January 31 - The First Seal

Sunday, January 31, 2010

January 31 – The First Seal

You know, I avoid horror movies. In fact, I ignore that they exist.

Martin Luther didn’t want the Revelation in the canon of the New Testament. Other scholars barely acknowledge its existence. Many of my friends haven’t really read past the first few chapters.

However, it’s time to move forward. The first of the seven seals is about to be opened. There is one person with the authority to do this. He’s the only One I trust to take me through this experience.

The First Seal – Revelation 6:1-2
We really do have to understand what John’s readers knew and understood. Even in my life, traditions and pop culture have changed so radically that people younger than me no longer have the same frame of reference. With that in mind and realizing that very few of us have a strong understanding of the Old Testament, we need to take time to comprehend what is being said.

The Lamb breaks open the first seal and the Living Creature said in a voice like thunder, “Come!” This is the only time John describes the sound – it is a voice of judgment, beginning the time of the end.

The readers of this would recognize these horses from Zechariah 6:1-8. The horses coming from the mountain were red, black, white and dappled. They were sent to patrol the earth, traveling to all corners after standing in the presence of God.

In Revelation, the rider on the white horse is carrying a bow and wore a crown.

There is an incredible amount of OT scripture pointing to this vision. It’s as if God spent all of their history preparing His people for the coming of the Messiah and to be able to recognize the signs of the end. If we don’t understand those signs, it isn’t because He didn’t tell us, it’s because we won’t read His Word!

The bow is a symbol of military might in the OT. In Psalm 46:9, we read that when God makes wars cease, he breaks the bows of the warriors.

In Jeremiah 51:56, Jeremiah describes the final defeat of Babylon. “Her warriors will be captured and their bows will be broken.”

Have you ever heard of ‘the parting shot’? This came from the phrase “A Parthian Shot.” In 62 AD, the Romans fought the Parthians and ended up surrendering. The Parthians rode white horses and no one could compare when it came to bowmanship. This is a final blow which has no response.

John’s readers would have recognized the rider on the white horse carrying the bow as a military leader with strength such as the Parthians had while defeating an invincible Roman army.

January 30 - Numbers

Saturday, January 30, 2010

January 30 – Numbers

It is said that mathematics is the universal language. It seems that math is something God uses to communicate with us as well.

I want to quickly address some numbers that occur throughout scripture and end with one number that God uses when He wants to paint His signature across the universe.

Monotheism. A battle that God and His children fought for eons. The first two of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) specifically told them to have no other gods but Jehovah.

Deuteronomy 6:4 is the SHEMA, a declaration of faith for the Jews. It is contained in the mezuzah that is affixed to the doorposts of their homes and the tefillin bound to their arms and head. This verse is central to the Hebrew faith. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

The number three is used to signify various times when God is at work. In Exodus 19:11, Moses consecrates the Israelites and tells them to be prepared on the ‘third day’ for the Lord to come down. He came down and gave the Commandments to them. We know that Christ was raised from the grave after three days and we find the beginning of the Trinity in Matthew 28:19 when Jesus gives the command to baptize people in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In Luke 13:14, the synagogue ruler says “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” The number signifies humanity and our work. But, it is incomplete.

This number represents the disciples in the NT and the tribes of Israel in the OT. When added together, the number 24 brings restoration by bringing together the two Testaments.

There are other numbers in Scripture, but God’s holy number – the number seven – is what I want to focus on.

Before we even knew what numbers were, God presented creation with His number.

Genesis 2:3, “By the seventh day, God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

When God established the covenant with Noah in Genesis 9:13, he sealed it with a rainbow. There are seven colors represented in that rainbow: red orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

The number 7 signifies perfection, the holiness of God. It is His signature on creation. I was astounded at how often the number seven shows up in the Bible. It’s not just sporadic, it is everywhere. I’m not going to look at every reference, but you can certainly check these out (hover over the reference in the actual blog post online and the scripture will pop up – or click on it in the email and it will take you to the reference).

God’s Perfection Seven Days
Exodus 25:37 Genesis 2:3
Deuteronomy 28:25 Genesis 7:4
Job 5:19 Exodus 7:25
Proverbs 26:16 Exodus 29:30
Isaiah 11:15 I Samuel 11:3
Mark 16:9 I Samuel 13:8
Ezekiel 3:15
Seven Years Acts 20:6
Genesis 29:18 Acts 21:4
Genesis 41:29, 54 Acts 28:14
Daniel 4:23

Numbers 11:16 (Elders Appointed)
Jeremiah 25:11 (Years of captivity)
Daniel 9:24 (Weeks)
Matthew 18:22 (Times of Forgiveness)
Luke 10:1 (Disciples sent forth)

Seven last sayings of Christ on the cross:
Matthew 27:46; Luke 23:34, 43, 46; John 19:27, 28, 30

Seven times
Leviticus 4:6; Numbers 19:4 (Blood sprinkled)
Leviticus 14:7 (The Lepers sprinkled)
Joshua 6:4 (Priests encompass Jericho)
I Kings 18:43 (Elijah’s servant looks for rain)
2 Kings 5:10 (Naaman dips in the Jordan)
Psalm 119:164 (Praise seven times a day)
Proverbs 24:16 (Just man rises after falling)
Daniel 3:19 (Furnace made 7 times hotter)
Matthew 18:21 (Forgiveness)

God commanded Noah to take seven of every kind of clean animal and two of the unclean into the ark. Then he told them that in seven days he would bring rain. (Genesis 7:1-5)

In Genesis 29, Jacob worked seven years for Rachel, received Leah and another seven for the woman he loved. God worked in these lives, no matter the trickery and brought forth a great nation.

Leviticus 25 speaks of the Sabbatical year. Every seven years the Israelites allow their land to rest for a year. Seven times seven years brings the Year of Jubilee, Land is returned to the original owner and slaves are released.

Deuteronomy 7:1. God told the Israelites they would displace seven nations when they entered the Promised Land.

Joshua 6. God commanded seven priests were to carry trumpets. On the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times, shouted and collapsed the walls of the city.

1 Kings 19. Elijah and the Lord meet because the Israelites broke covenant and killed God’s prophets, leaving only Elijah. God tells Elijah the Israelites will die at the hands of the kings, yet he will reserve 7000 in Israel whose knees have not bowed to Baal. In Romans 11:5, Paul reminds us of God’s promise of a remnant of Israel and refers to these seven thousand.

In the natural world – there are seven openings in our head. If you remember that seven signifies God’s holiness, how does this impact your actions?

Trivia: Seven is:
- a prime number
- number of spots on a common ladybug
- the atomic number of nitrogen
- the neutral pH – the pH of pure water
- the number of objects in the solar system visible to the naked eye (sun, moon, Mars, Mercury, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn)
- the number of notes in a musical scale
- the number of continents on earth

Other religious traditions:
Seven blessings are recited under the chuppah during a Jewish wedding ceremony
Seven is the number of heavens and earths in Islamic tradition
Seven is the number of deadly sins: lust, gluttony, avarice, envy, wrath, sloth, pride.
Seven is the number of sacraments in Roman Catholicism: baptism, Eucharist, reconciliation, confirmation, marriage, holy orders, anointing of the sick.

