• Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Essentially a witness (Greek μάρτυς) is someone who attests the fact or truth of something. The word originates in a legal context. In the New Testament, the focus is on the act of testifying, not of what the witness has seen, but of what the witness is saying. There are two other words in the NT for eyewitness.

• Luke 1:1-2 Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses (αὐτόπται) and servants of the word handed them down to us.

Αὐτόπται is the plural of αὐτόπτης. It comes from a combination of the Greek word for self and the word for see. An eyewitness is someone who sees something himself or herself.

These eyewitnesses that Luke consulted in writing his Gospel were the people who had actually seen Jesus and observed what he had done. Jesus chose not to use this word because he was calling on all believers to be witnesses – not just the eyewitnesses.

Peter was one of those eyewitnesses but he used a different word.

• 2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses (ἐπόπται) of his majesty.

Ἐπόπται is the plural of ἐπόπτης. It is the combination of the prefix for over and the verb for see. Peter was emphasizing the crucial role of the first witnesses of Christ – the leadership role of establishing the church.

The eyewitnesses were very important because they laid the foundation for the generations after them. But they were not the only witnesses. We have the same Holy Spirit they did, and we share the calling to witness. But I want to study what is means to be a witness today. What does it entail? What do witnesses of Jesus do?

I want to begin my study in Matthew 18. The word witness appears in verse 16.

• Matthew 18:16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established.

Let’s back up and read the chapter to this point. {All texts are CSB version}.

Who Is the Greatest?

• Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

The section heading comes from this verse. Jesus had made it clear that he was a king of a coming kingdom. The disciples assumed that since Jesus was using a political term like that, then if Jesus was going to be king, each of them would have a position of authority as well.

• Matthew 18:2 He called a child and had him stand among them.

What could Jesus mean by this? Maybe the disciples thought that for some reason, this particular child would be greatest. Maybe he would grow up to become a great teacher, healer, or leader? No, it was not this particular child who would be greatest.

• Matthew 18:3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Those disciples each assumed that he had a solid place in God’s kingdom by virtue of their choosing to follow Christ. But Jesus popped their balloons. He said that they had to turn and become like children or else they would not even enter the kingdom, much less lead it.

• Matthew 18:4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child – this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom will have a different way of measuring greatness. The kingdoms of the world measure greatness by personal power or attainment. Christ measures greatness by personal humility and deferment to others.

• Matthew 18:5 And whoever welcomes one child like this in my name welcomes me.

Neither of the disciples thought they were showing disrespect to Christ when they were arguing with one another about who had rank. But Jesus suggested that they were showing disrespect. They were refusing to welcome Christ. Jesus will be establishing the fact of his own existence and his purpose for the world – but he would be doing it through witnesses who are like this child.

• Matthew 18:6 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away– it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.

Now, notice how Jesus turns the subject matter of the conversation. They had been talking about who was the greatest in the kingdom. Now Jesus introduces the subject of causing people who believe to fall away. What is the connection?

The first specific connection has to do with causing simple believers to fall away from the faith.

• Matthew 18:7 Woe to the world because of offenses. For offenses will inevitably come, but woe to that person by whom the offense comes.

These offenses are stumbling blocks that lead people away from commitment to Christ. Leaders are especially liable to this because people are watching them.

Then Jesus talks about how cautious we all should be about letting sin lure us away from our commitment to Christ.

• Matthew 18:8-9 If your hand or your foot causes you to fall away, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to fall away, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hellfire.

Notice that the hell Jesus talks about is not some shadowy underworld that people’s spirits supposedly go to when they die. What is this “eternal fire” (8) and “hellfire” (9)?

First, let me tell you what it is not. Hell is not life. Twice in these verses Jesus talks about those who “enter life” but he makes it clear that those in hell have not entered life. Hell is death – the second death. Whatever pains and sorrows and suffering and shame people will experience in hell, it will not be perpetual.

So, what is the “eternal fire”? It is the permanent fire. It is the fire that destroys permanently. Paul calls it “permanent destruction” in 2 Thessalonians 1:9. That is the final state of the lost.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

• Matthew 18:10 “See to it that you don’t despise one of these little ones, because I tell you that in heaven their angels continually view the face of my Father in heaven.

