An Example of Humility

Those who serve God must do so with humility. There is absolutely no room for selfish ambition in His kingdom. Although that means certain persecution in this hostile world, it guarantees glory in the age to come. And there is no greater example of such humble service than the Lord Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Philippian Christians to emphasize the need to live a life of humble service to Christ regardless of the circumstances. He wanted them to know they had been saved to do the Lord’s will and not their own.

However, Jesus did not simply command Christians to do this – He modeled it. While Paul was certainly a model of committed Christian service (1:12-26), his call for believers to serve the Lord with humble unity was always supported by the example of Christ. As the perfect Son of God, Jesus Himself is the epitome of a humble servant intent on doing the Father’s will at all cost.

As Paul points out in 2:5-11, Jesus came into the world, not only to redeem us, but also to demonstrate a life set apart to God. He came, not looking to glorify Himself, but to glorify the Father as all human being should. Therefore, the Father has glorified the Son. Paul emphasizes the need to view our service to God as Jesus did. That is, we must have a selfless mentality, a servant’s humility, and a saint’s expectancy.

An Example of Humility (2:5-11)
A Selfless Mentality (vv. 5-6)
Having called believers to stand together in the faith as we face inevitable persecution (1:27-30), Paul also stresses that such unity is only possible if approached with humility (2:1-4). And true humility begins with a selfless mentality toward the work of God.

That is why Paul says in verse five: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” While Paul often referenced our Lord with His title, “Christ,” he sometimes highlighted it by placing it first as he does here. It signifies Jesus’ position as God’s “chosen” or “anointed” One. That is, He is the foreordained Lord and Savior spoken of in the Old Testament Scriptures, and sent by God to fulfill His will concerning His kingdom.

That is important to note, since the apostle is about to identify Jesus as God incarnate. God the Son was clothed in humanity, and He would demonstrate perfect obedience to the Father in heaven. As a Man, Jesus Christ had the mindset of an obedient servant who possessed no other ambition than to do the Father’s will. Therefore, Paul admonishes us to adopt our Lord’s selfless mentality.

While the Second Person of the Trinity, Christ was also completely human in His incarnation. But when He assumed humanity, He in no way divested Himself of His Deity. As a Man, He submitted His own will to the will of the Father just as all God’s children must do. He knew that it was necessary to fulfill God’s purpose and plan for humanity in His kingdom. And, unlike Adam who fell by transgression, Jesus Christ was obedient in all things in order for His righteousness to be imputed to the believer (Rom. 5:12-21).

In verse six, Paul explains the conscious choice of our Lord to set aside His privileges as God and assume His role as the Son of Man. He says that, Jesus, “being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.” The word, “robbery,” would be better translated as “grasped” or “held onto.” In this case, it speaks of Jesus’ perspective of His exalted position as the Son of God.

In other words, even though He was God, Jesus did not see the glory He shared with the Father as something that He could not set aside for an appointed time in order to do the Father’s will. He knew that to enter human history as the anointed One would mean suffering and death. However, He was willing to leave His throne to accomplish our redemption and restore the kingdom on earth.

Paul uses two words here to highlight the Divine nature of our Lord. First, the word, “being,” refers to the essence of Christ’s nature which is unchanging. Secondly, Paul chose the word, “form,” from two possible Gr. terms to emphasize Christ’s unchanging character. Before teaching further on the Lord’s humility as a Man, the apostle undeniably confirms that Jesus was, in His very essence, God. But as Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord had a selfless mentality.

A Servant’s Humility (vv. 7-8)
Therefore, Paul goes on to say that Jesus “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (v. 7). This was a purposeful choice on the part of Christ made in eternity past. He decided to set aside His glory, which He rightly deserves, to become God’s chosen “bondservant” or “devoted slave.” The emphasis is on completely divesting oneself of personal ambition and seeking only the will of one’s master.

Note that Paul again employs the term, “form.” Only, this time, he uses it to emphasize the very essence of Jesus’ ministry as the perfect Man. Christ would not come to earth in glory but in humility — “in the likeness of men” — as a slave. He fully understood that He came not to do His own will but the will of God the Father who sent Him. And He knew this would mean the complete sacrifice of His human life for God’s purpose.

Verse seven is the heavenly perspective of Jesus’ humble servitude, but Paul continues in verse eight with the earthly perspective: “And being found in appearance as a man, [Jesus] humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” We could ask: “What was the reality of Jesus’ choice? What do we see of this in human history?” The answer is that Jesus, in fact, set aside His glory (“humbled Himself”) and became God incarnate (Gal. 4:4-5). He looked like us and experienced life in this world just as we do, yet without sin (Jn. 8:46; Heb. 4:15).

And in everything, He was obedient to God’s will. His obedience was impeccable and steadfast even to “the point of death,” which, for Him, was “the death of the cross.” By God’s providential working in the life of Christ, the natural consequence of His unflinching obedience was His crucifixion at the hands of sinful men.

Only, as God’s sinless Son, His death was determined by the Father to make atonement for the believer’s sins. Jesus said in John 6:38-40: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

There was no greater aspiration – no more satisfying endeavor – for Christ than to do what the Father wanted Him to do. In fact, Jesus even said that doing God’s will was His “food” as it were (Jn. 4:34). That is, it brought Him exponentially more satisfaction than any earthly pleasure. The Father’s will is exactly what He did (Jn. 8:29; 17:4). He humbled Himself as the Father’s slave, and the Father sent Him to the cross. However, it was not without the promise of restoring His glory.

A Saint’s Expectancy (vv. 9-11)
Jesus was a saint. We may not often think of Him as such, but He was “set apart as holy” as a Man for the purpose of God. And while He humbled Himself even to the point of death on the cross, He fully realized that death was not the end. He knew that glory awaited Him. Likewise, the believer can expect to experience the glory of God’s kingdom even though we are persecuted for serving God in this world – even though that persecution might mean dying as a result of obeying God’s will.

While Christians are certainly not equal in glory with Christ by any stretch of the imagination, we nonetheless share in the glory of His kingdom (1 Cor. 6:2; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:4-6). His exaltation is the guarantee of our glory in heaven with Him. He has made the way into the kingdom of heaven for us and promises that we have a place with Him (Jn. 14:1-4) where we will serve God eternally. Paul points out three things about Jesus’ exaltation and glory which reassure us of this.

First, because Jesus was obedient in all things, “God” the Father, “also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name” (v. 9). He already had been exalted in His Deity and would again be exalted as such (Jn. 17:5), so Paul is not talking about that. This refers to Jesus in His humanity (Jn. 5:22; Rom. 1:4; 14:9; 1 Cor. 15:24-25). He is the greatest of all human beings because He was and is the only perfect Man.

While God redeems sinners and makes them perfect in His sight, Christ had no need of redemption. He is the One whose death redeems us! His perfect obedience as a Man made Him fit to fulfill the role of the sinless sacrifice offered up for our transgressions. His given name, Jesus, means, “The Lord is my salvation,” but He Himself is the Savior of sinners. After His resurrection and ascension to the Father’s right hand in heaven, the title, Lord, has become His exalted “name.” It connects His Deity with His perfect humanity.

Secondly, because of the exalted “name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth” (v. 10). That is to say, there is no created being greater than Christ either in this world or in eternity. Both human beings and angelic beings, wherever they exist, are all subject to Him (Heb. 1:1-14; Rev. 4-5) as the idea of bowing the knee suggests. And they will literally do so. So Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 17:4; 19:16).

Third, “…every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (v. 11). Here Paul uses, “Lord,” as the exalted title of Christ. He is the Lord Jesus Christ because He not only was God’s anointed Redeemer, but He has accomplished that redemption through humble obedience to God. And, ultimately, His obedience brings “glory” to “God the Father.” That is the purpose of His exaltation. God exalted Christ to show the riches of His grace toward us.

As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:4-7, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (cf. Eph. 3:10-11).

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the prime example of humble service to God. His selfless mentality toward doing God’s will enabled Him to humble Himself and serve the Father even to the point of death. And His exaltation as the faithful Son of God ensures that all who trust in Him can expect to share in His heavenly glory.

Do you serve God with humility? Are you following the Lord Jesus Christ in selfless devotion to the Father’s will? Does doing His will and the assurance of sharing in His glory satisfy you?

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The Testimony of Christ – Part II

The Bible records God’s work of redeeming sinners for eternal life. From Genesis to Revelation, He unveils the truth about our existence both now and in eternity. We are confronted with God’s righteousness, our sin, His judgment, and the Savior He has provided in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ. Our response to His Word is crucial to our future well being, and we do not have the luxury of altering its doctrine to suit our taste.

The Scripture is unambiguous. If we turn to Christ in true, saving faith, then we are certain to be pardoned and gain the glory of heaven. But if we reject the Son of God, then we have no alternative than to be judged and cast into eternal hell. God sent Christ into the world the first time to secure the former, and He will send Him again to ensure the latter.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ concludes the Scripture as a complete unveiling of the glorified Christ to the Church. We are assured that, having accomplished redemption through His death on the cross, the incarnate Son of God has returned to the glory of heaven exalted within the Trinity (ch. 1). He is Lord over the churches, which are charged with faithfully representing Him until His return (ch. 2-3). And we are given God’s agenda for the last days when our Lord will return in power and glory to crush all rebellion, establish heaven’s throne on earth, and ultimately usher in a new creation of righteousness (ch. 4-22).

This final passage of the book is Christ’s closing testimony as to these realities. In Revelation 22:12-21 He affirms His reward for the saints, His blessing of eternal life for the obedient, His fulfillment of Scripture, His warning for those who hear the prophecy, and His promise to return. We have already considered the reward and blessing in our previous study, and we conclude the passage and the book by looking at His fulfillment, warning, and promise.

The Testimony of Christ – Part II
His Fulfillment (vv. 16-17)
In light of His imminent return, our all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present Lord and Savior reminds Christians that He will reward the saints (vv. 12-13). That reward will involve a degree of service and fulfillment in eternity commensurate with our service to Him in this world. It will be enjoyed within the context of eternal life, which is the blessing of existing in fellowship with God — being righteous in Christ and living righteously in Him (vv. 14-15).

The saints trust in Christ as the Lord and Savior whom God promised. They believe His sacrificial death on the cross satisfied God’s wrath toward them as sinners. They believe God raised His Son from the dead to verify that sacrifice. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, God “made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for [the believer] that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (cf. Is. 53:4-6).

“Jesus” is clear that, as God’s chosen Redeemer, He “sent [His] angel to testify to you these things in the churches.” That is, everything in this book revolves around the Christ God has promised throughout Scripture. In fact, the Bible was given to unveil Him, and John the Apostle’s vision in this book concludes that process.

Jesus affirms that He is the Christ. First He says, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David.” This is a Messianic title, and it speaks of both His deity and humanity. In other words, it identifies Him as the incarnate God. As God, He is David’s “root” because He chose and established him as the progenitor of the messianic line (2 Sam. 7). But He is also the “offspring” of David because He entered the human race as David’s descendant to sit on his throne forever. He is David’s Lord even though He is his human offspring (Lk. 20:41-44).

Secondly, Jesus is “the Bright and Morning Star.” This is a title identifying His glory as the Christ. The brightest star in the early morning sky ushers in the dawn of a new day. Jesus Christ our Lord will similarly pierce the darkness of this world at His return to bring the full light of God’s righteous kingdom to the creation.

Verse 17 is a response to Christ’s testimony that He is the fulfillment of God’s redemptive purpose and plan. First, “the [Holy] Spirit and the bride [i.e. the Church; the saints] say, ‘Come!'” This is the expected response. The Spirit of God has overseen the revelation of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21). He regenerates the sinner (Jn. 3:3), draws them to Christ in repentance and faith (Jn. 6:44), and teaches them truth (Jn. 14:26, 15:26). He appeals to their redeemed nature with the Word (Phil. 2:13), and they naturally long for Jesus’ return. The saints know the Son of God has already come to redeem them, and that same faith assures them He will return to judge sinners (2 Pet. 2:9). So their natural response is to long for His return and bear witness (cf. 2 Pet. 3:12).

The latter part of the verse is the response the Spirit and the bride desire from all who hear about the Lord Jesus. While many are called with the Gospel, few are chosen (Matt. 22:14), but it is the few who are identified by the phrases “let him who hears” and “let him who thirsts.” They will hear the good news of Christ and long for (“thirsts”) the righteousness He provides (cf. Matt. 5:6). They will repent of their sins and place their faith in Him, which is symbolized here as those who “take the water of life freely.” That is, they are justified by the grace of God through faith in Christ — the only possible way for the sinful souls of human beings to be satisfied.

Our Lord affirms that He is the fulfillment of Scripture in this regard.

His Warning (vv. 18-19)
Now our Lord Jesus issues a warning about “the words of the prophecy of this book.” Through John He affirms (“testify” Gr. – summartuero; a “joint witness”) that the warning applies to “everyone who hears.” John is speaking as the one who recorded this book, but the warning comes from the Lord who commanded the apostle to write it down (1:19). It is a warning not to tamper with God’s revelation. And not only what is revealed in “this book” but all of Scripture, which this “prophecy” concludes.

The warning is two-fold. It is directed toward anyone who “adds to these things” given to the churches through the vision John saw. It is also directed toward anyone who “takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy.” To the former, God will “add…the plagues that are written in this book.” To the latter, “God shall take away his part from the Book of Life (better manuscripts read “tree of life”), from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book”

John is saying, “May God” judge those who pervert Scripture, and the implication is that no true believer would intentionally do such a horrific thing. A saint of God has their name written in the Book of Life. They will be in the glory of heaven to partake of the tree of life, and they will experience all the blessing of eternal life described in this book. They will not experience the wrath of God determined against the unrepentant rebel.

Therefore, the “part” of heaven lost to one who twists God’s Word simply means that they, by their unbelief, lose “in regard to” eternal life and the glory of heaven. This in no way suggests that a true Christian would deny God’s Word nor could they ever forfeit eternal life or heaven. God is sovereign in salvation, and all who come to Christ in saving faith will by no means be cast out (Jn. 6:37). This book assures Christians of their eternal security!

The warning from the Lord is to the unbeliever, and especially to the false Christians and false teachers who prove their unbelief by their rejection of the full revelation of Scripture (2 Pet. 2).

You cannot claim to follow Christ and deny any part of the Bible. Adding to or taking from it are both ways of denying God as the only source of truth, and He is clear that this book is the close of Scripture (Rev. 22:6-11). As a true Christian, you may sincerely misunderstand parts of it, but you are willing to conform to its doctrine as you mature spiritually because you trust God. Proverbs 30:6 says, “Do not add to [God’s] words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (cf. Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Jer. 26:2). Anyone who is willing to alter God’s revelation has no love of the truth and is, therefore, a liar.

His Promise (vv. 20-21)
In conclusion, the Lord Jesus who “testifies to these things” closes by restating the promise of His imminent return. He says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” That is, His Second Coming is a certainty and can begin at any time.

\0x2028And to this promise John says, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” The apostle’s greatest desire was that Christ would return and fulfill all of God’s agenda. For everything is dependent on Jesus Christ. He is central to God’s purpose and plan. If you read the Bible and understand that Christ is the main theme, then you also want Him to come again!

John concludes by saying: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” As the saints serve the Lord with a heart set on His return, the apostle knows that God’s grace is needed and sufficient for what He has called us to do. It is his sincere prayer for all the saints as we wait for Christ Jesus to do all He has promised.

The testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ to Christians is to live as though He is coming at any moment. And when He returns, He will reward the saints in the joy of eternal life. He will fulfill everything written about Him in the Bible. We must hold fast to its truth and avoid the distractions of false teaching — looking for Him to return and do exactly as He has promised. Let us serve Him in the grace God has provided!

Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ — the glorified Lord of the church who is coming to destroy rebellion and bring in His kingdom of righteousness? Do you believe everything the Bible reveals from beginning to end? For a Christian, it is the only way to live for the glory of God.

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© Copyright 1997-2016 Richard E. Clayton, Jr. All rights reserved.

The Testimony of Christ – Part I

Anyone who reads The Revelation of Jesus Christ is forced to consider future realities. As the final installment of Scripture, it is the culmination of God’s revelation concerning His kingdom — an unveiling of His plans to bring this sinful world to an end and usher in eternal righteousness. Christians must not ignore its truth or take it lightly, since everything it teaches about the return of Christ is ready to take place.

The book’s theme and outline are straightforward (1:19). John was to record his vision of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ (ch. 1). He was to convey to the Church the Lord’s call to be a holy and faithful witness of the Gospel until His return (ch. 2-3). And he was to make known God’s plans to put down all rebellion and establish heaven’s kingdom under Christ’s rule in this world and the next (ch. 4-22:5).

Since the Son of God in all His glory as King of kings and Lord of lords is the subject, it is only fitting that the book — and Scripture as a whole — closes with the personal testimony of Christ to His servants (cf. 1:1). Therefore, in Revelation 22:12-21, He affirms a reward for the saints, a blessing to the obedient, a fulfillment of Scripture, a warning to those who hear this prophecy, and a promise to return. We consider His reward and blessing in part one of this study.

The Testimony of Christ – Part I
His Reward (vv. 12-13)
The Lord Jesus begins His testimony by restating the reality of His imminent return. On four separate occasions in the book He says, “Behold, I am coming quickly.” In other words, His return in power and glory can begin at any moment, and we must live with that expectation. It keeps us focused on our mission of representing His kingdom with the Gospel and heightens our anticipation of the glory to come (cf. 3:11; 22:7; 20).

Here the statement precedes an affirmation that Christ will “reward” His faithful servants. As Lord, it is His to give as He deems appropriate (“My reward is with Me”). This refers to the Judgment Seat of Christ before which all the saints will appear to have their deeds in this world evaluated as worthwhile or useless (cf. Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 4:1-5; 2 Cor. 5:9-10).

Thus Jesus says that He will “give to everyone according to His work.” Whatever is of eternal value will be rewarded with degrees of service and fulfillment in eternity. This is only a judgment to determine reward, since the believer’s sin was judged and punished in Christ’s death on the cross. His right to reward the saints is inherent as the incarnate Son of God who Himself has personally atoned for our sins (2 Cor. 5:21).

As at the book’s beginning (1:8), our Lord closes by reminding us that He is all-knowing — a truth reflected by the title “the Alpha and the Omega” (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet). He is not only the source of all knowledge and full expression of God’s truth (cf. 21:6), but He has sovereign knowledge of all things. Thus He has the ability to justly reward the saints.

The glorified Christ also identifies Himself as all-powerful. He is “First” in every sense over all things, having existed eternally as the Creator and Redeemer of the saints (Col. 1:15-18; Heb. 1:1-4). He is “the Last” in that everything exists for His purpose and glory. That is, it exists to that end.

In addition, the all-knowing, all-powerful, incarnate God also declares Himself to be ever-present in relation to all that He has made. He is “the Beginning and the End” (cf. 21:6). These three designations in verse 13 are similar yet different — each emphasizing the infinite nature of the Person of Christ as a member of the Trinity. Through Christ, God made all that now exists with an eternal purpose. Christ will end this age and usher in eternal righteousness — rewarding the saints in eternity as He sees fit.

His Blessing (vv. 14-15)
Secondly, the Lord Jesus affirms the blessing of eternal life for “those who do His commandments” (or “wash their robes”). This identifies the elect of God as those who desire and do His will. It in no way implies that eternal life is earned by keeping the Lord’s commands. Jesus said that those who love Him will keep His commandments (Jn. 15:1-17), and only those born again by God’s Spirit can be drawn to Him in faith to love and obey Him (Jn. 3:3; 6:44). Obeying Christ is evidence of regeneration, and it is the perseverance of the saints (cf. Rev. 14:12). All is contingent upon His atoning death.

These “have the right to the tree of life.” Only the saints have access to the heavenly city where eternal life is experienced fully. There the tree of life bears its fruit, which Christians will infinitely enjoy in God’s presence as they glorify Him (Rev. 22:2). The tree of life, like the river of life (22:1), is an eternal symbol of the abundant blessing of eternal life. With that life the Christian’s hunger and thirst for righteousness is satisfied (Matt. 5:6).

And only the saints “may enter through the gates into the city.” The gates of New Jerusalem (21:12-13, 21), which stand as eternal symbols of God’s redemption, will never be closed (21:25), since only righteousness will exist in the eternal state of God’s kingdom. In the new creation (21:1ff), the saints will bring the glory of the nations into the city and relish in the light of God’s glorious presence (21:24).

This is a reminder of the sure blessing of eternal life provided by Jesus Christ our Lord — and only for the saints. To emphasize the blessing, Jesus contrasts it with the alternative of being “outside” the city, which is a reference to not being in the new creation at all. In other words, He is talking about those in the outer darkness of hell who experience the curse of eternal death (e.g. Matt. 22:13).

Likening unrepentant rebels to “dogs” is an ancient way to say they are despised by God. Unlike domesticated pets today, canines were feral animals associated with uncleanness at the time John records Jesus’ words. This identifies the general immoral character of the ungodly.

The word, “sorcerers” (cf. 9:21), suggests the practice of taking drugs to engage in pagan religious practices. It is a reference to willfully casting off any restraints on the flesh. Substance abuse and addiction are rooted in a desire to achieve maximum, unrestrained pleasure. This seems to be the idea behind this word.

There is a progression here. An immoral character desires the things of the flesh, and when unrestrained, people are “sexually immoral…murderers and idolaters” as a way of life. This is precisely the behavior all people would manifest if God did not restrain human nature. And this He does by appealing to conscience through the moral influence of the Church, family, and government.

So our Lord is simply saying that everyone in hell is there because of this rebellious nature, which “loves and practices a lie” (cf. Rev. 21:27). That is, they love and act upon the lie of Satan. The Devil’s lie claims that God’s creatures can exist outside of His sovereign authority without consequence (Gen. 3:1-5ff; cf. 2 Thess. 2:11). But this only brings the curse of eternal death and not the blessing of eternal life.

What a blessing to be delivered from the eternity of hell, which we all deserve! And not only to be delivered from eternal death but to experience the unspeakable joy of life in the presence of God — a gracious gift provided through the death and resurrection of Christ our Redeemer. Our Lord Jesus Christ is affirming that the result of His return is to bring us out of our present condition, spare us from hell, and give us the full blessing of eternal life with God (Jn. 17:3).

The reward of Christ and the blessing of Christ are future realities for every saint of God. Our reward is enjoyed within the context of eternal life just as the Lord testifies here.

Does the testimony of our all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present Lord make you evaluate the way you are serving Him? Are your living in a way that has eternal value — a reflection of your faith in the One who died for your sins? Will your joy in heaven be magnified because of your faithful service to Jesus Christ in this world?

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© Copyright 1997-2016 Richard E. Clayton, Jr. All rights reserved.