Year of the Bible – 2 Thessalonians 1-3

2 Thessalonians 1



“They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” 2 Thessalonians 2:10


2 Thessalonians 1:1-3:18 (2:1-10)

The congregation at Thessalonica had been greatly upset when Paul wrote this letter. False reports and lies had come to them saying that the “day of the Lord” (the day of resurrection and the beginning of eternal life) had already occurred. Clearly, if that had been the case, they had been “left behind.” The Apostle Paul wanted to assure them of three things.

(1) The end had not yet arrived, indeed it would not come until the “man of lawlessness”—the Antichrist—had been revealed. He was active already in Paul’s time (2:7); he would continue and increase in power until destroyed at the end of time by Christ (2:8); He would use phony miracles and cunning deception to delude men—a delusion which God Himself increased in men as a punishment for rejecting the Gospel (2:11).

(2) That the fraud of evil would always abound in the world and should be expected. Not all men have faith. Their perseverance in the faith would be a reminder and a confirmation of their own call and election by God.

(3) That the final victory over sin and evil would only come upon the return of Christ (1:7ff).

The Thessalonians were not to look to their own righteousness and perfection for the certainty of salvation, but to the promises of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit that had been granted to them before the beginning of time (2:13ff.)

Questions – 2 Thessalonians 1

  1. What false reports had the Thessalonians received?
  2. What three things did Paul want them to understand about the end of time?
  3. Who is the Antichrist?
  4. What assurances does God give to us that we are His children?
  5. When was our salvation given to us?
 © John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland

Year of the Bible – John 11:1-17:26




“There is a judge for the one who | rejects me and does not accept | my words; that very word which | I spoke will condemn him at | the last day.” –  John 12:47

John 11:1-17:26 (17:1-19)

The hatred that arose against Jesus is hard for us to reason out. Why would He who raised Lazarus from the dead be so hated by the leaders of the Jewish people? Why would one who rode humbly upon a donkey cause mighty kings to tremble? Why would one who washed the feet of His disciples and urged them to have the same attitude towards each other be betrayed and denied? All causes of hatred can be found in man, not in Jesus.

The Pharisees and leaders of the Sanhedrin hated Jesus because people were putting their faith in Him. Rejecting the belief that Jesus was the Messiah, they considered Him a political figure capable of leading insurrection and revolt—which, they reasoned, would place them and their own lives at risk. Men hated Christ because He had come to drive out the “prince of this world.” The devil, who holds men captive through fear, uses the fear of God and His judgment to drive men into hating God even more.

When Christ showed mercy and kindness towards sinners, the hatred of men was stirred against him by the prince of the world. Satan did not want the world to know that God is merciful and that He would mercifully save even the greatest of sinners. He did not want men to realize that God had willed salvation for all, that it was a free gift, not based upon human worthiness but upon God’s mercy. Because of this, men hated Jesus because He made all human righteousness invalid before God and His judgment. The sinner can only find mercy before God through Christ’s promise—that is, HIS NAME.

If Jesus, the Son of God, was treated in this way, then His disciples should expect the same. By remaining in Him as branches are within a vine (15), though the world will hate us, the Holy Spirit will preserve us. God will uphold and keep us in this faith through every trial and tribulation of life. In fact, such tribulations on account of Christ are to be taken as a sign of God’s approval and a mark of faithfulness to the Gospel. Like Daniel, who prayed for his church, Jesus also prayed for His disciples, for them and for us, that we would not be taken from the world, but, being left in the world, that we would be spared the wrath and power of the “evil one” by means of faith in the Gospel, spared to confess His name to the entire world.

