- Be Faithful to God
- Remember God and His Word
- Hold to the Faith
- Persist until the End
- Be Ready for Jesus Christ’s Return
The New Testament contains numerous warnings and exhortations to be faithful to God and to hold to the Christian faith. It is every Christian’s constant challenge to do so. We need to stand firm, until the end – while ever watching for Jesus Christ’s return and the fulfillment of our hope.
- Be faithful to God and Jesus Christ
- Hold fast to God and his ways
- Serve God and Jesus Christ faithfully . . .
- . . . Examples of faithful service
- Do not be unfaithful to God by not keeping his commands
- Do not forsake God
- God and Jesus Christ protect and bless those who are faithful to them
- God punishes those who are unfaithful
- God punishes those who forsake him
- [What to do in persecution:] Be Faithful to God and Endure
1Ki 2:4 … that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lacka a man on the throne of Israel.’ ▤
a Hebrew there shall not be cut off for you
Neh 9:8 You found his [Abraham’s] heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous. ▤
b Or am sending
c Some manuscripts add Jesus
We are to be faithful in living a life in accordance with being in the Lord (cf. Eph 1:1 ↓), doing what pleases him.
d Some manuscripts saints who are also faithful (omitting in Ephesus)
e Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verses 5, 10
The phrase “your truth” refers to their integrity and “faithfulness to the truth” (NIV®, NRSV; cf. GNT), as per their life of “walking in the truth”.
- God’s faithful people are still accountable to him:
God judged his people according to his covenant with them, reflected in this psalm by his implied criticism and exhortations to the people in general (cf. vv. 7-15); and his stinging attack and threat of destruction to the wicked amongst them (cf. vv. 16-23).
To “hold fast” to God essentially means to be faithful or remain true to him.
Deut 11:22-23 For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the Lord your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him, 23then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves. ▤
Deut 30:20 … loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. ▤
The ways of the righteous are God’s ways. As such the righteous hold to God’s ways.
f Greek bondservant; also verses 46, 48, 50
Paul realized that in serving Christ he was required to be found trustworthy – “prove faithful” (NIV®) – in handling that of which he had been made a steward or trustee (cf. AMP), which was the mysteries of the gospel of God.
1Sam 2:35 And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. ▤
We should be “faithful stewards” (AMP), “faithfully administering” (NIV®) whatever gift that God in his grace has given us for serving him and others.
To serve God faithfully we must not be negligent.
2Chr 31:12, 15, 18 And they faithfully brought in the contributions, the tithes, and the dedicated things. The chief officer in charge of them was Conaniah the Levite, with Shimei his brother as second, ▤ … 15Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua, Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah were faithfully assisting him in the cities of the priests, to distribute the portions to their brothers, old and young alike, by divisions, ▤ … 18They were enrolled with all their little children, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, the whole assembly, for they were faithful in keeping themselves holy. ▤
Verse 12 appears to be speaking of the priests (cf. NCV) and/or Levites faithfully handling what the people had earlier given (cf. vv. 5-8). Verse 18b indicates that the priests were also faithful in preparing themselves or keeping themselves ready (cf. NCV) for the work.
Hezekiah’s faithful service is mentioned again at the start of the following chapter – “After these things and these acts of faithfulness …” (32:1a).
The reference is to work in repairing the temple.
g Greek fellow bondservant
h Some manuscripts our
Heb 3:1-2, 5 Therefore, holy brothers,i you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’sj house. ▤ … 5Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, … ▤
i Or brothers and sisters; also verse 12
j Greek his; also verses 5, 6
The phrase “a faithful thing” is most likely speaking of faithfulness to the Lord, although it could be referring to faithfulness to the “brothers” (which in itself is ultimately faithfulness to the Lord).
1Ki 22:13-14 And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” 14But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak.” ▤
The prophet Micaiah was put under pressure to conform (v. 13), which would have required him to make up a false prophecy. Instead he resolved to faithfully only say what God told him (v. 14).
Jer 17:15-16 Behold, they say to me, “Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come!” 16I have not run away from being your shepherd, nor have I desired the day of sickness. You know what came out of my lips; it was before your face. ▤
Despite the difficulties he faced from the people (v. 15), Jeremiah did not try to escape being God’s shepherd to his people (v. 16) – nor did he long for the day of God’s judgment and their despair.
Ezek 44:15 But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept the charge of my sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from me, shall come near to me to minister to me. And they shall stand before me to offer me the fat and the blood, declares the Lord God. ▤
- Balaam’s stated intention to do and say only what God wanted:
Num 22:18, 38 But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God to do less or more. ▤ … 38Balaam said to Balak, “Behold, I have come to you! Have I now any power of my own to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak.” ▤
Ps 78:8-10, 36-37 … and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God. 9The Ephraimites, armed withk the bow, turned back on the day of battle. 10They did not keep God’s covenant, but refused to walk according to his law. ▤ … 36But they flattered him with their mouths; they lied to him with their tongues. 37Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant. ▤
k Hebrew armed and shooting
Israel broke their covenant with God by acting contrary to God’s commands (cf. vv. 8-10). As such they were unfaithful to God.