Another reason we should be careful about being factual witnesses of the truth is that the little ones have angelic intercessors. If we mistreat people because we assume we are great, someone greater is there to right that wrong.

• Matthew 18:12-13 What do you think? If someone has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go and search for the stray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over that sheep more than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.

The Shepherd is going to make sure that he ends the day with the same 100 sheep he began with.

• Matthew 18:14 In the same way, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones perish.

The technical term for the one verse moral of a parable is the nimshal. The nimshal of the parable of the Lost Sheep is this verse.

So, such is the important task of those called to witness to the facts of the gospel. We cannot steamroller over the little people in our pursuit of greatness. If we do, we run the risk of not even entering the kingdom ourselves, and incur the wrath of angels, and God himself.

Restoring a Brother

• Mat 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.

The end result that Jesus is looking for is RESTORATION, not excommunication. He wants us to restore the relationship so that at the end of the day, all 100 sheep are accounted for.

Note: you might notice that the words “against you” are not in some translations. The Greek words (εἰς σὲ) are not in many of the best manuscripts, and may be a copyist addition. I think it is important to note that we have a responsibility to restore those who are falling away, even if we are not personally offended by them.

• Mat 18:16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established.

The witnesses are there to help the brother who is threatening to leave to return to the fellowship. They are there to help establish the facts. Our role as witnesses of Christ is to establish the facts. We are all needed for that. There is going to be opposition to the truth of the gospel. There are going to be challenges to the Bible’s claims. People are going to question whether Jesus was real, whether what he said was true, whether he really died on the cross, and whether he really rose from the grave. Our role as witnesses is to weigh in on the side of all these facts.

• Mat 18:17-20 If he doesn’t pay attention to them, tell the church. If he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.”

If it doesn’t work, and the sheep deserts, there is still something Jesus wants that small group to do: pray for restoration.

This first passage we have studied shows us that our role as witnesses includes evangelism, but it is more than that.

But we are not the eyewitness. The ones who saw Jesus are long dead. They left us a historical record in the Bible. Christians choose to believe that historical record.

We can also testify to what believing in Jesus has done in our own lives, and how he has changed us. We can also talk about how he has blessed others – perhaps even those in our own family.

Our witnessing should be conversational, not confrontational. Our goal is not just to “get the gospel out” but to reconcile people to God. We have to believe in the God of all one hundred sheep. That shepherd does not want to leave anyone behind.

Our witnessing is best done as a team. There is a reason that Jesus suggests bringing witnesses along. Agreement is a magical thing. It can help people see the other person’s point of view. It is collaboration, and that adds respect.

Also, our witnessing does not end once someone has professed faith in Christ. There will be challenges to people’s faith, and we will need to witness to the facts of the gospel and seek to bring the lost sheep back into the fold.

all my Afterlife articles – to date


During the past few years, I have written a substantial number of Bible studies and theological articles for a website called AFTERLIFE, based in New Zealand. Here is an alphabetical list of links to those articles.

  1. a coming kingdom
  2. A Conditional Immortality Bibliography
  3. A conditionalist looks at αἰών
  4. A final punishment bibliography
  5. a futile quest?
  6. a gospel without a resurrection
  7. a modern metaphorical view
  8. a new sky and land
  9. a resurrection perspective
  10. A soul sleep bibliography
  11. About those mansions
  12. Abraham: Machpelah
  13. Afterlife: After or Beyond?
  14. all about a Promise (part 1)
  15. all about a Promise (part 2)
  16. altered
  17. An Eastern Orthodox Perspective
  18. an invitation to study God’s exclusive immortality
  19. Attention, witnesses!
  20. being with Christ will have to wait
  21. Bell’s Base Cards | Review of Love Wins by Rob Bell
  22. better than survival | The Hope of Resurrection
  23. blaspheming heaven | Revelation 13:6
  24. Book Review of The Tree of Life Paul Sellman
  25. challenging modern mantras
  26. christian perseverance
  27. Christmas joy and peace
  28. Christmas light
  29. Christmas Myths
  30. Clarifying Evangelical Conditionalism
  31. coaching for the mission in Jewish Galilee | The light of Christ
  32. Comparing God and humans
  33. Conditional Immortality and the Tree of Life
  34. consumed
  35. Daring to say SLEEP
  36. Death is not the answer
  37. Defending a bit of unconsciousness
  38. demon mortality and Revelation 20:10
  39. Did Judas go to hell? Judas’ eternal sin?
  40. Did You Say “Sleep”? | Sleep of the dead
  41. discovered | “… and they will reign with him for a thousand years…” (Rev. 20:6).
  42. embarrassing lessons in ministry
  43. ending it all
  44. Erasing Hell Review by Jefferson Vann
  45. eternally
  46. Eternity somewhere vs the Kingdom of Heaven
  47. evangelism: an offer of the Holy Spirit
  48. everlasting
  49. excess life
  50. exchanging this world for heaven
  51. Explaining our hope
  52. exterminate!
  53. false hopes for reward
  54. first look at natural death
  55. Five questions to ask while reading the rich man and Lazarus story
  56. formed from the dust | Snips and snails
  57. God Alone is Immortal
  58. God’s mouse
  59. God’s trap
  60. Grudem on the Image of God in humanity
  61. Guidance through the dark times
  62. hard questions and heaven’s king
  63. having life, or awaiting wrath
  64. he laid down his soul for us
  65. Help for a hard parable
  66. How hell will really glorify God
  67. how to keep your soul
  68. how to receive permanent life
  69. if you died today…
  70. Immortality: a gift, not a given
  71. in good hands
  72. introducing the breath of God
  73. introducing the collector
  74. invaded | dwelling place of God
  75. Is Death a Better Place ?
  76. Isaac: other sons sent away
  77. it’s like a box of chocolates
  78. Jacob rolling over in his grave
  79. Jesus has the keys of death and Hades
  80. last climb
  81. learning to trust
  82. let my soul live
  83. life from above
  84. Life in Christ alone
  85. Life Only in Christ
  86. Limited to the visible
  87. looking at 1 Thessalonians 5:10
  88. lost souls and other insights from the First Book of Psalms
  89. more than release
  90. morning is coming
  91. Moses on the souls of animals
  92. my riddle
  93. never see death?
  94. no future
  95. no more
  96. not a better place
  97. not be there
  98. not enough | Ecclesiastes 6
  99. not welcome
  100. Not whisked off
  101. only Jesus: great shepherd of God’s flock
  102. only potentially immortal”
  103. only two destinies | Permanent Life | Permanent Death
  104. Our Resurrection | The Next ‘You’
  105. Paradise
  106. Paul’s ‘sky and land’ references
  107. perhaps you may be hidden
  108. Perish the thought
  109. permanent digs
  110. presently prohibited
  111. protective clothing | immortal body
  112. Q & A: resurrection chronology
  113. q & a: the devil hurled out
  114. q&a: the ascension of Christ
  115. Questions and Answers about Immortality
  116. Reading Romans Again – as a conditionalist
  117. Recent studies of 1 Corinthians 15 (an annotated bibliography)
  118. remembering the price of sin
  119. rescuing the text
  120. resurrection makes sense
  121. Review of “First Doctrine” | Conditional Immortality
  122. Review of Neighbor To The Nations by Ronald A. Murch
  123. Review of The Meaning of Jesus
  124. safe sinning
  125. satisfied with your presence
  126. set apart for destruction
  127. Set Free ? The soul after death
  128. sheol in the ground
  129. Sheol in the Bible: The Old Testament Consensus
  130. Should we modify conditional immortality?
  131. sky and land
  132. sky and land in Revelation
  133. Sky and land in the Gospels
  134. Solving the Problem of Hell
  135. sorry, Socrates!
  136. soul searching | What is a soul?
  137. Spoiling the Vineyard
  138. Spring up, Oh Well
  139. sustenance and sacrifice
  140. swept away
  141. Testing Pink’s presupposition
  142. The author of Hebrews chimes in
  143. the awesome power of Jesus’ presence
  144. the bloody city
  145. the body apart from the spirit | spirit in man
  146. the breath of our nostrils
  147. the collector converts
  148. the collector reflects on a mystery
  149. the collector reflects on aging
  150. the collector reflects on control
  151. the collector reflects on human mortality
  152. the collector reflects on human nature
  153. the collector reflects on life
  154. the collector reflects on success
  155. the collector reflects on the rat race
  156. the collector reflects on time
  157. the collector reflects on work
  158. the coming hour
  159. The consequences of separation
  160. The context of 1 Timothy 6:16
  161. the curse of immortality
  162. The curse of immortality Audio
  163. The dead will hear, and come out
  164. The desert snake
  165. the evolution of the afterlife
  166. the goal of Christian faith
  167. the gospel Christ preached
  168. The hook that caught me
  169. the Lamb has arrived
  170. The legacy of Millerism
  171. The one and only | Mark 12:28-30
  172. the promise | eternal life
  173. The promise of permanence
  174. the purpose of hell
  175. the real rescue
  176. the resurrection is Jesus
  177. The Rich man and Lazarus and the intermediate state
  178. The sky above – shamayim, the land beneath – erets
  179. The sky God is supreme
  180. The Stars and the Future by Jefferson Vann
  181. the third answer
  182. The true resurrection
  183. the unity that he prayed for
  184. the unsatisfied artist
  185. the wrath to come
  186. three ruined outfits
  187. three Solomons
  188. throwing away the earthly tent
  189. Thrown away from your grave
  190. time and chance
  191. To be gathered to his people”
  192. to die is gain
  193. tomorrow – fallen | Revelation 18:2
  194. tomorrow – ready
  195. Tough times and Christian discipleship
  196. Tough times and Christian faith
  197. Tough times and Christian identity
  198. tripping over words
  199. two gardens
  200. Unto You is born this day…”
  201. Up in smoke
  202. victory through resurrection
  203. wading through the “simplicity”
  204. waiting at the station
  205. Waking to taunt Babylon
  206. Was Adam created immortal?
  207. watch your language
  208. what God wants of you
  209. What if we taught John 3:16?
  210. What is an evangelical ?
  211. What is Life ? Life is…
  212. what little boys are made of
  213. what the dead really know
  214. where did all the spirits go?
  215. which assembly?
  216. why conditionalism matters – exposing the lie
  217. worth continuing forever
  218. wrong about hell
  219. you two point oh
  220. Αἰώνιος in the New Testament – the four adverbial instances
  221. Αἰώνιος in the New Testament – the fourth attributive instances
  222. Αἰώνιος | aiónios in the New Testament – the first attributive occurrences
  223. Αἰώνιος in the New Testament – the second attributives
  224. Αἰώνιος in the New Testament – three rare instances

