The Angel Gabriel Lends a Hand – Daniel 8:15-27



The “man” here (v. 15) is identified as the angel “Gabriel” (v. 16 cf. Lu. 1:26), and “the man’s voice” must have be-longed to God, for only He can order angels around.  But here we have a dispensational difference.  Under God’s program for Israel, He taught His truth to angels and used them to teach the people of Israel, as Gabriel is about to do here.  Under grace, He teaches us His truth through His Word, then uses us to teach angels (Eph. 3:10).

Now the reason God used a man’s voice is that His own voice thunders (II Sam. 22:14; Job 37:4, 5; 40:9, etc.), and thunder can be scary. And God knew Daniel was about to be frightened by the mere presence of Gabriel (cf. v. 17).  Angels usually say “Fear not” when someone sees them (Mt. 28:5; Lu. 1:13, 30; 2:10) because they are so awesome looking!  If someone tells you they saw an angel, and doesn’t mention fear, you know he didn’t see one.  We have Paul’s word on it that they are “not seen” in this dispensation (Col. 2:18).

People in the Bible always fall on their face when they see an angel or the Lord (v. 17).  Only God’s enemies fall backward in the Bible (Isa. 28:13; John 18:3-6), yet they often fall backward when touched by modern “healers”!

Evidently Daniel fell on his face because he fainted (v. 18).  That means he couldn’t hear what Gabriel said!  He could tell us what he said, for he wrote by the Spirit, and the Spirit heard Gabriel.  That’s one of the many proofs we have that the Spirit wrote the Bible.  Gabriel could lift him with just a touch because of his great strength (v. 18 cf. 10:10).  He then repeated what he said when Daniel was passed out (v. 19).

“Indignation” is anger caused by something someone did that you find extremely offensive (Mark 14:3-8; Lu. 13:14).  Antichrist will do something extremely offensive to God (v. 19) when he speaks against Him (Dan. 11:36) by claiming to be God (II Thes. 2:3, 4), making God righteously indignant.

The ram Daniel saw in 8:1-3 is here identified as Media-Persia (8:20), and the goat he saw in 8:5-7 is identified as Greece (8:1).  “The first king” of Greece, Alexander, was “broken” when he died drunk (cf. Jer. 23:9).  So he didn’t  give His “four” generals (8:22) his kingdom “in his power,” but rather in his weakness.

That’s when the antichrist was supposed to rise (8:23), and transgressions were to have “come to the full” in the Tribulation.  When that happened, God was supposed to judge Israel (Mt. 23:35, 36) in the Tribulation.  “Understanding dark sentences” probably means he’ll be something of a genius.

Antichrist was supposed to rise out of “one” of those four kingdoms (Dan. 8:8, 9, 11), but the mystery interrupted things.  But after the mystery ends at the Rapture, he will rise out of the Syrian branch to the north, for he is often called “the Assyrian” (Ezek. 31:3-7; Micah 5:2-6).  The “dragon” (Rev. 20:2) will give him his power (8:24 cf. Rev. 13:1, 2).

The mighty and holy people he’ll destroy (8:24) is Israel.  They’re called mighty because God multiplied them (cf. Ex. 1:7) and holy because He set them apart from the world.  Antichrist will “prosper” by all the things his church in Babylon will buy and sell (Rev. 18), including the “craft” (8:24) of idolatry (cf. Deut. 27:15; Hos. 13:2; Acts 19:24-27).

The beast will also destroy many by peace (8:25), because in the beginning he’ll be a peacemaker (11:21).  But when they say “peace and safety” the “sudden destruction” of the last half of Daniel’s 70th week will fall on them (I Thes. 5:3), followed by the Lord’s “sudden” coming (Mal. 3:1,2).  But he’ll be broken “without hands” (v. 25), i.e., without human instrumentality (cf. Col. 2:11).  The Lord won’t need human help to defeat the Antichrist and his armies (Isa. 63:1-4).

That all sounds pretty unbelievable, so Gabriel told Daniel it’s all “true” (8:26).  He mentions that Daniel had an evening and morning vision because “the evening and the morning” were the first day, etc. (Gen. 1), and his vision was about the dawn of a new day—the day of the Lord.  But it wouldn’t be “for many days” (8:26 cf. 10:14).  Finally, after seeing such stupendous things, Daniel just went back to work (8:27), just as we must after seeing them in Scripture.

Video of this sermon is available on YouTube: The Angel Gabriel Lends a Hand – Daniel 8:15-27

The Prophecy at the Palace – Daniel 8:1-14



Daniel wrote Daniel 2:4-7:28 in Syriack so the Gentiles nations could read their future in their language.  But beginning here in Daniel 8:1, he resumes writing in the Jewish language of Hebrew, for He is about to start revealing clues as to who the antichrist will be and where he will come from.  That’s information that Jews will need in the Tribulation, so God had Daniel write it in their language.