Num 5:5-6 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 6“Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, … ▤
To commit sin obviously involves breaking God’s commands; in doing so one is “breaking faith with” God, being unfaithful to him.
Ezra 10:2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. ▤
l Or become unchaste
To forsake means to “abandon” or to “turn away from”.
2Chr 29:6 For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord and turned their backs. ▤
This verse correlates forsaking God with being unfaithful to him. Note that the next few verses speak of not forsaking God, while the remainder contain examples of people who did forsake God.
Isa 1:4 Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. ▤
The love they had at first is most likely referring to their initial love for God or Jesus Christ (cf. GNT), but could also be inclusive of love for each other (cf. NLT).
- Do not be false to God by trusting or worshipping other things:
Job 31:24-28 If I have made gold my trust or called fine gold my confidence, 25if I have rejoiced because my wealth was abundant or because my hand had found much, 26if I have looked at the sun
m when it shone, or the moon moving in splendor, 27and my heart has been secretly enticed, and my mouth has kissed my hand, 28this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges, for I would have been false to God above. ▤
m Hebrew the light
Isa 26:1-2 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. 2Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. ▤
God protects and saves those who keep faith.
In conjunction with protecting those who are faithful to him, God decrees that they will live – an OT theme with strong spiritual parallels in the NT. Note that the following verses speak of God and Jesus Christ blessing those who are faithful to them.
1Ki 3:6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. ▤
Neh 9:8 You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous. ▤
Matt 24:45-47 Who then is the faithful and wise servant,n whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. ▤
n Greek bondservant; also verses 46, 48, 50
This and 25:21 below speak of the blessings – in particular authority – granted to faithful servants of Jesus Christ on his return.
o Greek bondservant; also verses 23, 26, 30
This appears to anticipate Jesus Christ’s second coming and his final victory (cf. Rev 19:11-21). Thus it would then appear to indicate that he will be accompanied by his faithful followers, who will then share in his triumph.
- God’s anger arises in response to people forsaking him
- God’s jealousy arises particularly in response to unfaithfulness
- Consequences of unfaithfulness
- Having other “gods” and idols culminates in God’s retribution
The phrase “backslider in heart” has in view faithlessness to God (cf. AMP, NASB, NKJV, NLT). The verse may not be meaning that God punishes them, but rather that they reap the natural consequences of their ways.
Jer 5:10-11 Go up through her vine rows and destroy, but make not a full end; strip away her branches, for they are not the Lord’s. 11For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly treacherous to me, declares the Lord. ▤
Ezek 39:23 And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt so treacherously with me that I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. ▤
Judg 10:6-7 The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the Lord and did not serve him. 7So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites, … ▤
2Ki 22:17 Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. ▤
Ezra 8:22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” ▤
Jer 2:17, 19 Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the Lord your God, when he led you in the way? ▤ … 19Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts. ▤
Jer 16:10-12 And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, ‘Why has the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?’ 11then you shall say to them: ‘Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the Lord, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, 12and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. ▤
Jer 17:13 O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from youp shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water. ▤
p Hebrew me
- God will forsake those who forsake him:
2Chr 15:2 … and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. ▤
1 Chronicles 28:9b makes a similar point: “If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.”
Deut 6:10-12 And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. ▤
Deut 8:11-14, 17-18 Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, ▤ … 17Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. ▤
One should remember God before the troubles of old age come (cf. vv. 2-5) and before death (cf. vv. 6-7). Continuing to remember him before such times enables one to be prepared for them – as well as to be productive for him during the best of one’s years.
Deut 4:9-13 Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— 10how on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ 11And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments,q and he wrote them on two tablets of stone. ▤
q Hebrew words
The people were to remember the manifestation of God they had witnessed (vv. 10-11) – including the fact that they saw no form (v. 12b) – and also the commandments that he gave (v. 13; cf. v. 10b).
Note that the final phrase appears to speak of God’s people having forgotten him for more days than could be counted (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIrV, NLT).
Jer 18:13-15 Therefore thus says the Lord: Ask among the nations, Who has heard the like of this? The virgin Israel has done a very horrible thing. 14Does the snow of Lebanon leave the crags of Sirion?r Do the mountain waters run dry,s the cold flowing streams? 15But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods; they made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads, not the highway, … ▤
r Hebrew of the field
s Hebrew Are foreign waters plucked up
That Israel could forget God was: unparalleled (v. 13a); a “very horrible thing” (v. 13b); and both unnatural and extraordinary (v. 14).
Ps 103:2-5 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. ▤
This speaks of blessings from God that his people have experienced and continued to experience.
Isa 46:8-10 Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ ▤
We must remember the things God has done – including the fact that he makes known things of the future, things by which he accomplishes his purposes (v. 10). Accordingly we should remember that he alone is God (v. 9).
Here the people are exhorted to remember the saving acts that God had done for them: by causing Balaam to bless Israel rather than curse her as Balak had wanted; and in their journey from Shittim to Gilgal, which featured the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River in which God stopped its waters from flowing.