installation service for PACCI officers


Here are the notes to my installation service for the Philippine Advent Christian Conference officers, on may 17, 2017.

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
29  “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
30  and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
31  “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.

προσχετε αυτος – Hold
yourselves accountable!

The word translated “be on guard” is προσχω which combines the verb “to have or hold” with the preposition for “to”
or “with.” The idea is to hold yourselves as a team to the same standards. That
entails not only keeping yourself strong and mistake free, but also having the
same concern for the other members of your team. I charge you to hold
yourselves to your agreed standards. These include:

  • maturity
  • integrity
  • credibility
  • authenticity
  • holiness


ποιμανειν τν κκλησαν – Shepherd
the church!


A shepherd’s
job description
is that he risks his life in
order to…

  • feed the flock
  • provide rest and security for the flock
  • prevent straying from the flock
  • restore the lost to the flock

Paul told the Ephesian elders to shepherd the church, all of these activities
were implied. So, today I charge you to take on that shepherding responsibility
for the conference and its churches.


γρηγορετε τν λκων – Watch out for the wolves!


Paul also warned of dangers that the
Ephesian elders would face. There would be dangers from outside the church and
dangers inside the church. Paul described those dangers as wolves.


  • Wolves
    in wolves clothing

  • Antichristian religions

  • secularism

  • Politicians and parties seeking

  • Wolves
    in sheep’s clothing

  • movements demanding exclusive loyalty
    and betrayal of others

  • theologies watering down the gospel

  • philosophies dangerous to the
    conference’s identity

  • people seeking to divide and separate
    the conference.

How Christian growth happens

prayer or quote pic (193)

Hebrews 5:11-6:3 NASB

11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. 1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do, if God permits.

