Bible verses about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
This chapter marks a decisive change in the book in that it not only becomes much more positive than it has been preceding this, but it also becomes more exhortive.
Remember that the term qoheleth means "the lecturer" or "the preacher." The preacher is now calling on the people who are listening to his dissertation to make a decision. He does not say, "You can make any kind of decision you want," but He weighs his advice heavily in one direction. He says, "I want you to make a decision, but this is the decision I think you ought to make."
It becomes positive in its tone and exhortive in terms of making a decision as to what they should do with the knowledge that he has given them thus far. He strongly urges his readers or hearers to cast their lots with God.
This section begins in Ecclesiastes 11:1 and ends in 12:7. There is a sustained theme of exhortation to hold wholeheartedly to the faith and to decisive commitment to obedience to God, regardless of whether life is adverse or comfortable.
Remember that at the beginning of the book he said that life is frustrating. If God is involved in a person's life, he has the opportunity to remove a great deal of the frustration from his life. His relationship with God will take the meaninglessness, the vanity, out of life. But all the children of God are required to make that choice because both choices are still there.
Not only that, but we know from earlier in the book that the life of the person who is living by faith will also be filled with many of the same kind of adversities that those living in vanity are. He has to live with the understanding that many things are out of his control.
The Christian therefore has to deal with this, and the way this is done is to make a decisive commitment to cast his lot to live by faith. If he does that, then Romans 8:28 will be fulfilled in his life. The difficulties will be there, but because the Christian has involved God in the way that he lives his life, then all things will indeed work together for good to those who are the elect and who love God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)
This parable contains three principles: 1) The truth is a costly thing; 2) before we enter into God's way of life, we should estimate the cost; and, 3) whatever it costs, it is worth it. Although it pleases Jesus when a person is called and responds with zeal (II Corinthians 7:11), He is far too humble and wise to pride Himself on the numbers of converted. Instead, He cares for quality rather than quantity, and He promotes truth and loathes counterfeits.
A builder who does not count the cost before laying the foundation is humiliated as a disgraceful failure, yet an unfinished life is far more tragic than a rock foundation without a building. Jesus warns, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). Thus, failure to count the cost of following Christ results in an incomplete life. "Holding fast to the word of life" is part of the solution for finishing one's life successfully (Philippians 2:16).
Martin G. Collins
Parables of Counting the Cost
1 Thessalonians 5:21
I Thessalonians 5:21 instructs us to "test [prove, KJV] all things," which would include our old notions, and then "hold fast" to the good ones—the ones that pass the test. A mistake many make is to follow tenaciously the instruction of Revelation 3:11 to "hold fast to what we have" while completely ignoring the additional instructions of I Thessalonians 5:21 to test first.
Experience proves that not all that we believe is truth, even if held fast for forty years. We have to test our beliefs continually and rigorously against the only standard that counts—the Bible (Acts 5:29).
Human nature is lazy and takes the easy road at every opportunity. It will rely on human reasoning, the word of others, or tradition rather than do the hard work of studying the Bible and believing what it actually says. Human nature also will not naturally do the humbling work of allowing the Bible and its plain, unambiguous verses to prove matters rather than following humanly devised ideas. The church's history over the last few decades displays the fruits of taking doctrine for granted rather than allowing clear scriptures to guide our understanding of the truth.
Why do people have so many different opinions about what the Bible says? Generally, people come to the Bible with preconceived ideas and latch on to any scripture that seems to prove their belief. At the same time, they will ignore or make light of a clear verse that obviously contradicts their belief.
God can use this as a test to determine the true intents of the heart. Where does one's allegiance really lie? Will a person humbly submit to the clear instructions of God, allowing them to lead him or her to create a true spiritual foundation (Deuteronomy 8:2-3; Psalm 149:4)? Alternatively, will they choose instead to hold on to their preconceptions or other ideas of men—their idols (Revelation 21:8)—desperately grasping at the straws of unclear scriptures to build a shaky foundation?
When doctrinal disputes arise, if a person cannot or will not prove beliefs using clear and unambiguous scriptures, that fact should raise a red flag. Clear scriptures are a solid-rock foundation. Ambiguous scriptures, open to private interpretation, lead to a foundation of sand. Only one of these foundations will stand when storms come (Matthew 7:24-27).