Ex 13:3-10, 14-16 Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. 4Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. 5And when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month. 6Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. 7Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. 8You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt. 10You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year. ▤ … 14And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ 16It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.” ▤
Such observances and practices were to ensure that the Israelites would not forget what God had done for them in delivering them out of Egypt. Likewise memorials such as mentioned in Joshua 4:4-7 below also served to remind the people of what God had done for them.
Josh 4:4-7 Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. 5And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, 6that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” ▤
Failure to remember what God has done is effectively condemned here and in the verses below.
t Hebrew hand
Num 15:38-40 Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. 39And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to followu after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. 40So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. ▤
u Hebrew to spy out
The tassels were simple, constant reminders to remember and obey God’s commands. As well as being visual reminders (v. 39), the wearer may have also been aware of their movement as he or she walked along.
v Or and just decrees
Ps 119:16, 52, 61, 83, 93 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. ▤ … 52When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Lord. ▤ … 61Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law. ▤ … 83For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes. ▤ … 93I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. ▤
Note that in v. 93b the psalmist appears to be speaking of the strength and meaning he found in God’s word during his affliction.
Here and in 4:5 below the godly teacher exhorts his son not to forget his instructions, instructions which are in accordance with God’s laws.
James 1:23-25 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. ▤
The “command of the Lord and Savior” probably refers to Jesus’ teachings as a whole, although some commentators think that the command to love one another may be primarily in view.
Josh 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. ▤
w Or instruction
Ps 119:13, 15, 48, 95, 97, 148 With my lips I declare all the rulesx of your mouth. ▤ … 15I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. ▤ … 48I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. ▤ … 95The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies. ▤ … 97Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. ▤ … 148My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. ▤
x Or all the just decrees
In v. 13, “declare” may have in view reciting God’s laws (cf. GNT, NLT), in conjunction with meditating on them – hence the verse’s inclusion. However, declaring them to others is arguably more likely in view. In v. 15, “your ways” are “the paths of life marked out by Your law” (AMP).
Paul’s letters are a part of God’s word. Thus this amounts to a direction to think carefully about God’s word. This is an important aspect of meditating on it.
Deut 6:6-9 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. ▤
God’s commands are to be on the hearts of his people (v. 6). As such his people should take steps to keep his commands in their thoughts (vv. 7-9). The instructions in vv. 8-9 were probably figuratively underlining the need to keep the God’s commands in one’s thoughts (cf. Deut 11:18 ↓; Prov 6:21 ↓; Prov 7:3 ↓), although later Jews did take them literally.
Moses exhorts the people to embed God’s laws in their consciousness, so as to obey them.
We are to “store” (NLT) or “keep” (GNT, NCV) God’s words in our hearts.
Ps 119:11, 30, 98 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. ▤ … 30I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me. ▤ … 98Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. ▤
Prov 4:3-4, 21 When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, 4he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. ▤ … 21Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. ▤
Prov 7:1-3 My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; 2keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; 3bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. ▤
In saying that he “ate” God’s words, Jeremiah indicates that he absorbed them, one result of which was that they became a joy and his heart’s delight.
Like the psalms, presumably the hymns and spiritual songs contained extracts from or reflections on God’s word. The thought then behind the exhortation to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” may be – in part at least – that this was a further way of ensuring that God’s word dwelt within them.
- God’s promise to put his law in the hearts of his people:
Jer 31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. ▤
Deut 32:18-19 You were unmindful of the Rock that borey you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. 19“The Lord saw it and spurned them, because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters. ▤
y Or fathered
Verse 19 probably has primarily in view the unfaithfulness and idolatry mentioned in the preceding verses (cf. vv. 15-17). Forgetting God went hand in hand with this betrayal and so was part of the reason for the consequences.
Job 8:11-13 Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh? Can reeds flourish where there is no water? 12While yet in flower and not cut down, they wither before any other plant. 13Such are the paths of all who forget God; the hope of the godless shall perish. ▤
The implication is that God will destroy those who forget him.
Ps 106:13-15, 20-23 But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. 14But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert; 15he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them. ▤ … 20They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, 22wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. 23Therefore he said he would destroy them— had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them. ▤
Forgetting God results in rebellion (vv. 13-15, 20-22) – which brings fearful consequences (vv. 15, 23).
Isa 17:10-11 For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger, 11though you make them growz on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow, yet the harvest will flee awaya in a day of grief and incurable pain. ▤
z Or though you carefully fence them
a Or will be a heap
Isa 51:12-13 I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, 13and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy? And where is the wrath of the oppressor? ▤
One consequence of forgetting God is living in fear of one’s enemies.
Quite probably “the weeping and pleading” of the people has in view their anguish amidst suffering dreadful judgment for forgetting God and sinning.
Jer 18:15-17 But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods; they made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads, not the highway, 16making their land a horror, a thing to be hissed at forever. Everyone who passes by it is horrified and shakes his head. 17Like the east wind I will scatter them before the enemy. I will show them my back, not my face, in the day of their calamity. ▤
Forgetting God is here associated with idolatry and subsequent ungodly ways (v. 15), leading to God’s punishment (vv. 16-17).
