministry, he had to be careful about inciting riots and stirring up the crowd because the Jewish religious leaders were looking for a reason to arrest and kill him. One of the tactics Jesus used was teaching in parables so that his words couldn’t be misconstrued or taken out of context. Jesus used the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21) to focus people’s attention on the topic at hand, monetary versus spiritual treasure.

Speaking directly to those that he considered to be believers, Jesus said:

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment…And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. (Luke 12:22-30)

Jesus’ instruction had to do with the believer’s focus of attention and prayers to God. The point he was trying to make was that it wasn’t necessary for a believer to be concerned with material resources. Jesus went on to say, “But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things will be added unto you” (Luke 12:31). The Greek word translated seek, zeteo (dzay-teh´-o) means specifically to worship. In other words, the time one dedicates to God. Jesus assured his followers that God would take care of their physical needs if they focused their attention on and prayed for spiritual resources. In his final admonition, Jesus challenged believers to risk everything for the sake of his kingdom. He said, “Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in heaven that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:33-34).

Abraham’s children

The descendants of Abraham were promised a kingdom on earth that would be an everlasting or eternal kingdom (Genesis 17:6-8). The ruler of this kingdom was prophesied to be not only the son of King David, but also the son of God (2 Samuel 7:14). The remnant of Jews that returned to the Promised Land at the end of their captivity in Babylon expected to be a part of this eternal kingdom and were told that their Messiah would arrive after God dealt with Israel’s enemies (Zechariah 9:2-7). The prophet Zechariah told God’s chosen people, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). Somewhere in between the delivery of this prophetic message and the birth of Jesus Christ, the Jews forgot the point of their salvation, to be witnesses to the rest of the world of God’s endless mercy toward his people (Zechariah 9:16-17). When Jesus confronted the Jews about their lack of understanding of God’s plan of salvation, they argued that they were entitled to membership in God’s kingdom because they were descendants of Abraham (John 8:33). What these men failed to comprehend was that the rules had changed when the nation of Israel was destroyed and God’s chosen people were taken into captivity. Afterwards, Jesus told the Jews that survived the only way they could inherit the kingdom of God was to be born again (John 3:3).

Jesus’ formal rebuttal to the Jews argument was directed at the lack of proof behind their claim to the eternal inheritance that was promised to Abraham. He said, “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). The works that Jesus was referring to were works of faith. God’s original promise to Abraham’s was based on his faith or belief that what God told him was true. It says of Abraham in Genesis 15:6, “He believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” The Hebrew word translated counted, chashab (khaw-shab’) has to do with a spiritual transaction that enabled Abraham to receive credit for the death of Jesus on the cross before it actually happened. For all intents and purposes, Abraham was saved when he believed that God would do what he said he would. Jesus’ final comment about who would inherit the kingdom of God pointed to his eternal existence. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). In other words, Jesus was saying that Abraham’s belief in God was actually belief in himself because “the word of the LORD” (Genesis 15:1) became real or was manifested when Jesus was born on earth. The Apostle John identified Jesus as God’s living word and said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”  (John 1:1, 14).

The harvest

In spite of Jesus’ attempts to keep his supernatural work under wraps, his fame was spread abroad throughout the countries surrounding Jude’s during his short three-year ministry by those who were healed of their various diseases, disabilities, and demon possessions. It says in Matthew 9:30-31 that on one occasion, after Jesus restored the sight of two blind men, he “straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it,” but, instead these men departed and “spread abroad his fame in all that country.” According to Matthew’s record of Jesus’ ministry, “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35). It’s not surprising that Jesus became famous since there were no sickness or disease he couldn’t heal, but that wasn’t the purpose of his ministry. Jesus wanted people to get saved. He wanted them to believe his message about God’s kingdom and receive eternal life.

Jesus referred to the end of the world, or the time when the saved and unsaved would be separated for eternity, as the harvest. Speaking of this, it says in Matthew 9:37-38, “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” The Greek word translated labourers, ergates (er-gat’-ace) means a toiler and is used figuratively to describe someone that teaches God’s word (2040). Referring back to Jesus’ parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-8), God’s word is like seed that is scattered throughout a field and lands on different kinds of soil. The seed that lands on good soil brings forth fruit, “some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold” (Matthew 13:8). The connection between the fruit and the labourers is that fruit cannot harvest itself. God’s word needs to be studied and discussed in order for it to become or stay alive within us. It seems as though the harvest could be an ongoing process that continues until we enter into eternity. Otherwise, there would have been no need for labourers when Jesus was still on earth.

One of Jesus’ primary objectives in spreading the gospel was that it taken to the whole world. There seems to be a connection between his message being fully dispersed and the timing of the harvest. In his explanation to his disciples of the parable of the tares of the field (Matthew 13:36), Jesus said, “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end this world” (Matthew 13:37-40). The Greek word translated end, sunteleia (soon-tel’-i-ah) means entire completion (4930). When the effect of Jesus’ message (salvation) has spread throughout the entire world, then Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth will be completed and the opportunity for people to be saved will no longer exist, and as Jesus stated, “there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew13:42) by those that rejected him.

Follow me

At the start of his ministry, Jesus chose several men to accompany him as he traveled preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. It seems likely that the first two men that followed Jesus were Andrew and John. It is recorded in John 1:35-37 that these men were originally disciples of John the Baptist, but began to follow Jesus after John declared him to be the Messiah. After spending only one night with Jesus, Andrew was convinced that he was who he claimed to be and invited his brother to become Jesus’ disciple also. John 1:40-42 states, “One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found Messias, which is being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.”

Matthew’s account of Andrew and Peter’s calling focused on the forsaking of their work as fisherman. He said, “And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he said unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-20). The Greek word translated followed, akoloutheo is used as a particle of union and refers to a road. Akoloutheo is properly translated as “to be in the same way with” or to accompany on a road. In other words, Andrew and Peter went with Jesus on his road trip. Matthew went on to say that Jesus also called James and his brother John, “And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him” (Matthew 4:22). Matthew, who was a tax collector, later recorded his own calling by Jesus, and said of himself, “he arose, and followed him” (Matthew 9:9).

Jesus’ calling of Philip and Nathanael didn’t focus on the forsaking of their occupations, but merely showed that they were available and interested in God’s kingdom. The only thing John told us about Phillip was that he was from Bethsaida, the same city where Andrew and Peter lived (John 1:44). After Jesus said to him “Follow me” (John 1:43), it says in John 1:45-47, “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Jesus comment was intended to show that Nathanael’s skepticism was appropriate and that his followers needed spiritual discernment in order to identify him as their Messiah. After this revelation, Nathanael proclaimed, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:49).