“Shushan” (8:2) is where they hanged Haman and his 10 sons (Esther 7:10; 9:13).  He was a type of Antichrist and his ten “toe” kings (Dan. 2:41).  In giving Daniel this vision of the antichrist in Shushan, that’s God’s way of assuring Tribulation Jews not to worry about Antichrist and his 10 kings, for God will slay them as He did Haman and his 10 sons.

The “ram” (v.3) was Media-Persia (8:20).  One horn represented Media, the other Persia.  The reason the one that came up last was “higher” is that eventually Persia became the dominant kingdom.  That’s why Media gets top billing at first (Dan. 5:28; 6:8, 12, 15), but later Persia did (Esther 1:19).

The reason no nation could stand before Media-Persia (8:4) was that God helped the king of Persia become powerful (Isa. 45:1-3).  Babylon destroyed God’s temple and He wanted “vengeance” on Babylon for His temple (Jer. 51:11).

The “he goat” (Dan. 8:5, 6) is Greece (8:21), which is “west” of Media-Persia.  He “touched not the ground” in that Greece conquered Media-Persia in 3 short years, seeming to fly against them.  The “notable horn” is “the first king” of Greece (8:21), Alexander the Great.  When he was “strong” at age 33 he got drunk and died, “broken” of a fever (8:8).  When he died, “four notable ones” took his place and divided up the kingdom of Greece (8:21, 22).  History says Alexander’s four generals fulfilled this prophecy.

The “pleasant land” (8:9) is Israel, a land filled with milk and honey, and the “little horn” that rises against it is thought by many commentators to be Antiochus Epiphanes, who attacked “the holy people” of Israel as Daniel 8:23, 24 says this little horn will. But he didn’t “stand up against the Prince of princes” (8:25).  He died before Christ was even born.

So the little horn must be the antichrist, who was supposed to rise up from among those 4 generals, but didn’t because the mystery interrupted this prophecy.  But after the rapture he will, and “wax” (8:10) or grow great (cf. Gen. 26:13).  He’ll start out small and insignificant-looking, but magnify himself against “the host of heaven” (8:10), e.g., God’s heavenly host of angels (cf. Lu. 2:13).  Antiochus didn’t.

The “stars” (Dan. 8:10) Antichrist will cast down from heaven are the fallen angels of Persia and Greece (10:13, 20).  When they see him conquering the earthly kingdoms of Persia and Greece, they’ll object and try to defend them.  Satan’s kingdom is one of envy and strife and hatred.

Antichrist will magnify himself against Israel’s Christ (8:11), the prince of God’s host (cf. Josh. 5:13, 14) by claiming to be Israel’s Christ (II Thes. 2:3, 4).  When he does that, he’ll take away the daily sacrifice (Ex. 29:29, 30, 38) by dying and rising again (Rev. 13:4) and claiming he died for their sins, fulfilling the type of those sacrifices.  That’s how he’ll take away those sacrifices.  That’s the abomination the Lord warned about (Mt. 24:15, 16), and Daniel 11:31 says it shall take away the daily sacrifice.  The only seat he can “sit” on in the temple (II Thes. 2:3, 4) is the mercy seat.  Sitting where the blood of the daily sacrifice was usually sprinkled is how he takes those sacrifices away.

That will get his people so excited they’ll cast down the sanctuary of the temple (8:11 cf. 9:26), causing a “host” of people to follow him (8:12 cf. 11:31-35).  For him to claim to be Christ, he’ll have to cast down the truth that Jesus is their Christ (John 14:6).  They will “practice” (8:12) their religion, that of enforcing the mark of the beast, without which many will be hungry and thirsty (Isa. 32:6).  That will cause believers to suffer financially when they lose their businesses, which will cause their oppressors to “prosper” (8:12).  It will take 220 days for the temple to be built (Dan. 8:13, 14 cf. Rev. 11:2, 3), but it will finally be cleansed by the Lord’s coming.

Video of this sermon is available on YouTube: The Prophecy at the Palace – Daniel 8:1-14

Father to Father

I once read a testimonial from a father who lamented being so consumed with his career that he did not share his faith with his children. The result was that one of his sons plunged himself into a lifestyle of atheism, drug addiction, immorality, and other destructive behaviors. Some estimate that six out of ten who were raised in sound fundamental churches become 100% spiritually disengaged once they become adults.

It is amazing that only one generation after the nation of Israel was miraculously given their prosperous “promised land,” the next generation was spiritually lost. Judges 2:10 describes it this way: “…and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel.” How could this have happened after so many blessings and dynamic miracles?

The answer is the older generation, and the men in particular, failed that generation spiritually. When they sat in their houses with their families, walked or worked together, retired for the night, or rose for the day, they were to “teach them diligently” the things of the Lord (Deut. 6:7).

We who know the Lord must awaken to our spiritual responsibilities to bring up our children, and grandchildren, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. With no excuses, we men need to “man up,” making this our top priority. Will you join the rank of the faithful who pass on their faith to the next generation?

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.

Two Minutes with the Bible lets you start your day with short but powerful Bible study articles from the Berean Bible Society. Sign up now to receive Two Minutes With the Bible every day in your email inbox. We will never share your personal information and you can unsubscribe at any time.

The Trouble With Daniel – Daniel 7:15-28



Daniel’s vision “troubled” him (v. 15) so he asked a bystander what it meant (v. 16).  His vision took place in heaven (v.13,14) so this bystander must have been part of the “cloud” of angels that brought the Lord to His Father (v. 13).  He interpreted the vision, as another angel did in Zechariah 1:8,9.

The four beasts (v. 17) were kings who appeared 2,000 years ago (8:21, 22) and were supposed to produce the antichrist (7:8).  “The first king” of Grecia was Alexander, who was “broken” when he died and four kings took over Greece, as history also affirms.  But the mystery interrupted this prophecy and four more kings will arise in the Tribulation.

Verse 17 says these kings would “arise out of the earth,” making them human kings as opposed to angels who would descend from heaven.  But 7:3 says they’d arise from the sea, a type of the Gentiles, so they’ll be Gentile human kings.

The “kingdom” that those Jewish kingdom “saints” will “take” (v. 18) is the kingdom of the four beasts.  That’s when an angel will cry what we hear in Revelation 11:15.

After the angel gave Daniel an abbreviated version of his dream, Daniel asks for more information about the fourth kingdom (v.19), the one that will produce the antichrist (v. 20).  One of the reasons that kingdom will be able to “stamp” the others is that the antichrist will be more “stout” than them.  “Stout” means strong.  King Saul was a type of the antichrist, and he was big (I Sam. 9:2) and strong (II Sam. 1:23).  “Stout” can also mean proud (Isa. 9:9), and pride will be Antichrist’s fall, just as it was Lucifer’s.

After Antichrist conquers those kingdoms, he’ll begin to persecute the saints (Dan. 7:21 cf. 8:23, 24). We know this will begin mid-Trib, for that’s how long he lets the two witnesses preach (Rev. 11:3-7) as he tries to appear to be Israel’s Christ.  This persecution will end when Christ returns (Dan. 7:22).

Judgment was “given” to the saints in the sense that they’ll be made the world’s judges (Rev. 20:4 cf. Mt. 19:28), judging the earth while we “judge angels” in heaven (I Cor. 6:3).  Of course, they could only righteously “possess” the kingdom (Dan. 7:22) if it were given to them by the rightful possessor of heaven and earth, and that’s God.  That’s what that phrase “the Most High” means in Scripture (v. 22 cf. Gen. 14:18-20).

The angel adds (v. 23) that Antichrist will be able to subdue “the whole earth” by subduing three of the ten kings (v. 24 cf. Zech. 11:8-17), after which the other seven and the world are intimidated by him.  We know this because he begins his career with only one crown (Rev. 6:2) but later ends up with ten (Rev. 13:1), after which the world is intimidated (13:3, 4).  After that he’ll speak “great words against the most High” (7:25) claiming to be God (II Thes. 2:3, 4)

He’ll “wear out the saints” (7:25) or weary them by issuing his mark and making it impossible to buy food or water (cf. Job 22:7).  God will increase their strength with “eagle’s wings” (Isa. 40:29-31).  That’s what God did in the wilder-ness (Ex. 19:4) by giving them manna from heaven and water from a rock, and that’s how He’ll “nourish” them in the Tribulation as well (Micah 7:14; Rev. 12:13, 14).

Antichrist won’t weary or wear out the saints just to make them tired, but to make it easier to kill them, as Amalek smote them when they were “weary” (Deut. 25:17, 18) after they thirsted for water (Ex. 17:3-8).  A type of the antichrist named Absalom did the same to David (II Sam. 17:1-3), who was on the run from him, and David was a type of these persecuted Tribulation saints who’ll be on the run from Antichrist.  Antichrist will also wear out the saints with his sorcerers (Isa. 47:13 cf. Rev. 18:21, 23).  Satan always tries to wear us out, so we must keep Galatians 6:9 in mind.

Judgment will be given to those saints (Dan. 7:26) and the world will be theirs (v. 27).  The times of the Gentiles will end and the time when God’s people in Israel are back in charge of the world will begin again and never end.

Daniel didn’t understand it all, so he did what Mary did when she didn’t understand it all (7:28 cf. Lu. 2:19, 51).

Video of this sermon is available on YouTube: The Trouble With Daniel – Daniel 7:15-28

What About Passing an Offering Plate?

“What are your thoughts on passing a collection plate? I went to a grace fellowship recently where they did that. I believe that is a ritual that causes some to feel obligated to give, and not with a cheerful heart (2 Cor. 9:7).”

At the church that I pastor in addition to my duties here at Berean Bible Society, we receive offerings using an offering box, similar to what we read about in 2 Kings 12:9. But passing an offering plate is not incompatible with grace. “Concerning the collection” (1 Cor. 16:1), the apostle of grace told the Corinthians,

“Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (v. 2).

The words lay up in Scripture suggest putting something in a container (Gen. 41:35; Ex. 16:23; Deut. 11:18; Job 22:22,24; Psa. 33:7; Matt. 6:20; 1 Tim. 6:19), while the word gatherings suggests passing an offering plate (Amos 7:14; Matt. 13:30). In using both words, Paul is teaching that there is no one way to support the church financially.

That’s something we know by experience, for these days you can contribute online, you can ask your bank to send your church a check every month, and give in other ways as well. The members of my church who stayed home during the pandemic maintained their support of our ministry by sending us a check in the mail. If the Lord tarries, who knows what new ways to give technology will come up with? God is more concerned that we honor Him with our finances than He is in how we do it, and plans to reward us for it (2 Cor. 9:6).

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.

Two Minutes with the Bible lets you start your day with short but powerful Bible study articles from the Berean Bible Society. Sign up now to receive Two Minutes With the Bible every day in your email inbox. We will never share your personal information and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Daniel’s Flashback – Daniel 7:1-14



The “wind” (7:1) is often a type of unseen spiritual activity.  It indicated the Holy Spirit was at work in Acts 2:1-4, but unholy spirits tried to sink the Lord and the 12 (Mark 4:39).  They don’t try that when we cross a lake. Instead, they try to sink us doctrinally with “every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14).

We know these “winds” (7:2) are unholy spirits because Daniel had this dream at night.  Daytime is symbolic of the time the Lord was here (John 9:4), but as He said, the “night” of the Tribulation was coming.  The mystery interrupted it, but it will come in the night (I Thes. 5:2-5).  When He returns He’s called a “Sun” (Mal. 4:2) and His saints are likened to suns (Mt. 13:43) in the day of the kingdom.  But Daniel says three times this vision came to him at night (v. 2, 7, 13), telling us that this is a vision about the Tribulation.  In that day, those 4 unholy spirits will strive upon the sea, a type of the Gentiles (cf. Isa. 60:5).  “The great sea” (7:2) is the Mediterranean, and Daniel’s dream is specifically about unholy spirits stirring up nations that border that sea during the night of the Tribulation.

The “four beasts” (7:3) “are four kings” (7:17).  They can’t be the same as the four kings in Daniel 2, for he said they “shall arise” (7:3), and he said that in the first year of Belshazzar (7:1).  That means the kings of Babylon and Media-Persia had already arisen.  These are four kings that will arise in the Tribulation and produce the antichrist (8:22, 23).  He too will rise out of the “sea” of the Gentile nations (Rev. 13:1) and will be a Jew born in a Gentile nation.

The first beast (7:4) sounds like when Nebuchadnezzar went mad and acted like a beast 7 years, but we’ve seen it can’t be him.  The second beast (7:5) doesn’t fit Media-Persia well, so some figure it might be Russia, but Russia is nowhere near the Mediterranean.  The next beast (7:6) is thought to represent Greece because a “leopard” is among the fastest of animals—and this is a leopard with wings—and Alexander took “only” 7 years to conquer the world.  But that’s not fast! The next kingdom (7:7) sounds like Rome, but this kingdom will produce the antichrist (v. 8), and Rome didn’t.  We know this little horn is the antichrist because he ends up conquering the lion, the bear and the leopard and assimilating them (Rev. 13:1, 2). He will have “seven heads” after devouring the lion’s head, the bear’s head, and the leopard’s four heads.  His 10 horns are 10 kings that rise with him (Rev. 17:3-12).

Since Hosea 13:2-8 says God will be like a lion, a bear and a leopard to Israel, that means God will be using antichrist to chasten Israel just as He used Nebuchadnezzar, whom he called “My servant” (Jer. 25:9).  The “great things” antichrist will speak (Dan. 7:8 cf. 7:24, 25; 11:36) will come out of his mouth when he claims to be God (II Thes. 2:3, 4).

The “thrones” (Dan. 7:9) of those ten kings are “cast down” by the Lord at His 2nd coming, called “the Ancient of Days” here.  His clothes and hair are white because that’s associated with how He looks in judgment (Rev. 1:12-15).  It’s why British judges wear white wigs.  “Fire” (7:9) is also associated with judgment (Heb. 10:27).  The Lord’s throne has “wheels” because it must be mobile to judge those kings.

He’ll come with a “fiery stream” (Dan. 7:10 cf. Ps. 50:3; Isa. 66:15).  Angels will be in those Isaiah 66:15 chariots (Ps. 68:17), the millions of angels who will return with Christ (Jude 1:14) and then witness the Great White Throne judgment when the books will be open (Dan. 7:10 cf. Rev. 20:11). Daniel sees that judgment as coming when the beast is destroyed at the 2nd coming (7:11) because the millennial aspect of the kingdom wasn’t revealed to him.  Daniel 7:11 describes Rev-elation 19:19, 20.  The beast is cast into the lake of fire, but the lives of those 10 kings are “prolonged” in hell (Isa. 24:21, 22) for 1,000 years, then “visited” with judgment at the Great White Throne and join the beast in the lake of fire.

The Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:13 is God the Father.  He and His Son are both called “the first and the last” (Isa. 44:6 cf. Rev. 1:13-16) as well, because of the oneness they have as members of the Trinity.  Only “clouds” of angels could escort the Lord to the Father (Dan. 7:13).  Clouds are angels in Psalm 104:1-4, where they are also called chariots, which explains the wheels in Daniel 7:9.  Daniel 7:14 describes the culmination of the ages (cf. I Corinthians 15:24).

A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: Daniel’s Flashback – Daniel 7:1-14

Prayer Questions

WHO can pray? We all can pray. You don’t need a pastor or spiritual leader to do your praying for you. God wants you to pray and personally bring your requests to Him. Prayer does not have a formula. It doesn’t have to be done perfectly using particular words or phrases for God to hear or respond. God does not only hear your words but also your heart and emotions.

WHO do we pray to? We pray to God (Col. 1:3). Praying to God the Father (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6) honors Christ’s faithfulness and shed blood which has given us free, bold, confident access to the Father (Eph. 2:18; 3:12,14).

WHO do we pray for? We pray for all people (1 Tim. 2:1). We pray for unbelievers to be saved (Rom. 10:1). We pray for the needs of believers (Eph. 6:18). And we are taught to pray specifically for leaders in government (1 Tim. 2:2).

WHAT do we pray for? We pray for everything. Any spiritual need (Col. 1:9-11) or physical need (Rom. 1:9-10; Phil. 1:19) is a matter for prayer. We give thanks for all things (Eph. 5:20) and take every request to God (Phil. 4:6). And we are to pray and thank God for our food (1 Tim. 4:4-5).

WHEN do we pray? We pray “always” (Eph. 6:18) and “without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17), which means to pray anytime and to have a faithful, running conversation with God. We pray when we are anxious (Phil. 4:6-7), in need of God’s intervention (2 Cor. 12:7-8), and in every circumstance (1 Thes. 5:18).

WHERE do we pray? We pray anywhere and everywhere. We don’t just pray in church. “Praying always” (Eph. 6:18) means we pray wherever we are, in public or private. We can always pray anywhere within the quietness of our hearts and thoughts.

HOW do we pray? We pray with a spirit of thanksgiving and praise to God (1 Thes. 1:2; Eph. 3:21). There is also no required position for prayer. The Bible mentions different prayer positions (Eph. 3:14; 1 Tim. 2:8), but none of them are prescribed as how we must always do it.

WHY do we pray? We pray because God tells us to pray in His Word (Col. 4:2). We pray because God is able (Eph. 3:20), and the God Who answers prayer can change things according to His will. We pray because it draws us nearer to God and increases our faith in Him and our love for others. We pray because it changes us.

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.

Two Minutes with the Bible lets you start your day with short but powerful Bible study articles from the Berean Bible Society. Sign up now to receive Two Minutes With the Bible every day in your email inbox. We will never share your personal information and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Losing Religion to Find Salvation

“Dr. H. A. Ironside, longtime pastor of Chicago’s Moody Church, was told by a woman that she expected to get to heaven by faith plus her good works. ‘It’s like rowing a boat,’ she explained. ‘It takes two oars to row a boat; otherwise you go around in a circle.’

“Dr. Ironside replied, ‘That’s a good illustration except for one thing: I’m not going to heaven in a rowboat!1

We’re going to heaven in Christ, because of Him and what He has done for us at the Cross. By faith in Christ alone, we’re going to heaven. Most believe salvation is a work of man for God. God’s Word, however, declares that salvation comes by grace, a work of God for man.

Religion, with its rules, obligations, rituals, and observances, doesn’t save anyone. Only Christ saves. There’s nothing we can do to save ourselves and no one can earn their way to heaven by their good works. We need to lose religion to find salvation, because the only way anyone is saved from all their sins and has eternal life is by trusting the perfect provision made for our sins at the Cross, trusting that Christ died for our sins and rose again.


“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more” (Phil. 3:3-4).

Paul wrote, “For we,” that is, we in the Church, the Body of Christ, spiritually speaking, “are the circumcision.” In time past, under God’s prophetic program, the “circumcision” was a physical one and referred to the Jews. Today, under grace, the circumcision is spiritual and refers to all who have trusted Christ as their Savior.

We are the circumcision, not because we happen to be born of Jewish parents. Rather, we are the circumcision because of what Colossians 2:10-11 teaches the Body of Christ:

“Ye are complete in Him… In Whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.”

The believer is complete in Christ apart from religion and ritualism, entirely by virtue of the Cross of Christ and His resurrection. “The circumcision made without hands” refers to a spiritual circumcision, a spiritual cutting off. “The body of the sins of the flesh” in Colossians 2:11 refers to our sinful, fallen, Adamic nature. “The circumcision of Christ” refers to Christ’s death at the Cross.

This verse teaches that the moment we believed and were placed into Christ, we underwent a spiritual circumcision in which, positionally and judicially before God, “the body of the sins of the flesh,” or our old, sin nature, was cut off by Christ’s death for sin. By the Cross of Christ, “we are the circumcision,” because the flesh, our sin nature, was crucified with Christ and cut off before God. And thus, in Christ, we are sinless and righteous.

Philippians 3:3 gives three characteristics of the circumcision: 1) we “worship God in the Spirit”; 2) we “rejoice in Christ Jesus”; and 3) we “have no confidence in the flesh.”

First, we “worship God in the Spirit.” We worship God, not by the deadness of ritualistic ceremonies of religion. True worship of God is not based on externals, but on the attitude of the heart. In John 4:24, the Lord taught, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” We “worship God in the Spirit” by faith and obedience to the truth of His Word. And worship in its truest sense involves the whole of our lives. A believer worships God by being an authentic, consistent testimony which brings honor and glory to our Savior.

Second, we rejoice, not in religious observances or in ourselves or what we’ve done; instead we “rejoice in Christ Jesus” and what He’s done for us by His grace, compassion, and kindness. Our boast is Christ and we glory in His Cross. All that we are, and all that we have spiritually and eternally, is because of Christ Jesus. As 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 reminds us, “But of Him [God] are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption… He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

Third, we “have no confidence in the flesh.” We do not rely on our own religious attainments, accomplishments, or external works for acceptance with God. We are God’s because we have not placed our confidence in these things of self and instead have placed our confidence solely in Christ and what He has done on our behalf to save us.

While those who are religious often display great confidence because of their achievements and good works, it’s a deceitful and dangerous confidence. Sinful men, in their flesh, have no grounds for confidence before God. Each person must come to the point of having no confidence in the flesh and humbly trusting in Christ alone.

Writing about having “no confidence in the flesh” triggered memories and emotions in Paul as he recalled when he himself placed confidence in the flesh for his salvation. This led Paul, by the Spirit, to give us his personal testimony, and to give a self-portrait of a religious unbeliever.

In Philippians 3:4-6, Paul showed the Philippians that his attainments and heritage surpassed everyone. If anyone could boast about strict observance of religion, it was he. If anyone had a reason to trust in himself and believe that his religious credentials could earn righteousness and be deserving of eternal life before God, it was Paul. And he laid his merits on the table; in effect, he pulled back the curtain revealing his large trophy case for all to see and showed the Church how he had more ground for boasting than anyone else. He opened the book of his life like an auditor to show us his wealth according to the law, but then he revealed the truth of how he was in every way spiritually bankrupt.

Paul wrote this part of his letter like a challenge and a showdown. And even before he got specific, he concluded ahead of time that he had exceeded any advantage or credential of any competitor: “If any other man thinketh he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more”!

We often think of the flesh only as that part of people that drives him to commit sin and live for self. However, here we learn that “the flesh” is also pridefully religious. And when the flesh tries to do good and be good or be better than others, that is when it is the most dangerous. The religious proudly think that God must accept them and that they need no Savior.


“Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the  church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Phil. 3:5-6).

In these verses, Paul listed his seven personal reasons to boast in the flesh. The first four he had by birth apart from choice; the last three he voluntarily chose. The first four are in relation to Israel; the last three in relation to the law.

1. Circumcised the Eighth Day

Paul testified that he was “circumcised the eighth day.” Paul was a Jew and child of the covenant. He was not a proselyte to the Jewish religion who was circumcised later in life. And he was not an Ishmaelite who was circumcised in the thirteenth year. At the proper time, he had gone through the physical ceremony that initiated him into God’s covenant people (Gen 17:9-14). Paul bore in his body the mark that he was one of the chosen people, marked out by God as His own, and set apart from other nations. He possessed this important pedigree and his parents started his life in strict adherence to the law.

2. Of the Stock of Israel

By birth, Paul was “of the stock of Israel.” Paul was a member of the nation who were in a covenant relationship with God. No other nation or people had this special relationship. Paul inherited all the blessings of being a member of the covenant nation. In Romans 3:1-2, Paul wrote, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way..…” Paul had these advantages, being of the stock of Israel. Paul was a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was not descended from Ishmael (Abraham’s son by Hagar) or Esau (Isaac’s other son). The blood of Jacob flowed in his veins.

3. Of the Tribe of Benjamin

From Jacob, Paul was “of the tribe of Benjamin.” Benjamin was one of the two sons born to Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel. This tribe had a rich history, including the honor of Israel’s first king, Saul, being a Benjamite (1 Sam. 9:21). When the kingdom split after
Solomon’s death, the tribe of Benjamin, with Judah, remained loyal to the Davidic dynasty and stood true to the temple as God’s rightful place of worship. Mordecai was used by God, with Esther, to save the Jews from genocide, and he was of the tribe of Benjamin (Esth. 2:5). This was a prominent and prestigious tribe! Being “of the tribe of Benjamin” was worn with pride as a badge of honor for Paul.

4. An Hebrew of the Hebrews

Paul was “an Hebrew of the Hebrews.” Paul was a Hebrew son of a Hebrew father and Hebrew mother. He was a pureblooded Jew, having a pure Hebrew lineage with no  unclean Gentile blood in his family line. Being a Hebrew of the Hebrews, he was thoroughly acquainted with the Hebrew language, customs, and Scriptures. In the flesh, Paul could and did trust in his rich heritage of being one of God’s chosen earthly people.

5. As Touching the Law, a Pharisee

“As touching the law, a Pharisee” meant that Paul was a devout Jew, belonging to the sect who were known to be the most strict, meticulous observers and defenders of the Mosaic Law. Unlike the more liberal theologians of the Sadducees, Paul was orthodox to the core. His father before him had been a Pharisee. Before the Sanhedrin in Acts 23:6, Paul testified, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.” Before Agrippa, Paul testified, “that after the most straitest [strictest] sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee” (26:5). Paul trained and studied under Gamaliel (22:3), a celebrated and revered Pharisee” (5:34). Paul had lived to know, interpret, guard, and obey the Law.

6. Concerning Zeal, Persecuting the Church

“Concerning zeal, persecuting the church,” teaches us that Paul was an activist, and not a passive religionist. Paul ardently, militantly put his belief into action. He was a zealot of Judaism. He punished those who believed in Jesus Christ and His resurrection. He was the ringleader of the persecution of the Kingdom church, from the death of Stephen (7:58) until his own conversion (8:3). Paul was relentless and willing to go to any length to please God.

7. Touching the Righteousness Which Is in the Law, Blameless

“Touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” By all outward appearances, Paul conformed perfectly to the law. When judged by men according to the righteousness that the law demanded, he was blameless. Paul didn’t say he was sinless, but where and when he failed, he brought the prescribed sacrifice. To those who knew him, and in his own eyes, he was a model Jew who lived faultlessly and meticulously by Jewish law and tradition. You could say that he scored a hundred in Judaism! As a result of his own self-effort and self-righteousness, Paul believed himself to be righteous before God.


“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:7-9).

Paul once put the aforementioned seven credentials in his spiritual profit and gain column, but now he placed them in the loss column. All his religious achievements and privileges were now worthless to him when compared to Christ.

Paul had much to lose by placing his faith in Christ, and he did lose everything in the way of power and prestige among his peers and in his religion. However, after Paul met the risen Christ on the Damascus Road, all his cherished religious achievements and gains became deficits and losses. This proud man was humbled and his robe of lawrighteousness became a filthy rag (Isa. 64:6), and he abandoned his works-righteousness for Christ’s righteousness. Paul may have lost some things, but his gain was infinite: gaining Christ, life eternal, and God’s righteousness.

In putting these seven credentials in the loss column, Paul saw how salvation no longer came by ritual or ceremony like Jewish circumcision. Thus, we know that salvation does not come through the ceremonies of Catholic mass, water baptism, the Eucharist, confirmation, giving up this or that, or any other rite or ceremony.

Paul learned that standing with God is not gained by birth, family status, race, or nationality. What your race or nationality is, where you were born, and who your father, mother, or grandparents are bear no weight on your personal salvation. You are not a Christian because your parents were Christians. What matters is whether you have trusted Christ or not.

Paul learned that righteousness is not achieved by being a scholar or a devout, religious person, nor is it earned by keeping the law. Paul learned that religious zeal guarantees nothing and means nothing when it is misguided. Likewise, the religious, who by all outward appearances appear pious and good, who keep the Ten Commandments and are willing to make any effort and pay any price to please God, who zealously pray, fast, serve others, go to church, feed the poor, and give to charity, all without trusting Christ alone to save them, are dead in their sins and headed for the judgment of everlasting fire in hell.

Religion and zeal for religious works count for nothing toward salvation or righteousness. Paul learned that he had to lose his religion to find salvation. What Paul gained by losing his religion and religious achievements was Christ. And a personal relationship with our Savior is infinitely superior to all other things in every respect.  Following his conversion, Paul’s misguided passion for religion then became a well-guided passion for His Savior. And it was following his conversion that Paul really started living.

In Philippians 3:8, Paul considered as “loss” not only the seven things listed in verses 5-6, but he expanded it to include “all things.” He counted anything and everything that might conceivably be a rival to Christ—all works, privileges, achievements of the flesh—as a loss, a liability, and a disadvantage.

Paul did not want to deprive himself of “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” Paul counted all religious things as loss, that he might gain the surpassing greatness of knowing personally Christ Jesus his Lord, and to grow in knowing Him more and more. The personal, experiential knowledge of Christ that came from his relationship with Him was superior to all things in Paul’s life. And as that faith-based relationship with Christ is preeminent over all things in our lives, we’ll find the same joy, purpose, and blessing that Paul did.

Paul wrote, “for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (v. 8). Paul had thrown aside everything he had previously counted on and worked for in trying to gain favor with God. Everything on which his heart had been placed, all his hopes and dreams of honor and distinction, and all his religious credentials and accomplishments, Paul saw much differently after trusting Christ.

Now he counted it all as just “dung,” or waste, rubbish, refuse, and garbage that is thrown out or to the dogs. Using the strongest language, Paul expressed his disdain for all the religious works by which he had sought to impress men and God. In view of and in comparison to the surpassing value of gaining and knowing Christ, it was all worthless and detestable.

All that mattered to Paul was to “be found in Him” (v. 9). And that is a precious place to be found: “in Him,” trusting in Him, our life hidden in Him, a member of His Body, and losing ourselves and our identity in Him.

Righteousness had been the great goal of Paul’s life as a Pharisee, and he thought he would obtain it on his own by religiously keeping the law. But being in Christ, he was no longer clinging to his self-righteousness in keeping the law. He had true, complete,  undisputed righteousness now, the gift of God’s righteousness. This is given and received “through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (v. 9), or by the faithfulness of Christ and our faith in Christ. Salvation requires the righteousness that has its source, not in ourselves, but “of God.” And we are given God’s righteousness “by faith” and faith alone.


“In the city of Basel, Switzerland, each year there is a carnival that takes place at the beginning of Lent. It is much like the Mardi Gras… it is always a wild affair with all of the debauchery that one associates with a carnival season. And everyone knows what goes on, even though they may not know exactly who does it because the people wear masks. Each year the Salvation Army uses the carnival season to advertise the Gospel. And it does so in a striking way. All around the city the Salvation Army places billboards and posters containing the German words, ‘Gott sieht hinter deine maske!’ This means, ‘God sees behind your mask.’”2

God sees behind the everyday masks we wear. God is looking on your heart and mine. What does He see behind your mask? Does He see religious deeds that are not backed up by divine life within? Does He see the belief that you can earn His favor? Does He see your rejection of Jesus Christ as your Savior?

We need to come to the same realization that Paul did, that salvation and eternal life are not found by trying and not by being religious or working for them, but by receiving the free gift of salvation by trusting Christ alone as our personal Savior.

1. Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Bible Study Series–Faith Brings Us On (v. 9),” Bible Gateway, accessed April 2, 2021,

2. James Montgomery Boice, Philippians, An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), pp. 204-205.

If you would like to view the corresponding video for this article on Transformed by Grace, visit

You can receive More Minutes With the Bible every week in your email inbox. This list features longer articles, including both original content and articles that have appeared in the Berean Searchlight.

Berean Searchlight – May 2021

Free Mail Subscription

For a free subscription to the Berean Searchlight by mail, visit the Berean Searchlight Subscription page.

Subscribe to the Berean Searchlight Monthly Email to receive an email announcement when each issue of the Searchlight is posted online.