The Promise of the Holy Spirit

15“If you love me, keep my commands. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you (John 14:15-17). 

Jesus promises that He will ask the Father and He will send “another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth” (Verses 16-17).  What is a promise? It is a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen. This promise is given, not only to the disciples reclining around the table with Him, but to all who believe and put their trust in Christ. It is not to the “super saints”—the eleven who sat around the table were not extra-ordinary in any way. In fact, that was why they were chosen to be his apostles. They were just like you and me, ordinary people. They were so ordinary that, after they were filled with the Spirit at Pentecost, the religious leaders were astonished when they were used of God to heal the lame man at the gate of the temple. It says,

“when they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

The disciples were chosen by Jesus for the very reason that they were ordinary, unschooled men so that the glory and goodness of God could be made evident. They were not great men of God, they were men of a Great God! This should encourage us all as we stop to consider what an all-powerful God can do with ordinary men and women such as you and I. Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke, clarifies this promise in his second book, the Book of Acts:

4On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about (Acts 1:4).

Did you notice that Jesus called the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost; “the gift that the Father promised?” What does one have to do to earn a gift? Absolutely nothing! Otherwise it would not be a gift. When a person is paid for working all week, does their boss give them their wages as a gift? Of course not! They worked hard to get what they deserved for working all week. Most of us reading these notes have a holiday at least once a year where gifts are given or exchanged. If a child was misbehaving the day before, would a gift still be given? Most of us would say, “Yes,” because a gift is not earned.  A gift is not dependent on a person’s behavior, but on the grace of the one giving the gift. The God we serve is a perfect Father who loves to give good gifts to His children, and it is not because they earned the gift:

38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39).

God’s character is bound up in this promise, that all who repent (turn around from the direction they were heading) and receive forgiveness of sins through Christ, will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given not only to the eleven disciples sat around the table in this passage of the Bible, but to all their children who believe and to those in many far off lands who are also called to obey the gospel message. If you have heard the message of the gospel and sincerely believed and turned your life over to Christ, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you believed.

13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Why don’t you turn your life over to Christ–sincerely ask Him to save you on the basis of the finished work of Christ on the cross as He paid the penalty for your sin and mine. Ask Him to forgive you of your sin and come into your life. When you do, you will receive the free gift of the Holy Spirit, just as He promised. If you would like to read more on this topic, scroll on the home page of www.groupbiblestudy.com to the study in the Book of John 14:15-31, the study called, The Promised Holy Spirit.

Keith Thomas

What is the Great Tribulation?

15“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again (Matthew 24:15-21).

Many of you have heard of the prophecy of the Lord Jesus (written above), that there will be a time called the “great tribulation”(KJV), translated as “great distress” in the New International Version of the Bible. Jesus in the passage above warned us about this time. He said that an event He called the “Abomination of Desolation” would precipitate this time of great tribulation or distress in Israel, and the rest of the world too. So the first big question for us to consider is, what is meant by the term great distress or great tribulation? The time that Jesus spoke about, I believe, is just around the corner from us. What will happen at that time? The Greek word that the term is translated from is Thlipsis. I have a Key Word Study Bible, which enables me to search what this Greek word means and how it was used in other passages. The word literally means, “to crush, press, compress, squeeze, tribulation, trouble and affliction. This Greek word “conveys the picture of something being crushed, pressed or squeezed as from a great weight. It is used to denote grievous physical affliction or mental or spiritual distress.”

How this word was used in context in other passages of the Bible will shed some light on what the church (called out believers in Christ) should expect to happen during that time. In Acts 8:1, the word thlipsis is translated as great persecution after the martyrdom of Stephen:

 1And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1).

In Acts 11:19, the same Greek word, thlipsis, is translated again as persecution:

 19Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews (Acts 11:19).

And lastly, Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church using the same Greek work, thlipsis, to describe the persecution they had been going through:

4Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring (2 Thessalonians 1:4. The word trials is our Greek word thlipsis).

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what am I saying? I’m saying that we need to be focusing and preparing ourselves spiritually to live in close relationship to the Lord. The tribulation, when it comes, is a time of worldwide persecution of those that serve the God of Israel, true Christians and Jews. I believe the persecution is aimed at all those who will not take the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:16-17) or worship his image. We should not think that the Lord will rapture us out of here before the tribulation, but we should prepare to endure. The tribulation is never called the wrath of God. The wrath of God is only poured out after the church is taken (raptured) at some point (no man knows the day nor the hour) during the great tribulation that breaks out after the Abomination of Desolation, which happens at the mid-point of the seven-year period (Daniel 9:27). Jesus was very clear in telling us that the rapture, or gathering together of His people in the air, would not happen until some point after the tribulation or distress had started:

29Immediately after the distress of those days

“‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

30Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other (Matthew 24:29-31 Emphasis mine).

It’s time to prepare our souls for His coming. Let’s grow in our dependence and trust in Him.

Keith Thomas

Christ, the Light of the World

Copy (5) of Holman Hunt Picture

I am looking for volunteer translators from English into Arabic. Contact me if interested in getting these studies into your own language.

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me (Revelation 3:20).

There is a famous painting by Holman Hunt. It is of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, coming to a door that has weeds growing around the door that was being opened for the first time. The picture was of Jesus knocking on the door. This picture had people flocking from all over England when it came out. It now stands at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London with another copy at Keble College Chapel, Oxford. Many wonder why it was and is so popular. The popularity is due to the imagery that Hunt had painted into it. Although you cannot see it clearly in this image above, the painting is of the Lord Jesus coming to a darkened house, which is typical of the life of you and I.  The door has no outside handle – it can only be opened from within: Christ knocks on each of our hearts, but only we may open up to him. Notice too that it has become overgrown with weeds: this door has not been opened for some length of time.

The lights in the scene are full of meaning too. Whilst the rising lights in the background provide some illumination, the main illumination is through Jesus’ lamp (“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”  (Psalm 119:105). And look at the rich orchard and beauty of the world that awaits they who open to Jesus! Remember too that the crown of the one who knocks is composed of thorns. The Lord Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and wants to come in and illuminate the darkness that is within us. Are things dark around you? Call to Him and open the door of your heart by sincerely asking Him to forgive your sin and come into the darkened room of your heart. Here I am, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me (Revelation 3:20). He will not force His way into your life–remember the symbolism that Holman Hunt painted–the handle of the door is only on our side. He knocks to let Him in, but it is up to you to turn the handle and invite Him in.

Keith Thomas

What’s Heaven Like?

Have you ever wondered what eternity will be like? God hasn’t told us everything in His Word, but there are snippets of information of where those that have given their lives to Christ will live. I hope you are one of those that are called the Bride of Christ, the wife of the Lamb. Let’s look at where those who have entered into covenant with the Lamb will live:

“Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. 18The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. 22I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:9-27. Emphasis mine).

The wall around this city is 144 cubits thick. That is equivalent to 216 feet. We are also told that the size of the New Jerusalem is 12,000 stadia and as wide as it is long which today measures 1400 miles wide and 1400 miles long. That is an area extending from California to the Appalachian Mountains and from Canada to Mexico. The ground level alone is nearly two million square miles. Don’t forget though, the distance is as high as it is wide and long (verse 16). If each story is a generous 12 feet, that would make 600,000 stories. Billions of people will be able to live there with many square miles per person. The dimension of the city is a perfect cube. In Solomon’s Temple in Israel there was a room that only the High Priest, once a year, with the sacrificial blood of a slain animal, entered beyond the heavy curtain that kept man separated from the very presence of God. This curtain was the one that was torn at the very time of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross (Matthew 27:51). The room of the Most Holy Place, where God alone dwelt, was a cube of twenty cubits (1 Kings 6:20). The New Jerusalem’s dimensions reflect the fact that God wants for Man to live with Him forever. It is a picture of man being invited into the very presence of God and to enjoy fellowshipping with Him and His people forever in the Holy of Holies. How wonderful it must have been for John the Apostle, the person who wrote down the Book of Revelation, for He sees his own name on one of the foundation stones (Revelation 21:14). We don’t yet know how our efforts for Christ in this world affect others, only God knows, but it is interesting that John gets to see that his life has made a difference for eternity.

Keith Thomas

How Have You Been Limited?

2The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They asked, “Where did he get all his wisdom and the power to perform such miracles? 3He’s just the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him (Mark 6:2-3 NLT).

Have you ever felt that someone has put a limit on you as to what they think you can do? You, as well as I, have heard things like “he’ll never amount to much” or words such as “she has always been like that and always will be.”

We must be careful with our words.  Words have great power to create and build up, but also have power to destroy.  I always remember how hurt I was at the tender age of 11 to be referred to as the ugliest kid in a school of over a thousand kids.  It took me a long time to break out of that self-image of being ugly.  What words have you had spoken over you that still limit you today?  The people in the Jewish house of worship were offended at Jesus because he was just a carpenter.  He hasn’t got the right stock, he’s never been to Bible school or seminary, he’s just a carpenter, he’s only good for woodwork, and he has no place in ministry!  People can place limits on us with their words.  We should no longer look at those that have given their lives to Christ in the same way as we once did.  There is awesome potential that has been given to you, by the Spirit of God, if you are a Christian.  Let the lid that has held you down be taken off! Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthian Church told them to “regard no one from a worldly point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16).  What did he mean? I believe he is talking about taking off the limits that we place on one another. Trust that God is well able to make you into the person He has called you to be and trust God that He is able to do that for others too!

Prayer: Lord, I may not be everything you want me to be yet, but please help me to break free from every box that has limited me in my growth to be like Christ.  Let the lid be taken off.

Keith Thomas