Hosea 2:1-23

December 8, 2018

     Hosea 2:1 continues the promised blessing begun in 1:10-11. Then, in Hosea 2:2-13, God describes Israel’s unfaithfulness to her covenant relationship with God and the punishment He would bring on her. Israel is called to put away her unfaithfulness (Hos. 2:2), or God will humiliate her (Hos. 2:3-4). Israel wrongly assumed her prosperity had come from Baal (Hos. 2:5), but God would cut off her resources (Hos. 2:6), and though Israel will continue in familiar paths of idolatry for a while, she will eventually seek the Lord (Hos. 2:7). God reveals it was He Who provided blessing, but Israel took what was given and gave it to Baal (Hos. 2:8). God promises to remove His provisions, humiliate Israel, and bring her festivities to an end (Hos. 2:9-13). Afterwards, the Lord will allure Israel back to Himself “and speak kindly to her” (Hos. 2:14). He will provide blessing, like that which was given at the beginning of their relationship (Hos. 2:15), and the language of mutual love will be renewed (Hos. 2:16), and the names of foreign lovers will not be mentioned again (Hos. 2:17). God promises to provide blessing to His people, which includes no more hostility and war (Hos. 2:18). Then using language of renewed marital vows, God declares, “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD” (Hos. 2:19-20). God will then bring agricultural prosperity upon His bride, providing nourishment and pleasure (Hos. 2:21-22). The Lord concludes, “I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ and they will say, ‘You are my God!’” (Hos. 2:23). There are times when God’s people are unfaithful to Him and turn to other sources for things only He can provide. When this happens, the Lord will cut off our supply and bring us to the place of humility, where we have no place to look but to Him; then, when humility comes, He restores our walk with Him, which includes His blessings. 

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Hosea 1:1-11

December 8, 2018

     God called Hosea to marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him (Hos. 1:1-2), and the prophet chose to marry Gomer (Hos. 1:3). It is not known whether Gomer was a prostitute at the time of the marriage (perhaps she was a temple prostitute), or whether she became one afterward. “The expression ‘adulterous wife’ (lit., ‘wife of adultery’) does not describe her condition at the time of marriage, but anticipates what she proved to be, a wife characterized by unfaithfulness.”[1] Gomer bore three children to Hosea during the time of her infidelity (Hos. 1:3-9). This unusual command of God was intended to make Hosea’s life a pedagogical analogy of God and Israel. Negatively speaking, Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea, and Israel was unfaithful to God. Positively speaking, Hosea loved Gomer and was faithful to her, and God loved and was faithful to Israel. It should be noted that God has called other prophets to behavior that pedagogically pictures His relationship with His people, such as when Isaiah was called to go naked and barefoot for three years (Isa. 20:1-4), or when He called Ezekiel to lay on his left side for three hundred and ninety days (Ezek. 4:1-5), then to lay on his right side for forty days (Ezek. 4:6), and to eat a barely cake that had been cooked over human excrement (Ezek. 4:12). Gomer’s first child was a son named Jezreel (Hos. 1:3b-5), a place noted for its bloodshed, where Jehu overthrew king Joram, as God commanded (2 Ki. 9:1-26), but went too far and killed Ahaziah and his family, as God had not commanded (2 Ki. 9:27-28; 10:12-14). Gomer then conceived and gave birth to a daughter named Lo-Ruhamah, which means “no compassion” (Hos. 1:6-7). This meant that God’s compassion for His people was now replaced by His demand for justice. Lastly, Gomer conceived and bore another son named Lo-Ammi, which means “not my people” (Hos. 1:8-9). This meant that Israel would no longer experience the blessings associated with being close to God and walking with Him.

  • "The Lord no longer regarded the kingdom of Israel as His people or Himself as their God. He did not mean, of course, that He would break His unconditional promises to His people (e.g., Exod. 6:7; Lev. 26:12; Deut. 26:17–18), but that the relationship that they had enjoyed so far would come to an end. The last phrase of verse 9 literally is “I [am] not I AM [‘ehyeh] to you” (cf. Exod. 3:14). He would withdraw the covenant He had so dramatically made with the revelation of this same name. He would remove protection that He had formerly provided and allow another nation to invade and discipline His people."[2]

     The message of judgment is followed by one of salvation, where God reaffirmed His unconditional covenant promise that Israel would be numerous and would be called “sons of the living God” (Hos. 1:10). He also stated there would come a time when the kingdom would be united, and Israel and Judah would be one people, with one leader (Hos. 1:11).

 

[1] Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., “Hosea,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1379.

[2] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ho 1:8.

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Introduction to Hosea

December 8, 2018

     Hosea prophesied to Israel, the northern kingdom, about their spiritual and moral decline as they trusted in foreign alliances rather than God and repeatedly worshiped idols (spiritual adultery). He prophesied in a politically hostile climate in which several kings were murdered by their successors (753-723 B.C.). Zechariah had reigned as king for six months and was murdered by Shallum (2 Ki. 15:8-10), and Shallum reigned one month and was murdered by Menahem, who reigned for ten years and died of unknown causes (2 Ki. 15:13-22). Menahem’s son, Pekahiah, reigned two years and was murdered by Pekah (2 Ki. 15:22-25), and Pekah reigned twenty years and was murdered by Hoshea (2 Ki. 15:27-30), who reigned for nine years and was defeated by Shalmaneser, king of Assyria (2 Ki. 17:1-6). This behavior is symptomatic of the spiritual decline that started with Israel’s leadership and influenced the thoughts, values, and behaviors of the nation.

     Sin, judgment, and salvation are at the core of Hosea’s message to Israel. Israel was guilty of idolatry, particularly the worship of Baal, the Canaanite fertility god (Hosea 4:17; 8:4-6; 11:2; 13:2). Israel’s covenant relationship with the Lord was likened to a marriage; therefore, when she went after other gods, it was regarded as spiritual adultery (Hosea 1:2; 2:2-5; 3:1; 4:11-15; 5:4; 6:10). In the midst of these historical events, God called Hosea to marry a woman who would become unfaithful to him, yet he was to love her in spite of her infidelity, and in this sense, his marriage serves as a pedagogical analogy of God’s covenant love for Israel.

     The prophet’s message is understood according to the background of the Mosaic covenant and the Deuteronomic blessings (Deut. 28:1-14) and cursings (Deut. 28:15-68). Israel had reached zero hour and there was no offer of repentance, only a message that judgment was coming (Hosea 1:2-9; 2:2-13; 4:1-5:15; 6:4-11:7; 11:12-13:16). However, according to the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:1-3), God’s people would never be completely destroyed, and so there was also a message of salvation and hope (Hosea 1:10-2:1; 2:14-3:5; 6:1-3; 11:8-11: 14:1-9).

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Introduction to the Minor Prophets Part 2

December 1, 2018

The Purpose and Function of the Prophets

     The OT prophets often served as guides and counselors to Israel’s monarchical leaders, always directing them to live in conformity to God’s law. When God’s leaders and people turned away from Him, the prophet functioned as a prosecuting attorney, pointing out their violation of the law and the pending consequences if they did not turn back to the Lord (i.e. repent). If Israel persisted in sin, God would execute His judgments in ever increasing severity, until they were eventually destroyed and removed from the land. However, if God’s people, while in captivity, would humble themselves and turn back to Him, He would forgive their sin and restore their blessings (Deut. 30:1-5; cf. Isa. 1:9).

     It can be said of God’s prophets: 1) they were individually called from all walks of life (unlike kings and priests who were to follow a strict lineage), 2) they were God’s voice of revelation to His covenant people, 3) they were forthtellers and foretellers, 4) they served as God’s prosecuting attorneys against those who violated His laws, 5) and they were reformers, calling God’s people back to orthodoxy and obedience from the heart.

  • "The voice of the prophet was heard in Israel only in times of national apostasy. God normally communicated with His people through kings and priests, but when these channels failed, He spoke through prophets. When a prophet was chosen and anointed, he took precedence over both king and priest. There was no prophetic succession like that of Israel’s kings and priests, but in time a prophetic order did emerge. The prophets were God’s “ministers without portfolio.” Drawn from all ranks and from all regions of the country, they owed allegiance to no one but God. They spoke with a divine authority and occasionally their words were reinforced by miracles. Speaking for God, the prophets addressed the moral depravities, social injustices, and spiritual apostasies of their times. Many of them were political statesmen of the highest order who understood the world of their day and had a wide view of the future."[1]

     The twelve minor prophets of Israel and Judah are concerned with the behavior of God’s people, who had turned away from a life of obedience to the Lord and continually slipped into moral decline. Though there are some future prophecies given in their writings, they are primarily prophesying direct revelation from God, who is concerned with their departure from His commands set forth in the Mosaic Law. Much of what the prophets preached to their audience is summarized in the words of Micah, who said, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what the LORD requires of you: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8).

     Much of the language of the prophets is judgmental and assumes their hearers know they are in a covenant relationship with God which clearly pronounced promises of blessing and cursing dependent on whether they obey or disobey His Word (read Deut. 28:1-68; 30:15-20). The word blessing translates the Hebrew noun בְּרָכָה berakah, which occurs sixty seven times in the OT. In Deuteronomy 28, the word refers to the tangible goodness that makes life enjoyable and rich, which is promised to His covenant people, Israel, if they would simply obey His commands. Areas of blessing include:

  1. All locations at all times (Deut. 28:3, 6).
  2. Healthy offspring, crops, and livestock (Deut. 28:4-5, 8, 11).
  3. Military success (Deut. 28:7).
  4. Fruitful labor (Deut. 28:8, 12a).
  5. International recognition and respect (Deut. 28:9-10).
  6. Financial prosperity (Deut. 28:12b).
  7. Serving as an international leader to other nations (Deut. 28:13).

     God also promised to bring curses, which would undo all the blessings and bring Israel down, if they disobeyed (Deut. 28:15-68). The Hebrew noun קְלָלָה qelalah is translated curse in Deuteronomy 28:15 & 45. “The basic meaning of this root sets forth the quality of ‘slightness’ as to provision, speed, or circumstance…this root is used of intending a lowered position, technically, to curse.”[2] In Deuteronomy 28:16-19, Moses uses the Hebrew verb אָרָר arar six times, which means, “to bind with a curse.”[3] The form of the verb is passive, which means a curse is received by the nation of Israel if they turn away from God. The cursing could be avoided if God’s people would simply obey the Lord (Deut. 28:15, 20, 45-47, 58-59, 62; 29:25-28; 30:17-18).

     Israel repeatedly pursued idols and human alliances to satisfy their desires and solve their problems, and thus they entered into a prolonged period of rebellion. God eventually brought destruction, as He’d promised, and He used the Assyrians and Babylonians as His disciplinary agents. The Assyrians were aggressive in their efforts to conquer surrounding kingdoms, and God used them to destroy the 10 northern tribes known as Israel. This destruction occurred in 722 B.C. Later, God used the Babylonians to destroy the 2 southern tribes known as Judah, and this happened in 586 B.C. Eventually, God released His people from Babylonian captivity and many returned to repatriate the land from which they’d come, and God called several prophets to help them adjust, and to remind them about their obligation to keep the Mosaic Law and remain faithful.

     In summary, the study of the Minor Prophets considers the lives and ministries of men who were called from all walks of life to serve as God’s messengers to His disobedient people. The prophets were forthtellers and foretellers, addressing issues such as monarchical pride, national idolatry, and socio-economic injustice on the poor; pronouncing judgment if God’s people would not turn back to Him. In addition to the promise of judgment, God also spoke positively of future blessings that He would bring upon His people; and this is based upon His merciful character, and His integrity to be faithful to His unconditional covenant promises through Abraham and David.

 

[1] John Phillips, Exploring the Minor Prophets: An Expository Commentary, The John Phillips Commentary Series (Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp., 2009).

[2] Leonard J. Coppes, “2028 קָלַל,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 800.

[3] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 91.

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Introduction to the Minor Prophets Part 1

December 1, 2018

     The word prophet translates the Hebrew word נָבִיא nabi (Grk. προφήτης prophetes), which means “speaker, herald, preacher,”[1] and refers to one who was called to be the spokesman for another; for example, it was used of Aaron who was the spokesman for Moses (Ex.7:1-2). The prophets were primarily men, but did include women such as Miriam (Ex. 15:20), Deborah (Jdg. 4:4), Huldah (2 Ki. 22:14), and Anna (Luke 2:36). They were channels of communication who received God’s revelation directly and then communicated it to others (Ex. 4:12; Jer. 1:9; Amos 1:3), and sometimes they served as intercessors to God (Gen. 20:7; Ex. 32:10-14; 1 Sam. 12:17, 19). There were true prophets to be obeyed (Deut. 18:18; 34:10-11; 1 Sam. 3:20; 2 Chron. 25:15; 28:9; Hag. 1:13; Acts 11:27-28; 21:10-11) and false prophets to be ignored (Deut. 13:1-5; 18:21-22; Neh. 6:12-13; Jer. 23:25-28; Matt. 7:15; 24:24; Acts 13:6; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1-3; Rev. 2:20). In the NT, the gift of prophecy was for the edification of others (1 Cor. 14:3).

