Day 40; Revelation 16-22

Today is the final day of our reading through the New Testament, and what a way to finish.  The concluding chapters of Revelation may reveal how this world will end, but it also shows us the beginning of what will be our future for all eternity.

There are more judgments in these chapters, which give further exclamation to the point Andy and Tim have made in the last couple of posts; that God’s judgment and wrath displayed in these end time events are both right and deserved.  One these judgments, which I read this morning while I was at the beach, was,

3 The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died. (Rev 16:3)

I read that while I was watching the tide come in.  It’s easy to read that and think, “What did the little fishies do to deserve God’s wrath?…why is there such destruction in these end times events?”  These questions come from a place that misunderstands two things…..the vileness of sin and the glory of God.  God created Earth as a place of perfection; but it was sin which destroyed it.  And the destruction of creation caused by sin is pervasive.  Every person, every creature, every mountain, every ocean is touched and affected by man’s depraved nature.  The moment Adam and Eve sinned, the proverbial “clock” began ticking toward the events described in Revelation.  In fact, creation knows that it is hopelessly affected by sin, and is waiting for these end times events, that will usher in a new heaven and new earth.  Paul speaks of creation’s expectation in Romans 8.

19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  (Rom. 8:19-22)

We are also reminded in these chapters of the danger of getting lured by the pleasures of this world.  The “world”, depicted by the woman on the beast in chapters 17 and 18, is called the great city of Babylon.  Many are they who fall victim to her enticing allures, but at one point a voice from heaven calls for the church to come out of her:

4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say:

   “Come out of her, my people, 
   so that you will not share in her sins, 
   so that you will not receive any of her plagues;  (Rev 18:4)

These passages should be a reminder to us that the church is to be different from the world.  We belong to another; a great King.  And this great King holds not only our existence, but the very existence of all of creation in the palm of His hands, and He is directing not only our days now, but will sovereignly unpack these end times events according to His perfect plan.  Even the evil characters in these chapters are pawns in His unfolding of these future events.  At one point, Babylon is destroyed by “the beast with ten horns”, and we see God at the helm of that event as well, literally directing the thought patterns of the beast,

16 The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled. (Rev 17:16-17)

God is accomplishing His purpose…..not a bad summary to the book of Revelation.  God created the world.  We messed up the world with our sin.  God had a plan to redeem His people from their sin by sending His Son as an atoning sacrifice.  And God will re-create in the end and usher in an eternity free from the presence of sin.  That’s the Gospel.  That’s the Good News…that God is “accomplishing His purposes”.  Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation.

And we, the redeemed, await this glorious consummation!

 

Thanks – I want to thank Kevin Sanders, Andy Koehler, Joe McBee, and Tim Sherwood for their hard work in crafting their posts throughout these 40 days.  It has been a joy and a pleasure to read the insights of these godly men, and this endeavor of reading and blogging through the New Testament would not have been possible were it not for their contributions.  Thanks guys.  And, thank you for reading.  We encourage you to continue daily reading God’s Word.  Don’t let your appetite for His Word be spoiled just because these 40 days are over.  Keep reading.  We use a suggested reading plan on our website, but regardless of what you use, we encourage you to feast on His Word daily.

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Day 39 – Revelation 8 – 15

Day 39 – Revelation 8-15 posted by Tim Sherwood
Revelation chapters 8 through 15 may be some of the most studied and debated passages in the Bible. Many sincere Christian scholars debate issues regarding the events outlined in these chapters of Revelation, including how literally we should interpret the images described by John and even if believers experience these events at all or will already be with Christ as a result of the rapture. These people, with much more academic acumen than I possess, have spent years attempting to understand what John’s visions are telling us about the detailed future of the earth and mankind as well as when these events are going to occur. I will readily admit that I am poorly equipped to even attempt such an undertaking and in addition, God has not wired me in a manner in which I find the exercise particularly intriguing.

What God has led me to understand about this portion of Revelation, I find fully satisfying and very comforting.
1. That God is fully in control of the events and when they will occur.
2. That Satan will be completely and utterly defeated.
3. That Christ’s victory is assured.
For me, anything beyond this is just details.

Throughout John’s description of events, we see that God is orchestrating the things that are occurring. In Rev 8:2 the seven angels with the trumpets “stand before God”, indicating to me that their actions are in accordance with the will of God. Rev 10:5-6 indicates that the angel is taking his action in accordance with the timing of God “Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said “There will be no more delay!” Additionally, we are told several times throughout the Bible that we will not know when these events are to occur. Matt 24:36 explains that the angels don’t know the time and that even Christ during his earthly ministry didn’t know. Only the Father knows. This tells me that we should not waste time trying to predict when these events will occur, but focus on being ready for when they do.

In Revelation 12, verses 7 through 9, the war in heaven between Michael and his angels and the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, underscores the weakness of the devil in the face of God. Satan is described as “not strong enough” resulting in being cast out of heaven. This foreshadows his ultimate destruction as described in chapter 20 of Revelation. While we should not underestimate Satan’s power and should be alert as we are warned in 1 Peter 4:8 because “…the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”, he is a defeated foe. He has been completely and utterly defeated, not by us, but by our Lord, Jesus Christ.

These chapters of Revelation describe many frightening consequences associated with the judgment and wrath of God. However, believers in Christ can take comfort from passages such as Rev 11:15 “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.” And Rev 12:10 “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before God day and night, has been hurled down.” These verses show that while there will be great turmoil and suffering, there is no uncertainty as to the outcome. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is coming and will prevail.

As I used to say to my daughters when they were younger and we would discuss the book of Revelation, “The only one you would trust with the future of the world and mankind is actually in charge of the future of the world and mankind.” If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ that’s comforting.

Day 38: Revelation 1 – 7

The first seven chapters of the Book of Revelation mark the beginning of the end of our 40 day journey.  This final book of the New Testament (and the Bible for that matter!) written by the Apostle John gives us a glimpse of the glory of God in Heaven through John’s vision and a series of events that mark the “end times”.  While John used the most precious gems and metals he knew to attempt to describe what he saw, you can be sure that these things will pale in comparison with what believers will see for themselves one day.  Beyond the descriptions of glory and the metaphors for future events, Revelation still has relevant messages for believers’ lives today.

Revelation not only reveals the events of the end times, but it reveals Christ in a way that leaves us with no question about who He is.  He is “the Alpha and the Omega…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8).  He tells John “I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Rev 1:17-18).  He is also “the Lamb who was slain” Who is worthy “to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev 5:12).  As I read about how the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders and the myriads of angels are all praising and worshipping our well identified Lord, it struck me that this is what is going on in Heaven right now and it should be no different for any believer still here on earth.  The question is, am I praising and worshipping Christ the way He deserves?  Does He get my praise and worship only on Sunday morning or do I give it to Him with my whole life?  He is worthy to be praised!

In chapters 2 and 3, Christ addresses seven churches that were located in Asia.  At first glance this series of compliments, admonitions and rebukes may seem like they are meant solely for these specific churches, but a closer look reveals some characteristics that sound a lot like churches of our own time.  Are there churches today that could be described as having “abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev 2:4)?  A church that has substituted entertainment and “feel good” messages in the place of biblical teaching and a Gospel presentation might fall into this category.  Could Christ say to any of today’s churches,  “You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.” (Rev 3:1-2)?  This might describe those with massive buildings, inwardly focused programs and small missionary budgets.  What about a lukewarm church like in Laodicea where the attitude is “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing”? (Rev 3:17)  Jesus’ rebuke of those with this mindset not realizing that in reality they are “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” again applies today and unfortunately to much of the American church.  The prosperity that this country has been blessed with has become a curse to the church here.  Material wealth has led to a poverty of spirit.  The pursuit of making much of self has led to making little of Him.  The lessons of the seven churches have much to teach us and we have much to learn.

