Sunday, July 31, 2016


The New Jerusalem

In this passage, John reveals a more detailed vision of the new creation. He received the vision as an angel came and carried him away in the spirit to a great, high mountain. (9) This is very similar to Ezekiel’s vision of the new temple. The hand of the Lord was on Ezekiel, he set him on a very hight mountain, and Ezekiel saw a structure like a city. (Ezekiel 40:1-2) Today’s passage has many similarities to Ezekiel 40. That is because they are about the same thing. John saw the new Jerusalem with God in it’s midst. Ezekiel saw a great city with a temple, which represented God’s presence, in it.

The angel with John told him he would show him the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. The Bride of the Lamb is the church.

The angel showed John the holy city Jerusalem coming down from heaven from God. So the city is the Bride. It may also represent the dwelling place of the Bride, the church.  Since there is so much symbolism, it is difficult to draw hard lines between the two.

This city glowed with the glory of God. God’s glory manifests itself in brilliant light.  Paul wrote that God dwells in unapproachable light. (1 Timothy 6:16) The appearance of angels was often marked by brilliant light. The city had the glory of God because it was his creation. He built it for his people, the saints. (I use “saints” in the protestant sense of all believers, not in the Catholic sense of great Christians given a special title.) Verse 27 emphases that they only occupants of the city are whose who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. The church is lovely in the sight of God.

The city radiated God’s glory. It looked like a rare jewel, like jasper, but was clear as crystal. Jasper as we know it today is usually some shade of red. There is a rare green color. It polishes to a high shine. Regardless of the exact color, John saw the city as beautifully radiant and glorious. He was trying to describe what he saw in terms the people of his day could understand, but it was difficult because it was so glorious.

The city also was also encompassed by a great wall. At each of the 12 gates stood an angel. It reminds us of the angel guarding the entrance to Eden. (Genesis 3:24) This tells us the city is safe. No evil person or thing can enter it. The saints were vulnerable on earth, but are not invulnerable under God’s protection. Indeed, verse 25 tells us the gates will never be shut. That is because there is no reason to shut them. Gates of walled cities were usually shut at night so that enemies could not sneak in. But here there will be no night.

The gates are inscribed with the names of the 12 tribes. The foundations, also 12, are inscribed with the names of the apostles. This shows us the Old Testament saints and the New Testament saints are together in the church, together experiencing the glorious provision of God for them. Ephesians 2:20 says the household of God is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone. The apostles took the teaching of Jesus and their witness to his resurrection and became the foundation of the church.  Hebrews 11:39 says “And all these (people of faith in the Old Testament), though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” This new creation is the “something better”.

The angel had a golden measuring rod to measure the city, including the walls and gates. (15) This also is similar to Ezekiel 40. There a man of bronze had a measuring reed. He measured the temple, the gates and the wall also.

When the city was measured in chapter 11, the outer court, or court of the Gentiles, was not measured. It symbolized the persecution that would be brought against the church in this age. Here is chapter 21, the entire city is measured, symbolizing its completely safety and security. The angel measured the city for John and showed it to be a cube. The height, width and length are the same (12,000 stadia) (1,365 miles).

Remember that the Most Holy Place in Solomon’s temple was a perfect cube. 1 Kings 6:20. It was 20 cubits long, wide and high, covered in gold. It demonstrated God’s perfection. The same is true of the heavenly city seen by John. The whole city reflects God’s perfection. God will dwell there in the midst of his people as his presence dwelt in the Most Holy Place in Solomon’s temple. The walls of the Most Holy Place were covered in gold. In contrast, the entire heavenly city is pure gold, like glass. (18) It is even more glorious than Solomon’s temple.

The walls were 144 cubits. That is 12 x 12 cubits, again reflecting the church’s existence as all of believing Old Testament Israel and the believers of the New Testament Church. The walls are also very thick, about 216 feet or or 65 meters, showing the safety and security of the city.

Even the foundations are beautiful. They are adorned with jewels of different kinds. The list is similar to the list of stones on Aaron’s breastplate in Exodus 15. Aaron was the first high priest of Israel. This may reflect that all of the members of the church are priests before God. Peter wrote the we are a royal priesthood. (1 Peter 2:9)

Each of the 12 gates was made of one pearl and the streets were made of transparent gold. (21) This is where they sayings “pearly gates” and “streets of gold” comes from.