     We know about specific prophets such as Elijah and Elisha because they’re mentioned in the writings of others (1 Ki. 17:1-2; 19:15-21), but there were numerous unnamed prophets mentioned as well (1 Sam. 10:5; 19:20; 1 Ki. 18:4). Of all the prophets mentioned in Scripture, only sixteen wrote books, and these are classified into two groups known as the Major Prophets and Minor Prophets. This distinction is based on the overall size of their writings and not their importance. The Major Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.[2] The Minor Prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Some of the Minor Prophets were called to preach to the ten northern tribes of Israel and others to the two southern tribes of Judah, and their ministries span a period of roughly four hundred years.

     In Jewish tradition the Minor Prophets are referred to as the Book of the Twelve because they were all written on a single scroll. The English Bible follows the order set forth in the Hebrew Bible, but this order is not chronological. The following charts provide an overview of prophet, audience, approximate date of ministry, his contemporaries, and the world power that was often the prevailing threat upon God’s people.

 

Overview of the Twelve Minor Prophets[3]

 

Prophet

Audience

Date

B.C.

Contemporaries

World Power

Hosea

Israel

756-725

Isaiah, Amos, Micah

Assyria

Joel

Judah Pre-exilic

830-810

Elisha

Assyria

Amos

Israel

760-757

Hosea

Assyria

Obadiah

Judah (Edom)

848

Elijah

Assyria

Jonah

Nineveh

ca. 800

None

Assyria

Micah

Judah Pre-exilic

735-690

Isaiah, Hosea

Assyria

Nahum

Judah Pre-exilic

ca. 640

Zephaniah

Assyria

Habakkuk

Judah Pre-exilic

608-597

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel

Babylonia

Zephaniah

Judah Pre-exilic

640-630

Nahum, Jeremiah

Assyria

Haggai

Judah Post-exilic

520

Zechariah

Medo-Persia

Zechariah

Judah Post-exilic

520-475

Haggai, Esther

Medo-Persia

Malachi

Judah Post-exilic

ca. 435

Nehemiah

Medo-Persia

 

Chronological Order of the Twelve Minor Prophets

 

Prophet

Audience

Date

B.C.

Contemporaries

World Power

Obadiah

Judah (Edom)

848

Elijah

Assyria

Joel

Judah Pre-exilic

830-810

Elisha

Assyria

Jonah

Nineveh

ca. 800

None

Assyria

Amos

Israel

760-757

Hosea

Assyria

Hosea

Israel

756-725

Isaiah, Amos, Micah

Assyria

Micah

Judah Pre-exilic

735-690

Isaiah, Hosea

Assyria

Nahum

Judah Pre-exilic

ca. 640

Zephaniah

Assyria

Zephaniah

Judah Pre-exilic

640-630

Nahum, Jeremiah

Assyria

Habakkuk

Judah Pre-exilic

608-597

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel

Babylonia

Haggai

Judah Post-exilic

520

Zechariah

Medo-Persia

Zechariah

Judah Post-exilic

520-475

Haggai, Esther

Medo-Persia

Malachi

Judah Post-exilic

ca. 435

Nehemiah

Medo-Persia

 

A Brief History of Israel

      Israel—as the special people of God—began with a unilateral covenant which God made with Abraham, promising “I will make you a great nation” (Gen. 12:2). Though Abraham had children by different women (Sarah, Hagar, and Keturah), the Abrahamic promises were restated only through Isaac (Gen. 17:19-21) and Jacob (Gen. 28:10-15). Because of a crippling encounter with God, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, which means “he who wrestles with God” (Gen. 32:24-30). The sons of Israel (i.e. Jacob) went into captivity in Egypt for four hundred years as God had foretold (Gen. 15:13), and remained there until He called them out through His servants Moses and Aaron (Ex. 3:1-10). God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage through a series of ten plagues that destroyed Pharaoh and the nation (Exodus chapters 5-14). Then God entered into a bilateral covenant relationship with Israel at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:1-8), and gave them 613 commands—which comprise the Mosaic Law—and these commands are commonly divided into moral, civil, and ceremonial codes. Israel would know blessing if they obeyed God’s commands (Deut. 28:1-15), and cursing if they did not (Deut. 28:16-68). The nation of Israel remained in the wilderness for forty years while God tested and humbled them (Deut. 8:2-5). After Moses died, God brought the Israelites into the land of Canaan (i.e. the land promised to Abraham) under the leadership of Joshua (Deut. 31:23; Josh. 1:1-9), and there the land was divided, giving a portion to each of the descendants of Jacob. After Joshua died (Josh. 24:29-31), Israel repeatedly fell into idolatry and suffered divine discipline for their rebellion (read Judges). This went on for nearly three hundred years as Israel fell into a pattern of idolatry, after which God would send punishment, then the people would cry out to God, Who would relent of His judgment and send a judge to deliver them, then the people would serve God for a time, and then fall back into idolatry. The period of the Judges is marked by people who did not obey the Lord, but “did what was right in their own eyes” (Judg. 17:6; 21:25). Samuel was the last of Israel’s judges, and then the people cried for a king because they wanted to be like the other nations (1 Sam. 8:4-5). God gave them their request (1 Sam. 8:22), and Saul became the first king in Israel (1 Sam. 10:1). Though Saul started well, he quickly turned away from the Lord and would not obey God’s commands. Saul reigned for approximately 40 years and his leadership was basically a failure (1 Sam. 13:1; cf. Acts 13:21). Later, God raised up David to be king in Israel (1 Sam. 16:1-13), and David reigned for 40 years and was an ideal king who followed God and encouraged others to do the same (1 Ki. 2:10-11). God decreed David’s throne would be established forever through one of his descendants (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:3-4), and this is Jesus (Luke 1:31-33). Solomon reigned for 40 years after David (1 Ki. 2:12; 11:42-43), and though He was wise and did many good things (ruled well, built the temple, wrote Scripture, etc.), he eventually turned away from God and worshiped idols (1 Ki. 11:1-10). The nation was united under Saul, David, and Solomon.

     Because of Solomon’s idolatry (1 Ki. 11:1-10), God divided the kingdom into two parts (1 Ki. 11:11-41; 12:1-33). Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, ruled over the two southern tribes (Judah) and Jeroboam ruled over the ten northern tribes (Israel). Israel—the northern kingdom—had 19 kings throughout its history and all were bad, as they led God’s people into idolatry (i.e. the “sins of Jeroboam” 1 Ki. 16:31; 2 Ki. 3:3; 10:31; 13:2). The ten northern tribes came under divine discipline because of their idolatry and were destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. Judah—the southern kingdom—had 20 kings throughout its history and 8 were good (some more than others), as they obeyed God and led others to do the same (they were committed to the Lord like David, 1 Ki. 15:11). However, Judah repeatedly fell into idolatry—as the 10 northern tribes had done—and were eventually destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The dispersion of Israel was promised by God if they turned away from Him and served other gods (Deut. 28:63-68).

 

[1] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 661–662.

[2] English translations of the Bible place Daniel among the prophets, and there is good cause for this, since Daniel received direct revelation from God and was called a prophet by Jesus (Matt. 24:15). Daniel is also listed among the prophets in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament). However, the Hebrew Bible—called the Tanakh, an acronym for the Torah (Law), Nebi’im (Prophets), and Kethuvim (Writings)—places Daniel among the Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, etc.). It’s possible that the book of Daniel was listed under the Writings in the Hebrew Bible because his words and life modeled the wisdom one needed to live successfully in a pagan culture. Also, unlike the other prophets, Daniel was not called to deliver a message to others which demanded behavioral and social reform.

[3] Some this material, including dates and audience, is derived from Gleason Archer Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 3rd. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 346.

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Revelation 22:1-21

November 10, 2018

Revelation 22 provides a further description of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:1-5), as well as a closing epilogue to the book (Rev. 22:6-21). The chapter opens with a scene in which John is shown “a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev. 22:1). On either side of the river is the tree of life, which bears “twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2). There will not be any curse upon the creation, for “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:3-4). And there will be no need of the light of a lamp, or of the sun, “because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). The angel then tells John, “these words are faithful and true” (Rev. 22:6), which means they can be accepted as fact. The theme of the book is reiterated in verse 7, where we are told that Jesus is coming quickly (cf. 12, 20), and there is a blessing pronounced upon those who take seriously the words of this prophecy (Rev. 22:7). In a moment of emotional fervor, John then falls at the feet of the angel and worships him, and for a second time is rebuked and told to “worship God” (Rev. 22:8-9; cf. 19:10). John is instructed not to seal up the words of this prophecy (Rev. 22:10), and is informed that people, both the wicked and the righteous, will continue as they are (Rev. 22:11). Jesus then states that He is “coming quickly” and will reward each person according to his deeds (Rev. 22:12; cf. 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10-11). As the “Alpha and Omega” (Rev. 22:13), the eternal One, He can promise and fulfill His word. He then contrasts the righteous with the wicked. The former have the right to eat from the “tree of life” (Rev. 22:14), whereas the wicked are those “outside” of God’s blessing (Rev. 22:15). Jesus’ word is confirmed through His messenger to the churches. He then describes Himself as “the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Rev 22:16; cf. Matt. 1:1). The Holy Spirit and the church (called a “bride”) extend an offer of salvation to any who will heed, saying, “let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (Rev 22:17). The book closes with a pronouncement of cursing to anyone who adds or subtracts from the words of this prophecy (Rev. 22:18-19), and a final word that Jesus is “coming quickly” (Rev. 22:20). John then writes, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev. 22:21).

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Revelation 21:1-27

November 10, 2018

John witnessed the destruction of the current heavens and earth and the creation of a new heaven and earth (Rev. 21:1; cf. 2 Pet. 3:10-13), and this included the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven (Rev. 21:2). The new Jerusalem could be what Jesus mentioned in John 14:1-3. The new creation will be free from any sin, sickness, pain, tears, or death, and will be a perfect environment where people will live and commune with God (Rev. 21:3-4). Jesus is the one who will accomplish these things, and the one who overcomes will inherit these blessings (Rev. 21:5-7), but unbelievers will be rejected (Rev. 21:8). An angel then showed John the beauty of Jerusalem which descends upon the new earth (Rev. 21:9-14), which city is fifteen hundred miles square (Rev. 21:15-16), with walls that are 72 yards thick (Rev. 21:17). It’s possible the city could be shaped either like a pyramid or a cube. The material of the city consists of precious stones and jewels (Rev. 21:18-21). There will be no temple in the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:22), and the presence of God the Father and the Son will illumine the city (Rev. 21:23). The nations of the world will walk by the light of Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24-25), and will bring their glory into it (Rev. 21:26), and nothing unclean will ever appear in it (Rev. 21:27).

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Revelation 20:1-15

November 3, 2018

Revelation 20 reveals that Satan will be imprisoned and Jesus will reign on the earth for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-6), and afterward will judge the devil (Rev. 20:7-10), as well as all unbelievers (Rev. 20:11-15). The chapter opens with Satan being bound in the abyss—a spiritual prison—where he is confined for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3a), but afterward is released for a short time (Rev. 20:3b). Tribulational saints, who were martyred for their faith, are resurrected and will reign with Christ for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4). Unbelievers will be resurrected at the end of the millennial reign of Christ, and these are not participants in the “first resurrection” (Rev. 20:5). Concerning this, John wrote, “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6). After the thousand years, Satan is released from his spiritual prison and will immediately gather unbelievers to lead them in revolt against Christ and His saints (Rev. 20:7-8); however, he and is army are quickly defeated (Rev. 20:9). It is assumed that these who revolt against Christ at the end of His millennial reign are among the many children born to those who survived the Tribulation and entered the millennium with earthly bodies. Though these descendants will grow up under the reign of Christ and will outwardly submit to Him, they will harbor resentment and unbelief, and when given the opportunity to revolt, will rise up with Satan at his release and will seek to unseat Christ from His throne. “The Millennium will prove, among other things, that a nearly perfect earthly environment (Isa. 35) and universal knowledge of the Lord (Isa. 11:9) will not change human hearts. This must be done personally and voluntarily, and multitudes will never do that during this long period.”[1] Satan is then thrown alive into the lake of fire, where the antichrist and false prophet have been during the thousand year reign of Christ, and there he remains forever (Rev. 20:10). Finally, John witnesses a great white throne, upon which Jesus sits, and “from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them” (Rev. 20:11). John saw “the dead”—all unbelievers—standing before the throne, and books were opened, and “the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds” (Rev. 20:12). These are all people who have died throughout human history, whether on land or sea, and who have been held captive by “death and Hades” (Rev. 20:13). Then, death and Hades, as well as all unbelievers, are thrown into the lake of fire, where they will remain forever (Rev. 20:14-15). Since those who stand before the throne do not have God’s righteousness within them, they are judged according to their human good works, which are not sufficient to gain them entrance into heaven (Isa. 64:6; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5), and the fact that their names are not written in the book of life will ensure their assignment to the Lake of Fire forever (Rev. 20:14-15). The great white throne judgment, as well as the lake of fire, can be avoided if one will simply trust in Christ as Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 16:31; Eph. 2:8-9), receive forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:13-14), and the gifts of eternal life (John 3:16; 10:28) and righteousness (Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9).

 

[1]Charles C. Ryrie, Revelation: Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, Ill., Moody Press, 1996), 133-134.

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Overview of the Millennial Kingdom - Revelation 20

November 3, 2018

The Bible reveals two aspects of God’s rule over His creation. The first is His universal rule in which He sovereignly decrees whatsoever comes to pass and “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). There are times when God accomplishes His will immediately without the assistance of others (such as in the creation), and other times He chooses to work mediately through creatures, both intelligent (angels and people), and simple (Balaam’s donkey). Concerning God’s universal rule, Scripture reveals, “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all” (Ps. 103:19), and “Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps. 135:6). Daniel writes, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth” (Dan 4:34b-35a; cf. 5:21; 1 Chron. 29:11-12).

The second is God’s earthly rule in which He governs through a human mediatorial administrator. The first account of such a rule is found in Genesis where the Lord assigned Adam and Eve to rule over the whole world (Gen. 1:26-28). Theirs was a mediatorial kingdom, which may be defined as “the rule of God through a divinely chosen representative who not only speaks and acts for God but also represents the people before God; a rule which has especial reference to the earth; and having as its mediatorial ruler one who is always a member of the human race.”[1] However, through an act of disobedience (Gen. 3:1-7), Adam and Eve forfeited their rulership to Satan, a fallen angelic creature, who rules through deception (2 Cor. 11:3, 14; Rev 12:9; 20:3, 8) , blindness (2 Cor. 4:3-4), and enslavement (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). Since the fall of Adam and Eve, Satan has had dominion over this world and is called “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30; 16:1), “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), and “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). When tempting Jesus, Satan offered Him “the kingdoms of the world” (Matt. 4:8-9), and they were his to give. However, the Bible also reveals that Satan has been judged (Gen. 3:15; John 16:11), and in the future will be cast out of heaven (Rev. 12:7-9), confined for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3), and eventually cast into the Lake of Fire forever (Rev. 20:10). It must always be remembered that God sovereignly permits Satan a limited form of rulership for a limited period of time, always restraining him and his demonic forces, if they seek to transgress the boundaries He’s established for them (Job. 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Mark 15:1-13; 2 Pet. 2:4).

Subsequent to Adam and Eve, God has worked to reestablish His kingdom on earth through the promises and covenants offered to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3), the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), the nation Israel (Ex. 19:5-6; Deut. 29:1-29; 30:1-10; Jer. 31:31-33), and king David (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:3-4, 34-37). When Jesus came, He repeatedly offered the earthly kingdom to Israel (Matt. 3:1-2; Matt. 4:17; 10:5-7), a literal kingdom they could physically enter into (Matt. 5:20; 6:10; Luke 19:11; Acts 1:3-6). But they rejected Him and His offer (Matt. 11:20; Matt. 12:14; Mark 15:12-15; John 19:15); therefore, the earthly kingdom was postponed for a future time (Matt. 21:43; cf. Matt. 19:28; 25:31; Luke 22:28-30; Acts 1:3-6; Rev. 20:4-6).

We are currently living in the church age, which will come to an end when the church is raptured to heaven (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Afterward, there will be a period of time known as the Tribulation, which will begin when the Antichrist signs a seven year peace treaty with Israel (Dan. 9:24-27; cf. Revelation chapters 6-18). The time of Tribulation will come to an end when Jesus returns to earth to put down rebellion (Rev. 19:11-21) and establish His millennial kingdom (Matt. 25:31; Rev. 11:15; 20:1-6). The word millennium is derived from the Latin words mille which means “thousand” and annum which means “year”. The word millennium translates the Greek word χίλιοι chilioi, which occurs six times in Revelation 20:2-7. After His second coming, Jesus will rule the whole earth, from Jerusalem, on the throne of David (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:3-4, 34-37; Jer. 23:5-6; 33:14-15; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14, 27; Matt. 6:10; Luke 1:30-33; cf. Mark 11:9-10), He will rule absolutely with “a rod of iron” (Ps. 2:9; Rev. 19:15), and afterward His kingdom will become an eternal kingdom (Dan. 2:44; 7:27; 1 Cor. 15:24). King David himself will be resurrected to rule with Christ (Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23-24). Jesus will rule the nations in righteousness, advocating for the poor and weak, as well as suppressing wickedness and rebellion (Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-9; Jer. 23:5-6; 33:14-18). People will have good health (Isa. 35:5-6), live long lives, and experience improvements in social and economic life (Isa. 65:19-25; Amos 9:13-14), and a new worship system will be implemented (see Ezekiel chapters 40-46). There will be no more war (Isa. 2:2-4; 32:17-18; Mic. 4:1-4), and harmful animals will no longer be a threat (Isa. 11:6-9; Ezek. 34:25). Israel will possess all the Promised Land (Ezek. 36:24; 39:25-29; Amos 9:15; cf. Gen. 15:18-21), and will be exalted over the Gentiles (Isa. 14:1-2; 49:22-23; 60:14-17; 61:6-7). The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord (Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:33-34), and the Holy Spirit will indwell all believers (Ezek. 36:27; 37:14; cf. Jer. 31:33). The Gentiles will participate in the Jewish feasts and sacrificial system (Zech. 14:16). Satan will be bound during the reign of Christ (Rev. 20:1-3), but sadly, this will not change his rebellious nature, or the nature of those who follow him (Rev. 20:7-10).

 

[1] Alva McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom (Winona Lake, Ind. BMH Books, 2009), 41.

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Revelation 19:1-21

October 20, 2018

In Revelation 19 Jesus Christ fulfills all the prophecy of Scripture regarding His Second Coming to earth in anticipation of the establishment of His Millennial reign in righteousness. The chapter opens with a fourfold praise of God in which martyred believers and angels shout “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her” (Rev. 19:1-2; cf. 3-6). The next scene is the marriage of the Lamb, which presents Jesus as the Bridegroom and the church as His bride (Rev. 19:7-9; cf. 2 Cor. 11:2). All Christians are positionally righteous in God’s sight because of His imputed righteousness (Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21); however, the beauty of the church is here connected with her righteous acts, for she “has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). John explains, “It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean” (Rev. 19:8a), which seems to refer to the good works God prepares for us to walk in (Eph. 2:10). But we must choose that righteous life, and in doing so, we adorn ourselves with beautiful attire, “for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev 19:8b). Concerning this, Dr. Charles Ryrie states:

  • The delicate balance between the sovereignty of God and human responsibility is maintained in the two phrases “has made herself ready” (she did it) and “it was given to her” (God did it). The bride’s array is “fine linen,” which is explained as “the righteous acts of the saints.” In other words, the bride’s wedding garment will be made up of the righteous deeds done in life. The bride is the bride because of the righteousness of Christ; the bride is clothed for the wedding because of her acts. Righteous acts flow from a righteous character, which is entirely of the grace of God.[1]

John then records the first of two incidents in which he is rebuked for bowing and worshipping an angel (Rev. 19:10; cf. 22:8). Jesus then descends from heaven on a white horse (Rev. 19:11-13), with the armies of heaven (Rev. 19:14), and defeats His enemies with a word (Rev. 19:15-16). An angel invites the birds of heaven to feast upon the corpses of those who are killed (Rev. 19:17-18). Jesus defeats the Antichrist and his armies in a moment (Rev. 19:19), and seizes the Antichrist and his false prophet and throws them alive into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20; cf. Rev. 20:10). And all the birds were filled with the flesh of those defeated by Christ (Rev. 19:21). The return of Christ is praiseworthy news to those who are in heaven and on the earth who love Him and look forward to His coming. However, it is bad news to those who hate him and resist His will (2 Thess. 1:3-10; Rev. 19:11-21).

 

[1] Charles C. Ryrie, Revelation: Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, Ill. Moody Press, 1996), 128.

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The Second Coming of Jesus

October 20, 2018

 

The Old Testament revealed the coming of the Jewish Messiah, both as a Suffering Servant (Ps. 22:6, 12-18; Isa. 50:6-7; 53:1-12; Dan. 9:26; Zech. 13:7), and as a reigning descendant of David (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:3-4, 34-37), who would establish an earthly kingdom in Israel (Ps. 2:1-12; Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-5; Jer. 23:5; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14). The New Testament clearly identifies Jesus as the promised Messiah (Matt. 1:1, 16; Luke 1:31-33; John 1:41-42). At His first coming, Jesus repeatedly offered the earthly Davidic kingdom to Israel (Matt. 4:17, 23; 9:35; 10:7), but His offer was rejected by the Jewish leadership and the majority of people (Matt. 11:20; Matt. 12:14; 27:22-23), so the kingdom was postponed for a future time (Matt. 21:43).

After the kingdom was rejected, Jesus began to explain to His disciples that he would be crucified, buried, and resurrected after three days (Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19). He then died for our sins (John 19:1-30; cf. Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:6-8; 1 Pet. 3:18), was buried (John 19:31-42), and rose again on the third day as He’d prophesied (John 20:1-31; cf. 1 Cor. 15:3-4).

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to numerous persons, namely, Mary Magdalene and other women (John 20:10-18; Matt. 28:8-9), two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32), the disciples without Thomas (John 20:19-25), the disciples with Thomas (John 20:26-29), the disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23), Peter, James, and more than 500 brethren at one time (1 Cor. 15:5-7), and the disciples at Jerusalem before His ascension (Acts 1:3-9). After His ascension, Jesus also appeared to Stephen (Acts 7:56), Paul (Acts 9:1-6; 1 Cor. 15:8), and John on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9-18).

Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus prophesied He would return again (Matt. 16:27; 19:28; 25:31). After His resurrection and ascension, an angel confirmed to Jesus’ disciples that He would come back (Acts 1:11), and this will happen after the time of Tribulation (Matt. 24:29-30; Rev. 1:7; 19:11-16; 20:1-6).

The Second Coming is distinguished from the Rapture of the Church where Christ takes all Christians to heaven (John 14:1-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-53). The Rapture of the Church occurs just prior to the seven year Tribulation.

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Revelation 18:1-24

October 13, 2018

In Revelation 18, Babylon is pictured as a commercial center that is destroyed by God, because it promotes the glorification of self and pleasure above Him. An angel informs John that Babylon—which is noted for its uncleanness—has fallen (Rev. 18:1-2), and that the kings and merchants of earth have participated in her spiritual immorality (Rev. 18:3). God then calls for His people to “come out of her”, so they will not participate in her sin and judgments, for her sins have reached heaven, and God is about to render judgment against her (Rev. 18:4-6). Babylon is pictured as a woman who sees herself as a complacent queen who will never experience hardship, but God will judge her in one day (Rev. 18:7-8). And the kings and merchants of the earth who enjoyed her pleasures and capitalized on her practices will weep over her destruction (Rev. 18:9-10), for all her luxurious commodities and products are destroyed (Rev. 18:12-19). But heaven, and God’s people, will rejoice because of God’s righteous judgment on her, that she is forever destroyed (Rev. 18:20-23), because she was responsible for the murder of “prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth” (Rev. 18:24).

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Revelation 17:1-18

October 13, 2018

Babylon is called the “great harlot” (Rev. 17:1), and who entices and intoxicates the rulers and the masses of humanity “with the wine of her immorality” (Rev. 17:2). She is seen astride a scarlet beast (i.e. Antichrist), which has seven heads and ten horns (Rev. 17:3). The woman is pictured in regal attire, wearing precious jewels, holding a gold cup full of abominations and immoralities (Rev. 17:4), and on her forehead was written, “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth” (Rev. 17:5), and she is drunk with the blood of the saints (Rev. 17:6). Religious harlotry is the seductive promotion of false religions, ecumenicalism, and immorality that draws people away from faithfulness and obedience to God (Jer. 3:6-10; Ezek. 16:30-34; Jas. 4:4). An angel then explains the vision of the woman and the beast that carries her (Rev. 17:7). John learns the beast is the Antichrist who was wounded and revived (Rev. 17:8; cf. 13:3), and the seven heads are seven mountains (Rev. 17:9), which refer to seven kings/kingdoms (Rev. 17:10). The beast is himself an eighth king who eventually goes to destruction (Rev. 17:11). The ten horns refer to ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but will receive authority to rule with the beast for a short time, and they give their power and authority to Antichrist (Rev. 17:12-13). These rulers, led by Antichrist, wage war against the Lamb of God and are defeated by Him (Rev. 17:14). The angel then explains that the waters refer to “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” which are dominated by Babylonianism (Rev. 17:15). Eventually, the mutual arrangement between the great harlot, the kings of the earth and beast is dissolved, and the latter will “will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire” (Rev. 17:16). This will happen according to God’s sovereign control, “For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God should be fulfilled” (Rev. 17:17). From this verse we learn about primary and secondary causes. God never causes nor condones evil; however, He can and does control the evil actions of people to accomplish His will (cf. Gen. 45:4-5; Acts 4:26-28). The sovereignty of God in controlling people and circumstances does not abnegate the responsibility of people who act contrary to His will. The mature believer learns to see the sovereign hand of God that lies behind all people and circumstances, and lives by faith, trusting God is in control of all events (Rom. 8:28). Finally, Babylon is described as the woman who “reigns over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 17:18).

