Fri, Nov 30th - 2:24PM
My friends, here is a scene straight out of today's television sci-fi shows:
And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God(4:5).
This verse continues the majesty of the throne and the dignity of the elders. The lightnings, thunderings, and voices proceeding from out of the throne are prophetic of the righteous judgment of God upon a sinful world which marked the giving of the law in Exodus:
And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled(19:16).
As the law was given out to the people, so is judgment on all people at this time heralded in. John's attention, along with our's, is directed to seven lamps of fire which are before the throne. We are told that these are representative of the Holy Spirit. We need to realize that these are not so much seven individual spirits, but rather represent the overall nature of God's Holy Spirit. Normally the Holy Spirit is not visible unless embodied in some sort of way. For example, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ on the occasion of His baptism in the river, everyone saw a white dove descending. In a similar fashion, on the day of Pentecost the coming of the Holy Spirit was seen as "cloven tongues like as of fire."(Acts 2:3) The number seven is characteristic of the perfection of the Spirit and is in keeping with the revelation of Isaiah 11:2-3. We can safely conclude that up to this point in Revelation we have evidence of all three Persons of the Godhead/Trinity, each in His particular form of revelation.
And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come(4:6-8).
Here is another scene that causes people some difficulties in understanding just what we are supposed to be seeing. "A sea of glass like unto crystal" occupies the majority of the landscape painted for us by this verse. As in other parts of Revelation John expects us to draw conclusions from similar scenes elsewhere in the Bible. There seems to be an analogy here, or comparison, to the sea of brass in the Tabernacle of the Old Testament or the molten sea in the Temple. Both were lavers, designed for the cleansing of the priests, and contained water used for various ceremonial rites. This could represent typically the sanctifying power of the Word of God.
No sure word of interpretation of the sea of glass can be advanced in our day. No explanation is given to us within the text, so we can only surmise what it may represent in truth. Perhaps, in line with the thinking associated with what the brass laver of the Tabernacle represented, and with what the "ocean" of water in the later Temple represented, this sea of crystal represents the status of the sin nature in the believers. Whereas before we daily struggled with our sin nature and needed to daily cleanse ourselves with the Word of God, to renew our minds so that we would not conform to this world, once we reach heaven and are before the throne of God we will no longer be struggling with this issue since sin will not be a part of us. Thus the solid nature of the sea, we no longer need to cleanse ourselves constantly because of the absence of sin. It is only a thought.
But John is not focused upon the sea of crystal but rather his attention is riveted upon those four beasts. They were in the midst and all around the throne. They are full of eyes and all have six wings. Outlandish features by any standard! And yet there is still more to them! One looks like a lion, one like a calf, one the face of a man, and one like an eagle. And they are not just sitting there, but are constantly giving praise, honor, and glory to God Almighty, who is Jesus Christ the Messiah.
The word zoon is Greek for "living ones." This is probably a better term to use here rather than beasts since we get a different picture in our minds with that. An entirely different word, therion, meaning "a beast", is used in Revealion 13 to speak of the creature coming out of the sea. In this current verse the usage emphasizes the quality of life and its attributes. So lets keep that in mind as we study this passage.
Of course, much guessing and wondering has gone on about the identity of these living ones and their significance. There have been many diverse interpretations of their identities, but I will offer four of perhaps the most important explanations.
1. Some interpret the four living creatures as representative of the attributes or qualities of God presented to John here as living entities. Just as the Holy Spirit is represented by seven lamps so also the Godhead is pictured in the same way. That they are full of eyes signifies the omniscience and omnipresence of God who sees and knows all. Similarly, they are different aspects of divine majesty. The lion is king of beasts, the calf is the most important of domestic animals, Man is the greatest of God's creatures, and the eagle is symbolic of supremacy and sovereignty.
2. Comparison has also been made of the four living ones to the four Gospels which represent Christ in four major aspects of His person. As the lion, He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, represented as the king of Matthew. As the calf, He is the Servant of Jehovah, the faithful one of Mark. As man, He is the human Jesus, presented in the Gospel of Luke, and as the eagle, He is the divine Son of God presented in the Gospel of John.
3. Ancient rabbinical writers declared that the tribes of Israel pitched their tents on the four sides of the Tabernacle in this same order; namely, the tribe of Judah, a lion; the tribe of Ephraim, an ox/calf; the tribe of Reuben, a man; the tribe of Dan, an eagle. It could be indicative of the relationship of God to the material universe or the world in general.
4. Lastly, these living ones are angels whose function is to bring honor and glory to God. Angels as seen in the Scriptures vary widely in their reported appearance, and this is a plausible explanation based upon that aspect. Also, angels are frequently seen in apocalyptic books of the Bible such as Ezekiel and Daniel. The fact that these creatures have three pairs of wings as do the seraphim of Isaiah 6:2-3 adds some weight to this interpretation. In both instances the creatures have a similar function in that both signify the holiness of God Almighty.
Personally, I believe that there is truth in all four views. No one of them, however, should be singled out as doctrine but rather they should all be combined to give us the fullest comprehension of what we are seeing here in this passage. God gave us an immense amount of knowledge and truth in a short passage, we shouldn't attempt to compartmentalize any of it.
And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and evr, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worhsip him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created(4:9-11).
Now we see that from time to time these four living ones give special adoration to He who sits on the throne. Whenever this happens the elders prostrate themselves before the throne and throw down their gold crowns. They offer to God their victor's crowns and acknowledge His worthiness due to the fact that all things are and were created by Him, and for Him. Here we are given additional clues that make us decide that the four creatures full of eyes with six wings are probably angels since it becomes awkward to say that God is praising God here. Nothing like this is found elsewhere in scripture where we are told explicitly that God is doing that to Himself. So, the emphasis is being placed upon their praise being hoisted up on high for the divine attributes and worthiness of God.
The twenty-four elders recognize these Godly attributes and they also recognize the works of God which reveal the same attributes. The casting of their victor's crowns testifies that if it had not been for God's grace, salvation, and goodness, they could not have had any victory over sin and death. Hence, the creature honors the Creator and accepts the reality that man must be subject to his Creator.
Unfortunately, the world does not give such honor to the Living God. Even though all men benefit from His goodness and live in a universe of His making, they tend to neglect the worship of God. Revelation as a book traces the divine movement of history toward the unavoidable recognition of God. This purpose of God is also laid out in Phillipians 2:9-11;
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
All creatures owe their very existence to Him as their Creator, "for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." This chapter is an introduction to that which follows in the next chapter where the glory of Christ as Redeemer, as the Lamb that was slain, is an added reason for praising God. Are we wise enough to find in this revelation of such a God and to bow now in these days of grace in faith and worship before the God whom we will serve throughout eternity? I hope so, beloved.
I will make a rest stop here. Get up, stretch your legs, get some refreshment, go to the restroom. Look out to the horizon and exercise your eyes after so much reading. Do some jumping jacks and get your blood flowing again. I know, I know. That comes from too much interstate travel on my part last week! Beloved, next time we will turn to chapter five where we will study about the Lamb and the Seven-Sealed Book. We will discover the true occupation of each child of God. Until then, give all praise, honor, and glory to God Almighty.
Thu, Nov 29th - 3:45PM
My friends, today we begin studying the third major section of Revelation. Beginning with chapter four, we begin the third part of the divine outline given to us back in chapter one verse nineteen. There we were told that John was to write down "the things which shall be hereafter." Here in chapter four we see a similar statement being made to John:
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter(4:1).
The way this verse ends strongly indicates a futurist viewpoint. These are going to be things that are to happen in the future, after the churches. Up until this point in Revelation we have been seeing the history of the church. The letters to the seven churches in chapters 2-3 were dealing with things that are. In 1:19 we were made aware that John was to write down those things which he had seen(Christ crucified), those things which are(the church age), and then those things which must come after(once the church is caught up to heaven). This last stage is where we are at. The church has been the subject matter in all three chapters, but where has the church gone once we enter chapter four? From here through to the end of the book there is no more mention of the church. "Church" has occurred nineteen times up until this point. Perhaps what is happening here is that we are seeing the church being "caught up" into heaven. The Philadelphian church is no longer on planet earth, and what is left behind is merely an organisation set up by mankind, dead spiritually yet still busy doing works. This orgainized group of denominations will go through the Great Tribulation Period and will eventually become known as the great harlot.
John gave us this deliberate division twice, so that we would not forget! Several facts make it rather self-evident that we move to a new division in this chapter. There are some radical changes that occur:
1. The church is no longer seen in the world. Christ said of His own, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world"(John 17:16). He also said to His disciples "...I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also"(John 14:3).
2. The scene certainly shifts to heaven. Since the church has previously been the subject matter of the unveiling of truth to John, we must continue to keep that in mind unless Christ clearly indicates otherwise. Since He has not done this, we must conclude that the church is now in heaven here in chapter four. How did the church get there? Paul give us an answer in I Thessalonians 4:17, "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord". Paul defines the operation in I Corinthians 15:51-52, Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
Faith places sinners in a position where when the door to heaven opens they may pass through. Christ is in heaven at this point and so is the church. He needs to be in heaven still since He is directing the events of the Great Tribulation.
3. The church is not a name but a defintion of those who have trusted Christ during this age. We need to fix this in our minds quite firmly. The word church comes from the Greek word ekklesia which means "to call out of." Therefore we are a group of people called out of the world by Christ. Are we simply called out of this world while we are living here? I think not.
When the church arrives in heaven it loses the name that it has been known by in the world and other terms are used to describe it. We shall see this as we go through this chapter alone. The apostate organization left on earth which continues to bear the name of "church" is not referred to as such. Rather, it is given the frightful title of "the harlot." Some churches will not lose any members on the day of the "catching away" of the genuine church by Christ. Why? Because they are Laodicean churches, professing to be Christian but without any reality of spirit.
4. The judgments beginning at chapter six would not be in harmony with the gracious promise and provision that God made to the church. If the church remained in the world, it would contradict the grace of God because He has promised to deliver us from judgment.
5. Finally, if we were to continue from chapter three to chapter four without recognizing the break is to ignore the normal and natural division in this book as it is stated in chapter one, verse nineteen.
Now, we can confidently support the idea that the rest of Revelation is future in application, from the viewpoint of the 21st century, since there is a lack of correlation of these prophecies with anything that has happened historically. So if these remaining chapters relate to future events historically, they then will provide us an important clue concerning interpreting the vision and the prophetic events which unfold here. Failure to understand this point causes much confusion in studying this book. If Revelation has no chronological structure at all and is simply a symbolic presentation of moral truths, its significance as prophecy becomes minimized. Which might be the agenda of some people, but not of all. If, as others maintain, the prophecies of this part of Revelation are already fulfilled, that also robs the book of any prophecy of the future.
A literal reading of these prophecies is not fulfilled and must be regarded from the futuristic viewpoint if it is actually prophecy. Do you follow me? If we can't clearly match up past historical events to be fulfilling these prophecies then they must be prophecies that have yet to happen. The Greek expression "after this" which comes from meta tauta, identifies for us that this part of revelation is following that of the previous two chapters. John having been the conduit of revelation to the seven churches that existed in the first century now is being shown a new revelation, new prophecy. The reference to heaven is not the atmosphere surrounding this planet nor is it to the outer spaces filled with stars and galaxies but to that which is beyond our natural eyesight which is the "third heaven", or the immediate presence of God.
"I saw" is the eye-gate. "I heard" is the ear-gate. This is alot like today's television programs if you stop and think about it. In this verse we also are seeing another "door" that is open. This is but one of four open doors found in Revelation.
1. In chapter three we saw Christ speak about having set an open door before us. This we concluded earlier to be a door of opportunity to witness.
2. The open door of invitation and identification with Christ from in chapter three where He stands and knocks at the door of our hearts, desiring to come in and fellowship with us.
3. Here in verse one we have an open door in heaven. Perhaps the door is the one through which Christ will come at His Second Advent. John did not say that he saw this door opening, it seems that it already was open. In John 14:6 Christ says to us, "I am the the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." He also said, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture"(John 10:9). The open door to heaven is Jesus Christ. We enter in by faith.
"Come up hither" is heaven's invitation to John, and it is an invitation to all of the saints of Christ. John reported in his writings these things: "We heard it, we saw it, and we declare it to all of you. We do it so that all of you can have fellowship with us and God and one day all of you can go up through this open door into heaven."
"And the first voice which I heard, a voice as of a trumpet speaking with me." Christ is speaking authoritatively, as a loud trumpet. This is the sound that calls the church to meet Him in the air. This is one of the simple symbols which frequently happen from here on out. It is obviously a symbol since we all know that trumpets do not speak. The voice of Christ is like a trumpet, and this is what Paul wrote to us about in I Thessalonians 4:16-17. This tells us about the "catching up" of all saints at that time. The Greek word harpazo is used here and means "caught up" or "snatched away". Both give the impression of suddenness or quickness of action.
And immediately I was in the spirit; and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne(4:2).
The brief time that passed from the command to come up here to heaven to John's being there in the spirit was very quick. Perhaps a twinkle of an eye? That is how Paul describes our passage into the air to meet with Christ(I Corinthians 15:51-52). Finding himself in the "spirit" indicates that the Holy Spirit was still guiding John into new truth.
"And behold, a throne set in heaven, and one sitting on the throne." John now sees a throne and someone is sitting on it, though John cannot tell who since he gives us no description. The throne represents the sovereignty and rulership of God. He is in ultimate control of everything in the universe. This universe rotates around Christ, it is Christocentric.
The throne of grace now becomes the throne of judgment. For this reason I say that the church is gone from earth when this scene takes place.
And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerals(4:3).
John can't even see clearly a body of any sort, merely colors that capture and captivate his eyes. We have a rainbow arcing all about the throne, seemingly a picturesque reminder of God's promise to never again destroy the earth by water.
The precious stones are not without meaning in this passage. The jasper stone is described for us in chapter 21 as a precious stone which is clear like crystal, which would indicate something like a diamond. The sardine stone, or the sardius, is a familiar stone in color like a ruby, a beautiful deep red.
The significance of these two stones go far, far, beyond their color. Although the clear jasper may refer to the purity of God and the sardine to His redemptive purposes, according to the Old Testament these stones had a relationship to the tribes of Israel. Each tribe had a representative stone, and the high priest had stones representing each tribe on his breast whenever he functioned as the high priest before the altar. This symbolized how he was representing all twelve tribes of Israel before the throne of God.
The jasper and sardine stone are the first and last of those twelve tribes' stones(Exodus 28:17-21). Jasper stone represented Reuben, the first of the tribes, since Reuben was the firstborn of Jacob. The sardine stone represented Benjamin, the youngest of the twelve sons of Jacob. So these two stones represented the first and the last, just as Christ said that He too, was the first and the last. These two stones also include all of the others in between them, inclusive all of Israel.
Delving even deeper, the names Reuben and Benjamin have significance. Reuben means "behold, a son." Benjamin means "son of my right hand." These terms seem to hold double meanings: first, the fact that Christ is the representative of Israel and also the Son of God. Like Reuben, Christ is the first begotten son. Secondly, like Benjamin, Christ is also the "son of my right hand" in relation to God the Father. This person whom John sees on the throne is therefore God in relation to the nation Israel.
It is of some interest that these same stones are used to describe the majesty of the king Tyrus in Ezekiel 28:13. There, in a list of nine precious stones, the sardis is mentioned first and the jasper is sixth in the list. In the description of the foundation of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21:19-20, the jasper is first and sardius is sixth. The emerald is listed as eighth in Ezekiel and fourth in Revelation 21. It is evident that these stones have a peculiar significance of glory and majesty which are characteristic of God on His throne. Combined with the brilliance of the jasper and sardine stones, the rainbow described as all of green forms a rich background for the awesome scene that John witnessed.
Of course, questions arise as to the identity of the One who sits on the throne. In this chapter it appears that He is to be identified as God the Father because Christ is represented separately as the Lamb. Some would argue that both are sitting on the throne and technically they are correct as we have been told in John 14:9, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." What we see here is the Trinity in practise. A Triune God who is Three Persons in One and yet can be at different places simultaneously and yet altogether in one place at the same time. Confusing? It can be for sure. It is significant here that God is not given any type of figure and is not seen as a man. Obviously the Glory of God washed out the outline of anybody on the throne.
And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold(4:4).
Here is a point of debate among believers. Who are these elders? The Greek word for "elders" is presbuteros. Our term, "presbyterian" comes from this root word. We know that Israel had elders who were leaders, and there were elders appointed in the early churches to rule and to represent the entire church(Titis 1:5). These 24 elders represent the total church from Pentecost to the "snatching away" of the entire church. These elders are also clothed in white raiment with gold crowns on their heads. Three principal views have been put forward as to the identities of these elders. One view is that they represent the body of all the saints of all ages. Another is that they only represent the Body of Christ, the church. The third group feel they actually represent an order of angels.
That they are a representative group is self-evident due to a parallel of the Old Testament where the priesthood was represented by 24 orders of priests. This text does not give any specific statement concerning the identity of these elders. In the next chapter additional information is given to us and we will discuss this more at that time. Help is given here in this verse in the form of how they are described. We are told that they are clothed in white and wearing crowns of gold. There are two kinds of crowns in Revelation, involving two different Greek words. One is the crown of a ruler or a sovereign (diadem), which is a crown of governmental authority. The other is the crown of a victor (stephanos), such as was awarded in the Greek games when someone won a race or some contest.
Here the word used is the crown of a victor rather than that of a sovereign. The gold indicates that the elders wre awarded for victory accomplished. They had overcome the world. If this passage were to be regarded as chronologically before the time of the tribulation it would seem to eliminate the angels, as at this point they have not been judged and subsequently not rewarded. For the same reasons te elders do not seem to be a proper representation of Israel, for Israel's judgment also seems to come at the end of the tribulation, not before. Only the church which is raptured before chapter 4 is properly complete in heaven and eligible for reward at the judgment set of Christ. In this case, the gold crowns are appropriate to be upon the heads of the elders. In summary, identification of the elders should not be dogmatically held, but the evidence seems to point towards the elders as being the church as the Body of Christ.
I think that I will stop there for today, beloved. Next time we will look at all of the sights and sounds that proceed out of God's throne. Until then, search your heart and find that which needs correction and then repent of it. Forgive those who treat you wrongly and pray for God to touch their hearts and cause them to turn from their former ways.
Wed, Nov 28th - 5:02PM
The Last Day Of Your Life
A story is told of a Jewish rabbi, aged and revered by his students. He was dying, and his students came to him to ask him the questions they thought most important. One student asked, "On what day should a man repent?"
The rabbi's answer puzzled the student: "A man should repent on the last day of his life."
"But how can one know which is the last day of his life?"
"That is why a man should repent every day."
"But I am young and strong," you say, "and there are many years before the end of my life." Really? Is it actually so? Hear the words of Solomon:
I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all(Ecclesiastes 9:11).
A familiar scripture reading, and who are you to say that time and chance will not overtake you? Are you in absolute control over your life? Indeed, Solomon makes the matter clear in the next verse:
Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them(Ecclessiastes 9:12).
So heed the words of this wise man; you are not guarenteed tomorrow. Thus you should repent every day. There is another reason, however, which is more subtle and sinister. Each day that goes by without your repentance tightens sin's grip on your throat. The sin which will be difficult to renounce today will, in time, become so strong that you will find you do not have the strength to give it up. So what should you do? Repent, of course, and ask for the clean heart He will give you as you do.
Why is this important at the time of Communion? Because at Communion we deal with the fact that we are sinners, and God is our sacrifice of atonement. Repent, therefore, and then partake at His Table.
- Partake looking back, and see the sacrifice He made for your life.
- Partake, looking at today. "Just as I am" comes to Jesus today; for today is the day, now is the hour, now is the minute.
- Partake, looking forward to Christ's return, when all the thoughts of a man's heart and the actions done in secret will be proclaimed to one and all.
Today just might be the last day of your life...
Wed, Nov 28th - 1:00PM
Here we are, my friends, at mid-week. Today we will study verses 15-22 of this third chapter of Revelation. We are going to begin by seeing that Christ issues an indictment to the Philadelphian church followed by action. Let's begin:
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth(3:15-16).
These are not extremely encouraging words being given by Christ to this church. He is laying it on them, as some of us would say today. Some people suggest that perhaps the name of the pastor of this church was Archippus who is mentioned in Colossians 4:17 and had a strict charge laid before him by Paul. Whether this particular man of God still lead the church at this future point in time, we do not know, however, the state of this church may well have stemmed from faulty ministry and leadership on this man's part.
Christ has nothing good to say about their works, only condemnation. "That thou art neither cold nor hot," had a local meaning connected with their water supply, and should have hammered God's point home on these people. Their water came from the mountains where it was ice cold, but by the time it reached their city down in the valley it had become lukewarm. Below them near the Lycus River are hot springs, by the time that water was carried up to them it too had become lukewarm. Lukewarm water is in between, no good tastewise and no good for medicinal uses. This is how God saw these people, as not being good for either use. Their saltiness was gone, they could not heal anybody with their testimony. As hard as it is to believe what Christ has said here, we must face it in order to learn. A cold church means one that has denied every doctrine of the faith. It is given over to formality and is in active opposition to the Word of God and the gospel of Christ. They probably have long since stopped preaching salvation through Christ. Liberalism today is in active opposition to the gospel of Christ. Hot speaks of those of us who are living with real spiritual ferver and passion like the saints in Ephesus. Has the Holy Spirit brought you to high pitch in your personal relationship with Christ?
This picture of lukewarmness is reflective of many, many churches today, beloved. How many churches can you think of that are attempting to maintain a middle-of-the-road position? They sure do not want to come out and stand for the Word of God and all of its doctrines. And they also do not want to be labeled as a liberal church. So they sit on the fence, refusing to pick sides. We cannot play both positions for it leads to doublemindedness and that is an unstable position to try and hold. This position is so repellent to Christ that He uses the word "spue" to describe how He feels. He will vomit us out. This is hypocrisy of perhaps the worst kind. In verse one of this chapter you will remember He said "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." And over in II Timothy 3:5 "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." So obviously we are needing to be alert and properly identify these types of churches and do not join with them in any way.
In this portion of Scripture Christ is referring to three different spiritual states which can be labeled as a state coldness, a state of warmth, and a state of lukewarmness. To be cold means that the gospel leaves them totally unmoved and arouses no interest or spiritual fervor. To be hot means showing genuine spiritual fervor and leaving no question as to the presence of eternal life, the sanctifying power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and a fervent testimony shown to all that they are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Living God. The third state means there is some interest in the things of God. They may be professing Christians who attend church but have fallen far short of a true witness for Christ and whose attitude and actions raise questions concerning the reality of their spiritual life. They have been touched by the gospel, but it is unclear if they actually belong to Christ. Such was the state of this Laodicean church. The Lord does not take exception here with those who are transitioning from coldness to hotness and are found to be in this lukewarn state. He is upset with those whose final spiritual state finds them entrenched in lukewarmness. Both the leader of the church and its members are neither cold nor hot, they all are condemned by Christ. If you are one who attends church services but does nothing when it comes to daily reading of His Word and a prayer life, then you are in severe danger of being in this third state. I would say to you, Wake up! Look around you! Read God's Word and believe! It is not about outward conformity but rather inner conformity to the mind of Christ! All things proceed from out of our hearts, that is why we were warned to guard our hearts.
This is the condition of much of the church today, sad to say. I am afaid that Christ would say to very many churches today , "You profess to be Christians, using My name. You say that you love Me, but you do not mean it in what you are doing." Actions always speak louder than words. I realize that I am putting a heart-searching message right smack in front of you. I mean you to face up to what is happening in all of our churches today. There are those who believe the Word of God, really believe it, and they follow it, love it, obey it, and then there are those who do not really believe any of it. To reject any part of God's Word nullifies all of it in actuallity. To deny any part of it in essence throws out the entire scripture. And I will put this question to all of us: In Jesus' day, who were the most difficult people to reach with the gospel message? The religionists, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Who are those people in our world today? All of those people who are satisfied with their measure of devotion and with the things which to them represent religion and salvation. As Christ noted, it is far easier to reach the poor, the destitute, the prostitutes and the taxmen. That is still true today.
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked(3:17).
The poverty of riches, of material goods is being focused upon here. As we gain in wealth, in material posessions, we tend to depend upon God less and less. We tend to begin thinking that what we have gotten is by our own efforts, not because it has come from God in heaven. We turn away from God in our thinking. I do not vouch for the entire planet, but in America we are lost in materialism. I struggle with it, my wife struggles with it. I am sure that you probably struggle with it. Our entire society is pushed forward by materialism. We need to be aware of this state of life and be alert to keeping it from ruling our daily lives. We need to closely gurard the doorways of our homes, to keep as much of the world outside of our homes as humanly possible. We cannot abdicate simply because it is too hard to do. Let Christ help you, He is stronger than any in this world. The consequences of abdicating your responsibility are not something that is pretty to behold. Wealth never solves problems, most of the time it merely misdirects attention away from the real solutions.
Todays churches boast of large memberships, prominent people, huge attendence, generous giving, and of course, ornate buildings. Worldly wealth is becoming the measuring rod for more and more churches. Spiritual values have been lost or thrown away. Some churches are even in the business of accumulating wealth. Prosperity Christianity is all that this is, my friends. This is NOT what scripture teaches, it is NOT what Christ teaches in His Word. The Laodicean church was materially wealthy but spiritually poverty-stricken. It is blind spiritually, it cannot see what is happening within its ranks. It is blind to its own wretched condition, stumbling along in ignorance, thinking that all is alright. Here is the inscription on the cathedral in Lubck, Germany:
Ye call Me Master and obey Me not.
Ye call Me Light and see Me not.
Ye call Me Way and walk Me not.
Ye call Me Life and choose Me not.
Ye call Me Wise and follow Me not.
Ye call Me Fair and love Me not.
Ye call Me Rich and ask Me not.
Ye call Me Eternal and seek Me not.
Ye call Me Noble and serve Me not.
Ye call Me Gracious and trust Me not.
Ye call Me Might and honor Me not.
Ye call Me Just and fear Me not.
If I condemn you, blame Me not.
That inscription still holds true to this very day.
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see(3:18).
"Gold tried in the fire" is the blood of Christ spilled out for sins, "white raiment" speaks to us of the righteousness of Christ, "anoint thine eyes with wye-salve" speaks of the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes so that we can truly see. Christ advises all of us to change our minds and seek to regain our sight, to clothe ourselves so that we will not be ashamed. He desires us to come to Him humbly and accept His precious gift of eternal life.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent(3:19).
God corrects those whom He loves, He does not turn away from us and let us stumble along on our own once we are born again. This word zealous means "to be hot." So even in this day of ours where noone wishes to be labeled as a zealot, even today, we need to be zealous in our witness, in our stewardship of the things of God. We need to be hot for Christ. Are you on fire for God? Are you dreaming big dreams of what works you can do for God? I hope so. I have big dreams for this blog.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me(3:20).
This is one of my favourite verses in the Bible. What a wonderful picture Christ gives to us of Him. He is knocking on the doors of our hearts, waiting for each of us to say yes, come in Lord. He knocks on the door but notice, He does not open the door. We have to hear His voice and we have to be the ones to decide to open up our hearts and lives to Him. Of course, if we do open the door we then get to experience intimate fellowship with Christ, He will feed us what we need. Have you invited Christ to come in and become the center of worship, adoration, and love, in your life? God does not force Himself upon anyone in this present day. No one is saved against his own will. No one is compelled to obedience if they desire rebellion. But anyone who decides to open the door of faith, the door of love, Christ will come in and stay with him.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne(3:21).
Christ says "My Father" rather than our Father. The relationship is unique, not shared. He prepares everyone for the scene that will be before us once we are snatched away to heaven, "even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." This picture becomes more clearly defined in the coming chapters of Revelation.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches(3:22).
As we have already seen several times, we are told to overcome sin and temptation and this world. We are also told to hear what God has said to these seven churches, that this is not just for those people back then. We can summarize all of these letters given to the seven churches as follows:
1. There is a danger of losing our first love(2:4).
2. There is the danger of fear of suffering(2:10).
3. There is the constant danger of doctrinal compromise(2:14-15).
4. There is the danger of moral compromise(2:20).
5. There is the danger of spiritual deadness(3:1-2).
6. There is the danger of not holding fast(3:11).
7. There is the danger of lukewarmness, of self-sufficiency(3:15-16).
The present age is an age of grace, a time in which God is testifying of Christ and His redemptive work. It is a time in which those who wish to hear may receive Christ and be saved. A loving God would have men hear and believe, turn from their idols of sin and self, and look in faith to the Son of God, who loved them and gave Himself for them. Amen.
Tue, Nov 27th - 1:45PM
Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown(3:11).
"Quickly" here does not mean soon. Rather, it is the idea of suddenness and expectation; in otherwords, He will come at a time they know not. It does not mean that He is coming immediately, but His coming will be sudden. This is the promise that we are given, that is the hope of the whole church of Christ. Nowhere are we told to gird up our loins, grit our teeth, and clench up our fists because the Great Tribulation is coming and we are most certainly going through it! Christ never said that, but look at Titus 2:13; "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorius appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."
To any of you that may object to my use of the term "rapture" I will instead use the term "snatch away." That is the literal meaning of the word used in verses that get quoted as supporting the idea of a rapture. We are looking forward to that blessed hope, when Christ appears and snatches us away to be with Him forever.
Once more, let me repeat that this Philadelphian church represents the revived church that has returned to living by God's Word. This is the remnant of true believers scattered throughout the various denominations.
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name(3:12).
Once more we are reminded to overcome temptations, sins, worldly desires. The Philadelphian church was destroyed down here but a permanent pillar is up in heaven waiting to descend to earth.
"And I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God." Here is the passport and visa of every believer which will enable him, as a citizen of heaven, to pass freely upon this earth or anywhere in God's universe.
"I will write upon him my new name." This is not a new name for each of us but rather He has a new name for Himself that He will give to each of us. This indicates a close personal relationship with Him.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches(3:13).
We need to hear what the Holy Spirit says to these individual churches for it also applies to us today. It is not sufficient to merely read these words on the pages of the Bible but to ask God's Spirit of Truth to give us understanding and wisdom from what we are reading. If we do not invite God to help us comprehend what we are reading then we are doing it under our own power and are doomed to make fatal mistakes.
The last church to be written to was the one in Laodicea. This city was founded by Antiochus II. It had a Selucid background. The city was about forty miles east and inland from Ephesus. It was located at what is known as the "Gate of Phrygia." Its locale was spectacular, a great valley. On the way up to Phrygian mountains was a great Anatolian temple to the Phrygian god, Men Karou. The temple was the very center of all society, administration, trade, and religion in this area. It was a place of great wealth, of commerce, and of Greek culture. Science and literature flourished here. It boasted an excellent medical school which was heathen. Cicero held court here, bringing money to reside within the "banks" of the times which existed here. Zeus worship was also prevalent here, in this city. These are the circumstances surrounding these believers who lived and worshipped in Laodicea. A salve used to be make here out of local clay for the eyes and the ears. It was supposed to heal whatever was ailing you in these parts of your body. Chemical analysis today reveals that there was nothing medicinal in the clay, but someone made alot of money off of the people back in that time period. Sound like anything that we have to deal with today? Nothing has changed in our world basically. Be careful what health products you purchase in the stores, on the internet, on the television, for you cannot know what benefit they really provide to you. Most are shams, meant only to separate a fool from his/her money. The flim-flam artist and the con artist is still alive my friends, they are merely in a different disguise so that you will not properly identify them as such.
And unto the angel of the church of the Laocicans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God(3:14).
Here Christ is identified as the eternal and faithful Witness. This is the only instance of Amen being used as a proper name, and it is the name of Christ. Jesus is the last word, the Alpha and the Omega. He it is, the One who fulfills all of the promises of God. He stresses these things to this church for they obviously have not held to His truth, they have strayed away from Christ's teachings. "Amen" means truly, or so be it.
"The faithful and true witness." This reveals that Jesus is the only one who will reveal all, and tell all, to us. Today, do people generally desire to hear the truth? Or do they prefer to live in hazy, grey areas in which they can squirm around and rationalize away their actions or inactions?
What about right and wrong? Do these things actually exist, or are they just something that some guy thought up a few centuries ago? Situational ethics thrives today due to people desiring to live in an environment in which there are no hard and fast truths. No absolutes can successfully survive today, people cannot deal with them for an absolute holds you accountable at some point in time. God is an absolute. His love is an absolute. His gift to us in Christ is an absolute.
"The beginning of the creation of God." Christ is the Creator. To the evolutionists I say this: There are but two explanations for the origin of this universe. One is speculation, because nobody with a scientific background was there to witness it and nobody can come up with an answer which can be duplicated over and over again. The other is revelation, what the Word of God has to say. Believe in speculation or believe in revelation. We all must choose. I believe I have the testimony of the One who did the creating and since He cannot lie then He must be telling the truth in the Bible. He, Christ, ought to know something about Creation since He was there and was actively involved.
I will stop there, beloved. Study these verses out more if you wish, there are endless avenues to pursue from this Revelation. The fact that I spoke of situational ethics and evolutionary theory highlights this as being true. Until next time, be true to God's Word, remain faithful to your first love, never forget that "but for God, there go I." Never look down your nose at any person, for you could very well be put into their situation in the future. Amen.
Mon, Nov 26th - 6:25PM
I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name(3:8).
The church at Philadelphia was the one which was true to the Word of God. Today in our world neither the Protestant nor the Catholic churches could be called by this name. It represents any church in the world that still remains loyal and true to the Word of God.
This church is commended on seven counts:
1. "I know thy works." Christ is looking for fruit; He is searching for works in the lives of His believers. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10). If your faith does not produce works something is wrong. These works are not from obeying the law but rather from faith in Christ.
2. "Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it." Due to being non specific, this door could be to the joy of the Lord, or to a greater knowledge of God's Word, or perhaps to greater testimony and ministry in their community. I believe that it is a door for gaining greater wisdom of God's Word so that we may witness more boldly and proclaim His Word widely.
3. "For thou hast a little strength[dunamin]." Dunamin is the Greek word from which we get our English word dynamite. He says to them that they have a little power. This church did not have all kinds of buildings, numbers, or even programs. How many people you have coming to your church meetings is not the important thing, God's Word being preached truthfully is what is important. God does the counting, we shouldn't be. Paul said in I Corinthians 4:3 "I don't even judge myself." He did not wish to mistakenly judge himself, neither should we take that upon ourselves.
4. "And hast kept my word." Back then it must have not been a prevalent thing, keeping God's Word. Today, in a time when so many doubt, or outright deny, the inspiration of the Scriptures, we need to keep faithful to God's Holy Word. Any of us, according to liberal theologians and academia, are not intelligent people if we believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible. I guess that puts me in a bad light! Don't hang out with me! Of course, that depends upon whether or not those people are right in their belief. I think that I will remain true to the Bible.
5. "And hast not denied my name." In these days where many do not even withhold from using His name in curses, there are growing numbers of people who openly deny Christ and God. Seminaries openly deny the deity of Christ, pulpits likewise refuse to preach His deity. But we need to be a bible-believing church, one that is in revival and alive with the Holy Spirit. We can not be afraid of offending people when we witness to them. If we do, then we will not be boldly proclaiming Christ to the lost, we will be wimpering. As far as we can know this church lasted longer than any other of the seven churches. It was destroyed in the 13th century by the Seljuk Turks. There is evidence that Christianity reached into India as early as it did because this church sent out missionaries.
Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee(3:9).
The remnant of Israel which was saved had already left the synagogue by this point in time. They had given up the law as a means to salvation and sanctification. All Jews who continued in the synagogue were in a false religion. Paul in his writings indicates that for him the true Jews were those who had accepted Christ as Messiah.
6. "Behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." Christ will make our enemies, our opponents, come and worship at our feet AND make them know that He loves us.
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth(3:10).
7. The last commendation is that they kept the Word of Christ in patience. Perhaps it refers to waiting and anticipating His Second Advent(II Thessalonians 3:5). In the past 50-60 years there has been an immense increased curiosity in the second coming of Christ. Even liberals talk about it off and on.
"I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation." This indicates that the church will not suffer through the Great Tribulation which will tempt all people to forsake God and worship Satan. In I Thessalonians 4:13-18 we see that all saints will be called into the air by Christ and will be with Him forever. Some would take that to mean that Christ never returns to heaven after this event, I believe that we shouldn't assume that and should take it to mean exactly what it says, that we will be whereever He is for ever more. Why would the church anticipate the coming Tribulation? What hope is there in the coming judgment? None for the saints. But there is plenty of hope for us in looking for Him to return for us. I believe that this Philadelphian church will be the one that continues right up to the time when we are all snatched out of here to be with Christ. After that point in time some other church will continue to be here. Dr. John Walvoord has written that:
If the rapture had occurred in the first century preceding the tribulation which the book of Revelation describes, they were assured of deliverance. By contrast, those sealed out of the twelve tribes of Israel in 7:4 clearly go through the time of trouble. This implies the rapture of the church before the time of trouble referred to as the great tribulation. Such a promise of deliverance to them would seemingly have been impossible if the rapture of the church were delayed until the end of the tribulation prior to the second coming of Christ and the establishment of the kingdom."
I will stop there for today, beloved. Until next time, be vigilant and ready for His coming. Let us all show ourselves to be competent stewards of God's Word.
Sun, Nov 25th - 1:45PM
Well, my friends, I am back. I thank all who prayed for us to have a safe trip, we did, praise God. Now back to our study in Revelation.
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy(3:4).
In Israel it was never the whole body of people but always a remnant that remained true to God. It is true with the church of today, only a remnant are true to God. In Luke 12:32 Christ called His church "little flock." Protestantism today has its saints who love His Word, who are faithful to Him, and who stand by the Word of God. They refrain from sinful and fleshly activities.
Protestantism has produced some great men: Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Bunyan, John Wesley, John Moffat, Titus Coan just to name a few. Yes, Romanism has produced some great men during the Dark Ages, but it does not commend the overall system. Neither of these denominations are blameless, and more than likely will eventually bring in the apostate church as mentioned later in this book.
In this verse mention is made of white garments. This particular colored clothing denotes festivity, victory, purity, and the heavenly state. This garment seems to indicate their acceptability before God and their divine recognition of their position and ministry as the priests of God. "They shall walk with me in white" indicates a close personal relationship with Christ. The remnant have walked through their lives avoiding spots and blemishes. They have remained alert to the dangers of compromise, to the dangers of not keeping at bay all appearances of evil in their daily actions. They obviously avoided creating gossip about themselves. They have been judged as worthy, hopefully we too, will be judged as worthy to wear the white garment and get to walk with Christ personally.
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels(3:5).
Again, we see the same phrase used by Christ: "He that overcometh." For us to overcome our sin and the world around us we must relie upon the blood of Christ. In this way we overcome because of Him and not because of our own strength, cleverness, or abilities. Again, we are shown white clothing to be given to us for enduring. Then we come face to face with a troubling phrase. "And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life" leads some to think that there is contradiction within scripture, that there is a doublemindedness with God over our salvation. When we accept Christ as our Saviour our names are written into the book of life. But what happens if we never move any further along in our statement of faith? What happens if we become apostate in our actions each day? Will our name remain in the book of life? I think that we get our answer here in this verse. If we live in such a way after claiming to be born-again that Christ cannot confess our name before His Father and the angels then obviously we will have our name blotted out of the book of life and heaven's door will not open for us. A hard fact to accept from an all loving God. Our name remaining in that book is not dependent upon what works that we do since that is not how it got written there in the first place. It is dependent upon the strength of our faith, the strength of our trust in God and His Word. If you do not believe that the entire bible is true, then where are you left at? What are you left with? Some people think that this verse is not a reference to the roll of those who are saved but rather it is a list of all those for whom Christ died, that is for all of humanity who have, or will come into, existence. Then those who really accept Christ as Saviour are confirmed in their position in the book of life. I believe that this is the correct meaning. Many people today claim to be Christians, how many in actuality are Christians? That is the question that must always be asked, and Christ shall answer it before each of us dies in this life.
It is interesting to see that in the genealogies of the bible there are only two books which are identified: (1) "the book of the generations of Adam"(Genesis 5:1) and then (2) "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ" (Matthew 1:1). The common phrase in each of these instances occurs only in connection with Adam and then with Jesus. It could be quite easy to equate the book of life with the book of Jesus' generation. The generation of Christ is born through faith, how else can we get our names into the book of life? None other way but through faith in Christ. You see, it is never a question of can you lose your salvation, but rather, do you have salvation to begin with? I can say that I am saved, but have I accepted Christ to be Lord in my heart and to be in control of my life? Have I turned things over to Him, or am I retaining control over some things? If we overcometh through our faith in Jesus Christ our names will remain in the book of life and we shall be clothed in white garments and will walk with Jesus.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches(3:6).
This, again, is the blood-tipped ear that needs to listen and hear the voice of the Spirit speaking through the Word of God the message of Jesus Christ to His people today. Do you hear? Do you understand the message?
The Letter to Philadelphia
This church in Philadelphia would be representative of the revived church dating from roughly the nineteenth century until the end of time, or the Return of Christ. This is the remnant of the church that has turned back to the Word of God. This has absolutely nothing to do with denominations. This has to do with individuals who are repenting their doubts and changing their minds about whether or not the bible is infallible, whethr or not the bible is God's Word given to us.
The current site of this ancient city contains a rather prosperous little Turkish town. It is in a beautiful valley that is around 125 miles inland from the ocean. The original city of Philadelphia was built upon four or five hills in a very wide valley which runs north to south. It was located in Lydia some 28 miles southeast of Sardis and was named after a king of Pergamos, Attalus Philadelphus. The name means 'brotherly love", and it is found six other times in the New Testament. Here it is found for the seventh and final time, used as the name of the city.
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth(3:7).
This letter opens by presenting Christ, by stating His character and His strength and authority. In the middle of all that is false and perverted in today's churches stands Christ who is holy and true. From Him alone do we get right doctrine and right living, which go together.
Christ here is also shown as the one who holds the key of David. This key is different from those keys that are for death and hades. This key speaks of His regal claim as the Ruler of this universe. "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of his father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32-33). Also, this phrase would refer back to Isaiah 22:22 where it says, "the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open." This referred to Eliakim who had the key to the treasures of the king. So Christ has the key to truth, and holiness as well as to opportunity, service, and testimony. When He opens a door of opportunity no one can close it, only God can. When He closes a window of ministry no one can keep it open, it is done and over.
I will end here for today, beloved. I hope that you have enjoyed this study so far. If you have any questions about posted material please feel free to comment at the bottom of each posted message. I will answer questions as quickly as possible. Until next time, believe in Christ, believe that the bible is His Word given to men and women to write down for us to read today. God desired for you to get His message. Increase your faith in Christ daily. Study His Holy Word and understand how He wants you to walk through life, how He wants you to testify of what He has done in your life. I can truthfully tell all of you that He changed me forever one, hot, August night many years ago. All alone upon the roof of the facility where I worked, I stood at the roof's edge and contemplated how it would feel to impact the asphalt parking lot below. It was three stories below me, I could hear that small voice inside urging me to go ahead and end all of the emotional pain that I had been bearing. Instead I listened to another voice, and I turned and looked to the east. There I could see a new day beginning to dawn, another chance to make a new life. The tears flowed down my cheeks as I cried uncontrollably. I accepted Christ into my heart right then and the burden that I had been feeling for weeks was suddenly gone. I only asked one other question of God that night: Why do people treat each other so badly? His answer: they do not know what they do, and Satan. So remember that beloved, remember that the people around you do not always know what they do. Isn't that what Christ said upon the cross? "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do." It is still true today. And never forget that Satan is out there like a prowling lion, seeking those whom he can devour. He will consume you if you allow him the opportunity, so stay true to Christ and His Word! Amen!
Thu, Nov 22nd - 10:45AM
A Communion Message
It is a familiar site at this time of year and to the business traveler: the airport flight lounge. Look around, see the people who will soon be on board your flight. Some are going away; the rest are going home. Some have emotional reasons for the flight--the joy of marriage, the grief of a funeral, the reunion of family at the holidays. Others fly only for business. Some might even think this the flight to a new life. Some are going home to the same life. You can't tell by looking, but they all are there.
Watching the congregation prepare for Communion is like that. Behind the sober faces there are many reasons for coming to the Lord's Supper. Some genuinely hunger and thirst for righteousness, and here they are filled with the righteousness of Christ Jesus, our atoning sacrifice. Some are sick, in mind or body or heart, and they seek the Healer of all. Some are alone, even desolate, and they seek the only Comforter.
Others see it more routinely. He is the Master, I am His servant--where else would I be found than at His table? He is the Creator, I am the creature--and in my Creator I find purpose and joy. But no matter what our personal reasons, it is a risky business to be at the Lord's Supper.
Risky, you say? Listen to what I say. The God who weighs the hearts of men knows the fraud from the true. Coming to this table will change your life forever, if you are receptive of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us that there are those who are sick or even dead because they slighted the Lord's Supper. It is not wise to try to deceive the Living God.
The question of Communion is this: While I can see many reasons why I would come to Him at His table to fellowship, why does He come to me? It most certainly is not for my own virtue or worthiness; even the best of us are sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God. No, it is not my holiness that calls Him to me. It is not my virtue and righteousness that calls Him, it is His unconditional love, and His mercy. Communion is for my benefit, not His:
- First, that I might know the mercy of God. I do not deserve it, yet still He bids me to come.
- Second, that I might know the love of God; and grow in it daily.
- Finally, that I might know who He truly is; to the increase of my humility.
I cannot earn or deserve this; but I can reverence it. How? I will acknowledge Him for Who He really is. I will praise His name and greatness and give thanks for His love and mercy so freely given at the Cross on Calvary. I will confess who I am as well; who I am and what I have done, recognizing that I cannot ever deserve His mercy based on my deeds and merits. Indeed, like the tax collector of old, I will ask, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner."
Communion in the church is like that waiting lounge at the airport. Some are here in joy; some in admiration, some in pain; some, not really sure of anything but that they need to be here. Communion is the flight lounge of every church; we remember His death until He comes again. On that day the church, His people, will take true flight--for what is hoped for will have finally arrived.
Wed, Nov 21st - 11:11PM
Tonight, beloved, we begin delving into chapter three of Revelation and explore what it had to say about the next churches mentioned, and also how it spoke to the church out in the world during history. In context of church history, Sardis represents the Protestant church during roughly A.D. 1517 and A.D. 1800. Those are approximate dates only. More than likely this period of history began when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses onto the chapel door of the church at Wittenburg, Germany.
Sardis was the capital of the kingdom of Lydia and one of the oldest and most important cities of Asia Minor. It was found inland and built upon a small, elevated plateau rising quickly above the Hermus Valley. The only access to it is on the southern side by a very steep and difficult path. Over time as the city prospered and outgrew the plateau a lower city emerged as well. The old city was used as an acropolis. This made it a double city, which explains its name. The surrounding plain was well watered by the Pactolus river. This became the carpet industry's center and accumulated much wealth. Its last prince was wealthy Croesus who was captured by Cyrus. This city was ruled by the Persians, Alexander, Antiochus the Great, and finally by the Romans. It was destroyed by an earthquake during the reign of Tiberius.
Most of the city practised pagan worship, and there were many mystery cults or secret religious societies. The magnificent Temple of Artemis dating from the fourth century B.C. still exists today as an impressive ruin. The church to which this letter was addressed existed until sometime in the fourteenth century but today only a small village known as Sart exists among the ruins of Sardis.
And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead(3:1).
Christ immediately presents Himself to this church as the One who sent the Holy Spirit into our world. We think that we need to use methods, we have all types of Band-Aid courses to solve all of our problems. What we really need to do is to get to the person of Christ whom only the Holy Spirit can make real and living to each of us. This is what our churches need today, my friends.
As in Laodicea, this letter is unmixed, a message of rebuke and censor. No commendation is given to this church generally. These people were surrounded by gross idolatry. The populace worshipped the mother goddess, Cybele. This involved orgies during the festivals held in her honor. Sexual impurity was prominent in this society, it was a deep, dark, weight which daily threatened to drag the church's membership back into depravity and sin. It is remarkable that any believers survived living in this environment. In His letters to the previous churches, our Lord began with words of commendation but here He commences with words of condemnation. Evil had not been the habit in the other churches but rather, the exception.
"I know thy works," probably referring to our doctrine of justification by faith, and this faith produces good works. "That thou hast a name that thou livest, and are dead." Protestantism and Catholicism, as a whole, have reputations/names that they live, but they are spiritually dead. Many churches are just going through the motions, nothing actually being accomplished for God. They build great buildings, people are filling them up to overflowing, especially on Sundays. There may even be many coming to mid-week meetings for bible study. But the Word of God is not spoken nor is it studied, some other man's thoughts are substituted. Acts of kindness to other believers are lacking, or are bestowed upon some but not all members of a congregation. This is in direct opposition to Christ commanding us not to be partial to certain people. Are there some Christians whom you refuse to associate with, or even speak to? It ought not to be happening according to I John chapter four.
Returning to the Holy Spirit's mention in this verse. The seven-fold character of the second Person of the Trinity is revealed for us in Isaiah 11:2-5. He is truth, wisdom, understanding, counselor, mighty, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord.
Once more Christ reminds all who read this letter that He is the One to whom all of the churches belong. He is our owner, our Master, our King. We must not forget that for He points out that the church in Sardis had a reputation that was known in the area. From the divine standpoint this church had no genuine spiritual life and power to change lives. This searching by Christ should be seriously considered by our modern churches which frequently are filled with activity, even though little of it is of Christ and spiritual life and power. Our churches are in danger when they begin to be more concerned with forms of worship than with life, when they love methods and systems more than they love Jesus Christ, when they are more concerned with making the worship service entertaining enough to keep people rather than with a spiritual relationship with Christ.
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee(3:2-3).
Here are my thoughts: Wake up! Be on gurard, and alert your brothers and sisters in Christ whenever you see them making spiritual mistakes that will cost them an effective testimony to the lost sinners. Protect the brethren! Protect the flock at all costs! Do not allow worldly methods to creep into your congregation and into your worship services. Be watchful of how your brethren dress themselves, correct them lovingly, but do correct them of their error. Today too many do not want to offend anyone by saying anything to them; in the end they offend many more by saying nothing, for lack of standing up for what is true, and right, and moral. Be brave, God is with you!
Back to verse two, this warning to be vigilant, to be watchful ought to have been natural to the people. But Sardis was complacent in being unassailable due to the steepness of its approaches. They failed to post watchmen to warn of impending attack on at least two occasions in their city's history. Cyrus's Median soldiers scaled the parapet, and later Antiochus the Great captured the city due to a Cretan slipped over the walls while the sentries were asleep.
Our churches as a whole have turned their eyes away from watching for Christ's second coming and instead are chasing after Virgin Mary sightings, angels, and the like. They try to establish systems that certain things must happen before He can return. I say that that is foolishness of men. People saying that beginning in 1844 Jesus entered into the Sanctuary and is even now sitting down going over the life records of everyone, to determine who will enter heaven and who will not. Whatever happened to His knowing everything? Whatever happened to His saying that He knew each of us before the Creation? Foolishness. That He will return during a Sabbath year could be true, it makes sense. Foolish it is to waste time and energy to try and determine exactly when His return will be. Wouldn't it be better stewardship to spend that time and energy saving as many from condemnation as possible? I think so. The point here is, Sardis did not know when the enemy was coming because they failed to keep watch, and we will not know when Christ is coming if we fail to keep watch and keep ourselves ready for that day.
I believe that those who desire to figure out the exact year and month do so because then they will know how much time they have to skate along before they get really serious about following Christ. If we live each day as though it could be our last, then we become much more focused upon saving lost souls, pointing them toward Christ and his salvation gift.
Christ also points out that there are a few things of merit which apparantly were ready to wither and die spiritually speaking. They were being instructed to empower those things, for their works were not perfect, were not complete. Protestantism did recover the authority of God's Word, the total depravity of man, and justification by faith, but it did not recover everything that was lost. It was not a complete return to the apostolic church in the beginning. Verse three tells the church to hold fast, remember, how they were given these things. We cannot forget once again these important truths. We are to repent, turn away from our sins, to change our minds to the very things of God.
Most of our churches have lost the authority of God's Word again. Instead of holding to the doctrine of man's total depravity, many of the churches are improving and conducting cosmetic surgery upon our carnal natures. Somehow they feel that by getting a few rules and regulations together they will enable us to live Godly, Christian lives. Sorry to say, the doctrine of justification by faith is being steadily abandoned more and more. Legalistic interpretations are being issued saying that we need to do something in order to be saved, in order to keep our salvation even. This is not like the apostolic church at all.
"If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief." This is a warning to wakeup, to be alert for spiritual error, to make sure that your neighbor does not stumble and fall. Am I my brother's keeper, as Cain replied to God? Yes, we are! We will be held accountable for all of our actions, and chosen inactions, by Christ. It is unavoidable, my friends. We reap what we sow, and we will reap more than we sow. Let's be sure to sow good things, and not the bad.
I will stop here. It is late and I have written more than enough for today. Until next time, keep your eyes focused upon Christ, hold His Words close to your heart, and pray without ceasing.
Mon, Nov 19th - 9:25PM
I am doubling up my posts this week since Thanksgiving evening I will be traveling to Michigan to pickup my daughter and two grandsons and then traveling back to Virginia later Friday evening. I humbly ask for your prayers while my son-in-law and I drive there and back.
Earlier today we saw that Thyatira's church contained a woman who claimed the right and office of a prophetess, but she had urged the saints to engage in pagan worship of idols. Jezebel of Elijah's day epitomizes subtle corruption and symbolizes immorality and idolatry to this day. Read I Kings to find out all the evil that she did and attempted to do. Here in this church the woman was given time by God to change her mind:
And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not(2:21).
"Space" means time here. As always, God deals patiently with all of us. To this day, Rome boasts that she never changes---semper idem, always the same.
Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds(2:22).
Christ pictures for us that those members of this church who remain intimate with Jezebel and continue to follow her lead will be considered to have committed adultery, worthy of death. "Great tribulation" might refer to a general persecution or, it just might point towards the Great Tribulation into which the apostate church will go. Again, we see a request by God for repentence, a changing of their minds.
And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and i will give unto every one of you according to your works(2:23).
"Children" here refers to this particular woman's spiritual children and also refers in a general sense to those who were brought up under this system. This message would seem to foreshadow the Middle Ages prior to the Protestant Reformation. During this period of church history corruption expanded as the church sought to combine Christianity with pagan philosophy to such an extent that much of the ritual created in this period is directly traceable to ceremonies in heathen religion. The exaltation of Mary began in this period of time which tends to elevate Jesus's mother to female deity status through whom intercession to God the Father should be made, and apart from her favor there can be no salvation. Idols in the form of religious statues of "Saints" were introduced and prayed to instead of God.
"All the churches shall know" is a broad reference to every church in time. The churches back in that day would know, and we today know that Christ will search the innermost being of each individual. The Greek word nephrous means literally kidneys, that is what is translated as "reins" here in this verse. Their reward will be determined by their evil works.
But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden(2:24).
Here, as always, God reaches out to the "remnant" of true believers who remain faithful to Christ. "The depths of Satan" perhaps refers to a gnostic sect known as the Ophites who worshiped the serpent. At any rate, this city and its church had a brief existence for it went down when captured by its enemies.
But that which ye have already hold fast till I come(2:25).
Again, to the few who remain true to the Word of God and do not wander off after false teachers, Christ exhorts them to hold fast to it until He comes again.
And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations(2:26).
I would point out here that just as there are the "deep things of God" so to there are the "deep things of Satan." This refers to the satanic system of religious cults and false religions in our world. Counterfeits are what they are actually. A small piece of truth mixed in amongst alot of half-truths. The other point worth making here is that in these two verses we see the first reference to Christ coming for His church as a hope for those drowning in an apostate world system.
As with the other churches before them, this church receives a challenge to keep His works and to coninue producing fruit of the Spirit until the race is finished. To these believers He offers positions of power over the nations of the earth which would in all likelyhood occur during the millenial rule on earth. The Greek word poimanei means literally, "to shepherd." Their rule will not be just that of executing judgment, but also that of ministering to the needs of people. It will be similar to what God gave to Christ as power to rule(John 5:22). We need to remember that we overcome by faith and not by our efforts.
And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
And I will give him the morning star.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches(2:27-29).
To all overcomers also is given the promise of "the morning star." This appears to refer to Christ in His role as the returning One who will rapture the church prior to the dark hours preceding the dawn of the millenial kingdom here on earth(Rev. 22:16). Also, reference to this is made in Titus 2:13. The children of Jezebel will not hear the Holy Spirit as He speaks, but the true children of the Living God will hear His voice.
Christ shall rule with a scepter of iron, He shall break the will of every person who refuses to acknowledge Him as Messiah. It sounds very rough and inhumane. Hard things to read and accept, I know. We must remember that elsewhere in scripture Jesus reminds us that He desires to mold us like the clay on a potter's wheel, to reform us into a more perfect image. If we refuse to allow Him to do this for us then we will be only left with a destiny of being imperfect and being broken into pieces in the end.
That is the end of chapter two in Revelation. Let's stop here for now and catch our breath. Next time I will begin with chapter three and the church in Sardis. Until then, may we give our God all of the praise, honor, and glory that He richly deserves each and every day.
Mon, Nov 19th - 11:29AM
Beloved, we pick up our study with verse 16:
Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth(2:16).
The word used here for repent, metanoeson, means "a change of mind." We must have a change of mind or else Christ says that He will come quickly and fight against us. I don't know about you, my friends, but I do not wish to try and outfight God. I think that I will repent of my ways. I John 1:9 tells us that: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." As long as we are willing to change our minds and turn from sin God will forgive us and cleanse us. The church cannot decide what is right and what is wrong independent of God's Word. His mouth has spoken the Truth and we must follow that Truth. If we are to be lights in this dark world of ours, we need to clearly identify ourselves with the person of Jesus Christ and to recognize, not our church, but the Word of God as our sole authority.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it(2:17).
Christ speaks directly to you and I in this verse. Do we have ears that will hear the truth being spoken? "To him that overcometh" perhaps is a pure definition of a genuine Christian today. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb. Not by our personal efforts. The victory was won by Christ, not by anything that we have done. "Hidden manna" speaks of the person and the death of Christ as He is revealed in the Word of God. Jesus said that He Himself was the Bread: "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then they said unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; andhe that believeth on me shall never thirst"(John 6:32-35). We as believers need to feed on Christ, the Word of God. It is a must for spiritual growth. In reality, Christ is indeed hidden from view; He is not known or understood in our world today. It is why so many people misunderstand and misrepresent Him.
"And will give him a white stone" suggests that we are not locked out of heaven. White is the color of heavenly things. It is helpful to understand this figure if we know that the people of Asia Minor to whom this was being written had a custom of giving to intimate friends a tessera, a cube or rectangular block of stone or ivory, with words or symbols engraved on it. It was a secret, private possession of the one who received it. Here, Christ says that He is going to give to each saint a stone with a new name engraved upon it. Perhaps it will be a new name for us to know God by? He means something different to each of us, maybe this will be an intimate sharing between God and each of us.
Christ's Letter to the Church in Thyatira
We come to the third church located in the city of Thyatira. Generally, it is taken to be representative of Romanism, taking us into the Dark Ages historically, from A.D. 590 to around A.D. 1000. We move inland from Pergamos to get to Thyatira. This city was located in a very beautiful place, a long vale with a stream flowing south to join the Lycus. The valleys of two rivers, Hermus and Caicos, stretch east and west opening down from the great central plateau of Anatolia towards the Aegean Sea. This was a natural, and easy path, the flow of communication was large between one valley and the other. One of the chief roads of Asia Minor ran over it. This city was not built upon high hills for defense as most, it was down in the vale. Its strength came from the fact that Rome stationed its elite guard there.
This city became prosperous under the rule of Vespasian, the Roman emperor. This was the headquarters for many ancient guilds: potters', tanners', weavers', robe makers', and dyers' guilds. Lydia, the seller of purple, who in Phillipi became Paul's first convert in Europe, came from here(Acts 16:14). The dye spoken of is known today as "Turkey red" and is grown in that area.
And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass(2:18).
Here we are given a picture of the Son of God in judgment. His eyes are like a flame of fire, refining souls, searching them out. His feet also are like fine brass which reminds us of the brass altar and laver in the Tabernacle. Christ is judging this church. Yet, He has words of commendation for them. We cannot condemn the whole Roman church during the Dark Ages.
I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first(2:19).
We have here six specific instances of commendation. The true believers who had a personal relationship and love of Christ manifested this in their works. James 2:18 voices this basic principle. The six words are:
1. "Works" were the credentials then, as now, of real believers. They led spotless lives and by their good works were known.
2. "Love" still existed in this church inpite of the fact that it had gone in for ritualism. There were some wonderful saints of Christ during the Dark Ages: Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, John Huss, Anselm, and others.
3. "Faith" is the mainspring that turns the gears of works and love even though it is placed after works and love in this passage. Without faith how can we love each other as God loves us? Without faith how would we even know what true love actually is?
4. "Service" is the equivalent of ministry. What are you doing for Christ? What works are you accomplishing for Him?
5. "Patience" is endurance in times of spiritual darkness surrounding you.
6. "Thy last works are more than the first" brings attention back to the fact that in the Christian life the fruits of your labors ought to be increasing in nature. There is no such notion as "retirement" from being a Christian. We run the race placed before us until we reach the finish line and get the award waiting for us there. Then we shall be called home to heaven to be with Christ. Note that all six of these virtues are produced by the Holy Spirit within each believer.
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols(2:20).
In the Old Testament there had been a woman named Jezebel who had brought paganism into the northern kingdom of Israel. Obviously there was a woman by that same name who was accomplishing the exact same sort of thing in this city and church. If we study history of the Dark Ages we notice that pagan practises and idolatry were intermingled with Christian worship and works. The papacy was elevated to a place power under Gregory I (A.A. 590), and more so later on by Hildebrand in A.D. 1073-1085. The introduction of rituals and church doctrine replaced personal faith in Christ. Worship of the Virgin Mary and the Child along with the Mass were made a definite part of the church service. Purgatory became a positive doctrine, and Mass was said for the dead. The pope became not just a spiritual leader but assumed political and military powers. The Roman church instituted the Inquistion during this period of history. "Seduce" means a fundamental departure from the truth. Jezebel stands in sharp contrast to Lydia, who also came from Thyatira. Jezebel here is a forerunner of the apostate church, a picture given to us for understanding our world.
I will stop here for today, beloved. I hope that you are able to follow along in this important study. If you have questions please leave comments, I will answer them as promptly as possible. Until next time, read and study the Word. Do not follow men, but follow Christ! Do not be slaves to denominations but be slaves to Christ! Seek the Truth through the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sun, Nov 18th - 10:46PM
The letter to Pergamos: The Church in Compromise
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;(2:12).
To this church, which was located in one of the most prominent cities of Asia, Christ sent His next message. Pergamos was an important religious center where pagan cults of Athena, Asclepius, Dionysus, and Zeus were prominent. A university was situated here, along with the official residence of the Attalic princes. A large library existed here which later on would have its thousands of volumes sent to Egypt by Anthony to Cleopatra. It was a wealthy city with prevalent idol worship.
"These things saith he." This part of the verse is refering to the Word of God. His Word has the answer to man's need and his sin, which in Pergamos was primarily idol worship. The city emphasized religion and could only be reached by the truth of God's Word being preached. God's Word cuts both ways, revealing sin in all who hear, either to salavation or to death.
I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth(2:13).
Christ informs them that He knows all that they have done and are doing. He knows exactly where they live, He does not condemn them because they are living so close to Satan's seat. He commends them for living there and remaining faithful to His name. We should take heart and comfort from this message, Christ knows our circumstances and understands. We must remain faithful inspite of our circumstances.
Christ understands what religion is all about. It is the seat of Satan, it is where he likes to dwell. This city of Pergamos was steeped in religion, they had all sorts of temples and rituals. Some people feel that Satan is not here on earth, that he is already in hell. I say to you, that is false teaching. Here in this verse we are told that Satan is dwelling here on this planet. As a whole, this church was commended for standing strong for Christ even though at least one of their brethren had been martyred.
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate(2:14-15).
Here is Christ's rebuke for compromise. The doctrine of Balaam and of the Nicolaitans was something which God hated, and still hates until this very day. Balac was taught how to corrupt Israel by encouraging them to intermarry with the Moabite women. This intermarriage introduced both idolatry and fornication into the nation. Here in this church the unconverted world entered into the church proper, corrupting it. We saw that the Ephesus church hated the Nicolaitans, but here in Pergamos there were some who believed in their doctrine. We can't be certain what exactly this doctrine was, but perhaps it was a form of gnosticism put forward by Nicolaus. Please notice that Christ does not only love, He also hates some things. Let's be sure that we are not catering to those things of which He hates. We must be on guard to make sure that we are not compromising ourselves spiritually with the ways of the world, both as individuals and as a congregation. Why should we be alert to compromise? Historical record gives us a bleak picture of what occured once Christianity became popular within the Roman Empire under Constantine. Bribes became more common, wealthy people who wished to become members of the church threw enormous amounts of money at the elders. It was inevitable that some would succumb to the temptation to accept the money. Large temples or cathedrals began to be built with this money gained, exhibiting man's works rather than God's glory. The conscience of the church no longer was clearly distinct from that of the surrounding society. Sound familiar? Preservation of the purity of biblical doctrine fell by the wayside. It was during this period that the corruption of the church happened; departures from biblical doctrine, debate over Christ's deity, even attempts to combine Christian theology with pagan philosophy.
As a result, the church lost its biblical simplicity and was replaced by a complicated church organization which substituted human creeds, the worship of Mary, for true biblical doctrine. The church committed the exact same sin that Israel was guilty of in the Old Testament, namely, the worship of idols and union with the heathen world. Men placed themselves between the people and God. To repent, one must go before a man who would then pronounce your penance. God was no longer involved. They made Christ's sacrifice on the cross of no importance, the priests were representing the people once more before God. The priests were the ones who told the people what God's Word said, people began to not read the Word themselves. They became more and more ignorant of what God wished them to do. We ought to be alert today to not commit the same errors.
I will stop there for now, my friends. Until next time, read the Word, do good works, praise our God continually. Above all else, love all believers as yourself.
Sat, Nov 17th - 1:55PM
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God(2:7).
We see here an invitation and a promise being given to us by God. The question to be asked though is this: Who will hear this message? Not everyone hears the Word of God. They might hear the audible sounds in their ears as it is spoken, but they miss the message. Previously Christ had said that there were people who had ears to hear but they hear not, now He is speaking to those who should have spiritual perception. So the invitation is to hear the message. The promise is that to all who overcometh God will allow them to eat of the tree of life. It is not promised to some special group of believers, rather it is expected of those true followers of God. You should be wondering who is he that overcomes? The answer to that is found in I John 5:5, "Who is he that overcometh the world? He that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God." We must believe wholeheartedly that Jesus is the Son of God, the second figure of the Trinity. Do not have any unbelief, any doubt of who He is. Remain true to your faith.
The tree of life mentioned here was first mentioned in the beginning of scripture, in Genesis we learned of it in the Garden of Eden. At the end of this age this tree will be found in the new Jersualem(Rev. 22:2). Whereas Adam and Eve were warned against eating of it at all, we shall be encouraged to eat of it at will in heaven.
A final point before moving on; the overcomers are those genuine believers who depend upon the blood of the Lamb to resist the temptations of this world. The "Spirit", is the Holy Spirit who is the Teacher of the church, who leads us into all truth. Ephesus represents the apostolic church, the church at its best.
Smyrna could be said to represent the martyr church. The name holds the rootword myrrh which means suffering. This city still exists today. It is called Izmir, a Turkish name. People have lived continuously there from its beginning. In time it may become larger than Istanbul, if it isn't already. In His message to the church at Smyrna Christ has only commendatory things to say.
And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive(2:8).
This is a repetition of verses 17-18 of chapter one. It is a reminder of His eternal nature, of His steadfastness. The persecution that the church as a whole underwent during the period from 100 A.D. through roughly 314 A.D. was represented by this church in Smyrna. God wished them to know that He was in control of everything, that He was with them, and that the persecution that they experienced was in the plans and purposes of God. That He died and yet lived again was of paramount importance to these believers who were facing imminent torture and death on a daily basis. They were being reminded that they too, would be alive with Him even though they might die physically.
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou are rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan
Fear none of those things which thou shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life(2:9-10).
Some folk try to leave out "works" since it is not in the best manuscripts, however, I prefer to leave it in since the best manuscripts usually are corrupted ones and ought not to be used at all. There are seven things which Christ commends this church of:
1. "Tribulation" is the first thing mentioned. This is not a reference to the Great Tribulation; it simply means trouble. These tribulations were the daily persecutions and troubles that Christians even today experience.
2. "Poverty" is next, and it implies the lack of material possessions. The early church was composed mainly of the poorer classes. Christ reminds them here that they are spiritually rich compared to the lost people all around them. I imagine that this church was mainly composed of slaves, ex-slaves, poor people, freed slaves, and those who had been ostracized due to health or occupation. There were more than likely some who had previously been affluent members of society up until they became born again and then lost everything that they owned. Persecution.