Praying Always (Part One)
2 Thessalonians 2:15-17
So stand firm, and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father (who has loved us and given us unending encouragement and unfailing hope by his grace), inspire you with courage and confidence in every good thing you say or do. (Phillips)
When we read I and II Thessalonians, it does not appear that these people were going through any hard or difficult persecution, yet things were happening within the church. He tells these people, "Hold on!" There must have been pressure coming from somewhere to turn these people away from the truths, the traditions, they had learned from the apostles.
That causes one to think that, even though their neighbors were not persecuting them, nonetheless something was happening. They were in danger of being persuaded to turn away from the things that they had been taught.
It appears as if the focus of this pressure to which they were subject was something mental, doctrinal, and theological. So he tells them to "hold fast." The words J.B. Phillips uses in his translation sound like the words spoken in war: "Hang on! Hold fast!" he says. "May God inspire you with courage!"
John W. Ritenbaugh
Endure as a Good Soldier
2 Timothy 1:8-9
This verse begins a section introducing Paul's admonition to hold fast what has been entrusted to our care, which he calls "the testimony of our Lord."
What is a testimony? Most commonly, it is used when a person is called upon to give an account of what he witnessed. This, however, is a narrow usage.
In a broader application, Webster says that it means "firsthand authentication of a fact," which is what one is called upon to do in a court trial, to verify a fact. A trial lawyer may ask, "Did you know this person before such and such a date?" The witness then authenticates whether or not this fact is true. Testimony also means "evidence." The lawyer asks, "What did you see?" And then the witness presents his evidence.
But it can also mean "a solemn declaration, an open acknowledgment." This is closer to what Jesus Christ did. He gave an open acknowledgment, a solemn declaration, of a message that He left with mankind. That was the testimony of our Lord, the message of the Messenger. The church knows it as the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
To turn the last clause of this verse into plain English, God began His purpose before time! Not only is the fulfillment of the gospel yet future, its beginning stretches all the way back before time began as human beings look at it. At some point in the distant past before mankind, God's purpose began moving toward completion.
If the gospel began before time, and if it is the essence of future events, then we can logically conclude that God's purpose is not completed! Completion of the purpose, of the good news, is still future. Whatever lies in the future is the goal toward which the purpose is moving, and that goal is the good news. Of course, there will be wonderful and encouraging accomplishments along the way. We could call them benchmarks. Although alone they are good news, it is the culmination of them that is the good news.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!
2 Timothy 1:13-14
He tells Timothy—and every Christian—to hold to the standards that the apostle had delivered to him. And, he says, the only way to keep the doctrines is both to live it and proclaim it with faith and love. Paul is concerned, not just about the truth, but also about how it is preserved, in faith and love. Regarding keeping the deposit through God's Holy Spirit, The Expositor's Bible Commentary states, "It has been well said that the Holy Spirit is the great Conservator of orthodoxy" (vol. 11, p. 397). In other words, a person led by and using the Spirit of God will not turn away from the teaching delivered by the apostles.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!
Hebrews 3:6 stands at the end of a paragraph in which we are asked to "consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus" (Hebrews 3:1). In the intervening four verses, the author of Hebrews, probably ultimately the apostle Paul, makes a comparison between Christ and Moses in terms of their faithfulness. Jesus is, of course, superior to Moses in many ways, but in the area of faithfulness, He is far greater because He is no mere servant, as Moses was, but the Son and Heir of His own house, the house of God.
A second distinction that the author makes is that, while Moses functioned as a faithful servant or steward of the house, Christ built the house. In other words, while Moses dutifully followed orders concerning the running of the house during his time of service, Christ gets all the credit for planning, designing, building, and maintaining the house, as He is its Creator. The author makes this plain in verse 4: "He who built all things is God."
So the author makes two major points: 1) Jesus Christ is the faithful Son of God and Heir of all things, and 2) He Himself is the Creator God, the One who made everything (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). For these reasons, He is worthy of all glory and honor.
In verse 6, the object of our comments, the author brings Christians, the church, into the argument. We are the house of God that Jesus has been building and that Moses faithfully served. The Son of God has been faithfully working on us both individually and collectively since the beginning to fit us into His house—whether we wish to look at it as a building or a family—in the place that most suits us and where we will function the best for His purpose.
The emphasis here needs to be on the fact that He, appointed by the Father to this task, has executed His responsibilities faithfully in every respect. He never shirks a job, never does shoddy work, and never fails to finish what He starts. Jesus Christ always does perfect work.