The teacher of the Hebrews had already said much about Christ.

First, he identified Jesus as the eternal Son of God.

  • · The ultimate spokesman for God (1:2).
  • · The appointed heir of all things (1:2).
  • · The creator of the world (1:2,10).
  • · The radiance of God’s glory (1:3).
  • · The exact representation of God’s nature (1:3).
  • · One member of the trinity declared to be the Son of the Father (1:5; 5:5).
  • · Heir of an eternal kingdom passed on from the Father (1:8).

Then, he is identified as greater than the angels.

  • · No angel was begotten as God’s Son (1:5).
  • · The angels were commanded to worship the Son (1:6).
  • · No angels were enthroned and given the promise of victory (1:13)

Then, he identified Jesus as the High Priest of the new covenant.

  • · To qualify, he had to be made temporarily lower than the angels (2:7,9).
  • · He suffered to become the author and source of salvation for many sons (2:10; 5:9).
  • · He had to be fully human to become a merciful and faithful high priest (2:17).
  • · He is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession (3:1).
  • · He is the one who can bring us into God’s rest (4:8-11).
  • · He has passed through the sky as our great high priest (4:14).
  • · He is a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek (5:6)

Then, he identified Jesus as greater than Moses.

  • · Moses was a servant in God’s house, but Jesus was its builder (3:3-6a).

But now the teacher of the Hebrews takes a little break. He confesses that it is hard to go on with his lessons, because his listeners are failing to apply what they hear.

  • · “Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing” (5:11).

o The word translated “dull” is νωθρς which means to ‘be backward’ in something, or ‘not applying oneself’ to something, sluggish, to the extent of appearing to be stupid.

  • · “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God,” (5:12a).

o The word translated “elementary principles” is στοιχεον which means one item in a στοῖχος ‘series, row’, ‘part of a complex whole.’

  • · “you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant” (5:12b-13).

o The word translated “infant” is νπιος, ‘a child in an early period of life’, and it is the same word that the apostle Paul used in Ephesians 4:14: “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.”

  • · “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

o The word translated “mature” is τλειος, meaning ‘free from any deficiency, omission, or corruption.’ It is the same word that the apostle Paul used in Ephesians 4:13: “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

So, Now the teacher explains how Christian growth happens. How do we get from infants in Christ to mature in Christ.

  • · To explain the idea of Christian growth, the teacher needs to change his metaphor. So he stops talking about infants and milk, and he now talks about a building and its foundation stones.
  • · “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation” (Hebrews 6:1a).
  • · The building of the Christian life is founded upon three major foundation stones: Repentance, Faith, and Instructions. These are the elementary principles that the teacher mentioned in 5:12, and the “elementary teaching about Christ” that he mentioned in 6:1.

o Repentance is μετνοια, ‘a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or course of behaviour.’ When a person has truly repented, his heart and mind is now predisposed to follow Christ. Repentance from “dead works” entails a new commitment to do living works, following Christ’s example and teachings.

o Faith is πστις, which includes belief in, confidence in, trust in, and faithfulness to something. Faith towards God is placing yourself entirely in his hands, obeying his will, and trusting in his plan.

o The instructions that make up the third foundation stone consists of teaching about how your repentance from sin and faith in God will now affect your life today, your future hope, and your attitude toward unbelievers. The teacher lists four different instructions.

  1. § First, a new believer must understand that to follow Christ, he will have to undergo some baptisms. These probably include water baptism as a sign of the believer’s identity in Christ, Holy Spirit baptism for empowerment and guidance, and perhaps baptism into suffering to develop perseverance.
  2. § Secondly, a new believer will be gifted with certain spiritual gifts and ministries, and these were usually accompanied by the laying on of hands.
  3. § Thirdly, a new believer has a new confidence that although he will die just like all those in Adam will die, his future inheritance is sure because of Jesus’ promise to raise him from the dead.
  4. § Finally, a new believer understands that unbelievers all around him are in danger of being destroyed in the final and permanent judgment. This awareness brings with it an urgent need to reconcile unbelievers to God in Christ.

So, now let us depict what the teacher has said visually:


So, to summarize: