If therefore you shall not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come on you. Jesus gave a crucial end-time prophecy shortly before His crucifixion, recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age? Sadly, many are deceived.
When a person thinks he has more than enough time to get ready, he is seriously tempted to let down spiritually Matthew Matthew 49 And shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looks not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, 51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The parable of the 10 virgins Matthew Matthew 1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. There is much to pray about regarding the present and the future. Of course, Jesus did not mean that we are to only focus our prayers on our own survival and salvation.
And watching is sometimes connected with staying spiritually sober, meaning sober-minded 1 Thessalonians 1 Thessalonians 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. Staying aware of the powerful behind-the-scenes role of Satan and his demons enables us to understand the atrocious evil and madness of this world.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. In doing so, we should focus on news that is significant rather than sensational. Let your knowledge of end-time prophecy guide you in your selections. People get depressed when they feel helpless. But by watching and praying, we are strengthened. A Christlike attitude is one of sympathy, empathy and compassion for your fellow countrymen and for all humanity. Our God-ordained responsibility is to watch and pray. Our Master and role model Jesus Christ certainly understood the issues, politics and personalities of His day.
At the same time, we must avoid the mistake of going to the other extreme—studying world affairs, history and even conspiracy theories more than the Bible. But he that takes warning shall deliver his soul. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. The role of the Church has some similarity to the role of the Old Testament prophets. The word gospel means good news, and the true gospel includes the wonderful news that Jesus Christ will soon return to give us true peace on earth! With each issue, some of the articles bring up-to-date reports on significant world events and trends and explain how they tie in with the Bible prophecies of the end time.
Keep watching! Perhaps the best summary of this subject is this sobering warning from Jesus Christ in Mark Mark 35 Watch you therefore: for you know not when the master of the house comes, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning: 36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. Don Hooser is a minister and writer for the publications of United Church of God. He was born in Dallas and grew up mostly in east Texas. Elsie is from Detroit, Michigan.
They have three grown children, Amy, Randy, and Danny. He wasn't too strong in faith with regard to the supernatural, tended to deal with material things, had to see it, wanted it in his hands. He was the one who was analytical, pessimistic, reluctant, unsure, slow to believe and trust. His faith tended to be limited by circumstances, money, rules, and proof. But in the end, God by His grace overcame all of that in him and he became a great apostle, ultimately dying, as we saw, as a martyr.
That brings us to number six in the list of the twelve. His name is given here in verse 14 as Bartholomew, Bartholomew. He is better known as Nathanael, also called Nathanael, as we shall see in the one passage where he is presented in the entire New Testament. To see that passage, turn to John chapter 1.
Let me just say a little about his name while you're turning there. Nathanael means "gift of God. It is Elohim, a portion of Elohim. And so Nathan-el, Nathanael is a gift of God.
Bartholomew literally means "son of Tolmai. And so he is Nathanael, son of Tolmai, Bar-Tolmai. It may have been that his father's name was Tolmai. That's probably the most likely. But there's a secondary possibility. There was among the Hebrews a sect. They were called Tolmaians because their leader was named Tolmai. This sect was devoted to the study of Scripture. They gave much attention to the scriptures. It may be that Nathanael, Bar-Tolmai was the son of a man named Tolmai, or some have suggested, though it's a bit more obscure, that it may mean he was a member of a group called Tolmaians.
He was there for a son of Tolmai, in the sense that he was a follower of the man who started the group, whose devotion to Scripture marked him uniquely. He is Nathanael anyway, son of Tolmai. He came from the town of Cana, Cana in Galilee, really very, very close, in a short walking distance, from Nazareth. He was brought to Jesus by Philip, and every time you see the listing of the apostles, Philip and Nathanael or Philip and Bartholomew are always linked together.
So they were friends through the years of their journey with Christ. Not unlike Peter and Andrew who were together as brothers, James and John who were together as brothers, you find these two, not brothers, but close companions in all the listings of the apostles they are identified alongside each other. Now let's meet Nathanael Bar-Tolmai by looking at the first chapter of John, and verse This is the only place where he's identified in the New Testament. Verse 43 picks up the story of Jesus in the time in which He was calling disciples.
John the Baptist had pointed to Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The ministry of Jesus then officially began. Jesus called Simon and Andrew in the prior passage to be His disciples. Later on they would become Apostles. At this point He just called them to be disciples.
And then on the very next day after He had done that, He purposed to go into Galilee and He found Philip. And He said to him, "Follow Me. They had very much in common. They were true believers of the true God and they were desirous of the coming of Messiah and they followed Jesus, hoping Him to be that Messiah for whom they had waited. Now Philip, it says in verse 45, found Nathanael. They were acquaintances. We don't know what that acquaintance was about.
We don't know whether it was a professional one, whether it was a family one, whether it was social, whatever it was. Philip found Nathanael. And the implication here is that he knew him, that he immediately went and pursued him and got him because he wanted to tell him what he himself had discovered concerning the Messiah. Nathanael then was found by Philip where Philip was found by the Lord Himself. Obviously God was sovereignly overruling any circumstances that would cause any other finding to take place so that what happened was His perfect will. And it was the will of God that Philip pursue Nathanael and bring him to Jesus, which is exactly what he did.
Now Philip's conversation with Nathanael gives us some introduction to what kind of a guy he was.
Come And See
What matters to Nathanael is Scripture. Philip knows his friend Nathanael. He knows that Nathanael views things from the Scripture's standpoint. And so when he goes to him to introduce the Messiah that he has found, or has found him, he does so from the standpoint of Old Testament prophecy.
This is to indicate to us that Nathanael and probably Philip together were students of the Old Testament. He doesn't say to him, I found a man who has a wonderful plan for your life. He doesn't say, I found a man who will fix your marriage. He doesn't say any of those kinds of things that might appeal to some other element of the personality of Nathanael. He hits him where he lives. This indicates to us that he was a searcher of Scripture, that he is a seeker after divine truth. And I really believe that with the exception of Judas Iscariot, all of the apostles were to some degree seekers after divine truth.
That is, their hearts were right before God. They were sincere in their love for God and their desire to know the truth and to know the Messiah. In that sense they were very different than the religious establishment which was dominated by hypocrisy. They were the real thing. And so Philip finds his close friend, Nathanael Bartholomew, and he tells him, "We have found the one about whom we have studied so long. Very likely together they had poured long hours over the Scripture. Very likely they had searched the law and the prophets to discern the truth about the coming of Messiah.
And it was really because Nathanael was so well trained in Scripture, perhaps better than Philip, but it was because he was so well versed in Scripture that he was so immediate in his response to Jesus. He was able to recognize Jesus so clearly because he had such a clear understanding of what the Scripture said about Him. He knew what the promises said, so he knew what the fulfillment was. He knew Him of whom Moses and the prophets had written when He showed up. Not immediately upon the first introduction of Philip, but immediately upon the first introduction of Jesus he recognized Him.
So, Philip says to him, here's the amazing part, end of verse 45, "It is Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. That's where you get the name Josephson, or Albertson, or any other of those kinds of names that find their way through Anglo language, which identifies someone as the son of someone else. Your second name is an identifying name with your family. It identifies you with your father. That's the idea, isn't it? I mean, there's an effort in feminism to change that, but historically since the beginning of time immemorial, if you will, people have been identified by the father's name.
Common Men, Uncommon Calling: Nathanael
And so this man named Jesus, which may have been a common name, Yeshua, Joshua really, same name, is the Jesus who is the son of Joseph and from the town of Nazareth. And there had to be a certain amount of surprise even in the voice of Philip as he was saying, "You'll never believe this, this. It's the son of Joseph, the man named Jesus up in Nazareth. And verse 46 we get a little further insight into Nathanael; he as a student of Scripture, a searcher for the true knowledge of God. That's right, his spiritual side was strong and faithful and diligent, honest, but he was human.
And here's his response, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Bethlehem, not Nazareth. He just flat says, "Could anything good come out of Nazareth? Oh come on, that is a general statement that manifests a prejudice. That's not rational, that's emotional. Now he didn't live in such a hot town himself, Cana. I've been there a few times. Cana was in walking distance from Nazareth but it was off the beaten track and Nazareth was a crossroads. If you go north and south in the ancient world, you go through Nazareth. If you're going up the coastland of Israel, you eventually get into the Galilee and you go through Nazareth as you head forward to eat, sleep and get supplies.
And if you're going east to west, you're going to go through Nazareth, very likely coming from the east headed toward the Mediterranean, or the opposite. It was a crossroads, it was a rough town. It was an unrefined town. It was an uneducated town. It is still the same, much the same way. It's not You probably think of it as a picturesque kind of place, it isn't.
It has a nice setting on the slopes of the hills up there in Galilee, but it's There was an unrefined and uneducated lot that lived there. The Galileans even looked down on the Nazarenes and the Judeans looked down on the Galileans and really looked down on the Nazarenes. And again, you get this idea that God finds some pleasure by not only using the commonest of people but having them come from the most despised locations so that essentially they have nothing going for them, except that they're used to transform the world and in the end the only explanation for that is God, so He gets all the glory.
It is inconceivable to Nathanael Bartholomew that the Messiah would come out of that tacky place called Nazareth, the rough place, an evil place, a sinful place, corrupt place. Well that would have been OK, I mean, if he had said, "It's an evil place," but to say, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? A little bit of town jealousy maybe, cause Cana was certainly forgettable.
And if Jesus hadn't turned water into wine there at a wedding, nobody would have ever given it a thought.
Prejudice is an ugly thing. It's uncalled for generalization based on feelings of superiority, not based on fact. But prejudice is very effective in cutting people off from the truth. In fact, I suppose in one sense we could say that the whole nation of Israel rejected their Messiah because of prejudice. They didn't believe their Messiah should come out of Nazareth either.
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They didn't believe their Messiah and all of His apostles could come out of Galilee. And they mocked the apostles as uneducated Galileans. They didn't like the fact that Jesus spoke against the religious establishment. And from the religious leaders on down to the hoi polloi, the people sitting in the synagogue, it was their prejudices that caused them to reject Him, even in His own town as we learn in the fourth chapter of Luke.
Jesus went into the synagogue, His own synagogue where He grew up in His own town of Nazareth, and He went in there and He preached and they hated His message. They were so filled with prejudice against Him and against what He said that after He preached the sermon they tried to take Him out to a cliff on the edge of town and throw Him off a cliff and kill Him. It was really this prejudice that skewed their view of the Messiah. And you have all the scribes and Pharisees, all the religious elite who were whited sepulchers That is they were hypocrites, wretched on the inside and white-washed on the outside.
They were filled with prejudice against Jesus because He unmasked their wickedness, because He told them what the truth was about themselves, and about God and about Himself and about salvation. It was their prejudice against Him as a Galilean, prejudice against Him as an uneducated person outside the religious establishment, prejudice against His message, prejudice against Him every way that literally shut them off from the gospel. They refused to hear Him because they were prejudiced against Him.
John Bunyan understood this and when he wrote his famous allegory, The Holy War, which pictures God coming down to conquer a soul, he tells about Immanuel, that's God, and the forces of Immanuel coming to the town of Mansoul. And the forces of Immanuel coming to the town of Mansoul are coming to bring the gospel to Mansoul. And they direct their assault on Mansoul at the Eargate because faith comes by hearing, so Bunyan understood that in his allegory.
But Diabolos, who was the enemy of Immanuel and His forces and wants to hold Mansoul captive to hell, decides to meet the attack by stationing at the Eargate, which is the gate in which Immanuel's forces come, stationing at the Eargate old Bunyan writes, "Old Mr. Prejudice, an angry and ill-conditioned fellow," he writes, "and Diabolos put under his power sixty men called Deafmen.
Very vivid. Men's ears are often closed to the gospel by prejudice, racial prejudice, social prejudice, religious prejudice, whatever. And this effectively caused the Jewish nation to remain deaf to the Messiah. Diabolos had stationed at the Eargate of Israel the deaf. That is why when Jesus came into His own synagogue and spoke the truth, they were deaf to it and tried to kill Him, throw Him off a cliff. It's still that way today. Moving from deafness you could borrow the vivid imagery of Paul, "The god of this world has blinded their eyes.
Was Nathanael influenced by that? He lived in a society that was prejudicial by temperament, nature, because all sinful people are We all make prejudiced statements. We all draw prejudicial conclusions about certain people and certain classes, and certain societies.
And we make these crazy generalizations which are sinful. And so he was like all the rest of us, but his prejudice had expanded a little bit and attached itself to a whole town. So he was prejudiced, at least at that point. But, Philip said to him, verse 46, "Come and see. It's not based on fact; it's based on feeling. It's not based on reality; it's based on sense of superiority. And Philip knew that the solution to his friend's prejudice was, "Come and see, come and see. And he went. A prejudiced mind, but I think a seeking heart and his seeking heart overpowered his prejudiced mind.
And now we learn about him the most important thing and we hear it from the lips of Jesus. Can't imagine a more wonderful thing than to have one's commendation come out of the mouth of Jesus. Verse 47, "Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him and He said of him, 'Behold, an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile. What a statement. It would be one thing if that at the end of your life, you know, you hear this at a funeral, somebody dies and the preacher says, "Well, they're going to heaven where they're going to hear, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.
How would you like that at the beginning? This man was pure from the outset. Oh sure he was human, sure he was flawed. We're all flawed and one of his flaws was he had prejudice. But it was also true of him that he was an Israelite indeed, for real, alths , genuinely, truly an Israelite.
What's He talking about? He's talking about his descent from Abraham? No, not in the physical sense. He's not talking about his blood, his genetics. What do you mean he's a true Israelite? He's an Israelite who is true because in him there's no guile. That's what defines it. Guile is deceit, deception. What Jesus is saying is, you know, for the most part the Israelites are not real, not real.
A Jew is a Jew who is one inwardly. Here was an inward Jew. Here was one who worshiped the true and living God. This is the real thing. You're My true disciple. This was a true disciple from the start in whom there is no deception. There was no hypocrisy and this is very unusual. When Jesus indicted the religious establishment of Israel, He indicted them as hypocrites.
And here was a non-hypocritical Jew. The synagogues were full of hypocrites. He found that out in His own synagogue when He preached and they tried to kill Him because He had unmasked the true condition of their hypocritical hearts. Here was a man who was a true Israelite and a true Israelite is one who is an Israelite on the inside. What does that mean? His heart's been cleansed. This was a This was a righteous man.
This was a man who knew the true God and loved Him and served Him. Flawed, of course, because everybody is, but he was the real thing. He wasn't like the scribes. He wasn't like the Pharisees and most of the rest of the people.
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He was trustworthy, genuine. Well, the response of Nathanael Nathanael, verse 48, said to Him, "How do You know me? How do You know me? I realize you can interpret things a lot of ways, but if you put yourself in the context, what do you think he's saying here? He's questioning whether this man can be the Messiah that Philip says is the Messiah. He's questioning it. Not that he questions Philip, Philip is his friend. It's not that he questions the Scripture, it's just that this man from Nazareth doesn't seem to fit the picture, son of a carpenter, a no-name, non-descript guy named Joseph, who comes from a town that has no connection to prophecy, doesn't even exist in the Old Testament, so what's the point?
He just can't believe it.
He shows up and Jesus says to him, "Ah, an Israelite indeed in whom there's no deceit. He said, "How do You know me? Are You just trying How can You possibly say that? That's a pretty That's a pretty straightforward come on. I mean, how in the world could You say that about me? I think he sees it as a just a little schmoozing of Him to bring him into the group. And Jesus answered and said to him, "Well, before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you. Now this is a whole different deal. Now we're not talking about flattery, we're talking about omniscience.
Well, Jesus wasn't there, Nathanael knew that.
I saw you there. I saw you under the fig tree. This is omniscience. And I think there may be a little more in this. All the little things in Scripture make it fascinating to me. Poor people lived in a one-room house, for the most part, in Israel. And you did everything in a house and the house could get full of smoke and it could get stuffy and also was very hot.