So, as the verse implies, we should have perfect confidence and joy in our Creator in bringing us to salvation and eternal life. We have no reason to doubt! Our responsibility, then, is to "hold fast," to stand firm, to endure to the end, through whatever assails us in the meantime.
There is nothing that can stop Christ from finishing His work perfectly—except us. We can fail Him (see Hebrews 6:4-8; 10:26-31); we can prove unfaithful, which is why the author's next section is an exhortation to be faithful and a warning not to follow the unfaithful, unbelieving example of the Israelites in the wilderness.
To this end, he repeats his encouraging remarks in Hebrews 3:14, "For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end." We have to keep hanging on, faithful and trusting that God, in His perfect work, has everything under control. So Jesus Himself tells us in Matthew 24:13, "But he who endures to the end shall be saved."
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The author implies the faith that we had at the beginning of our conversion, the faith that led us to believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that it is by His blood that we are saved. It led us to repent, to change our minds in relation to God and the way that we were living, so that we were baptized, made the new covenant with God, and began to live His way on the strength of the conviction we had about the teachings we had accepted at that time.
In saying, "For we have become partakers of Christ," he is now referring to an end result—"if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast to the end." Just a few verses later (verse 17), He speaks about the corpses of the Israelites being strewn all over the wilderness. His point is that the Israelites did not hold their conviction to the end. When they left Egypt, they were full of joy. When God divided the Red Sea, they danced around and had a real celebration (Exodus 15). But it seems that, from that time on, God's great miracles on their behalf began to recede into their minds, and they did not hold onto the joy and faith and conviction that they had then.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Does Doctrine Really Matter? (Part 4)
The first thing Paul lays out in this transition is a three-step trigger to prime the Hebrew Christians' latent memories so they will be armed with foundational incentives to rouse themselves spiritually and start moving forward. In verses 22-24, he makes three exhortations.
First, "let us draw near." In other words, get moving! He says, "Take advantage of this privilege of coming before God, and believe without doubting, knowing your sins are forgiven and remembering that God is faithful and merciful to forgive." Recall that in the performance of their duties, the priests had to wash their hands and feet before entering the holy place. This is why Paul mentions water. He is alluding to the Hebrews' need to become clean. He urges them to repent of their lackadaisical attitudes and to meet with their Maker in prayer.
Second, he commands them to "hold fast your profession." Paul uses a similar phrase five times before this. Apparently, lackadaisical drifting was a particularly common problem for them. He wants them to show by their conduct that they believe in what God has promised in the resurrection from the dead. In short, he advises, "Remember your conviction in the awesome hope of our calling." These people were allowing the world to get them down; they were succumbing to a "what's the use" resignation. They were not busy confirming their souls. Paul exhorts them to continue, to persevere in the grace God had already shown them, not wanting them to waste it by failing to look ahead and be persistent. He presses them to yield to God and to allow themselves to be reassured that He is faithful to His promises.
Pay special attention to the third exhortation in verse 24. The word "consider" is very emphatic. He urges them to think upon and to strive for unity by giving conscientious care to each other. He wants the Hebrews to give special attention to their brethren's circumstances, trials, temptations, weaknesses, and needs. They need to "fire each other up" to promote love for God and for each other and to carry out our common responsibilities. Christians do this by setting a good example, by occasional suitable exhortations, by acts of kindness, and by expressions of appreciation.
Notice that as this exhortation begins, Paul calls upon the "big three" Christian virtues: faith, hope, and love. These would form the foundation of what the Hebrews must do if they were to reverse their slide toward the Lake of Fire. These virtues must be implemented because they affect the quality of a person's relationship with God. Because a Christian has God's Spirit, these virtues are already part of him. However, each individual must himself choose to use them to turn his life around; no one can do this for another. Of course, it is understood that God is always there to help a person do this.
John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Power: Our Shield Against Apostasy
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope - This is Paul's reason for writing the epistle. They were enduring great pressure to relax their standards. Some were beginning to return to their former beliefs and to the world. Apostasy had begun to set in.
Today in the confusion of the times, we can allow our foundations to be chipped away by listening to the myriad of differing opinions and beliefs. So many voices babble incessantly, each one trying to get our attention, that they can nearly drive us mad with confusion! Confusion not only affects what we believe but also our zeal for God's way of life. It is imperative we "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
Jesus gives us this warning in His messages to the Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia churches:
But hold fast what you have till I come. . . . Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. . . . Behold, I come quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown" (Revelation 2:25; 3:3, 11).
It is of paramount importance to keep a firm grip on the true teachings of God's Word.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Stir up love means "to arouse to love." We have an obligation to do this because of both love and faith. We see it in two different contexts: In Hebrews 3:12-14, the subject is faith or belief. In Hebrews 10:23-25, the subject is love. In both cases, exhortation within our fellowship can increase either one or both of them.
The writer says that we have to confess our hope. Confess means "to make it known, to reveal." We must make our hope known. Undoubtedly, he means the great hope of the resurrection of the dead, but it is probably not limited only to that hope but includes other hopes that we have.
It is the accomplishment of these hopes that we are to exhort our brethren about: "Hang in there!" "Hold fast!" "Have you tried praying about that?" "Have you sought the advice or counsel of this person?" "Do you think it would help for you to do this or that thing?" "I had a problem like that one time." By doing this, we begin to pool our resources and experiences, and there is wisdom, God says, in a multitude of counselors. It cannot help but build people up, and our fellowship becomes stronger as we share one another's hopes and dreams.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Fervency
We can see what most concerns Christ—what is most important to Him—at the end, when the pressures will be more intense than they have ever been in the history of man, when Satan is lining up all of his forces, all of his armies, all of his weaponry. The Devil will mount a persecution against God's people to such an extent that the whole earth will be thrown into convulsions, the likes of which this world has never seen!
Christ, like any good leader who sees what is coming, will take steps to prepare His people. He will focus their attention on what is most important to survive and grow during that period. This is why He talks about what He does to the churches in the messages in Revelation 2 and 3.
The word translated as "overcomes" can just as easily and correctly be—and is perhaps better—translated "conquers." We are involved in a war against Satan and his demons, against a world he designed and built through men, and against ourselves, who carry with us the self-centered nature, habits, and attitudes of Satan and his system. Thus, Christ's concern for us as we approach the end is whether we are carrying through in the warfare, continuing in well doing, and enduring to the end, because Satan is bringing about every pressure to make us surrender.
Loyalty is not a quality that we Americans and Canadians are endowed with to any great degree. Our cultures tend to stress individuality—doing our own thing. This lack of loyalty in America and Canada perhaps shows more clearly in divorce and infidelity than anywhere else. Loyalty's synonym is "faithful." It means "faithful in allegiance to one's lawful sovereign; to be faithful to a private person to whom fidelity is due; or faithful to a cause." It means to be steadfast in affection, to adhere to the performance of duty, to be conscientious, to give firm resistance to any temptation to desert or betray. Can we see what the works are Christ is so concerned about?
This is why every message says, "I know your works!" (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15). He does not say, "I know your profession" or "I know your desires." Neither does He say, "I know your sincerity" or "I know your wishes." He says, "I know your works"! Why? Because works prove what a person is doing with his knowledge, time, and energies.
Titus 1:16 says, "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified." Notice that they "profess" to know God. Christ says, "I see what you are doing. I know your works." Why are works so important? They prove where our heart is! They prove our loyalty! They prove whether we are conscientious and faithful. They prove whether there is fidelity to Jesus Christ—whether we are steadfast in our affection for the One we are going to marry.
Many believe that we do not have to qualify for the Kingdom of God. It is true that works cannot justify us; they cannot wipe out our sins. However, it does not follow that, because they cannot save us, they are of no importance. Recall that James uses Abraham, the father of the faithful—the father of the loyal, the conscientious—as the illustration that faith without works is dead! Living faith works! Jesus says, "I know your works"!
Revelation 2 and 3 are an examination of our works because Christ wants to see whether we believe Him! Living faith exhibits itself in works! It is a test of our faith. If we are faithful, we will be working: overcoming Satan, the world, and our self-centeredness. That is what works accomplish.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works
Jesus Christ says that because some of His people have been keeping His command to persevere, He will keep them from the worst of what lies ahead. They have already proved their faithfulness to Him; He knows where they stand, He sees their track record with Him, and He will not require them to experience everything that the rest of humanity will suffer.