Questions – John 11

  1. Give three reasons why people hate Jesus.
  2. What treatment should we expect for being disciples of Christ in an anti-Christ world?
  3. What promise does God make to all who would suffer for the Name of Christ?
  4. What (Who) sustains and keeps us in the faith through tribulations?
  5. Why did Jesus pray for His disciples and for us?
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland

Year of the Bible – Daniel 9:1-11:1

 . . . all this disaster has come | upon us, yet we have not sought | the favor of the Lord our | God by turning from our sins | and giving attention to your truth. – Daniel 9:13

Daniel 9:1-11:1 (9:20-27)

Daniel prayed to God for the restoration of Jerusalem. He had read from the book of Jeremiah that God would end Israel’s captivity after 70 years. Based upon the promises of God, Daniel then petitioned God to fulfill His promise. He began by confessing the sins of his people, Israel, contrasting their sinfulness to God’s righteousness. The curse of the Law had fallen upon the people for their unbelief and hard-heartedness. God was fair in what He had done, Daniel confessed. “All this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth.” (9:13) Let us look more closely. On what basis does Daniel ask for God’s help? Clearly not on the basis of his or the people’s own righteousness: “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” (9:18) Since Daniel held on to God’s “Name”—to the Gospel—and called upon God for help because of what God was and is—He is merciful—Daniel knew that God would hear and answer his prayer. In answer to His prayer for restoration, God immediately sent Gabriel and not only revealed God’s plan to restore Jerusalem in the near future, but also revealed His plan to bring the Messiah into the world and to destroy Jerusalem once again.

Questions – Daniel 9:1-11:1

  1. How did Daniel come to understand the length of Israel’s captivity?
  2. How did he go about approaching God and asking for His help?
  3. What was the curse of the Law?
  4. Was the unbelief of the Jews the cause or the result of the curse?
  5. What was the basis for Daniel’s request to God?
  6. Who came to Daniel and what kind of a creature was he?
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland

Year of The Bible – Psalms 141-147



Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:7

Psalms 141-147 (145)

These psalms are a treasure house of precious worship-phrases employed by the many and various liturgies of the Christian Church. Psalms 141 to 143 hyperbolize the urgent prayers of God’s people by characterizing them as “cries.” They reflect the desperation that David felt when he was in great peril. His cries are not unlike our own. They are the recurring prayers of the Church, constantly assailed, constantly in need of God’s grace. Psalms 144-147 are psalms of praise. The praise of God is, in a sense, a proud description of God’s qualities, a confident boasting that is not self-centered but God-centered. As we read or sing these psalms, reflecting upon the qualities of God, since those qualities are for our benefit, we will find ourselves growing more confident in Him and in our life.

Psalm 141 calls upon God to hear the prayers of the one who calls upon Him, asking God to help keep the speech of the mouth and the thoughts of the heart be righteous. So often, in times of persecution, God’s enemies are looking for Christians to make mistakes. They want to use their mistakes as an opportunity to destroy and harm, like the “snares” of hunters.

Psalm 142 is a prayer of complaint. The condition of the person being persecuted or harmed is laid at the foot of God – with the expectation that God will deliver and protect the one who cries to him in need.

Questions – Psalms 141-147

  1. Psalm 141 For what reason should we be asking God to keep us from making blunders and mistakes?
  2. 2. Psalm 142 Are we permitted to complain to God?
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland

Year of the Bible – Revelation 12:1-16:21



Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. – Revelation 13:11 

Revelation 12:1-16:21 (13:11-18)

This fourth vision of the Apostle John had seven parts, three of which are covered in this text. The first vision-part is about a woman with a dragon. The second is about a beast coming out of the sea. The third is about a beast that comes out of the earth. Each of the seven visions of the Apostle John give us further and greater insight into the activity of God and men, God’s kingdom and the kingdoms of men, in this world up to the final day of judgment and the entrance of our fallen creation into the new and glorious creation. The woman who appears represents the church, God’s children, and the dragon, as Satan. His crown signifies the deity that he wants to be (and cannot be), his tail and horns his power. His intention was to destroy the woman. His war was not only with the church, but with God and His heavenly angelic host as well.

The Church on earth has only two weapons in their battle against evil, but they are powerful weapons: They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. (12:11) The next vision is of a beast coming out of the sea. The sea has always represented “anti-god” powers within the world, the “secular antichrist.” Similar to Daniel’s vision, the beast is given the power to blaspheme God and to make war with the saints, to even conquer them (although the conquest is only an earthly one, not an eternal one).

The beast of the earth was of a different character than the beast of the sea. He had horns like those of a lamb (resembling Christ). He was and is the “spiritual antichrist.” He had the power to deceive the inhabitants of the earth into giving worship to the first beast. And the first beast gave his power to the spiritual beast so that he could force his imprint, his doctrine, his deception, upon the hands and forehead of men. His mark? 666. This calls for wisdom. (13:18)

Questions – Revelation 12 – 16
  1. What is a vision?
  2. What was the purpose of God’s visions given to the Apostle John?
  3. What did the “woman’ represent in John’s vision?
  4. What is the eternal activity of the dragon towards the woman and how can you see this in your own time and life?
  5. What are the weapons of the woman against the dragon?
  6. What do horns represent?
  7. How many beasts are there in these visions?
  8. What do the beasts represent?
  9. What is the mark of the second beast
  10. What is necessary for us if we are to understand all this spiritual symbolism?
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland

Year of the Bible – 1 John 1:1-3



. . . but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus in not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
– 1 John 4:3

1 John 1:1-3 John vs. 13 (2 John vs. 1-13)

These letters of the Apostle John are very short, but they are letters warning of the encroachment of a new false teaching, a heresy, that would infect the church like cancer infects the body. Christians were to be wary of it and not lose their faith. Gnostics had a false understanding of good and evil. They denied the incarnation of Christ and misunderstood Law and Gospel. John proved from Jesus’ nature and person that Gnosticism was false and dangerous. The Gnostics did not believe that the suffering and death of Christ actually brought about our forgiveness. John said: He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:2)

The Gnostics taught that the Christian life was not important, that the sinful nature was unredeemable. John said: This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (2:6) We are to love our brother, hate the world, beware of antichrists, do what is right. John understood that all Christians sin. But continuing in sin, when we know better, is dangerous and a sign of unbelief: The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. (3:8, 9) This victory over the world was not accomplished by human might and effort, but by faith in the Word of God: This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (5:4, 5) John also wanted to emphasize that Jesus was not just a person who was present in the world a long time ago. Jesus was and is still present with us—but how? This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood…anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. (5:6, 10) The verb “comes” is a “durative present” – meaning, still comes.

He is always present, even now, in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In the following epistles John urges his believer-children to continue in their love and to watch out for false teachers, deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus coming into the world in the flesh. If someone comes and does not have all the doctrines of Christ, they are not to be given reception or welcome (fellowship). (II John 1:8-11) This principle of fellowship is further explained in III John.

1 – 3 John Questions:
  1. What heresy was the Apostle John warning against?
  2. Explain some of the basic beliefs of this heresy.
  3. What proofs does John say will mark or identify the Christian from those who only “claim” to be Christians?
  4. Do Christians, sincere Christians, stop sinning?
  5. How does Jesus come to us today?
  6. What responsibility do we Christians have towards those who try and have fellowship with us – when in fact they do not believe and teach the same things?
  7. Why?
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland

Year of the Bible – John 5:1-10:42

YOTB - John 5



The wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. – John 10:12b

John 5:1-10:42 (10:22-30)

Jesus healed a man by the pool of Bethesda. When He broke the laws of nature and spoke the healing Word, the paralyzed man believed Him and obtained the promise of His Word. This miracle was done on the Sabbath. The observance of the Sabbath was prescribed by the Law. But when Jesus healed, He showed not only that He was the One who gave the Law, but as He brought the lame man beyond the law of nature, so Jesus also had the power to bring us beyond the commands and demands and condemnations of the Law.

To encourage our hearts to believe in His power over Law and in the power of the Law over us to condemn us, Jesus said: I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life (5:24) Once again, to prove His power over Law, Jesus broke through the laws of nature and fed five thousand people. He then called Himself the bread of life. The point: Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. (6:27) So with mouths of faith, we eat (trust and believe) these words: For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (6:40) It was and is faith in God’s Word that makes a person a child of God. Jesus demonstrated that when He forgave a sinful woman (John 8) and when He healed a man that had been born blind.

To shape all this into an easy picture that we can understand, Jesus tells us that we are like sheep cared for by a good and gracious Shepherd. To demonstrate His love for the sheep, Jesus predicted that He was about to lay down His life for them. From all over the world men would listen to the voice of this Shepherd and rest in the peace of knowing that nothing in all the world—not even beyond this world—would ever take His sheep away from Him.

Questions – John 5 – 10
  1. In what way did Jesus offend the Pharisees?
  2. What was Jesus proving by eliminating the effects of sickness?
  3. In what way can we say that sin operates in us like paralysis?
  4. What does it mean symbolically when we “eat” with “faith?”
  5. What are we supposed to eat?
  6. What proof does Jesus, our good Shepherd, give to us of His love for us?
  7. What promises are the sheep supposed to believe from the Shepherd?
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland

Year of the Bible – Acts 28:1-31




Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and . . . a viper driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. Acts 28:3

Acts 28:1-31 (28:1-10)

The Apostle Paul had been shipwrecked. Once ashore on the island off Malta it was necessary to be warmed. While going to get a pile of brush for the fire, the Apostle was suddenly bitten by a venomous snake. The local natives were sure that Paul was a condemned man. They believed in fate as justice.  When Paul did not die, they became convinced of just the opposite—that God’s blessings rested upon him. By using their own ways of thinking, God taught them something about the Gospel.

All Christians are guilty of sin and deserving of death. In Christ, however, the effects of death have been removed. Now, being baptized into Christ, we have become co-partakers with Him in eternal life. Since we do not experience the pains of death and have no need to fear death’s sting, we show to the world that God reckons us to be His children, heirs of the promised blessings. The Apostle Paul finally arrived in Rome. Though he wore a chain in his captivity, he had been granted the right to meet with Jewish leaders in Rome and present His case for Christianity.

Using the Old Testament (the Law of Moses and the Prophets), the Apostle proved Jesus to be the Christ in the light of sacred Scripture. Some believed, but not all. The Jews as a whole could not accept the Gospel—that salvation depended upon God’s mercy and not upon man’s righteousness under Law. They were offended when Paul pointed out that they were like their hard-hearted forefathers, who refused to repent and believe God’s Word and promises. It was also an affront to the Jews to hear that the Holy Spirit was to be given to Gentiles. That is what Paul did, boldly and without reservation, throughout the next two years of His captivity.


Questions – Acts 28
  1. Where was the Apostle Paul shipwrecked?
  2. What did the inhabitants consider to be a sign of Paul’s condemnation?
  3. How was this reversed?
  4. How does this illustrate the nature of sin and what Christ has done for us?
  5. Who met with the Apostle Paul upon his arrival at Rome?
  6. From what source of authority did Paul argue that Jesus was the Christ?
  7. What was the result of Paul’s persuasion?
  8. How long did Paul continue his preaching in Rome?
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland

Year of the Bible – Daniel 6:1-8:27



I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. – Daniel 7:11

Daniel 6:1-8:27 (7:8-14)

The fact that God is the ruler of all kingdoms is made clear in the book of Daniel. His rule over the world takes place through kingdoms and men. He lifted kingdoms up and brought about their downfall. Although it appeared that men were in control, behind visual appearances was the Almighty hand of God accomplishing His purposes. In the midst of such intrigue, during the height of the Kingdom of Babylon, stood the servant of God, Daniel. Daniel had been exalted to one of the highest positions in the kingdom of Babylon. But according to Daniel’s own prediction, the kingdom of the Medes and Persians overtook Babylon and Daniel was raised to an even higher position.

With success, however, comes envy and rivalry. Daniel was a pious and God-fearing man. He prayed three times each day to God. His enemies sought to destroy him by using the law against him. They deceived the king as to their true intent (they wanted, out of jealously, to have Daniel killed). They asked that no man be permitted to pray to anyone or any god except the king himself. They attempted to use justice, the law, to accomplish injustice. (A sin of the 9th and 10th Commandments.) The laws of the Medes and Persians were absolute. They could not be revoked, not even by the king. For his prayers to God, Daniel was thrown to the lions, but God’s angel saved him from the lion’s jaws and he passed through his death-sentence into life the next morning. Thereafter the king visited Daniel’s enemies with the same punishment that they had intended for Daniel.

Daniel’s success not only symbolizes the blessings that God will give to His faithful children; it is also a messianic symbol of the victory that Christ has won for us. By means of the righteous law that the devil uses against us, accusing us for sin and driving us to fear God’s wrath and punishment. But when Christ came, like Daniel, He was guiltless under the law. When brought to death Christ passed through death. He rose victoriously over sin, death and the devil. These “enemies” of our God have now been destroyed. The war with sin and evil has always had a similar pattern. The evil intrigues of evil men against the righteous children of God return to them, while God’s children are redeemed and saved “the next morning” to the glory of God.

Daniel Questions – Daniel 6
  1. What does the book of Daniel tell us about God’s relationship to the events taking place in the world today?
  2. What was the Kingdom that conquered Babylon?
  3. What was unique about Persian-Mede law?
  4. What commandments prevent us from using legal means to accomplish immoral ends?
  5. In what way was Daniel’s experience similar to Christ’s crucifixion, death and resurrection?
  6. How is Daniel’s experience symbolic of the Christian life?
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland

Year of the Bible – Psalm 134 – 140


My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning. – Psalm 130:6

Psalm 134-140 (139)  

Psalm 134

Why is the “way” that we worship on earth so important? Well, there are two Jerusalems! One is above, the heavenly Jerusalem, often called “Zion” in the Bible. It is heaven. The other is an “earthly Jerusalem.” It is our congregational worship, an image of the Zion above telling us something about what is happening in heaven above. Our worship on earth is like a shadow, an image of a cloud high above on a bright summer day. So it is very important that God is properly praised on earth – so that we may see something of the perfect praise of God in heaven. Therefore, when the ministers of the house below faithfully praise God, the psalmist asks God to bless them from the heavenly Jerusalem above.

Psalm 135

What do we say when we praise God in our worship? God is not just an idea. He is a real, living Being who acts inside our daily lives. The people of Israel gave Him praise for His wonderful acts of redemption and kindness that He had done for them in their history: God had chosen their ancestor and His children to be His chosen possession (4); He delivered them from oppression in Egypt (8); He destroyed kings and nations when they rose up against them (10). The great difference between the God of Jacob and all other gods was that Jacob’s God was real and living, unlike the worthless idols of the nations. Their God rules the heavens and the earth on their behalf (6). So what should and can we praise God for in our worship?

Psalm 136

What part of our liturgy is reflected in the litany of this psalm? A litany is a form of praise that uses simple repetition to include all people in worship (even children) and to emphasize an important theme. The theme of Psalm 136: His love endures forever. The three elements of praise reflected in this psalm emphasize truths about God that are reflected in our own Apostles Creed: God is our creator; God is our redeemer; God is our sanctifier – that is, He is the God who preserves and protects us on our lifelong journey to heaven.

Psalm 137

Besides praise, what else do God’s children include in their worship of God? When Israel was taken away into captivity to Babylon, they lost their Holy Temple – and with it, the privilege and joy of worshipping God. That is why they wept in captivity, for they could not joyfully worship God as long as they were strangers in a foreign land and slaves to evil men. The worship of God is not only the praise of God. It can also include requests to God, “petitions”, that God would remember His children and redeem them from their enemies.

Psalm 138

What moves us to have the right “spirit” in worship? Remember that we have outward actions in worship – for instance, we fold our hands, stand for important parts of the liturgy (like the Gospel), sing hymns, etc. But these actions mean nothing unless our spirit, our heart, is also involved in worship. Certainly God does many great things for us for which we want to praise Him, but the greatest thing of all, something that only the real God does, is that He binds Himself to His Word. The Word of God is not only the true statements. His Word is full of promises that God makes, promises that He will never break – despite our own failing or sins. David, therefore, in this psalm, shows us what is behind the true spirit of worship. It is gratitude to God for His unfailing Word of promise. By relying upon God’s unfailing Word, David and all the lowly people of the earth like him, are preserved and delivered from all their troubles (7).

Psalm 139

This Psalm reminds us that God is everywhere, that there is no place that we can go where He cannot find us or come to us. The omnipresence of God also tells us that God is also present within us, that is, He knows our thoughts and actions, the very things that we do in private. And why not? He was present in our mother’s wombs making us into human beings. His thoughts and ways are beyond those of man who is limited by power and space. The person of faith knows that he can stand before God and invite Him to look into his heart. Where Christ is, there all sin is washed away.

Psalm 140

This Psalm reflects upon a problem that rises up time and time again in the lives of God’s people. God’s children are hated, so often without any cause or justification. Only God is capable of stopping gossip and slander, so this psalm directs the heart of the worshipper to rely upon God for protection and justice.
© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland