The Basics of Bible Study

The Basics of Bible Study


Joe Hooten


The Bible was not written to be a complicated book. It is meant to be a basic guidebook written from God to man, to guide man back to God. It is the story of God’s glory. We should address it as such. It is God’s Word, divinely inspired (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and written by men carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). It is not written to confuse us. It is written to help us understand.


There are many methods different people have touted over the years to study the Bible. We want to use the OICA method (Observation, Interpretation, Correlation, Application method) when we are studying the Scriptures. This means in an inductive Bible study, we should be looking into the text to pull out what God wants us to know. To do so, we use a literal, grammatical, historical method of interpreting the Bible.


We want to first Observe the text, what does it actually say? We should always exegete, pull out of the text the meaning; never eisegete, read into the text what we want it to say. As we observe the text, not everyone is going to study the text in the original languages, but there are many good Bible study tools that can be used to help get to the intent of the writer.


When using a literal, grammatical, historical method of observation, we must be diligent in our study. To study the text literally means: we first take the text for what it says. We are not looking for hidden allegorical or symbolic meanings in the words on the page. What does it say? Whether in our language or the original language, what does it say? If it says, one thousand years (Rev. 20:1-6), our first assumption should be that the author meant one thousand years and nothing else.


Grammatical observation means we look at what the text actually says in light of how the grammar is being used.Grammatically, how were the words used in the original language? We must follow the same rules of grammar in our interpretation. So far, this is kind of stating the obvious, as it should be…


Historically, how were the words that the writer used being used in other contexts?


In addition, we may want to dive deeper in our observation of the text. Are there textual variants we can study? Are there specific words we want to study? Why did the authors use the words that they did to express the thoughts they are trying to get across? Remember, the people writing the Bible were being verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit in the text that they were writing and all of what they wrote was God-breathed, the words are important.


After we have thoroughly observed the text, we will then work on our Interpretation of what the text means. I do not care what the text means to you! That is not what we are studying the Bible for… All I care about is, what did the authors mean when they wrote to their audience? What did their audience understand the text to mean? That is the meaning we should be taking out of the text. Again, it is what the Scripture says that should drive how we understand what it means. All the time, it means exactly what it says!


In the Correlation step, we look at what other reliable commentaries and authors say about the text we are studying, we also compare context in this step as well. We read within the grammatical context of the passage. What do the surrounding verses say? What does the chapter say? What about previous and subsequent chapters? What does it say in light of the entire book? Scripture never contradicts Scripture, so how does the passage you are studying mix with the rest of the Bible? Historically, the writers of Scripture lived in a different time, and faced different challenges. So, we must study in the historical context of when the passage was written. Was it a time of war? Peace? Slavery? Conquest? Reform? These things all play into what was written and why. So, when doing an inductive Bible study, we must ask all these questions. If our interpretation says one thing and reliable sources say something different, we need to check our steps and see if we went wrong somewhere. One of my professors once said, “If you think you have discovered something completely new about the Scriptures, check your heresy first.”


Finally, after all the other steps, we can finally look at Application. However, before we can look at how we can apply the principles we find in a passage (secondary application). We must first ask, how would the original audience have applied this to their lives? Not every passage applies to all people in the same way! Some things were written, for instance, specifically to the nation of Israel during a time of exile… It does not apply to you and me, or even to our country at this time in history. It applied to them and only to them. That is the primary application of the passage.


Other things, however, do apply to us today. For example, grace is still grace and sin is still sin. We can still count on our Lord Jesus for salvation and the Holy Spirit to guide us into all the knowledge we need for life and godliness. We are still expected to be holy as He is holy.


I hope this little guide helps you get more out of your study of the Scriptures. More important, I hope it helps you to know God better and love him more.


Happy studying!


A Guide to Grant Writing

Grant Writing

Joe Hooten


I am writing this to be a simple guide to grant writing. The grant writing process requires so much more than simple study and regurgitation. Successful grant writing involves the coordination of several activities, including planning, searching for data and resources, writing and packaging a proposal, submitting a proposal to a funder, and follow up. It requires diligence and perseverance to write a good proposal. The grant writing process can be very long and tedious, but can pay huge dividends for an organization.

There are as many types of grants and funders as there are agencies in the world. While different funders require different information at times, there are still the basics that almost every grant application or proposal has a part of it.

  1. Preparation:
  2. Define your project
  3. Identify the right funding sources
  4. Contact the funders
  5. Acquire proposal guidelines
  6. Know your submission deadlines
  7. Determine personnel needs
  8. Update your timeline
  9. Writing the proposal
  10. Narratives including:
    1. Statement of needs
    2. Approach
    3. Methods of evalution
    4. Project timeline
    5. Credentials of key personnel
  11. Budget
  12. Supporting materials
  13. Authorized signatures
  14. Specifications
  15. Submission checklist
  16. Follow up

Alicia Vandenbroek, in her article, Grant Writing without Blowing a Gasket suggests that the first step to successful grant writing is to begin with the end in mind. I call this defining your project. Clarifying the purpose you seek to achieve and coming up with a mission statement. You have to define the scope of the work to focus your funding search. And, you have to determine broad project goals and then specific objectives that define how you have met those goals. In the article, Developing Grant Writing Skills to Translate Practice Dreams Into Reality, the writers agree the first step is to clearly identify an important problem to be addressed by the grant. This includes identifying gaps in care or quality of service and trying to identify some evidence based approach to solving the problem. Typically, funders prefer to fund proven methods.

The next step, which is the first tip that Blanco and Lee suggest is to match up with funding agencies and resources. Usually I would view this as the second step after identifying the project. It is important that you approach funders that will be a good match for your project or program. It is a waste of your time and theirs to seek funding from agencies that do not have the same priorities that you do. There are many different programs and websites that can help match your program with funders. A couple of these are Grantstation or In addition, every banking institution has a wealth management department that helps investors manage funds and foundations. Contacting these institutions can provide a route to finding funding sources for your project. Every funder in the world has a niche that they prefer to fund. Whether it be children, hunger, addictions, education, the Arts, etc… Matching the project to the funder is key in trying to get funding.

Then, you have to contact the funders to find out the specific requirements for requesting funding. Identify the project officer who will address your questions. Some funders offer technical assistance, others do not. Ask for assistance including a review of proposal drafts. Make sure you know how proposals are evaluated and how decisions are made. If a scoring key is used to grade proposals, ask if you can have a copy of one. Ask about budgetary requirements and preferences. The contacts you make will prove to be invaluable.

Some general proposal guidelines I have experienced are: submission deadlines, eligibility requirements, proposal formatting guidelines, timetables, budgets, funding goals and priorities, award levels, evaluation processes and criteria, whom to contact, other submission requirements. Read the guidelines carefully, then read them again and reread them. Ask for clarification on everything that confuses you.

Know the submission deadlines. Plan to submit your proposal on time or preferably early. Be realistic about whether you have time to prepare a competitive proposal that meets the deadlines. Know the funder’s policies on late submissions, exceptions, and mail delays. Find out how the funder will notify you about the receipt and status of your proposal. Be sure to factor this information into your timeline.

To determine personnel needs, you have to identify them by both function and, if possible, name too. If you have to, contact project consultants, trainers, and other personnel to seek availability. If necessary, acquire permission to include them in the project, and negotiate compensation. Personnel compensation is an important part of budget information.

At this point, it is always good to update your timeline now that you have the basics covered. If you have done everything thus far, you have done a lot. You are ready to move forward and begin writing your proposal.

Writing the proposal is the next step. The standard proposal components I have been asked to submit have been: the narrative, budget, appendix of support material, and usually an authorized signature. Sometimes I have been asked to create summaries and always provide copies of our IRS 501c3 certification. It is extremely important to understand the funders’ application process. A mistake in the presentation of even the best proposal will result in it being left off the consideration table completely. Pay attention to the requirements for submitting a proposal. Many funders have electronic applications these days and the process must be done exactly right. So be careful.

Alicia Vandenbroek, in her article, suggests the importance of naming a proposal appropriately. She says that a proposal is only as good as it can be remembered. “A simple yet unique title will make your grant memorable and can speak volumes about the content of your grant before the reader even begins consideration”, Vandenbroek says. While a creative name is important it is still important too that it have something to do with the project or mission.

In the narrative, you are typically asked to provide a history of your organization, a description of the problem to be addressed, appropriate statistics or background research, and of course, the type of support you are looking for from your grant request. Writing the narrative can be the most tedious of the processes to go through. However, once you have a great narrative, many times it can be adapted to meet different proposals. Also included in the narrative, is the organization’s mission and vision. There are many great resources for establishing a mission statement if your organization doesn’t already have one. A mission statement should be simple, straight forward, catchy, and memorable. The organization’s vision can be multi-dimensional and can encompass all the various programs and goals that the organization has.

Your narrative needs to include a statement of the need, purpose, goals, measurable objectives, and a compelling reason why the project should be supported. Typically, narratives include answers to the following questions:

  1. What do we want?
  2. What concern will be addressed and why?
  3. Who will benefit and how?
  4. What are the objective to be accomplished and how?
  5. How will results be measured?
  6. How does your funding request involve the funder’s purpose, objectives, and priorities?
  7. Who are you and how are you qualified to address such a need in the community?

What is the approach that you are going to use to accomplish the goals and objectives that you have set out? As I have said, the approach that is measurable and evidence-based and tested is most likely to get funding. Provide a description of the intended scope of the work to be done with expected outcomes, an outline of various activities, and descriptions of personnel needs, if possible.

How are you going to measure your results? This is where your scoring rubric can come in handy. Some funders may require very technical measures of the results that you produce. You definitely want to ask about funder’s requirements and expectations.

Remember to include your project timeline. This gives a picture of when your project will start and end. A schedule of activities. Also, projected outcomes. This should be detailed enough to include staff selection and start dates.

The credentials of those who are working in the project can be an important part of securing funding. If you are hiring someone to do a specific task, a funder is going to look highly on someone with significant experience or education. Funders like to know that their money is supporting a cause that will succeed in its goals and objectives. This takes strong leadership.

Then there is the hook. The hook is the big draw that describes the project in such a way that the funder really relates to the problem and wants to help. This is also associated with selecting the right funder. Being able to directly relate your problem and solution to the funders goals and objective, relating your mission to theirs, is what is going to secure you funding.

The budget should be a pretty straight forward project. Budgets are cost projections, windows into how your organization and your project are funded and spending money. A well-planned budget will reflect a carefully thought out project. If your organization doesn’t already have a budget then you are probably in trouble. The organization’s budget should include projections of all expenses, salaries, office supplies, utilities, incidental expenses, taxes, regulatory fees, insurances, and so on. There should be no surprises when it comes to expenses in your budget. In addition, a good budget also accounts for all income coming into the organization. These include donations, other grants, in-kind gifts, fee-for-service, other fundraisers, and any other way your organization brings in money to support itself. However, in addition to the organization’s overall budget, many funders will want a project budget as well. This is exactly how you intend to spend the money that the funder will grant to you. This budget usually is accompanied by a narrative of its own, which explains each expense and what it encompasses. Some building projects, etc… will require that multiple bids for the service be obtained to show that the monies that you receive will be spent wisely. Funders usually assess these factors to assess budgets:

  1. Can the job be done with this amount of money?
  2. Are costs reasonable?
  3. Is the budget consistent with the proposed activities?
  4. Is there enough detail and explanation?

Many funders will provide specific forms that must be submitted with your budget proposal. Make sure your budget is flexible. Just in case your funder wants to negotiate costs.

Creating a timeline for project completion is also an important part of creating a good funding proposal. In today’s world of instant gratification, being able to show short term as well as long term results and projections is very important. Everyone, whether funder or donor, wants to know that their money is making a difference and they want to see results yesterday. Having a good timeline for your project that can tell funders exactly what to expect when is necessary for most good proposals.

It is always a good idea and many funders require that you provide support materials for your project goals and objectives. Supporting materials are often arranged as an appendix. They may endorse the project and the organization, provide certifications, add information about project personnel like resumes, certificates, degrees, etc… There may be exhibit tables and charts that support your project goals. Policies about supporting materials differ greatly among funders. Some funders don’t allow any additional materials, others will allow as much as you can provide. Be ready to invest time in collecting resources, producing a video, brochures, references, reports, etc… As I said earlier, evidence-based proposals are the norm these days. Funders are less likely to fund something “new and innovative” than they used to be. So, this means that it is necessary to attach appendices to proposals that show how your project works and why it will work for your organization. If you have a rubric, a method for scoring your results, definitely use one. You may have to come up with your own if you are trying something new. But, there are also many available in public domain that can be tailored to whatever your project and goals are.

Authorized signatures are always a part of funding proposals. This may be the signature of the board chair, the CEO, Executive Director, or the entire board. The lack of a signature has resulted in many proposals being rejected.

There are almost always specifications that need to be met with every application. Know these guidelines. It may be that only a certain number of pages be allowed, a certain format to follow, double-spaced type, a specific font. There may be a form that goes with a proposal, an application to fill out, or a cover letter to type. Be sure you know the process.

There is almost always a submission checklist that needs to be followed. The proposal must be neat, on time, and complete, with the requested number of copies and signatures. Address the proposal as instructed and include the required documentation, especially your 501c3 certification.

Submitting your proposal once it is completed is the easiest part of the whole process. However, make sure you do it right. Some funders ask for an original and copies that they can forward to their reviewers. I have been asked to submit as many as 8 copies plus the original. Some funders are much easier, they have an electric submission process and you only have to hit send. Whichever way your proposal is submitted, follow up, follow up, follow up. Let the funder know that you are invested in the process and really want the funding. Contact the funder for application status, outcome of your proposal, and evaluations. Whether your project is accepted or not, it is important to ask for your proposal’s strengths, weaknesses, pros and cons. This can help you make better proposals in the future.

Most funders these days require at least an annual report on the status of your project. When you submit your report, track the items that you said you would. Alicia Vandenbroek suggests that you keep your clients’ confidentiality in mind. Make sure you collect aggregate data rather than using individuals’ names. Be sure to include a thank you both when you first receive your funding and whenever you submit reports. They will follow up on you to make sure the funds they granted are used in the way that they have allocated. This may be in the form of a report filed by you, or a questionnaire sent by the funder to be filled out, or even a personal visit from the funder to check up on you. Whichever it may be, be ready. Keep accurate records and be prepared for them.

My experience in writing grants has been invaluable. I actually wrote my first grant request in high school. It was a grant from the school corporation requesting funds for building a xeriscape garden at our high school. The grant was awarded and my high school was able to plant a garden that is still there today, more than 17 years later. Since working at the Upper Room Recovery Community, I have written many more grant requests. I have attached five of these as samples of the work that I have done. Thus far, although they have been smaller grants, I have been able to net $11,000.00 for our organization that is going directly to the benefit of the guys that live in our facility. I also provided the foundational information for another $25,000.00 grant that one of our board members obtained.

Although I have submitted many grant requests while I have been here, I must admit that not all of them have been accepted and approved. I have had to deal with some rejection as well. Being held doubly accountable by both our director and our board, I have had to look into the shortcomings of my proposals and work to become a better grant writer. In two cases, the funding wasn’t granted because our organization and the funder were not compatible. So, I know firsthand how important it is to find a good match before investing the time into writing a proposal.

By the same token, writing successful proposals has helped me to become a better writer and has increased my confidence to write further grant requests. The grant writing process is actually a lot of fun, even though it can be tedious at times. I have learned not to do the same work over and over again. In writing the narrative, I have certain points that I intend to get across every time. Some of the research that I have done does not need to be repeated each time. Such as our organizational history, the nature of the problem that we are trying to address, and our key personnel and their backgrounds have stayed the same over the past two and a half years. What has changed is some of our outcomes, success rates, and testimonies. I have learned that client testimonies of the impact of our organization in their lives is an excellent addendum to grant proposals that allow them. I have helped several of our clients pen their testimony to bring out the importance of our organization’s impact into their lives.

One thing to make sure of with each request is to have board support. I have found potential funders that our board would rather not be associated with. Either for personal reasons or for organizational reasons, there are some funders that we have not applied to simply because they are not a fit. The importance of finding a good fit is not just on the side of the funder looking at the organization’s project, it is also important for the image of the organization. A substance abuse recovery ministry does not necessarily fit well receiving funds from the foundation of a beer company. Although the foundation would be willing to support the cause, having the name association is not a good thing for our organization.

In my experience, grant writing can be highly subjective to the reviewer. Some reviewers are very intimately aware of the problem associated with the projects that we are addressing. Making a proposal that has a strong hook into every reviewer is a powerful way to ensure that projects get funding. In the case of our organization, we address substance abuse. One in every three people on the planet know someone with a substance abuse problem. That means that one of your friends, relatives, colleagues, or neighbors has or knows someone else with a substance abuse problem. Being able to relate that to each reviewer to tie the importance of the funding home for them is extremely valuable. I am lucky to be seeking funding for a problem that relates to so many so close to home.

On the flip side of the issue though, not many foundations and grant makers have the mission to support substance abuse ministries. So, I have had to do a lot of research into various foundations, organizations, and even individuals to find matches for our organization to seek funding. This research can largely be done online. However, I have also had to network and make a lot of personal and business connections to find funders willing to give to a substance abuse ministry. While this process is time consuming, it is also highly worthwhile. Some of the people I have met in doing this work are quickly becoming good friends. Having these kinds of friendships is also extremely valuable to the grant seeking process. They can introduce you to the right people that can make your funding happen.

I am also finding that the grant seeking process can be very political. Having a good public image is very important for an individual and an organization. Our marketing materials have contributed to this cause greatly. We have brochures and videos that are available both in print, on DVD, and streaming on the web. While I was not alone in the creation of these materials and in some cases only had a little bit of input, I use these materials to bolster the image of our organization and provide evidence to funders that our organization is a worthwhile cause to support. In order to see some of these resources, I invite you to visit the website that I created for our organization at

In conclusion, the grant writing process includes the coordination of several activities, including planning, searching for data and resources, writing and packaging a proposal, submitting a proposal to a funder, and follow up. It requires diligence and perseverance to write a good proposal. Although the process can be long, tedious, and difficult in some cases, it can also be very rewarding not only on the personal level, but also for the organization you are serving. Personally, every time you write a proposal, you get better and better at the process, making you more marketable in the future. Organizationally, receiving grant funds can make you more viable in the future and also, depending on the grant maker, increase your public image immeasurably making it possible to secure more individual donations and public support for your projects. In all actuality, I would rather have one thousand $500 individual supporters than one $500,000 grant. Individual support has far fewer strings attached to it, is much more reliable, and if you lose one or two supporters there is far less impact on the organization as a whole than losing one large grant. However, grant funds can make many projects possible that otherwise would not get financial support. So, there is a certainly a place for both kinds of funding in any organization.





Blanco, Maria A. Mary Y. Lee. (2012). Twelve tips for writing educational research grant proposals.MEDICAL TEACHER. 34: 450-453.

Hadidi, Niloufar; Ruth Lindquist. (2013). Developing Grant Writing Skills to Translate Practice Dreams Into Reality. AACN Advanced Critical Care Volume 24, Number 2, pp.177-185.

Proctor et al. (2012). Writing Implementation Research Grant Proposals: Ten Key Ingredients. Implementation Science, 7:96

Vandenbroek, Alicia. (2010). Grant Writing without Blowing a Gasket. LIBRARY MEDIA CONNECTION. 28-30.


Formational Era of the Old Testament





The Formational Era of the Old Testament is time when God is forming the nation of Israel. The Formation of Israel begins in Genesis chapter 12 with the calling of Abram. The story is carried through in the remainder of the book of Genesis, then on through the books of Exodus, Numbers, and Joshua up until the death of Joshua is Joshua chapter 24, covering a time period of about 715 years[1]. The books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy augment the story and include Israel’s constitution. In the remainder of this paper, I want to explore what the Scriptures have to teach us about this key time in the history of Israel.

In Genesis Chapter 12, in approximately the year 2090 B.C.[2], God called Abram out of the land of Ur for the second time (Acts 7:2-4 record the first call of Abram) and into the land that God would show him. In Genesis 12:2, God promises to make Abram into a great nation. In order to become a nation, three things are required: land, laws, and people. The remainder of the book of Genesis is the story of how God began making Abram’s family into a great nation. The first step for God was to multiply Abram’s descendants.

Throughout Genesis 12-23, the adventures and misadventures of Abram (renamed Abraham in chapter 17:5) are recorded for us. Hebrews 11:8 tells us that Abraham didn’t know exactly where God was leading him, but in faith, Abraham followed after God. The story begins with Abraham leaving Ur with several family members and traveling to Haran. After several years there and after his after died, Abraham traveled to Canaan, where he confirmed his covenant with the Lord. The records of Abraham’s covenant with the Lord are recorded in Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 17:1-22; and 22:15-18.

In the Abrahamic Covenant, Abraham was made several everlasting and unconditional promises by God. Abraham was promised personal blessings from the Lord. He would be made into a great nation, have a huge multitude of descendants, and prosper materially. All of these promises have been literally fulfilled. Abraham was also promised blessings to his descendants through the lines of Isaac and Jacob. These descendants were promised greatness as a nation and a land of their own (the Promised Land, see map below). Not all of this promise has been fulfilled, though as with all of God’s promises, we can trust that they will certainly be fulfilled. The last aspect of the covenant was a blessing made to all the families of the earth. This has been fulfilled and will continue to be fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16).

After reconfirming his covenant with the Lord, Abraham’s journey continues. He traveled through Canaan and down to Egypt, eventually returning to Canaan. Abraham had two sons, Ishmael (born of the concubine, Hagar), and the child of promise, Isaac, and then other sons with his new wife after his wife, Sarah, passed away. Through Isaac God continued to fulfill his promises to Abraham. Isaac’s story is relatively brief and is contained in chapters 24-26.

Isaac had twin sons, born to his wife, Rebekah, named Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:24). God selected Jacob to be the child through who the covenant promises would be fulfilled. In Genesis 32:28, the Lord changed Jacob’s name to Israel and blessed him. Twelve sons and one daughter were born to Jacob, they would become the twelve tribes of Israel. Their names were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin; and the daughter, Dinah.

The grand story of the Old Testament shifts in Genesis chapter 37 to Jacob’s son, Joseph. Joseph, the spoiled second youngest son, was hated by his ten older brothers. They conspired against Joseph and sold him into slavery (Genesis 37:2). Joseph became a slave in Egypt and eventually became the second ruler in Egypt (Genesis 41:46). When a famine struck all the lands of the Middle East, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food. They did not recognize their brother, whether because he was twenty years older now, or because he looked so much like an Egyptian at that point, we don’t know. After messing with his brothers a little bit, Joseph reconciled with them and the entire family of Israel ended up moving down into Egypt.

In Egypt, God continued to work out his plan and fulfill his covenant with Abraham. When the Israelites moved down to Egypt in Genesis 46, there were approximately 75 of them. By Exodus chapter 1, the population of the Israelites had grown into a nation of around 2.5 million people. It was now time for God to continue the fulfillment of his promise to make them into a great nation by moving them out of the land of Egypt and into the Promised Land. He began this process through the man, Moses in the book of Exodus, eventually finishing it through Moses assistant, Joshua in the book of Joshua.

The book of Exodus records how God supernaturally delivered Israel from the bonds of slavery in Egypt and the giving of the law. The story begins with the birth of Moses and his growing up in the palace of Pharaoh. After the murder of an Egyptian, Moses runs away into the wilderness of Midian and lives there for 40 years. Finally, Moses receiveed a call from God (Exodus 3:2-4:23) and instructions to go to Egypt and confront Pharaoh. Moses returned to Egypt and confronts Pharaoh, and eventually after ten supernatural plagues are exacted upon Egypt, the Israelites are allowed to leave. Pharaoh’s heart was then hardened once again against Israel and he pursued them to the Red Sea. There God delivered the people again by parting the sea to allow them to cross and then released the waters upon Pharaoh’s army, killing them.

Exodus 20 begins the record of the giving of the law. God had already fulfilled the first requirement of a nation by multiplying Abraham’s descendants into a nation. Next, the nation needed laws to live by. Through the end of Exodus, the book of Leviticus, and the book of Deuteronomy, God lays out Israel’s 613 commandments, all the laws by which the people were to live.

The book of Numbers carries the story forward as the nation of Israel is forced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. God’s plan had been for them to travel straight into the Promised Land after the giving of the law to begin its conquest. However, the people disobeyed God and grumbled against him after 10 of the      12 spies sent into the land brought back a bad report, claiming that Israel could never defeat the inhabitants of the land (Numbers 13-14). The people conspired against Moses and intended to return to the land of Egypt. God punished them for their unbelief and sent them to wander in the wilderness until all of that generation had perished save Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who had believed God and told the rest that they should obey God and move into the land.

At the end of the wandering, Moses passed the mantel of leadership, with God’s blessing, to his assistant, Joshua. Moses died never having set foot in the Promised Land because of his own disobedience toward God (Deuteronomy 34).

Joshua, then, prepared the people to enter the Promised Land and begin its conquest. The book of Joshua was the record of Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land and the dividing up of the land among the twelve tribes. However, it should be noted that because of Israel’s disobedience, they never did conquer all the land (see map below) that God promised to them. To this day, that part of the covenant has remained unfulfilled. However, in the coming Kingdom, Israel will have all God has promised them.

At the end of the book of Joshua, and with the death of Joshua, Israel’s formative years were finished.

The Promised Land[3]








Benware, Paul N. Survey of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1993.

Click to access Promisedlandmap.pdf

[1] Paul N. Benware, Survey of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1993), 23.

[2] Benware, pg. 23.


God’s Covenants with Israel








God’s covenants with the nation of Israel influence the entire story of the Old Testament and impact all of human history. There are a total of eight covenants that are discussed in the Old Testament. However, the first three, the Edenic Covenant, the Adamic Covenant (though there is debate among theologians as to whether these first two are actually covenants or rather laws or commands), and the Noahic Covenant, though they affect Israel, are not made with Israel and therefore will not be discussed in this paper.

There are four Biblical covenants that Lightner references in regard to national Israel; the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3), and classified under the Abrahamic Covenant, are the Palestinian Covenant (Deuteronomy 30:1-10), the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:12-16) and the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34)[1]. To this list, I would add the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 20:1-31:18) as a covenant with national Israel, as does Chafer in his work Major Bible Themes[2]. These five covenants were made with various persons or else the nation of Israel as a whole, yet have had an influence on the entire world. The first four covenants mentioned above are the unconditional covenants. This means that God would honor these covenants regardless of human obedience or interference. The last covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, is a conditional covenant, meaning that should the people involved not hold up their end of the bargain, God is under no obligation to fulfill his promises. It is the five covenants with Israel that will remain the focus of the rest of this paper.

The Abrahamic Covenant is the foundation of the other four covenants made with the nation of Israel. Genesis 12:1-3 lays out the primary details of this covenant. It says,

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (NASB)


Within this covenant, there are three major divisions that can be observed. They are the land, the great nation, and the blessings. Various details of this covenant are repeated and expounded upon throughout the book of Genesis (12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-7, 18-21; 17:1-8; 24:34-35).

The promise of land is the first part of the covenant. This area of the covenant is later clarified in the Palestinian Covenant or the Land Covenant, as it is sometimes called (Deuteronomy 30:1-10). The second part of the covenant, that Abraham would become a great nation can be broken into three sub-points, for every nation requires three things: land, laws, and people. The land part is detailed out in the Palestinian Covenant referenced above. The laws are detailed out in the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 20:1-31:18). Finally, the people would be the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 17:16). The promises to national Israel are continued through the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:4-16) where an everlasting kingdom, throne, and heir are promised to Israel through David. Finally, the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33 continues the promises of blessings to the nation of Israel and the whole world.

The Palestinian Covenant affirms that the land of promise (see map below) will ultimately be in the possession of Israel and the nation will receive blessing and safety there. God in his sovereignty and foresight includes provisions for Israel’s penchant for unbelief and disobedience, times of repentance and restoration and the regathering of the nation to the land. It also includes provision for Israel’s spiritual conversion, their ultimate prosperity and divine judgment upon their oppressors. In modern times, it is significant that Israel has been restored as a sovereign nation, because this is necessary for the ultimate fulfillment of God’s prophetic revelation when Christ returns and sets up his kingdom (Ezekiel 39:25-29).

The Mosaic Covenant was given to the children of Israel through Moses and emerges as part of God’s promise to make Israel into a great nation. Every nation needs laws. In this conditional covenant that God made with Israel, he detailed out 613 specific commands that would govern the nation. These laws can be divided into three major divisions: the commandments, the judgments, and the ordinances. The conditions of the covenant were fairly simple. If Israel obeyed, they would be blessed. However, if they were disobedient, God would curse and discipline them. The Mosaic Covenant was broken time and again by the nation of Israel. This may be part of the reason why God intended for the Mosaic Covenant to be a temporary covenant and terminated with the death of Christ and the institution of the New Covenant.

The Davidic Covenant is the unconditional covenant God made with David, the man after God’s own heart. God’s covenant with David promises David an everlasting royal dynasty, an eternal throne on which his heir would sit, and an unending kingdom over which his heir would rule. The Abrahamic Covenant is also perpetuated through the Davidic Covenant because it promises a kingdom to rule over (land and people) and through Christ, as the eternal Son of God and Son of David, an eternal blessing is guaranteed.

The New Covenant is the most important of all to not only the nation of Israel but to the world. Jeremiah 31:31-34 details out the New Covenant for Israel:

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (NASB)


This is the covenant prophesied in the Old Testament and will have its ultimate fulfillment in the millennial kingdom. The passage anticipates the ideal circumstances that will exist in the millennial kingdom where Christ will reign on the planet and all will know him.

The New Covenant is also a subset of the Abrahamic Covenant. God promised Abraham that all the families of the Earth would be blessed because of him. The New covenant is the universal blessing that God promised presented in the form of his son, Jesus Christ.

Chafer says, “Actually the New Covenant, whether for Israel or for the church, stems from the death of Christ and His shed blood.”[3] Upon the grounds of his son’s sacrifice, God guarantees to work out his purposes and this can be seen in two aspects. First, that he will save, preserve, and present in heaven conformed to the image of his son, all who have believed in Christ. Second, the future salvation of Israel is promised under this unconditional New Covenant. This salvation of Israel is also based on the shed blood of Christ.

The New Covenant is also the reason the Mosaic Covenant is a temporary covenant. The law was fulfilled with Christ and therefore the covenant is no longer in force. Galatians 3 explains that the law was in place to demonstrate to mankind that they cannot fit the bill alone. It also proves that, since it came after the covenant was made, it really has nothing to do with the former covenant. The redeeming work of Christ at the cross was necessary to save man.

Robert Lightner says this of the New Covenant, “Most important of all, the New Covenant assures those to whom it was given of a new heart. God’s law will be written in the hearts of the people. Their iniquity will be removed, and their sin will be remembered no more. The Holy Spirit of God will teach the people and will find their hearts obedient and responsive.”[4]

Lightner goes on to point out that there is some debate in theological circles just who the New Covenant was made with. Some hold the view that this covenant was made with Israel and is still to be fulfilled in the millennium. Those that hold this view are typically premillennial, dispensationalists. Those who hold to a literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of the Scriptures agree that the covenants of the Old Testament, including the New Covenant, are made with Israel, not the church. On the other side of the coin, are the amillennialists and postmillennialists. They typically believe that this covenant, unlike all the others, is made with “spiritual Israel”, that is the church. They also believe in a replacement theology, where the church has adopted all of Israel’s blessings from the Old Testament. Yet, oddly enough, the church doesn’t adopt any of the curses that go along with those blessings.

The covenants of the Old Testament are a key to understanding the entire story of not only the Old Testament but also the New Testament. God made a covenant with Abraham that has affected all of human history. He promised Abraham land, a nation, and blessings. That land is the area of the Middle East we refer to as Israel and Palestine and at least parts of several neighboring nations today (see map below). That nation is the nation of Israel. And those blessings can be realized by all of us as the person of Jesus Christ.






Benware, Paul N. Survey of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1993.

Chafer, Lewis Sperry Major Bible Themes. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House,


Click to access Promisedlandmap.pdf

Lightner, Robert P. Handbook of Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.


[1] Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications. 1995), 258-264.

[2] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Major Bible Themes (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1974), 144.

[3]Chafer, 147.

[4]Lightner, 261.


Rev. 20:1-6 An Exegetical Study









Revelation 20:1-6

Rev 20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.

Rev 20:2  And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;

Rev 20:3 and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.

Rev 20:4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Rev 20:5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.

Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.


Section #1. Preliminary Passage Overview

  1. Variants
vs 1 abyss abyss bottomless pit bottomless pit
vs 1 great chain huge chain heavy chain great chain
vs 2 serpent of old ancient serpent that old serpent that old serpent
vs 3 shut it and sealed it locked and sealed it shut and locked shut him up and set a seal upon him
vs 3 would not could not could not should…no more
vs 3 were completed were finished were finished should be fulfilled
vs 3 must be released must be released would be released again must be loosed
vs 4 and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them seated on them were those who had been given authority to judge. the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them
vs 4 because of the word of God because of the word of God for proclaiming the word of God. for the word of God
vs 4 had not received refused to receive nor accepted neither had received
vs 5 come to life…were completed. come to life…were finished come back to life…had ended lived not again…were finished.
vs 6 the one who has a part the one who takes part those who share in is he that hath part


  1. Summary

The passage states that an angel will bind and seal away Satan for one thousand years. During this time Satan will no longer be able to deceive the nations nor us as individuals. The passage tells us that at the end of the thousand years that Satan will be released again for a short time. Those who were beheaded for their testimony in Christ and the Word of God will be resurrected and will be given the authority to judge. This is the first resurrection and we are told the second death will not be in effect for them. They are given the right to reign during this thousand years because they refused to worship neither the antichrist nor his image; they also refused to receive his mark upon their neither foreheads nor hands. The passage tells us that the rest of the dead are not resurrected until the thousand years are completed. The passage also tells us that Christ himself will reign over the earth for one thousand years and that those who have been resurrected will be his priests.

  1. Theological implications

This passage is a key passage forecasting the millennial reign and kingdom of Christ. It is also a key passage on the resurrection of the dead. It addresses the doctrine of Christology in that it predicts the millennial reign of Christ on earth. The passage also deals with the doctrine of angelology where it speaks of an angel binding Satan and sealing him away from the world. Anthropology is also present in this passage predicting the future of men after their resurrection. Theology proper is also in this passage because the resurrected dead will be priests of God. Bibliology is mentioned in the passage because it speaks of those beheaded for the word of God. Of course, being predictive prophecy and speaking of things yet to come makes this a passage of eschatology.

  1. Presuppositions

The biggest doctrinal presupposition I have in this passage is I believe in predictive prophecy. I believe that the Bible is God’s word and entirely accurate and reliable in all to which it speaks. I believe that the passage speaks of a literal thousand year period of time. I believe that Christ will return to the earth in physical form and reign over the earth. I believe in a literal resurrection of the dead and that there is more to death than nothingness and that everyone will spend eternity either with God or apart from God. I believe in the existence of a real Satan who deceives people and works against God here on the earth. I also believe in the existence of angels who are the messengers of God and do his good work.


Section #2. Background/Context Summary

The apostle John claims to write this book in chapter 1 verse 1. In verse 3, he specifically tells us that this is a work of prophecy. It is written in the form of a letter to the seven churches in the province of Asia (1:4). At the time of the writing of the Revelation, John is exiled on the island of Patmos having been sent there for his testimony in Christ (1:9) most likely by the Roman government.

John was one of Jesus closest friends. He is referred to as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20). We know that he and his brother James were among the first to follow Jesus. Jesus gave them the nickname the “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). John wrote five books of the New Testament including: the Gospel of John; the letters 1, 2, and 3 John; and the book of the Revelation. John’s story can be found throughout the Gospels, the book of Acts, and the Revelation.

The fact that this is a prophetic letter written to the churches is extremely important when considering how to interpret the book. First, the book being prophecy will most likely have both an immediate and a future application. Second, there is symbolism that must be taken into consideration. Thirdly, this letter had meaning to the contemporaries of John to whom it was written, we should be quick to look for this meaning. It is also important to note that the letter was written by one of Jesus’ closest friends. John would have taken great care to communicate Jesus’ message clearly out of respect for his dear friend, reverence for his God, and knowing that it would hold particular importance to those who read it. We should be careful not to look too deeply for some kind of hidden meaning within the book of the Revelation and within this passage.


Section #3. Outline/Structural Summary

Key to structural summary/outline: Rev. 1:19 “Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.”

  1. What You Have Seen (the past): Rev. 1:1 – Rev. 1:20, Rev. 22:6-21
    1. The Glorified Christ: Rev. 1:12 – Rev. 1:16
    2. The Seven Stars: Rev. 1:12 and Rev. 1:20
    3. The Seven Lamp stands: Rev. 1:16 and Rev. 1:20
    4. Jesus’ Final Words to Believers: Rev. 22:6-21
  2. Things Which Are (the present): Rev. 2:1 – Rev.3:22
    1. Letter to the Church at Ephesus: Rev. 2:1-7
    2. Letter to the Church at Smyrna: Rev. 2:8-11
    3. Letter to the Church at Pergamum: Rev. 2:12-17
    4. Letter to the Church at Thyatira: Rev. 2:18-29
    5. Letter to the Church at Sardis: Rev. 3:1-6
    6. Letter to the Church at Philadelphia: Rev. 3:7-13
    7. Letter to the Church at Laodicea: Rev. 3:8-22
  3. Things Which Will Take Place After These Things (the future): Rev. 4:1 – Rev. 22:5
    1. In Heaven
  1. Worship: Rev. 4:1 – Rev. 5:14
  2. Behind the Scenes: Rev. 7:9-17, Rev. 10, Rev. 19:1-10
    1. On Earth
  1. The Seals: Rev. 6:1-17, Rev. 8:1-5
  2. The 144,000: Rev. 7:1-8, Rev. 14:1-5
  3. The Trumpets: Rev. 8:6 – Rev. 9:21, Rev. 11:15-19
  4. The Two Witnesses: Rev. 11:1-14
  5. The Announcement of Judgment: Rev. 14:6-13
  6. The Bowls: Rev. 15:1 – Rev. 16:21
  7. Satan At Work On the Earth: 12:1 – Rev 13:18, Rev. 17:1 – Rev.18:24
  8. The Second Coming: Rev. 14:14-20
  9. Satan Bound/Millennial Reign of Christ: Rev. 20:1-6
    1. Final Judgment
  1. Man: Rev. 20:5-6, Rev. 20:11-15
  2. Satan and His Crew: Rev. 19:11-21, Rev. 20:7-10
    1. New Heavens/Earth/Jerusalem: Rev. 21:1 – Rev. 22:5


Six times in seven verses John tells us that there will be a thousand year period. Five of those six are within this passage. There must be some importance and significance to this reiteration and that should be considered during the interpretation of this passage. The passage’s placement within the book of the Revelation could also hold some bearing to the interpretation of the passage. It is wedged between the defeat of the antichrist and his armies and the final defeat of Satan. Then, the eternal abode that God has in store for his people is created. This passage offers the fulfillment of the prophecies predicting Christ’s reign as king on the earth.


Section #4. Grammatical Summary

In this section, I will be exploring the grammatical keys that make up this passage. First off, there are several historical/cultural references with which the readers of the passage should be familiar.

  1. “angel”
  2. “the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan”
  3. “I saw thrones”
  4. “testimony of Jesus”
  5. “the word of God”
  6. “the first resurrection”
  7. “the second death”
  8. “priests of God and of Christ”

This passage, being a work of prophecy, must also be handled carefully as we look for figurative language. John is describing for us as best he can what he saw. There are a few things he describes that we should look at as figurative or should we look upon them as the only way John could put into words what he was witnessing or they could be taken entirely literally.

  1. ”an angel coming down from heaven”
  2. “holding the key to the abyss and a great chain”
  3. “laid hold of the dragon…and bound him”
  4. “threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him”
  5. “thrones, and they that sat on them”
  6. “the souls of  those who had been beheaded”
  7. And repeatedly, “thousand years”

There are also several key phrases used in this passage that I have not already pointed out among the historical/cultural references and the figurative language.

  1. “would not deceive the nations any longer”
  2. twice, “until the thousand years were completed
  3. “judgment was given to them”
  4. “those who had not worshiped the beast or his image”
  5. “had not received the mark…”
  6. “came to life” and “come to life”
  7. “will reign” and “reigned”

All of these references and how God leads us to handle the “figurative” language in this passage will have a profound impact on the interpretation of this passage. Within a literal grammatical historical hermeneutic, this passage should be taken literally as to its meaning and context, even though it has figurative and poetic language within it.


Section #5. Lexical Summary

            Within the passage there are many key words at which we should look.

  1. “angel”
  2. “abyss”
  3. “dragon”
  4. “deceive”
  5. “nations”
  6. five times, “years”
  7. “judgment”
  8. “testimony”
  9. two times, “reign” or “reigned”
  10. two times, “resurrection”
  11. death

The one word that I would like to take a closer look at is the word “years”. This one word appears five times in these six verses. What does the word mean?  In English, a year means a period of 365 or 366 days, in the Gregorian calendar, divided into 12 calendar months, a period of approximately the same length in other calendars,  a full round of the seasons.[1]  The Hebrew calendar is made up of twelve months, 360 days, which is what John would have known.

The word in Greek that John used was etos. The word simply meant a year. The word is apparently a primary word, meaning it has its root in the Greek and no where else. It is a neuter noun.[2]  Robertson’s Word Pictures tells us that etos is an accusative of extent of time as used in this context.[3]

The word years is used in the NASB New Testament 55 times. John used the word himself a total of 9 times. Six of those times are found in the book of the Revelation, all within Rev. 20:1-7. The other three times are in the Gospel of John, John 2:20, 5:5, and 8:57. In John’s gospel, the word is used to describe a person’s age two times and the number of years it took to build the temple in the third instance. John had a firm command of the meaning of a year. He also used other measures of time in writing the Revelation. He speaks of months in chapter 11 verse 2 and days in chapter 11 verse 3 and days again in a couple of other places. John gives us no indication whatever that he is not speaking of literal days, months, and years, quite the opposite. So when we read this passage, we should accept that John is describing a literal thousand year period and not look for some other meaning that stretches our understanding of the meaning of a year into something that John never intended that it be.


Section #6. Biblical Context Summary

            The theme of the Revelation is the future of the human race. It contains within it Christ’s final instructions to believers on how to relate to him in the best way possible. Then it contains a dynamic vision of the future that he holds for us and the rest of the world. The Revelation is a book of hope, justice, and above all, demonstrates the glory and power of God almighty. The letter also tells us that its purpose is to be a blessing to those who read it. Chapter 1 verse 3 says, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it, because the time is near!”

Immediately before we come to chapter 20, chapter 19 verses 11-21, Christ returns to the earth in power and glory. He destroys all those that stand to oppose him. The armies of the world that are gathered against him are slaughtered. He captures the beast and the false prophet and casts them into the lake of fire.

Then, starting in verse 7 of chapter 20, the devil is allowed to deceive the people of the world once more. The devil gathers together a new army that stands to oppose God. Fire comes down from heaven and consumes the gathering armies. The devil is then thrown into the same lake of fire occupied by the beast and the false prophet. There they stay for eternity.

In the end of chapter 20, verses 11-15, the dead are judged before the great white throne. Those whose names are not found within the Book of Life are judged according to their deeds and then thrown into the lake of fire, which constitutes the second death. The final two chapters of the book of the Revelation describe the eternal abode God sets up for those who have believed in Christ.

Chapter 20 verses 1-6 are an aside between the end of the old world ruled by evil and the final judgment to come and the eternal residence created for us by God. The power of God is demonstrated as Satan is bound and powerless. We see the hope of the resurrection we are promised in Christ fulfilled. We are given an opportunity to see a world ruled by Christ in perfect justice in fulfillment of God’s promises of a literal kingdom on earth where Christ sits as king. This passage is a preview of the eternal promises of God fulfilled.


Section #7. Theological Context Summary

            There are many theological principles contained within this small passage of Scripture. The doctrines of Theology proper, Christology, angelology, anthropology, and eschatology are all represented in this passage.

It says that the souls were beheaded for the word of God (vs 4). These same souls were beheaded for their testimony in Christ. That along with the reign of Christ mentioned in verse 4 and verse 6 and that they (those taking part in the first resurrection) will be priest of Christ (verse 6) make this a passage of Christology. We can look at Mark 13:13 for one of our principles, persecution for belief in Christ. Another principle here is that Christ will return to rule over the earth.

Theology proper is mentioned in verse 6, saying that they will be priests of God. The principle being that those represented in the first resurrection will be members of a royal priesthood as also mentioned in 1 Peter 2:9.

This is a passage of anthropology also. Man is represented in several ways. The nations no longer being deceived are made up of men (verse 3), those sitting upon the thrones are the souls of men (verse 4), these men were resurrected (verses 4, 5, and 6), and became priests (verse 6). The principles here are several. Men are deceived by Satan. Those martyred will have a special place as judges and rulers in the new kingdom to come. And, man has his hope in his resurrection in Christ. Men will be the priests of God and Christ in the kingdom to come.

Angelology is strongly represented in verses 1, 2, and 3. An angel comes down, binds Satan (who is also a part of angelology), and allows him to deceive the nations no more for a thousand years. One principle is that Satan is only allowed to work on earth as long as God allows him. Also, God’s angel is more powerful that Satan. Lastly, Satan is a deceiver. The passage says that the souls were beheaded for the word of God and their testimony in Christ (vs 4). So, another theological principle is that Satan has always tried to destroy those who follow God and will continue to do so in the future. This principle can also be categorized under eschatology.

Finally, eschatology is clearly represented in this passage. The reason being, that the entire passage, as with most of the Revelation, has to do with things to come in the last days. The predictive prophecy of the millennial reign of Christ is the focus of this passage of Scripture. The principle being that God is the author of history and knows not only what was and is, but also what will be.

The context of the Revelation is the future of man, most of the book is predictive prophecy of the things to come in the end times (eschatology). Angels play a key part in the unfolding of what is to come in the end times (angelology). The end of Satan and his minions comes about during the end times (angelology). Most of what we know about God is contained with the pages of God’s word (Bibliology) and the Revelation is the final chapter in God’s plan for man’s eternal destiny (Theology proper and anthropology). The central character in God’s story is his son Jesus the Christ (Christology).


Section #8. Correlation Summary

I reviewed five commentaries while researching Revelation 20:1-6.

  • Everyman’s Bible Commentary: Revelation by Charles Ryrie[4]
  • The Book of the Revelation by Lehman Strauss[5]
  • Lectures on the Book of Revelation by H.A. Ironside[6]
  • Commentary on the Bible by Adam Clarke[7]
  • The Bible Knowledge Commentary by John Walvoord and Roy Zuck[8]

All the authors that I read with the exception of Clarke used a literal grammatical historical method of interpretation. Adam Clarke seems to use a spiritualized interpretation.

Those using a literal hermeneutic agree with me that the events in the first six verses of chapter 20 of the Revelation should be taken literally. They agree in a literal binding of Satan, though there is disagreement whether a literal chain, spiritual or not, is used in the binding of the Deceiver. I think the passage is speaking of the spiritual type of chains used elsewhere in Scripture for the binding of spirits and angels (Jude 6).

There is question whether or not the angel spoken of in verse one is Christ or a created angel. I think that since Christ has returned to the earth at this point (19:11-16) and since I could find no where in the New Testament I was satisfied Christ is referred to as an angel the angel in the passage is probably a created angel.

Most of the authors agree with me that the passage speaks of a literal thousand year period of time. Clarke does not agree however. Clarke believes that the thousand years are a figurative period of time. Most of the authors summarize the postmillennial, premillennial, and amillennial views of when the thousand years take place. Those who believe in the literal thousand years agree, as do I, that this time must come after the second coming of Christ (premillennial).

There is disagreement as to who is included in the first resurrection. The views are widely varied. Clarke doesn’t seem to believe in the first resurrection at all. Other authors disagree as to how many groups are mentioned in verse four. One suggests one group, another two groups, another three separate groups and yet another, a total of four groups. I did not really consider these different views when I made my initial interpretation of the passage. Reading over my own initial interpretation, I assumed only one group within the verse mentioned. However, upon reading these others, I agree with Ryrie, that there are three distinct groups mentioned those on the thrones, those beheaded, and those who refused the mark. I agree, also, with Ironside that the first group, those on the thrones, includes three groups in itself, the Old Testament saints, the New Testament saints, and the tribulation saints.

All the writers agree that the second death is that of eternal punishment. That those who did not believe in God and in Christ will be resurrected to be judged at the end of time and then sentenced to the second death which is separation from God for eternity. I agree with this view.

This concludes my correlation summary. Those who used a literal grammatical historical hermeneutic, as I did, were largely in agreement on all major points. However, he who used a non literal hermeneutic was in disagreement on almost every point made in this passage.


Section #9. Analysis and Impact

            Revelation 20:1-6 is a passage rich with meaning and promise. These verses are a source of hope and strength for believers in Christ. They provide security and assurance of the rewards to come for all those who choose to live and die for the Word of God and for Jesus. These verses predict a period of time on the Earth when Satan has been bound and no longer has the power to deceive the peoples of the Earth and the saints will reign all over the Earth with Christ as the supreme ruler. This period of time is commonly been referred to as the Millennium. As I interpret this passage, I will be using a literal grammatical historical hermeneutic.

As we look into the passage and pull out the meaning that the Lord has for us here, let us start at the beginning. In the NASB, verses 1-3 read like this:

“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.”

Most English translations, including the KJV[9], NET[10], NKJV[11], and NLT[12], include the words, and or then, to begin verse one. In the Greek, the word kai, Strong’s tells us kai is:

apparently a primary particle, having a copulative and sometimes also a cumulative force; and, also, even, so, then, too, etc.[13]

This suggests that verse one of chapter 20 is the continuation of the progression starting in chapter 19. In chapter 19, the Lord has returned to Earth in the form of the rider on the white horse (vss 11-16). He has conquered the beast-the antichrist, the false prophet, and all the armies of the Earth that stood against him (vss 20-21). This progression supports the premillennialist view that Christ will return to Earth prior to the start of the Millennial kingdom.  The other two views, postmillennialism and amillennialism, require the use of a non-literal hermeneutic. Postmillennialism states that Christ will not return to the earth until after the end of the Millennium. The amillennialist view denies the existence of a literal Millennial kingdom.  I believe that this passage specifically teaches us that Christ will return before the Millennial kingdom begins.

As verse one continues, we are told that John sees an angel descending from heaven. There is debate whether this angel is our Lord Jesus or a created angel. Since Christ has already returned to the Earth at this point, having returned in verses 11-16 of chapter 19, and I could find no where in the New Testament where Christ is referred to as an angel[14], this must be a created angel.

The angel is holding in his hands the key to the Abyss and a great chain. This chain which will soon be used to bind Satan could be a literal spiritual chain. In Jude 6, chains are used to bind evil angels. This chain is referred to as a great chain, a great chain to bind the great dragon (Rev. 12:3, 9).

Whether this is a literal chain, as I believe that context supports, or a figurative chain, in verse two, it is used to bind the devil, that serpent of old, Satan. He is bound and sealed away in the abyss. Satan is only allowed to work on the Earth as long as God permits it. The Lord’s angel is more powerful than the greatest source of evil the world has ever known. As believers, we can take strength and comfort in the fact that God and his angels are stronger than the devil and his minions. This means that, as in the book of Job and is stated in Romans 8:28, the things that we go through are allowed by God, and work for our own good according to his purpose.

The end of verse two, and verses three, four, five, and six, all refer to a thousand years. This is where the term millennium stems from. The word millennium is actually Latin[15], and though it actually occurs nowhere in Scripture, simply means a thousand years. The Apostle John, writer of the book of Revelation, used the Greek term, chilioi etos, simply put, a thousand years. The question becomes did the apostle mean a literal thousand years or is this some figurative number. Throughout the book of Revelation, John has used literal amounts of time. In his Gospel, he also used literal years to describe peoples’ ages in a couple places. He has spoken of days (Rev. 11:3, 11), months (Rev. 9:5, 10; 11:2; 13:5), and now in this passage years. There is no reason to suggest that John has used some figurative or spiritualized amount of time here. As believers, we can look forward to a thousand years while Satan has been bound and has no power over us.

Now, in verse three, we are told that Satan has been sealed in the abyss. It is said that he will be able to deceive the nations no longer until the thousand years are completed, and then he will be released again for a short time. The fact is that the devil is a deceiver. He twists the minds of people to make them doubt and turn against God. He is our enemy and is given this title throughout the Scriptures. He is also the enemy of God. However, he only has power so long as God allows it. He is still under the dominion of God as we all are. Though he is a deceiver, we can find solace in that God will only allow him to deceive the nations for so long. And then the Earth will experience a time when man will no longer be deceived and no longer has an excuse for his behavior other than his own desires.

The next section of this passage is one that is full of promise for those who have believed upon Christ. It reads:

Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. (Rev 20:4-6 NASB)


This passage, like the one before it, begins with that same word kai. It is the continuation of a progression. Immediately after the capture of Satan, John saw these things yet to come.

He saw those sitting upon the thrones. This word, for us today, brings to mind a king. However, in John’s time, this throne would have signified a seat upon which a potentate or governor would have sat, one who could judge over the affairs of those beneath them[16]. Someone with authority, yet with a role of deference to someone higher up as well, in this case, we find out that those sitting upon these thrones is governors under Jesus as sovereign king. Those sitting upon these thrones are quite probably the believers of the ages (19:7-8, 14, 19; cf. 2:26-28; 3:12, 21). This would be those of us today who believe in Christ, one of our rewards for faithful service.  Verse 4 of chapter four says that there are twenty-four elders sitting upon thrones. It could also be these to whom John is referring.

John also saw those who had been martyred for their testimony in Christ and for their belief in the Word of God. And, those who had refused to take the mark of the beast on their foreheads and hands. Satan, as long as he is allowed power on the Earth, will always persecute those who believe in God. Compare verse 4 to Mark 13:13, we will be hated for our allegiance to Him.

All these are said to be brought back to life[17] and reign with Christ for the thousand years. This will be a time of great peace upon the Earth, the time spoken of when the Earth will be returned to a state much akin to the Garden of Eden. A time long forecast by prophets and promised by God (see, Ps. 110:3; Isa. 2:1-4; 11; 19:23-25; 35; 65:17-25; Jer. 23:5; Ezek. 40-48; Dan. 2:44-45; 7:23-27; Amos 9:11-15; Mic. 4:1-4; Zech. 14:3-12; Matt. 19:28; Luke 1:31-33; Acts 1:6; Rom. 11:26-27, among many others).

We are told that this is the first resurrection. This is understood to be a physical, bodily resurrection. Those who take place in it will be blessed and made priests of God and of Christ. This resurrection is the promise made to all those who believe in Christ, who persevere in their faith. Our belief in the resurrection is the hope we have in our salvation through Christ Jesus. Those who do not believe we are told do not get to take part in this resurrection and do not get to enjoy the benefits of living in paradise on Earth. Their resurrection is reserved for a later time (Rev. 20:12-15), they will suffer the second death (v. 14), the eternal separation from God that we are told that those who believe in Christ will never experience for the second death has no power over them.

Those reading this letter, John’s contemporaries, would have taken away hope from this passage. They believed because of it, that Christ would return soon. They believed they would have justice for their mistreatment at the hands of their persecutors. They would have seen this passage as the fulfillment of all the Messianic promises of God. This passage, says John Walvoord, are more crucial than any others in the Bible to the interpretation of the Scriptures as a whole.[18]  For those of us today, we can take away this same hope. Whether Christ returns in our lifetimes or in 2000 more years, we have the promise of his return. We have the promise of a kingdom in which Christ is Lord of all. Where we will suffer no more persecution, entertain no more doubts, be deceived no longer.

Studying this passage has given me a richer appreciation for the Word of God. It has given me a deeper understanding of the promises to come. It has given me even more hope and renewed my fervor that Christ will return. This passage has demonstrated to me once again the wonder of the Scriptures. The amazing power God demonstrates to us in the prophetic words that both have already been fulfilled and those yet to be fulfilled. How awesome is the Lord?  Indescribable. How wonderful are his words? Indescribable. How deserving of our love and respect?  Indescribable. I pray that these words serve as a meager offering of my love and devotion to the God of all, the Lord most high. May the beauty of the Word of God saturate your heart and mind.






Clarke, Adam. Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible. e-Sword v.9.8.3.


Constable, Thomas L. Notes on Revelation. 2010. (Accessed: March 2, 2011).


Ironside, H.A. Lectures on the Book of Revelation Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1930.


Robertson, Archibald Thomas. Word Pictures in the New Testament. e-Sword v.9.8.3.


Ryrie, Charles C. Everyman’s Bible Commentary: Revelation. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996.


Strauss, Lehman. The Book of the Revelation. Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1965.


Strong, James. Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries. 1890. e-Sword v.9.8.3.


Thayer and Smith. “Greek Lexicon entry for Etos”.  “The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon”. 1999. (accessed: February 06, 2011).


Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. e-Sword v.9.8.3.


Walvoord, John F. “The Theological Significance of Revelation 20:1-6.” In Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost, pp. 227-38. Edited by Stanley D. Toussaint and Charles H. Dyer. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986.


years. Unabridged. Random House, Inc.   (accessed: February 06, 2011).



[1] years. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. (accessed: February 06, 2011).

[2] Thayer and Smith. “Greek Lexicon entry for Etos”. “The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon“. . 1999.

[3] Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword v.9.8.3.

[4] Charles C. Ryrie, Everyman’s Bible Commentary: Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 131-133.

[5] Lehman Strauss, The Book of the Revelation (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1965), 329-337.

[6] H.A. Ironside, Lectures on the Book of Revelation, (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1930), 333-342.

[7] Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, e-Sword v.9.8.3.

[8] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, e-Sword v.9.8.3.

[9] King James Version

[10] New English Translation

[11] New King James Version

[12] New Living Translation

[13] James Strong, Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, 1890, e-Sword v.9.8.3.

[14] Some people believe that the strong angel of Revelation chapter 10 is Christ. I do not agree with this view.

[15] from New Latin, from Latin mille  thousand + annus  year

[16] Strauss, 334.

[17] This resurrection must be differentiated from the rapture and resurrection of the saints in 1 Cor. 15:51-52 and 1 Thess. 4:15-17. Those of the rapture return with Christ at the second coming (Rev. 19:14) after having taken part in the marriage supper of the Lamb.

[18] John F. Walvoord, “The Theological Significance of Revelation 20:1-6,” in Essays in Honor of J.

Dwight Pentecost, p. 227.

Recovery: The Journey


Recovery: The Journey



This paper is to relate my experience in working with alcoholics and addicts in recovery. In order to do so, I will first relate some of the research into alcoholism I have done. After relating my own experience and how I worked the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I will then relate my experience helping others through the steps of AA and the principles of Celebrate Recovery. I will include my experience working others and counseling individuals that have been a part of the ministry at The Upper Room Recovery Community. Recovery is a lifelong process, but with proper guidance and a whole lot of work, it is possible to recover from alcoholism and addiction and have a happy, joyous, and free life apart from drugs and alcohol and with a strong and growing relationship with Christ our Lord.

The Research

Alcoholism, as described in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, is a disease of the mind as well as a disease of the body. It is essentially described as “a physical allergy to alcohol coupled with a mental obsession to continue to drink”. Of course, not every heavy drinker is an alcoholic, and the book describes, in their own words, the stories of many drinkers who are not the “skid row drunk” either. Alcoholism, as well as drug addiction, has varying degrees of severity and many facets. These differences between individuals with these problems make treatment even harder because there is no one size fits all approach. To add to the confusion, there is the misinterpretation of alcoholism and addiction as being a purely moral issue. Michael Egerer, in his article on alcoholism, quotes Levine as saying, ”alcoholism is a moral issue that has turned into a disease of the will”. This is definitely not true. Alcoholism, as well as drug addiction, though spoken of in the Scriptures as sin, definitely have physical and mental qualities to them, although the solution is a spiritual one. Mark Keller, in his article on the nature and extent of alcoholism says that “the definers had used a variety of terms, including inebriety, abnormal drinking, problem drinking, alcoholism, pathologic alcoholism, and chronic alcoholism.

Whatever definition you would want to use, whether you believe it to be a moral problem or a chronic disease the effects of alcoholism and drug addiction are pervasive and destructive, to not only the individual, but also the family and society at large. Joan Jackson says in the abstract of her article Alcoholism and the Family:

The relationship between as alcoholic and his family is a two-way one. The alcoholic affects the personalities of family members and the functioning of the family as a unit. The family in turn contributes to the alleviation or persistence of the alcoholism. A description of the family crisis precipitated by alcoholism is given. Treatment of alcoholism should include help, not only for the alcoholic but also for the family.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous also has a lot to say on the impact of the alcoholic as his family. The book relates the alcoholic to a “tornado“ ripping through the lives of his family. Having seen the damage an alcoholic first hand, not only through my own experience but also that of family members that struggle with the disease, I can tell you that the fact is that alcoholism and addiction destroy relationships and families.

The great news is that recovery from alcoholism and addiction is possible. The books Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery Inside lay out a ”simple kit of spiritual tools”, as the AA Big Book calls it. Jones relates the experience of one man in recovery as saying,

Recovery is, for me, something that is ongoing […] it’s not something that is cured for me it’s something that is in remission […] treatment sort of stopped me but AA keeps me sober if you like and I need to do that probably for the rest of my life.

This man has it right… Alcoholism and addiction can never be fully healed in the sense that an alcoholic or addict can use “socially” as some call it. It can though be permanently arrested through abstinence and that is possible through the use of the “spiritual tools” we find in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Celebrate Recovery.

In Narcotics Anonymous, promises are made throughout the text to demonstrate how life can change for those in recovery. Some of these promises are:

As we recover, we gain a new outlook on being clean. We enjoy a feeling of release and

freedom from the desire to use. We find that everyone we meet eventually has something to offer. We become able to receive as well as to give. Life can become a new adventure for us. We come to know happiness, joy, and freedom.

Many other promises are made both in the NA “Basic Text” as well as in the “Big Book” of AA. These promises give those who are in recovery hope that recovery is not only possible but that the way of recovery can be an enjoyable way of life.

My Testimony

This is the story of my redemption by the grace of Christ Jesus through the power of His love and mercy.

When I was born, I was born without a father. My biological father had left my mother six months before I was born. My mother, a strong and independent woman, took on the challenge to raise me herself.

When I was two or so, she married a prominent business man here in the South Bend area. I was brought up in the Catholic Church and attended Catholic schools until I was nine.

My adopted father was a mean, violent, and abusive man. He had two sons, eight and nine years older than I was; they certainly took advantage of the fact that they were bigger and stronger than I was, cruel and abusive at every turn.

Drinking and smoking were a normal part of life in my family. I had my first drunk at the age of 5 at a family function. On the fourth of July, instead of punks or lighters to set off our fireworks, we were given lit cigarettes, which we would smoke as we set off our fireworks.

My mother divorced my abusive adopted father when I was eight, and even though she and I were the ones being abused, she was cast out of the parish church for not seeking an annulment prior to getting her divorce.

She remarried a couple years later, reuniting with her high school sweetheart, the man I call Dad to this day. Though I had a good life and a good father at this point, along with two step sisters, I was an angry and frustrated boy.

Much too smart for my own good, I did well in school, but according to all my teachers’ opinions, never worked at my full potential.

When I was a sophomore in high school something in me broke. In spite of promising futures in both football and baseball, I quit both. I lost several friends that year, dead before the prime of their lives. I had some severe rage issues. At one point, I was suspended from school for almost killing another student with my bare hands. If a school counselor hadn’t gotten through to me in my rage, that boy would have been dead. Soon after, I ran away from home, and moved from Colorado back here to South Bend to live with my grandparents.

A few months later, my grandfather died, and I moved back home with my parents.

I graduated from high school six months early. Had I not transferred schools my sophomore year, I would have graduated a full year early. This was just one more thing to fuel my rage and frustration, not to mention my problems with authority. Just after my seventeenth birthday, I enlisted in the Army. Why? I wanted to be allowed to kill legally. Talk about sick in the head!

During the months after my graduation and before I shipped out to Ft. Benning, GA I got heavily involved in drugs and alcohol. In less than a year, I was a full blown alcoholic and addict. After arriving in GA, I went through detox and within a month injured my hip and because of my disciplinary problems I was given three choices: 5 years in Leavenworth Federal Prison, 2 weeks in the brig and restart basic training, or go home. It was really a no brainer, I chose to go home. The only problem is: I didn’t have a home to go home to. My parents had moved to Tunis, Tunisia, in North Africa for my dad’s career in the Air Force. So, I came back here to South Bend to live with my grandmother and enrolled in college.

However, coming back from the Army, I also resumed my drinking and drugging. Within weeks I was back where I had left off before leaving for the Army. I was like a vampire sucking the life out of everyone around me.

On New Year’s Eve 1996/1997 I had a massive overdose. I spent 3 days under suicide watch at the old St. Mary’s Hospital on Jefferson. They believed that no one would have drunk and drugged as much as I had that night if they weren’t trying to kill themselves. I told them, “No, I was just out having a good time.”

Yet, the good time stopped. I was miserable all the time. I hated life, myself, the people around me, everything. I especially hated God, while at the same time, I claimed to be an atheist. I was living in a self-constructed hell. I was lost in my depravity. I had no respect for life of any kind. Judges 21:25  Says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” That was my life and I couldn’t stop drinking and drugging.

Finally, on March 27th, around 8am, I was on my way home from a friend’s house in Mishawaka. I was already drunk and high, and I was passing out behind the wheel. In desperation I said very simply, “God help me, this has got to stop.” Instantly, I was sober, clear minded, and knew where I was going and why. I knew, though I had no way of knowing, that my uncle, who was sober in AA at the time was going to be at my house. When I got home, he was. He waited for me to get out of the shower, and when I opened the door he asked me, “Hey, kid, how are you doing?” For the first time, I was honest with another human being, I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” He said “okay, pack a bag.” He and his girlfriend took me into their home and detoxed me for 3 ½ days. On March 31st, 1997, he took me to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have been continuously clean and sober ever since.

My road to redemption had begun. And I would agree with Paul’s statement in 1Timothy 1:15 “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” Why else would God choose to do anything for me?

I began a search for the God that had worked so powerful a miracle in my life. I read every religious and philosophical book I could get my hands on: The Bible, the Koran, the Tao De Ching, Plato, Aristotle, Voltaire. I was searching.

In the meantime, God continued to work in my life. Through the 12 steps my life began to change.

In 1998, I met the love of my life, my wife Sierra. However, we did everything wrong in our relationship. We made our relationship physical from the start; we lived together and had a child together before we were married. And let me tell you, there is a reason why God teaches us a proper order to building a right relationship. We certainly made life a lot harder on ourselves than we had to if we had followed God’s design for marriage. Yet, against all odds, we are still together and still growing in our marriage together.

In 1999, after a long and difficult pregnancy, and a traumatic labor, Alex, my oldest son was born. Although he is totally blind, and has severe infantile autism, he has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. Through him I have learned the value of life. Through him I have also learned what true joy is. I have seen the biggest, burliest, toughest men I know melt when he hugs them. I understand now Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” And what is God’s purpose, I have learned it is always for his glory and our growth. And growing I was. My wife and I have been blessed with three other children, Robbie, Serenity, and Abby, each a precious gift from God.

Also in 1999, I became an over the road truck driver. I continued to drive for many years thereafter. On May 2, 2001, while driving up US 30 toward Valpo I struck up a conversation over the CB with a Christian. He explained the gospel to me in a way that I could finally understand. Christ had died for me, as Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He had begun working in my life though I did not yet know him. Now I finally understood. Grace is what had gotten me sober, grace is why I was still alive, and grace is what I had to live for. We pulled over at a truck stop, and while leaning back against my truck talking with him, I prayed. I don’t remember the exact words but I admitted my sin, agreeing with God about my depravity. I asked him to forgive me and accept me into his family through the blood of his son, Jesus Christ.

He had saved me; he had redeemed my life, and gave me a new one. I was reborn. However, like a new born baby, I had and still have a lot of growing up to do.

I began listening to all the authentic Bible teaching I could on the radio. I began reading everything I could get my hands on. I will tell you this, there is a big difference between religion and spirituality; religion is for people who are afraid to go to hell and spirituality is for people who have been there.

God has been sanctifying my life, growing in the knowledge and fullness of my faith in him. Today, I have a true heart for God. I have a true heart for people.

For a long time, my wife and I searched for a church home. Then, I met Daniel Goepfrich, teaching pastor at Oak Tree Community Church, at the Y and he invited me there. Oak Tree is a family of families. It has been and continues to be the instrument that God is using to grow my family spiritually. I have found a home. The more involved I get, the more I love the people there. I have developed true friendships unlike any I have had at any other time in my life.

I have gone from being lost in the depths of my depravity, to teaching our children about God in the youth program. I have undergone 3 months of basic training in Biblical Counseling in Lafayette and I have studied with the Tyndale Learning Center at Oak Tree Community Church to better know God and God’s Word and to someday become a pastor in God’s Church. I am involved in the Men’s Fraternity and other men’s groups as another way to grow in my relationship with God and to be a better man, husband, father, all that God has called me to be. I continue to work the steps of AA and the principles of Celebrate Recovery and attend meetings on a regular basis. Although I have a lot of work to do, especially at home, life has gotten better and better.

God has promised, in Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” I have seen this promise come true as it continues to play out in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I am far from perfect, and make mistakes on sometimes a minute by minute basis but I look forward to the future, and to all God will do in my life and my family, yet I know should I die tomorrow or the Lord return, I will get to spend eternity with him.

Working the Steps

In the Alcoholics Anonymous program, the AA Big Book lays out twelve steps as a suggested program of action. They are:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to give up these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all the persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people where ever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10.  Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11.  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will and the power to carry that out.
  12.  Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

While the AA program is “a wrench to fit any nut”, they say, the program is the same for everyone while the way each step is worked is a very personal thing. I began working the steps with two sponsors (mentors in the program that helped me along the road to recovery) the day I went to my first meeting.

There is a step before the first step most AA members will tell you. That step is being done and becoming willing to go to any length to get sober. The day I went to my first meeting, I was there. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually; I was utterly defeated and willing to do anything to stay sober.

At my first meeting, I admitted that I was an alcoholic, powerless over alcohol, and that my life was unmanageable. But, the first step in practicality has three parts to it. One, admitting we are alcoholic, I did that day one. Two, accepting that we are alcoholic and cannot drink successfully ever again, that it took me some time to come to accept. Third, we have to surrender to the fact that we are alcoholic and give up on the notion that we can “fix” ourselves.

My working of the second step, I described briefly in my testimony. After God worked such a powerful miracle in my life getting me sober, I knew there was a God, but I had no idea who God was, and had a burning desire to know Him. So, as I said before, I read everything I could, asked all the people I could. I searched for God, as if He were missing or lost, like I had never done before in my life. Finally, I came to believe in a God, a God that could restore my life, and I believed that God to be perfect, personal, and loving. It was still some time before I came to know Christ as Savior as I described in my testimony.

The third step for me wasn’t really complete until I accepted Christ as Savior. However, I did, to the best of my ability, turn my life over to God, as I understood Him. I continue to do so on a day to day basis, now with Christ at the center of my life.

The fourth step and fifth step are two of the hardest to do. To take a fearless and thorough moral inventory and to share that information with another person is scary at best and terrifying at worst. That information needed to be written down and unpacked, but early in recovery we tend to be extremely self-deprecating, which can destroy self-esteem and cause relapse. So, my sponsors told me to keep it balanced. For every bad thing about myself, I was to write down something good about myself. That helped me immensely. I then shared that information with both of my sponsors individually. The acceptance and love they showed me, in the light of what I had done, was a relief beyond measure. I had figured to be judged and condemned for my faults, and I wasn’t.

The sixth step is harder than it looks at first glance. To be entirely ready to have God remove our defects of character requires willingness. I was ready and willing for my drinking and drugging problems to be gone, but… The other stuff? The friends I had to give up, the places I could no longer go, the things that reminded me of drinking, the lies, the girls, the sins, if you will, that I enjoyed so much. It was much harder to be willing to be rid of those things than just the alcohol and drugs. But, I did become willing and was then ready for God to really start working in the rest of my life.

The seventh step is much easier for me. Humbly asking Him to remove those shortcomings takes a bending of the pride and ego, but that comes with lasting sobriety. So, the asking was pretty easy. It is the taking back of self-will and doing those things that he takes away over again that is really difficult. But, just as we are sanctified by the renewing of our minds, so too are we able to give up some of those defects that we hold on to so dearly. The idea that makes this step really successful is that of replacement. Replace the bad behavior with something good. Instead of bar hopping, go to a meeting, instead of destructive friends, make some new friends at meetings or church, instead of complaining, pray, and so on.

Making a list of people that we harmed and then making amends for that behavior are the eighth and ninth steps. Making the list is pretty easy, the second part of step 8 is hard, the being willing to make amends to them all. I had to make four lists at my sponsor’s suggestion. One list of people I was ready to make amends to; one list of people I wasn’t ready to make amends to; one list of those I wouldn’t make amends to; and one list of those I couldn’t make amends to because of the harm it would cause them or others. I started the amends process of those I was ready to first. If it was a financial amends, I went with money in hand, at least to start making payments. Other amends were more difficult. It required a swallowing of pride, a letting go of blame, and a sincere desire to make things right. By the time I was done with the first list of people, I was ready to make amends to the next list…and so on. Finally, all that was left was the ones that I really couldn’t make an amends to either because they were dead, or because of the harm it would cause. For those who passed away, like my grandfather, I wrote a letter. I took the letter to the grave site, read it, and burned it. The relief I felt was impossible to describe.

The tenth step through the twelfth step are all about maintenance. Continue to keep an eye on the things that I am doing wrong and try to correct them as soon as possible, including making necessary amends. Maintaining conscious contact with God through prayer and meditation to know His will for my life and he gives me the strength to act out his will. And finally caring the message to those who are still suffering the disease and living out the principles in our daily lives.

Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery is the twelve steps of AA taking back to the Bible from whence they came originally. The Eight Principles developed by Rick Warren and John Baker mirror the twelve steps but with the focus on Christ as Savior and Lord. The Eight Principles and the twelve step equivalents are:

Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1)

Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2)

Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3)

Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.         (Steps 4 & 5)

Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 & 7)

Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 & 9)

Reserve a time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 & 11)

Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12)

The differences between the two are really apparent from the start. However, these steps and principles really have two different purposes if closely analyzed. The twelve steps are designed for the agnostic or atheist to come to some kind of belief in a Higher Power and though that Higher Power achieve sobriety. The eight principles are designed to bring people, regardless of the problems they face, to knowledge of Christ as Savior and Lord.

The Celebrate Recovery curriculum is broken down into 25 lessons which encompass the eight principles. The lessons are designed, with the help of the leader’s guide and participant’s guide, to lead an individual through all eight principles in about a year.

The “Celebrate Recovery DNA” as they call it, is to have a time of gathering and fellowship with a meal, a time of worship, a time of small group discussion, and then time for coffee afterward. A full CR meeting can last 4 hours. Most small churches and groups throughout the country don’t have a full CR meeting but the essential time of worship and small groups are present. At the Upper Room, we use the CR materials to do what we call a “step study”. The group is lead through each lesson on a weekly basis and we can get through the entire curriculum in about 6 months.

Working with others

During my time in recovery I have had the pleasure of sponsoring many individuals and over the last two years that I have worked at the Upper Room, I have had the opportunity to engage in the lives of hundreds more. One of the great pleasures of my life is the chance to help another person to get sober and to come to Christ. Working with others is extremely difficult sometimes. People get under your skin and into your life and when they fail, it is really easy to blame yourself, to take credit for their failure, to get discouraged, and to get angry them and yourself for not succeeding. But the fact of recovery is that only about 5% of people who get sober will stay sober for a lifetime without relapsing. Thus far I have been one of what I call “the chosen few” that hasn’t relapsed. I have some theories as to why.

First, I was completely defeated from the start. Second, I was willing to do anything and everything I was asked to in order to stay sober. And third, thus far, to the best of my ability, I have done exactly that. Most people never get there. They play around with their lives and their recovery and never get entirely honest with themselves or others about the exact nature of their problems. Like so many people on the planet, they don’t believe that God can and will do for them what they can’t or won’t do for themselves. They also don’t have any desire to accept God on God’s terms through Christ as Savior. While many, many people have gotten and stayed sober without Christ in their lives, they still face the eternal results of that decision.

Working with others takes enormous patience, love, compassion, mercy, grace, and humility. One has to meet an individual exactly where they are at in life and recovery and be willing to come alongside that person in sympathy and call them up to something better. Some people are not willing to accept even the idea of God to begin with. They are to be met with temperance and compassion. Others have a concept of God from childhood or wherever, but have never considered a personal relationship with their creator as being possible. They are all about trying to follow an impossible set of rules to earn their way into God’s good graces. But rules without relationships equals rebellion in most cases. They begin to figure, as I once did, that if they are going to hell because they don’t measure up, they might as well have a good time getting there. Then, there are the individuals that know all about God in their heads, are extremely knowledgeable of the Bible, may even go to church and participate in service work, but they lack the heart change. The longest 10 inches is from the head to the heart as they say.

Working the steps with others takes a good working knowledge of the steps themselves. It is very important that the counselor or sponsor has worked the steps in their own life to be able to relate to an individual trying to work the steps for the first time. This is where many students fall short in trying to counsel others coming out of school. Even “professionals” that have book learning and even practical experience in counseling that have not worked through the process themselves have a difficult time helping others, in my opinion. The problem is not with the counselor’s “knowledge”, the problem is with the counselor’s heart. The counselor that is right with God and his fellows that has worked through that relationship himself, is far more effective than one who has not. The adage that you have to have it to give it away applies in the counselor/counselee relationship as well as in the sponsor/sponsee relationship.

In my experience working with others I have found that individuals get “stuck” in some of the same places. Some get stuck on the second step, coming to believe that there is a personal God that will help them on the road to recovery. Once they get over that hurdle, they usually have a pretty easy time working their way through the third step. Another place people tend to get stuck is the fourth and fifth steps, one of the best ways to get an individual through these steps is to lay them out as clearly and simply as possible. I have some worksheets that I use to walk people through this part of the process. Also, helping the person to keep their inventory balanced, weighing the good with the bad, goes a long way toward making the inventory easier to do and share with someone else.

Another area that people have a hard time with is being willing to let go of their defects of character… This is the sixth step. I think more people in recovery get stuck with this step than any other. Letting go and letting God deal with our “sins” is the most difficult part of recovery. We need to let that stuff go, and the best way to do that is through replacement, taking something bad, like going to bars and replacing it with going to meetings. Replacing friends who use drugs and alcohol with friends in recovery, and so on…

Once people get through these steps and over these sticking spots working the rest of the steps is far easier. The steps are in order for a reason. When they are worked thoroughly and in order the steps become a path to lasting sobriety and true peace and serenity. The reason being, I believe, that anyone who truly works the steps to the best of their ability, God will reveal Himself and a person will come to saving faith in Christ.

Let me tell you the stories of three individuals that I have worked with.

Number One, we’ll call Tom. Tom is in prison. Tom was brought up to know about God through church, but has never had a relationship with his creator. When we started working together, he was married, had two children at home and several more that had already been taken by Child Services years before hand. He got sober in desperation to save his marriage. For a time, he did well. He was going to meetings, working the steps, his marriage was mending slowly. One day, he was during the summer, he was working outside and started to dwell on the children that had been taken years before. Instead of calling me, he called the dope man. Immediately, his marriage fell apart and he was on the rocks again. When he finally got a hold of me, his wife had left him and he was trying to sober up. One day, he was getting ready to leave his house and the idea came into his head to hide some stuff under the bed in his daughters’ room, paranoid that someone might steal it. He was smoking and dropped his cigarette. He thought he put it out and picked it up, but some of the ash caught the house on fire after he left. He was tried and convicted of arson, 14 years in prison. Now, he is working the program again and on the road to recovery. But, he has lost his house, his marriage, his freedom… All because of alcohol and drugs. While Tom’s story is heart breaking, it is true and happens all too often in recovery.

Now, let me tell you about Charlie. Charlie is in recovery, an active and believing Christian, and doing extremely well to outside appearances, but is struggling with depression inside. He went to the hospital and was inpatient for several days. Upon getting out, he was severely over medicated. Getting even more depressed, he sought drugs to try to make things better. Charlie died of an overdose the next day. Again, heart breaking but true.

Finally, I leave you with the story of Fred. Fred came to the program completely broken. His marriage was on the rocks, his health was failing, and he was spiritually lost. Fred now has over a year of recovery. He is succeeding in every respect. Though he never had an education, he now has his GED and is getting ready to start college in the summer. Fred has a thriving relationship with Jesus Christ as his Savior and is active in his church. Fred is one of the success stories. He is humble, honest, loving, and compassionate in his recovery and in his relationship with God and others.  Fred is one of the reasons I love ministry and helping people in recovery. To find a genuine individual that is working the steps and winning in recovery and getting to be a part of that is extremely rewarding.





Anonymous. (2001). Alcoholics Anonymous. New York City: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Fourth Edition.

Anonymous. (2008). Narcotics Anonymous. Chatsworth, CA: Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Sixth Edition.

Baker, John. (1998). Celebrate Recovery Inside. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Egerer, Michael. (2012, Sept). Alcoholism, brief intervention and the institutional context: a focus-group study with French and Finnish general practitioners. Critical Public Health. Vol. 22 Issue 3, p307-318. 12p. 2 Graphs. DOI: 10.1080/09581596.2011.637901. , Database: Academic Search Premier. Accessed 3-22-14

Jackson, Joan K. (1958, Jan. 1). Alcoholism and the Family. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science , Vol. 315 , Issue. 1, p90-98, 9p , Database: SAGE Journals Online. Accessed 3-22-14

Jones, Carwyn. Alcoholism and recovery: A case study of a former professional footballer. International Review for the Sociology of Sport , , Database: SAGE Journals Online. Accessed 3-22-14

Keller, Mark. (1958, Jan. 1). Alcoholism: Nature and extent of the problem. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science , Vol. 315 , Issue. 1, p1-11, 11p , Database: SAGE Journals Online. Accessed 3-22-14

Mentoring Discipleship 


Joe Hooten

Bethel College

Author’s Note

This was written for MIN461 Kingdom Theology and Application class with Professor Kintner.

Mentoring Discipleship
It is my belief that discipleship in the Church should be done by means of one-on-one mentoring. It is the model that Jesus set with his closest disciples. It is also the model that Paul set with Timothy. I think that churches should set up environments where structured one-on-one mentoring discipleship is made easy. This, of course, while it should be facilitated by the pastoral staff, should be done by the congregation working together with one another as the New Testament commands over 50 times, not the pastors themselves. Creating a pyramid of mentoring discipleship with each person mentoring 3-5 more would revolutionize the Church and spur unparalleled spiritual growth throughout the body of Christ.

This type of mentoring discipleship should be done in the context of the local church and spread out from there. It begins with Sunday morning and teaching how Jesus and Paul interacted with their followers. Practical messages with life application from the Scriptures that detail biblical living that later the mentors can review with those they are mentoring. These messages should also focus on how we can help, counsel, admonish, and live with one another in love, so that the body of Christ would be united.

These relationships should focus on personal growth in our love, knowledge, and obedience to Jesus our Lord. They should touch every area of life from finances and friendships, to spiritual growth and salvation. The relationship between mentor and the one being mentored should be one of the deepest relationships that we can have on this planet. Each person should feel that they can express anything to the other. Of course, “older” women should be mentoring the “younger” women and “older” men should be mentoring “younger” men. I say “older” and “younger”, but these terms are relative. Those who are more spiritually developed should mentor those who are less developed. It does no good for an older person who is a spiritual baby to mentor a younger person who has a healthy and vibrant relationship with our Lord. It should be the other way around. Age has nothing to do with it.

The way this would work in our culture of busyness is through personal meetings, phone calls, texts, emails, Skype, and Facetime. We are more connected to our world today than ever before. There is no reason or excuse for why we cannot take 10 minutes to touch base with someone every day or two. As much as is possible for both parties, life needs to be shared. I know that initially, this will be difficult where there is not an existing relationship, but with time and mutual effort, these relationships can become very fruitful. It will take work though. However, if we are serious about spiritual growth in our churches and in ourselves, we will be willing to put forth the effort.

I honestly do not know what a curriculum for this type of mentoring discipleship would look like or if there should be a set curriculum at all. There are some very excellent programs out there. For example, Mens’ Fraternity, Celebrate Recovery, Financial Peace University, and many more for both men and women, addicts, alcoholics, normies, and odd balls. I think that, depending on the individuals, different things will work for different people. For some people, a set curriculum may be better, but for others, simply working things out on their own would work better.

The model that I reflect to when I think of this is the model of the sponsor/sponsee relationship that you find in 12 step programs. I have been in Alcoholics Anonymous for my entire adult life. The relationships that I have developed with both my sponsors and sponsees over the years have been the most enriching of my life, except for maybe my marriage… In these relationships, we have not only kept each other sane and sober, we have also joined lives in the most intimate of ways. We have shared heartaches, troubles, joys, prayers, and tears. I cannot imagine a better way for the Church to interact with one another than to have these type of quality relationships flowing through our fellowship. 

The Church and our local churches desperately need to be built on fruitful relationships that produce growth in each individual. I think the mentoring discipleship model is the vehicle by which that can happen. 

The Final Days of Jesus Christ






MAY 20, 2012

My goal is to briefly recount and address the final week of Christ’s life on Earth. In order to do so I will be referring frequently to the chart below. 

The final days of Jesus Christ on Earth were the culmination of everything he came to the planet to accomplish. Knowing what was to come it is my impression that everything he did during this week had certain significance above and beyond the rest of his actions and teachings. While everything he did that was recorded for us in Scripture certainly had significance and his words and actions should be heeded, this week in particular, is supremely important. I believe the gospel writers must have felt something similar. Approximately 25% of the gospels are dedicated to this final week of Christ’s life. This leads me to the conclusion that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John must have seen significance in this time period beyond the ordinary. 

Some traditions hold the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem as being on Sunday and the day of the crucifixion on Thursday. The reasons for this are many and varied. Most of the conjecture comes down to tradition that was passed down in the early church and written into the dogma of Catholicism. However, after reading and rereading the gospel accounts, I agree with Daniel Goepfrich and others that the entry into Jerusalem had to have been on Monday. The reason for this is actually a reversal of the traditional line of thought. If Christ was crucified on “the day of preparation” for the high Sabbath, then that would have been Friday before 6pm. The reason for this is that the Sabbath begins on Friday at 6pm and ends on Saturday at 6pm. Therefore, Christ had to have been buried by 6pm on Friday evening or the Jews would have been violating the Sabbath in order to bury Christ. If the crucifixion was on Friday and not Thursday, working back through the gospel accounts the entry into Jerusalem had to be on Monday. Otherwise, with the entry on Sunday, there is a day missing in the gospel accounts of Christ’s final week, namely Wednesday. If the gospel writers dedicated so much time into giving an account of Jesus’s final days, why would they all leave out an entire day? I do not believe that they would! Instead, I believe that some of our traditions may be wrong. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. 

Our record of Christ’s final days begins on Sunday, March 29th, A.D. 33. This is the day that Christ our Lord healed a couple blind men in Jericho. He had a meal with a man named Zacchaeus. He told the parable of the ten minas. In the parable, the nobleman gave ten of his slaves ten minas each (Luke 19:13). The first made sound investments and his ten minas earned him ten more, he was rewarded and made ruler over ten cities. The second also made good investments and his ten minas earned him five more, he was rewarded and made ruler over five cities. Another slave did nothing with his mina. He hid it and kept it safe. This one had his mina taken from him and given to the first slave. What I have always wondered when reading this parable is what happened to the other seven slaves and the minas given to them? Scripture does not tell us.

On the same day, later that evening, Jesus had dinner in Bethany. It was at this time that Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, anointed his feet with expensive aromatic oil, Judas states that it was worth three hundred silver coins (John 12:5). John tells us in chapter 12 verse 1 that this was six days before the Passover. Another reason why I am saying the triumphal entry happened on Monday, this anointing marked Jesus before his entry into Jerusalem and his crucifixion. 

The next day, John tells us (12:12), March 30th, A.D. 33, all four gospels record Jesus’ Triumphal entry into Jerusalem and just like it was written in Zechariah 9:9, the Lord rode into the city on the back of a donkey (John 12:15). Luke 19:47, 21:37; Mark 11:11; Matthew 21:14-16 each give us a small glimpse into what Jesus was doing each day he spent in Jerusalem and then where he spent the night in Bethany at the Mount of Olives. He spent his time teaching and healing in the temple courts telling parables and preparing his disciples for what was to come.

Tuesday, the 31st, on his way into the city, early in the morning, Jesus went to the fig tree looking for fruit. When he found none, he cursed the tree causing it to wither and die. I have often wondered why Jesus was looking for figs there, when we are told in Mark 11:13 that it was not the season for figs. Jesus cleansed the temple for the second time. And again, he spent his time teaching and healing in the Temple courts. And again, he spent the night in Bethany.

Wednesday, April 1st, A.D. 33, is the day Jesus did a large amount the teaching recorded for us during this week. He answered the question of his authority, he told several parables, he answered the Pharisees’ questions on taxes and the greatest commandment, the Sadducees’ questions on marriage and resurrection. He himself asked and answered the question of Messiah’s identity. He also issued his woes and warnings, pointed out the widow’s offering, and gave the Olivet discourse. It was also on this day that Judas the betrayer met with the chief priests for the first time. And again, Jesus spent the night in Bethany.

Thursday, the 2nd, is the day that the Last Supper was held. Recorded for us in the gospels that day is the preparation for the meal. The meal itself along with Jesus’ washing of his disciples feet is also recorded. The New Covenant was announced at this time. Then, after the meal, Jesus gives the Upper Room and Garden discourse. And, Jesus prayer is the Garden is recorded in all four gospels. Late Thursday evening Jesus is betrayed and arrested.
Overnight, Jesus stands trial before the Sanhedrin. Judas meets with the chief priests again and later commits suicide. Early Friday morning, Jesus’ accusers drag Pilate out of bed and Jesus appears before him. A short time later, Jesus appears before Herod and is beat and mocked for the first time. Then, he is taken before Pilate once again. Pilate offers the people their choice, Jesus or Barabbas, Barabbas is released and Pilate washes his hands of Jesus. It is at this time that the scourging began. Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion, was likely tame compared to the true scourging that Jesus took as punishment for our sins. I shudder to think of what my Savior went through on his way to the cross to pay for my sins.

It was then Friday, April 3rd, A.D. 33, between 9 am and 3 pm that our Lord was crucified. It was one of the most brutal forms of execution that mankind has ever come up with. As he hung on the cross, the gospels record for us the final words of Jesus Christ. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”(Luke 23:34) Said as a plea to God on the behalf of those crucifying him. “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”(Luke 23:43) Said to the believing criminal on the cross next to him. “Woman, look, here is your son!”(John 19:26) Said to his mother, Mary. “Look, here is your mother!”(John 19:27) Said to John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.”(Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34) His desperate cry to God as the sun went dark. “I am thirsty.”(John 19:28) “It is finished.”(John 19:30) “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”(Luke 23:46) Said as Jesus voluntarily laid down his life for the sake of all humanity.

Then, sometime between the hours of 3pm and 6pm, Jesus’ body is prepared for burial and he is laid in the tomb, just in time for the Sabbath to begin at 6pm Friday evening. Saturday, the tomb is sealed and guarded by the Romans at the request of the Sanhedrin.

Sunday, April 5th, A.D. 33, sometime before the break of day, Jesus was resurrected! Praise the Lord! He is risen! 


Late Th/Early Fri
Friday, 6:00am-6:00pm

Benware, Paul N. Survey of the New Testament. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1990. 

Cone, Christopher The Promises of God. Ft. Worth, TX: Exegetica Publishing & Biblical

Resources, 2005.

Goepfrich, Daniel Passion Week. Unpublished class notes, 2012.

The Pauline Prison Letters










MAY 20, 2012




    During the Apostle Paul’s time in prison, he wrote four letters. We know these letters today as the Pauline Prison Epistles. They are the letter to the Ephesians, the letter to the Colossians, the letter to Philemon, and the letter to the Philippians. These letters were written sometime around A.D. 61 – 62. While Paul did experience imprisonment during his time in Caesarea (Acts 23:33-26:32) many scholars including Paul Benware conclude that these letters were written during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. Paul was imprisoned in Rome (Acts 28:30-31) and it seems likely that with references to “the praetorian guard” and “Caesar’s household” (Phil. 1:13; 4:22), it is during that imprisonment that Paul wrote these four letters.

Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were written at the same time and were sent together by Paul through Onesimus (the runaway slave of Philemon) and Tychicus. Scholars date these letters to A.D. 61. Philippians was probably the latest of the four letters written maybe a year or so after the first batch. The reason for this is that many events had to take place between the writing of the first three letters and Philippians. There are several journeys implied in the letter of Philippians. First, news reached Philippi that Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Then, a collection was taken and sent to Paul via Epaphroditus. Later, news of Epaphroditus’ illness made it back to Philippi and the church in Philippi sent word of their concern for Epaphroditus. Word didn’t spread very fast in those days (no cellphones or internet) and it took considerable time to travel between Rome and Philippi (no cars or airplanes). Given these facts, a date of A.D. 62 is reasonable for the writing of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

    If there were to be one theme assigned to all four of Paul’s prison epistles, I would have to say the overarching theme is Jesus Christ. In Ephesians, the theme is the church, the Body of Christ. In Colossians, the theme is the sufficiency and deity of Christ. In Philemon, since this is a personal letter, it really has no theme, but brotherhood in Christ could also be a fitting theme. The theme of Philippians is joy in the Person of Christ.

The letter that we call Ephesians was probably not written directly to the church at Ephesus but rather was likely a circular letter that started in Ephesus and was passed around to all the churches in the area. Paul Benware says,

“For example, there are no personal references in the letter, no details of his ministry among them, no mention of greeting to particular individuals, and no warnings about any unique dangers or problems that they faced. It is inconceivable that Paul, who had spent three years with them, would be so absolutely impersonal. Only a circular letter could account for such a phenomenon.”

It is also likely that this was a circular letter because many early manuscripts do not include the words “at Ephesus” in chapter 1 verse 1.

    To summarize the book of Ephesians is fairly simple. The first half of the letter (1:1 – 3:21) is spent talking about the calling of the church. The second half of the letter (4:1 – 6:20) is spent talking about the practical conduct of the church. The first part of chapter one is spent in praise of God’s redemptive work. God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all assigned a specific role in producing our salvation. God the Father chose us out of all humanity for himself (1:3-6). Jesus paid for our salvation on the basis of his Blood, cleansing us from sin, and setting us free (1:7-12). The Holy Spirit seals us and acts as God’s down payment of our inheritance of eternal life (1:13-14). The rest of chapter one is Paul’s prayer for an understanding of God’s grace. Chapter two explains that salvation is because of God’s grace and Jews and Gentiles are reconciled because of that same grace. Chapter three reveals the mystery of the church as the Body of Christ, and then Paul prays again for power and understanding for believers.

    The second half of Paul’s letter is spent addressing how believers in the church should behave. First, the church is to act in unity, each acting according to the spiritual gifts that they have been given for the good of the Body. Second, believers are to live righteously, avoiding all sin. Third, Paul tells us that we are to be living under the control of the Holy Spirit. Next, Paul addresses believer’s roles in marriage and in the household. Finally, before his concluding comments, Paul reminds his readers that they are in a spiritual war with the enemy and lays out a battle plan for us to follow.

    The letter from Paul to the Colossians was written to correct the church in Colossae doctrinally, because they were being affected by wrong teaching and false doctrine. As is typical of one of Paul’s letters, he spends the first part of his letter addressing doctrine and the second half of his letter talking about putting the Christian life into practice. After offering thanksgiving and prayer for the church, Paul immediately begins to lay down the doctrine of Christ, his divinity and his saving work (1:15-23). In the third portion of Paul’s letter, he talks about his own ministry to the church at large and his concern for the local church at Colossae. Next, Paul begins his discussion of false philosophy. He warns against the false doctrines floating around in the church. Then, Paul lays out the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Paul warns his readers of spiritual dangers and exhorts the church. Finally, before his concluding remarks, Paul spends some time talking about practical Christian living. He points out sinful attitudes and actions that should be avoided and virtues that should be practiced through the power of the Holy Spirit. He also exhorts his readers to godly lives within the home and encourages them in the prayer lives. Finally, he concludes with his usual style and grace.

    Philemon is a personal letter Paul wrote to his friend, mostly on behalf of their mutual acquaintance, Onesimus. Onesimus was a slave in Philemon’s household. He apparently stole from his master and ran away. Paul wrote this letter to persuade Philemon to forgive Onesimus and accept him back as a new brother in Christ. This letter is unique in that unlike everything else written by the Apostle Paul, it has no doctrinal instruction in it whatsoever. The outline of the letter is quite simple. First, the greeting. Then, an offer of thanksgiving and prayer. His request to Philemon and then Paul signs off.

    The last of the prison epistles is Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He wrote this letter as a thank you note for the financial gifts that the Philippians had sent him. Throughout the letter he uses the word “rejoice” or one of similar meaning 16 times. Paul’s letter breaks down nicely into six sections. He starts off his letter with greetings and thanksgiving and prayer for the Philippian believers. He then talks about his personal circumstances in Rome. He tells them about the impact his ministry is having, expresses his joy at the spread of the gospel, and he shared his continued commitment with them. In the next section, Paul shares his practical exhortations to the Philippians. He petitions them for unity and for humility. He calls them to godly living. In this section, he takes a short aside to address his fellow workers Timothy and Epaphroditus and their mission to Philippi. Paul then takes chapter three to discuss his past and present need, particularly his need for Christ. In the next section, Paul shares his secrets for joyful and contented living. In the last section, Paul, once more, offers thanks for the meeting of his needs. One of the most quoted and misapplied verse of Scripture is here in this passage. Many people quote Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” However, they pull it out of context to apply to anything they wish to do in life. The context of the verse begins in verse 11.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.”

(Php 4:11-13 NET)

Paul is saying that he has learned the secret to contentment!

    The Pauline prison epistles have been called the “Christological epistles” by many commentators. Christ is the focal point of these letters. And we have Christ to thank for the inspiration to Paul for these rich and wonderful letters. Thanks be to God!


Benware, Paul N. Survey of the New Testament. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1990.

Cone, Christopher The Promises of God. Ft. Worth, TX: Exegetica Publishing & Biblical

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