Hos 13:6-8 … but when they had grazed,b they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me. 7So I am to them like a lion; like a leopard I will lurk beside the way. 8I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs; I will tear open their breast, and there I will devour them like a lion, as a wild beast would rip them open. ▤
b Hebrew according to their pasture
- Do not forget past sins and the consequences faced:
Deut 9:7-8 Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord. 8Even at Horeb you provoked the Lord to wrath, and the Lord was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you. ▤
- Remain “in” Jesus Christ
- . . . Exhort others to continue in God’s grace
- Hold fast to God and his ways
- Stand firm until the end
The body of Christian beliefs is often referred to as “the faith” – e.g. “preaching the faith” (Gal 1:23), “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 1:3), and as in a number of the following verses.
Acts 14:21-22 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. ▤
Col 1:22-23 … he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creationc under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. ▤
c Or to every creature
Continuing in the faith of course involves continuing to have faith – believing in the truths of the faith, along with trusting God.
d The Greek for whom is plural
The last clause possibly refers to being “strong in the faith” (NCV™, NLT), although it may instead refer to having a sound understanding of the faith (cf. AMP, NIrV). The first meaning would be the more relevant one to this subsection.
Heb 3:6, 14 … but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.e ▤ … 14For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. ▤
e Some manuscripts insert firm to the end
Continuing in the faith involves holding to our confidence in and our hope of the realization of the aspects of the faith that concern the future (cf. Heb 10:23, 35 ↓).
The expression “what you have” encompasses – or at least is applicable to – such things as the truths of the faith (cf. CEV), personal faith and faithfulness to Christ (cf. NCV).
Paul is speaking of standing firm against incorrect teaching – here the propagation of living under the OT law.
Eph 6:11, 13-18 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. ▤ … 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, … ▤
Phil 1:27-28 Only let your manner of life be worthyf of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. ▤
f Greek Only behave as citizens worthy
The Philippians stood firm together “in united spirit and purpose” (AMP), for the faith (v. 27b) and against their opponents (v. 28).
g Or brothers and sisters; also verses 8, 21
Note that in saying “stand firm thus in the Lord”, Paul appears to be referring to the teaching of the preceding verses, including his instructions: to “walk according to the example you have in us” (3:17); and to be focused on Jesus Christ’s return and all that it entails (cf. 3:20-21).
- We should stand in the gospel:
h Or brothers and sisters; also verses 6, 31, 50, 58
We should take our stand firmly believing and in accordance with the truths of the gospel message.
In the following verses, references to holding to Christian teaching generally refer to believing Christian truths and/or to following practical Christian instructions. (The latter is largely in view in the following subsection.)
2Tim 3:14-15 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whomi you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. ▤
i The Greek for whom is plural
This implies that what Timothy had “learned and … firmly believed” (v. 14a) was taught to him by reliable teachers (v. 14b) and based largely on the Scriptures (v. 15). As such, Paul encourages him to continue to believe or hold to these truths (v. 14a).
j Or healthy; also verse 13
Rev 19:10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servantk with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. ▤
k Greek fellow bondservant
The “testimony of Jesus” may well refer to that which can be learned from Jesus through not only his teaching, but also his life and death; hence the verse’s inclusion here. However, it could possibly instead be speaking of testifying about Jesus (cf. CEV, NCV, NLT). Note that the final statement quite possibly means that holding to or proclaiming this testimony is the essence of prophecy. “For the substance (essence) of the truth revealed by Jesus is the spirit of all prophecy… the inspiration of all inspired preaching and interpretation of the divine will and purpose…” (AMP)
Get God’s truth and keep it, holding to it.
Paul exhorts the Philippians, in line with their persistent obedience to his teaching, to continue to “work out” their salvation. There are different interpretations of what Paul means by this. Arguably it refers to bringing one’s salvation to completion (cf. GNT, NCV), doing what is required to attain or accept – not earn – salvation, living lives reflecting one’s redeemed state.
Paul exhorts his readers to keep living according to either the truth that they had already grasped (cf. GNT, NCV, NLT) or the standard of Christian living that they had already achieved (cf. CEV, NASB, NKJV).
Paul urges Timothy to both continue to teach and to live by that which is in accordance with correct Christian doctrine (cf. v. 6).
The “law of liberty” (cf. 2:12) refers to God’s word (cf. vv. 22-24) – seemingly including the OT moral law as interpreted by NT teaching. This “law” that Christians are to live by gives freedom from both rigorous regulations and sin – which means that they are in fact freer to please God.
l Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verses 5, 10
- Continue to do what is right:
- 2Thes 1:3 ⇓; 2Pet 1:5-6 ⇓; 2Pet 3:18 ⇓
- Pursue faith – and grow in faith
- Pray for their spiritual growth and maturity
Paul was keen that the Philippians “progress… in the faith”.
As in Philippians 1:25 above, “faith” again refers to the Christian faith, the teachings that Christians believe and live in accordance with – rather than to an individual’s trust in God.
