April 30 - Philippians 2:14-18

Friday, April 30, 2010

April 30 – Philippians 2:14-18

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could just work together without complaint or argument?  I think that at some level this is as impossible a feat as becoming perfect, just as Christ is perfect.  Really, what is Paul thinking?

As much as he loves the church in Philippi, he must recognize that the people there are very human.  For heaven’s sake, he had arguments with the other disciples at different stages in his life.  But, he forges ahead with his plea.  Do everything – and by everything, he means all of those things that people do together in a church setting.  There would be discussions on how to care for the widows and orphans … probably arguments about how much money should be spent – if we do it for one, we’ll have to do it for everyone, you know.  There would be discussions on how to handle a new believer’s former life catching up to them.  Some might argue for great grace, others concerned about the influence that believer might have on others within the fellowship.  I’m certain that you could apply a great many divisive issues to this group of Christians.  And I’m also certain that you could apply that same creative mind to divisive issues you have seen happen in your own church, whether you were a part of them or not.

It’s just human to argue about things we hold near and dear to our hearts- our faith and our church can tend to bring up very strong passions.

But, Paul calls us away from all of that.  Stop the arguing and the complaining.  Why?  Because the world sees all of that.  The world is depraved and crooked.  We are to be blameless and pure so that we can shine like stars in the universe among them.  When we act poorly within our churches, trust me … the world pays attention.  It’s all over our lives, we can’t treat each other badly within the church congregation and then walk out the doors and hope that no one sees us.  It’s all over everything that we do.

Paul reminds them that he is responsible for their fellowship.  It is on him that they grow in their faith.  He brought them to Jesus and has worked tirelessly to help them grow.  No matter what happens to him – even if he is poured out – even if he faces death, he rejoices with their success.

For Paul, the unity of the church is of prime importance.  This is something about which to rejoice.

April 29 - Philippians 2:12-13

Thursday, April 29, 2010

April 29 - Philippians 2:12-13

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

I love being exposed to the Greek because I learn so much of the original intent.  When Paul calls the Philippians ‘my dear friends,’ the Greek actually goes so much deeper than this.  He calls them ‘my beloved.’  These people are so dear to him – more than a translation can convey. 

Most of the time, when I write, whether it is a personal blog, a Christian history piece or a bit of Bible study, I think about those of you who are reading.  Many of you I know very well, others I know well and some I’ve never met.  It is easy for me to picture most of you in my mind and I find that I write for you because I love you.  As I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you are at the forefront of my mind and I get excited because I know that you are going to walk this path with me as you read what I write.

Paul had spent time among these people, introducing them to Christ, watching as they took their first steps in learning about the incredible relationship that they had with the risen Lord.  As they learned from him and then put that learning into practice, he just fell in love with them.

Their response to his teaching was obedience.  They heard the gospel, they responded to the gospel and then they continued to respond, more than likely by changing their behaviors and attitudes to become one with Jesus.  From the moment they heard about Jesus and His teachings from Paul, they chose to live within God’s will.

Paul isn’t telling them to do good works to attempt to gain salvation.  They already have that.  He encourages them to continue in what they have been doing.  Their response to the salvation message has been obedience.  This shows then in everything they do.   Whether or not Paul can come back and spend time with them, he begs them to continue living their lives as proof of this salvation.  This puts them in accord with God’s will.  When they (when we) are obedient, we allow God’s will to be made manifest within us.  We don’t have to question whether or not we are doing what God wants us to do, we will have confidence that God is working within us and that we are acting according to His purpose.

April 28 - Philippians 2:5-11

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April 28 – Philippians 2:5-11

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,  but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Ok, there’s a lot in these verses.  In all of his letters, Paul exhorts us to be like Christ.  We are to strive for the perfection that He represents.  To the Philippians, Paul says that we are to become humble as Christ was humble. 

Jesus was God, but when He came to earth, He didn’t force that part of His nature on us.  He emptied Himself (deeper translation of ‘made himself nothing’).  In other words, he set aside every bit of His power.  Then, He became like a servant, which in Paul’s day was a person of very little worth.  They weren’t paid, they had no rights, they simply lived to care for their masters.  Jesus set aside all of His power and glory so that He might teach us what it was to live in humility. 

He became like a man – setting aside His godhood and was obedient to that which He knew He had to do, follow the path to the cross.

Paul tells us that we should be as humble and obedient as this.  When it’s convenient to us, we show humility and obedience.  When it offends our sensibilities, we stand up and declare that our rights are being taken from us. 

We hear Isaiah’s words from Isaiah 45:23 “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow …”  Because He gave Himself up to God, He is worthy of the name that stands above all else.  This verse encompasses all of creation:  every knee will bow – those in heaven, those on earth and those under the earth.

Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Read that sentence again.  It doesn’t say that every Christian will confess that Jesus is Lord.  Every single tongue on earth will confess that Jesus is Lord.

Regretfully, many will find that they are forced to confess this, but it will be too late for them.  But, everyone will acknowledge His Lordship over all creation.

April 27 - Philippians 2:3-4

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 27 – Philippians 2:3-4

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Remember those preachers from Philippians 1:15 who taught about Jesus because of envy and rivalry. Obviously there were people in the Philippian church who were dealing with the same thing.  The only thing that selfishness or pride does when working in a church or a community situation is to cause division. 

Humility will bring unity.  Paul calls us to consider that everyone else is better than ourselves.  Wow, that’s nearly impossible.  We won’t even trust those put into authority over us.  Think about what Paul or even Jesus would say to us with our attitudes towards those in leadership.  How many times do we (and let me tell you this is pointed directly at me) believe that we have a better answer or a better way of doing things.  How many times do we believe that God has spoken to us, and obviously that means that He hasn’t spoken to our pastor, Sunday School teacher, Bible study leader, author, friend, etc. 

We are always right – and it is impossible for us to back off and allow someone else whose ideas might be different to have their way.  We insist that if it is different, it is wrong.  Paul would be absolutely disgusted with nearly every one of us and our behavior in our churches and with our friends and acquaintances.

Humility and placing the interests of others first is to be primary in the church since that will bring unity and not divisiveness.  What do we do with this information?

April 26 - Philippians 2:1-2

Monday, April 26, 2010

April 26 - Philippians 2:1-2

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”
Spiritual unity.  In Philippians 1:27, Paul told his readers that he hoped they would strive for this.  Now he gives them four qualities that will direct them down that path:  encouragement from being united with Christ, comfort from his love, fellowship with the Spirit, tenderness and compassion.

Encouragement from being united with Christ.  This is the first step.  Once we have accepted Christ’s work in our lives, we begin the process of becoming a part of His kingdom. 

Comfort from His love.  How can we not become one with each other if we are filled with God’s love and express that love to everyone around us.  This is one of those things that gets really difficult, though.  We forget what it is to truly love.  Each of us carries a different definition of what love looks like.  So many of us don’t even know how to love or be loved.  True love comes from God.  True expressions of love come from expressing God’s love, not our own.

Fellowship with the Spirit.  Once we know and express God’s love, we can also understand the relationship that we have with the Spirit.  The Spirit came to dwell within us, to guide us, to teach us.  There are plenty of people that I don’t trust to teach me or to guide me.  The Spirit, however, is given permission to take me anywhere … even places I don’t want to go and to teach me things I don’t necessarily want to learn.

Tenderness and Compassion.  These are external signs of what is going on within us.  Through Christ’s work in our lives, God’s love in our hearts and the fellowship of the Spirit, we are freed to reach out with tenderness and compassion to those around us.  It’s not easy, but Paul tells the Philippians that these things will bring unity within the body … they will be like-minded, being one in spirit and purpose.

April 25 - Philippians 1:27-30

Sunday, April 25, 2010


April 25 – Philippians 1:27-30

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel  without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”

Each of us takes pride in our surroundings.  We have civic pride which shows up in any manner of ways, we have pride in our home football teams, we make fun of states surrounding us to lift up how much we love where we live, we call ourselves Americans and fly a flag that inspires us to feel patriotic.  The people of Philippi were proud to be Roman citizens.

As much as they were proud of their affiliation with Rome, Paul reminds them that they are to act as if they are citizens of heaven.  The words (In the NIV translation) ‘conduct yourselves’ are translated from the Greek word ‘politeuomai’ which implied a higher calling of citizenship.  (Our word political comes from the Greek word ‘polis’ which means city or city-state and from which this word is created.)

Paul knows how highly the Philippians regard their citizenship with Rome and calls them to offer that much honor in their actions regarding the heavenly kingdom whether or not he can be with them to continue encouraging them.

When he asks them to ‘contend as one man for the faith of the gospel,’ he is asking them to join together like an athletic team to strive together to achieve a common goal.  I guess it isn’t difficult to put this image into our minds. When teams work together, they aren’t afraid of walking onto an opponent’s field (or court) and engaging them to win.  How many times have coaches and teams worked to ‘psych out’ the opposing team, taunting them with threats of destruction. 

We can take the field knowing that in this case, God will save us and in the end will destroy those who oppose His will.

But like any team knows, there will be pain before glory and Paul tells us that it isn’t going to be easy.  This is a man sitting in prison.  He knows that standing firm for the cause of Christ will bring persecution and pain.  We can not expect to have it easy and if we do hope for an easy faith, we will be disappointed.  The only thing Paul can guarantee is that we will have struggles as Christians.  He has lived them. He knows what he is talking about.

April 24 - Philippians 1:18-26

Saturday, April 24, 2010

April 24 – Philippians 1:18b-26

“Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. “

As much as I get annoyed with Paul (it happens a lot when I’m reading some of his other letters), I fall in love with him throughout Philippians. He challenges me, to be sure, but his passion and love for his Lord overshadows everything else about him.  I would love to be known as someone who lives that way, but alas, my humanity cuts me down pretty quickly.

Paul rejoices because he knows that whatever happens will either lead to his deliverance into the hands of Jesus in heaven, or release from prison.  And what is it that supports him through this?  The prayers of the people in Philippi and help from the Holy Spirit.  That’s what he desires. 

When we were children, we knew that everyone paid attention to our actions and those reflected on Dad in the community.  We really did our best to never give him anything to be ashamed of.  Sure, he had to deal with our antics on a fairly regular basis, but we were quite conscious of the fact that we had that responsibility.

Paul goes so much further than that.  Not only did he want to show courage so that he wasn’t ashamed of his actions, but he wanted to exalt Jesus Christ.  In all of the trials Paul faced, he wanted to ensure that people saw his response as pointing towards Jesus.  If he dies, fine … he’ll be with Jesus.  If he lives, fine … he’ll continue to preach the Gospel.

How can he choose between those two options?  Personally, Paul would have given everything to die and finally be with Jesus – that is better by far, he says.  But, because the people of Philippi and every other church that he supported with his ministry needed him, he understood he would remain on earth, whether it was in chains or as a free man to encourage people in their faith.

AS strong as he was, his humility is stronger.  We want to stay alive so that we can do things that we haven’t done yet.  We hate the idea of death because we will miss out on so much.  Paul preferred death because it would allow him to be closer to Jesus.  He chose life to ensure that many more people would get that chance.

April 23 - Philippians 1:12-18

Friday, April 23, 2010

April 23 - Philippians 1:12-18

“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.  It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

Many times when I read scripture, I discover myself cringing a bit at what God tries to teach me. 

Paul is in prison.  While it was real for him, it is metaphorical for most of us.  We find ourselves imprisoned by our emotions, our physical issues, things at work or within our families, the list can be incredible.

While Paul is in prison, he has made it clear that he is there because he loves Jesus.  This transforms the people around him.  When I find myself in chains, many times self-inflicted, I’m fairly certain that I am not necessarily shining with the love of Jesus to those around me.  Paul’s guards – the entire palace has learned about Jesus because Paul is there in chains and continuing to witness to the grace of God.  When I am in the middle of emotional bondage, everyone around me is subjected to whining and complaining. 

Not only does Paul’s imprisonment affect the entire palace in a positive manner, other Christians have found the courage to speak out about the Gospel of Jesus.  Some of them do this because they’re jealous, trying to usurp Paul’s power within the small world that has begun exploding with Christians.  Others, though, see how important it is to continue his work, sharing his message even when he can’t.  They do this because they love him – there is no competition.

But, do you see his response to both sets of preachers?  Whatever it is that gets the word of God to the people … works for him.  Paul has set aside any worldly emotions regarding the spread of Jesus’ Gospel.  Whoever does it, for whatever reason … he rejoices.

In communities where we find churches competing for membership, we find those pastors who preach the Gospel of Jesus out of envy and rivalry.  The same thing was happening in Paul’s time.  Are we doing things in Christ’s name out of selfish ambition or simply because we want to ensure that everyone is exposed to and knows the love of God?  Whether we are in a church or in our regular lives … preaching Christ sincerely with love should be our goal.

April 22 - Philippians 1:1-11

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 22 – Philippians 1:1-11

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Paul loves this church.  He writes with incredible tenderness as he opens this letter.  It is written to everyone in the Philippian church, all of the saints, the overseers (the bishops or head guys) and the deacons (those who help out the overseers). 

Then he prays for grace and peace.  We probably skim over this sentence without giving it too much thought, but the Greek words open up so much more emotion.  The word ‘charis’ for grace reflects joy that comes with the gift of grace.  The word ‘eirene’ for peace is a hope for spiritual contentment.  With just a few words he opens this letter with hope for joy in grace and contentment in peace.

The last time Paul had been in this church was probably ten years before this letter was written.  He was imprisoned and they were paying close attention to his words.  Over and over, though he told them how much joy they brought him. 

From the moment that Paul brought them the gospel, these people believed!  And he goes on to let them know that their faith in Christ will come about because Jesus is the one who started the ‘good work’ in them.  Though Paul was in their midst, preaching the gospel, he refuses to take credit for the work they are doing.  It comes from Jesus.

These opening verses proclaim Paul’s love for these people.  He longs for them, knowing that they are an active part of his ministry.  He prays for them constantly and in this letter, he encourages them to continue on the path they have already begun.  They are already filled with love, he prays they will have more.  They already search for truth in knowledge and insight; he prays they will grow in this. 

When they are filled with righteousness, it will be because of nothing they have done, but will have come from Jesus and this will bring glory to God.

April 21 - Intro to Philippians

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 21 - Intro to Philippians

I have ten days left in the month of April, so I chose to fill them with a short study in the letter Paul wrote to the Philippians.  Before I start digging into the text, I thought I would spend a little time introducing this letter.

Paul wrote this while he was in prison (Philippians 1:7, 13-14).  It also seems from reading through more passages in the letter that he was in serious trouble.  Philippians 1:16 says that he is there 'for the defense of the gospel.'  Many believe that he was in Rome, but he could have been anywhere - Ephesus, Caesarea, Corinth.

Timothy was there with him (Philippians 1:1, 2:19-23) and Epaphroditus was on his way to visit Paul (Philippians 2:25).

We know from the book of Acts that Paul was imprisoned at least three time - his first time with the Philippians (Acts 16:23-40), arrested in Jerusalem and detained in Caesarea (Acts 24:27), and then his time in the Roman prison (Acts 26:1-28:30). 

As we read this letter, we find that there are some people he needs to deal with.  False teachers are moving in on the Christians.  These are Jewish Christians who are trying to force them back into the Jewish fold, denying God's grace.  We'll see in Philippians 3 how strongly Paul speaks about them.

Paul had a great relationship with the church in Philippi.  They were worried about him while he was in prison, they sent things to assist him.  They had been supportive of him in his travels.  He loved these people.  However, Paul was worried about them as well.  We find him encouraging them to move past internal problems and to stand fast and to be united.

The Philippian church had been growing and there were bound to be power struggles.  Paul didn't want to see this for a church that he loved.  His reminder to them in Philippians 2:5-11 is to be like Christ Jesus.

This is a good reminder to all of us!

April 20 - Quick Wrapup

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April 20 – Quick Wrapup

This has been an amazing journey.  We’ve seen so much.  Everything that John shared with us in the Revelation is part of God’s plan for His world.  Never be afraid of proclaiming that.

The teachings of Jesus to His church in the first three chapters, the vision of the throne room in Chapters 4 and 5.  Oh, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!  Holy, Holy, Holy!  Worthy is the Lamb that was slain! 

We have much to praise God for.

The opening of the seals on the scroll led to the seven trumpets which led to the plagues of the seven bowls.  We met the unholy Trinity and dealt with the Whore of Babylon.  We saw the battle of Armageddon, which ended up being no battle.  And finally, the Lamb rode in on a white horse.

We can sing with the great multitude, “Hallelujah!”

No matter what happens in our lives, we know that heaven is more than just an amorphous image.  It is a real place.  When the end of time comes, we will stand before the throne and behold the face of God!

You see, it’s not as scary or as weird as you might have thought.  It’s also not that difficult, once you realize that John is speaking to all of us using images and symbols that can be easily recognizable as we learn to find them within the entirety of Scripture. 

The joy is in the mystery.  God is greater than all things.  This is the mystery.  We can never unwrap or understand all of the things of God.  But, I’ve discovered that I don’t want to.  I want to simply understand the things that He opens up to me, in His own time.

I pray that you will always be open to learning from God’s Word, even when it is difficult and even when it challenges you.  And I pray that you are challenged every time you open up the Bible and read it.

As I close this book, I offer praise to the Living God, the Creator of the Universe, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

April 19 - I Am Coming Soon

Monday, April 19, 2010

April 19 – I Am Coming Soon
Revelation 22:17-21

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.  He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

Look closely at that first sentence.  Who are the Spirit and the Bride (the church) calling to when they say, “Come?” And then, the ones who hear also call, “Come.”  Who is it they are speaking to?  They / we are calling to Jesus.  Please Jesus … Come.  Make the time of Your return today. 

The second half of this verse is an offering to the thirsty.  If you are thirsty, come and take the free gift of the water of life.  Don’t be afraid to admit to this thirst.  We are desperate for the water of life.

The water of life flows through the center of the great street of the New Jerusalem. It flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  It is clear as crystal. 

Our physical needs will be met and our spiritual needs will be filled by God and the Lamb.  All of the things which are troubling to us, either physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually will no longer be important to us as we walk the streets of the New Jerusalem.  All will be healed.

Then comes the warning which is taken from the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 4:2 says “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I gave you.” This is in reference to the decrees and laws that the Lord God was giving to Israel through Moses.

John is letting us know that the Apocalypse is as important as the Pentateuch – the books of the Law.  Anyone who adds or subtracts from this book operates outside of the will of God.  God will then take away his share in the tree of life and the holy city.

Then the warning is followed by the final words of Christ in our Bible, who promises, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

April 18 - Jesus Christ

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 18 – Jesus Christ
Revelation 22:12-16

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

Who is Jesus?

He is the Alpha and Omega.
He is the First and Last.
He is the Beginning and the End.

Whatever God starts, He will finish.

This is nothing like we who are His creation.  We start many things and never finish them – but not God.  He is the beginning and He is the end.

Revelation 22:14 is the final beatitude.  “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city."

Verse 15 speaks of those who are in the lake of fire.  We’ve already seen them begin their torment in Revelation 21.

Jesus tells us one more time who He is.  He is the root and offspring of David.  David was the founder of the first Jerusalem.  Jesus Christ is the founder of the New Jerusalem.

April 17 - Jesus is Coming

Saturday, April 17, 2010

April 17 – Jesus is Coming
Revelation 22:6-11

The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.”

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”

Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.”

Jesus has a few final words to say to us before we close this book.  My Bible has the words of Jesus highlighted in red.  It is such a joy to me to come across more words from my Lord.

The angel repeats the words from Revelation 1:1, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.”

Then, Jesus speaks: “Behold, I am coming soon!  Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.”

Again, from Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”
Blessings abound for those who read the Revelation, for those who hear it, for those who take it to heart and finally for those who keep these words. 

Then, John identifies himself again.  He affirms the validity of the words of the book he has just written and admits his own failing in the worship of the angel.  The angel makes it very clear that he is a fellow servant with John … with us.  The only one we should worship is God.  And while that might be a little difficult for some of us with our misplaced worship of people and things, the angels know the truth.

In verse ten, the angel says “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book because the time is near.”

This is in direct contrast to the words the angel speaks to Daniel in Daniel 12:4 when he specifically tells Daniel to seal up the words of the prophecy until the time of the end.  The time is now near, the end is in sight, John is supposed to leave this prophecy open and available for all to read so that everyone can come into the kingdom of God.

Jesus needed to come to earth and be present before the time was right to unseal this document.  He has come.  He is telling His people how to prepare themselves for entrance to heaven.

April 16 - The River of Life

Friday, April 16, 2010

April 16 – The River of Life
Revelation 22:1-5

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”

The river of the water of life, flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.

Psalm 46:4 says, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.”

David saw this river, can you?  This is the water of life! 

The tree of life bears twelve crops of fruit.  If you know anything about crops, you know that they come in seasons.  They have to be harvested and stored so that we can be fed.  That will end.  There are no more seasons or need to store food.  The tree of life bears twelve crops of fruit, one every month.  We will be fed year round – hunger is gone.

The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be any curse. It might be a little difficult to understand the necessity of the healing of the nations.  There are going to be those who enter the new heaven and the new earth in an unresurrected state.  These are the people who come out of the 1000 year reign.  Some scholars believe that this tree is for them – to bring them to a point where they will live forever.

The curse comes from the original tree of life in Genesis.  It has all come full circle.  God is complete creation.

When Christ was crucified, the curtain in the temple was torn.  All of a sudden mankind had direct access to God, but we still can’t see His face.  Psalm 11:7 tells us why: “For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.”

The righteous, upright man will see his face. 

Paul tells us in Hebrews 12:14 that without holiness no one will see the Lord.

John is giving us back the chance to look upon God.  First century readers, along with all of us, know full well that you can not look upon the face of God and live.  But, in that day, we have the assurance that we will see His face.

We then have a throne.  God and Jesus reign together.  These are not two separate individuals.  John 10:30 says, “I and the Father are one.” 

This is so far beyond our understanding.  Robert Thomas says, “Man in his finiteness cannot grasp the truth of the infinite being of the triune God.”

I simply can’t.  I want to.  I’m desperate to understand how this works, but at the same time remain grateful that the power of my God still leaves much mystery.  He is greater than I am.  There are things about Him I will never understand and that gives me hope.

April 15 - A Real Place (pt. 3)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 15 – A Real Place (pt. 3)
Revelation 21:22-27

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

John doesn’t see a temple because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The sun and moon no longer need to shine because the Shekinah glory of God illuminates everything.  In fact, the city will radiate enough light to illuminate the entire earth.  There will be no more night.  God will dwell among us.

Temples and tabernacles were built to give God a place to reside when He walked among His people.  Before sin separated us from Him, He walked in the garden beside Adam and Eve.  But, as sin crept into the world, God was unable to move among mankind.  His being would destroy sin and since we are so filled with it, consequently He would destroy us.

But the day is coming when He will again be able to walk among His children.

In Revelation 21:24, we read that there will be nations on earth.  We will never be bored.  The Holy City will be active all the time. People will come and go, traveling throughout the earth.  Kings will bring their splendor into the city to lay it before the Lord. 

The gates will always be open, the darkness that comes from the night will no longer exist.  Nothing impure will be able to come forth, no one will be able to enter the city to bring shame and deceit.

The city will be utterly safe and those who have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life will travel freely throughout the city – a city filled with God’s glory.

April 14 - A Real Place (pt. 2)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April 14 – A Real Place (pt. 2)
Revelation 21:18-21

“The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.”

William Barclay (scholar and commentator on scripture) gives an excellent description of the gems that comprise the foundations of the city.  We don’t know which disciple is which.  We don’t know which list of disciples’ names is used on these foundations. All we really know is that this is extravagance beyond our imaginations.

Jasper – a translucent rock crystal
Sapphire – the gem has changed names over the years, this is like Lapis Lazuli – sky blue flecked with gold. In Exodus 24:10, this is the stone of the paving on which God stood.
Chalcedony – green silicate of copper
Emerald – the greenest of all stones
Sardonyx – like onyx.  White broken by layers of red and brown – found in cameos today.
Sard / Carnelian – blood red
Chrysolite – radiant gold
Beryl – like an emerald, but seablue or seagreen
Topaz – transparent – greenish – gold stone
Jacinth – bluish-purple, like the modern sapphire
Amethyst – more brilliant than Jacinth

Look at those colors!  Try to imagine that as you picture this in your mind.

1 Peter 4:10 is a beautiful image of God.  It’s difficult to find what I’m looking for in the NIV translation, so I will quote from the King James. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

The word I want to point out is ‘manifold.’  This word means ‘many-colored, variegated.’  The grace of God is colorful!  Isn’t that beautiful?  All of those colors.  The foundations of the city of God is beautiful in all its colors.

The twelve gates are each a pearl! A single pearl.  I’m sure that most of you know how a pearl is made.  It’s an irritation, a small irritation for an oyster.  Every time the oyster feels pain because of this, it coats the grain of sand with a smooth substance to lessen the pain.  From the pain of an oyster we are given something so grand.

In ancient times, the pearl was the most treasured of all gems.  These gates are made of immense pearls.  But, the gates are always open, never closed.  Everyone will have access to the city of God.

April 13 - A Real Place (pt. 1)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 13 – A Real Place (pt. 1)
Revelation 21:9-17

“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using.”

As if John hasn’t experienced enough.  One of the angels who had carried a bowl shows up and asks him to follow so that he can see the bride, the wife of the Lamb.  The angel carries John in the Spirit to a high mountain to see the New Jerusalem.  When John saw it, it was coming down out of heaven from God.  It shone with the glory (Shekinah) of God.  This wasn’t a reflection of God’s glory, this was actually the shining glory of the presence of God!

“Its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”

The city had a great, high wall with twelve gates and twelve angels at the gates. The gates had the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written on them.

There are a few things that I’d like you to see in these verses.

The great high wall.  There is nothing to be afraid of on the outside of the city, yet the wall is there.  Angels stand at the gates of the wall.  These things are there to provide the people of the city with a sense of security.  Whether or not there are frightening things on the outside, the inhabitants will feel this security as they walk along the streets of New Jerusalem.

John’s vision takes us back to familiar territory again.  In Ezekiel 48:30, each of the twelve tribes are named on the gates of the city.  On the north side will be the gates of Reuben, Judah and Levi. The east side will have three gates – Joseph, Benjamin and Dan. On the south side will be found Simeon, Issachar and Zebulun and on the west side will be the gates of Gad, Asher and Naphtali.

None of this is new information for those that received the Revelation.  They would recognize ancient prophecies from centuries of recitation.

Next John is with the angel as he measures the city.  The city is laid out like a square – 12,000 stadia – about 1500 miles. 

Now there is something quite profound here, but it is quickly lost if we aren’t paying attention.  From Rev. 21:16, “He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length and as wide and high as it is long.”

John would have prayed for his hearers to interpret all of his words.

Paul, in Ephesians 3:17-18, says “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”

The length, the height and depth of the city.  The length, the height and depth of the love of Christ.  God is so good to us!

April 12 - The New Jerusalem (pt. 3)

Monday, April 12, 2010

April 12 – The New Jerusalem (pt. 3)
Revelation 21:7-8

“He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

As overcomers, we will receive an inheritance.

Ephesians 1:13b-14, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of His glory.”

Right now we are marked with a seal – the Holy Spirit.  Read that again.  Right now.  Today.  You have been marked with a seal – the Holy Spirit.  This is a deposit that guarantees your inheritance.  God will redeem all of us whom He possesses.  He will gather everyone to Himself. Our time on earth is a chance to build the relationship with God before we get there, but we have been redeemed by Jesus Christ and are sealed by the Holy Spirit so that when the day comes and the New Jerusalem and New Earth come into being, we are part of the inheritance of God’s great treasure.

This is the last promise to the overcomer:  I will be his God and he will be my son.

In Genesis 17:7-8, God is establishing His covenant with Abraham and his descendants.  God says to Abraham, “I will be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”

The promise is fulfilled.

In Exodus 6:7, God says “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.”

The promise is fulfilled.

In Jeremiah 7:23 we read this commandment to God’s people, “Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well for you.”

The promise is fulfilled.

Zechariah 8:8, “I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God.”

The promise is fulfilled.

In Revelation 21:8 we find a list of all those who will face God’s punishment: cowardly, unbelieving, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, magicians, idolaters, liars. 

We’ve all faced one or more of these sins in our lives.  To those that have overcome them through faith in Jesus is promised the inheritance and a chance to be part of God’s glory.  To those that prefer this life comes the second death, burning in the fiery lake.

April 11 - The New Jerusalem (pt. 2)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

April 11 – The New Jerusalem (pt. 2)
Revelation 21:5-6

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” 

From the throne we hear that all things are new.  We can barely comprehend this.  I think about a friend who received a new kidney.  Well, it was a used kidney, but for him, this was life changing and life giving!  I remember having a new home built for us.  Everything was fresh!  We actually cleaned our furniture and didn’t want to put anything down on the carpet that wasn’t clean.

Consider how having a new heaven and earth will impact us!  We will recognize it all, but rain won’t bring filth out of the sky. You will be able to walk to a river and drink from it. 

Before we get a chance to experience the newness of this place, we need to hear from God.  We hear the same words now that we heard in Revelation 1.  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the end.”  From before creation through eternity, God simply is.

“To him who is thirsty.”

Alright, I just have to ask.  Do you really think God is that concerned about our parched mouths?  Well, I suppose He is, but let’s look at some of the spiritual implications of thirst.

Isaiah 55:1, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters …”

Psalm 42:1-2, “As the deer pants of streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”

Psalm 63:1, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Jesus promises relief in John 14:13-14, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 7:37-38.  “If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

The thirst that God quenches goes much deeper than a dry mouth.  Our entire beings soak up the living water that He offers to us.  Like dried up sponges, we are hard and brittle.  We’ve become useless.  As we allow God to pour Himself into us, we soften and even more absorbent, growing back into the tools that He can use.

April 10 - The New Jerusalem (pt. 1)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

April 10 – The New Jerusalem (pt. 1)
Revelation 21:1-4

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Sin had to be removed.  Satan had to be removed.  God is about to reside with His people.  A holy and righteous Creator can not touch sin without destroying it.  Everything is new.  God will live among His creation.  Are you ready? Oh I am.

Jerusalem, the city of God, was destroyed along with the old earth, but we see a new one coming down out of heaven from God.  What a gift!

God gave His children the pattern for building the Tabernacle so that He could dwell among them.  God gave David the pattern for building the Temple in Jerusalem.  Now, there is no need for a pattern.  The original Jerusalem with the original Temple built by God Himself is coming down from heaven.

All forms of pain will be erased from our lives.  Death, mourning, crying and pain will no longer exist.  Do you realize that the reason these exist right now is because of our separation from God?

Now, for a quick word study. 

We read that the dwelling place of God is with men.  This word – dwelling – is actually the word ‘tabernacle.’ The Greek word is ‘skene’ (skay-nay) which literally means ‘tent.’  This is what God gave to His children in the book of Exodus – the pattern for His dwelling place.

When the Revelation was sent to the seven churches and beyond, the people heard the words spoken to them – they didn’t read these words.  That word – skene – would have been associated with another word they knew well – shekinah.

The Shekinah is the glory of God that was His presence with men.  It is derived from the Hebrew word ‘sakan’ which also means to ‘settle, inhabit or dwell.’  The glorious light that entered the Holy of Holies was the Shekinah glory of God.

The word ‘skene’ which has been translated as dwelling place for us is associated with the word ‘Shekinah.’  One and the same in this context. 

This is exciting to me!  I can’t wait to be in the Shekinah – the glorious presence of God!

John 1:4 says (in speaking of the Word made flesh), “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”  This is the light of our lives.  This is the light by which we live!

God has been trying to live among His people for a long time. Leviticus 26:11-12, “I will put my dwelling place (tabernacle) among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God and you will be my people.”

God desires to dwell among His people.  He loves us that much.

April 9 - The Dead are Judged

Friday, April 9, 2010

April 9 – The Dead are Judged
Revelation 20:11-15

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

There are a few images that you need to conjure up here.  The first is of the great white throne.  I can’t imagine how large this must be.  Psalm 97:2 says “Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.”  Soon we will see what having righteousness and justice as the foundation really means.

The throne replaces the old earth and sky.  From Isaiah 51:6 we read, “the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment…”

But remember, Jesus assures us in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Peter describes the event in 2 Peter 3:10-12 saying, “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.”

There will be a throne.  From that throne comes judgment.  It is now time to deal with that judgment.  You see, up to this point, judgment hasn’t actually occurred.  The dead have died; the righteous were raised up at the point of Christ’s return prior to his millennial reign on earth.

I’ve had a lot of trouble understanding this.  Paul alludes to the fact that the dead sleep in Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4:19.  That just bothered me. I have always believed that the moment we die, we are taken into the presence of God.  It bothered me until I spent time reading Revelation and began processing on how God’s timing is not my timing … or even Paul’s idea of time.  Only God can work outside of time. Only God can control time.

This is why Paul likens death to being asleep in Christ.  It was the only way he could explain the idea to those who were reading his words.  When I fall asleep at night, I don’t feel like any time has passed until the point that I awaken.  In fact, if I didn’t have a clock beside my bed or could see the sun rising, I wouldn’t be able to affirm that time had passed.

The momentary lapse between our death and the point we are raised with Christ is an eternal moment much like closing our eyes in sleep and waking up to a fresh new morning in heaven.  It’s the blink of an eye.

John tells us that more than one book is opened.  One of them is the book of life and it’s opened in his presence.  Many of the other books were already laying open.  This would have killed me.  I have to know everything.  I would have been trying to read them.

The sea gave up its dead.  Hades gave up its dead.

Hades was a place of torment – like a prison.  This isn’t the final torment for the evil people of earth, but it was nowhere that anyone wanted to end up.  The Old Testament word for it is Sheol.  Psalm 31:17, “Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I have cried out to you; but let the wicked be put to shame and lie silent in the grave.” The word ‘grave’ is translated from the Hebrew word, Sheol.

Then, death and Hades are tossed into the Lake of Fire.  The second death.  It’s over.  There is no more hope.

The last verse of Revelation 20 is a warning to all of us.  While I don’t believe that God ever gives up on us while we are in the time of grace, He is a righteous and just God.  The judgment has to come.  There will be a point where forgiveness is past and choosing to live outside of God’s will brings eternal torment.

April 8 - Satan's Final Fling

Thursday, April 8, 2010

April 8 – Satan’s Final Fling
Revelation 20:7-10

“When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

In Revelation 20:3, we read that Satan would be released from his bindings after 1000 years. When this happens, Revelation 20:8 tells us that he will go out to deceive the nations.

Who in the world are Gog and Magog? This comes from Ezekiel 38. Gog is the prince of a land called Magog, the epitome of evil. The punishment that God threatens to this man and his ‘hordes’ is all-encompassing. IN fact, in Ezekiel 39:12, it is said that the house of Israel will spend seven months burying all of them because there are so many.

The readers of John’s Apocalypse would recognize the story of God’s punishment of evil – great evil. He reminds them of the story from Ezekiel by using these names. Within a very short span of time, the nations of earth are once again deceived by Satan.

The end is near, though. Satan gathers all the people that are ready to follow him and marches to the city that God loves. This is more than likely Jerusalem, and God’s people are encamped there.

The population has increased throughout these thousand years to fill the earth once again. The battle in Revelation 19 was so great that the angel called the carrion birds to eat the flesh of the dead. But, in 1000 years, the earth would easily be repopulated and these people, though they had lived under the reign of Christ would still be susceptible to Satan’s lies and deceit.

But, once again, it is a battle that doesn’t happen. Satan’s army is devoured by fire. The devil – the deceiver is thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, which already holds the beast and the false prophet. Eternity has begun for them.

April 7 - Thousand Years of Peace (pt. 3)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

April 7 – Thousand Years of Peace (pt. 3)
Revelation 20:4-6

“I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”

Those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Christ, those who had not worshiped the beast or received the mark would reign with Jesus for those thousand years.

I read a lot of sci fi and fantasy. This reads like a really great fantasy novel. These people had sacrificed their lives for Jesus and are brought to life to reign for 1000 years. Right now, our government is continually in flux. We elect senators, representatives, presidents to govern us. Things change from election to election. But for 1000 years, Christ will reign and rule with the same people working under Him. For them, time will pass and they will continue to exist as judges and priests.

Jesus says to Peter and the twelve in Matthew 19:28, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Paul speaks of this period of time in 1 Corinthians 6:2-3, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?”

Jesus promises the right to sit on the throne with him to the overcomers in Revelation 3:21.
In Revelation 20:6, we read about the first resurrection. John specifically names those who had been beheaded in the name of Christ. There is quite a bit of information about this first resurrection in the New Testament.

In Luke 14:14, Jesus has just affirmed those who care for the lesser of our society; the poor, crippled, lame and the blind. He says, “Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

He speaks of the final resurrection in John 5:28-29. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”

The final resurrection is coming. The first resurrection happens at the beginning of the thousand years. Those who are righteous will be raised to live and reign with Christ.

April 6 - Thousand Years of Peace (pt. 2)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April 6 – Thousand Years of Peace (pt. 2)
Revelation 20:1-6

“And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations any more until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.” (Rev. 20:1-3)

Think about those chains that the Angel carries in Revelation 20:1. Those really have to be amazing chains, they will be required to contain a spiritual being. It seems awesome to me that Satan has no power to resist this Angel. Do you realize what that says? Satan’s power is only as strong as God allows it to be. The moment that God removes Satan’s power, he’s finished. We need to recognize this in our own lives. Satan’s power is only as great as we allow it to be. When we remove Satan’s power in our lives, he’s finished.

The angel seizes Satan and does three things. He throws him into the Abyss, locks it and then seals it. The mark of God – the number three. Satan is securely locked away for 1000 years. The seal that is placed on the Abyss I much that is used to keep Daniel in the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6:7) and the one placed on Christ’s tomb (Matthew 27:66).

But, the heart dreads the last sentence of Revelation 20:3, “After that he must be set free for a short time.” It will be alright. Remember who is in control. I don’t know that we can even consider the length of time that 1000 years encompasses. IT’s hard for us to comprehend the differences in our society in just 100 years. The year 1900 saw the beginning of many changes in our society. The year 1800 was another marked beginning. The year 1000 began a millennium of unprecedented growth. From the Middle Ages through the Renaissance to the Industrial Age; from a population of 310 million in 1000 AD to 600 million in the year 1700 AD to 6070 million in the year 2000; from nomadic cultures to nation states and the rise of democracy, the world has changed enormously in 1000 years.

As approach these 1000 years of Christ’s reign, please keep these changes in mind. The people that began the millennium with Christ will not be around at the end. Many, many generations will pass during this time.

April 5 - Thousand Years of Peace (pt. 1)

Monday, April 5, 2010

April 5 – Thousand Years of Peace (pt. 1)
Revelation 20:1-6

“And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations any more until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.” (Rev. 20:1-3)

It’s here! Christ will reign on earth. One thousand years of peace. Stop and think about that for a moment. It’s almost impossible to imagine. We are so used to death and pain that we can barely comprehend what it would be like without those things. What would CNN have to report? Rather than murders and rapes, they would tell success stories of families and children. Instead of investigating crooked politicians, they would report stories of countries working together to promote the message of Christ. Maybe CNN wouldn’t even need to exist.

Christ will rule over the world, so the need for local, state and national governments will be gone. Christ will reign over the church, so we won’t need a hierarchy of church leaders, nor will we have denominational differences. Children will live in safety, no fear of hunger or abuse. Wives will be safe, husbands will be treasured. I suspect you could begin to list all sorts of things that will no longer exist: bars, casinos, strip clubs … the list can go on and on. Things of Satan won’t be here. Christ will rule.

There are four names given to Satan in Revelation 20:2. John doesn’t want us to misunderstand who this is: dragon, ancient serpent, devil, Satan.

IF you look back at Revelation 19, we find four names given to Christ. Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11), Word of God (Rev. 19:13), King of Kings (Rev. 19:16), Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16).

John didn’t do this by accident. While we recognize Satan by four names and generally only use “Jesus Christ” to identify our Lord, John definitely wants his readers to know that there are many more terms used to identify Jesus and all of these will outweigh the dragon’s names.

We recognized Christ riding on the white horse in Revelation 19. As this happens, an angel comes down from heaven (Rev. 20:1) and he holds the key to the Abyss and a great chain.

The Abyss has been a frequent location in this narrative. We first see it in Luke 8:31 when the demons named Legion begged Jesus to send them into a large herd of pigs rather than order them to the Abyss.

In Rev. 9:2, when the Abyss is opened, smoke comes up to darken the sun and sky from the Abyss.

This isn’t the end of Satan, but it definitely takes care of him for awhile.

April 4 - King of Kings and Lord of Lords

Sunday, April 4, 2010

April 4 – King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Revelation 19:16-21

“On his robe and on his thigh he has the name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, ‘Come gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.’” (Rev. 19:16-18)

The kingdom of the Lord will be ruled by the Lamb.

While the wedding feast of the Lamb will be a great and glorious affair, this supper is not one we want to be invited to. The angel invites the carrion birds to a great feast. These birds are facing an enormous feast at the final battle.

Jesus warns about this in Matthew 24:28 and Luke 17:37 as He teaches the end times. He knows what we all know – vultures gather wherever there is death. The angel calls the vultures to be prepared.

“Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh." (Rev. 19:19-21)

The battle that is no battle! All of the preparation for this seems to be wasted. It is actually quite anticlimactic. The beast and the kings of the earth gather to make war against the Lamb and his army. The beast and false prophet are captured and thrown into the fiery lake and everyone else is killed with the sword.

There is no Battle of Armageddon. There is great bloodshed, but the battle never happens. The war never materializes. When we declare that the battle is won and we know who wins it, we are making an amazing declaration. Within seconds after the actual battle begins, it is over and the rider on the white horse with his heavenly army is still standing. The horses are still white, the riders in the army are still dressed in their fine linen, white and clean.

Jeremiah 46:10, “That day belongs to the Lord, the Lord Almighty – a day of vengeance, for vengeance on his foes. The sword will devour till it is satisfied, till it has quenched its thirst with blood.”

Isaiah 11:4, “He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.”

Paul says, “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” (2 Thess. 2:8)

The Lord is coming back. He promised all through the gospels, that though He was leaving, He would return. It is not a matter of if, but when. And when He does return we need to be prepared.

April 3 - Rider on the White Horse (pt. 2)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

April 3 – Rider on the White Horse (pt. 2)
Revelation 19:13-15

"He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.”

He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood. This is reminiscent of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

His name is the Word of God. I love this. The Word of God created the heavens and earth. Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh. In Hebrew thought, a word is not simply a sound, but it is active, it brings our intention to life. Jesus is the word spoken by our Creator!

The armies of heaven were following him. This army was about to go into battle against the enemy. There is no armor on either the horses or the riders. They aren’t carrying weapons of any kind. The Lamb will wage this war by himself, they are simply in attendance.

I tell a story about my grandmother over and over. She was a pacifist to her very marrow. We didn’t speak of war, even when speaking of war against evil. One afternoon as she was cleaning her kitchen, she asked me to play the organ in her living room. I loved doing that for her. I opened the hymnal and began playing hymns. At one point, she came out and stopped me. “Diane, I’m sorry, but we don’t play those songs in this house.” I was playing ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers.’ I stopped and moved on. I tried discussing it with her, but she cut me off and let me know in no uncertain terms that she wouldn’t budge in her beliefs. She had her standards and war wasn’t going to be a part of them!

Until I read this passage, I thought she was a little goofy about this one thing. But, now I see what she was saying. As Christians, we feel that we have to take up weaponry and actively fight against the enemy. But, this battle isn’t about us! We aren’t the heroes. There are no weapons given to the heavenly army. They are simply there to support the Lamb.

Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword. The Word of God will strike down the nations.

He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. Jesus Christ returns to earth to finish the judgment of the nations. The overcomer in Revelation 2:27 is given the power to rule with this same iron scepter. The promise of ruling with Christ will hold true.

April 2 - Rider on the White Horse (pt. 1)

Friday, April 2, 2010

April 2 – Rider on the White Horse (pt. 1)
Revelation 19:11-12

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one but he himself knows.”

Heaven opens and there is a rider on a white horse. Many, many chapters previous, we saw the door to heaven open.

“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.” (Rev. 4:1)

At this point in Revelation 19, heaven is standing open. I’ve watched enough movies to have an image in my mind of the great doors to a palace banquet hall opening up to reveal the king, or a princess, or even Cinderella standing there ready to enter as the entire assembly gasps at their radiance.

In Matthew 3:16, heaven opens and the Spirit of God descends like a dove, lighting on Jesus who had just been baptized. A voice comes from heaven saying, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.”

Jesus tells Nathaniel in John 1:51 that he would see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

Oh … when the heavens open, God shows us amazing things!

We know that the rider is Jesus. We can barely wait for Him to show Himself fully to us. But there are some descriptive phrases here regarding Jesus that we should explore.

Faithful and true. In Revelation 3:14, Jesus is the faithful and true witness.

With justice he judges and makes war. We already know that only He has the right to judge the earth.

His eyes are like blazing fire. We saw this characteristic in Revelation 1:14 before we began all of this! 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 says that Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire. With these eyes, nothing will be hidden from Him.

On his head are many crowns. The dragon had seven crowns in Rev. 12:3, the antichrist ten crowns in Rev. 13:1. Christ has too many crowns for John to count, simply showing the extent of His reign.

He has a name written on him that no one but he himself knows. It is surprising that even when everything on earth has ended and we are with Christ in heaven, there will be things we do not know. Matthew 11:27 says, “No one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son choose to reveal him.”

We will continue tomorrow with this description of Christ coming to the final battle.

April 1 - The Wedding Feast

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 1 – The Wedding Feast
Revelation 19:9-10

Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

The bride is ready. She is the church. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:2 that he wants to present the church to Christ as a virgin.

The bridegroom is ready. This is Jesus Christ. In John 3:29, John the Baptist identifies Jesus Christ as the bridegroom to whom the bride belongs. He identifies himself as the friend who attends the bridegroom, waiting with expectancy to hear the voice of the bridegroom.

In Old Testament and in New Testament times, the period of engagement occurred for a period of time while the bridegroom prepared his home for his bride. Then, one evening, he and his friends would go to her father’s home and take her back to the home she would live in with him. This was her wedding. Following this would be the wedding feast.

Jesus promises that He will return for His bride.

"In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:2-4)

He is returning to take His bride to His home. It happens now in Revelation 19. Following the return to His home, the wedding feast occurs. The guests are invited and are in attendance at the wedding supper of the Lamb!

If the church is the bride – who are the guests? Probably the saints of the past and future. Everyone is invited. Only those who are prepared will come.

“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines.” (Isaiah 25:6)

Luke 14:8-14 tells the story of Jesus being invited to a Pharisee’s home. He healed a man (on the Sabbath) and then after watching how the guests arranged themselves at the feast, spoke to them about how they should seat themselves. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. He then went on to tell them that the banquet should be open to the poor, the humble, the crippled, lame and blind – not just friends and relatives.

These words of Jesus asked His hosts (and us) to examine our priorities. The wedding feast of the Lamb is coming. Whether or not we attend will depend on those priorities. We have no idea the impact that our decisions today will make on our future. We can only pray for God’s guidance.

John is overwhelmed in Revelation 19 at all he sees and falls at the feet of the angel, who reminds him that he too is simply a servant.

Worship God!