The word translated "kept" or "keep," used twice, plays into this. This word means "to attend to carefully; to maintain; to guard; to hold fast," and the way that it is used indicates reciprocity. We certainly want God to guard, hold fast, and carefully attend to us. We would prefer that He guard us and hold us fast far away from the destruction and torment that will come upon the world! But the flipside is that He wants us to do the same thing—keep, guard, hold fast—with regard to our responsibilities to the covenant.
In other words, if we want God to take an active interest in our well-being during that time, we should understand the principle of reciprocity and take an active interest in Him at this time. If we diligently guard the things He has committed to our trust, He will do the same for us.
Jesus' brother, James, provides insight into the perseverance that Christ wants us to have: "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2-4).
The perseverance that we will increasingly need as the end approaches cannot be developed all at once. Goofing off all semester and then cramming for the final exam rarely works in college, and it certainly will not work where our covenant and relationship with God is concerned. James counsels us to be thankful when our faith is tested, because all of those little exercises of faith not only prepare us for substantial trials, but also make us spiritually complete.
The upshot is that no man, by himself, has the strength to endure and persevere through what lies ahead. Without God, we are all dead men, physically and spiritually, but because "power belongs to God" (Psalm 62:11), we can tap into the source of true strength through our relationship with Him. He decides the circumstances of our lives. He alone knows what we need to survive the trials and temptations at the end. More importantly, He knows what we need to be prepared for eternal life.
Remember that God desires godly offspring (Malachi 2:15). He is creating sons and daughters in His image (Genesis 1:26; Romans 8:29). He is using His perfect creative genius to engineer the experiences and circumstances that we need to take on His image and have His eternal character formed in us.
For some, walking with God through the very depths of the end time is what they will need to become "perfect and complete, lacking nothing." A large part of that may be a result of the choices that they make now, and their tendencies toward apathy, complacency, or compromise.
For others who are already keeping His command to persevere, He will keep them from the hour of trial. It does not mean they will not see hardship: They must see hardship to endure courageously. But because of their constancy under duress—because God is not a stranger, and they are already accustomed to walking through life with Him and drawing upon His strength—they will be given a blessing of protection.
David C. Grabbe
Who Will Be Kept from the Hour of Trial?
The mark of the Beast identifies those who are devoted to the Beast. They have given their lives in worship and obedience to him, and have received his mark. The Beast will be the leader of the new world order now forming. And ironically—tragically—members of God's church are now being led back to that world and away from keeping His commandments.
Our responsibility remains clear, however. God's Word identifies the distinctive difference between those who worship Him and those who worship the Beast. Those who worship God keep His commandments. We must do everything in our power to keep from sinking into the same spiritual vortex that has already swallowed so many. Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good! Keep God's Ten Commandments—all of them!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Works are very important to the book of Revelation—seven times in chapters 2 and 3, and four or five other times in the rest of the book. Christ's concern is that His people are working.
The main purpose of the book of Revelation is not merely to give us insight into what is coming. It is also to convince the Christian that his loyalty, his devotion, his steadfastness, his suffering, and perhaps even martyrdom, is not in vain—that he is assured of a wonderful future. The reason for the stress on works is that character is not formed merely by knowing something but by knowledge combined with putting it to work until it becomes a habit. Over time, habit becomes character, and character follows the person right through the grave!
If we are not working, emphasizing loyalty to the Person of God and to His way, making every effort to overcome Satan, the world, and the self-centeredness within us, resisting with all of our being the temptations to do what is natural, carnal—if we are not expending our energy, and spending our time working out our own salvation with fear and trembling—it is very likely, then, that we are not going to have the character necessary to go through the grave. The wrong works will follow us, and we will not be prepared for the Kingdom of God.
Thus, what a person has done, that is, what he has worked on in this lifetime, follows him through the grave—either into the Lake of Fire or the Kingdom of God.
The book is designed to focus attention on what is of greatest concern to Christ for His people. He wants to ensure that they do not give up or become weary due to the great pressure of the times, and that they instead endure, persevere, and be loyal and steadfast to the very end.
His concern at this time is not preaching the gospel as a witness, but the salvation and continued growth of those He already has. The quality of the witness is directly tied to the quality of those making the witness. What good is it to have this wonderful, awesome message—the gospel of the Kingdom of God—carried by those who are poor examples of what it says? Christ's first priority is to ensure the spiritual quality of those who make the witness, and then the quality of the witness is ensured. We cannot let the cart get ahead of the horse. The one naturally follows the other. First things first.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works
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