In the midst of this beauty and radiance, John noticed a few things missing. There was no temple in the city. (22) He tells us it is because the temple is God the Father and Jesus the Son. They dwell in the midst of the city, the saints. Therefore, no temple is needed. All of the new creation is God’s temple.

Also missing is the sun and moon. They are unnecessary because the glory of God will provide all the light needed. (23) This is the fulfillment of Isaiah 60:19, where God, speaking of the glory of the future Jerusalem, said: The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light, but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.” The nations will walk in this light, believers from all over the world. This is also a fulfillment of Isaiah 60, where God says “nations shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising”. (Isaiah 60:3)

Inside the city is the river of the water of life. (22:1) It flows from the throne of God through the middle of the street of the city. It is the picture of eternal life coming from the Lord. In Ezekiel 47, water flowed from the threshold of the temple through the complex, getting deeper and deeper as it went until it was a river Ezekiel could not cross.

Along the banks of the river grew the tree of life. It has 12 kinds of fruit, one for each month. This again is a symbol of God providing for eternal life and providing all our needs in the new creation. This is also shown by the fact that the leaves of the tree heal the nations.

This again refers back to Ezekiel’s temple in Ezekiel 47. There the river which flowed from the temple was full of fish and trees lined the river bearing fruit for food. It is the picture, in Old Testament terms, of God providing for the saints in eternity. Also, their leaves are for healing. The image in Ezekiel and in Revelation are almost identical.

There is also here a picture of Eden in Genesis 2. It was a garden full of trees that were beautiful to see and filled with fruit good to eat. The tree of life was in the garden. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden. That garden was ruined by sin and man was cast out. The way back in was barred by a sword wielding angel. Now, the way is open. Eden is restored for men and women. There is no sin to ruin it. In fact, there is no tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Revelation 22:3 says there is nothing cursed there. Again men and women will commune directly with God and worship him. We will see his face! We will be his (his name on our foreheads), he will light our way, and we will reign with him forever and ever, for eternity.

What a wonderful thing to look forward to! It gives us hope for the future.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Tearing Down The House


I have been watching a house being knocked down this week. A large front end loader pushed the house over, then tore it into pieces. I was surprised how easily the house collapsed. It had looked ok from the outside.

But, after the house was demolished and the pieces were shoved into a big pile, I saw that a lot of the wood was rotten, some was brittle and some even burned. What looked respectable from the outside was rotten on the inside.

A church can also look respectable on the outside, but be rotten on the inside.  Years of sin and hardened hearts are dressed in nice suits and dresses to hide the interior rot and brittleness.

Selfishness is not revealed until people do not get what they want. Bitterness is hidden in secret thoughts until frustration opens the mouth and the tongue says terrible things. Rebelliousness and dissension arise as people with the same felt grievances band together.

At some point, the scale is tipped. There is more rot than soundness. Then the house comes down. It may just rot until it is an empty, useless shell or someone tears it down. In Revelation, Jesus told a church that if it did not repent, he would come and take away its lampstand. (Revelation 2:5) It was an apocalyptic way of saying he will tear down their house.

We have a concrete example. After many warnings, God sent the Babylonians to tear down Israel’s house, the temple. Centuries later, he tore the house down again, using Roman legions to do such a thorough job no stone was left on top of another. It was never rebuilt.

How do we avoid the rot?

The Christian life is about dying to self. Jesus made it a condition of following him. (Luke 9:23) He said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” He said this in the context of his own death, having just told the disciples he must suffer many things and be killed.

We repeat this verse glibly. We say we will follow him even to death. But we will not deny ourselves in everyday life. We will not give up our Sunday School classroom for someone who needs it more. We will not consent to change the schedule of services by 15 minutes. We will not put up with rowdy kids from unchurched families mixing with our children in order to reach them for Christ.

And, of course, the number one cause of church fights today is church music: traditional hymns vs. contemporary music. A lady once told my wife she would give anything if our church could be united in worship. She followed that by saying: if those young people would only give up that contemporary music we could be united. That is not self-denial. It is selfishness. Self-denial would have at least said I would give up some of my music to blend in some of theirs if it would make us united. Those on the contemporary side are the same way. They will leave and go to another church that is more contemporary.

Selfishness leads to bitterness. When we do not get what we want, we sulk. We complain. We join other complainers.  We get bitter. We also get contentious.

All of these attitudes are condemned in scripture. Paul said the works of the flesh include enmity, strife, fits of anger, dissensions, and divisions. He even says those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

That is strong language. He bluntly says that believers do not do these things. If you do these things, you do not have the inheritance of eternal life.

Paul appealed to the Corinthian church that there would be no divisions among them, but instead they would be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10) There is complete unity in the Godhead. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are always in agreement. We only reflect that character of God when we ourselves are unified. We only reflect the humility of Christ when we are humble, putting others before ourselves. We are only obedient to Christ when we are humble and when we are united.

It is useless to pray for revival or even growth if our hearts are not lined up with the heart of Jesus. What is needed is confession and repentance. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) Then we can walk in the light of God and have fellowship with each other. That fellowship means we share our hearts and spirits, desiring to glorify God, deny ourselves, and follow Christ together. If we do that, the church will live and not rot.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


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.

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: 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 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. 
God bends all the reprobate, and even Satan himself, at his will.  John Calvin, Institutes, Book 1, Chapter 18. 

Monday, July 11, 2016


The Defeat of Satan

These verses tell the story we have seen before. It happens at the end of the age, the end of the metaphorical one thousand years. The nations gather from all over the earth to attack the church. In the previous verses (19:11-21), we saw the armies led by the Beast and the False Prophet leading the attack. They gathered their forces by deception. These verses tell us the deception originates with Satan. He is released to deceive the nations and gathers them for the final battle. This is the same event as 19:19.

But they are destroyed. Just as the Beast and the False Prophet were thrown into the lake of fire, the devil is also thrown in. And they are tormented forever. The story has been retold, this time focusing on Satan and his defeat.

This passage names the nations as God and Magog. This is a reference to the prophecies of Ezekiel 38-39, where God’s enemies are slain and their bodies eaten by birds of prey summoned by God. Verse 9 of Revelation 20 says they are destroyed by fire. Ezekiel 39:6 says “And I will send fire on Magog”. He also spoke of fire and brimstone and Revelation 20 speaks of the lake of fire. All of God’s enemies are cast into hell. That was the message of the third angel in Revelation 14:9-11. He said “the smoke of their torment goes up forever an ever and they have no rest, day or night”.

During his first coming, Jesus said he came to destroy the works of the devil. He began that by casting out demons and preaching the gospel. This passage shows us the completion of that work as Jesus casts Satan into hell forever.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


The 2nd Vision of the Millennium: the Saints Reigning With Christ

In verses four through six, John records a second vision of this same time period. There is also significant disagreement on the meaning of these verses.

John saw thrones and people sitting on them. The ones sitting on the thrones are described as “souls” and as those who were beheaded for testifying to Jesus and those who did not worship the beast or receive its mark. (4)

Premillennialists believe the thrones are on earth and that these people reign on earth with Jesus during the millennial reign on earth. This is partly because they believe there will be a 1,000 year reign of Jesus on earth and partly because verse one says the angel came down from heaven.

However, it seems that these verses refer both to Revelation 4:2-4, where John gets his first vision of heaven, and Daniel’s visions of the Ancient of Days taking is seat and passing judgment in favor of the saints. The vast majority of the uses of “thrones” in Revelation refer to thrones in heaven.

In Revelation 3:21, Jesus made the following promise: The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne”. To conquer was to continue in faith, despite persecution, until death.

In Revelation 4, John saw God’s throne surrounded by 24 thrones on which elders sat. The wore white garments and golden crowns. In Daniel 7, after the vision of the beasts, Daniel saw thrones being placed, the Ancient of Days taking his seat on his throne, and proceeding to judge. It says also that the “court” sat in judgment and the books were opened. Here in chapter 20, these souls sit on thrones and are given authority to judge, just as in Daniel 7.

Since Daniel 7 occurs in heaven, and Revelation 4 occurs in heaven, it seems that this vision of Revelation 20 also involves events in heaven.

2 Timothy 2:11-12 says: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him”.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 says “the dust (the body) returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it”.

In Revelation 6, in the fifth seal, John saw under the altar in heaven the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and their witness. (6:9) This is very similar to the description of chapter 20: they we're souls of those “beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God”. (20:4) Again, this indicates events in heaven during the church age (the millennium).

This group is actually composed of all who died in faith. In includes those who were executed for their faith, but also those who did not worship the beast or its image. (4)

A further description of this group is that they came to life and reigned for 1,000 years with Christ on earth. It is called the first resurrection. The Premillennialist view is that this is the physical resurrection of believers before an earthly millennium. They believe the lost do not rise until the end of the millennium because verse 5 says “the rest of he dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended”. Thus, they believe that believers are taken to heaven, given glorified bodies, but returned to an imperfect earth to rule with Jesus for 1,000 years over an earth populated by both immortals and mortals. (I think it would be a real bummer to leave a perfect heaven for an imperfect earth.) At the end of 1,000 years, they believe there will be another resurrection.

Jesus, however, taught that there was one resurrection of mankind’s physical bodies. He said “an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment”. (John 5:28)

So, this first resurrection, that results in the soul being in heaven, is the believer’s soul coming into the presence of Christ at death. Paul called death “departing to be with Christ”. (Philippians 1:23)

John is not seeing a resurrection of physical bodies, but rather then death of the physical bodies of believers that causes their souls to appear in heaven. It is another of the many paradoxes of Revelation. The believer appears defeated because his body is dead but, in reality, he is victorious, having died in faith to have his soul appear in heaven to be with Jesus.

John said these who have this first resurrection are blessed, because the second death has no power over them. Believers die in their bodies, go to heaven and stay with Christ. They are priests of God, giving praise to him in heaven, and reign with him. At the resurrection of their (and our) physical bodies, (the 2nd resurrection by implication), they receive glorified bodies for the new creation. 1 Corinthians 15 shows us that this occurs when Jesus returns, at the sound of the last trumpet. It tells us Christ must reign in heaven until the last enemy is put under his feet, not 1,000 years before.

This happens at the sound of the last trumpet. (1 Corinthians. 15:52) The last trumpet (7th trumpet) in Revelation occurs in 11:15. All say “the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever!”
This is the second coming of Christ & the resurrection.

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, northings to come, nor powers, nor nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:37-38)

Sunday, July 03, 2016


The first six verses of chapter 20 are the source of many arguments. Although I have generally avoided turning this study of Revelation into a lecture about the doctrine of eschatology, the point has come where some extra knowledge may be helpful.

There are several schools of thought on the interpretation of Revelation. Some of these revolve around these six verses. The subject of discussion is the “millennium”. The word “millennium” does not appear in the English text. The word comes from the two Latin words meaning “thousand years”. Those words are “mille” for one thousand, and “annus” for years. In the Latin Vulgate, this would be the language used in these verses. Latin was also the language in which Biblical scholars and theologians wrote for centuries.

There are three main views of the millennium:
1. premillennialism;
2. postmillennialism; and
3. amillennialsim.


Premillennialism is the view that Christ will return before the millennium. The believe that Revelation 19 and 20 are in chronological order. That means they believe the events of chapter 20 happen after the events of chapter 19.

This means they believe Christ’s return from heaven and the battle of Armageddon occur before the millennium.  He will come to earth and rule for 1,000 years from Jerusalem. Most premillennialists think it will literally be 1,000 years of 365, 24 hour days. Believers who have been resurrected will return with Jesus in their resurrection bodies. This means they will be sin free and curse free. This will be a golden age when the products of sin, such as violence and disease, will be suppressed. Those humans who do not have resurrection bodies when the millennium begins will still live to a ripe old age. This comes from Isaiah 65:20-25.

At the end of this period, despite the reign of Christ, Satan will be released and rebel with a vast army of fallen humans. They will attack Jerusalem in a great battle, but Jesus will Jesus will defeat him and send him to the lake of fire. God then will destroy or remove the present heavens and earth and create a new one.


This is the belief that Jesus will return after the millennium, which will be a golden age in which Satan is bound. They believe the gospel will spread over the world and dominate all human life during this period. However, at the end of this golden age of 1,000 years, there will be a period of intense rebellion against God. There will be persecution of the church. Christ will then return, raise the dead and judge them and create the new heavens and earth.


Amillennialists believe that Jesus returns after the millennium, but that the millennium is the church age. Specifically, it is the time between Jesus’ exaltation and until right before Jesus’ return. The 1,000 years is symbolic of a long time, being 10 x 10 x 10. They see the end of the age as one big event: the return of Christ, resurrection, judgment and the new earth all happening at the end of this age. This is what I believe.

The 1st Vision of the Millennium: Satan Bound

Chapter 20 begins with “then I saw”, showing a shift of his attention from one vision to another. He has seen Babylon, the world of pleasure and greed, destroyed, followed by the defeat and destruction of the Beast and False Prophet and all of their followers by Jesus. In this vision, he will see the binding, or restricting, of Satan. He will later see him destroyed.

The vision began with John seeing an angel come down from heaven. He comes down from heaven, because Satan is not in heaven accusing the saints, but on earth. We saw this in chapter 9, as the star fell from heaven to earth at the sound of the fifth trumpet. This angel holds the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. He seized the dragon, bound him with the chain for a thousand years in the pit. He sealed it over him. But, John tells us the dragon must be released for a little while after the 1,000 year confinement.

Verse 2 makes clear the dragon is Satan, the devil. He is also called the serpent, reminding us of his deception of Eve, leading to the fall of mankind into sin. He is Satan, meaning accuser, who accused the saints. He is the dragon that tried to destroy the woman and her baby by deception that poured from his mouth. (12:15)

The visual factors here tell us this is a symbolic story. Satan is not a dragon, he is a spiritual being, a fallen angel. No physical chain would bind him.

The chain, though, is a symbol of binding. Satan is restricted. And we are told the reason: that he might not deceive the nations until the thousand years is ended. (3) We have seen from previous chapters this truth: Satan has deceived many to reject Christ and attack the church, but only at the end of the age, the end of the millennium, will Satan be able to deceive nations to gather together to attack Christ and the church with the aim of destroying them. We have seen John’s vision of the false prophet deceiving kings and those who dwell on earth (unbelievers) by his miraculous signs. (13:14) The kings gave their authority to the Beast and they all gathered to attack. This happens at the end of the age. So, Satan is bound, or restricted until then, in his ability to deceive the nations into an all out attack on the church.

The key is also a symbol of authority. If you hold the only key to a lock, you are the only one who can unlock or lock it. In 1:18, Jesus said he holds the key to Hades. Likewise, the seal is the symbol of ownership and control. We have seen the seal of the Beast is on those whom he controls. They worship him. But the seal of the Holy Spirit is on those owned by Christ.

One of the problems with the premillennial, chronological view, is that the battle in Revelation 19 results in the annihilation of the armies of the beast, including kings, the captains, the mighty men and all men, slave and free, that have the mark of the beast. (We know all people received the mark that were not sealed in Christ, according to 13:16) There would be no need to restrain Satan from deceiving them after this: they had already been deceived and destroyed.

This is actually the third time we have seen the restriction of Satan in the church age: First, with the two witnesses in chapter 11 who are protected for a period of time before the Beast is allowed to overcome them; second, with the heavenly woman who is protected from the dragon in the wilderness in chapter 12; and third, this vision in chapter 20 showing the dragon to be bound.

Before the coming of Christ, we see the nations deceived. Satan deceived Eve, certainly. But he certainly deceived the Gentile nations of the Old Testament. God chose Abraham’s descendants and revealed himself to them, protecting them as long as they kept his covenant. But the Gentile nations remained in spiritual darkness. In fact, they oppressed and attacked God’s people. Egypt, Philstia, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Syria and Rome all tried to destroy God’s people. Each nation worshipped idols and engaged in occult practices. They tried to force this worship on God’s people.

When Jesus appeared the first time, he repeatedly engaged Satan and exerted power over him. He bound him in several instances by casting out demons. Jesus told a parable about this. Matthew 12 records an instance where Jesus cast a demon out of a man who could not speak or see. The Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. Jesus said his casting out of the demon showed that the kingdom of God had come upon them. He spoke of entering a strong man’s house and plundering it. It is a metaphor for entering the kingdom of Satan and imposing the kingdom of Christ. That causes Satan to be limited or bound.

Matthew applied a prophesy of Isaiah to Jesus, saying the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light. (Matthew 4:14-17; Isaiah 9:1 and 42:7) He said this because Jesus had gone up north to preach, where the Gentiles lived. The Gentiles were in spiritual darkness, under the deception of Satan, until Jesus gave them light. Jesus had the authority to restrict Satan’s deception and bring understanding.

But, more so, when Jesus is resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Father to reign, Satan is further restricted. Jesus disarmed rulers and authorities and put them to shame. (Colossians 2:15)

This binding or restriction is good news for the Gentiles, for when Satan was restricted in his ability to deceive, the gospel began spread to all of the Gentile nations. Jesus could command the disciples to go into all nations to make disciples because all authority in heaven and on earth was given to him, not Satan. (Matthew 28:18-19) Paul picked up that theme when preaching at Antioch of Pisidia. When the Jews opposed him, Paul said he was turning to the Gentiles and that turning was according to God’s command, saying “I have made you al light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth”. (Acts 13:47 quoted verses from Isaiah together). In fact, Paul said the gospel was bearing fruit and growing in the whole world. (Colossians 1:6)

Since Satan was restricted, the gospel spread through Europe and Asia. This will happen until right before the end of the age. Only then is he allowed again to deceive the nations (“released”), so that he may bring about his own destruction and those of his followers.

One thing that happens with the placement of this vision of 1,000 years is that it shows that the end will not come soon for those in the Asian churches to whom this letter is written. They have seen that Jesus will triumph. They will see Rome and its successors destroyed. But it will not be soon. Indeed we are 20 centuries down the road of time and Jesus has not yet come nor defeated all of his enemies in a final battle. And, although we are barraged with those who tell us Jesus will surely come this year or next, we see that our job is endure to the end in faith, no matter if the end is soon or way off in the future.

End times fever sells a lot of books. Some guys write a book forecasting the end overtime anything unusual happens. Especially if the Middle East or Russia act up, or heaven help us both at the same time, the fever gets hotter and hotter. My favorites (meaning the ones I really dislike) are the ones who say “I know the Bible says we cannot know the date, but I am convinced it is about to happen and I do not see how you could think otherwise”. But then it does not happen. God wants us to endure in faith as opposed to trying to figure out the date of the end.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

“It costs something to be a true Christian. Let that never be forgotten. To be a mere nominal Christian, and go to church, is cheap and easy work. But to hear Christ’s voice, follow Christ, believe in Christ, and confess Christ, requires much self-denial. It will cost us our sins, our self-righteousness, our ease, and our worldliness. All must be given up. We must fight an enemy who comes against us with thousands of followers. We must build a tower in troubled times. Our Lord Jesus Christ would have us thoroughly understand this. He bids us “count the cost.” – J.C. Ryle

Spiritual Blessings in Ephesians 1:3-6

These blessings all come in Christ.  God blesses us “in Christ”.  God has chosen to extend his blessings to the world through Christ.  Only those who are united with Christ receive them.  

These are spiritual blessings.  Paul says God “blesses us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  I think what he means by “spiritual blessings” are in contrast to “material blessings”.  This new kingdom is spiritual.    

These spiritual blessings are in contrast to many of the promise of material blessings in the Old Testament.  For example, look at Deuteronomy 28:11.  If Old Testament Israel obeyed God and kept his covenant, he would make their crops and livestock increase.  God does not promise the church its members’ salaries will increase or their cars will multiply.  That is why prosperity preachers tend to quote Old Testament promises to Israel to say believers will receive wealth and health if they believe and give.

These blessings come in the “heavenly places” according to the ESV, or the “heavenly realms” in the NIV.  I take this to again mean the spiritual realm.  This phrase appears 5 times in Ephesians.  Christ ascended to the heavenly realm.  Later on, in verse 20, Paul speaks of Christ raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places.  Psalm 110:1 starts it off with a prophecy that the Lord would do this.  Jesus, in Matthew 22:44, applied Psalm 110  to himself.  Several other New Testament verses speak of this. 

In Ephesians 2:6, Paul said God raised us up with Christ and seated us in the heavenly places in Christ.  So, even though we live here in this physical realm in our mortal bodies, in Christ we enter into spiritual life and blessings of God.