A key aspect of increasing in love is a corresponding growth in knowledge of matters of the faith – and also discernment or insight. Such love is more effective in whatever it seeks to achieve.
The final phrase quite likely speaks of growing or increasing in knowledge about God, quite possibly encompassing coming to know him better (cf. CEV, NIrV, NLT). But note that some commentators interpret Paul to be speaking of “the knowledge of God” as the sphere in which we grow, or the means by which we grow.
The term “pure spiritual milk” here probably denotes God’s word or truth. Below in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 and Hebrews 5:12-13 the figure of “milk” is used to depict very basic truths of the faith that the readers should have progressed beyond, having been Christians for some time. In line with this, the final clause may well speak of growing “in respect to” (NASB) or “into the fullness of” (NLT) salvation, maturing in the faith. Alternatively, it has been interpreted to speak of securing (not earning) salvation, being saved (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV).
1Cor 3:1-2 But I, brothers,m could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, … ▤
m Or brothers and sisters
In this and in the following references the readers are rebuked for their lack of growth in their knowledge of the faith. Here Paul rebukes them in part for their lack of progress in the moral aspects of the faith, which had hampered their growth in knowledge of the faith.
Heb 5:11-14 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. ▤
Heb 6:1-2 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2and of instruction about washings,n the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. ▤
n Or baptisms (that is, cleansing rites)
Note that this follows on directly from 5:11-14 immediately above.
- Be spiritually mature in your thinking:
Note that Paul says this in the context of speaking of using the gift of tongues wisely (vv. 1-25).
o Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church
Here “faith” refers to an individual’s faith or trust in God.
p Greek be in them
James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers,q when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ▤
q Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verses 16, 19
Believers must look upon trials as opportunities to grow in their Christian life through being steadfast (vv. 2-3), leading to them becoming “perfect and complete” (v. 4).
2Pet 1:5-8 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,r and virtue with knowledge, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8For if these qualitiess are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. ▤
r Or excellence; twice in this verse
s Greek these things; also verses 9, 10, 12
Note that Peter is not meaning that we should obtain each characteristic before addressing the following one. Nor is Peter necessarily meaning that adjacent characteristics are more closely associated with each other than the others, although in some cases there is a strong link.
Peter appears to be speaking of believers growing spiritually in or by Christ’s grace and knowledge of him.
1Thes 4:1, 9-10 Finally, then, brothers,t we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. ▤ … 9Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, … ▤
t Or brothers and sisters; also verses 10, 13
A key part of growing in our Christian lives is increasingly doing the things that please God, doing them “more and more” (vv. 1, 10).
In the following references the term “fruit” is often understood to refer to personal spiritual characteristics produced in a believer (cf. Gal 5:22-23 ↓) as they grow spiritually. However bear in mind that in some of the references, the produce of one’s work for the kingdom may instead be in view.
John 15:8, 16 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. ▤ … 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. ▤
Rom 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. ▤
Phil 1:10-11 … so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ▤
Spiritual “fruit” is produced through Jesus Christ.
Matt 13:23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty. ▤
Matt 7:17-19 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. ▤
Luke 13:6-9 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” ▤
The fig tree represents the Jewish nation. It as a whole had failed to produce fruit, including a positive response to Jesus. So it faced being cut out of its relationship with God, no longer using up the soil (possibly a reference to God’s love or grace). The scenario is applicable as a warning to anyone who professes to be one of God’s people.
- The “fruit” of the Holy Spirit:
These characteristics are described as “fruit of the Spirit” because their source and means of growth is the Holy Spirit. The implication is that our lives should produce such “fruit”.
- Stand firm until the end
- Persist and be diligent so that you will receive the reward . . .
- . . . Be like an athlete, striving for a prize
- Be careful not to turn away from God . . .
- . . . Do not rebel against God
- Some people do fall away
- Falling away brings dire consequences
- Note: Dreadful consequences of Israel’s rebellion against God
We are to “strengthen and confirm” (AMP) our hearts, with the Lord’s return in view.
In v. 12 “love” probably refers to either love in Christ for others, or love for God. Enduring (v. 13) involves persisting in such love.
- Exhortation to stand firm in the face of enemy attack:
2Chr 20:17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you. ▤
Similarly Exodus 14:13 says, “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” See also Ephesians 6:11, 13-18.
This speaks of the salvation (cf. 1Tim 4:16 ↓) that is fundamental to the believer’s reward.
Here “rest” may well be referring to the reward of rest in the afterlife – the reason for its inclusion here. But note that some think it refers to rest from trying to gain salvation by works.
Heb 6:11-12 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. ▤
2Pet 1:10-11 Therefore, brothers,u be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ▤
u Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church
v Some manuscripts you
A number of commentators consider that here John is speaking not of missing out on salvation, but of not being rewarded to the extent that one could be.
Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. ▤
Here “course” appears to have the sense of a “race” (NIV®, NKJV).
Phil 3:10-14 … that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ▤
In v. 12 Paul is probably talking of pressing on to take hold of the spiritual goals he had listed in v. 10 – which he had not “already obtained” v. 12a – and also perfection (v. 12a). Possibly he also has in mind the resurrection from the dead (v. 11). The latter is certainly one aspect of the prize (v. 14) for attaining such spiritual goals.
“Fight the good fight” is understood to be an allusion to sport (cf. 2Tim 4:7-8 ↓) rather than warfare. “Take hold of the eternal life” appears to primarily have in view the consummation of the believer’s eternal life in the age to come.
2Tim 4:7-8 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. ▤
Heb 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ▤
The writer exhorts his readers as they run their spiritual “race” with endurance (v. 1) to look to Jesus, primarily in order to follow his example of enduring all for the joy that would follow (v. 2).
The implication of this illustration in the context is that God’s people must “compete” according to God’s requirements in order to receive their reward.
- Be purposeful and disciplined, so as to win the prize:
1Cor 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27But I discipline my body and keep it under control,
w lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. ▤
w Greek I pummel my body and make it a slave
The clause “I discipline my body” (v. 27) depicts Paul’s strong discipline of himself, bringing his body with its desires into submission.
This is applicable to being careful in regard to both ourselves and others.
Josh 22:29 Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away this day from following the Lord by building an altar for burnt offering, grain offering, or sacrifice, other than the altar of the Lord our God that stands before his tabernacle! ▤
1Sam 12:14 If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. ▤
Ezek 2:3, 8 And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. ▤ … 8“But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” ▤
Heb 3:15-16 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? ▤
In v. 16 the author appears to be warning his readers of the danger of falling into rebellion, pointing to the rebellion of the Exodus generation despite them having witnessed God’s miraculous deliverance.
This and the following verses speak in condemnatory tone of cases of God’s people rebelling against him.
Isa 59:12-13 For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: 13transgressing, and denying the Lord, and turning back from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words. ▤
- Note: False teachers often succeed in leading people astray . . .
- . . . False teachers can lead many astray
The question of whether a true Christian can fall away has been one of no small debate. Certainly some people who consider themselves Christians – and appear to be so – do fall away. This topic shows one of the “tensions” in Scripture. Many of the verses in this and the following subsection – with the notable exception of 1 John 2:19 – appear to support the affirmative (as do a number of the verses in the subsections above). On the other hand, God and Jesus Christ promise to keep their followers – as shown in God and Jesus Christ keep their people as their own – until the end.
Matt 13:20-21 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.x ▤
x Or stumbles
This speaks of those who receive God’s word superficially, without any real commitment to it.
Matt 24:10-12 And then many will fall awayy and betray one another and hate one another. 11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. ▤
y Or stumble
Some of those who had been following Jesus apparently found his teaching too offensive or difficult to accept. Quite possibly they did not carefully consider the metaphorical language he used on this occasion (cf. vv. 25-65), failing to grasp its true meaning.
z Or counted righteous
Those who were the focus of Paul’s rebuke here appear to have been church members who had been misled to the point of being in grave spiritual danger, rather then having already irrevocably fallen away.
1Tim 6:20-21 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.a ▤
a The Greek for you is plural
- John spoke of people who had left the church as not having been truly of the body of believers:
This supports the view that those people who fall away have never in fact been truly Christians (cf. 2Pet 2:22 ⇓).
- God punishes those who forsake him
- Further implications of deliberately or habitually continuing to sin
Commentators differ in various aspects in their interpretations of this verse – but even so it is a clear warning against not remaining in Christ.
As with those of the nation of Israel who fell away, those who stumble (cf. v. 11) in unbelief and stop following God (cf. NCV, NIrV), will be cut off from God and the associated blessings of a relationship with him.
Heb 2:1-3a Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? ▤
Heb 6:4-8 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. ▤
In v. 4, the “heavenly gift” may refer to Jesus Christ, the subsequently mentioned Holy Spirit, or more generally “the good things of heaven” (NLT). Verse 8 depicts the fate of those who fall away, whose lives produce useless and bad things.
Heb 10:38-39 … but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. ▤
2Pet 2:20-22 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” ▤
In saying that such apostates are worse off than they were originally (vv. 20-21), Peter probably has their greater accountability primarily in view, with them having in some sense known both Jesus Christ (v. 20) and “the way of righteousness” (v. 21). Verse 2 gives credence to the view that those who fall away never were genuine Christians. The two illustrations parallel such people with creatures returning to that which is reflective of what they are and have been all along.
Matt 5:13 You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. ▤
The “taste” or “saltiness” of salt speaks of “its strength, its quality” (AMP). If we lose such things as our spiritual fervor or our spiritual integrity, we face being thrown out of God’s kingdom and consequent destruction.
Zeph 1:4, 6 “I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests, ▤ … 6those who have turned back from following the Lord, who do not seek the Lord or inquire of him.” ▤
The people of Israel are in view in the following verses. The consequences described reflect the more physical or observable consequences of rebelling against God under the first covenant. For believers who rebel against God today under the new covenant, the consequences in this lifetime may not be as such but they are nevertheless just as serious, even more so. For they involve spiritual consequences with dire eternal repercussions.
b Septuagint; Hebrew fathers
Ps 78:56, 62-64 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God and did not keep his testimonies, ▤ … 62He gave his people over to the sword and vented his wrath on his heritage. 63Fire devoured their young men, and their young women had no marriage song. 64Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentation. ▤
Ps 107:10-12, 17 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, 11for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 12So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. ▤ … 17Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; … ▤
Isa 1:2, 5-7, 19-20, 28 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Childrenc have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. ▤ … 5Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil. 7Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners. ▤ … 19If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” ▤ … 28But rebels and sinners shall be broken together, and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed. ▤
c Or Sons; also verse 4
Isa 66:24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” ▤
Note that the end of the age is in view here.
Lam 1:18, 20 The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word; but hear, all you peoples, and see my suffering; my young women and my young men have gone into captivity. ▤ … 20“Look, O Lord, for I am in distress; my stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious. In the street the sword bereaves; in the house it is like death. ▤
The speaker is Jerusalem personified.
Ezek 20:8, 13, 38 But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. “Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. ▤ … 13But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness. They did not walk in my statutes but rejected my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; and my Sabbaths they greatly profaned. “Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them in the wilderness, to make a full end of them. ▤ … 38I will purge out the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against me. I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord. ▤
d Ch 14:1 in Hebrew
- Await Jesus Christ’s return – and for all that will follow
- As we do not know when Jesus Christ will come, “stay awake” and be ready
- To be ready for Jesus Christ’s return, live a godly life . . .
- . . . and live a constructive life
- Do not live an ungodly life, leaving you unprepared for Jesus Christ’s return
- Do not be deceived by false claims, for Christ’s return will be only after certain events – and obvious to all
Phil 3:20-21 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. ▤
In conjunction with waiting for Jesus Christ’s return (v. 20), Paul appears to be speaking of waiting for the transformation of “our lowly body” (v. 21).
2Tim 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. ▤
As with “righteousness” below in Galatians 5:5, the term “crown of righteousness” could refer either to being pronounced right with God or being made completely righteous (i.e. the consummation of our sanctification). Another possibility is some kind of crown bestowed as a reward for a righteous life. The phrase “have loved his appearing” is either speaking of the future reaction of Christians at the occurrence of his appearing, or is referring to setting our hearts on his appearing, longing for it (cf. NIV, NRSV).
James 5:7-8 Be patient, therefore, brothers,e until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. ▤
e Or brothers and sisters; also verses 9, 10, 12, 19
2Pet 3:11-12 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! ▤
The phrase “hastening the coming” suggests that believers can in some sense hasten the arrival of “the day of God” – the day of Christ’s return (cf. v. 4). In light of the reference to repentance of non-believers in v. 9, this may primarily refer to evangelism – notably prayer and witnessing.
Rom 8:23-25 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. ▤
f Greek Maranatha (a transliteration of Aramaic)
- Encourage one another, as Christ’s return is drawing near:
Note that 1 Thessalonians speaks of encouraging one another with the fact and details of Jesus Christ’s return (cf. 1Thes 4:12-18).
Instructions in the following verses to “stay awake” have in view being alert and watchful – akin to being ready.
Matt 24:42-44 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. ▤
Mark 13:32-37 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Be on guard, keep awake.g For you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servantsh in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows,i or in the morning— 36lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” ▤
g Some manuscripts add and pray
h Greek bondservants
i That is, the third watch of the night, between midnight and 3 A.M.
Matt 25:1-13 Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lampsj and went to meet the bridegroom.k 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. ▤
j Or torches
k Some manuscripts add and the bride
The ten virgins probably had a role similar to bridesmaids. Jesus’ illustration draws a parallel between them waiting for the bridegroom and professing believers waiting for his return, to emphasize the importance of being prepared and ready. The bridegroom’s reply to the foolish virgins (v. 12) implies that supposed adherents to Christianity who are not ready for Jesus Christ’s return will not have truly been in a right relationship with him.
Luke 12:35-38 Stay dressed for actionl and keep your lamps burning, 36and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those servantsm whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! ▤
l Greek Let your loins stay girded; compare Exodus 12:11
m Greek bondservants
The “second or third watch of the night” (v. 38) would be very late in the night, the exact time depending on whether the Roman or Jewish system of time was in view. The point is that believers should be ready at all times. (cf. NEL)
In order to be ready for Jesus Christ’s return – to be able “to stand before” him – we need to be always “awake” and pray. The “things that are going to take place” probably are events prior to Jesus Christ’s return; it may refer to traumatic events that all mankind will be exposed to or primarily persecution of Christians. (Another possibility is that the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was foremost in view.) Here “escape” may have the sense “go safely through” (GNT), rather than meaning to avoid altogether.
Jesus Christ will come unexpectedly, like a thief. So we need to be ready, prepared spiritually, so that we will not be ashamed.
- OT prophecy of the sudden appearance of the Lord:
Mal 3:1 Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. ▤
Malachi’s prophecy is probably referring to Jesus Christ’s second coming, and affirms how sudden it will be.
1Tim 6:11-14 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony beforen Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, … ▤
n Or in the time of
Paul calls on Timothy to live a godly life (vv. 11-12) until Christ’s return (v. 14). Quite likely Paul mentions the latter so as to inspire Timothy to obey his instruction in order to be ready for Christ’s return (cf. 2Tim 4:1-2 ⇓).
2Pet 3:11-14 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. ▤
The “day of God” (v. 12) is linked with Christ’s return (cf. v. 4). For further comment see Await Jesus Christ’s return – and for all that will follow.
1Pet 4:7, 13 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. ▤ … 13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. ▤
Participation in the sufferings of Christ (v. 13) goes “hand in hand” with living a godly, faithful life in him (cf. 1Jn 2:28 ⇓). It ensures that one will not only be ready, but overjoyed on his return.
“Hold fast what you have” is an exhortation to keep “strong in your faith” (NCV™) – which of course is involved in living a godly life.
Though not referring specifically to Jesus Christ’s return, this OT exhortation is certainly applicable to it.
Matt 24:45-47 Who then is the faithful and wise servant,o whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. ▤
o Greek bondservant; also verses 46, 48, 50
Matt 25:14-30 For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servantsp and entrusted to them his property. 15To one he gave five talents,q to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.r You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ▤
p Greek bondservants; also verse 19
q A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer
r Greek bondservant; also verses 23, 26, 30
For comment on vv. 24-30, see the comment on Matt 25:24-30 – under Whoever does not produce good “fruit” will be cut off from God and Jesus Christ.
1Cor 7:29-31 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. ▤
With the relatively short amount of time left before Christ’s return (v. 29a), believers should live with the end of the age in view (v. 31b), with their actions and attitudes reflecting this fact (vv. 29b-31a). As such they will be able to lead constructive lives, not hampered or restricted by transitory things.
2Tim 4:1-2 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. ▤
Jesus Christ’s “appearing” upon which he will judge all people and establish his kingdom (v. 1), should compel one to live a faithful, constructive life (v. 2).
- Abide in Jesus Christ in order to be confident when he appears:
Matt 24:48-51 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49and begins to beat his fellow servantss and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ▤
s Greek bondservants
The punishments given to the ungodly (v. 51) and the unproductive (cf. Matt 25:28-30 ⇑) underline their unreadiness for Christ’s return. Note that this passage follows on from vv. 45-47 in the previous subsection.
Rom 13:11-12 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. ▤
Col 3:4-5 When Christ who is yourt life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:u sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. ▤
t Some manuscripts our
u Greek therefore your members that are on the earth
1Thes 5:4-6 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5For you are all childrenv of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. ▤
v Or sons; twice in this verse
Here “darkness” (v. 4) may refer to ungodliness (cf. Rom 13:12 ↑) or to ignorance (of the day of the Lord) – or both. In v. 6 Paul exhorts his readers to not be spiritually asleep, like the ungodly, but rather to be alert and self-controlled so as to not be caught off guard by the day of Christ’s return (cf. v. 4).
Titus 2:11-13 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, … ▤
Luke 17:30-33 … so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32Remember Lot’s wife. 33Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. ▤
These verses most likely are meaning that to be prepared for Jesus Christ’s return one needs to avoid: attachments to things of this world (vv. 31-32); and living a self-centered life rather than living for Christ (v. 33).
Do not be deceived by false claims, for Christ’s return will be only after certain events – and obvious to all
- The Timing of Jesus Christ’s Return
- Siege, suffering and deliverance of Jerusalem – followed by judgment on its attackers
- The Antichrist and the Final Persecution
Matt 24:3-14 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” 4And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 9“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10And then many will fall awayw and betray one another and hate one another. 11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. ▤
w Or stumble
In v. 8 “birth pains” denotes the time of distress which leads into – or “gives birth” to – the reign of the Messiah, following his return.
Matt 24:23-33 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25See, I have told you beforehand. 26So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. 29“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 32“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. ▤
There are different interpretations of v. 28, but it probably is implying that just as the gathering of vultures makes obvious that there is a carcass, Jesus Christ’s return will likewise be made obvious to all. (cf. NBC) There are also different interpretations of v. 29, regarding whether the language is literal or figurative; it certainly speaks of monumental events. In v. 30, “the sign of the Son of Man” may well simply be referring to Jesus Christ himself appearing.
Luke 21:8, 11 And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. ▤ … 11There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. ▤
2Thes 2:1-10 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers,x 2not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessnessy is revealed, the son of destruction,z 4who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. ▤
x Or brothers and sisters; also verses 13, 15
y Some manuscripts sin
z Greek the son of perdition (a Hebrew idiom)
This “man of lawlessness” is quite likely the first beast of Revelation 13, understood by many to be a final antichrist. There are a number of theories as to who or what is “restraining him” (vv. 6-7). Possibly it is the archangel Michael.
a Or mourn
The largely sinful nations will all see Jesus Christ return. As mentioned in Matthew 24:30 above, they will mourn as they recognize that the time of reckoning has come.
- The day of Jesus Christ’s return will affect all people: