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There are several biblical prophecies of the end times that mention Iran, called Persia or Elam in the Bible. Given the fact that Iran is often in the news as a nation seeking armaments (possibly nuclear) and repeatedly issuing threats against Israel, students of Bible prophecy are taking note.

Iran does have a role to play in the end times, but, first, a little history of Iran and its neighborhood, as it relates to biblical history. Jeremiah prophesied that Elam, a nation east of Babylon, west of Persia, and south of Media, would be conquered and then rise to power again (Jeremiah 49:34–39). True to that prophecy, Babylon conquered Elam in 596 BC. But then Persia, under Cyrus the Great, took control of that area, and the Elamites and Medes became part of the Persian Empire. The Medo-Persian Empire ascended to power and conquered Babylon in 539 BC, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 21:2. This happened during the time of Daniel (Daniel 5); in fact, Daniel later resided “in the province of Elam” in Persia (Daniel 8:2). Persia is the setting for the book of Esther and the first part of Nehemiah.

Alexander the Great’s conquests put an end to Persia as a world power, fulfilling the prophecy of Daniel 8. In the following centuries, Persia was ruled by the Seleucids, the Parthians, the Sassanians, the Romans, the Byzantines, and finally, in AD 636, the Muslims. In 1501, the state of Iran was founded.

In the New Testament, men from Iran are mentioned indirectly as “Parthians, Medes and Elamites” were present in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9). All three of these people groups were Jews who lived in the area of ancient Persia, modern-day Iran, and they were present in Jerusalem to witness the birth of the church.

Iran’s involvement in the end times will be as one of the nations involved in the battle of Gog and Magog, which probably occurs during the first half of the tribulation. Ezekiel 38:5 specifically mentions Persia as an ally of Magog/Russia. Other nations included in this coalition will be Sudan, Turkey, Libya, and others. This vast army will come against Israel, who at that time will be “a peaceful and unsuspecting people” (verse 11).

The outcome of this end-times invasion is predicted: God supernaturally intervenes, and Gog’s coalition is utterly destroyed. “On the mountains of Israel you will fall, you and all your troops and the nations with you. I will give you as food to all kinds of carrion birds and to the wild animals” (Ezekiel 39:4–5). Iran, allied with Russia, will think their invasion of Israel is a sure victory, but God has different plans. In protecting Jerusalem, God will send a strong message to the world: “I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the Lord am the Holy One in Israel” (verse 7).

As civil war rages in Syria and other nations ponder potential involvement, some Bible teachers believe we can see biblical end-times prophecy unfolding right before our eyes. The Middle East is a religious-political powder keg and has been for years, but the Syrian Crisis seems to be making the situation that much more explosive. Because of Syria’s proximity to Israel, Egypt’s troubles, Iran’s threats, and the United States’ ultimatums, there is talk of the end times, Armageddon, and World War III.

It is true that, with every passing day, we draw closer to the Second Coming of Christ (James 5:8). And the prophecy of Isaiah 17:1 has yet to be fulfilled: “A prophecy against Damascus: ‘See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins.’” Damascus, the capital of Syria, has a longstanding reputation for being the oldest continuously occupied city in the world. It has never been without citizens or totally destroyed. But Isaiah’s prophecy still stands; there is coming a day when Damascus will be nothing but a “heap of ruins.” The current war in Syria could indeed be one of the events leading up to the capital’s destruction.

There are other verses in the Bible tethered to Isaiah 17:1, but the idea of a ruinous heap suggests that not one building is left standing in Damascus. The city will no longer be a city. Some students of prophecy believe a nuclear bomb could be the means of fulfilling this prophecy; others suggest the possibility of an earthquake. Regardless of exactly how or when it happens, two things we know for sure: God is sovereign and His Word will stand (Isaiah 40:8).

There is much unrest in the Middle East, and the war in Syria is capturing the attention of the whole world. However, this particular conflict, even if it expands to other nations, cannot be associated with Armageddon. That battle occurs near the end of the Tribulation, during the bowl judgments, as the nations of the earth gather to fight against the Lord (Revelation 16:12–16). The war in Syria, if it is indeed part of end-times prophecy, is more likely part of the “birth pains” described in Mark 13:7–8.

In 700 BC, Isaiah wrote of the demise of Damascus. Today, 2,700 years later, many believe that we are close to seeing that long-standing prophecy fulfilled. However chaotic the events on the world stage appear, we know that all things are working toward the fulfillment of God’s Word.

“The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)—are you ready for His coming?

With Russia back in the news in a big way, many people are wondering if recent events in eastern Europe have anything to do with end-times prophecy—and, if so, how? Much of the discussion has to do with an ancient prophecy from Ezekiel: “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshek and Tubal; prophesy against him and say: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshek and Tubal”’” (Ezekiel 38:1–3). The identities of “Gog,” “Magog,” “Meshek,” and “Tubal” are the key to fully understanding the prophecy.

Gog is a person. Whoever Gog is, he is from the land of Magog and is the leader of Tubal and Meshek (some translations add “Rosh” to the list) and a confederacy of other nations: Persia, Cush, Put, Gomer, and Beth Togarmah (Ezekiel 38:5–6). And, whoever he is, he will have plans to “attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people,” viz., Israel (verses 11, 14, and 18). But, regardless of Gog’s plans, the Lord God is against him and will defeat him soundly (Ezekiel 38:4, 19–23; 39:3–5).

Magog is a land “in the far north,” from Israel’s point of view (Ezekiel 38:15; 39:2). Most Bible commentators interpret “Magog” as Russia—and, indeed, Russia is straight north of Israel, all the way up to the Arctic Circle. According to this view, “Rosh” is a reference to Russia, “Meshek” is either Moscow or the people north of the Black Sea (the area of southern Russia and Ukraine), and “Tubal,” which is always listed with Meshek in Scripture, is identified as a city in Siberia or an area in central Turkey.

Others see “Magog” as a general term used in Ezekiel’s day to identify barbarians living near the Black and Caspian Seas. Regardless of the exact locations of Magog, Tubal, and Meshek, there is no doubt that the general area includes portions of Russia and the former Soviet Union, and possibly some Arab countries.

So, yes, the Bible does mention Russia, although not by that name, in connection with the end times. Ezekiel 38—39 definitely refer to a nation coming from northern Asia to attack Israel. After the Cold War, Russia lost its superpower status, making the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy seem unlikely in some people’s eyes. However, recent events have shown that Russia is gaining strength, and many believe that the invasion of Crimea is just a first step in Russia’s plan to restore its dominance in that hemisphere. It is also interesting to note that, in the Soviet era, Moscow was solidly aligned with several Muslim countries in opposition to Israel. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia has continued to make overtures to the Muslim world.

According to the Bible, there will come a time when Russia, in alliance with several other countries, will amass a huge army against Israel, with a view to plunder the Jews’ land. The nations aligned with Russia for this military endeavor are Persia (modern-day Iran), Put (modern-day Sudan), Cush (modern-day Libya), Gomer (part of modern-day Turkey), and Beth Togarmah (another portion of modern-day Turkey or possibly Syria). Most of these nations are currently militant Islamic states with an express hatred of Israel. Ezekiel says that, when the aggressors move against Israel, a few other nations (“Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish”) will remonstrate, as will “all her villages”—possibly colonies (Ezekiel 38:13). Sheba and Dedan are associated with areas of northern Africa. Tarshish could be a reference to Spain (which colonized much of South America), Britain (which colonized the United States), or somewhere in eastern Africa. The objections to Magog’s aggression will fall on deaf ears, however, and the invasion will continue.

Some commentators believe this war is one of the events leading up to beginning of the tribulation. Others believe it will occur close to the midpoint of the tribulation, since Israel will be “dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates” (Ezekiel 38:11)—in other words, Israel will feel secure at that time, possibly because of the covenant they have signed with the Antichrist (Daniel 9:27). Either way, this battle is distinct from the Battle of Armageddon, which occurs at the end of the tribulation.

God promises to destroy Gog’s army: “I will execute judgment on him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him” (Ezekiel 38:22). The bodies of the fallen army of Magog will be buried, but it will take over seven months to complete the macabre task (Ezekiel 39:12, 14). This supernatural judgment will have the effect of preserving Israel and turning many hearts to God: “And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 38:23). Many will be saved during the tribulation (Revelation 7), and the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38—39 will be one means by which God will bring people to a knowledge of Himself.

There is much we do not know for certain about Ezekiel’s prophecy, including the timing of these events. However, it is clear that Russia will be involved and will in fact lead an end-times league of nations to seize Israel’s land. The prophet Ezekiel comforts Israel in much the same way as Moses had centuries ago: “The LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory” (Deuteronomy 20:4).

Pleasing God is, or should be, the goal of all believers—all who call upon the name of Christ for salvation. The requirements for all who want to please God are that they must seek God by faith, walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh, and walk worthy of our calling in obedience and submission to the will of God. These things may seem impossible to do, but God wants us to please Him, and He makes it possible for us to please Him. We do these things by the power of His Spirit who lives in our hearts.

Paul reminds the believers in Rome that “they who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). So the first step in pleasing God is to accept the sacrifice for sin that He provided in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Only then are we “in the Spirit” and not “in the flesh.” We do this by faith because “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

In Romans 8, Paul explains the difference between the sinful nature and the nature of those regenerated by the Spirit. Those who are still in their sin have their minds set on sinful desires, whereas the ones regenerated by Christ have a completely new mind that is controlled by the Spirit and desire to live in accordance with Him. “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:6-7). So the first step for believers in pleasing God is to be sure we are walking in the Spirit, not in the flesh.

Furthermore, we must live by faith (Hebrews 10:38). God cannot be pleased with those who “shrink back” from Him because they have no confidence in Him or they doubt the truth of His declarations and promises, or who do not believe that His ways are right and holy and perfect. The requirement of faith and confidence in God is not unreasonable; it is just what we require of our children and spouses, and it is an indispensable condition of our being pleased with them. So it is with God.

Therefore, pleasing God is a matter of living according to His precepts, commandments, and doing so in love. We always want to please those we love, and the New Testament is full of exhortations to righteous living and loving Christ by obeying His commandments. Jesus made this very plain: “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). The Epistles are God’s plan for believers and are filled with exhortations to display throughout our lives the behavior that is pleasing to God: “For the rest, then, my brothers, we beseech you and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you have received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, so you would abound more and more” (1Thessalonians 4:1).

Dinah was a daughter born to Jacob from his first wife, Leah (Genesis 30:21). When Jacob returned to his homeland after working for his father-in-law, Laban, for over 20 years, he settled in in a place called Shechem. Dinah was a young woman at this time.

Genesis 34 gives the account of Dinah’s venture into the city to visit the women there. When Shechem, the son of the city ruler, saw her, he raped her. Verse 3 says that he was drawn to her and wanted her for a wife. Shechem appealed to his father, Hamor, to get her for him.

When Dinah’s brothers heard that their sister had been defiled, they were furious. Hamor, ruler of the city of Shechem, went to speak with Jacob about getting Dinah for his son. Shechem himself offered a great sum: “I will give you whatever you ask. Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me” (Genesis 34:11–12). The Bible does not record Jacob’s reaction but follows the story of his sons. They intentionally deceived Hamor and Shechem, pretending to work out a deal with them. Jacob’s sons told the ruler of Shechem that they could not give their sister to a man who was not circumcised—but if Shechem and all the men of the city would be circumcised as the Israelites were, they could intermarry from then on (verses 13–17).

Shechem was so taken with Dinah that he and his father agreed to this. Because Jacob’s household was so wealthy and large, the men of Shechem thought it would be to their benefit to incorporate this family. So everyone agreed to be circumcised. Genesis 34:25–26 say, “Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left.” Then the other brothers looted the city, carrying away everything, including their women and children (verses 27–29).

When Jacob learned what his sons had done, he was horrified. He knew when word got out to the nations around them, they would be in trouble (Genesis 34:30). His sons replied that they had vindicated the men who treated their sister like a prostitute (verse 31). The next few chapters of Genesis record Jacob moving his family, at God’s instruction (Genesis 35:1), to new lands. Nothing more is heard of Dinah in the Bible.

The Bible is silent on the issue of spousal abuse as a reason for divorce, although it is obvious that God expects us to love one another and to submit to one another in love (John 13:34; Ephesians 5:21). Physical violence against a spouse is immoral and should not be tolerated by anyone. No one should remain in an unsafe environment, whether it involves a family member, friend, employer, caregiver, or stranger. Physical abuse is also against the law, and the authorities should be the first ones contacted if this occurs.

A spouse who is being abused should seek a safe place. If there are children involved, they should be protected and removed from the situation immediately. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that separation (not divorce) in this instance would be wrong. Although friends and family may suggest divorce, unless there is infidelity involved, the Bible only allows for separation.

The Bible gives two acceptable reasons for divorce: the first is abandonment of a Christian by an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15), and the second is adultery (Matthew 5:32). Although God allows divorce in these circumstances, He does not command it. It is far better, in the case of infidelity, for two Bible-believing Christians to reconcile, extending the forgiveness and love that God freely gives us. However, in abusive situations, the circumstances are far different. While reconciliation with an abusive partner would be wonderful, it depends completely on the abuser proving his or her reliability, which could take years—if it happens at all—never on the abused party.

Once a separation has been enforced, the abuser has the responsibility to seek help. First and foremost, he should seek God. “For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks” (Matthew 7:8). No one has more power to heal individuals and relationships than God. He must be the Lord of our lives, the Master of our assets, and the Head of our households. Psychological aid and legal limitations on an abuser are also appropriate and important to his or her process of change.

If it is determined that the abuser has truly changed, the relationship may be resumed, but with much caution. Both husband and wife must commit themselves to God and then develop a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. “And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth” (John 17:3). This commitment to God should be accompanied by intensive counseling from a trusted and well-equipped pastor or believing licensed counselor, first individually, then as a couple, and finally for the entire family to help heal the trauma all have endured. Change is possible for people who truly repent and humbly surrender to the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

There are a number of “red flags” to look for before entering a permanent relationship. Unfortunately, these indicators may not be visible until after a marriage takes place, since many abusers are highly skilled at hiding their true natures. However, a short list to look out for includes irrational jealousy, the need to be in control, a quick temper, cruelty toward animals, attempts to isolate the other person from his or her friends and family, drug or alcohol abuse, and disrespect for boundaries, privacy, personal space, or moral values. If you believe you may be entering a relationship with someone who evinces these qualities, please seek the advice of someone familiar with abusive situations such as a counselor or trusted friend.

If you are in an abusive situation right now, whether the abuser is a spouse, parent, child, caretaker, teacher, relative, or anyone else in your life, please know that God never wants you to remain in a physically or psychologically damaging situation. Find someone who will help you develop a plan to leave the situation safely, and involve government authorities immediately. God has put these resources at our disposal, and we have a responsibility to use them.

The Bible does not use the term “verbal abuse,” but it has much to say about the power of our words. Succinctly stated, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).

Verbal abuse is one weapon in the arsenal of emotional abuse. While the tactics of abuse are many, the ultimate goal is to gain control over someone in order to establish dominance in a relationship. Verbal abuse is not the occasional flare after a bad day or temporary lack of verbal self-control in the midst of a tense moment. It constitutes psychological violence. Verbal abuse is a habitual sin that seldom goes away on its own and can potentially escalate into physical abuse.

Overt verbal abuse could include angry outbursts, screaming, swearing, ridicule, name calling, blaming, accusation, criticism, threats, orders, mockery, manipulation, coercion, put-downs, shaming, word twisting, rewriting history, and attacking personal character. Covert verbal abuse is more subtle and cloaks hidden aggression. It feigns concern and has the effect of brainwashing, leaving the victim confused, off balance, and questioning his or her value and abilities.

Over the long term, any kind of abuse can leave the victim feeling uncertain, unable to make decisions, and drained of any sense of personhood or value. The victim begins to accept the blame and believe the crushing words that are convincingly and repeatedly thrown at him.

The old adage “Sticks and stones can break a bone, but words can never hurt me” is not true. Abusive language has a deep, long lasting effect that can “pierce like swords” (Proverbs 12:18).

The Bible contrasts healthy and unhealthy verbal communication. God knows our weaknesses, and has given us His Word to teach us how to use ours in a life giving way.

The words we speak reflect what is going on inside of us. Luke 6:45 says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Words affect the speaker as well as the receiver. “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. . . . With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:6, 9).

Matthew 5:21–22 categorizes verbal abuse as a serious offense with eternal consequences: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ [an Aramaic term of contempt meaning “worthless, empty”] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

God’s heart on the subject of how we use our words is evident in Scripture. There is no question about the seriousness of the effects on the hearer or the speaker of violent, abusive words. When the words of others have hurt us, we can find healing in the true words of God. When we have hurt others with our words, we can find forgiveness in God and should also seek it from those we have harmed. Those who have been victims of serious verbal abuse may need the help of a counselor or pastor in the healing process.

God’s desire is that we “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and that we “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of [our] mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29). God intends that our words and our relationships be healthy and life giving. Keep in mind, God created the universe with His Word (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24) and Jesus Himself is called the Word of God (John 1:1, 14). His desire is that we recognize the power our words carry and use them as He would.

The Bible does not specifically use the term child abuse. What the Bible does tell us is this: children have a special place in God’s heart and anyone who harms a child is inviting God’s wrath upon himself. When Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children from coming to Jesus, He rebuked them and welcomed the children to His side, saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14). Then He took the children in His arms and blessed them (verse 16).

Children are abused and mistreated in several different ways, all of which are abhorrent to God. Too many children are the victims of angry beatings and other physical abuse as their parents take out their own anger and frustration on their children. Though some forms of physical discipline may be biblically acceptable, such discipline should never be administered in anger. Paul reminds the Ephesians, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26–27). Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.” There is no place for unrighteous or uncontrolled anger in the life of a Christian. Anger should be confessed to God and appropriately handled long before it comes to the point of physical abuse against a child or anyone else.

Sexual abuse or molestation is particularly devastating and is soundly condemned in Scripture. Warnings against sexual sin abound in Scripture. To force sexual acts upon a child is a horrible, evil offense. In addition to committing a sexual sin, the perpetrator is also attacking the innocence of one of the world’s most vulnerable persons. Sexual abuse violates everything about a person from his or her understanding of self to physical boundaries to spiritual connection with God. In a child, these things are so barely established that they are altered for life, and without appropriate help may not ever heal.

Psychological and emotional abuse are also forbidden in Scripture. Ephesians 6:4 warns fathers not to “exasperate” or provoke their children, but to bring them up in the “training and instruction of the Lord.” Harsh, unloving verbal discipline, emotional manipulation, or volatile environments alienate children’s minds from their parents and render their instruction and correction useless. Parents can provoke and exasperate their children by placing unreasonable requirements on them, belittling them, or constantly finding fault, thereby producing wounds that can be as bad as or worse than any physical beating can inflict. Colossians 3:21 tells us not to “embitter” our children so they will not become discouraged. Ephesians 4:15–19 says we are to speak the truth in love and use our words to build others up, not allow rotten or destructive words to pour from our lips, especially toward the tender hearts and minds of children.

It is abundantly clear how God feels about the issue of all forms of child abuse. Anyone who suspects a child is being abused has the obligation to report it to appropriate authorities. Anyone who has been abused or who has abused children can find hope, healing, and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Talking to a pastor or finding a Christian counselor or a support group may be a good place to begin the journey to wholeness.

The word abuse has taken many meanings over time. Immediately, most assume abuse involves anger or some form of physical violence. This is a simplistic and often misleading view of abuse. Anger is an emotion God gave us to alert us to problems. Righteous anger is not sinful and should not be associated with abuse. Anger mishandled can certainly lead to a sinful, abusive response, but it is a sinful heart, not the emotion of anger, that is the root cause of abuse.

The word abuse is used to describe the mistreatment or misuse of virtually anything. We speak of abuse of trust, drugs, institutions, and objects. These forms of abuse are sinful for the same reason that abuse directed at people is sinful. Such mistreatment is motivated by selfishness and results in damage and destruction. People abuse others for a variety of reasons, but selfishness underlies all abuse. We tend to lash out when things do not go our way.

Some abuse can be subtle. Emotional abuse can be difficult to detect because, on the surface, there is no observable evidence of the abuse, but that doesn’t mean the effects are any less painful or destructive. Examples of emotional abuse include verbal attacks, criticism, favoritism, manipulation, deceit, threats, and withheld expressions of love.

Anyone can be an abuser, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or background. Victims of abuse can be ensnared in a cycle that is very difficult to break. Children have no responsibility for abuse suffered in childhood but often carry its effects into adulthood by repeating the patterns. Children need to be protected from abuse. Abusive parents are cursing their children rather than blessing them as they ought (Psalm 112:2; Proverbs 20:7).

The Bible regards abuse as sin because we are called to love one another (John 13:34). Abuse disregards others and is the opposite of this command. An abuser desires to satisfy his natural selfishness regardless of the consequences to himself or others. Several passages in the Bible strongly condemn taking advantage of or abusing others (Exodus 22:22; Isaiah 10:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:6).

Everyone is guilty of abuse at some level, because everyone falls short of God’s command to love others sacrificially. Only the love of Jesus in us can truly love others; therefore, real love only exists in those who have accepted Jesus as their savior (Romans 8:10).

Only Jesus can heal the wounds left by abuse (Psalm 147:3). Sadly, many hurting people are waiting for the abuser to come repair the damage he caused. While it is good for the abuser to take responsibility and make amends to those he hurt, it is Jesus who grants peace to those in pain. He is neither unaware nor apathetic to those who suffer, especially children (Mark 10:14-16). That should give us pause, knowing we are accountable for the suffering we cause to others. The Lord Jesus cares for His followers and has laid down His life to demonstrate His love for them (1 Peter 5:7). He will most assuredly comfort, vindicate, and heal them (John 10:11-15).

Believers need to own their abuse of others in order to break the cycle while receiving help to recover from past hurts. A safe place to do that is in pastoral or biblical counseling or in a small group of believers where people can help bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-10). The Lord will enable us to do what He called us to do, which is love one another as He loves us.

There are two men named Lazarus in the Bible. The first Lazarus is the subject of a story told by Jesus (Luke 16:19–31). Lazarus was very poor, probably homeless, and definitely a beggar (verse 20). He often stayed at the gate of a rich man in hopes of getting scraps from his table. Both men died, and Jesus tells of how Lazarus was taken to “Abraham’s side,” a place of comfort and rest, while the rich man went to “Hades,” a place of conscious torment (verses 22–23). Some Bible scholars believe that Jesus was telling a parable, that is, a fictional story not meant to be a literal account. However, Jesus uses actual names in the story, He does not interpret the story, and neither does He add a moral to the end. He lets the story stand for itself. Because of these details, the story of Lazarus and the rich man could be a true account, relating the actual fates of Lazarus and the unbelieving rich man. Either way, Jesus’ teaching on the reality of heaven and hell is clear. The Lazarus in Jesus’ story does not appear anywhere else in the Bible, and we do not know when in the timeline of history he may have lived, if he was a real person.

The second Lazarus, also called Lazarus of Bethany, was the brother of Mary and Martha. These three siblings were friends and disciples of Jesus, and they were people Jesus loved (John 11:5). Once, an urgent message came from Bethany to Jesus: His friend Lazarus had become ill, and Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to come and heal him, for he was near death. Jesus then puzzled His disciples and friends. He started by saying that the illness would not lead to death; rather, it would be for God’s glory (John 11:4). Then Jesus stayed two days where He was, instead of going to see Lazarus (verses 5–6). During Jesus’ delay, Lazarus died, but Jesus referred to Lazarus as “asleep” and told the disciples He was going to wake him up (John 11:11). The disciples assumed that Jesus had not visited Lazarus in the first place because He knew Lazarus would heal on his own, so they said, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better,” clearly thinking of physical sleep (John 11:12). Then Jesus told them plainly that Lazarus had died, but they were still going to see him (verse 14). Thomas perfectly expresses the disciples’ confused frustration by saying, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (verse 16)—the area of Bethany was full of Jesus’ enemies (verse 8).

When they arrived at Lazarus’ home in Bethany, they found Mary and Martha grief-stricken. They had buried their brother four days earlier. Jesus had not come to help. They were confused and frustrated, but their faith in Jesus was intact (John 11:17–36). Everything became clear when Jesus did the unexpected: He went to Lazarus’ tomb and raised him from the dead (verses 43–44).

The entire episode of Lazarus’ sickness, death, and resurrection worked toward giving glory to God and increasing the faith of Jesus’ followers, just as Jesus had said when He heard of Lazarus’ illness. Just before He raised Lazarus, Jesus prayed, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41–42). Jesus’ prayer was answered: Lazarus came back to life, and “many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him” (verse 45).

When Jesus called to Lazarus, Lazarus emerged from the tomb—not a zombie or half-dead or undead, but fully alive and well. Such is the power of Christ. Scripture never records what Lazarus experienced during his four days in the tomb. We assume that his soul/spirit was in paradise, where the other Lazarus was.

After Lazarus was raised from the dead, the chief priests and Pharisees plotted to kill him, because so many witnesses to the miracle believed in Jesus (John 12:10–11). The enemies of Christ couldn’t deny the miracle; the next best thing, in their view, was to destroy the evidence—in this case, the evidence was a living, breathing person. But they couldn’t stop the truth from spreading: “A large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead” (John 12:9).