2 John 1:8
Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
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2 John


2 John 1:8We have here a very unusual form of the Apostolic salutation. ‘Grace, mercy, and peace’ are put together in this fashion only in Paul’s two Epistles to Timothy, and in this the present instance; and all reference to the Holy Spirit as an agent in the benediction is, as there, omitted.

The three main words, ‘Grace, mercy, and peace,’ stand related to each other in a very interesting manner. If you will think for a moment you will see, I presume that the Apostle starts, as it were, from the fountain-head, and slowly traces the course of the blessing down to its lodgment in the heart of man. There is the fountain, and the stream, and, if I may so say, the great still lake in the soul, into which its waters flow, and which the flowing waters make. There is the sun, and the beam, and the brightness grows deep in the heart of man. Grace, referring solely to the Divine attitude and thought: mercy, the manifestation of grace in act, referring to the workings of that great Godhead in its relation to humanity: and peace, which is the issue in the soul of the fluttering down upon it of the mercy which is the activity of the grace. So these three come down, as it were, a great, solemn, marble staircase from the heights of the Divine mind, one step at a time, down to the level of earth; and the blessings which are shed along the earth. Such is the order. All begins with grace; and the end and purpose of grace, when it flashes into deed, and becomes mercy, is to fill my soul with quiet repose, and shed across all the turbulent sea of human love a great calm, a beam of sunshine that gilds, and miraculously stills while it gilds, the waves.

If that be, then, the account of the relation of these three to one another, let me just dwell for a moment upon their respective characteristics, that we may get more fully the large significance and wide scope of this blessing. Let us begin at what may be regarded either as the highest point from which all the stream descends, or as the foundation upon which all the structure rests. ‘Grace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father.’ These two, blended and yet separate, to either of whom a Christian man has a distinct relation, these two are the sources, equally, of the whole of the grace.

The Scriptural idea of grace is love that stoops, and that pardons, and that communicates. I say nothing about that last characteristic, but I would like to dwell for a moment or two upon the other phases of this great word, a key-word to the understanding of so much of Scripture.

The first thing then that strikes me in it is how it exults in that great thought that there is no reason whatsoever for God’s love except God’s will The very foundation and notion of the word ‘grace’ is a free, undeserved, unsolicited, self-prompted, and altogether gratuitous bestowment, a love that is its own reason, as indeed the whole of the Divine acts are, just as we say of Him that He draws His being from Himself, so the whole motive for His action and the whole reason for His heart of tenderness to us lies in Himself. We have no power. We love one another because we apprehend something deserving of love, or fancy that we do. We love one another because there is something in the object on which our love falls; which, either by kindred or by character, or by visible form, draws it out. We are influenced so, and love a thing because the thing or the person is perceived by us as being worthy, for some reason or other, of the love. God loves because He cannot help it; God loves because He is God. Our love is drawn out-I was going to say pumped out-by an application of external causes.

God’s love is like an artesian well, whensoever you strike, up comes, self-impelled, gushing into light because there is such a central store of it beneath everything, the bright and flashing waters. Grace is love that is not drawn out, but that bursts out, self-originated, undeserved. ‘Not for your sakes, be it known unto you, O house of Israel, but for Mine own name’s sake, do I this.’ The grace of God is above that, comes spontaneously, driven by its own fullness, and welling up unasked, unprompted, undeserved, and therefore never to be turned away by our evil, never to be wearied by our indifference, never to be brushed aside by our negligence, never to be provoked by our transgression, the fixed, eternal, unalterable centre of the Divine nature. His love is grace.

And then, in like manner, let me remind you that there lies in this great word, which in itself is a gospel, the preaching that God’s love, though it be not turned away by, is made tender by our sin. Grace is love extended to a person that might reasonably expect, because he deserves, something very different; and when there is laid, as the foundation of everything, ‘the grace of our Father and of the Son of the Father,’ it is but packing into one word that great truth which we all of us, saints and sinners, need-a sign that God’s love is love that deals with our transgressions and shortcomings, flows forth perfectly conscious of them, and manifests itself in taking them away, both in their guilt, punishment, and peril. ‘The grace of our Father’ is a love to which sin-convinced consciences may certainly appeal; a love to which all sin-tyrannized souls may turn for emancipation and deliverance. Then, if we turn for a moment from that deep fountain, ‘Love’s ever-springing well,’ as one of our old hymns has it, to the stream, we get other blessed thoughts. The love, the grace, breaks into mercy. The fountain gathers itself into a river, the infinite, Divine love concentrates itself in act, and that act is described by this one word, mercy. As grace is love which forgives, so mercy is love which pities and helps. Mercy regards men, its object, as full of sorrows and miseries, and so robes itself in garb of compassion, and takes wine and oil into its hands to pour into the wound, and lays often a healing hand, very carefully and very gently, upon the creature, lest, like a clumsy surgeon, it should pain instead of heal, and hurt where it desires to console. God’s grace softens itself into mercy, and all His dealings with us men must be on the footing that we are not only sinful, but that we are weak and wretched, and so fit subjects for a compassion which is the strangest paradox of a perfect and divine heart. The mercy of God is the outcome of His grace.

And as is the fountain and the stream, so is the great lake into which it spreads itself when it is received into a human heart. Peace comes, the all-sufficient summing up of everything that God can give, and that men can need, from His loving-kindness, and from their needs. The world is too wide to be narrowed to any single aspect of the various discords and disharmonies which trouble men. Peace with God; peace in this anarchic kingdom within me, where conscience and will, hopes and fears, duty and passion, sorrows and joys, cares and confidence, are ever fighting one another; where we are torn asunder by conflicting aims and rival claims, and wherever any part of our nature asserting itself against another leads to intestine warfare, and troubles the poor soul. All that is harmonized and quieted down, and made concordant and co-operative to one great end, when the grace and the mercy have flowed silently into our spirits and harmonized aims and desires.

There is peace that comes from submission; tranquility of spirit, which is the crown and reward of obedience; repose, which is the very smile upon the face of faith, and all these things are given unto us along with the grace and mercy of our God. And as the man that possesses this is at peace with God, and at peace with himself, so he may bear in his heart that singular blessing of a perfect tranquility and quiet amidst the distractions of duty, of sorrows, of losses, and of cares. ‘In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known unto God; and the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’ And he who is thus at friendship with God, and in harmony with himself, and at rest from sorrows and cares, will surely find no enemies amongst men with whom he must needs be at war, but will be a son of peace, and walk the world, meeting in them all a friend and a brother. So all discords may be quieted; even though still we have to fight the good fight of faith, we may do, like Gideon of old, build an altar to ‘ Jehovah-shalom,’ the God of peace.

And now one word, as to what this great text tells us are the conditions for a Christian man, of preserving, vivid and full, these great gifts,’ Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you,’ or, as the Revised Version more accurately reads,’ shall be with us in truth and love.’ Truth and love are, as it were, the space within which the river flows, if I may so say, the banks of the stream. Or, to get away from the metaphor, these are set forth as being the conditions abiding in which, for our parts, we shall receive this benediction-’In truth and in love.’

I have no time to enlarge upon the great thoughts that these two words, thus looked at, suggest; let me put it into a sentence. To ‘abide in the truth’ is to keep ourselves conscientiously and habitually under the influence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and of the Christ who is Himself the Truth. They who, keeping in Him, realizing His presence, believing His word, founding their thinking about the unseen, about their relations to God, about sin and forgiveness, about righteousness and duty, and about a thousand other things, upon Christ and the revelation that He makes, these are those who shall receive ‘ Grace, mercy, and peace.’ Keep yourselves in Christ, and Christ coming to you, brings in His hands, and is, the ‘grace and the mercy and the peace’ of which my text speaks. And in love, if we want these blessings, we must keep ourselves consciously in the possession of and in the grateful response of our hearts to, the great love, the incarnate Love, which is given in Jesus Christ.

Here is, so to speak, the line of direction which these great mercies take. The man who stands in their path, they will come to him and fill his heart; the man that steps aside, they will run past him and not touch him. You keep yourselves id the love of G,6d,’by communion, by the exercise of mind and heart and faith upon Him; and then be sure-for my text is not only a wish, but a confident affirmation-be sure that the fountain of all blessing itself, and the stream of petty benedictions which flow from it, will open themselves out in your hearts into a quiet, deep sea, on whose calm surface no tempests shall ever rave, and on whose unruffled bosom God Himself will manifest and mirror His face.

2 John 1:8-9. Look to yourselves — Take heed, lest you grow remiss or negligent in the course of your obedience. That we lose not, &c. — Lest you lose the reward of what you have already done, which every apostate does; but that we receive — Which every one that is faithful unto death shall do; a full reward — That, having fully employed all our talents to the glory of him that gave them, we may receive the whole portion of felicity which God has promised to diligent, persevering Christians. Receive this as a certain rule; whosoever transgresseth — Any law of God; and abideth not — Does not persevere; in his belief of, and obedience to, the doctrine of Christ, hath not God — For his Father and his God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ — Believing and obeying it; hath both the Father and the Son — Who have confirmed that doctrine in the most ample manner.

1:7-11 The deceiver and his deceit are described: he brings some error concerning the person or office of the Lord Jesus. Such a one is a deceiver and an antichrist; he deludes souls, and undermines the glory and kingdom of the Lord Christ. Let us not think it strange, that there are deceivers and opposers of the Lord Christ's name and dignity now, for there were such, even in the apostles' times. The more deceivers and deceits abound, the more watchful the disciples must be. Sad it is, that splendid attainments in the school of Christ, should ever be lost. The way to gain the full reward is, to abide true to Christ, and constant in religion to the end. Firm cleaving to Christian truth unites us to Christ, and thereby to the Father also; for they are one. Let us equally disregard such as abide not in the doctrine of Christ, and those who transgress his commands. Any who did not profess and preach the doctrine of Christ, respecting him as the Son of God, and salvation by him from guilt and sin, were not to be noticed and countenanced. Yet in obeying this command, we must show kindness and a good spirit to those who differ from us in lesser matters, but hold firmly the all-important doctrines of Christ's person, atonement, and holy salvation.Look to yourselves - This seems to be addressed to the lady to whom he wrote, and to her children. The idea is, that they should be particularly on their guard, and that their first care should be to secure their own hearts, so that they should not be exposed to the dangerous attacks of error. When error abounds in the world, our first duty is not to attack it and make war upon it; it is to look to the citadel of our own souls, and see that all is well guarded there. When an enemy invades a land, the first thing will not be to go out against him, regardless of our own strength, or of the security of our own fortresses, but it will be to see that our forts are well manned, and that we are secure there from his assaults. If that is so, we may then go forth with confidence to meet him on the open field. In relation to an error that is in the world, the first thing for a Christian to do is to take care of his own heart.

That we lose not those things which we have wrought - Margin: "Or, gained." Some copies read: "which ye have gained, but that ye." The reading here referred to in the margin is found in several manuscripts and also in the Vulgate, the Syriac, and the Aethiopic versions. It is not, however, adopted in the late critical editions of the New Testament, and the common reading is probably genuine. The sense is not materially varied, and the common reading is not unnatural. John was exhorting the family to whom this Epistle was written to take good heed to themselves while so many artful errorists were around them, lest they should be drawn away from the truth, and lose a part of the full reward which they might hope to receive in heaven. In doing this, nothing was more natural than that he, as a Christian friend, should group himself with them, and speak of himself as having the same need of caution, and express the feeling that he ought to strive also to obtain the full reward, thus showing that he was not disposed to address an exhortation to them which he was not willing to regard as applicable to himself.

The truth which is taught here is one of interest to all Christians - that it is possible for even genuine Christians, by suffering themselves to be led into error, or by failure in duty, to lose a part of the reward which they might have obtained. The crown which they will wear in heaven will be less bright than that which they might have worn, and the throne which they will occupy will be less elevated. The rewards of heaven will be in accordance with the services rendered to the Redeemer; and it would not be right that they who turn aside, or falter in their course, should have the same exalted honours which they might have received if they had devoted themselves to God with ever-increasing fidelity. It is painful to think how many there are who begin the Christian career with burnings zeal, as if they would strike for the highest rewards in heaven, but who soon waver in their course, and fall into some paralyzing error, until at last they receive, perhaps, not half the reward which they might have obtained.

But that we receive a full reward - Such as will be granted to a life uniformly consistent and faithful; all that God has to bestow on his people when most faithful and true. But who can estimate the "full reward" of heaven, the unspeakable glory of those who make it the grand business of their lives to obtain all they can of its bliss. And who is there that does not feel that he ought to strive for a crown in which not one gem shall be missing that might have sparkled there forever?

8. Look to yourselves—amidst the widespread prevalence of deception so many being led astray. So Christ's warning, Mt 24:4, 5, 24.

we lose not … we receive—The oldest manuscripts and versions read, "That YE lose not, but that YE receive."

which we have wrought—So one oldest manuscript reads. Other very old manuscripts, versions, and Fathers, read, "which YE have wrought." The we being seemingly the more difficult reading is less likely to have been a transcriber's alteration. Look that ye lose not the believing state of "truth and love," which WE (as God's workmen, 2Co 6:1; 2Ti 2:15) were the instruments of working in you.

a full reward—of grace not of debt. Fully consummated glory. If "which YE have wrought" be read with very old authorities, the reward meant is that of their "work (of faith) and labor of love." There are degrees of heavenly reward proportioned to the degrees of capability of receiving heavenly blessedness. Each vessel of glory hanging on Jesus shall be fully happy. But the larger the vessel, the greater will be its capacity for receiving heavenly bliss. He who with one pound made ten, received authority over ten cities. He who made five pounds received five cities; each according to his capacity of rule, and in proportion to his faithfulness. Compare 1Co 15:41. "There is no half reward of the saints. It is either lost altogether, or received in full; in full communion with God" [Bengel]. Still no service of minister or people shall fail to receive its reward.

Such changes of the person, as we here find, are neither unusual, nor, in exhortation, inelegant; but some copies read in the two latter clauses

ye. He presses to constancy in the true, incorrupt Christian profession.

That we receive a full reward; that the expected recompence be not lost in the whole, or in any part, as Galatians 3:3,4.

Look to yourselves,.... This is an exhortation to the elect lady, and her children, to look about them, and take care of themselves, and beware of these deceivers, and their doctrines:

that we lose not those things which we have wrought; or as the Alexandrian copy, and many other copies, and the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions read, "that ye lose not those things which ye have wrought"; in embracing the Gospel, making a profession of it, walking in it, showing a zeal, and contending for it, expressing a love both by words and actions to the ministers of it, and suffering much reproach on the account of it; all which would be lost, and in vain, should they at last drop the Gospel, and embrace the errors of the wicked; see Galatians 3:4. Moreover, such who do not go such lengths, as to let go the head, Christ, but retain him as the foundation, and the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, yet, among many precious things, may lay much rubbish on this foundation; and therefore should take heed what they build upon it, since, though they themselves may be saved, their works may be destroyed, and so they suffer loss; see 1 Corinthians 3:11; and if we read the words, "that we lose not--which we have wrought"; the sense is the same, it being only a figure which rhetoricians call communion, and it is frequently used when a common duty is exhorted to; see 1 John 2:28; unless it should be thought that this has a peculiar reference to the ministers of the Gospel, as it may: for though the Gospel preached by them can never be lost, being the everlasting Gospel, and the word which abides for ever; yet it may be received in vain, and persons may fall from it, and imbibe error, and so the labour of Christ's faithful ministers may be so far in vain, and lost; and likewise, many souls whom they have thought they have gained to Christ, and that they have been instruments of working upon them for good, and have hoped they would be their joy and crown of rejoicing another day; when such are carried away by deceivers, fall off from the truth, ministers of the word lose what they thought they had wrought, which must give them great concern; and this is improved by the apostle into a reason and argument why the persons he wrote to should beware of seducers and their errors:

but that we receive a full reward; in heaven, and which itself is called the recompense of reward, and the reward of the inheritance; not that this is a reward of debt due to the works of men, which are not rewardable in themselves; for they are such as are due to God before they are performed; and when they are done, they are not profitable to him, nothing is given to him, or received by him; when all is done that can be done, men are unprofitable servants; but this is a reward of grace, God has of his own grace promised it to those who love and serve him; and because it will be given them of his grace, after their work is over, as wages are given to a servant when he has done his work, it goes by this name: and whereas it is said to be a "full" one, the meaning is not as if it was different to different persons, for there is but one recompense of reward, or reward of the inheritance common to all the saints; or, as if it might be incomplete in some; it only signifies a large and exceeding great reward; see Genesis 15:1; in which last place the same phrase is used as here; and where the Septuagint interpreters use the same words as here; and which is thus paraphrased by the Targumist,

"the Lord give thee a good recompence in this world for thy good work, and let thy reward be "full", or "perfect", in the world to come.''

And the Jews (g) often speak of a full reward, and an equal one, to be received hereafter. Perhaps regard is here had particularly to the ministers of the Gospel, who have their reward in part here, for the workman is worthy of his reward, and they will have it in full hereafter. Moreover, the apostle might here be concerned, that he, and every faithful minister, might have their full number, they expected, that none may be missing, and which he may call a full reward: though the above copies and versions read here, as before, "ye", and "not we".

(g) Targum on Eccl. i. 3. & ii. 11. & Midrash Kohelet, fol. 72. 4.

{4} {e} Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

(4) He that makes shipwreck of doctrine, loses all.

(e) Beware, and take good heed.

2 John 1:8. The warning against the deceivers.

βλέπετε ἑαυτούς] “take heed to yourselves;βλέπειν with the refl. pron. besides here only in Mark 13:9.

The construction ἵνα after βλέπειν only in 1 Corinthians 16:10 besides; by ἵνα it is not the purpose (“take heed to yourselves, sc. of them, so that”), but the immediate object of their foresight that is stated (contrary to de Wette, Braune, and A. Buttm. p. 209).[10]

ἵνα κ.τ.λ.] Whatever be the correct reading, the thought remains essentially the same; the apostle warns his readers not to let themselves be deprived by the false teachers of the blessing, of which they became partakers through the evangelistic work. With the reading εἰργασάμεθα those who have worked are John and his associates; that ἐν ὑμῖν, or a similar phrase, must be put along with it for more particular definition (Lücke) is unfounded, as this more particular definition lies in the context itself; with the reading εἰργάσασθε, on the other hand, it is the work of the receivers of the Epistle themselves that is meant, who should just as little come short of the attainment of the blessing as the former.

The object of ἐργάζεσθαι, indicated by , is not exactly the μισθός, which is also spoken of, but the work directly effected by the labour, the result or the fruit of it. Fruit had been obtained in the Church by means of the work (fruit of knowledge, love, etc.); it was of importance that they should not again be deprived of this fruit; this is expressed by μὴ ἀπολέσητε; their loss may also, however, be considered as a loss to those who had worked among them by the preaching of the gospel, so that, as far as the sense is concerned, the Rec. ἀπολέσωμεν is perhaps justifiable; but the reading ἀπολέσηται: “that they () may not be lost,” also gives good sense, so that no cause exists for regarding it, with Lücke, as a mere clerical error.

If, however, that which was directly obtained by the work be lost again, then the future reward (μισθός) promised to Christians also disappears; therefore the apostle antithetically adds: ἀλλὰ μισθὸν πλήρη ἀπολάβητε. With the reading ἀπολάβωμεν we might be disposed to understand by the reward the heavenly gift which the apostle himself had to expect on account of his work; but he could not he deprived of this by the conduct of those among whom he had laboured, as it depends not on the result, but on the faithfulness of the work; by μισθός, therefore, must certainly he understood the reward which those to whom John is writing have to expect; for this, however, the reading ἀπολάβητε is plainly more suitable than ἀπολάβωμεν (so also Brückner).

μισθὸν πλήρη is not = μισθὸν πόλυν (Carpzovius), but: “full reward;” by πλήρη it is not meant that if they did not exhibit faithfulness they would receive only an imperfect reward, nor even that up to the present they had only received a part of the reward (Grotius, Aretius, Ebrard), but that the reward which, if they exhibit faithfulness, they shall obtain is a quite full reward, in which there is nothinglacking (Düsterdieck, Brückner).

[10] Braune here adduces various passages of the N. T. in order to vindicate for the particle ἵνα the meaning of purpose (“so that”); but he has not paid attention to the distinction whether the verbal idea with which ἵνα is connected is absolute or relative (requiring supplement), and he has not reflected that if the clause beginning with ἵνα forms the supplement of the preceding verbal idea, ἵνα cannot be = “so that.”

2 John 1:8. μισθόν, cf. Matthew 20:8; Jam 5:4. St. John here addresses not only Kyria but her family and “the Church in her house”. He views them as his fellow-labourers in the Lord’s vineyard: “We have worked together (ἠργασάμεθα): see that you do not forfeit the reward of your labour. Get a full wage. Be not like workmen who toward the close of the day fall off, doing their work hadly or losing time, and get less than a full day’s pay.” ἀπολέσητεἠργασάμεθαἀπολάβητε: “We have been fellow-workers thus far, and I mean to be faithful to the last; see that you also be so”. Their danger lay in taking up with false teaching and losing the comfort of the Gospel in its simplicity and fulness.

8. Look to yourselves] Exactly as in Mark 13:9, excepting the emphatic pronoun; ‘But look ye to yourselves’.

that we lose not] The persons of the three verbs are much varied in our authorities. The original reading probably was, as R. V., ye losewe have wroughtye receive. To make the sentence run more smoothly some have made all the verbs in the first person, others have made them all in the second. For the construction comp. 1 Corinthians 16:10. The meaning is, ‘Take heed that these deceivers do not undo the work which Apostles and Evangelists have wrought in you, but that ye receive the full fruit of it’.

a full reward] Eternal life. The word ‘reward’ has reference to ‘have wrought’. ‘Apostles have done the work, and you, if you take heed, will have the reward’. Eternal life is called a full reward in contrast to real but incomplete rewards which true believers receive in this life; peace, joy, increase of grace, and the like. Comp. Mark 10:29-30.

2 John 1:8. Ἑαυτοὺς, your own selves) in my absence.—ἵνα μὴ ἀπολέσητε, κ.τ.λ.) I think that the apostle wrote: ἵνα μὴ ἀπολέσητε ἅ εἰργάσασθε, ἀλλὰ μισθὸν πλήρη ἀπολάβωμεν, that ye lose not the things which ye have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.[6] Whence some have put the whole admonitory sentence in the second person, others again, afterwards, in the first person.—ἀλλὰ, but) There is no half reward of the saints; it is either lost altogether, or received in full. There is a direct opposition. We must however consider the different degrees in glory.—πλήρη, full) In full communion with God: 2 John 1:9.

[6] The margin of the 2d Ed. and also the Germ. Vers. are in consonance. But in respect to the second member, the Germ. Version is at variance with the opinion here given, for it retains the second person; and in this very particular confirms the observation of the Gnomon, which presently follows, on the word ἀλλά.—E. B.

AB Vulg. Iren. Lucif. read ἀπολέσητε and ἀπολάβητε: Rec. Text, with inferior authorities, ἀπολέσωμεν and ἀπολάβωμεν.—E.

Verse 8. - The authorities vary much as to the persons of the three verbs, "lose," "have wrought," "receive," some reading "we," and some "ye," in each case. The best reading seems to be, "That ye lose not the things which we have wrought, but that ye receive a full reward, i.e., beware of allowing our work in you to be undone to your grievous loss. Through not seeing the meaning of the passage, some scribes changed" ye" into "we," and others changed" we" into "ye," thus making all three verbs in the same person. There is a similar case in John 9:4, where the true reading seems to be, "We must work the works of him that sent me;" but in order to produce uniformity some scribes altered "we" into "I," while others turned "me" into "us." The next verse explains the nature of the "full reward" which the lady and some of her children are in danger of losing, - it is nothing less than God himself. 2 John 1:8Look to yourselves that (βλέπετε ἑαυτούς ἵνα)

Ἵνα in order that, marks the intent of the caution. See on John 15:13.

We lose (ἀπολέσωμεν)

The best texts read ἀπολέσητε, ye lose. So Rev, with destroy in margin. For the meanings of the verb see on Luke 9:25.

We receive (ἀπολάβωμεν)

The best texts read ἀπολάβητε ye receive. The compounded preposition ἀπό, has the force of back: receive back from God.

Reward (μισθὸν)

See on 2 Peter 2:13, and compare Matthew 5:12; John 4:36; 1 Corinthians 3:8; Revelation 11:18; Revelation 22:12.

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