Tuesday, July 26, 2016

SUFFERING FOR JESUS




As we realize the message of Revelation is that Christians will suffer persecution, but those who endure will receive eternal life, we begin to notice that message elsewhere in the New Testament.
For example, in Matthew 24, Jesus spoke of his coming and the end of the age. He said “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 24:9) James 1:2 says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”  When Paul told Timothy to continue his work, he told him to endure suffering. (2 Timothy 4:5) 

There is not one passage that says “do not worry about suffering or tribulation, for I will take you away before that happens”. Any theology that teaches that concept is in error and does not prepare the Christian for what is coming. Imagine if Christians in Iraq were told not to worry because God would not let them suffer.

God may or may not call you to suffer. You might be blessed to live in a country where religious freedom allows you to suffer no more than the occasional insult. But God might call you to suffer for him, to fill up the measure of Christ’s sufferings, as Paul would say. If so, endure. Keep the faith! Consider it a privilege to suffer for Jesus. And know that heaven awaits. Eternity stretches before you with the blessings of fellowship with God and fellow believers in a perfect place.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Chapter 21
The New Jerusalem: Bride & Wife of the Lamb

In Revelation 20:11, John recorded seeing the  earth and sky vanish as there was no place for them. That is because the old order or creation must go away or be changed to make way for the new creation. The old creation is infected with sin. It cannot participate in a new order where there is no sin or corruption. Paul explained this is Romans 8. He said the old creation was subjected to futility when man sinned. (Rom. 8:20) It will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Rom. 8:22) This is what Revelation 21-22 shows us.

This is also a fulfillment of God’s statement in Isaiah 65:17, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”

John does not tell us how this happens. He just tells us the first creation passed away. He does tell us there is no more sea. This does not mean there will be no large bodies of water in the new creation. Rather, the sea is a symbol of chaos and sin in Jewish writing. For example, Isaiah 57 20-21 says “But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.” In Revelation 4, the crystal sea separates man from God. In Revelation 13, the beast rises out of the sea to oppose Christ and attack the church.

But Jesus destroys all chaos and sin before the new creation begins. There is no longer any separation between God and man. The new creation is where “righteousness will dwell”. (2 Peter 3:12)

The next thing John sees in the new Jerusalem, which he called the holy city, coming down out of heaven. He said it comes down out of heaven. This is the church. It comes down out of heaven because that is where all believers are at that moment. Some say heaven and earth merge at this point.

We see that the new Jerusalem is the church by referring to the language of other scriptures. For example, in Galatians 4, Paul compared Hagar (mother of Ishmael) to Sarah (mother of Isaac). Hagar corresponds to the earthly Jerusalem, born into slavery. Sarah corresponds to the Jerusalem above. Sarah bore Isaac, the child of promise, who begin to fulfill the promise God made to Abraham that he would be a blessing to all nations. The church comes from Isaac, the world from Ishmael.

Hebrews 12:22-24 says to believers, “you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant…”

The city coming out of heaven to enjoy the new creation is a picture of the church, all of the redeemed of the ages, coming to live in the eternal dwelling place God prepared for us. Hebrews 11:10 says Abraham was looking forward to the city that has foundations whose designer and builder is God. Hebrews 11 further says all who died in faith desired a better country, that is a heavenly one, so God is not ashamed to be called their God and has prepared for them a city.” (Heb. 11:16)

John also said this city was prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (2) A bride comes to her groom as beautiful as she can be. She prepares herself. She has her hair and make up done. She buys a beautiful, white, gown to wear.



We have seen this metaphor repeatedly in scripture. Revelation 19:7 showed us the marriage supper of the Lamb, who is Jesus. It says the marriage has come and the Bride has made herself ready. We now see the church as the bride come to Jesus as the groom, and he shows her the home he has prepared for them.

When I married my sweet wife, I took her to the home I had prepared for her. It was a small, one bedroom, furnished apartment. I had troubles with the landlord, who had lost our paperwork, and I had to fight for that home so that we would have a place to live, so that she would have a home. Jesus has prepared a home for his bride, also, but this home, as we will see, is beautiful beyond description.

At this point, an announcement is made about the home for the Bride, the New Jerusalem. (21:3-4)

This voice from the throne says:
God will dwell, or tabernacle, with man;
they will be his people;
he will be their God;
He will remove all memory of sadness (wipe away every tear);
He has removed death;
there will be no sadness or pain because he has removed the old creation.  

God gave us types of this dwelling with us. It began with the Garden of Eden, where God dwelt with Adam and Eve before the fall. His presence dwelt in the Tabernacle and then the Temple of Israel. The Holiest Place in both the tabernacle and temple reflected God’s throne in heaven, with curtains patterned after space and cherubim next to the throne.

But it was an imperfect situation. Israel was still sinful and so could not approach God except through the priest. And these dwellings were destroyed because Israel sinned against God and worshipped idols.