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Revelation 17:1 - Babylonianism

October 13, 2018

Babylon is named after the city of Babel, which was founded by a descendant of Noah named Nimrod, who is described as a “mighty hunter before the Lord” (Gen. 10:9). Moses tells us that Nimrod founded several cities, namely, “Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar” (Gen. 10:10). Shinar is in the region of what is today known as Iraq. Moses wrote about the origin of Babylon, with its values and practices.

  • Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Gen 11:1-4)

In this passage we observe these early descendants of Noah all spoke the same language and chose to settle in the land of Shinar contrary to God’s previous command to “fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). After settling, they began to use God’s resources of volition, intelligence, language, and building materials to build a city for themselves, as well as a tower into heaven. All of this was done to make a name for themselves, rather than to obey and glorify God. Their big plans and big tower were small in the sight of God, who “came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built” (Gen. 11:5). No matter how big their tower, it would never reach heaven, and the Lord condescended to see their production. Of course, the Lord knew all along what they were doing, and this satirical language helps us understand the work of men from the divine perspective. Because it was God’s will for them to fill the earth, He confused their language and scattered them over the earth (gen. 11:6-9).

  • The Bible teaches that those who exalt themselves shall be abased (Matt. 23:12). In this little story the proud rebellion was met by God in talionic judgment. What they feared the most came upon them, and the fame they craved came in the form of notoriety. By such justice God demonstrates his sovereignty over the foolish plans of mortals, turning their rebellion into submission to his will.[1]

Babylon is identified as the birthplace of organized rebellion against God, in which people used the Lord’s resources in defiance of His will. Babylon is mentioned over three hundred times in Scripture, and in several places is identified for her pride (Isa. 13:19), idolatry (Isa. 21:9; Jer. 51:44), and sorceries (Isa. 47:13). When Daniel was taken into Babylonian Captivity in 605 B.C., he and his friends were forced into a Chaldean reeducation program which was intended to assimilate him into the Babylonian culture which forced upon him “the literature and language of the Chaldeans” (Dan. 1:4), accepting a new name (Dan. 1:7), and serving as a governmental administrator (Dan. 1:17-21; 6:1-3).  By the time we get to the book of Revelation, it is seen both as a city and a system that promotes religious, political, and economic agendas that are antithetical to God. Babylon is also described as a great harlot who influences all of humanity (Rev. 17:1-5), is guilty of persecuting and murdering prophets and saints (Rev. 17:6), is a dwelling place of demons and unclean spirits (Rev. 18:2), and with whom “the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality” (Rev. 18:3). Eventually, Babylon is completely destroyed just prior to the Second Coming of Christ (Rev. 18:2, 10, 21).

Babylonianism is a philosophy of human autonomy that permeates all aspects of society including literature, music, art, politics, economics, business, academic institutions, and culture at large. It is a system of values that start and end with man, and is embraced by the vast majority of people who assign no serious thought of God to their discussions, plans, or projects, but who seek to use His resources independently of His wishes. Babylonianism is also the mother of all world religions, which provide people a system of beliefs and rituals whereby they can work their way to heaven by human effort. There is even a Babylonian form of Christianity, which undermines the grace of God and convinces people they are saved by good works.

Biblical Christianity is not a religion, whereby people bring themselves to God through ritual practices or good works. Rather, it presents the truth that God is holy and can have nothing whatsoever to do with sin (Hab. 1:13; 1 John 1:5), that people are helpless to save themselves (Rom. 4:1-5; 5:6-10; Gal. 2:16; Tit. 3:5), and are under His wrath (John 3:18; 36). The gospel message is that God provided a way for helpless sinners to be saved, and this is through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:3-4), who died in our place on the cross and paid the penalty for our sins (Rom. 5:6-8; Heb. 10:10-14; 1 Pet. 3:18). The simple truth of Scripture is that we are saved by grace alone (Eph. 2:8-9), through faith alone (John 3:16), in Christ alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), whose substitutionary death provides forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:13-14), eternal life (John 3:16; 10:28), and the gift of righteousness (Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9).

Biblical Christianity is more than just a way to be saved. It also provides a structured philosophical framework that tells us why everything exists (i.e. the universe, mankind, evil, etc.) and helps us to see God sovereignly at work in everything, providing purpose for our lives, and directing history toward the return of Christ. This gives us hope for the future; for “according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). When properly understood and applied, Scripture guards us from harmful cultural influences (Phil. 4:6-8), and directs and enriches our lives (Ps. 119:14, 111). Jeremiah wrote, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts” (Jer. 15:16). It sets us free to enjoy God’s world and to pursue righteousness and goodness (Rom. 6:11-13; Tit. 2:11-14).

As Christians, must be careful that we do not fall into Babylonianism, either by following the lead of those who seek to silence or pervert the voice God, or be enticed by pleasures or activities that lead us to trust in people or things instead of Him. Rather, we must consciously place God at the center of our lives and pursue His glory, and humbly serve others above our own self-interests (Phil. 2:4-8).

 

[1] Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 244.

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The Wrath of God

October 7, 2018

The subject of God’s wrath is mentioned throughout Scripture. A few examples of God’s wrath in the OT include the worldwide flood (Genesis 6-9), the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19), suppressing the rebellion of Korah (Num. 16:1-50), judging Solomon because of his idolatry (1 Ki. 11:9-11), and the Assyrian destruction of the ten tribes of Israel (2 Ki. 17:1-23). A few examples in the NT include Jesus’ anger at the hard-heartedness of religious leaders (Mark 3:1-6), His anger at the money changers in the Temple (John 2:13-16), God’s wrath during the Tribulation (Rev. 6:16-17; 14:9-10; 15:7; 16:1), at the second coming of Jesus (Rev. 19:15), and at the Great White throne judgments where unbelievers are cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

God’s wrath refers to His intense hatred of sin. God’s hatred of sin assumes the qualities of righteousness and holiness. Scripture states, “Righteous are You, O LORD, and upright are Your judgments” (Ps. 119:137), and “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; for all the nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed” (Rev. 15:4). Divine righteousness is that intrinsic, immutable, moral perfection of God, from which He commands all things, in heaven and earth, and declares as good that which conforms to His righteousness and as evil that which deviates. God’s holiness means that He is morally pure and set apart from all that is sinful. God’s wrath is the natural response to that which is contrary to His righteousness and holiness. When people behave contrary to God’s righteous and holy character, the Lord becomes angry. His anger is motivated by a desire to protect that which He loves. God loves righteousness and He loves His people. To perpetually act contrary to God’s righteousness will eventually bring a response of anger, and to attack that which God loves—His people—will bring about divine retribution.

God’s anger is never rash. In fact, many biblical passages reveal God is very patient with us and slow to anger. Scripture reveals, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Ex. 34:6), and “You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth” (Ps. 86:15; cf. Ps. 103:8; Jon. 4:2; Neh. 9:17). God’s patience allows people time to humble themselves and turn to Him before judgment comes. Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Though God is patient, He is not patient forever, and there eventually comes a time when His judgment comes, both in time and in eternity.

God’s righteousness demands punishment for sin, but God’s love desires to save the sinner. We produce sin, but are helpless to deal with it. God alone solves our sin-problem, and the cross of Christ is that solution. At the cross God judged our sin as His righteousness requires, and extends grace to the sinner as His love desires. At the cross God satisfied every demand of His righteousness by judging our sin in the substitute of His Son, Jesus, who bore the wrath that rightfully belongs to us (Isa. 53:6-12; Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:8-9; 1 Pet. 2:21-24; 3:18). As a result, God is propitiated by the blood of Christ (Rom. 3:21-26; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10), and extends grace and love to undeserving sinners (John 3:16-18; Rom. 5:6-10; Eph. 2:1-9; Tit. 3:5). Those who reject Christ as Savior continue under God’s wrath (John 3:18, 36; Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Thess. 2:14-16; 5:9-10). Those who trust Jesus as their Savior receive forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:13-14), the imputation of God’s righteousness (Rom. 5:17-18; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9), are reconciled with God and are on friendly terms (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-19), have relational peace with Him (Rom. 5:1; Col. 1:20), will never know eternal condemnation (Rom. 8:1, 31-39), and will be spared from the wrath to come (Rom. 5:8-9; Eph. 2:1-7; 5:1-10; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 5:9-10). It should be noted there is a difference between wrath and discipline. The Christian who falls into a lifestyle of perpetual sin may know God’s discipline (Heb. 12:5-11), even to the point of death (1 Cor. 11:30; 1 John 5:16). But discipline is born out of God’s love for the believer, not His anger, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines” (Heb. 12:6), and “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline” (Rev. 3:19).

Is it alright for God’s people to get angry? The answer is yes and no. There is a sinful anger that God’s people must avoid (Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; Titus 1:7); however, there are times when we will experience injustice, and it is natural and valid to be angry when this happens. When writing to Christians at Ephesus, Paul stated, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Eph. 4:26-27). Anger is wrong when it leads us to sin (i.e. revenge, murder, etc.). As Christians, we must be careful with anger, for sin crouches near the one who harbors it, tempting that person to retaliate and exact revenge upon the offending party. Personal revenge is not the Christian way, for Scripture directs us, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). More so, we are to love and pray for our enemies (Luke 6:27-29), and to bless them (Rom. 12:14; 1 Pet. 3:8-9), if perhaps God may grant them saving grace (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Though God promises to avenge the innocent (2 Thess. 1:6-7; Rev. 6:9-11; 19:1-2); there may be times when He surprises us by showing grace and mercy to those who don’t deserve it, such as the grace shown to Paul when he was persecuting the church (Acts 9:1-6; Gal. 1:15-16), or the grace shown to us while we were sinners (Rom. 5:6-10).

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Revelation 16:1-21

October 7, 2018

Revelation 16 concludes God’s wrath on the earth toward men who live in constant rebellion to Him. Revelation 16 reveals what God is going to do before the return of Christ (Rev. 19), and Revelation chapters 17 through 19 reveal who He’s going to do it to. “Unlike the previous series of judgments of the trumpets and seals, each of which had a break between the sixth and seventh judgments, the seven plagues of the bowls are poured out without interruption and apparently quite rapidly.”[1] John uses the Greek adjective μέγας megas a dozen times emphasizing the severity of God’s judgments in this final phase of the Tribulation.

Revelation 16 opens with a command to seven angels to pour out God’s wrath upon the earth (Rev. 16:1). The judgments include severe sores upon mankind (Rev. 16:2), turning the oceans to blood and killing all marine life (Rev. 16:3), turning the world’s drinking water to blood (Rev. 16:4), scorching men with severe heat from the sun (Rev. 16:8-9), severe darkness upon the throne of the Antichrist and his kingdom (Rev. 16:10-11), drying up the Euphrates River so the hostile kings from the east can invade Israel (Rev. 16:12-16), and a great earthquake that affects topographical changes all over the earth as well as hailstones weighing one hundred pounds (Rev. 16:17-21). Some of the judgments are similar to those which were brought on Egypt such as boils (Ex. 9:8-12; Rev. 16:2), turning water to blood (Ex. 7:20-25; Rev. 16:3), and darkness (Ex. 10:15; Rev. 16:10). God is declared righteous in the outpouring of His wrath on wicked men (Rev. 16:5-7; cf. Rom. 12:17-19; 2 Thess. 1:6). Men are so corrupt in their nature, that even though they experience God’s righteous wrath toward them, they refuse to humble themselves and repent, but rather blaspheme His name (Rev. 16:9, 11, 21; cf. Rev. 9:20-21).

 

[1] Charles Ryrie, Revelation: Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, Ill., Moody Press, 1996), 111.