Chapter 7 leaves believers with another promise from God about their future.  Christ describes it saying, “they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water,and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev 7:15-17)  No more pain, no more sorrow and being in the presence of our God forever – that’s a future to look forward to…

Day 37: 1 John- Jude

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15 ESV)

Do Not Love the World:
What does John mean by the world here? He is referring to the system of mankind that is actively opposed to God. John is not commanding believers to completely retreat from the world. To do so would be to neglect the great commission of going to all of the world and making disciples.

We are commanded to not pursue, enjoy, love, approve of the things in this fallen world that are anti-God. John later explains such things as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Do Christians seem ineffective in the world today? If so, it is not because they lack the strategy or skill. It is because they are doing what Christ commands them not to do; they are trying to marry the system of this world with the system of God. This is not possible. The gospel does not allow it. The two are actively opposed to each other.

1 John 2:4 “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commands is a liar.” Do you love the world? Before you say no- prayerfully search your heart. Do you desire comfort, acceptance, wealth, yourself and your plans? Or do you desire the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom?

Do you love Christ? You cannot say yes to both things. You cannot love God and the world. If so, God Himself calls you a liar.

The Foundational Reason Not to Love the World:
John tells us that we do not love the world because of the love of the Father. This likely refers both to the Father’s love for us and our love for the Father (we love because He first loved us).

This is important. We are not loved by the Father because we reject the world. That would be a justification by our works- a doctrine contrary to scripture. It is not I reject the world then receive God’s love but I receive God’s love in Christ thus loving Christ above all and rejecting the world’s system- for it is opposed to such love. 

This is the gospel. Christ has made us new in His love and grace. As new creations, we are different from the world. This is not our home. We are strangers and sojourners here. We have a purpose in this world, not a purpose of this world.

Christ prays for us,  I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world (John 17:15-16). 

Like Christ, you are on a mission. Do not seek to make peace with an enemy that cannot be reconciled. Instead, armed with the gospel of Christ, rescue those in the enemies grip.

Day 35: Hebrews 11 – James 5

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:2-5, emphasis mine)

We all need more wisdom in our lives and in verse 5, James is calling on us to ask for wisdom within the context of trials. He is telling us that when we are in the midst of difficult times and lack the wisdom we need, we should ask God for that wisdom.

It’s important to note that the Scriptural concept of wisdom is very different from our own. When we think of wisdom, we think of it in terms of knowing what to do, getting direction for our lives, or being able to discern between one choice or another. In the Bible wisdom was almost always moral. In other words, wisdom meant knowing God and His ways, and how to live in a way that pleased Him.

That’s the kind of wisdom James is talking about here.

Although James talks about how trials strengthen our faith and our character we all know that trials don’t always lead to spiritual growth. Suffering can lead to fear, despair, anger, and bitterness. Or what if having a great abundance of material wealth is your trial? Yes, that is a trial too! That sort of abundance can lead to greed, stinginess, and self-indulgence.

None of these responses is helpful for our sanctification.

This is why we need wisdom in trials. Not so that we can figure a way out, but so we can submit and honor God in the midst of them. We need wisdom so that trials lead us to be more like Jesus. We need wisdom in trials so that we do not sin against God.

The good news is that God wants us to have that wisdom. That’s why we are told to ask Him. He is a giving and generous God. James is confident that God will give us the wisdom we seek because of God’s character.

This word “generously” literally means single or simple. It is suggesting God’s unwavering, undivided intention. That means James is telling us to pray to a generous God who wants to answer our prayers because He fully intends to give us the wisdom we are asking for and will in no way despise us for asking.

In fact, James 1:5 can be literally translated as;

Let him ask the giving God.”

What a great and glorious God we serve. There is no one like our God. He gives us the strength to honor Him in the midst of trials so that we can become more like His Son!

Day 34; Hebrews 2-10

Wow!  What a Savior our Jesus is!

Today’s reading in chapters 2 through 10 of Hebrews is an exhaustive treatment of the nature of Jesus Christ and the nature of His sacrifice for our sins.  As I read through this passage, I was overcome with a sense of worship for our Lord Jesus.  It seems as though the writer of Hebrews is attempting to get his readers to come away with that same response.  He challenges his readers in verse 1 of chapter 3 to “fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess”, and then proceeds to explain what Jesus is like.  He uses analogy to compare Jesus to other figures of Israelite history, and his conclusion is that Jesus is better than all of them.  He is greater than Moses.  He is greater than Aaron.  He is greater than the high priest.  He is greater than them all.

Instead of me explaining the meaning of these passages, I want to just list a few of the verses that stood out to me, and led me to respond by worshiping and exalting this Jesus who is our great Savior.  See if the Lord does not likewise use these descriptions of His Son to elicit a response of worship from you:

2:9 – But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

2:17-18 – 17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

4:15 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

7:24-25 – 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

9:14 – How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

9:26b-28 – …But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

10:12-14 – 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13 Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

What a Savior this Jesus is!  What a Christ!  He who was before all things, became a sacrifice for undeserving sinners like you and I.  Let us worship this King who so willingly offered Himself for us.  Is one lifetime spent worshiping this great Messiah enough?  No, but may that be what our lives are expended doing…worshiping and glorifying the One who deserves it.  May my life (and yours) be poured out as a sacrifice of praise to the One who poured out Himself for us.

Day 33: 1 Timothy 6 – Hebrews 1

The chapters for today cover a lot of ground.  Paul gives us so many critical instructions in the “pastoral epistles” (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus) as well as in Philemon and the beginning of Hebrews is the start of the “faith walk” where the full spectrum of the faith of the Old Testament saints is displayed.  Far too much for one blog, but some general messages that are particularly relevant to recent events did stand out for me.

Dovetailing a bit off of what Kevin wrote yesterday, the unfortunate attention and resources that were wasted on the erroneous prediction of the Apocalypse occurring last weekend show why Paul’s repeated urgent pleas for believers of his time to know God’s word and understand doctrine is for us today as well.  In 1 Timothy 6:3-4 Paul explains that “if anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing”, but how will we know if someone is teaching “a different doctrine” if we don’t have a good understanding of the doctrines that Christ taught?  After Paul directs us to avoid “those who creep into households…led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” in 2 Tim 3:6-7, he instructs us in verses 14-15 to “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”, but we have to know the “sacred writings” to be able to avoid the “creepers”.  Finally in Titus Paul follows his description of the qualifications for elders with the directive to “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

So what is the message Paul is trying to get across to us?  You can’t know the false teachers from the teachers of the truth if you don’t know God’s word.  How could so many people be misled into believing the world was going to end last weekend and give up everything they have for it?  They listened to a man instead of listening to God through His word.  We need to be like the Bereans described in Acts 17:11 “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so”.

While it can be easy to criticize those who appear to have been so easily led astray from God’s truth, we need to remember that there was a time when all of us were strangers to His truth as well.  We did nothing to deserve our salvation or the revelation of the truth and the result is that we have a debt to the Lord that can never be repaid.  What Paul reminds Philemon of is what Christ reminds us, “to say nothing of your owing me even your own self” (Phl 19).  When people are ready to hear and accept God’s truth, we must be ready and willing to provide it always remembering how much God has done for us.

Do you have trouble putting what God has done for you into words?  Consider your faith.  We have the benefit of knowing the Christ that has come and can “connect the dots” of Old Testament prophecy, which fills the first chapter of Hebrews,  to New Testament reality.  Our faith is still a gift from God, but its basis is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus which are well defined and understood events in history.  The Old Testament saints had faith in the Christ to come based solely on God’s promises and revelation through prophecy.  Which do you think is easier to come by and more worthy of being “credited as righteousness”?  Giving faith is just one of the countless things God does in the lives of believers and definitely worth talking about!