But God promised that he would dwell with man in the future. In Ezekiel 37:27, he said My dwelling place will be with them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.”

Then Jesus came. The angel that announced his future birth to Mary called him Immanuel, or God with us. (Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14) Matthew tells us this fulfills Isaiah 7:14, where a child was promised who would be Immanuel.

Through the Holy Spirit, God dwelt with the church, with believers. John 14:16-17. Yet, we still were sinners in a sinful world.

But this dwelling in Revelation 21 is complete and perfect, with God dwelling in our midst in the perfect place he created for us, unmarred by sin and its effects. All sadness, pain and death are removed.

Eden was perfect because God was there. Eden was lost through sin. Eden is now restored.

We will get a more detailed description of the new Jerusalem starting in verse 9. John often does this. He gives a preliminary vision of something then gives more detail later.

21:5-8
God’s Announcement

God announces that he is making all things new. He has completed his redemptive plan and now makes all creation perfect. He tells John to write it down for his words are faithful and true. All embattled churches can know that God will one day makes this imperfect world a perfect world.

God follows this with his description of his work. He says:
It is done!
He is the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end;
he gives eternal life (water of life) without payment;
it is a heritage for the one who conquers;
he will be our father and we will be his children; but
the unbelievers will be in hell.

It Is Done!

These words reflect the words from the voice from the throne when the last bowl was poured out in 16:17. God declares that all he set out to do before the foundation of the world is accomplished. He has made a people for himself redeemed out of mankind, he has defeated all his enemies and he has made a place for his redeemed family to live.




Alpha and Omega

At the end of his work, God declares himself the beginning and the end. He existed before the world was created and he exists now that it is remade. He is eternal. He is sovereign over history and eternity.


He Gives EternalLife

God is the source of life. To have eternal life is to know and be in him. He gave this eternal life to us without payment on our part. We, in fact, had nothing with which to pay, since we could not keep his law. Therefore, this is a statement about his grace. He gave eternal life to us as a gift, not as something we earned.

God used the metaphor of water for eternal life, the spring of the water of life, and thirst for our need. This image will be repeated in chapter 22. It was especially meaningful for desert people for whom water was a precious commodity. Remember in John 4, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well “…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”. (John 4:12-14)

A Heritage for the One Who Conquers

Here God again gives encouragement to the church in persecution, and a warning to the unbeliever. Remember that each of the letters to the seven churches ended with a promise to “the one who overcomes”. Eternal life is the heritage of the enduring believer. It is our inheritance. Peter called it “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”. (1 Peter 1:4-5)

He Will Be Our God and We Will Be His Children

We are and will be God’s family. John 1:12 says that those who receive Christ and believe in his name, receive the right to become children of God. He treats a believer as his child for eternity. Think of the most wonderful moments you ever had with your father and it will be many times greater than that. We will fully experience his love and care for us.

Even more than children, God says he will make the overcomer his son. This implies more than just the relation of family. It is the title of the one who rules for the father. The churches were powerless at the time Revelation was written (and largely so now), but believers will rule with Christ over the new creation on behalf of the Father.

But Not For Unbelievers

There is no picture in the New Testament of Universalism, the belief that everyone goes to heaven regardless of whether they profess faith in Christ. Instead, unredeemed sinners have their portion, or inheritance, in the lake of fire. This list of sinners is not exhaustive, but lists examples of sinners. Notice that first is the “cowardly”. The coward is the opposite of the one who endures. Jesus repeatedly says that it is the one who endures who receives eternal life. The second is the faithless. Only those who believe in Jesus for salvation will see this new creation and dwell in it with the Lord.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Happy Birthday, J. I. Packer!



Dr. Packer is 90 years old today. He is a theologian and writer, having influenced several generations of believers.

He is best known for his book “Knowing God”, which was published in 1973. If you have not read it, you should. It is also a good book to give to new believers seeking to grow in Christ.

He is also well known for writing the introduction to the 1958 printing of John Owen’s “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ”. Not many people will read Owen’s book. It is formidable. But Packer’s introduction has become a classic on its own. You can find it online at: www.the-highway.com/Death.html and other places.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Meditation on John 3:16

God sent us out of paradise, into the wilderness, because we sinned. God sent his Son out of paradise, into the wilderness, to bear our sin and bring us to paradise. 


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Grieving With Hope

1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 is a passage about the second coming. It says:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not recede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Paul wrote this passage to comfort those believers who had lost loved ones to death. They worried that their loved ones missed the resurrection by dying before the return of Christ. They saw their unbelieving neighbors grieve intensely, for they did not believe there was an afterlife for them. Paul said "don't do that". He pointed them to Jesus' resurrection. He was the first of many who would be raised.

In fact, when Jesus returns, he will bring with him those who have died in faith. That shows us that their souls are already with Jesus in heaven. Otherwise, he could not bring them with him when he returns from heaven. In addition, they will be the first to receive imperishable bodies. Then, those who are still alive at that time, will be raised and changed also. From that point, we will never be separated from the presence of the Lord.

It is appropriate to grieve the loss of one we love. After all, we miss them being with us. Death is not really natural It came as a result of sin. It is the penalty of sin. So we grieve. But we do not despair. We do not rail against God. We know that person is in a far better state than us: they are in heaven with Jesus. And we know that we will all be together with Jesus at his coming.

Therefore, we grieve, but with hope. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

THE FINAL JUDGMENT: REVELATION 20:11-15

20:11-15
The Judgment

At this point in the vision, the Satanic forces have been defeated. Satan, the Beast and the False Prophet have been defeated and cast into the lake of fire. The only thing remaining to do before creation is restored is to judge mankind. This is what John saw in these verses.

John first saw a great white throne and one seated on it. He has previously seen the throne of God, in chapter 4. That vision set the stage for judgment. First, God was seen on his throne. Part of reigning is judging. The king has the power to judge. You might remember the story of Solomon judging between two women who claimed the same child. (1 Kings 3)




We have seen this vision before. In chapter 4, there is the vision of the royal court. God sat on his throne and 24 elders sat on thrones around him. It is the picture of a royal court sitting in judgment.

In Daniel 7, thrones were placed and Christ took his seat on the throne. The heavenly court sat in judgment and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:10) The throne is seen as white in this vision, emphasizing Christ’s victory and purity. The Ancient of Days in Daniel 7 was seen as having white clothing and hair, probably to convey the same message.

The earth and sky fled away as judgment was conducted. The old heavens and earth must be destroyed and remade into the new creation where believers will live. This is the same picture of 6:14 when, during the sixth seal, the sky vanished and every mountain was removed.

Peter wrote that, on the Day of the Lord, the heavens will pass away with a roar and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved and the earth and the  works that are done on it will be exposed.” (2 Peter 3:10) Peter portrayed the return of Jesus, the destruction of the old creation and the judgment as one big event.

The present creation cannot survive into God’s perfect new world because of man’s sin, just as men and women in their present bodies cannot enter heaven or the new creation. After Adam sinned, God told him “cursed is the ground because of you”. (Genesis 3:17)

Paul explained this is Romans 8, saying “for the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility (cursed), not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Romans 8:19-22)

The picture is that the heavens and earth, corrupted by man’s sin, flee from the presence of the Holy One just as sinful man tries to hide or flee from God. Adam hid from God in the garden(Genesis 3) Sinful men tried to hide from the wrath of the Lamb in chapter 6.

As a side note, it is also why you hide from God when you sin, avoiding prayer and Bible reading. We would rather hide than confess and repent.

Next, the whole of humankind from all of history were brought before that white throne. (12) This is a re-telling of the seventh seal with more detail. At the opening of the seal, loud voices in heaven spoke of the reign of Christ. That reign included judgment, as they said “the nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged. (11:18)

No one escapes judgment. Both great and small are present. Kings stand next to peasants, billionaires next to the homeless, the popular next to the despised.

There is, then, a terrible moment, a moment of dread and fear. The books are opened. This reflects the heavenly court of Daniel 7, where the court sat and the books were opened. These are the books of account, showing the sins of men and women. Sinners begin to tremble and cry as a holy God calls them into account.

Jesus said “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” (Matthew 16:27) Romans 2:6 says “He will render to each one according to his works…for those are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil…”

But fear is not for believers, for another book was opened. This book is the book of life. This book does not list deeds, it lists names. This is the book that contains the names of the redeemed, the faithful of all the ages, whose names were written in the book before the foundations of the world. (17:8) None of these worshipped the beast. They remained faithful to death. And so Jesus said he would never blot their names out of the book of life. In fact, he will confess their names before the Father and his angels. (3:5)

But those whose names are not written in the book face a different fate. They were judged according to what they had done. (13) They were judged on their works against the standard of God’s law. And we know that no one kept God’s law. Romans 3:23 tells us all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Because of their sin and their rejection of Christ, they were throne into the lake of fire. (15) This is second death. It is not physical death. It is eternal punishment for those who rejected Christ.

Death and Hades are also cast into the lake of fire. (14) Paul told us the last enemy to be abolished is death (1 Corinthians 15:26) Since death is destroyed, and the Redeemed are still alive, they will not suffer any death. They will live forever with Jesus.  

Your eternal destiny is either the lake of fire or the new creation. Jesus’ first sermon was “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel”. That is what I would say to you today also. If you have not received Christ as savior and Lord, repent and believe. Come into the kingdom. Be saved. Do it now!


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Suffering v. Glory

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are to worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Paul the Apostle, in Romans 8:18

Those are strong words from a guy who was beaten, imprisoned, rejected by his race and religion, lived in poverty, faced continual danger and, ultimately, was executed by the government for his faith.

Our hope lies beyond what we see today.