3. "The blasphemy of them which say they are Jews..." This implies that the Jews of that area were wolves in sheepskins. They were Christians outwardly but not in their hearts. They were deceivers. And this church must have properly identified them as such and kept them out of their congregation.
4. "Fear none of those things" is an encouragement given to them while in the middle of persecution.
5. "The devil shall cast some of you into prison". We tend to blame people for what happens to us. We ought to keep in mind that it is Satan who is responsible for many of these things. Christ drives our attention back to the root trouble, Satan.
6. "You shall have tribulation ten days." We could take this literally or we could look at this as being prophetic of ten periods of time of persecution. I leave that up to the reader.
7. "Be thou faithful unto death." Today in America we just can't wrap our minds around this concept. We have not had such persecution in this country and that makes it difficult to understand what it must be like. These people understood only too well what persecution was. The Lord tells them in Smyrna that if they remain true and faithful even to the point of death, He will give them crowns that will be eternal. If you are suffering persecution today, know that you will be rewarded with something that I cannot receive, not unless I too, experience persecution and remain faithful to God. James 1:12 tells us that if we endure temptations we shall be given one of these crowns.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death(2:11).
Notice that Christ has changed to speaking here to all of the churches, not just one. All are being exhorted to hear what is being said. All are being told to listen to what the Spirit says, not what man says. Have you heard Him today? Is He speaking to you today? Those who overcome temptation have nothing to fear from the second death. Here is a statement from D. L. Moody: "He who is born once will die twice: he who is born twice will die once." The "second death" comes after the Great White Throne judgment of mankind. Believers have nothing to fear from this judgment. The first death concerns the physical body, the second death concerns the spirit and soul.
I have covered suffering in another study but will restate some things here. An explanation is given in Scripture for different aspects of Christian suffering. Sometimes suffering may be disciplinary, as shown in I Corinthians 11:30-32 and Hebrews 12:3-13. At other times it may be preventative as shown in II Corinthians12:7. Here Paul was prevented from exulting too much in the divine revelation given to him by the thorn in his flesh. Sometimes suffering could be teaching us about what otherwise could remain unlearned. Even Jesus is said to have "learned...obedience by the things which he suffered"(Hebrews 5:8). The experience of suffering is educational, we learn things that later on we can share with others who experience similar things. We learn things like patience and hope. When we endure suffering we often can bear a better testimony for Christ.
That is where we shall stop for today, my friends. Until next time, remain faithful to Christ, be not doubtful in what you believe, remember that unbelief is sin. May we all walk in grace and grow grace by grace.
Fri, Nov 16th - 11:04AM
Beloved, the internet can be a wonderful thing but sometimes accessing it with an uninterruptible source can be extremely frustrating! My entire message yesterday never posted since unbeknownst to me, while I was typing it in, I lost DSL signal. I have assumed that Satan did not desire that message to be sent out at that time and endeavored to dismay me. I, however, will persevere. I pick up our current study in verses four and five:
Nevertheless I have something against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy lampstand out of his place, except thou repent.
Inspite of all of His previous commendations for this church in Ephesus, now Christ lays before them that which saddens and angers Him. Obviously this matter of turning from their first love is an important matter to God. We are not speaking about "puppy" love as a first love in their lives. This is directly refering to that time when each believer had accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour, when they had been born again in the Holy Spirit. The word for love (Greek, agapen) is the deepest and most meaningful word for love found in the Greek language. They had not completely left their love for God, but their love no longer had the fervency, depth, or intimate meaning that it once had had. I wonder if we suffer from the same illness today? There were some spiritual problems at the church in Ephesus. Some spiritual needs stem from lack of faith in God, lack of fully trusting in Christ, so that the individual either falls short of salvation itself, or, if saved, they lack an enduring, intimate relationship with God and His promises of His Word. The second problem is in the exercise of our freedom of will. Many who have trusted in Christ have never yielded themselves completely to God and as a result have not experienced the full effects of the Holy Spirit working in their lives. That is something that is hard for us to do, yield our entire lives to someone else. I do not know if I have ever done this totally. I am fairly certain that being a sinner still, I withhold parts of my life from God, even though I fully know that I shouldn't. That sin nature runs rampant in our flesh and wars against our spriritual nature which desires to yield over to God.
Some thirty years earlier these saints in Ephesus had been hot for the Lord, they were newly saved and full of enthusiasm and devotion for the Lord Christ. Over time, however, they had lost some of their ardor and energy in serving God. This church was in its second generation of Christians, those who had come to know Christ after His ascension, and did not exhibit the same enthusiasm as the earlier saints. This cooling of their heart was a forerunner of future spiritual apathy that ultimately led to the final deportation of all Ephesians in the fourteenth century by the Turks. The city became a set of ruins until this very day.
The danger of fading love for God is described in other scriptures: "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows"(I Timothy 6:10). And again here: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him"(I John 2:15). As God reminds us in I John 5:21, even loved ones can stand between us and our love for our Father in Heaven. Christ Himself said, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me"(Mathew 10:37). Am I suggesting that we shouldn't love our spouses or our children? Heaven forbid! I am merely reminding you that we cannot love them more than we do God. "The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband"(I Corinthians 7:34). Christ says that once we marry someone we automatically will be figuring out how to please our spouse and that will force us to care for the things of this world. It places us in a very stressful situation, one in which we must strike a proper balance between loving God first, and then loving our spouses and families. This is why it is vital for each of us to already have established uncompromisable faith and service to the Lord while still unmarried. Whatever may force our focus and attention away from Christ will hinder a true love of Him and ultimately will cause us to lose our first love.
Of course, there is a way to correct this spiritual problem. We must remember from where we have fallen. Where were we in life when we first accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior? How did we feel when we were born again? Remember how exciting it felt to be free? In order to return we must first go back to the point of departure. The Ephesians were exhorted to remember the wonder of their newfound salvation, the joy and satisfaction that were theirs in Christ. Too often we forget that except for God, there go I. Another facet here is held in the word repent (Greek, metanoeson, meaning "to change the mind"). They needed to have a different attitude toward Christ and regain that fervent love for Him. Once that happened they would then "do the first works." As James tells us today, it is not enough just to hear the Word, but we must do the Word. That is works. As was true of these Ephesian saints, we may do many appointed tasks but these do not reflect a true love for God. We are not just bondslaves of Christ bound by legal laws, but we are those whose hearts have been given over to loving the Saviour of our souls.
These Ephesain saints were also warned that if they did not listen and repent of their ways, they could expect sudden judgment and removal. There is no indication given here that they would get to wait until His Second Coming, rather, it says that God would deal with them in the here and now. How many pastors have we known, just in our lifetimes, that started out fervent for the Lord but fell by the roadside? We all know Billy Graham, but there were two other men who were on fire for God. Men who filled stadiums and revival tents wherever they went in America. This was in 1945, all three men were out to change the spiritual landscape of America. By 1950 there were only two still standing strong for God. By 1955 there was only one, Mr. Graham, still standing strong for God. Only one out of those three men finished strong, finishing the race put before him. The others fell away from God, concealed hidden sins that they never allowed Christ to carry for them. They did not trust God completely. Such an important matter for each of us. Trusting God for who He is, for what He promises us, for what He will do in the future. Ephesus ceased to exist, became a set of ruins. Will that be our legacy for God? Beloved, we must be ever willing to repent daily of our sins. To turn back to Christ, correct our path so that it matches His plan for our lives. It is so very hard for believers today to admit that they still need repentence, to make changes in their lives once they have been saved for several years.
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate(2:6).
Here Christ gives them a commendation, a congratulation, on hating the enemies of truth. What was the nature of the Nicolaitanes error? Apparantly they were a sect, and some have interpreted their name to mean "conquering of the people." This came from nikao, meaning "to conquer" and laos, meaning "the people." The conslusion drawn is that they were the forerunners of a clerical hierarchy imposed upon the lay people and robbed them of spiritual freedom. Others have considered them to be a sect that advocated complete freedom in conduct including participation in heathen feasts and free lovefests. Where specifically did this sect arise from? Some point to the church in Pergamos where they embraced that which the Ephesians hated. Perhaps Nicolaus the proselyte of Antioch who was one of the seven deacons there, started this sect. Whatever the precise nature of the Nicolaitanes, a true love for God involves a fervent hatred of that which counterfeits and distorts the purity of biblical truth. We must be willing to defend the truth. We must think and feel as did David, "Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies"(Psalm 139:21-22). Notice that we do not hate them in our capabilities, but rather with a perfect hatred. That comes from Christ, not us. We cannot possibly be friends with those who hate God. We must love them as God loves us, give them the Gospel message of salvation, but we cannot tolerate being amongst them.
Let's stop here for today, my friends. We will coninue next time with the invitaiton and promise extended by Christ. Until then, may the Lord richly bless you in all that you do. Walk circumspectly, allowing the Lord to order your steps each and every day.
Wed, Nov 14th - 1:24PM
Beloved, as we begin studying chapter two of Revelation it will help us if we know a little about each of the cities that contained one of the seven churches that letters were going to. Ephesus was a beautiful city and it was the chief city of the province of Asia. It was called "the Light of Asia." It was both the religious and commercial center of the entire area. At times there were between one and two million people in Ephesus. The city was formed around the temple of Diana by the Anatolians. It was located very near to the ocean originally, but after Alexander took the city he relocated it to a higher location which is where its ruins can be found even today. Paul had his greatest ministry here and John later became a pastor here. Alexander built a new temple to Diana that became one of the Wonders of the ancient world. Around the temple of Diana were performed the grossest forms of immorality. She probably was worshiped by more people that any other idol. Sensuality and outrageous orgies were the norm for their rituals and ceremonies. Further inland Diana's name was changed to Cybele and worship became nothing more than sex orgies.
Paul came to Ephesus on his third missionary journey. For two years he preached the Word of God from the school of Tyrannus. John, after about ten years of exile on Patmos returned here to Ephesus. Supposedly, John died here and the Basilica of Saint-John is built over his burial spot. So this church is located in the middle of crass materialism, animalism, paganism, gross immorality, and heathenism as Christ speaks to them through John.
Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden lampstands(2:1).
Christ the Sovereign Judge. This first letter addressed to the church in Ephesus is directed to the angel, or aggelos, of that church. Normally this Greek word means "angel" but sometimes it means "messenger." Here it seems to indicate a messenger, pastor, elder, of the church rather than an actual angel from heaven. They may even have been servants and prophets who delivered these individual messages to each church.
Notice that Christ holds the church in His right hand. It is not under its control, it is under Christ's control. Even today He walks in the middle of the individual churches that exist, and He inspects and judges them. He has seven words of commendation for this church:
I know thy works, and thy lavour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted(2:2-3).
1. "I know thy works." Christ is speaking to believers, not lost sinners. Christ observes all that we do each day and knows what we do. Christ is talking here to His own. He wants to talk to them, and us, about good works. In Ephesians 2:8-10 God spoke of just this matter of where good works come from. Titus 1:16 can condemn many a congregation's claim to know and love God.
2. "I know...thy labour." The word labor carries a meaning of weariness. Jesus was said to become weary with His journey. This is what the Ephesian church experienced, they suffered weariness in their labor for God.
3. "I know...thy patience." They had some of the fruits of the Spirit.
4. "How thou can not bear them which are evil." They would not tolerate evil persons to be among their congregation.
5. "Thou have tried them which say they are apostles," They tested the spirits as they had been taught by Paul and John. They asked them specific questions which the answers would divulge whether or not the claims of apostleship were accurate. They were commended for doing this.
6. "Have born...for my name's sake have labored." These believers had spread the Gospel properly. They had not done it with their agendas in view, they had preached the Word in love to all who would listen. They did not preach Christ as a good man, prophet, or teacher of ethics. They preached Christ as the Son of God born to the virgin Mary. He who died on the cross to pay the wages for all of our sins, and raised Himself from the grave. They did this, and were willing to pay the price of persecution.
7. "And have not fainted." This is not a redundancy of what already was said earlier. I can grow weary in the work but not of the work. The work I do for Christ can make me tired but it shouldn't make me tired of doing it for Him. If ever I find myself tiring of doing work for God I need to sit myself down and assess why I am burning out. Is it because I am not reading His Word as frequently as I used to? Is it because I am not praying as I should?
All of these traits are desparately needed in today's churches. More believers need to be sharing in the labor. More need to be laboring patiently, and not give up. Often there is failure to serve God, I fear, due to a tendency to compromise with moral and theological evil. Too many of us never draw a spiritual line in the sand of our life, vowing to God to never compromise our faith and our good works for God. That is hard. I know, I have compromised in my life and it has cost me. But I have taken a stand to not compromise anymore, to hold that which I have been taught by the Holy Spirit and to never forget it. To teach it to others. To prepare others for the End Times which grow ever closer. There will be people during the Tribulation who will turn their hearts toward God and accept His Son as their Savior. We must prepare them now, for if we do not, who will?
Until next time, my friends, labor without ceasing in good works. Knowing that the Lord will sustain you and keep you through all persecutions and trials. Be brave, be bold, and tell the Good News! Salvation is at hand! Today is the day of your redemption! Amen.
Tue, Nov 13th - 1:35PM
We pick up our study in Revelation:
His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters(1:14-15).
The description of his head and hair as being white speaks of the purity of Christ and could also be speaking to his eternal existence. In Daniel 7:9 He is called the Ancient of Days. The description of his eyes speaks of His penetrating and eyewitness knowledge of the total life of the church and its members. He knows all about you and me. Last Sunday He sat and watched as you gave your offering hidden in an envelope. You did not think that anyone knew what you gave, right? His eyes met those of Simon Peter after he had denied Him. Peter went and wept, how about you and me? When we disappoint our Lord, do we go and weep? He is looking at each and every one of us, my friends.
The description of His feet as fine/burnished brass symbolizes judgment. The brass altar in the Tabernacle represented Christ's work down here on earth when He died upon the cross. Sin was dealt with at the cross and at the brass altar. He bore our judgment for our sins. He is judging those of us who are His own.
Human nature rebels against judgment being passed upon it. Man likes to be given a bunch of little rules and regulations which he can keep. That is why so many study courses are popular with Christians, they can be legalistic rather than living by grace. Give us some rules to live by and we are happy. I don't know about you but I don't like being judged. But Christ is doing just that, judging us each and every day. So we need to not live legalistically but rather live by grace. Will God ignore what He sees in my life? Will God ignore what He sees within each congregation? God never closes His eyes to sin and wrongdoing.
The description of His voice speaks of the great authority of God. His voice called this universe into existence. His voice will call His own from the grave. His voice will call His own out of this world to be with Him. All of these pictures/figures add to the vision of Christ as our High Priest, inspecting and judging His church. Do not forget that our Lord Jesus Christ is our High Priest, sitting at the right hand of God the Father.
And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength(1:16).
The stars represent the universe in general as being under His authority and control. They also represent the seven angels of the seven churches mentioned here in this book. This comes from verse twenty of this chapter, which we will see later. The description of this two-edged sword brings to mind other scripture. In Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." God judges us by His Word. He judged by it in the past, and He judges by it today. The description of His countenance makes us immediately think about our sun. Can you stare into it and not have your eyes get damaged? You cannot look directly at God in His glory, at least not at this time. To return to the sword, I will say this to you: The Romans were trained to use their sword efficiently in battle. They were taught to stab and pierce their opponents for the most damage would be done that way. Slashing at their opponents would not disable them in battle. This sword mentioned here is one that slays the wicked; romphaia, in Greek is a long, heavy sword mentioned five other times in Revelation. In Hebrews the word for sword infers revealing sins hidden, revealing unbelief in us.
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last(1:17).
John was the disciple who had an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ on earth. In the Upper Room he reclined his head upon the bosom of Christ. But the glorified Christ upon Patmos forced him to fall to the ground. If we walk around saying that Jesus is our friend, we had better be sure of doing what is commanded of us in John 15:14: "Ye are my friends, if ye do what soever I command you."
The most marvelous thing in verse seventeen is that God says, "Fear not." This is Deity addressing humanity. He gives us four reasons why we should not fear.
1. "I am the first and the last." He came out of eternity, and He moves into eternity. The word everlasting means from the vanishing point in the past to the vanishing point in the future which is how God is spoken of in Psalm 90:2.
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death(1:18).
2. "I am he liveth, and was dead." This speaks of his redemptive death and resurrection which when we accept it, makes us clean from our sins.
3. "And, behold, I am alive for evermore." His making intercession for us isn't something that will change tomorrow or next week or even next year. He is alive for always, always there for us.
4. "And have the keys of death and hades." The keys speak of authority and power. Jesus has power over death and the grave right now because of His own death and resurrection. He will not allow us to die until we have accomplished what He has set before us to do. There are no accidental deaths in my mind. Hades is the Greek word for the unseen world. It can refer to the grave where the body is laid or to the place whre the spirit goes upon death. We do not need to fear for God controls our lives and micromanages them.
Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter(1:19).
1. Up to this point what had John seen? He had seen the glorified Christ. We need to see the glorified Christ in this book. We should not become distracted by the beasts, the four horsemen, the bowls, or the seals. Keep your eyes on Christ.
2. What are the things that are? These are the things that pertain to the church, church things. These matters are recorded in the next two chapters as we shall soon see.
3. What are the things that shall come after? This is the program of Christ, the order of historical events to still unfold. This entire program is covered by chapters four through twenty-two.
The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven lampstands which thou sawest are the seven churches(1:20).
You see, God makes it plain when He is using symbols, and He enables us to understand what the symbols mean. Otherwise, He is talking quite literally. A mystery is a sacred secret that has not previously been revealed to man. John has this revealed to him. Now, as we said earlier, the stars represent authority. In Jude, verse thirteen, apostates are called wandering stars. Angel literally means "messenger" and may be either human or angelic beings. Here it could refer to local pastors of the seven churches mentioned.
The English word candlestick should really be lampstand as I posted it here since it holds lamps rather than candles. These lampstands represent the seven churches of Asia, which in turn represent the church as the body of Christ.
I think we should stop here for now. Ponder what we have discovered thus far in our study. Next time we will begin chapter two and find some things out about the church that was in Ephesus. Until then my beloved, remember that we know that the Son of God is come, and has given us understanding, that we may know Him that is True. We are in Him that is True, even Jesus Christ.
Sun, Nov 11th - 10:01PM
Friends, tonight let us begin looking into what John did on the Lord's day:
I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea(1:10-11).
John's statement here is that he was filled with the Holy Spirit of God. It refers to his experience of being transported beyond normal senses into a realm where God could reveal supernaturally the future history of our world. This sort of experience is not unique to John but was found to have happened to Ezekiel, Peter, and Paul.
The expression "on the Lord's day" is one of those that has created much debate and much dissension over the ages. Some would interpret it to signify the first day of the week, thus proclaiming Sunday to be the Lord's day. This assumption may in fact be true, however, this expression does not occur anywhere else in the entire bible. The day of Christ's resurrection consistently is referred to as "the first day of the week" and never as the Lord's day(Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2,9; Luke 24"1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:2).
There is no evidence scripturally that John intended this expression to refer to the first day of the week. It is rather a reference to the day of the Lord of the Old Testament, an extended period of time in which God deals in judgment and sovereign rule over the earth. In light of this understanding it is therefore probable that John was transported forward to the future day of the Lord since he was in the Spirit. We must always remember that John was in the Spirit the entire time of his receiving the revelation from God. John then heard a great voice as of a trumpet. Some people say that this is foolishness since God does not speak like a trumpet. Well, of course not! The grammar used here indicates that His voice was as a trumpet. The voice pierced the ears as does a trumpet when it is played loudly. The voice carried a long ways as does a trumpet. Next the speaker is identified as "Alpha and Omega, the first and the last." This clearly refers to Christ by comparing it with verses 8 and 17. John then is commanded to write all that he sees which is consistent with verse 2. This command is found twelve times in this book, evidence that John was to write after seeing each vision. The entire message that John is given is destined for each of the seven churches mentioned. It seems that the order of the churches as named could be based upon their geographical location.
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle(1:12-13).
John upon hearing this voice that sounded like a trumpet turned, and saw seven golden lampstands. Now, my friends, this reminds me of the lampstand found in the Tabernacle of the wilderness march. These lampstands seem to be formed in some kind of circle since it says that in the middle of them was someone that looked like the Son of man. In reference to verse twenty of this chapter we find out that these lampstands represent the seven churches of verse eleven. The one who is like the Son of man is clothed from his shoulders down to his feet and is wearing a golden girdle around his chest(paps). If we check Exodus 28:2-4 we see the Lord Jesus Christ pictured here in Revelation as our High Priest. His garments represent the righteousness of Christ. In Him is no sin found, and He knew no sin. The girdle emphasizes strength and not service. It speaks of His judgment in truth. We must consider our High Priest as He stands in the midst of our churches. He is judging our churches even as we speak. He is judging believers that the light may continue to shine for a season. This scripture tells us what Christ our Lord is doing today, beloved. Scripture does not ever leave us in the dark as to what Christ is doing today. Three very definite ministries are mentioned.
First, there is the intercession of Christ. He is our High Priest. He stands at the golden altar in heaven today, where He ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25).
Second, we have the intervention of Christ. He steps outside of the Holy Place to the laver. There He washes the feet of those who are His own. He washes those who have confessed their sins(I John 1:9). He is girded with the towel today just as He was at the Last Supper, and He carries the basin; He intervenes on our behalf. In I John 2:1 we read that we have an advocate with the Father, Christ Jesus. He defends us when we are accused by Satan.
Thirdly, there is His ministry of inspection that is made manifest here in Revelation. He stands amongst the churches and finds what is not right in each, what must be corrected. The lampstand held up lamps filled with oil so that the light would reveal the beauty of the crafted lampstand. The picture here is of the Holy Spirit ,represented by the oil-filled lamps, revealing Christ who is the actual lampstand. This is what the Holy Spirit does within each of us, and within each church. Inspection can be scarey. We tend to not like inspections. Perhaps that is why it is not being taught in all congregations everywhere today.
In the Tabernacle the high priest had the sole oversight of the lampstand. He was the one who lighted the lamps. He poured the oil and trimmed the wicks. If one of the lamps began to smoke and not give off light he was the one who would snuff if out and fix it. Beloved, Jesus is walking in the midst of our churches today and He is trimming wicks. John 15 tells that He prunes the branches of believers so that they might bring forth fruit. He lets us go through trials so that He might gain some fruit from us or that He might make our light burn more brightly. He is the One who pours in the oil, the Holy Spirit, into our lives. Christ is the head of the church and the Holy Spirit does what Christ sent Him here to do. If light is emmanating from my ministry, it comes from the Holy Spirit. He is the source, no light originates in me. Now this thing with the snuffer is chilling. God will snuff out a lamp that is just smoking and is not emitting any light at all. If you or I are muddling along in our spiritual lives and just smoking up the joint, if we are not shining brightly for Christ, then I do believe that God is very capable of snuffing us out and calling us home. We are speaking of physical death here and not loss of salvation. Christ is inspecting and judging believers today and if we are found to be disgracing Him we are at risk of being snuffed out to make room for those who are on fire serving Him.
Enough for today, my friends. There is alot to chew on here and I will give you the chance to do so. Until next time, walk in grace and peace; love your enemies as yourself.
Sun, Nov 11th - 10:42AM
A Message For Veterans Day
The writer Irwin S. Cobb tells a story: It seemed that two Confederate veterans were reminiscing about the days during the war when Paducah was being fought over by the Northern and Southern armies. "I remember," one veteran said, "when we pushed those Yankees all the way across the Ohio and up into Illinois!" The other old soldier regretfully corrected him. "I was there, old friend," he said, "I am afraid that wasn't the way it happened at all. Those Yankees drove us out of Paducah and almost to the Tennessee line." The first veteran reflected a bit, then sourly remarked, "Another good story ruined by an eyewitness!"
As long as there are veterans, there will be war stories. Some of them will be true. I've noticed one thing, however. Most veterans will have a medal or two. The stories behind those medals are sometimes a little less often repeated, for often they are painful memories rather then glorious ones. War stories come by being there when something was happening. Medals come by sacrifice.
Yet whether we mount them on the wall in a lighted frame or put them in a box in the closet or basement, the veteran keeps his/her medals. They need to remember. At this time of each year in some communities the veteran even parades them so that the community will remember too.
We, as Christians, share a similar memory. Each week, for two thousand years, we have shared the memory of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. It is a painful memory. The loaf and the cup are the "medals" which display not our sacrifice but His. We keep this from becoming a "war story" because we have the written, eyewitness accounts of the time when Christ instituted this memorial.
Like the medals given to the soldier, this memorial is designed to honor the one who sacrificed for us. He was the one "who paid it all." Therefore we remember. In that memory we are commanded to examine ourselves. We ought to get out our "spiritual" flashlight and scatter the shadows and darkness that lie within the rooms in our hearts and minds. Have I closed, and locked a door to a room that shames me? Ignoring and forgetting what really is in that room? Shouldn't I go and shine Jesus' light into that sort of room and deal with the sin? You see, there are many ways to examine ourselves, but if I might stretch this analogy a bit, consider this one: picture a father with his little children. They are looking at his medals and asking how he got them. He tells them the story of the combat and what he did to earn them. The children go away from this session, imaginations fired, and go out to be a hero just their dad.
Whenever you take the cup and the bread, remember the sacrifice made. Then, just like the little children, resolve to go out and imitate your heavenly Father. Can any greater honor be paid to a veterna father than to have his children say, "I want to be just like him?"
Sat, Nov 10th - 10:59PM
We pick up our study tonight at verse 7 of this first chapter of Revelation.
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen(1:7).
This is the first of many instances of our being commanded to see, or witness something, in this book. This time it is an announcement of the glorious second coming of Christ. Something all believers yearn for with all of their hearts. The use of the present tense of "he cometh" is thought by some to indicate that this prophecy is out of place chronologically, but it basically is an emphatic form of declaration. As He was received up into heaven by a cloud (Acts 1:9), so He will come in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27). If you will read these references you will agree with me on this point. In contrast to His ascension, when the clouds removed Christ from sight, at His second coming "every eye shall see him." Imagine the impact that will have upon this world of ours! Every eye shall see Him, not just a few, or half of the people, but all shall see Him when He returns.
However, there is no indication that the world will see Christ at the time of the rapture of the church. When He comes to establish His Kingdom on earth all shall see Him. Singled out are those individuals who pierced Him, even they shall see Him when He returns as King. How could that possibly happen since they all have been deceased for centuries? Perhaps this verse is talking in a picture format and it means all of Israel who persecuted Him shall see Him in His return. Or perhaps it means that those very individuals who did physically pierce Him, those whose souls are held in the bowels of Hell, will be able to see Him when He comes again. How can souls in Hell see any thing up here? I do not understand how it could be, but all things are possible with God.
The closing is simple and concrete. "Even so, Amen." The Greek word amen is a transliteration of a Hebrew word of similar sound meaning "truth" or "faithfulness," and so the meaning "be it true" or "so be it." An example of this is found in Isaiah 65:16. In Revelation 3:14 Christ is called "the Amen" with the added identifier "the faithful and true witness." So we can be sure that Jesus Christ is faithful and true. This sort of underscores what He stated in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty(1:8).
He begins by using the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet to emphasize that He is all in all. He is the creator, nothing was before Him and nothing will be after Him. Once more we are reminded of God's eternity, His omnipotence. He repeats for us the great "which is, and which was, and which is to come" that we saw in verse 4. We are not to forget this fact, the repetition is for us to remember this important fact forever. The verse concludes with a title for God, pantocrator, the Greek word for Almighty. It occurs ten times in the new Testament, with nine times being in Revelation. Some might say that this verse applies to Christ while verse 4 applies to God the Father. They probably are correct in some sense, but logically isn't it true that eternity is characteristic of both Christ and the Father? They both are God, aren't they?
To recap, Christ is the central figue of the first eight verses of Revelation. He is presented as the Source of revelation in verse one. In verse two He is presented as the Channel of the word and testimony of God. In verse three He is presented as promising His blessings through His revealed word. In verse five He is shown as the faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth. He is revealed as the source of all grace, the source of our royal priesthood. He is the Almighty God of eternity past, present, and future. If no more had been given to John to write down for us there would have been found no comparable section of scripture that stated the Person and work of Christ Jesus as we find in these first eight verses.
I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ(1:9).
Important facts are introduced at this point which form the background for this revelation. This is the first of three times where the expression "I John" occurs. In the Gospel of John he refers to himself as "the disciple which testifieth of these things"(John 21:24). In his epistles he describes himself as an elder(II John 1; III John 1). Here he refers to himself as "brother and companion" of these seven churches in their trouble. He was bound spiritually and by kinship with these people in the seven churches. He states clearly his identification with them in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Christ. The Greek word for patience here is hypomone meaning the hope of faith which leads to endurance. As he writes these words, John himself is in tribulation for he is exiled on Patmos for doing what Christ commanded him to do. If we are preaching God's Word and testifying of what Christ has done in our lives then we ought to be expecting some tribulation to enter our lives. If there is none, then what are we actually doing for God?
This exile has shut John off from friends and human fellowship, and yet it is not until this exact point in time that God provides him with the most extensive revelation of future events given to any single man. Out on a bleak island, John experiences something paralleling those of the Old Testament prophets. Moses wrote the first five books of the bible out in the wilderness. David wrote many psalms while fleeing from the pursuit of King Saul. Isaiah lived in quite difficult days and died a martyr's death. Ezekiel wrote while in exile. Jeremiah's life was one of trial and tribulation. Peter wrote his two letters shortly before martyrdom. It was only fitting that God give John the final written revelation while John suffered for Christ and the gospel.
Let's stop there for today, beloved. Consider your life, how you are living it for Christ. Have you drawn a line in the sand of your life as of today? A boundary line over which you will never cross? You will never compromise? Or is everything in your life compromisable, situational? If there are no black and white areas of your life then you need to stop and seriously critique what you believe in. If there are only grey areas, hazy areas with lots of wiggle room inside them, then you have not sold out to Christ. You do not really believe in Him and trust Him. I urge you tonight to kneel before our God and ask Him to forgive you for doubting what He has said to us in His Holy Word. Ask Him to help you turn over your entire life to Him, allow Him to use it as He wills. If you would do this I guarantee that you will no longer have as many burdens to bear alone. Christ does not tell us weakly that "The truth will set you free." I tell you here and now that if you stop the lying and deception in your life that you will be free of the worry and stress that comes from the uncertainty of who has found you out in your lies. You will be free indeed, the gates of your prison of anguish will have been flung open wide by Christ. A song says it all, "Come, and see! The gates of your prison stand open! Come and see!" Until next time, remember that our God is a mighty God and that He reigns from heaven on high, with wisdom, power and love. Just as the song says, Amen.
Fri, Nov 9th - 10:15PM
John does not usually include a greeting in his writings as does Paul. Yet, here in verse 4 we find just such a thing:
John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and fro the seven Spirits which are before his throne(1:4).
This is a salutation, very much like what Paul wrote in his epistles. It was initially given to a certain group of churches located in what we call Asia Minor, or Turkey. John places no title with his name, he probably was well known in all of them by this time in his life. He had been pastor of the church at Ephesus and more than likely had oversight of all the churches in this area.
I would draw your attention to the number seven. It is mentioned twice in this verse, the seven churches and the seven Spirits. As many of you may already know, seven holds a religious meaning in God's Word. It does not indicate perfection, but it does indicate completeness. They are not always one and the same thing.
In one sense, seven has to do with God's covenant with Israel. For example, the Sabbath, circumcision, and worship are all tied to the seventh day. You may remember that the city of Jericho was encompassed seven times, Naaman was ordered to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River, there were seven years of plenty and seven years of famine in Joseph's time in Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar was insane for seven years, there are seven beatitudes in the New Testament, there are seven petitions in the Lord's Prayer, there are seven parables in Matthew 13, seven loaves fed the multitude, Jesus spoke seven times from the cross, and in the Book of Revelation this number seven cannot be overlooked or be thought of as accidental. It is a key number.
John writes to "the seven churches", weren't there other churches in Asia? We know that there were churches in Colosse, Troas, and Miletus. These were not tiny churches, they were influential in the area. But John was instructed to write only to these particular churches. He was giving the complete history of the "church" and these cities were representative churches.
The word grace is charis, the Greek form of greeting, and peace is shalom, the Hebrew form of greeting. Peace flows from grace, and grace is the source of all our blessings today. This book reveals the grace of our God and also peace. This book ought to bring peace and tranquility to our hearts as we read it.
When we see this verse mentioning "seven Spirits before the throne" we might be thinking of angels, as some people have before us. But the more logical, and likely meaning is a representation of the Holy Spirit and is tied into the seven branches of the lampstand.
We also have in this verse mention of the nature of God. "Which is, and which was, and which is to come," emphasizes the eternity and unchanging character of God. It reminds us of what Christ came to earth and did for all of us. It reminds us of His birth, death, and resurrection along with His future return. And in the next two verses we see mention of the Trinity:
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen(1:5-6).
We see "Jesus Christ", God the Son; the "seven Spirits", the Holy Spirit; and the direct reference to the "Father" which is the third member of the Trinity. Christ is our faithful witness, He testifies of Himself. We may find it difficult to believe other people but we can surely believe in Christ and what He says. Christ is the firstborn of the dead, indicating that He will not be the only one, that there are to be others following His lead. In His being the firstborn of the dead He received a glorified body, just as we shall when we join Him in the air. We see a repetition of God's love in that He shed His precious blood for our sakes, to cleanse us of all foulness spiritually. How much blood did Christ have to shed for our sins? All of it.
Now in verse six we see allusion to our being made kings and priests. You might well say to yourself, "I do not feel very much like a king or priest today." That would be quite true since this kingship is a future event. We are priests currently as we are to be carrying out the works of God. The kingship comes after Christ's return to rule here on earth. I look forward to the time when He will come in the air to take us as His Bride; for we are His love, He is our Saviour, our Redeemer, our King.
One of Christ's titles is "Amen." He is the truth. He is the mover of all events, and all events move toward Him. Think about that. God is in absolute control of everything. There is not one thing in your life that God does not know about and have control over. He orchestrated the exact time and place of your conception. Psalm 139 says that He knew me and you when we were still unformed in our mothers' wombs. He knew us when we were still just sperm and egg, ununited as of yet. So do not think that God is afar off from you, unconcerned about what is happening in your life. God in intimately involved each and every day.
I will stop there for today, my friends. I hope this does not get tedious or long-winded for any of you. I am trying to keep this as brief as possible and yet not leave too much information out. I welcome your comments as they will help me present these studies in a better manner as we go along. Until next time, remember that God loved us and washed us in His spilled blood to cleanse us of our sins.
Thu, Nov 8th - 9:42PM
THE THINGS WHICH YOU HAVE SEEN
If you had not guessed, we will be using the last approach in studying this last book of the Bible, the futuristic viewpoint. We will try to be as literal as possible within the context of the scripture.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John(1:1).
The very first thing to note at the outset is that this is the Revelation, singular, not plural. There is one, and only one given and it is right there in the Bible. Somtimes this book gets titled, "The Revelation of John," and it misleads people into thinking that this is all concocted up by John. This is the Revelation of Christ Jesus, given to John to record for us today. Amen. Now the word revelation is the translation of apokalupsis, meaning a "revelation, disclosure, or unveiling." Notice that, disclosure or unveiling. Jesus deliberately unveiled things that must shortly come to pass and also unveiled things that would not happen until hundreds of years in the future, at the very least. My friends, I really think that in the Gospels we have only half of the story. We need the Book of Revelation because it is the conclusion of it. Naturally, it can be understood only if the Spirit of God is our teacher. We can see Christ in all of His beauty and power and glory for the veil has been lifted in this book. When professing Christians claim that they cannot understand the Book of Revelation it makes me wonder, since this was given to us expressly so that we could understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God.
Now, this revelation concept is not new here. It is previously mentioned in John 3:34-35; 5:20-24; 7:16; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10, 24; 16:15; 17:8. What the Father has seen is given to the Son. Now, on Patmos Christ is to show John what the Father gave to Him. "To show" means by word pictures, by symbols, by direct and indirect representations. Peter gave us a terrific rule for the interpretation of prophecy in II Peter 1:20: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." You interpret scripture in the light of the entire Word of God. Any time that John uses a symbol, he will make it clear to us that he is using a symbol because the reality is far greater than the symbol. In fact, the symbol is going to be a very poor representation of the reality.
Are these things which it is unsure whether or not they will happen? No! He says that they must come to pass. That word denotes absolute certainty. What Daniel declared back in the Old Testament as happening "in the latter days" is here being described as "shortly." The same word used here for "shortly" is used in several other places in the bible. In Luke 18:8 our Lord says, "I tell you that he will avenge them[His elect] speedily..." The word speedily is the same one used for shortly. Whatever begins will take place in a hurry, there will be no waiting around for it. I will say this, the order given in how this revelation reaches us is methodical. God the Father gave it to Christ the Son, who gave it to an angel, who gave it to John, who gave it to us. Who was this angel who brought this message to John? Was it Gabriel, or Michael? Was it an archangel? We do not know, that information is not of importance to us at this time. When we reach heaven we will know which angel was involved and we can thank him then.
Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony[witness] of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw(1:2).
The "word of God" refers to both Jesus and the contents of this bible. He is the Living Word, especially when the written Word of God reveals Him to us. "Bare record" means "to bear witness" or "to testify." John is the first-hand, eyewitness of all that was revealed to him on that island. God gave him the word pictures to describe what he saw so that we can understand as best as possible exactly what John actually saw. I hope that isn't confusing. Stop and try to imagine what it must have been like for John. Seeing things that defy your imagination, hearing things so incredible, tasting and smelling what was carried upon the winds that were blowing.
Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand(1:3).
Unusual is the feature of this verse; threefold blessing being invoked. (1) "blessed is he that readeth"; (2) "blessed are they that hear"; (3) "blessed are they that keep those things which are written". Not everyone may have a bible and so the one who reads this prophecy receives a special blessing. Those who hear the word receive a blessing also. For both reader and listener it is necessary to keep, remember, pay attention to, what is written in Revelation. All three parts of speech are in the present tense, implying continued reading, hearing, studying, observing. This blessing is the first of seven given throughout this book. It is a call to not treat this book as insignificant, to not ignore it over the rest of the scriptures. To all who would claim that this book is not prophetic I direct your attention to this verse where it explicitly states that it is prophetic scripture. There is no way around it, you can not ignore what is written. It's importance is emphasized by the phrase "for the time is at hand," "the time" (Greek, kairos) referring to a period of time. Daniel mentions the "time of the end" five times (8:17; 11:35,40; 12:4,9). At other points in Revelation "the time" is referred to using this word kairos. A season of time indicated by kairos is to be contrasted to "hour" (Greek, hora) and time in general (Greek, chronos). "At hand" does not imply immediately, it only indicates nearness.
I will stop here for now, beloved. Next time we shall resume with verse 4 and all that it shares with us. Until then, read God's Word with the blessing of the Holy Spirit of God; allowing Him to reveal to you His truth this day.
Thu, Nov 8th - 11:21AM
A Study of Revelation
I sat and pondered what topic might be of extreme interest at this time. What better one than to study about the end of the beginning? Eric, that is rather cryptic, you may be saying. True, but by the time we are done with the book of Revelation I am sure that you will understand, if you do not understand already. Now, we need to consider some preliminary concepts and points before we can actually get into the scriptures since they will be continualy riding around our encampment and will confuse our focus unless we deal with them at the outset.
Without much debate most will concede to the impressive scope of the prophesies in Revelation. It is intended by God to be the final word from Him to man. All of the great truths within this book are the terminal points for lines of revelation beginning in some cases in the book of Genesis and continuing throughout the Scriptures. Most important is the revelation concerning Jesus Christ, introduced as the primary theme in the very first verse of this book. This revelation is advanced in the Gospels and the Acts, which unveil to us the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God. To all of this, the last book of the Bible provides the capstone, so to speak.
These days there is significant debate amongst us as to how we ought to read and interpret the book of Revelation. Should I interpret it as being mostly symbolic, and largely unknownable to me? Or, should I interpret what I am reading as allegorical? Is this an accurate presentation of history or not? How much of this book has already taken place? All of it, some of it, or none of it? These are all puzzling questions, and it has created an atmosphere in which very many believers have thrown their hands up in the air and cried, "Uncle, I give up!" No mas! No more! I do not understand what it says! Well, my friends, I hope this study will help you to understand at least the nature of this final chapter in God's message to us, His children.
I am not going to go into whether or not the authorship of this scripture is to be accepted as true. Once we accept the scripture to be true then other issues arise in peoples' minds over how we are to understand what is written. These differences basically reduce down to four categories.
1. The nonliteral or allegorical approach. This viewpoint originated in the Alexandrian School of Theology operated by Clement of Alexandria and Origen. It regarded Revelation as one great allegory going far beyond the natural symbolism which is found in the book. This school of thought was generally regarded by the early church as being heretical, however, they influenced such men as Jerome and Augustine and turned the early church from its original position. The Augustine perspective views the entire book as a symbolic representation of the total conflict between Christianity and evil, or the City of God and the City of Satan. The modern liberal viewpoint emphasizes a contemporary meaning of the book, diminishing the prophetic content and character of it. R. C. H. Lenski in his exposition on the Revelation denies any chronology is intended in the book.
2. The preterist approach. In general, advocates of this viewpoint maintain that Revelation is a record of the conflicts of the early church with Judaism and paganism, with the final chapters(20-22) being a picture of the contemporary triumph of the church. It considers this book as a symbolic history and not as prophetic. Credit seems to go to the Jesuit Alcasar(d. 1613) as originating this view. A variation of this is that Revelation is descriptive rather than predictive. This viewpoint tends to destroy any future significance of the book. It renders God's Word as insignificant to us today.
3. The historical approach. Followers of this viewpoint consider Revelation as a symbolic presentation of the total of church history culminating in the second advent of Christ. Joachim, a Roman Catholic scholar is considered to be responsible for this approach as he was also the originator of postmillenialism. It identifies the pope and papacy with the beasts of chapter 13. It has influenced a large number of scholars and expositors. This approach in some ways is superior to the prior two methods in that it provides a profound philosophy of history as well as a guide to the general rules of heavenly providence. The major problem with this approach is that you can fall victim to the tendency to interpret the book as already climaxing. Innumerable interpretation have arisen, and will continue to evolve, depending upon the time and experiences of the person doing the interpreting. In essence, it becomes a private interpretation of scripture of which we have been commanded to avoid. The fact that historical figures are incorporated into the interpretations, along with the sheer number of variations, refutes this as the correct way to read Revelation.
4. The futuristic approach. This viewpoint regards Revelation as futuristic beginning with chapter 4 and thus subject to future fulfillment. This approach also tends to be literal in interpretation of what is written. The events of chapters 4-19 relate to that period of time just before the second coming/advent of Christ. Generally this period is regarded as seven years in length with emphasis upon the last three and one-half years, labeled the "great tribulation." Chapter 19 then refers to the second advent of Christ to this earth, chapter 20 to the future millenial kingdom which follows, and chapter 21 and 22 to events either contemporary or following the millenium. While recognizing frequent symbolism, the events foreshadowed by these symbols are understood to be fulfilled in a normal way. Some objections to this approach stem from claims that it would rob the early church of any practical comfort. This is a false claim since portions of Revelation could be understood then, some portions can be understood now, and some portions will only be unerstood clearly in the future when they are fulfilled. One common assumption of people who reject this approach is that the Apocalypse is the actual creation of John's mind. Outside of this assumption rejecting the belief that the Bible is God's Word given by inspiration, it also assumes that John used this language because the readers of his day could understand the objects that he refered to. There are two problems with this assumption: (a) Prophecy, as given in the Scripture, was not necessarily understandable by the writer, let alone his readers, as is illustrated in the case of Daniel(Daniel 12:4,9). It is also questionable whether the great prophets of the Old Testament always understood what they were writing (I Peter 1:10-12). (b) It is of the nature of prophecy that it often cannot be understood until the time of the generation which achieves its fulfillment. Therefore, there is no real basis for assuming that John made this book up and that he purposefully used objects that his contemporaries could easily understand.
And there we have it, an introduction to this awesome book which concludes the holy scriptures. This is a very brief overview of the warring factions over interpreting this book but it ought to help everyone to see more clearly how to go about understanding this important book. Next we will begin studying each verse and trying to gain some solid understanding of what it is saying and how it applies to us today. Until then, be blessed by opening and reading Revelation or even by listening to someone else read it out loud.
Wed, Nov 7th - 1:07PM
Beloved, I hope today to conclude this study on love. I do not know for sure if that is what will happen, but it definitely is my hope. That being said, let's dive back into our study. We were looking in the book of Philippians at some verses that applied to our loving one another. Now we need to look in the book of Hebrews at some verses which address an area of applied love which gives us some discomfort in today's culture.
And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor feint when thou art rebuked of him(Hebrews 12:5).
This is a quote of Proverbs 3:11-12, emphasizing the corrective side of love. The word children is used in the King James Version, but in the Greek son and sons are used six times in verses 5-8. The Greek word huios is used for "son," and means "full-grown son." Do you know any fellow church goers who feel that they do not need any discipline or correction? This verse is not reserved for little kids but is directed to the adults.
The word chastening means something different from what we think of today. We feel that chastening is punishment. The Greek word is paideuo, and means "child training or discipline." God intends to discipline/correct us as adults until we do not require that any longer. I do not know about you, but I think that I will be getting trained and corrected by God my entire life!
For whom the Lord loveth he chaseneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons(Hebrews 12:6-8).
Why do the righteous suffer? Perhaps it could be said that this is an axiom of scripture: God's children do suffer. Psalm 34:19 speaks to that effect. In the book of Job we can read of this also in 5:7. Christ Jesus said in John 16:33 that we will have tribulation, no maybes or mights about it. Again, in II Timothy 3:12 we are told that all who live godly lives shall suffer persecution. I suppose as Dr. McGee has said long ago, that there are seven reasons why God's children suffer. Here they are:
1. We suffer because of our own stupidity and sin. "For what glory is it, if, when you are buffeted for your faults, you will take it patiently..." (I Peter 2:20). The word "faults" refers to a sin where you missed the mark---you fell short. There is no value in the suffering which was caused by our own foolishness.
2. We suffer because we take a stand for truth and righteousness. It is a guarentee that if you take a stand for Christ, you are going to suffer. Many people have deliberately taken a stand for Christ and have suffered terribly for it. Stephen took a stand and became a martyr for Christ when he was stoned to death. More than one apostle was beheaded for taking a stand for truth and righteousness. Are you ready to take a stand, to draw a line in the sand and vow to never cross over it?
3. We suffer for sin in our lives. If we are God's children and refuse to deal with the sin in our lives, God will deal with it. He will judge us, and find us wanting.
4. We suffer for our past sins. Galatians 6:7 reminds us to not be deceived concerning mocking God. We shall have consequences to all of our actions, and inactions. Cause and effect is a respecter of no man.
5. We suffer sometimes for a lofty purpose of God which He does not always reveal to the believer. Job is an example of this. He demonstrated to Satan and demons and to the angels of heaven that he was not a timeserver; that every man does not have his price and that he loved God truly and understood their relationship.
6. We suffer for our faith just as seen in chapter 11 of Hebrews. Some demonstrated their faith and great victories were won. Some were delivered by the sword; some were slain by the sword.
7. We suffer for discipline. That is what is discussed here in verse 6. This is not punishment which is to uphold the law. It is child training. A judge punishes, a father chastens with love. The fact is that your suffering is the proof that you are a child of God.
And those are the seven reasons why we suffer in this world that I have come across through reading the bible and the commentaries of others. Now, verses 9-11 speak about how we have given reverence to our earthly fathers whom we can see, and touch; how much more should we give to God who has done immensely more for us than these men. All that we do in this life should not be a disgrace to our Father in heaven. For if we continually bring disgrace to God I truly feel that He will call us home directly. Verse 11 tells us that of course, no discipline ever feels good when it is happening to us, but that if we endure it, learn from it, then we shall obtain righteousness. It is kind of like the old anecdote where the father tells his son right before whipping him, "Son, this going to hurt me more than it hurts you." The boy replies, "Yes, Dad, but not in the same place!" God does not get any joy out of disciplining us, He does it because you and I need it. God chastens us with a purpose in mind as these verses show us. He wants us to get righteousness.
As a wrap-up of this study I am going to give some general areas of outreach that scripture indicates I ought to use my love in. They are:
1. My family: spouse, children.
2. My workplace: boss, coworkers.
3. Church: leaders, congregation.
4. Lost people: pray for specific people by name.
Lots of areas for us to work on loving people! Opportunities to let Christ shine through us so that everyone around us can see Him at work. That concludes this study on love and our trek through I John 4 and lots of other scriptures that relate to this topic. My final comment is for each of you to not forget what Jesus said on the cross about all of the people. If you do not know what He said, then you need to dig it out of the gospel accounts. If you knew once upon a time but have forgotten, then you need to return to the gospels and find it again. It has something to do with forgiveness...
Peace and grace be with all of you.
Tue, Nov 6th - 1:10PM
Beloved, as we open up to the book of Philippians today, we enter into scripture that speaks about the pattern for christian living. And to include this into our current study is appropriate since such a huge part of our lives has to be involved in loving others.
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies. Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind(Phil. 2:1-2).
I will say here that the "if" used repeatedly in verse 1 does not indicate condition, it is not a conditional clause. It is used more as a form of argument by Paul and could properly be replaced by the word "since." Now Paul is writing from prison and knows that he may never again visit with the saints in Philippi. Yet, he tells them that he will be joyful if they will be of one mind and love one another as Christ loves them. He doesn't expect them to be carbon copies of each other. He desired them all to let the mind of Christ be in them. When this happens differences of opinion, expressions, gifts, methods of service, even minor doctrines, are easily permitted. Paul wanted agreement on the major tenets of doctrine and tolerance and forbearance on all minor doctrinal points.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves(Phil. 2:3).
At the time of this epistle there were those who were preaching Christ out of envy and strife. I think that this remains true to this very day among our churches. People doing things through strife, causing friction and difficulties within the body of Christ. Lack of harmony amongst the brethren. We should not expect recognition for doing this or that for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we do it for we love Christ. Perhaps this verse would prevent the problems that arise in most music ministries in our churches. Do not esteem yourself above any other person, rather, esteem others higher than yourself. Power struggles would cease to surface within congregations if we all would live out this verse in love.
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others(Phil. 2:4).
Oh! Wait, you say God wants me to covet my friends' things? Heaven forbid! We are being commanded here to not focus all of our attentions upon just what we own, or have. We are to be concerned about what is happening to those around me, to be a watchman up on the walls of the city, scanning for the enemy's attacks on others. If I only remain centered upon me and mine I will ignore what is happening to others. If my neighbor's huge tree is splitting down the middle and teetering over his home I need to go and inform him, make sure that he is aware of the danger. If I see my co-worker dabbling in alcohol overuse and to continue would jeopardize their job then I need to talk with them and warn them to the danger. I cannot blithely walk along and do nothing. Why did Chirst come from heaven's glory to earth? It was for others. Why should we carry the gospel? For others. Thinking of others rather than ourselves is having the mind of Christ.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus(Phil. 2:5).
You may be asking yourself, "Where is this part of the study going?" Bear with me, and you will see how it curls around to what we have been studying. The mind of Christ---what characterizes it? Humility. Recall in Ephesians 4, "...walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called." and "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love."(Eph. 4:1-2) That is the mind of Christ. That is the mind that we ought to cultivate within ourselves since Christ lives within us.
You and I can't be humble. We can't be meek. We just aren't made that way. We want to stand up and have our little say, put in our two cent's worth, give them a piece of our minds. Right? We are all basically like that. None of us wants to be offended or ignored. In order to be humble or meek we need to get plugged into the mind of Christ. We have been discussing loving one another as Christ loves us and here in verse 2 of Ephesians 4 we see it again. "...forbearing one another in love," states this concept in similar form to I John 4. I cannot merely put up with people grudgingly, I must forbear them in love. I must be longsuffering which in our culture today is anathema, it simply ain't going to happen. But it must if I am to have the mind of Christ, the love of Christ, the law of Christ. To truly have liberty in Christ I must also have the mind of Christ.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure(Phil. 2:13).
Here we see that if we attempt to will and to do these things under our own power then they are doomed to fail. Only when we allow God free reign in our hearts and lives will humbleness and meekness begin to become visible to others. If God has saved you, He has saved you by faith---plus nothing. Good works will not gain anyone salvation. Now, after you are saved, God talks to you about your works. James 2:17-18 speaks on this matter, God knows if you have saving faith, but your neighbor does not know. He cannot see your faith. He can see your works of faith however.
I will remind all of you to not fear. Do not fear any judgment day of God, nor anything that anyone has to say to you or about you. Remember that you cannot love and fear at the same time! Do not confuse punishment and discipline, they are distinctly separate. Fear primarily has to do with punishment, love has everything to do with correction/discipline. Punishment is reserved for those who reject Christ for as is said in John 3:36 our God is a Holy God and is intolerant of sin. The word translated as discipline comes from "sophronismos" meaning an admonishing, a calling to soundness of mind, or to self-control. The word for correction comes from "diorthoma" meaning a reform, amendment, correction, literally a making straight. So we see how God lovingly seeks to correct our paths:
All scipture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works(II Timothy 3:16-17).
To be perfect, furnished to do all good works. I need to be reproofed, I stray from God's path each time I think that I can handle an issue before me and do not need to include God in it's solution. "I've got this one, God!" is a statement that will get us into trouble every time we utter it. We need to study all of the scriptures, not just pick and choose the stuff that we like for how will we be instructed? How will I know when I have strayed from the Way? By reading and studying God's Word for then I will be corrected from the error of my ways.
I will stop here today. Nest time we will conclude this study. Until then my friends, study to show yourselves to be approved of God, being good stewards of the Word of God!
Mon, Nov 5th - 1:33PM
My friends, we cannot simply go around saying that we love each other. As the saying goes, "Actions speak louder than words." If we simply tell our brothers and sisters in Christ that we love them then we are merely paying them lip service if we do not also do things for them that demonstrate that stated love. If I only tell my wife that I love her but do not do some things to show her that love then they are empty words. Look with me at the first three verses in I John 5:
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth lhim also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievious.
So, if I love God who begat me spiritually, then I must love anyone else who is begotten by God. If I fail to do this then I am not of God. I cannot esteem some to be better than others within the family of God. Being born of God hasn't anything to do with joining a church, a denomination, or going through some special ceremony. I do hope that you will join a church group and love the members equally. You are born again when you trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, with the proof of it being that you love God. A child of God will practise righteousness in his/her life just as told here:
If you kow that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him(I John 2:29).
Righteousness is not to be unusual, abnormal, or infrequent in your life. It is to be the practise of your daily life. Slips and falls will be a part of the daily landscape, but righteousness will be your daily practise. Notice also that our love is attached to obedience to God's commandments. If I do not obey God how can I possibly claim that I love Him? If I tempt men with my womanly figure by dressing daringly, then I am placing stumblingblocks before the men of the church. I am not obeying God in this area of my life. If I spread gossip then I am disobeying God. If I shun certain members of my church then I am disobeying God. Love of God is not in me. Hard sayings my friends, but nonetheless true.
Obedience leads me to obey His commands. Let's look in the book of Galatians:
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself(Gal. 5:13-14).
Obedience should not lead us into legalism today. People will say that we have to obey the Ten Commandments, but usually they will also throw in a set of regulations. They tell you where you can't go, and what you can't do. Paul told us that you can keep every commandment and still not live the Christian life. The Christian life is liberty in Christ. Grace, not law frees us from doing wrong and allows us to do right. We serve God because we love Him, not because we are afraid of Him. Obedience is based upon a love relationship with Him. The Law could never bring us to that place. It was negative, it produced a negative goodness. Negative goodness is a legal goodness. That is what a legal system produces. Think about it. We do things to please God for the very love of pleasing Him. That is what God desires of us. The Law is reduced to its lowest denominator in verse 14. This is the acid test for anyone who thinks they are living by the Law. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.: The "one word" is love.
If we then read Galatians 6 we discover another visible way to show our love for the brethren:
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden(Galatians 6:2-5).
Aetheists claim that these verses contradict each other. I say that we can help bear the burdens of our fellow believes but please be aware that each of us can not give our burdens away to others. Only to Jesus can burdens be given. But there is another explanation for this confusion over burdens. Burden, or baros, means a fault. That is a burden to people and we can help them by bearing it with them. It also means infirmity, a weakness, an ignorance, a pressure, a tension, a grief. See, those are all things that we can share with others and allow them to help us bear them. In verse 5 the word burden is the Greek phortion, meaning "a load to be borne." This normally is used to speak of a ship's cargo. It can be used to to speak of a child in the womb, a burden to be borne. That type of burden cannot be borne by another person, you must personally carry it out. Here are some examples of burdens that must be borne alone. Suffering is one that you must experience alone. Physical suffering will come upon you and cannot be transferred onto anyone else, you must bear it alone. Death is a burden that I cannot transfer onto anyone else, I must bear it alone. The last example I give here is for Christians alone; the judgment seat of Christ. That burden does not get transferred to anyone else, we bear that burden alone. There you have it. No contradictions at all. I should yearn to share the burdens of my fellow saints to lessen the pain for them. I always need to keep in mind that there are certain burdens that I cannot share.
I will stop there for now. Nest time we shall look into Philippians and see how our love gets completed. Until then, guard your hearts and keep them pure, beloved.
Sun, Nov 4th - 7:16AM
My friends, I apologise for the lack of messages since Wednesday. On Thursday I was in the midst of posting a message and discovered that my DSL signal was gone. Friday evening and on half of Saturday I attended the Impact '07 Men's Conference held at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Steve Farrar was the lead speaker this year and he is all that when it comes to being an impact speaker/leader. He challenged the men to stand strong in Christ, to run the race with endurance, and to finish the race strongly. Too many Christian leaders today are falling by the wayside while running the race. Only one in ten men who vow to be pastors and leaders stay the course until the end of their lives. They fall victims to sin and temptation, to carnality. All because they never fully trust God to be who He really is. God is in control of everything, from the foundations of creation until at least the end of time as we understand it. He orchestrated our births, He orchestrates our entire lives, and He has planned our deaths. All is intended for our good, all is used to prepare us for what He desires for us to accomplish for Him. We will not die until we have finished everything that He has planned for us to do. That ought to bring comfort and confidence into our lives each and every day! We ought not to desire to become like other men of God since God created us to be exactly that, us. Become knowledgeable of who you are, become comfortable with yourself and carry out what God has planned for you to do. Not all of us are cut out to be pastors of churches, but we very well could be created to be Christian truckdrivers, carpenters, plumbers, teachers, or governmental employees. We need to discover exactly what part of Christ's body we are, and then remain true to that calling for our entire lives, staying the course and finishing strongly to the moment of our deaths when we are called home to be with our Lord and Saviour. Halelujah! I can hardly wait! But, there are things to accomplish first...
Why do I love myself, and then others?
In I John 4 our Lord and Saviour commanded all of the believers/saints to love one another as He loves them. In fact, we are to be known by this act of loving each other. Thus, we are brought to the questions of why can I love myself and why love others? You are probably saying right now, "We are commanded to love others as ourselves by God," and you are correct. But how does that actually work itself out in other parts of scripture? How does this commandment affect how we read and understand scripture? That, hopefully, is what we will be studying here over the next few days. Turn now to I Corinthians 12 and read these verses with me:
Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? Bur covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way. (I Corinthians 12:27-31).
Here God tells us plainly that all saints are part of Christ's body and each member is specific. Some of these gifts have passed away, disappeared. They are not seen anymore since they are not needed within the church today. There are no longer apostles roaming the earth nor are there prophets in the sense of the Old Testament. God does not have any need today for prophets to foretell the future events of history, He has already accomplished that in His Word. That is what Revelation's purpose was, to relate to us future events right down to the end of this world. So there is no stock in any of these people who show up and try to convince us that God has spoken to them in a vision and this is what is specifically going to happen contrary to His written Word. They have been spoken to but it most certainly was not God. it was Satan or one of his demons. Be very careful to test the spirits!
Now God says that not all have the same gifts and that the Holy Spirit bestows these gifts as He wills to believers. He also makes it clear here in these verses that we can earnestly covet the best gifts. Will we automatically obtain them? I do not think so, since not all will be obtaining these gifts to begin with as these verses aver. Some will be this or that, not all. I can covet the gift of healing but must remain aware of the fact that God may not agree with my choice. He has planned out my life already with the gifts that He has decided to give to me. I cannot coerce Him into capitulating and handing over to me the gift of tongues and of miracles. He does not respond to us in that fashion. My friends, you have been given the right to ask God for the best gifts. He will give you the best gifts that are for you and only you. They may not be what others have been given but they will be exactly what you in particular ought to have for what God has planned for you to do with your life. It is up to us to be content with that. Back when I was a teenager I knew without a doubt that I desired to be a teacher. I assumed that that meant teaching fulltime in the public schools. I wasn't saved yet, I was a lost man. I could just feel that yearning in the pit of my stomach. It couldn't be explained, at that time in my life. I did do some substiture teaching, and eventually I did teach in a Christian school. But more importantly, I was teaching people where I worked. I had an ability to instruct others in how to do things that I knew how to do. My boss could see that and gave me new employees to train. Back then I could not understand why he would keep saddling me with these folk, but I would train them to the best of my ability. This continued into my late twenties until I finally was brought face to face with Christ my Lord. I had reached the planned for point in my life, I had been prepared by God. Once I accepted Jesus Christ I understood that He had equpped me to teach people, not necessarily in public schools but wherever they were, about Him and His love for everyone. That has changed my life as much as accepting Christ into my heart. This past weekend helped to crystallize it even more. God is with us each and every step of the way in our lives. He micromanages our lives. He gives us life in the beginning, and gives us gifts unique to only us. Think about that.
Now, I want to speak briefly to those who try and claim that all believers have to exhibit certain gifts before they can claim to be Christians. Those who say we must speak in tongues I say read verses 27-31 again paying close attention to the fact that God says only some will have the gift of tongues. Or in the case of healing, God says only some will have that gift. Chapter 14:10-12 addresses the issue by telling us that all gifts must be used to edify the church body and to not be used to divide the body or for personal gain. If anyone truly has the gift of healing they ought to be emptying out our hospitals free of charge! I have not read of any such thing happening which means? I leave that one up to you, my friends.
I want to direct your attention to verse 31 of chapter 12. In it we are told to earnestly seek/covet the best gifts and then we are told that we are going to be told a more excellent way. What is that way? I believe chapter 13 tells us what that more excellent way is. As one reads through the first 13 verses of that chapter one is struck with a recurring theme. "Have not charity." The word translated as charity also means "love." Not sexual love but unconditional, agape love. Back in chapter 4 of I John we saw the definition of love but here we are given a display of love, what we need in order to begin working love out in our daily lives. In this chapter we are repeatedly told that if we have all of these wonderful spiritual gifts but we do not have love then we are lost, we have absolutely nothing. Having incredible bible knowledge cannot replace having love of the saints and the lost. Notice, love of both groups of people. Teaching should be done in love to both the saved and the lost. I hope that that is accomplished here on this blog. The three overwhelming themes in this chapter are:
1. The preeminence of love, its value (verses 1-3)
2. The prerogative of love, its virtue (verses 4-7)
3. The permanence of love, its victory (verses 8-13)
Here we are given the characteristics of what our love ought to be showing to others. Here is the standard to which we ought to be striving towards. Here is the way to live like Christ. If we esteem this more excellent way then we shall have the stamina, the endurance, to run our race all the way to the finish line and not falter and fall down, never to get back up again. I believe this is why so many leaders and pastors fail prematurely, they are not striving towards this love.
We have read previously in my earlier postings that God has never been seen unveiled. Moses did not see God, he was placed into the cleft in the rock. Jesus Christ is God, but He was veiled in human flesh. The high priest did not see God, He was veiled in smoke and flame. To see God one must look into the lives of believers. There we can see Him manifested when we love ourselves and love others as ourselves.
The question arises, "How does God manifest His love for us?" Here are three ways:
1. Through His creation.
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world(John 17:24).
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will(Ephesians 1:4-5).
2. Through His coninuous watchcare over us.
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.(I Peter 5:7).
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world(Matthew 28:20).
Then spake Haggai the Lord's messenger in the Lord's message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the Lord(Haggai 1:13).
Yet now be strong, O Zerubabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshus, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts(Haggai 2:4).
Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the Lord: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver youo from his hand(Jeremiah 42:11).
Powerul assertions of faithfulness by our God, that He will always be with us, that He cares for us. Do not be fearful, do not be scared of powerful people who lord it over you. For God is in control and He is with you! He works all things for our good, just review Joseph's life.
3. Through the Cross.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us(Romans 5:8).
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me(Galatians 2:20).
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour(Ephesians 5:2).
There are more verses which speak of His giving of His life for our redemption but would only lengthen our study. The Cross was represented within the Tabernacle in the form of the brass altar just inside the tent entrance. It was meant to prepare people for the time when Jesus would come veiled in human flesh and would open the way for sinful men/women to approach the presence of a Holy God.
The nature of God's love is unconditional. He does not love us only if we say the right things, do the right things, own the right things. He simply loves us for who we are. He does not love all of the things that we may think, compose, sing, say, or do. But He loves us inspite of ourselves. Thank God Almighty that He loves in this fashion! What would it be like if He loved us conditionally?
Wouldn't we be left perpetually in doubt? In uncertainty? Insecure? Wouldn't we end up working for His love? Doing things to earn His love? But what then? How much must we do before He loved us? Would it last, or would we have to do some more later on to keep His love? Will it ever be enough? See, this is how it is to be unequally yoked to someone in an intimate relationship when the other person loves you conditionally. They have rules you must adhere to in order for them to love you. You must earn enough money, own the right kind of house, keep the house clean enough. Spend the proper amount of time with them otherwise they do not love you. Agree with them always or else they withhold their love from you. This isn't love as God wishes it to be among us. He loves us with no expectation of getting anything in return and He desires that you and I love in exactly the same fashion. If we did this then stress, anxiety, uncertainty, and insecurity would be eliminated from most of our lives. We would be secure in our knowledge that we were loved for who we are.
Why is it so difficult to believe in unconditional love? Our perspectives get screwed up through parental abuse while we are children, through sexual rape, through abuse as young adults. If we grow up in homes where the parents do not show love towards each other properly, then we are given a false image of what true love is. Abused children grow up believing that you do these sorts of things to those whom you love, isn't that dads and moms do? Children automatically look to their parents as role models, it is vitally important that those parents treat and raise their children properly, with unconditional love. Another reason we have trouble believing in unconditional love is due to our own perceived guilt or shame. We have had something happen to us and we feel that we brought it upon ourselves, it is our fault. Even if it is untrue, that it was something uncalled for, we may feel this way. It makes it hard to accept the notion that God could ever love me the way I am. Or perhaps we have failures in our life. How can God love me after failing so miserably as a parent, as a husband, as a wife? Teenagers have this problem frequently; how can my parents still love me, look at how utterly I have failed to do what they have asked me to do. I am a zero, zilch, nothing. I ought to just give up and die, what's the point in going on like this? See how this leads quickly to suicide? Depression at the very least. All because we do not believe in unconditional love from God.
Thus, I always need to remember that the same love that sent Christ to the Cross on Calvary is the exact same love that God has for me. He will be there for me always, He will keep His promises, He will deliver me out of all circumstances. Whatever my past, present, and future, God always loves me.
Another way that God shows His love for us is in that He has given us His Holy Spirit.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you(John 14:16-18).
But when the Comforter is come, who I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning(John 15:26-27).
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that i go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therfore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you(John 16:7-15).
In these passages we are given a treasurechest of information useful in our daily lives. For now, we focus solely upon the fact that God planned to give us a guide, a comforter, a Paraclete. The Greek word found in these passages is parakletos, "one called alongside to help." The Holy Spirit of God has been called alongside to help us each and every day. He is referred to as "Spirit of truth." In order to discern who are true and faithful saints of Christ we have been given a guide from God Himself. In order to figure out what scripture means we have been given the Spirit of truth who reveals the secret things of God. He will show us what is to come in the future. The Holy Spirit is our Advocate, since He lives within us He intimately knows our needs, even if we are unaware of them, and makes intercession for us before the Father in heaven. Can I explain how He can do that while dwelling within me? No I can not, but it still is true. To abide in Christ is, on the one hand, to have no known sin unjudged and unconfessed, no interest into which He is not brought, no life which He cannot share. There are no secrets kept hidden from Him. On the other hand, the abiding person takes all burdens to Him, and draws all wisdom, life, and strength from Him. It is not of necessity to be conscious of these things, and of Him, but that nothing is allowed in the life which separates you from Him.
I will stop here for now. I hope that you are not burdened or disheartened by the length of this message today, my beloved. I merely desired for you to get this portion of the message now. Tomorrow I will continue by searching through how our love and obedience to God are intricately intertwined. Until then, may you live in peace and grace.
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