God fascinates us with the way He interacts with us. His holiness is discovered everywhere.

January 29 - Doxology (pt. 5)

Friday, January 29, 2010

January 29 - Doxology (pt. 5)

Revelation 19:1-8 - The Seventh Doxology

After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants." And again they shouted:"Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever."

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: "Amen, Hallelujah!"

Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!"

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.

The fall of Babylon occurred in Chapter 18 and the sound of the multitude singing praise is like a roar. God has just judged the prostitute and they are simply shouting his praises. They are shouting a song of praise for His judgment, but that changes when we get to verse six. Then, He will no longer be praised as the God of judgment, but he is about to preside over a wedding ceremony.

In verse seven we read the words "Let us rejoice and be glad." These words are used only one other time in Matthew 5:12 when Jesus proclaims that we should rejoice and be glad ... because great is our reward in heaven. (I love it when God does stuff like that)

The imagery of a marriage between God and His chosen people is found in the Old Testament. The prophecy in Hosea 2:19-20 begins the first part of the marriage rite - the betrothal. This part of the marriage was as important to a couple as was the wedding ceremony itself. Though they were not together, they pledged their faithfulness to each other.

God's part of the betrothal is "I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness."

The response to this is simply, 'You will acknowledge the Lord."

The church was betrothed to Christ and in Revelation 19:7 the wedding - or the second part of the marriage rite is about to proceed. The Lamb has come and the bride has made herself ready.

Are you ready? Sing Praise!

January 28 - Doxology (pt. 4)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

January 28 - Doxology (pt. 4)

Revelation 15:2-4 - The Sixth Doxology

And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:
"Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.
Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed."

This doxology brings us to the final period of the wrath of God, the emptying of the seven last plagues onto the earth.

We are told that this song is the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb. The Song of Moses is the song they sang as the Israelites were being delivered from the Egyptians. The Song of the Lamb is the final story of our deliverance from the King of Evil.

In Exodus 15, Moses and the Israelites sang a song of victory to the Lord. Though this song in Revelation is greatly condensed, it reminds us of the stories of the Exodus and the parting of the Red Sea.

Each phrase comes from the Old Testament.

Great and Marvelous are your deeds. (Psalm 11:3) "Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures for ever."

Lord God Almighty. (Amos 4:13) "He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth - the Lord God Almighty is his name."

Just and true are your ways (Deuteronomy 32:4) "He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he."

King of the Ages (Jeremiah 10:7) "Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you."

Who will not fear you, O Lord (Psalm 86:9) "All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord: they will bring glory to your name."

You alone are holy (Psalm 2:2) "The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One."

All nations will come and worship before you (Psalm 86:9)
"All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord: they will bring glory to your name."

For your righteous acts have been revealed (Psalm 98:2) "The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations."

January 27 - Doxology (pt. 3)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

January 27 - Doxology (pt. 3)

We're going to continue to look at the seven doxologies before tearing through the rest of the Revelation.

Revelation 7:9-12 - The Third Doxology

A heavenly victory cry which echoes Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. There are palm branches amid a great multitude of people. It continually amazes me to see how God wants the readers of His scriptures to see the incredible interconnectedness of His Word.

The great multitude cries out: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

Then, the angel join the chorus with great excitement. But, look at what Jesus says about them in Luke 15:10: "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one who repents."

They have reason to be excited. All that they have waited for throughout the ages has come to pass. The redeemed are standing before the throne of God. The sing forth using the same words from the doxology sung to the Lamb in Revelation 5, but this time they are before the throne of God.

Revelation 11:16-18 - The Fourth Doxology

The elders are seated through all the activity of the Revelation, until they worship God, falling on their faces before the one who is worthy.

"We give thanks to you Lord God Almighty, who is and who was because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign."

There is no "who is to come" in this song. Why? Because the future is now. His kingdom is established. Rev. 11:15 says, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and olf his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever."

The next verses describe God's wrath. This familiar text is taken from the OT. Psalm 2:1-6 says

"Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. 'Let us break their chains,' they say 'and throw off their fetters.' The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath saying, 'I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.'"

Revelation 11:18: "The nations were angry and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great - and for destroying those who destroy the earth."

God installed Jesus as King on Zion. His Messianic Kingdom was initiated at the beginning of creation and that rule has now begun.

Revelation 14:2-3 - The Fifth Doxology

"And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And the sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth."

This doxology is quite different. The song is being sung, John hears it. However, since he can't learn it, there is no way for him to retain the words to relay to his readers. A terrible massacre had just occurred in Revelation 13 and it was an appropriate time to offer some relief to John as he watched the spectacle in heaven.

"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God." (Psalm 40:1-3)

Being delivered from the horrors of sin will always bring a new song to our hearts. Every time we see this phrase used in the Psalms and the Revelation, it is because of redemption. Note that the living creatures and the elders do not sing this song with the 144,000. These angelic beings can only stand and watch as we experience the joy of redemption.

January 26 - Doxology (pt. 2)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January 26 - Doxology (pt. 2)

As the twenty-four elders lay their crowns before the throne, they said:

"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." (Rev. 4:11)

This doxology is different than the one the living creatures sang. It focuses directly on God and proclaims his worthiness. He is worthy because He created all things.

There are hundreds of instances of praise being sung to God throughout the scriptures. It is something that cannot be stopped. Luke 19:37-40 tells us that if we don't praise God, the stones will cry out! Psalm 19 sings out that the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

In Isaiah 6:3, we see these creatures calling to one nearly the same response they were singing in Revelation: "holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.

The Second Doxology is found in Revelation 5:8-13. The three parts increase in the number of participants in worship. The Living Creatures and Elders begin by singing to the Lamb. In Rev. 4:11, we see that God is worthy of praise because He is the creator. In Rev. 5:9, we find that the Lamb did three things which make Him worthy.

1. Historically the Lamb was slain.
2. Interpretation of that fact is that with his blood He purchased men for God.
3. Result of that fact is that He has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve God.

In Exodus 19:6, the Lord made a promise to Moses on Mount Sinai. He promised that Israel would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The fulfillment of that promise came when Christ established His church on earth.

The angels join the chorus and sang another song. If you look at Revelation 5:12, you will find that there are seven (there's that number again) things the Lamb possesses: power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and praise.

Power: (1 Cor. 1:23-24) but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Wealth: (2 Cor. 8:9) For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Wisdom: (1 Cor. 1:23-24)
but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Strength: (Luke 11:21-23) Jesus says, "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils. He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters."

Honor: (Philippians 2:10-11) ...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

Glory: (John 1:14) The Word became flesh and lived for awhile among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Praise: (Romans 15:9) ...so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name."

The last part of this doxology is joined by every living creature. I guess that I would suggest you learn it now - you'll absolutely be singing it at some point! All creation has waited with breathless anticipation, they can hold back no longer. The impetus to sing praise finally culminates in this doxology. To close it, the four living creatures cry out AMEN and the elders fall down and worship. AMEN!

January 25 - Doxology (pt. 1)

Monday, January 25, 2010

January 25 - Doxology (pt. 1)

When I hear the word, Doxology, I immediately hear the melody of the traditional song sun during worship services in churches I have attended all my life.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise God, all creatures here below.
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
(Words by Thomas Ken)

The Greek word "Doxa" means glory. When God shows his glory, creation returns with songs celebrating this. We find these hymns of praise all throughout scripture and they also well up within our hearts to the awesome work of our Creator.

If you were to guess, how many songs of praise do you suppose there might be in the Revelation? If you guessed seven, you were right. The holy number of God - the number of perfection. It just keeps popping up.

I'm going to look at these doxologies closely - even though we'll traipse through the entire book in a few days.

Revelation 4:8-11 - The First Doxology.

The Living Creatures offer ceaseless praise. Day and night they never stop singing. There are only a few words here, but they say quite a bit.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.

Our God is holy. Moses sang of that Holiness in Exodus after they passed through the sea to dry ground. Exodus 15:11 says, "Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you - majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?"

Our God is almighty. The use of this word in the NT tells us that God is the absolute and universal sovereign. The Greek word is 'pantokrator' which means 'almighty, or ruler of all.' We find the Hebrew word (El Shaddai) in the OT for the first time in Genesis 17:1. "When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, 'I am God Almighty (El Shaddai); walk before me and be blameless."

Job 11:7 asks, "Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?"

This God is Almighty, Our God is omnipotent. Our God is El Shaddai, whose bounty is inexhaustible and pours forth every good thing for His people.

Our God was, is and is to come. This reiterates what we heard in Rev. 1:4, 8. Eternity is safe in the hands of God. He existed prior to time. John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God."

At the end of the Bible, the final book, the final chapter, Jesus claims this: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Rev. 22:13)

As soon as the living creatures offer this doxology, the twenty-four elders offer theirs. This doxology is a bit different, the focus changes. We'll look at that tomorrow.

January 24 - Who is Worthy? (pt. 3)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

January 24 - Who is Worthy? (pt. 3)
Revelation 5:1-14

In Rev. 4:9, we see that whenever the living creatures give glory to him who sits on the throne, the twenty-four elders fall down and worship him, laying their crowns before him.

Now, in Rev. 5:8, we find that the moment the Lamb takes the scroll into His hand, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down before Him. There is a little more description at this point. Each had a harp and each held a golden bowl filled with incense, the prayers of the saints.

If you've ever wondered what happens to your prayers when you pray, imagine that as God deals with them, they are collected and become the fragrant incense of offering to God. In the Tabernacle, there was an altar set just before the Holy of Holies. It was there for the burning of incnese. Only the high priest could tend to this altar.

"May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice." (Psalm 141:2)

Even though it is sometimes tough to pray, our prayers fill these bowls and are brought forth in worship. This image changes my attitude regarding prayer and the things about which I pray. Sometimes I get caught up in pleas and the brokenness of my life. But, my prayers are gathered as worship to God. This makes me want to lift up prayers that adore and glorify His name!

The words of Revelation 4 and 5 build a glorious picture for you to imagine of the throne room of God. We begin with the surroundings: a being (God) with the appearance of flames (jasper and carnelian), an emerald rainbow encircles the throne, twenty-four thrones surround this throne on which sit twenty-four elders. Flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder come from the throne while seven lamps blaze around it and a sea of glass spans the foreground of the picture.

Then we see the beings more clearly: four creatures, twenty-four elders with crowns, harps and bowls filled with incense.

Finally, the Lamb comes forth to take the scroll. First the creatures and elders fall before it singing a new song of worship. Then, thousands of angels take up the song, encircling the throne, the creatures and the elders.

At this point, every creature on heaven and on earth, under the earth and on the sea begin singing. This is you, me, the birds of the sky, our pets, the dolphins in the sea, every living creature joining together in a song that resounds throughout creation.

The creatures said "Amen" and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Before anything else occurs, there is worship. We worship Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb who was slain.

January 23 - Who is Worthy? (pt. 2)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

January 23 - Who is Worthy? (pt. 2)
Revelation 5:1-14

"And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?' But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it." (Revelation 5:2-3)

We know the end of the story. We know that the One who is worthy is coming. But, John could only weep. There was no on there who was worthy to open the scroll.

Then one of the elders said to John, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." (Rev. 5:5)

In Luke 7:13, Jesus tells the widow "Don't cry," when her only son was presumed to be dead. In Luke 8:52, He tells the mourners surrounding Jairus "Stop wailing. She is not dead but asleep," as they react to Jairus' daughter's death. In both cases, Jesus knew something that the others didn't know. He could change the outcome. Everything was going to be transformed in moments. John didn't realize when he broke into tears that in just moments, the Lamb who was slain would stand before him and He was worthy.

The One who is worthy is described as the Lion of the tribe of Judah which comes from the blessing that Jacob (Israel) bestowed on his sons in Genesis 49:9-10. The Root of Jesse is a familiar prophecy regarding Jesus taken from Isaiah 11:1.

John looked up, expecting to see a Lion. Instead, he saw a Lamb. Isaiah 53:7 says he was "...led like a lamb to the slaughter." We are beginning to see the message of the Revelation: Jesus' sacrificed Himself and in so doing took control of history and guaranteed our future.

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29)

Back in Revelation, John sees the Lamb and the signs of death are obvious, "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne." (Rev. 5:6)

Then we see that He had seven horns and seven eyes. Horns are an OT symbol of power. The Lamb has power over everything. The eyes tell us that nothing escapes His notice. The number seven signifies completion - fullness.

Revelation 5:7 is one sentence wrapped up in amazing glory. "He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne."

This is the moment. All creation has been waiting for this single moment. This is the beginning of the end. As soon as Jesus takes the scroll into His hand, every single being in the throne room and on earth reacts.

He took the scroll. He is worthy. He took the scroll.

January 22 - Who is Worthy? (pt. 1)

Friday, January 22, 2010

January 22 – Who is Worthy? (pt. 1)
Revelation 5:1-14

Praise erupts in the throne room in Revelation 4:8 and Rev. 4:11. In Revelation 5, the praise transitions from God on the throne to the Lamb who has redeemed the world. Now is the time for you to read Revelation 5:1-14. Click on the passage and your computer should take you to a link for the scripture.

By the time we reach the end of this chapter, all of the inhabitants of heaven and earth are singing with everything they have to the Lamb who is worthy.

When we begin this chapter, we see God holding a scroll with writing on both sides and seven seals. Why are there seven? Remember, this is the number of completeness, but in ancient Rome, important documents were sealed with seven separate seals, ensuring that privacy was retained until the time came for the information to be revealed.

In Daniel 8:26, God told Daniel to seal up the vision because it concerned the distant future. Daniel 12:1-4 gives a little more information, but again, we find that the words of the scroll are to be sealed until the time of the end.

The fact that it had writing on both sides probably meant that it was filled with so much information it couldn’t be contained within the normal space.

The first time we ever see God write on anything, it was written on both side of the two tablets of the Testimony. God’s people received a most amazing gift. “Moses turned and went down the mountain the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of God: the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.” (Exodus 32:15-16)

I’ve often heard preachers and poets tell us that Creation is the writing of God, but there are a few times in Scripture where He actually puts pen to paper (or chisel to stone) and gives His people a physical object to see His handwriting.

In Ezekiel 2:9-10, the prophet sees a hand come out of heaven with a scroll. It had writing on both sides. “Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.”

That doesn’t sound very promising, does it?

Isaiah 29:1-10 describes a vision of the destruction of Jerusalem. But, Isaiah 29:11 says, “For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, ‘Read this please,’ he will answer, ‘I can’t, it is sealed.’”

Isaiah and Daniel tell us through prophecy that the time is not right to know all of this information. By the time John gets to the throne room in Revelation 5, we realize the time has come.

January 21 - The Throne Room (pt. 4)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

January 21 – The Throne Room (pt. 4)
Revelation 4:1-11

The last piece of symbolism in this picture is the Sea of Glass. There are actually several layers of symbolism within this. “Before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.” (Rev. 4:6)

First of all we see that there is a vast expanse between John and the throne. At the same time, the reader is asked to see the expanse between heaven and earth.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground ‘land,’ and the gathered waters he called ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:7)

In Exodus 24:10, Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement of sapphire, clear as the sky itself.

The people hearing these words came together each week to learn scripture. They didn’t just hear these words and forget them, they imbedded them in their hearts, so as to never forget. When John saw this sea of glass, they knew what he was seeing. They’d seen this in their minds eye over and over as scripture was being read.

The last bit of symbolism is taken from God’s image of heaven on earth, the Temple. The Laver (basin) that was in the Tabernacle was called a Sea in Solomon’s Temple. It was filled with the water that was used to purify the priests before entering the temple.

The sea before the throne of God would have symbolized purification before entering the presence of God.

As we move throughout the next chapters of the Revelation, we will learn more about the Elders and Creatures. Most scholars assume that the elders represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve disciples. More specifically, the Old Covenant (twelve tribes) and the New Covenant (twelve disciples).

The elders prostrate themselves six different times in the Revelation. Three times they are joined by the four creatures and once by all of the angels. They voluntarily lay down their crowns and their dignity.

The four creatures represent all of animate creation. The lion represents nobility, the ox – strength, man represents wisdom and the eagle represents speed. In Isaiah 6:1-3, we see the seraphs – each with six wings – the same as the creatures in Revelation 4. In Ezekiel 1:4-15, he sees four creatures, with the faces of a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle. In Ezekiel 10:12, he describes them as being completely full of eyes – just as we see in Revelation.

It’s exciting to me to see God’s hand moving throughout all of Scripture. The Word of God moved throughout time. In Revelation, we find God drawing us back through the entire Bible to learn how to make all of this relevant to our lives and to our times, just as it was to the churches receiving this letter in the first century.

January 20 - The Throne Room (pt. 3)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

January 20 – The Throne Room (pt. 3)
Revelation 4:1-11

We’ll start today at Rev. 4:3. Two of the first colors that John describes are jasper and carnelian. This is the appearance of the one who sits on the throne. Unless you work in the jewelry industry or are addicted to gemstones, you may not realize that these colors are shades of red and orange – the color of flame.

In Exodus 3:2-6, God appeared to Moses in flames of fire from within the bush. When God moved with the people as they traveled, He traveled in a cloud by day and fire was in the cloud by night. (Exodus 40:36-38)

Ezekiel saw a vision of a man on a throne. “I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him.” (Ezekiel 1:27)

In Acts 2:3, tongues of fire separated and came to rest on the people in the crowd.

I love the way God’s symbolism throughout scripture is fulfilled. Jasper and Carnelian – two coors of the fire that God used to signify His presence in both the Old and New Testaments.

From the throne come flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. (Rev. 4:5a)

God manifests Himself to mankind in many ways, but when judgment and the power of His glory needs to be made, thunder and lightning shock humanity to attention ane make us recognize this power throughout the earth and heavens.

There are many passages in Scripture where this is proven. We will only look at a couple of these. If you want to see more, look up: Exodus 9:23, 28; Exodus 19:16; 1 Samuel 2:10, 1 Samuel 7:10, 1 Samuel 12:17-18, Job 37:2-12, “Psalm 18:13-15, Psalm 29:3, Psalm 77:18.

The first time we are exposed to God in this way comes in Exodus 9:23-24. “When Moses streched out his staff toward the sky, the Lord sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt; hail fell and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation.”

“The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemies, great bolts of lightning and routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.” (Psalm 18:13-15)

God’s sovereignty AND His wrath are seen in thunder and lightning.

Which came first, the rainbow surrounding God’s throne or the rainbow as the sign of a promise to Noah in the book of Genesis? You see, by the time I actually read Revelation as a youth, I knew the story of Noah very well. It didn’t occur to me that the rainbow in heaven was there before God sent it to earth as a promise. God made that promise with a rainbow, something that had only been seen up to that point surrounding His throne. Can you see the great love He has for His people with that gift?

There are seven lamps blazing before the throne.

In Nahum 2:3-4 and Judges 7:16, we find that these lit torches were part of a preparation for battle. God prepares His troops for battle through the Holy Spirit in the Revelation. We have read the entire book (or at least know the book). But, these torches prepare the reader for what is about to take place. This Spirit is an active part of the things to come.

January 19 - The Throne Room (pt. 2)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

January 19 – The Throne Room (pt. 2)
Revelation 4:1-11

John looked and before him was a door that was already standing open. He hears the voice that sounds like a trumpet – the same voice from Revelation 1:10. He was in the Spirit again (Rev. 1:10 again) and simultaneously he was in heaven, looking upon the throne of God, the Father Almighty.

The imagery in this chapter is nearly overwhelming. There is a throne with someone sitting on it. A rainbow encircles the throne and surrounding it are twenty-four other thrones, with elders seated. White and gold, emerald, jasper, carnelian. Colors explode in this vision! Sights and sounds. Flashes of lightning, peals of thunder. Lamps are blazing. A sea of glass, clear as crystal. Extraordinary creatures – things that John had never seen before. All of these filled his senses as he stood in awe.

This chapter is filled with so many vivid images. But, at the center of it, we must fully understand that this is God’s throne room. He is seated on the throne. This imagery has been in place since the very beginning.

“Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our forefathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Deuteronomy 26:15)

“Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.” (1 Kings 8:30)

“The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place.” (2 Chronicles 30:27)

“I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.” (Psalm 123:1)

“This is what the Lord says, ‘Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool.” (Isaiah 66:1a)

Heaven is the home of God … His dwelling place. John stands before Him.

We are welcome in this place. We are given the chance to see the immeasurable glories of the throne room where the only thing that can be done is to worship.

January 18 - The Throne Room (pt. 1)

Monday, January 18, 2010

January 18 – The Throne Room (pt. 1)
Revelation 4:1-11

As much as I can take you on a walk through the Throne Room described in Revelation 4, it would be much better for you to open your Bible and read Rev. 4:1-11 on your own. Click on the passage and your computer should also take you to a link of this as well.

We see the majesty of the mountains, the glory of a sunrise, the excitement of waves crashing on a seashore, the beauty of a forest, we hear the sounds of beautiful music and taste the richness of flavors, we touch a child’s face and walk through a flower garden immersed in the scents. None of these things compares to the experience that we will have in the throne room of God!

Before we enter this place so holy, though, we need to take a moment to remember how very unworthy we are to be there. The only thing way that we have any right to come before God on His throne is because of the sacrifice of the Lamb.

Psalm 8 perfectly describes the feelings that I have as I come to this place in the Revelation. Unimaginable glory with a sense of my own unworthiness.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

The Lord’s name is majestic – in all the earth. We are not worthy of His attention, yet it is because of His great love for us that Jesus came to earth and offered His life. This act allows us entrance to the throne room.

January 17 - We're Almost There

Sunday, January 17, 2010

January 17 – We’re Almost There

We are leaving the cities behind where words make sense and symbolism is easily explained. From here on out, the words are open to many different styles of interpretation. Before we get there, I want to explain what my foundation for interpretation is and what you can expect from me.

There is an incredible amount of literature written about this single book in the Bible. The interpretations are varied and always changes. Over the centuries, the understanding of interpretation has changed until we are at a point where scholars have honed this to begin making sense of it all.

Fictional books have been written that tell an amazing story. But, this is only one style of interpretation. Academic scholars interpret this book in a completely different manner and tend to view the outcome in their own limited way. Nearly every book I have read (and there were scores of books that I plowed through) said the same thing at the outset: “The Book of Revelation has become mysterious to readers today, but it was never meant to be. It was meant to be read and understood and believed.”

Then, they would present their particular view of the book and by the time I was finished, I was more confused than ever.

Scholars use words like ‘eschatology’ and ‘chiliastic.’ You read about dispensationalism, preterism, historicism, amillenialism, premillenialism and postmillennialism. All of these words are important as you move into deep study of the Revelation.

But, one of the things about apocalyptic literature is that it doesn’t actually tell you how to believe – especially when it is read alongside other pieces of literature from the same genre. There is no easy way to eliminate confusion and come to a point of firm knowledge.

I believe that at the end, the most important thing to walk away with is the knowledge that God is in control, that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins and that heaven is an actual place where we will go to live with God for eternity. The rest, while wonderful, is not that important – not the interpretation, nor the timing of the events, not even the secondary characters.

This book was meant to bring comfort to a people who were being intensely persecuted and encourage them to continue in their faith. At the end, they would be in a glorious New Jerusalem, standing in the presence of God.

Do I believe that Jesus will return in a physical way to this earth to gather His people home? Of course I do. Do I believe that it will happen in the way that the popular “Left Behind” series tells the story? I’m not so sure. Do I believe that God has it in His control and will do whatever it is that He has planned? Absolutely.

I refuse to use a ball bat to beat you over the head with my beliefs and interpretations, but I will end up sharing specific viewpoints. You make your own decisions as to whether or not you agree with me.

One of the greatest pieces of advice I can give you is to become like the Bereans of Acts 17:11:

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

Don’t take my word for it, don’t simply read one or two commentaries, or the helps in your Bible. Search the scriptures. Pray as you ask God to help you understand. Ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide.

January 16 - Revelation. Laodicea (pt. 2)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

January 16 – Revelation. Laodicea (pt. 2)
Revelation 3:14-22

Laodicea was known to Jesus by its deeds. It was neither hot not cold and He threatened to spit them out because they were lukewarm. This is amazing insight because Laodicea is located near two other cities. Directly opposite them on the other bank of the Lycus River was the city of Hierapolis which was known for its hot, mineral springs.

Laodicea didn’t have its own water supply. Water had to be piped in from a spring about 5 miles away. By the time it reached the city, it would have been tepid and filled with minerals from the pipes. The people reading this letter would have known what it was like to spit out that foul-tasting water.

Jesus was disgusted with this church! They had come to know Him personally at one time. Colossae was located about ten miles east of Laodicea. In Colossian 1:6-8, we read about Epaphras who traveled the region – teaching about Jesus. In Colossians 2:1, we read “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not met me personally.”

In Colossians 4:12-17, we learn a bit more about this church and Colossians 4:14 is where we discover that Luke is a doctor. Of course he would be at Laodicea – near the medical center. People would pay attention to this well-respected doctor.

Sometimes it’s hard for us to accept that Jesus loves us and brings discipline in that love. Proverbs 3:12 says, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Jesus delights in those that he has to discipline. That’s good news!

Revelation 3:19 says, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” Jesus loved this church that didn’t have much going for it. He wanted more for them.

The Greek word for “I am standing” – hesteka means ‘I have taken my position and am standing.’ This is an action that continues. He will not leave this door. The Old Testament reference is taken from Song of Solomon 5:2. The bridegroom is standing at the door of the bride asking to be allowed to enter. He will stand there as long as it takes. But what bride can contain her excitement? She would leap to her feet and respond immediately.

This is the response Jesus wants from us. He identifies Himself so that when we open the door with the thrill of meeting Him, we know who is there. If we open the door, He promises to come in.

The feast is upon us. We must be ready – be prepared with our lamps burning.

The overcomer will be given the right to sit with the Father on His throne.

Who is the overcomer? 1 John 5:4-5 describes this person, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

January 15 - Revelation. Laodicea (pt. 1)

Friday, January 15, 2010

January 15 – Revelation. Laodicea (pt. 1)
Revelation 3:14-22

The greatest lesson we can take from the letters to the seven churches is that Jesus Christ knows everything about these churches and is closely watching them. That is quite apparent as we look at Laodicea. This poor church receives absolutely no note of commendation. Jesus can’t come up with anything good to say about them.

He begins His identification as the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. (Rev. 3:14) He’s about to rock their world.

There were actually six cities named Laodicea. The actual name of our little burg was ‘Laodicea on the Lycus’ (the Lycus River). It was founded in 250 bc by Antiochus of Syria and named after his wife, Laodice. The greatest thing about this city was its location. It was found at the crossroads of two major highways and was a city filled with commerce.

Laodicea was a center of banking and finance. They were so wealthy that in 61 AD when an earthquake destroyed the city, they had no need of assistance from Rome and rebuilt the city on their own. Money got them anything they needed.

In Rev. 3:17, Jesus says, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

He goes on to tell them that they should ‘buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich…” (Rev. 3:18)

1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

It is hard to accept that suffering for our faith can be as purifying as gold having the dross removed by fire. These people did very little suffering and Jesus was fully aware of that bit of information.

The next two portions of Rev. 3:18 go on to say, “… and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes so you can see.”

The clothes that were made in Laodicea were different from any others in the surrounding area. These items brought in huge amounts of cash. The sheep raised here were famous for their soft, violet-black, glossy wool. Laodicea had an industry that mass-produced cheap clothing which was sold throughout Asia Minor. Jesus contrasted the beautiful soft, cheap black clothing with white clothes which represented purity.

Laodicea was host to a great medical school. Asklepios, the god of healing was a developed (Hellenized) form of the local god named Men Karou. The medical school was well known for its compound medicines that they created. One of the more popular was a table tthat treated ailments of the eyes and ears. Jesus told them that He could offer them a salve which would open their eyes.

Jesus knew His churches. Let me re-state that. Jesus knows His churches. What do you think He would say to yours and mine?

January 14 - Revelation. Philadelphia (pt. 2)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

January 14 – Revelation. Philadelphia (pt. 2)
Revelation 3:7-13

The letter to the Philadelphians is the only one that carries no rebuke. Jesus tells them that He knows their deeds. The door that he opens, no one can shut. He placed it before them.

Now, I’m not sure why they did this, but in the NIV translation, there is a word that has been omitted. The Greek word is ‘idou’ which is translated as Behold. It is used three times in these next verses. Let’s look at the King James Version of these verses:

“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. 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.” (Rev. 3:8-9)

Behold! Look and see! Pay attention! These verses are tied together with the constant reminder to look and see what the Lord is doing.

The small church in Philadelphia was persecuted by Jews that were intent on holding them to the traditions and religious rituals of Judaism. They insisted that the way to God was not through Jesus, but through rituals such as circumcision. This community of Jews wasn’t simply rejecting the Word of God, but were persecuting Christians.

In their rejection of Jesus as Messiah, what was once promised to them in Isaiah 60:14 “”The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you; all who despise you will bow at your feet” was going to be turned on them as they were about to bow at the feet of Jesus.

Then, they would acknowledge that Jesus loved this little church. That was an awesome promise to the Philadelphians, who in Rev. 3:10 it is said endured patiently. Because of their enduring faith, Jesus promised them that they would not have to endure the trials to come.

We are finally seeing the imminence of Christ’s return. He is coming soon.

The overcomer would be made a pillar in God’s temple. In a region that had been shaken for years by earthquakes, Jesus promised strength and safety – a building that was strong enough to withstand anything.

He was also speaking in spiritual terms. In 1 Timothy 3:15, we read “If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

The church should be the pillar – the strength of truth. Philadelphia had endured much, yet remained strong. The people had endured terror from the many earthquakes, yet they stood strong.

Then they are given three assurances as overcomers. They belong to God, they hold citizenship in the New Jerusalem and are specially related to Jesus (Rev. 3:12). After all is said and done, when we have breathed our last on this earth and it all passes away, we are assured that we have a home where God is in control and we will never be asked to leave.

January 13 - Revelation. Philadelphia (pt. 1)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

January 13 – Revelation. Philadelphia (pt. 1)
Revelation 3:7-13

Philadelphia located 28 miles southeast of Sardis and is the youngest of the seven cities. It was established in 150 bc for a specific purpose – a missionary city. It was created to bring the Greek culture into Asia Minor and was quite successful. From this point, Greek culture and language dispersed throughout the region.

The city was named by its founder, Attalus II, who loved his brother (the name means ‘brotherly love’). In 17 AD, the city was destroyed by the earthquake that destroyed twelve cities in the region. However, the epicenter must have been near Philadelphia because over the next few years, aftershocks continued to shake the area, causing people to flee the destroyed city and live in huts and tents outside the city.

Tiberius rebuilt the city and out of gratefulness, they renamed the city “Neocaesarea,” then during the reign of Vespasian, the renamed themselves “Flavia” for that family’s name.

Volcanoes were also prevalent in the history of that area and the ash had created beautiful fertile ground. It was the center of a great grape-growing area and a famous producer of wines. This meant that it was the center of worship of Dionysus, the god of wine.

Christ introduces himself to the Philadelphians as the one who is holy and ture, who holds the key of David – what he opens, no one can shut, and what he shuts, no one can open. (Revelation 3:7)

For the first time, Christ doesn’t use an identification from the first chapter, but instead takes us into the Old Testament.

In Isaiah 22:20-24, Eliakim is given the key to the house of David – what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. In earlier verses, Shebna had been dismissed as King Hezekiah’s chief of staff because he was using the power of position to make himself richer. The Lord pronounced judgment and then gave the position to Eliakim.

Jesus is of the lineage of David. Here in Revelation, he reminds us that He has possession of the key of David. He controls the entrance to David’s house – which ultimately refers to God’s kingdom. When Jesus opens the doors to heaven, no one can shut them. When He shuts the doors, no one can open them. This is the treasure.

He also identifies Himself as holy and true. In Mark 1:23-24, an evil spirit possessing a man identified Jesus as the Holy One of God. In John 6:68-69, Peter believes and knows that Jesus is the Holy One of God.

The Greek word for holy is ‘hagios.’ This means that Jesus is set apart as belonging to God – not just that He is sinless. The Greek word for true is ‘alethinos’ which tells us that Christ is genuine.

These descriptions of Jesus would have been extremely important to the church in Philadelphia. Their persecution by the local Jews had been intense. Their only hope was in the promises that would be fulfilled by a real Messiah.

The word alethinos used in this context carries thes meaning that God keeps faith forever – that He is one who can be trusted to keep His promises.

January 12 - Revelation. Sardis (pt. 2)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January 12 – Revelation. Sardis (pt. 2)
Revelation 3:1-6

“Wake Up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Revelation 3:2-3)

Sometimes it just seems to be an impossible task to revive ourselves when we face those feelings of exhaustion, failure, frustration … death in our spirit.

My father told a story of a friend of ours who called him late in the night from a beach in Florida. He was ready to walk into the ocean and end his life. Dad asked him to write down ten things he was thankful for before doing anything else. The friend called back to tell him he had done the exercise and walked away from the beach. He did it again the next day and each day following. He became a new man. He came home to his family, entered into the life of the church like never before and became a spiritual pillar for that church.

What can God do with you when you re-awaken the joy inside?

I want to point out again that Jesus continues to use word pictures. In two separate incidents in the history of Sardis, the conquerors found the kinks and cracks in a seemingly impossible wall, they snuck into the city and overthrew it – all under the cover of darkness.

Jesus tells this church that He would come like a thief (Rev. 3:3). This was a phrase He had used before. In Matthew 24:43-44, Jesus tells us that we must be ready after saying that if the owner of the house had known when the thief was coming, he would have kept watch. It is our responsibility to be ready!

The remnant in Sardis is promised a chnce to walk with Jesus, dressed in white. The overcomer also has this promise.

They also have the promise that their name will never be erased from the Book of Life.

In Exodus 32:31-33, Moses pleads with God to forgive the people of Israel, but if He can’t then please blot Moses’ name from the book God has written. God’s response is, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.” Instead of doing this, though, God sent a plague to the people because they had built the golden calf.

Daniel tells us that everyone whose name is found written in the book will be delivered (Daniel 12:1).

One of the assurances that we have is knowing our names are in the Book of Life. It is not a difficult or arduous task. All we have to do is acknowledge that we are sinners, that we need Jesus to pay the enormous penalty for our sins and that we trust in Him alone to bring us into relationship with God. We can’t do it on our own.

That’s all. It seems so impossible, though to give up ourselves and allow the Messiah to be that bridge between us and God. We think we can do it on our own. It’s not anything we can achieve. It’s already been done, we just have to bow before the One who did it for us.

January 11 - Revelation. Sardis (pt. 1)

Monday, January 11, 2010

January 11 – Revelation. Sardis. (pt. 1)
Revelation 3:1-6

Sardis was once the most powerful city in the Lydian realm. But, that was long before the birth of Jesus. It was built on a large hill, the walls rose 1500 feet above the lower valley. It was an amazing natural fortress. No one could approach the city unless they came through a narrow passage. They couldn’t be surprised by invaders.

But, the hill was made of a very coarse rock and the atmosphere wore it away. Today, there is little left of the hill and nothing but ruins left of the city.

Sardis began in 1200 bc with the beginnings of the Lydian kingdom and became the military center for the kingdom. It was wealthy – gold and silver coins were first struck here.

In the 6th century bc, when Croesus was king – Cyrus of Persia decided to take the city. The Lydian army had grown lazy and only watched the entrance. Nobody could possibly climb that perpendicular wall. But, the enemy found cracks and weaknesses, crawled up the wall and one night, while Croesus slept, Cyrus and his army took the city.

Three hundred years later, it happened again to the city. Antiochus and Achaeus were fighting for the command of the entire Lydian and Seleucid Empire. The city was besieged and finally one night, a mercenary led the way up the hill and conquered the city.

The city sank into obscurity. In 17 AD, a massive earthquake destroyed much of the area. The Roman government sent money and abated taxes for five years to allow them to rebuild. In 26AD, as Tiberius looked for a home for the imperial cult, Sardis thought her past glories should give her the right to that title. We know that Smyrna won that right. Historical glory didn’t bring present relevance.

Jesus came to this church as the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars to remind the small remnant of Christians here that He is the center of the churches and is in control of them.

The seven-fold spirit of God signifies the completeness of His spirit – not that He actually has seven spirits.

The commendation that Jesus gives to the church in Sardis isn’t much. “I know your deeds, you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”

Just like the hope the city had of gaining the imperial cult for their community based on their past achievement, this church based their existence on their reputation, not their reality. They had nothing left and their future didn’t hold much promise.

Jesus’ rebuke to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:27-28 comes to mind. “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beauitful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

They were dead on the inside. Perhaps this remnant was exhausted from trying so hard in an area that didn’t receive them. Everything has been battering at them, arguments, frustrations, failures. It was all they could do to keep up the pretense of Christianity. Tomorrow, we’ll see that Jesus calls them to wake up!

January 10 - Revelation. Thyatira (pt. 2)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

January 10 – Revelation. Thyatira (pt. 2)
Revelation 2:18-29

The Jezebel that Jesus warned this small church about was leading many of His followers astray. No one was stopping it. They were simply allowing the corruption to continue without confrontation. Jesus had given her time to stop what she was doing, but she was perfectly comfortable with all of the attention she was receiving. The children he speaks of in Rev. 2:23 are those that are following her and find themselves as comfortable as she does in what they are doing.

Not only was this Jezebel leading the church into immorality, but she also promised them that they would learn the deep secrets of Satan. Jesus reminds them that only He, only God can search hearts and minds.

1 Corinthians 2:9-16 tells us that the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God … and all so that we have the mind of Christ. This is what Jesus wants us to aspire to.

Jesus says that He will give authority to the overcomer in Rev. 2:26.

In Matthew 28:18, He tells His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” He has the power to give that authority to whomever He pleases and He will give it to the overcomer.

The word ‘rule’ in Rev. 2:27 is the Greek word ‘poimanei’ which literally means to shepherd. They were told to act as shepherds to the nations.

While this verse comes from Psalm 2:9, the last verse of that Psalm says, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:12b) The church must take refuge in God. They were being pulled apart by the teachings of Jezebel. In Rev. 2:25, Jesus tells them to hold on and they will receive the morning star.

In Numbers 24:17, Balaam the Oracle received a word from the Spirit of God. This is definitely a prophecy of the Messiah. “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.”

In Matthew 2:2, the Magi follow the star to the child, Jesus. They arrived out of the east. The morning comes from the east.

This is the Messiah in whom we find refuge. When God calls us to return to him from the seductions of all the world has to offer, He offers us the Savior, the Son of God, the morning star.

January 9 - Revelation. Thyatira (pt. 1)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

January 9 – Revelation. Thyatira. (pt. 1)
Revelation 2:18-29

Thyatira was the smallest church along the route, yet warranted the longest letter.

Thyatira still exists today and is known as Akhisar in western Turkey. It lay between Pergamum and Sardis and was simply a trading city. There was no acropolis, no harbor. Thyatira had been set up to be a military base for protecting Pergamum. However, during peacetime, it became a town of trade and industry. The coins from Thyatira tell that there was great wealth and propserity in the city. These coins show trade in woolen, linen, garments, dyers, leather, tanners, potters, bakers, slavers and bronze smiths. These trade-guilds were powerful within the city.

In Acts 16:11-15, Paul introduces us to Lydia of Thyatira, who dealt in purple cloth. She had taken the message she heard from Paul home to Thyatira.

Jesus introduces himself as the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burning bronze. (Rev. 2:18)

This is the only time that we read “The Son of God” in the Revelation. Apollo, the son of Zeus was worshipped in Thyatira. Jesus’ words come as a majestic reminder of the power of God, who says in Matthew 3:17, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

In 1 John 3:8, we read, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

Jesus knew what was happening in the city and threatens to bring destruction. But, as for the church? They are completely different than the church in Ephesus. They are doing more than they did when they began. They are growing.

However, they are also tolerating Jezebel. The Old Testament Jezebel married King Ahab (1 King 16:30-33) and enticed him to worship Baal. Then, she tried to have Elijah killed (1 Kings 19:1-2). She had Naboth killed because her whiny husband, Ahab wanted his vineyards. (1Kings 21:1-18). Elijah prophesied her death and that dogs would devour her. The book also says that there had never been a man like Ahab who sold himself to evil because of his wife. In 2 Kings 9:33-37, Jehu tossed her out a window, her blood spattered the wall and horses trampled her underfoot. There was nothing left but a skull.

Now, this story tells us what Jesus was saying about the woman in Thyatira who was trying to lead the church astray. She called herself a prophetess and led people into sexual immorality and into eating meat offered to idols. Much of the meat being sold had probably been offered to idols. It was convenient, but it led the people astray. They traded ease for health, much as we do today.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the worst promise that this Jezebel made to the Thyatirans.

January 8 - Revelation. Pergamum (pt. 2)

Friday, January 8, 2010

January 8 – Revelation. Pergamum (pt. 2).
Revelation 2:12-17

“Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” (Rev. 2:14-16)

Balaam’s story takes up a great deal of the book of Numbers in the Old Testament, but the revealing part of the story occurs in Numbers 31. Moses is furious with the army of Israel. They had been sent to war against the Midianites and brought back the women and tried to integrate them into the camp. It’s a little gory, but you might take the time to read Numbers 31:1-24. In Numbers 31:17, Moses tells them to kill all the boys and every woman who has slept with a man.

Now this doesn’t quite fit with our current sense of right and wrong in warfare, but this was a tribe that was trying to maintain its purity as it headed for the Proised Land. God wasn’t prepared for them to blend in with the tribes they conquered. Obviously the same thing was happening in Pergamum. The Christians were trying to blend in with the city and were losing their identity in Christ.

The Nicolaitans were a sect that followed teachings unacceptable to Christianity. Jesus told His church that they couldn’t remain pure and blameless if they accepted the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. It was time for the them to take a stand. The had to reject the intermixing of civic and religious lives. What types of things do we do to fit into American society, to be socially acepted?

Jesus says, “Repent!” He is coming and will fight this behavior with the Sword. He will separate His people from this world.

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

To the overcomer, Jesus promises hidden manna and a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. (Rev. 2:17)

Manna was the bread from heaven that the Israelites received from God even after the complained and whined because they were afraid of starvation.

“He rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven. Men ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat.” (Psalm 78:24-25)

They ate the bread of the angels. In John 6:48-51, we read that Jesus is the bread of life. “If a man eats of this bread, he will live forever.” (John 6:51)

God commanded Moses to place about 4 qts of manna in the Ark of the Covenant. In Hebrews 9:4, Paul tells us what was in the Ark: gold jar of manna, Aaron’s rod, and the stone tablets. But, the Ark had been lost to the people of Israel. The physical manna that God had given to the Israelites no longer existed. However, the bread of life – Jesus Christ, is now available to everyone!

The white stone has been interpreted many different ways. In ancient courtrooms, white stones were cast by judges if the person was innocent, black if they were guilty. It could refer to a stone in the breastplate of the high priest (Ex. 28:30). Another possibility is that it was a token for entrance to Christs feast, symbolizing the triumph of faith. All of these interpretations could be true, or it could be something completely different.

As for the new name, we receive a new identity in Christ. We can set the old aside and claim the identity that Jesus has for us. In John 15:15, we are called Jesus’ friend. Paul says we are a saint in Ephesians 1:1 and we are also known as Blessed(Rev. 1:3).

We will receive our new name soon enough. For now, the name you have identifies you as the person Jesus loves.

January 7 - Revelation. Pergamum (pt. 1)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

January 7 – Revelation, Pergamum (pt. 1)
Revelation 2:12-17

It looks like I’m going to break this up into two days – there is just that much information to absorb! One of the things that excites me the most about these letters is the fact that we see first century word pictures that meant something to the readers along with the timeless truths that we recognize for our own lives and our church life.

Let me introduce you to the next city along the route. From Smyrna, you would travel north along the coast for 40 miles and then head inland 10 miles. This was the capital city. There was a library here that would have dropped me to my knees, holding over 200,000 volumes.

The city was built on a cone-shaped hill that stood over 1000 feet. The name in Greek means ‘citadel.’ Just at the top of the mountain was the great altar of Zeus. Worship of Zeus, ,Athena, Dionysus and Asklepios (the god of healing) occurred within Pergamum and was also the official center for the imperial cult as well.

Pergamum was the first city to receive permission to build a temple dedicated to the worship of a living ruler – Augustus, in 29 BC.

Jesus identified himself to the church in Pergamum as the one who has the sharp, double-edged sword (Rev. 2:12). This word picture would have been easily recognized by anyone in the province.

Roman officials held power that few others had. The Roman carried a sword that was different from others in the world. Orientals carried a scimitar and Greeks used a cutting sword. But, the Romans used a sword with a sharp point and double edge. It was a cut and thrust sword. This was the symbol of the highest order of authority and the Roman Proconsul (living in Pergamum, since it was the capital) had the power of life or death or ‘just gladii.’ He could execute at will.

When Jesus reminded the people that he had the sharp double-edged sword, he was reminding them that He had ultimate control over life and death.

To the people in the church, though, this was also a strong reminder that the sword of the Spirit was the Word of God. This church desperately needed to be reminded of that power. They were surrounded by religions that attacked the basic structure of their beliefs. At the highest point of the city was a tribute to Zeus.

Read on in Revelation 2. “I know where you live – where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city – where Satan lives.” (Rev. 2:13)

Satan’s throne was visible to the church of Pergamum. That high point in the city - the altar to Zeus was right there in front of them. It was an immense throne. They faced their neighbors and friends who worshiped many different gods and the emperor. Antipas was executed for his faith. He must have been an incredible man to warrant this special notice by Jesus.

They’ve been faithful … nevertheless …

January 6 - Revelation. Smyrna.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

January 6 – Revelation. Smyrna.

Revelation 2:8-11

The second stop this missive made was another harbor city. Smyrna was an important commercial center and one of the main centers for the cult of emperor worship. Under Nero and Domitian, severe persecution of Christians existed. The city continues to exist today, though it is now known as Izmir and is one of the strongest cities in Turkey.

Word pictures were important ways to communicate. For instance, the word Smyrna is taken from the same root as ‘myrrh.’ Given to Jesus at His birth by the Magi, it is a funeral spice, used to preserve the body until it is buried. Jesus presents himself to these people as one who died and came to life (Rev. 2:8).

Smyrna called itself “First of Asia.” They even had coins minted stating that. It was a planned city, the streets and buildings highly organized. The blocks were rectangular and regular, fountains were in the city, beautiful breezes blew from the east and the west to keep it moderate – even in the summer.

The church in Smyrna was poor. They lived amid amazing wealth. Jesus assured them, though that they weren’t. The Bishop of the church in Smyrna was Polycarp. He was martyred there at the age of 86. The Jews living there called for his death and even gathered wood to burn him alive. He would have been listening to these words as they were read to the church. The Jews had completely separated themselves from the Christians by this point and encouraged persecution of this sect that had broken away from them.

Jesus’ next words would have filled them with assurance, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10)

Smyrna was also famous for its games. The crown Jesus’ spoke of was a victor’s wreath. The city was also known as the “Crown of Smyrna” because the buildings were built up around the sides of Mt. Pagus to look like a crown. (see the word pictures?)

The ten days in this verse has been discussed over and over by scholars and there is no definitive answer for its use here. Generally it is thought to mean that there will be persecution, but it will be just for a short time. There will be an end to what they have to face.

“He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.” (Rev. 2:11)

This is another phrase that draws a lot of conclusion. It is explained more fully in Revelation 20:14-15 and Rev. 21:8. The lake of fire is the second death which is where all those that refuse to acknowledge Jesus as Savior will spend eternity.

Overcomers will never see this. The church in Smyrna faced poverty and affliction and were about to face extreme persecution. Jesus assured them He would be with them. He told them in the beginning that He had overcome death. He told them at the end that they would overcome death. He knew this church. He knows you. He will be with you as well.