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Revelation 15:1-8

September 29, 2018

Revelation 15 reveals that God is righteous to judge those who oppose Him and to reward His saints for being faithful to death. The chapter opens with a scene in heaven, where seven angels are given the final seven plagues of God’s wrath, which are yet to be poured out on the earth (Rev. 15:1). John was shown “a sea of glass mixed with fire” in connection with believers “who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name” (Rev. 15:2). These victorious believers will sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb (Rev. 15:3a). The song of Moses was sung by the Israelites after the Lord had delivered them from Pharaoh and his army at the Red Sea (Ex. 15:1-21). Apparently the song of the Lamb will be sung by believers who are strengthened by Christ to endure the Tribulation and not to yield to the pressures of the Antichrist, which pressures will be political, social, religious, and economic. These will praise God for His works and attributes, saying, “Great and marvelous are Thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are Thy ways, Thou King of the nations. Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou alone art holy; for all the nations will come and worship before Thee, for Thy righteous acts have been revealed” (Rev. 15:3b-4). After the song of praise, John sees seven angels who come out of the heavenly temple (Rev. 15:5-6), and these are clothed in white linen (symbolizing purity), and golden girdles wrapped around their breasts (the clothing of a judge). One of the four living creatures mentioned earlier (Rev. 4:6) gives seven bowls of God’s wrath to the seven angels so they can execute His judgment upon the earth (Rev. 15:7). The scene then closes, “And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished” (Rev. 15:8). In this short chapter, John reveals seven of God’s attributes, which include:

  1. Sovereignty – “Lord God” & “King of the nations”
  2. Omnipotence – “the Almighty”
  3. Righteousness – “Righteous”
  4. Veracity – “true”
  5. Justice – “the wrath of God”
  6. Eternal nature – “who lives forever and ever”
  7. Holiness – “Thou alone art holy”
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Revelation 14:1-20

September 29, 2018

Revelation chapters 14 & 15 preview the judgments in Revelation chapters 16 through 19. In Revelation chapter 14 God is preserving the righteous for blessing and preparing judgment for the wicked at Jesus’ Second Coming. The chapter opens with a scene that pictures Jesus as a Lamb standing in Zion (i.e. Jerusalem; cf. 2 Sam. 5:7), and with Him are one hundred and forty-four thousand (Rev. 14:1; cf. 7:4-8), and these faithful believers sing a new song to God (Rev. 14:2-5). John saw an angel with an eternal gospel, calling people to praise God and to worship Him as creator, pronouncing His time of judgment upon the earth has come (Rev. 14:6-7). A second angel appears, pronouncing judgment upon Babylon (Rev. 14:8), and a third angel announcing eternal judgment upon all who receive the mark of the beast (Rev. 14:9-11). John then reveals that martyred saints who die during the Tribulation will be blessed with rewards that follow their works (Rev. 14:12-13). The scene then shifts to the Second Coming of Jesus and the judgments that follow (Rev. 14:14), which judgments are aided with the help of angels who reap the earth of rebellious people who will face the wrath of God at the appearance of Jesus (Rev. 14:15-20; cf. Matt. 13:41-42, 49-50).

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Contrasting Good and Bad Leaders

September 8, 2018

A leader is one who influences the thoughts and actions of others in order to achieve a specific outcome. The Bible differentiates between good and bad leaders, between the righteous and the wicked. Bad leaders exclude God from their daily thoughts and activities and selfishly pursue their own desires, even if it means harming others. Below are some qualities that describe bad leaders:

  1. They trust in human resources rather than God. “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!” (Isa. 31:1).
  2. They are open to lies. “If a ruler pays attention to falsehood [i.e. intentionally listens to lies], all his ministers become wicked” (Pro. 29:12).
  3. They make people groan. “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan” (Pro. 29:2).
  4. They oppress others. “Like a roaring lion and a rushing bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people. A leader who is a great oppressor lacks understanding, but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days” (Pro. 28:15-16).
  5. They are sometimes described as beasts that are empowered by Satan. “Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea…and the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority” (Rev. 13:1-2; cf. 7:1-8).
  6. They openly attack God and His people. “And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God…It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them” (Rev. 13:6-7).
  7. They demand to be worshipped (Rev. 13:12), practice deception (Rev. 13:14), and rob others of their economic choices (Rev. 13:16-17).

In contrast, the good leader is first and foremost a follower of God who wears a crown of humility and derives his values and strength from the Lord. Below are some of the qualities of a good leader:

  1. He is a servant to others. When Solomon died, his counselors advised his son, Rehoboam, “If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever”[1] (1 Kings 12:7; cf. Matt. 20:25-28; John 13:13-17; Phil. 2:3-4).
  2. He seeks God’s righteousness as his rule for judging others. “Give the king Your judgments, O God, and Your righteousness to the king’s son. May he judge Your people with righteousness and Your afflicted with justice” (Ps. 72:1-2).
  3. He cares about the poor and needy. “He [the king] will deliver the needy when he cries for help, the afflicted also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy, and the lives of the needy he will save. He will rescue their life from oppression and violence, and their blood will be precious in his sight.” (Ps. 72:12-14).
  4. He governs with integrity and skill. Of David, it is written, “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands” (Ps. 78:72).
  5. He rules by wisdom. “By me [biblical wisdom] kings reign, and rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, all who judge rightly” (Pro. 8:15-16).
  6. He displays impeccable judgment. “A divine decision is in the lips of the king; his mouth should not err in judgment” (Pro. 16:10; cf. read Deut. 17:18-20).
  7. He brings stability by adhering to justice. “The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it” (Pro. 29:4).
  8. He governs by loyalty and truth. “Loyalty and truth preserve the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness” (Pro. 20:28).
  9. He governs in righteousness. “It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness. Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and he who speaks right is loved” (Pro. 16:12-13).
  10. He should be honest. “Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, much less are lying lips to a prince” (Pro. 17:7).
  11. He punishes the wicked. “A wise king winnows the wicked, and drives the threshing wheel over them” (Pro. 20:26).
  12. He associates with honest and gracious persons. “He who loves purity of heart [i.e. has honest intentions] and whose speech is gracious [i.e. kind speech], the king is his friend” (Pro. 22:11).
  13. He searches to find the facts of a matter. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter” (Pro. 25:2; cf. 18:13).
  14. He preserves the rights of others by clear thinking. “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink, for they will drink and forget what is decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted” (Pro. 31:4-5).
  15. He surrounds himself with wise counselors. “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Pro. 11:14).
  16. He educates and delegates responsibility to trusted persons (read Ex. 18:13-26).

As believers, we are always to pray for those in leadership positions. Paul writes, “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

 

[1] Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotes are from the New American Standard Bible, 1995.

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Revelation 13:1-18

September 8, 2018

There are two beasts in Revelation 13: 1) the Antichrist (Rev. 13:1-8), and 2) the False Prophet (Rev. 13:13-15). Satan—with the help of the Antichrist and the False Prophet—will seek to control the world politically (Rev. 13:1-2), religiously (Rev. 13:3-6), militarily (Rev. 13:7), and economically (Rev. 13:16-17). John opens with a description of the Antichrist[1], who is described as a wild beast who rises “out of the sea” (Rev. 13:1). The sea is likely a reference to evil and disruption (Isa. 57:20; Dan. 7:3; Jude. 1:13). The Antichrist possesses the qualities of those beastly world rulers described in Daniel (Dan. 7:7-8), and derives his power from Satan (Rev. 13:2). It appears one of the nations under the Antichrist’s control perishes, but he miraculously revives it (Rev. 13:3), and the world worships the dragon and him (Rev. 13:4). “The apparent resurrection of this nation will be so amazing to the world that many people will give their allegiance and their worship to Antichrist (cf. vv. 8, 12; 14:9, 11; 20:4). In so doing they will also submit to Satan who is behind him. Antichrist’s ability to revive this nation will make him appear invincible.”[2] From his arrogance, the Antichrist blasphemes the name of God for forty-two months (Rev. 13:5-6), is permitted to kill God’s people (Rev. 13:7), and is worshipped by unbelievers (Rev. 13:8). John addresses believers living during this time to be assured that God is in control, even over their persecution and death (Rev. 13:9-10). John then witnesses the rising of another beast, who is the False Prophet, who leads a world religion that demands everyone worship the first beast (Rev. 13:11-12). The False Prophet is able to perform great miracles (Rev. 13:13), and deceives the whole world into worshipping an image of the beast (Rev. 13:14). The False Prophet also has the ability to give life to the image (Rev. 13:15a), and the authority to kill those who do not worship it (Rev. 13:15b). He then forces everyone to receive a mark in connection with the beast (Rev. 13:16), which he uses to control people’s economic choices (Rev. 13:17). The mark of the beast is also the number of a man, which is 666 (Rev. 13:18). It is possible the three numbers correspond to letters that have numerical value, thus spelling out Antichrist’s name. It’s also possible that the number six signifies imperfection, and the tripling of the number represents the multiplication of imperfection. Lastly, we must remember that God never relinquishes control over the earth and the affairs of mankind. Though He permits Satan a period of time to have his way, eventually God will disrupt his activities and send Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet to the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20; 20:10).

 

[1] The Antichrist is mentioned several times throughout Scripture (Dan. 7:7-8; 9:24-27; 11:36-39; Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:3-12; 1 Jo. 2:18; Rev.13:1-8; 17:3, 7-8, 11-13; 19:19-20; 20:10).

[2] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Re 13:4.

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Revelation 12:7 - Angels, Satan, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare

August 25, 2018

     The word angel translates the Hebrew word מַלְאָךְ malak and the Greek word ἄγγελος aggelos, and both words mean messenger. The word angel occurs approximately 275 times throughout Scripture, and appears in 34 books. Angels are created beings (Col. 1:16), were present at the creation of the world (Job 38:4-7), are called spirits (Luke 9:38-39; Heb. 1:13-14), and have volition, emotion, and intelligence (Matt. 8:28-32; cf. 1 Pet 1:12). They are distinct from humans (Mark 1:23-26), do not reproduce after their kind (Mark 12:25), have great power (2 Peter 2:11), and are numerous (Heb. 12:22; Rev. 5:11).

     Angels are classified as either elect (1 Tim. 5:21) or fallen (Isa. 14:12; Rev. 9:1). The former retain their holy state and service to God, whereas the latter have defected from their original place and continue in constant rebellion against the Lord. Angels, both elect and fallen, are organized into different classes, which are called “the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10; cf. Col. 1:16; 2:15).

     Michael—whose name means “who is like God”—is the only one named as an Archangel (Jude 1:9). Gabriel—whose name means “hero of God”—appears as a special messenger of the Lord who delivered messages to Daniel (Dan. 8:16; 9:21), Zacharias (Luke 1:18-19), and Mary (Luke 1:26-38). Seraphim—who have six wings—are devoted to the worship of God (Isa. 6:1-3), whereas Cherubim—who have four wings—are devoted to protecting the Lord’s holiness (Ezek. 10:19-21). The term “angel of Yahweh” is used only in the Old Testament and refers to appearances by the preincarnate Jesus Christ (Gen. 18:1-19:29; 22:11-12; 31:11-13; 32:24-32; 48:15-16; Josh. 5:13-15; Judg. 13:19-22; 2 Kings 19:35; 1 Chron. 21:12-30; Ps. 34:7).

     Satan is the chief angel who, because of pride, rebelled against God (Isa. 14:12-14; Ezek. 28:11-18). The name Satan is derived from the Hebrew שָׂטָן Satan (Job 1:6) and the Greek Σατανᾶς Satanas (Matt. 4:10), and both words mean adversary. Other names include the shining one, or Lucifer (Isa. 14:12), the evil one (1 John 5:19), the tempter (1 Thess. 3:5), the devil (Matt. 4:1), the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10), the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), the serpent (Rev. 12:9), the great red dragon (Rev. 12:3), and the angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).

     Satan interacts with God and people (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-13; John 13:27; 1 Pet. 5:8; Rev. 12:10), possesses earthly kingdoms (Luke 4:5-6), is said to have “weakened the nations” (Isa. 14:12), and currently “deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9). He practices deception (Gen. 3:1-15; 2 Cor. 11:13-15), and has well developed strategies of warfare against Christians (Eph. 6:10-12). As a creature, Satan is confined in his abilities and relies on numerous fallen angels who carry out his will. His demons also lead political and military rebellions (Rev. 16:12-14).

     Satan was judged at the cross (John 12:31; 16:11; Col. 2:14-15), and awaits his future punishment. His judgment is very near when he is cast out of heaven to the earth during the Tribulation (Rev. 12:7-12). At this time his wrath is greatest against God’s people. After the return of Christ (Rev. 19:11-16) and the establishment of His kingdom on earth (Rev. 20:1-6), Satan will be confined to the abyss for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3). After the thousand years, Satan is released for a brief time and will again deceive the nations and lead a rebellion against God (Rev. 20:7-8), but will be quickly defeated (Rev. 20:9), and cast into the Lake of Fire, where he will be forever, with his demons and all unbelievers (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10-15).

     Fallen angels are commonly referred to in Scripture as demons. These creatures are hostile, implacable, and irreconcilable; and they regularly wage war against elect angels and God’s people. Some are imprisoned (Jude 6; Rev. 9:1-16), and others are free. During the time of Christ, they were able to identify Him as the Son of God (Matt. 8:29a), and they knew their future fate (Matt. 8:29b). Satan and demons attempt to frustrate the purpose of God (Matt. 4:1-11; cf. Dan. 10:10-14; Rev. 16:13-16). Demons can possess the bodies of men (Luke 11:24-26), and cause physical disease (Matt. 9:32-33). 

     The activity of Satan and demons is always under God’s sovereign control. There are times when God permits Satan and demons to have their way, such as when Satan inflicted Job (Job 2:7), and sifted Peter as wheat (Luke 22:31), or when Jesus permitted demons to enter a herd of swine (Matt. 8:31-32). And, there are times when God uses evil spirits as disciplinary agents against believers, either to punish (1 Sam. 16:14-16), or humble (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

     Some fallen angels are called chief princes who rule over specific geographical regions of the world (Dan. 10:13, 20). The apostle Paul communicates this idea when he wrote to the church at Ephesus, revealing, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood [i.e. other people], but against the rulers [ἀρχή arche - rulers], against the powers [ἐξουσία exousiapower to act, authority], against the world forces [κοσμοκράτωρ kosmokratora ruler of this world] of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” [τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις] (Eph. 6:12). There are spiritual battles in heavenly places where angels war against each other, and their activity directly affects mankind (Dan. 10:1-21; Rev. 12:7-9; cf. Job 1:6; 2:1; 1 Ki. 22:1-38; 2 Thess. 2:9; Rev. 9:1-19; 16:12-14). Though we cannot see our enemy, spiritual victory is obtained through the blood of Christ (Rev. 12:10-11), and through the knowledge of God’s Word and living daily by faith (Eph. 6:12-18; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17; cf. 2 Cor. 5:17).

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Revelation 12:1-17

August 25, 2018

Revelation 12 opens with a sign that pictures ancient Israel as a woman (Rev. 12:1-2; cf. Gen. 37:9-11). Satan is described as a dragon that wages war against God’s people, and he is said to have seven heads and ten horns (Rev. 12:3). “His seven heads and ten horns probably represent seven nations and ten rulers (17:12). Ten kings will rule under his authority, but when Antichrist rises to preeminence among them he will subdue three of them leaving only seven (Dan. 7:7–8, 20, 24; Rev. 13:1)” (Tom Constable, Expository Notes on the Bible; Rev. 12:3). Satan was thwarted when he tried to destroy Jesus at His birth (Rev. 12:4; Matt. 2:13-16), but after Jesus’ ministry and victory at the cross, He was caught up to heaven where Satan cannot harm Him (Rev. 12:5; cf. Acts 1:9). Unable to defeat Christ, Satan will seek to persecute and destroy Israel, but God will protect her throughout the latter part of the Tribulation (Rev. 12:6). John then tells us about a “war in heaven” (Rev. 12:7), in which Satan is cast out (Rev. 12:8). Here we are given a glimpse into the angelic conflict that wages in unseen realms, in which God directs His holy angels to battle against the forces of darkness that are set against Him and His plan for men. Satan is regarded as the greatest enemy of God’s people, and his power is sufficient to deceive “the whole world” (Rev. 12:9; cf. 13:14; 20:3, 8) . John records another proleptic statement concerning the kingdom of God (Rev. 12:10), and states that believers overcome Satan: 1) by the blood the Lamb—that is, the work of the cross applied to those who trust in Jesus for salvation, 2) by the word of their testimony—that is, their faithful adherence to God’s promises and commands, and 3) by loving God more than their own life (Rev. 12:11). This is followed by a command for heaven to rejoice because Satan is cast out, but there is woe to the earth because he is thrown down to them and is full of wrath, knowing he has only a short time (Rev. 12:12). Satan will begin a campaign to destroy Israel (Rev. 12:13), but God will protect her from his attacks (Rev. 12:14-16). Being unsuccessful in his efforts, he will “make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17). God provides strength for the battle to those who tenaciously hold to their faith and continue in obedience to Him.

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Revelation 11:1-19

August 11, 2018

In Revelation 11 John is given a measuring rod and told to measure the temple, the altar, and those who worship in it (Rev. 11:1).[1] “The measuring itself seems to be an act of knowing, claiming, or staking out. In this act of John's, God is giving assurance that He will take note of those who faithfully worship Him in the first half of the Tribulation.”[2] John is told not to measure the court outside the temple, for that is given to unbelievers who will trample Jerusalem for forty two months (Rev. 11:2). John is then informed about two witnesses who—though unidentified—prophecy and serve in the power and character of Elijah and Moses (Rev. 11:3-6). After “they have finished their testimony” and completed their ministry, “the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them” (Rev 11:7). There are three beasts mentioned in Revelation: 1) Satan is the beast that comes out of the Abyss (Rev. 11:7), 2) the Antichrist is the beast that comes out of the sea (Rev. 13:1), and 3) the false prophet is the beast that comes out of the earth (Rev. 13:11). God permits the bodies of His witnesses to lie in the streets for three days while their enemies celebrate (Rev. 11:8-10), but then God strikes fear in their hearts after He raises His two witnesses back to life and calls them to heaven (Rev. 11:11-12). Following their departure, the Lord sends an earthquake on Jerusalem that destroys a tenth of the city and kills seven thousand people (Rev. 11:13). The seventh woe is past (Rev. 11:14), which is followed by the sounding of seventh trumpet, and the proleptic statement that the kingdom of God and Christ has arrived on earth. The judgment of the seventh trumpet runs from Revelation 11:15 to the end of revelation 16, culminating in the seven Bowl Judgments.

 

[1] There are six temples mentioned in Scripture: 1) Solomon’s Temple (1 Chron. 22:9-10, 953 BC), 2) Zerubbabel’s Temple (Hag. 2:3-9; 515 BC), 3) Herod’s Temple (John 2:20; AD 63), 4) the Tribulation Temple (Rev. 11:1-2; future), 5) the Millennial Temple (Ezek. 40-48; future), and the Heavenly Temple (Rev. 11:19; present). 

[2] Charles C. Ryrie, Revelation, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, Ill. Moody Press, 1996), 83.

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Revelation 10:1-11

August 11, 2018

Revelation chapter 10 is about a strong angel that John describes as “coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire” (Rev. 10:1). Unlike the fallen angels that came from abyss (Rev. 9:2), this angel originates from heaven and is clothed with a cloud, which signifies power and judgment (Dan. 7:13-14; Mark 13:26; Rev. 14:14-16), and a rainbow upon his head which signifies mercy and faithfulness (Gen. 9:13-16), and he radiated God’s glory like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire, which picture purity and judgment. The angel had a “little book” in his hand, and he is seen placing one foot on land and the other on the sea, which is a picture of conquest and control. After the angel cried out with a loud voice, John says, “the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices” (Rev. 10:3). John was about to record what he heard, when suddenly a voice from heaven commanded, “Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do not write them” (Rev. 10:4). John recorded that he could not record the revelation he’d heard from heaven. “While Revelation is primarily designed to reveal and not to conceal God’s purpose and future events, some revelation was kept hidden as illustrated by God’s prohibiting John to write what ‘the voices’ of the seven thunders said.”[1] In wisdom, God does not tell us everything He’s doing, but shares only what we need to know; and by faith we trust Him. The angel then raised his right hand to heaven and swore to God (Rev. 10:5), who is described as the creator of heaven and earth, stating there will not be any further delay in the execution of His judgments (Rev. 10:6). John reveals the time of judgment will occur when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, and then tells us, “then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets” (Rev. 10:7). “The reference, therefore, is not to hidden truth but to the fulfillment of many Old Testament passages which refer to the glorious return of the Son of God and the establishment of His kingdom of righteousness and peace on the earth.”[2] John was commanded to take the little book from the angel (Rev. 10:8-9a), who told him, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey” (Rev 10:9b). John’s experience was exactly as the angel had described (Rev. 10:10). John experienced real exposure to God’s Word, which is both sweet and bitter in its own way, depending on what God is saying or doing. John was then commanded, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings” (Rev. 10:11). Perhaps the little book John consumed contained the content of his prophetic message.

 

[1] John F. Walvoord, “Revelation,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 954.

[2] Ibid., 954.

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The Doctrine of Idolatry

August 4, 2018

The Doctrine of Idolatry

     There is only one God (Isa 46:9; 1 Cor. 8:4), who is worthy of praise (Ps. 148:13), and He does not share His glory with others (Isa 42:8). God forbids the manufacture and worship of idols (Ex. 20:4-6), and declares every man stupid who puts his/her trust in them (Jer. 10:14-15). Idolatry is the substitutionary worship of anything/anyone other than the one true God of Scripture. Crafted idols, which start as a concept in the mind, are often fashioned into some form of man or beast using earthly materials (Isa. 37:18-19; 40:18-20; 44:6-19; Jer. 10:1-15). Idols have no life in them (Ps. 115:1-8; Jer. 51:17; Hab. 2:18-20), nor can they deliver in times of trouble (Isa. 46:5-7), and a curse is pronounced upon those who worship them (Deut. 27:15). Idolatry among God’s people is tantamount to spiritual adultery (Ezek. 23:37; Hos. 4:12-13), and in some cases even included human sacrifice (2 Chron. 33:1-7; 2 Ki. 16:3; 17:17; 21:6; Jer. 32:35; Ezek. 16:21). Scripture teaches us the worship of idols is actually the worship of demons (1 Cor. 10:19-20; cf. 1 Tim. 4:1), who seek to steal God’s glory and wreck our relationship with Him. Because the human heart is sinful, our natural proclivity is to worship at the altar of self-interest, and all God’s children—even the wisest—are susceptible to the snares of idolatry. For example, Aaron led Israel to worship a golden calf (Ex. 32:1-6), and Solomon, by the end of his life, bowed down the pagan idols of Ashtoreth and Milcom. Solomon even built places of worship for Chemosh and Molech, that God’s people might be led astray to serve them (1 Ki. 11:6-10). Idolatry was a concern for the Christians at Corinth (1 Cor. 8:1-13; 10:14-33; 2 Cor. 6:16), and the apostle John twice bowed down and worshiped an angel and was rebuked for it (Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9). I believe John knew the sinful inclination of all Christians and this is why he warns us, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). 

     There’s no place for idolatry in the life of any Christian who is devoted to God (Rom 12:1-2), who seeks to know Him, and His will, through Scripture (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17), who is surrounded with growing believers (1 Cor. 15:33; Heb. 10:24-25), who makes time to worship the Lord daily, singing to Him and praising Him for all His blessings (Ps. 95:2; 105:2; Eph. 5:18-21; Phil. 4:6; Col. 3:16-17; 1 Thess. 5:18), and who are satisfied with what the Lord provides. This last point is emphasized by the apostle Paul, who reveals that idolatry is born out of a covetous heart (Col. 3:5) that leads us to desire more than what God gives, and to trust something or someone lesser than Him to satisfy our wants and needs. The believer who is satisfied with God is content with what He provides, whether little or much (Phil. 4:11-13; 1 Tim. 6:7-11; Heb. 13:5); but the covetous believer is never content and always seeks more (i.e. money, success, friends, etc.) in order to feel secure or to please the flesh.

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Revelation 9:1-21

August 4, 2018

In Revelation chapter 9, John reveals the sounding of the fifth and sixth trumpets—the first and second “woes”—which bring God’s continued judgment upon the world. John opens with a scene in which he says, “I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him” (Rev. 9:1). This “star” is an angel sent to release demonic creatures from their current state of captivity (Rev. 9:2-3), and once released are sent on a specific mission to torment “only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Rev. 9:4), and are “not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months” (Rev. 9:5). Their authority is limited concerning their target, the extent of the injury inflicted, and the duration of their activity. The pain imposed by these creatures will prompt men to seek death, but it will flee from them (Rev. 9:6). John then provides a detailed description of these creatures as having features like a locust, with faces of men, long hair like women, teeth like a lion, breastplates of iron, wings, and tails like a scorpion (Rev. 9:7-10). The leader of this army is called Abaddon, and Apollyon, which means “destroyer” (Rev. 9:11). The fifth trumpet concludes the first “woe” (Rev. 9:12). Then the sixth angel sounded his trumpet in heaven, and he was commanded to release “the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates” (Rev. 9:14). These four angels are given authority to kill a third of mankind (Rev. 9:15), and to accomplish this task they command an army of two hundred million soldiers—whether demons or men is not certain—who send plagues upon mankind (Rev. 9:16-19). Elisha the prophet once saw an angelic army (2 Ki. 6:13-17). The two “woes” described in Revelation chapter 9 correspond with the words of Daniel and Jesus concerning the destruction that will come during the Great Tribulation, and that if God did not intervene, all mankind would be destroyed (Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21-22). Those people who remain alive after this destruction refuse to repent of their idolatry and sinful ways (Rev. 9:20-21). “At least three realities stand out from this chapter: (1) the reality and power of the unseen world of demons and Satan; (2) the reality of a God who judges; and (3) the reality of the hardness of sinful human hearts.”[1]

 

[1] Charles C. Ryrie, Revelation, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, Ill. Moody Press, 1996), 76.

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Revelation 8:1-13

August 4, 2018

Revelation 8 opens with a scene in heaven in which there was silence for about half an hour, which perhaps anticipates the approaching storm of judgments that are coming (Rev. 8:1). Afterwards, John saw seven angels who were given seven trumpets, which judgments will be poured out upon the earth (Rev. 8:2). Part of God’s judgment upon the earth is in response to the prayers of the saints; for after their prayers have ascended, His judgments will descend (Rev. 6:9-11; 8:3-5; cf. 2 Thess. 1:6).

  • "Who are the saints whose prayers are being heard here? At the very least they are saints of the Tribulation who are living on the earth and who pray to God for an outpouring of His wrath on the godless rebels on the earth. But they may include the saints of all time whose longing petitions for the coming of the Lord's kingdom are now about to be answered."[1]

The judgments originate from heaven and are sent to the earth to judge those who are in rebellion against God. Four of the seven angels sounded judgments against the earth, burning up trees and grass (Rev. 8:6-7), against the sea, creatures in it, and ships (Rev. 8:8-9), against rivers and springs, poisoning the waters (Rev. 8:10-11), and the sun, moon and stars, diminishing the light sources of the earth (Rev. 8:12).

  • "The first four trumpet judgments are “natural” in that they affect the land, the saltwater, the fresh water, and the heavenly bodies. The fifth and sixth judgments involve the release of demonic forces that first torment, and then kill. The last of the trumpet judgments (Rev. 11:15–19) creates a crisis among all the nations of the world."[2]

Finally, there was a pronouncement concerning the last three judgments, describing them as three woes (Rev. 8:13). The first woe unleashes the locusts from the abyss (Rev. 9:1-12), the second woe releases the four angels imprisoned at the river Euphrates which kills a third of mankind (Rev. 9:13-18; cf. 11:14), and the third woe occurs when Satan is cast out of heaven to the earth (Rev. 11:14; 12:12).

 

[1] Charles C. Ryrie, Revelation, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, Ill. Moody Press, 1996), 66.

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 593.

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Revelation 7:1-17

July 21, 2018

Revelation 7 opens with the sealing of 144,000 Jewish believers who will serve God during the Tribulation (Rev. 7:1-8), and then presents a heavenly scene of believers who worship God and receive His care (Rev. 7:9-17). Revelation 7 is probably best seen as a parenthesis in the chronology of events, since the seventh seal will not be opened until Revelation 8:1. The opening scene presents an angel speaking to four other angels—who have the power to harm the earth—saying to them, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads” (Rev. 7:3). These bond-servants are described as Jewish believers, “one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Rev. 7:4; cf. 5-8). The scene shifts to heaven where John beholds “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands” (Rev. 7:9). These are very thankful saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:10). Joining in their worship are angels, the four living creatures and elders (Rev. 7:11), and they say, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 7:12). Perhaps John was curious about those who were dressed in white clothes, and this explains why one of the elders approached him and asked, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?” (Rev. 7:13), and John answered that he did not know (Rev. 7:14a). The elder replied, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14b). These are martyrs who die during the tribulation, who wear robes that have been cleansed and made spiritually white by the blood of the Lamb. The elder explains further, “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them” (Rev. 7:15). This is a picture of unrestrained service to God with the blessing of perfect protection. Further, these saints will not suffer privation or persecution ever again, as the elder reveals, “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:16-17). Jesus will forever be their Shepherd, protecting and providing for their every need.

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Revelation 6:1-17

July 21, 2018

In Revelation 6:1-17 Jesus breaks six of the seven seals on the scroll and brings intentional and precise judgment upon the rebellious of the earth. The first judgment is a rider on a white horse—probably the antichrist—who is described as one who “had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer” (Rev. 6:2; cf. Matt. 24:6-7a). His authority to be victorious—like all human authority— is derived from heaven’s throne (Rom. 13:1). The second rider came out on a red horse and to him “it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men should slay one another” (Rev. 6:4; cf. Matt. 24:7b). The third rider came on a black horse and “had a pair of scales in his hand” (Rev. 6:5), which signifies economic control. Under this judgment a single day’s meal will cost a whole day’s wages (Rev. 6:6). The fourth rider is Death, and John tells us that Hades followed him, and “Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth” (Rev. 6:8). Death destroys the body, and Hades scoops up the soul. The breaking of the fifth seal shifts from an earthly scene to a heavenly one, in which John reports, “I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained” (Rev. 6:9). These are probably believers who are martyred during the first half of the Tribulation. Their cry to God is, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10; cf. 2 Thess. 1:6-8). John reveals God’s comfort to them, saying, “there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also” (Rev. 6:11). Their request for vengeance will be answered by God. The sixth seal brings cataclysmic disaster in the heavens and earth which cause earthquakes, affecting the sun, moon, and perhaps shifting tectonic plates which cause mountains to move (Rev. 6:12-14). The rebellious will try to hide themselves from God’s wrath (Rev. 6:15), praying to the mountains and the rocks, saying, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:16-17). Their prayer is irrational, as they seek to hide from Him who is omnipresent, and who promises final judgment upon the wicked (Rev. 20:11-15).

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Revelation 5:1-14

July 15, 2018

The Central Idea of the Text is that Jesus is worthy to open the scroll with the seven seals of judgment, and all creation worships Him. The heavenly scene opens with God the Father seated on His throne in heaven with a book, with writing on both sides, on His right hand, which contained seven seals (Rev. 5:1). A question was posed by a mighty angel, asking, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” (Rev 5:2). The response was that no one in all creation was worthy (Rev. 5:3), and this caused John to weep greatly (Rev. 5:4). But just when all seemed hopeless, one of the elders instructed John to stop weeping, because Jesus, “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals” (Rev. 5:5). Jesus is then described as having seven horns and seven eyes, which could be seven principle spirits that do God’s will (Constable). Jesus then came and took the book from God the Father (Rev. 5:6), which moved the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders to fall down and worship Him (Rev. 5:8). They sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10). This song anticipates the coming righteous judgments that God will pour out on the earth because of the wickedness of mankind. The praise initiated by the four living creatures and twenty-four elders is magnified by an incalculable number of angels described as “myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands” (Rev 5:11). The content of their song is, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev 5:12). Lastly, all creation, in heaven and earth, joins in the praise, saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” (Rev. 5:13). The chapter concludes with the original four living creatures and twenty-four elders saying, “Amen”, and then “the elders fell down and worshiped” (Rev. 5:14).

 

In Revelation chapter five, worship is a response to divine revelation – “I saw” & “I looked” (Rev. 5:6, 11), involving instruments (Rev. 5:8), is verbal – “sang” & “saying” (Rev. 5:9, 12), is given both by angels and men (Rev. 5:11-14), is loud – “with a loud voice” (Rev. 5:12), is theocentric – focused on God (Rev. 5:12), acknowledges God’s worth (Rev. 5:12), and is reverential (Rev. 5:14). Throughout the book of Revelation, God is worshipped because He is the Creator (Rev. 4:11), Who is worthy to rule (Rev. 5:9-13; 11:15-18; 12:10-12), Who comforts those who suffer (Rev. 7:12-17), Who will pour out His wrath on the wicked (Rev. 16:5-7; 18:2-8; cf. Rom. 12:19; Rev. 6:10-11), and Who is righteous in all His actions (Rev. 15:3-4; 19:1-6).

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Revelation 4:1-11

July 15, 2018

Revelation chapters 4 & 5 provide a prologue to the rest of the book, giving insights into heaven, showing it is theocentric and authoritative, and that God is worthy of praise.

 

The Central Idea of the Text is that God is portrayed in heaven, seated on His throne, as the sovereign Lord of creation who is worthy of worship. God’s sovereign authority is a common theme throughout Scripture (1 Chron. 29:11; Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Isa. 45:5-7; Dan. 2:21; 4:35; Acts 17:26-28). The chapter opens with John being called up to heaven (Rev. 4:1), and sees God seated on His throne (Rev. 4:2), which is beautiful in appearance, like precious stones and a rainbow (Rev. 4:3). John then witnessed twenty-four elders who were seated on twenty-four thrones which were around the throne of God, and these were “clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads” (Rev. 4:4). Some have thought the twenty-four elders are angels, but this seems unlikely, as they wear white clothing and crowns which picture righteous living and victory over sin (2 Tim. 4:8; Jas. 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4), and angels are never described this way in Scripture. Others have thought the twenty-four elders represent all the saints of Scripture, which would include the twelve patriarchs of Israel as well as the twelve apostles of the Church. This is possible, as they are described as those “purchased for God” with the blood of Christ (Rev 5:9), and this would include all the saints of all time. It seems more likely that the twenty-four elders represent the Christian church because of the references to the white clothing (Rev. 3:4, 18), and crowns (Rev. 2:10; 3:11; cf. 2 Tim. 4:8; Jas. 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4), which are never said to be given to OT saints, only Christians who live victorious lives. John then states, “Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder” (Rev 4:5a), which picture God’s approaching judgments (cf. Ex. 9:23; 1 Sam. 7:10; 12:17-18; Rev. 8:5; 11:19; 16:18). The “seven Spirits of God” (Rev. 4:5b) could represent either God the Holy Spirit (Ryrie), or seven principle angels who serve God (Constable). John then describes the landscape before God’s throne as something “like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind” (Rev. 4:6). Based on their appearance and behavior (Rev. 4:7-8), the four living creatures seem to be angels like those described by Isaiah (Isa. 6:2-3) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:4-10), who do not cease to worship God, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come” (Rev. 4:8b). Following the lead of the angels, the twenty-four elders worship God too (Rev. 4:9-10), and will cast their crowns before the Lord, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Rev. 4:11).

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A Brief Study on the Discipline of the Lord

June 30, 2018

     The Bible reveals that God disciplines His children. The discipline of the Lord may be understood as the guidance or training God provides for His people in order to produce humility, godly character, and responsible living. He sometimes disciplines us because we’re out of His will (1 Cor. 11:30; Rev. 3:19), and other times to develop our character (Rom. 5:3-5; Jam. 1:2-4). Whether the purpose is to restore fellowship, or advance spiritual growth, His discipline is always derived from His love for us, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6), and Jesus states, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline” (Rev. 3:19a).

     Though born again to new life (1 Pet. 1:3, 23), Christians still have an active sin nature (Rom. 6:6; 7:19-23; Col. 3:9; Gal. 5:17, 19), which drives us to selfish living and the pursuit of pleasure over godliness; but God loves us too much to tolerate our foolishness. God’s chastening is intended to bring about our obedience in accordance with His word. It is written, “Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O LORD, and whom You teach out of Your law” (Ps. 94:12), and “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Ps. 119:71). Concerning the hardship that Israel suffered in the wilderness for forty years, the Lord explains, “the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him” (Deut. 8:5-6).

     Sometimes God will discipline us using other people, such as He promised to do with Solomon, saying, “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men” (2 Sam. 7:14). Sometimes God uses a variety of trials, such as those mentioned in the letter of James, who wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (Jam. 1:2-3; cf. 1 Pet. 1:6).

     The growing believer accepts God’s discipline. This is why Solomon states, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid” (Prov. 12:1). But there are those who reject God’s training, and to him it is stated, “He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding” (Prov. 15:32).

     God led Israel, His people, through the wilderness for forty years, letting them experience hardship, “that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end” (Deut. 8:16). And the writer to the Hebrews explains, “He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness” (Heb. 12:10), and then adds, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11). Discipline serves a purpose, and it’s the “afterwards” that God is looking for, “the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Knowing this, let us learn to welcome God’s chastening.

     God uses hardship to humble believers (Deut. 8:1-6), and to help advance us to spiritual maturity. It is never the hardship by itself that produces godly character, but rather our response to it by learning and living Scripture (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:2), being active in prayer (Phil. 4:6; 1 Thess. 5:17), living by faith (Rom. 10:17; 2 Cor. 5:7), being thankful (1Thess. 5:18; Jam. 1:2-4), and growing in God’s grace (2 Pet. 3:18). As we grow, we learn to rejoice in hardships (Rom. 5:3-5), and weakness (2 Cor. 11:30; 12:7-10), in order that we may boast in the Lord who works in us for our good (Jer. 9:23-24; 1 Cor. 1:31).

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Revelation 3:14-22

June 30, 2018

Jesus is described as “The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14). This means that what He says is true and comes to pass as He promises. As omniscient God, Jesus knew the “deeds” of the Laodiceans, which speak of their Christian works, being “neither cold nor hot” (Rev. 3:15). This reference was an allusion to Laodicea’s warm water supply which was piped in from Colossae and Hierapolis. The water from Colossae started out cold, and the water from Hierapolis started out hot, but it was tepid by the time it reached Laodicea and was neither refreshing nor therapeutic. In comparison, the Christians at Laodicea were neither refreshing nor therapeutic to others as God intended. Because they were “lukewarm” (Rev. 3:16), Jesus said He would vomit them out of His mouth, which pictures strong disapproval. A second criticism leveled against the church at Laodicea was that they were saying to themselves, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17a). Apparently they had embraced the values of their surrounding culture, and though they’d become rich by worldly standards, Jesus’ estimation was that they were “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17b). The solution to their spiritual poverty was to buy from Jesus “gold refined by fire” which would make them spiritually rich, and “white garments” which would cover the shame of their nakedness, and “eye salve” that would heal their spiritual blindness (Rev. 3:18). The Christians at Laodicea were called to give in order to get, and this meant nothing less than the sacrifice of their lives, time, and resources in exchange for spiritual wealth, honor, and wisdom from the Lord. Though salvation is free, discipleship is very costly, but the rewards are tremendous and lasting. Jesus then states, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore and repent” (Rev. 3:19). Though the church is nauseating to Jesus, He still loves them and desires fellowship with them, and if they would open their lives to Him and welcome Him in, He would fellowship with them and things would be better (Rev. 3:20). To the overcomer, Jesus promises future reward, saying, “I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev. 3:21). And finally, He states to individual believers, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 3:22). One could argue that the church at Laodicea represents many modern churches today that prioritize opulent buildings and community programs, while being ignorant of their spiritual poverty.

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When God Opens a Door for Ministry

June 24, 2018

     Throughout the New Testament, an “open door” refers to a divinely orchestrated opportunity for sharing the gospel and engaging in Christian ministry (Acts 14:25-27). Scripture also reveals, at least one time, where the Lord closed an opportunity for ministry (Acts 16:6-7), but then opened another (Acts 16:9-10). An “open door” for ministry can have opposition (1 Cor. 16:7-9), does not remove everyday concerns about life (2 Cor. 2:12-13), should be sought with prayer (Col. 4:2-3), and once opened cannot be shut by people (Rev. 3:8). As God’s people, we do not create occasions for Christian ministry; we simply accept those provided for us by the Lord.

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Revelation 3:7-13

June 24, 2018

Jesus presents Himself as the One who is holy and true, which means He is worthy to judge the church at Philadelphia. He possesses the “key of David” (Rev. 3:7; cf. Isa. 22:22), which means He has the authority to open and close doors of opportunity. He commends the Christians at Philadelphia for their deeds, saying, “I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Rev. 3:8). The Christians at Philadelphia were under persecution from Jewish unbelievers who had aligned with Satan and opposed the gospel message. To these, Jesus said, “I will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you” (Rev. 3:9). This could be an allusion to a future judgment when all shall bow the knee in recognition of Jesus as Lord (Phil. 2:10). Because of their faithfulness, Jesus promised, “I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10). “This is an explicit promise that the Philadelphia church will not endure the hour of trial which is unfolded, beginning in Revelation 6. Christ was saying that the Philadelphia church would not enter the future time of trouble; He could not have stated it more explicitly.”[1] When Jesus comes, He will come quickly, and will reward faithful Christians (Rev. 3:11). To those who overcome, Jesus promises, “I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name” (Rev. 3:12). “The symbolism in this verse would be especially meaningful to people who lived in constant danger of earthquakes: the stability of the pillar, no need to go out or to flee, a heavenly city that nothing could destroy. Ancient cities often honored great leaders by erecting pillars with their names inscribed on them. God’s pillars are not made of stone, because there is no temple in the heavenly city (Rev. 21:22). His pillars are faithful people who bear His name for His glory (Gal. 2:9).”[2] Those with capacity to hear were to listen and comply with the words of Jesus (Rev. 3:13)

 

[1] John F. Walvoord, “Revelation,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 939.

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 579.

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Revelation 3:1-6

June 24, 2018

Jesus states the church has a public name that they are “alive”, but in fact most were abiding in death. The church was spiritually alive, so this likely refers to carnal death (Luke 15:24, 32; James 1:14-15), which meant they were out of fellowship with God and operating according to their sinful natures (Rom. 6:6; 13:14; Col. 3:9). Similarly, there are many churches today that reside in beautiful structures and have many programs, yet do not teach God’s word and show little signs of spiritual life. These believers were alive, but asleep. The call from Jesus was to “wake up and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die” (Rev. 3:2a). He declares, “I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God” (Rev. 3:2b). This alludes to the idea that all believers have specific works that God creates and calls us to walk in, but we must accept those opportunities (Eph. 2:10). He then calls them to “remember” what they had heard, which refers to biblical teaching that guides the Christian life; and, they were to “keep it” close and safe (i.e. guard it), and “repent” by turning back to a walk of obedience (Rev. 3:3a). He warns them with a threat of judgment, saying, “If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you” (Rev. 3:3b). God will send discipline upon the believer who turns away from Him (Heb. 12:5-11). Jesus then addresses the faithful remnant within the church, those “who have not soiled their garments” by worldly living (Rev. 3:4a), and declares, “they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy” (Rev 3:4b). This implies reward for obedience. Jesus states, “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev. 3:5). “While this passage may imply that a name could be erased from the book of life, actually it only gives a positive affirmation that their names will not be erased.”[1] He concludes, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 3:6). This statement calls believers to listen and to obey what is communicated.  He then alls them

 

[1] John F. Walvoord, “Revelation,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 938.

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Revelation 2:18-29

June 16, 2018

Thyatira was located about 40 miles southeast of Pergamum. Lidia was from Thyatira (Acts 16:14), and she may have been the one who took the gospel to them. Of the messages given to the seven churches, the one given to Thyatira is the longest.

Jesus is presented as the “Son of God”—a phrase that occurs only here in the book of Revelation—and He is described as one “who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze” (Rev. 2:18), which pictures Him as a righteous judge Who brings righteous judgment. As a righteous judge, Jesus commended them for the things they were doing right, which included their good deeds, love, faith, service, and perseverance. “In many particulars some in this church were praiseworthy. They were strong in good deeds, love for others, trust in God, service of their Savior, and patient endurance in trials. Moreover they had become even more zealous recently. Love shows itself in service, and faith demonstrates itself in perseverance through persecution.”[1] However, all these good qualities and practices were overshadowed by a sinful woman named Jezebel (either her name, or descriptive term), who claimed to be a prophetess, and was teaching and leading Christians to engage in idolatry and sexual immorality, which was prevalent in Thyatira (Rev. 2:20). Her name, Jezebel, implies her values and practices were similar to Ahab’s wife, who corrupted Israel with her paganism. God gave Jezebel time to change her ways, but she refused (Rev. 2:21). Jesus then declares He will judge Jezebel and her followers and personally administer sickness and death unless they turn from her practices (Rev. 2:22-23). To those who do not follow Jezebel and her teachings—what Jesus calls “the deep things of Satan”—He places no other demands (Rev. 2:24). These believers were to stay in the church, as a faithful remnant, and “hold fast until I come” (Rev. 2:25). To those who overcome and keep His deeds, demonstrating righteous character, Jesus promised to give authority to rule with Him in His future kingdom (Rev. 2:26-27). The “morning star” could be the right to rule in close relationship with Jesus (Rev. 2:28; cf. 22:16). Jesus finishes His remarks to the Christian church at Thyatira, saying, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:29), which means the believers were to listen and comply with His commands.

 

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Re 2:19.

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Revelation 2:12-17

June 16, 2018

Pergamum was about 55 miles northeast of Smyrna. The city was known for its library (roughly 200,000 parchments), its manufacture of parchment, a university for medical study, and as a religious center for the Greek pagan cults of Zeus, Dionysius, Athena, Asclepius, and Roman emperor worship. The church at Pergamum received both praise and rebuke.

Jesus is identified as the One who has “the sharp two-edged sword” which means He has the authority and power to kill (Rev. 2:12). He displays omniscience when telling His church, “I know where you dwell” and identifies it as the place “where Satan’s throne” is located. (Rev. 2:13a). This could be a reference to the worship of Zeus, or perhaps emperor worship, which was prevalent in Pergamum. Though a Satanic hotspot with many imposing pressures, Jesus praises them as faithful witnesses, specifically mentioning “the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells” (Rev. 2:13b). The church at Pergamum was reprimanded for not dealing with members who accepted and promoted dangerous teachings similar to those of Balaam. Balaam was a prophet of God who was hired by Balak—the king of Moab—to curse the Israelites, but God stopped Balaam and blessed Israel instead (see Numbers 22-25). However, God’s people were defeated when the Moabites enticed them into friendly relationships that led to idolatry and sexual promiscuity (Num. 25:1-3), and this was accomplished “through the counsel of Balaam” (Num. 31:16). This social enticement that led to sin seems to be the same thing taught by the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:14-15), and is another example of how bad associations can lead believers into sinful practices (1 Cor. 15:33; 2 Cor. 6:14-15). Jesus states He will make war with them if they do not repent of their false views and practices. Jesus promises “hidden manna” to those who overcome, which is spiritual nourishment, in contrast to the food sacrificed to idols (Rev. 2:14). “Christ is the true bread from heaven (John 6:31–33, 48–51) and that may be the idea here. Those faithful to Christ will have transcendent fellowship with him.”[1] Jesus also promises to give those who overcome “a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it” (Rev. 2:17). “In those days, a white stone was put into a vessel by a judge to vote acquittal for a person on trial. It was also used like a “ticket” to gain admission to a feast. Both would certainly apply to the believer in a spiritual sense: he has been declared righteous through faith in Christ, and he feasts with Christ today (Rev. 3:20) and will feast with Him in glory (Rev. 19:6–9).”[2]  

  • The historical parallel to the church in Pergamum is the period following Constantine’s legalization of Christianity in A.D. 313 that lasted for about 300 years. When Christianity became the official religion of the empire, paganism overwhelmed it. It became hard to distinguish true Christians because people claiming to be Christians were everywhere. Many of them were practicing pagans who indulged in immoral festivals and all kinds of behavior inconsistent with the teachings of Christianity. Many writers have noted that “Pergamum” comes from the Greek word gamos that means marriage. This letter pictures a church married to the world rather than to Christ.[3]

 

[1] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Re 2:17.

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 574.

[3] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Re 2:17.

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He who has ears to hear

June 9, 2018

     Thoughts are a function of the mind, which refers to our ability to receive (through our senses), organize, and comprehend information. No one has ever seen a thought. We can observe the activity of the brain while thinking, but we cannot see the thought itself. We know thoughts exist because we have them, and because we can share them with other rational persons by means of communication, either verbally or written.

     Talking and hearing are perhaps the most common ways thoughts are shared, and this was true at the time when the Bible was written. On several occasions Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8; 14:35; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 13:9). Assuming normal development and birth, every person has physical ears to hear, which help to advance intellectual growth. “Let him hear” translates the Greek verb ἀκούω akouo, which refers to one’s capacity to receive and understand the verbal information provided by a communicator. The word also connotes attentive listening for the purpose of complying with a command. At times a parent, teacher, or supervisor will say, “Listen to me”, which really means, “Pay attention and understand what I’m saying.” The comment is often used when saying something important or issuing a command. Every instance of the verb ἀκούω akouo in the Gospels and the book of Revelation is in the imperative mood, which means Jesus is issuing a command to His hearers to pay attention and comply with His words.

     To each believer in the seven churches Christ states, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29 ; 3:6, 13, 22). This means that each believer was to understand and comply with Jesus’ commands. Failure to obey would result in discipline (Rev. 2:5, 16, 22-23; 3:3, 16, 19-20).

     Though most of us have ears to hear, not everyone has the ability to understand. At the moment of regeneration (John 3:3-10; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23), God gives every believer the spiritual capacity to receive and understand His revelation (1 Cor. 2:6-16), and to comply with His commands (Rom. 6:11-13; 1 Cor. 10:13); although, according to His sovereign purposes, there were times He concealed information from believers (Luke 9:45; 18:34; Rev. 10:4). Impediments to understanding and obedience include immaturity (Heb. 5:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:2), carnality (1 Cor. 3:1-3), and bad associations (1 Cor. 15:33; 2 Cor. 6:14). Stimulants to increase understanding and obedience include:

  1. Submission to God and seeking His will above all else (Rom. 12:1)
  2. Transforming our mind to think as He thinks (Rom. 12:2).
  3. Continual study of Scripture, applying it to every aspect of life (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18).
  4. Being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
  5. Walking in daily dependence on the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 21).
  6. Restoring broken fellowship with God through confession of personal sin (1 John 1:9).
  7. Taking advantage of the time God gives us to learn and grow spiritually (Eph. 5:15-17; cf. Heb. 5:12; 1 Pet. 1:17; 4:1-2).
  8. Doing good works that fan the flames of our relationship with God and others (Tit. 2:14; Heb. 10:24; Rev. 2:5).
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Revelation 2:8-11

June 9, 2018

Smyrna was a seaport city about 40 miles north of Ephesus and had a population of nearly 100,000. It was known for its connection with myrrh, from which the city derives its name. Jesus identifies Himself as “the first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life” (Rev. 2:8). Jesus knew their persecution, and though they were financially poor, they were spiritually rich (Rev. 2:9a). He also knew about the slanders they suffered at the hands of hostile Jews, whom Jesus declared “are a synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9b). That is, they belong to Satan and do his will, attacking God’s people. Ultimately, our battle is in the spiritual realm (Eph. 6:12). God permitted some Christians at Smyrna to undergo suffering for a period of ten days, promising a crown-reward for those who endure (Rev. 2:10). It is not the gift of eternal life, but the abundance of that life (John 10:10). Though these Christians might be hurt by physical suffering and death, they will never be hurt by the second death (Rev. 2:11).

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