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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Revelation 2:1-7

June 9, 2018

Ephesus was the Roman capital city of Asia Minor. “Paul had evangelized it and used it as a base of operations for at least three years (Acts 18:19–21; 19; 1 Cor. 16:8). Timothy had labored there (1 Tim. 1:3) as had the Apostle John.”[1] Jesus identifies Himself as the One who is present at the church at Ephesus and knows their deeds, that they do not tolerate evil men and test and reject those who falsely call themselves apostles (Rev. 2:1-2). He also recognizes their faithful perseverance during persecution (Rev. 2:3). However, in spite of their doctrinal purity and faithfulness, they had “left their first love” (Rev. 2:4). Jesus tells them to remember, repent (twice), and return to practicing the deeds they did at first (Rev. 2:5a). Christian love motivates us to good deeds, and good deeds fan the flames of love. Refusal to love will result in the removal of their lampstand, which is a picture of judgment upon a stagnant church (Rev. 2:5b). Christ then offers praise for their hatred of the deeds of the Nicolaitans, a group that promoted acceptance of pagan religions, which has no place in the Christian church. Jesus then calls them to hear what the Holy Spirit says to the churches, “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). In one sense, we overcome the world by our faith in Jesus (1 John 5:4-5), and in another sense we overcome the world as obedient-to-the-word believers who live by faith (Jam. 1:22; Heb. 11:33; Rev. 21:7).

 

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

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Revelation 1:9-20 Part 2

June 3, 2018

The Central Idea of the Text is that John is commissioned to write and send a revelation from and about Jesus Christ to seven churches in Asia (Rev. 1:11). Twelve times John was commanded to write what was revealed to him (Rev. 1:11, 19; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5), and one time not to write (Rev. 10:4).[1] The word write translates the Greek word γράφω grapho, which means to mark characters on the surface of material (such as paper, stone, or even a computer screen), in order to transmit thought from one person to another. The act of writing assumes intellect, volition, and the ability of the recipient to understand what is communicated. The content of John’s writing is a picture of Jesus as the righteous Judge. “He judges the churches (chs. 2–3), the whole earth (chs. 4–16), Babylonianism (chs. 17–18), world rulers at Armageddon (19:19–21), and Satan (20:1–3, 10). He also judges the earth during the Millennium (20:4–6), the rebellious earth at the end of the Millennium (20:7–9), and all the unsaved dead (20:11–15).”[2] Jesus mentioned seven golden lampstands (Rev. 1:12), as well as seven stars in His right hand (Rev. 1:16). Later, He explains, “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (Rev 1:20). The word angel translates the Greek word ἄγγελος aggelos which means messenger, and can refer either to supernatural spirit beings (Rev. 7:2; 14:6), or human messengers (Luke 7:24; 9:51-52; Jam. 2:25). It seems likely these are human representatives in the church who serve in a leadership capacity. The word lampstand translates the Greek word λυχνία luchnia, which device was used to illuminate its surroundings. Jesus is the Light of the world (John 1:4-9; 8:12), and His light expels the darkness of sin (John 3:19; 12:35). The two witnesses in Revelation 11 are described as “the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth” (Rev. 11:4). Believers are connected to the One who is Light (John 12:36; 1 Thess. 5:5), choose to walk in obedience to God (1 John 1:5-7; cf. Rom. 13:12-14), fellowship with other believers (2 Cor. 6:14-15), and pursue “goodness and righteousness and truth” (Eph. 5:8-10).

 

  • The fruit of the light is those qualities that characterize God’s life (i.e., the fruit that the Spirit produces). The three qualities mentioned here are the opposite of the fruit of darkness (4:18–19). If the child of light does not walk in the light, he will not bear much of the fruit of the light (cf. John 15:1–6). He might even be outwardly indistinguishable from a child of darkness (cf. Matt. 13:24–30).[3]

 

[1] Other persons were commanded by God to write what He revealed (Ex. 17:14; 34:27; Deut. 27:8; Jer. 30:1-2; 36:2; Rev. 1:11, 19), and some chose to write on their own (Luke 1:3).

[2] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Re 1:16.

[3] Ibid., Eph 5:9–10.

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Revelation 1:9-20 Part 1

June 3, 2018

The Central Idea of the Text is that John is commissioned to write and send a revelation from and about Jesus Christ to seven churches in Asia (Rev. 1:11). Twelve times John was commanded to write what was revealed to him (Rev. 1:11, 19; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5), and one time not to write (Rev. 10:4).[1] The word write translates the Greek word γράφω grapho, which means to mark characters on the surface of material (such as paper, stone, or even a computer screen), in order to transmit thought from one person to another. The act of writing assumes intellect, volition, and the ability of the recipient to understand what is communicated. The content of John’s writing is a picture of Jesus as the righteous Judge. “He judges the churches (chs. 2–3), the whole earth (chs. 4–16), Babylonianism (chs. 17–18), world rulers at Armageddon (19:19–21), and Satan (20:1–3, 10). He also judges the earth during the Millennium (20:4–6), the rebellious earth at the end of the Millennium (20:7–9), and all the unsaved dead (20:11–15).”[2] Jesus mentioned seven golden lampstands (Rev. 1:12), as well as seven stars in His right hand (Rev. 1:16). Later, He explains, “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (Rev 1:20). The word angel translates the Greek word ἄγγελος aggelos which means messenger, and can refer either to supernatural spirit beings (Rev. 7:2; 14:6), or human messengers (Luke 7:24; 9:51-52; Jam. 2:25). It seems likely these are human representatives in the church who serve in a leadership capacity. The word lampstand translates the Greek word λυχνία luchnia, which device was used to illuminate its surroundings. Jesus is the Light of the world (John 1:4-9; 8:12), and His light expels the darkness of sin (John 3:19; 12:35). The two witnesses in Revelation 11 are described as “the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth” (Rev. 11:4). Believers are connected to the One who is Light (John 12:36; 1 Thess. 5:5), choose to walk in obedience to God (1 John 1:5-7; cf. Rom. 13:12-14), fellowship with other believers (2 Cor. 6:14-15), and pursue “goodness and righteousness and truth” (Eph. 5:8-10).

 

  • The fruit of the light is those qualities that characterize God’s life (i.e., the fruit that the Spirit produces). The three qualities mentioned here are the opposite of the fruit of darkness (4:18–19). If the child of light does not walk in the light, he will not bear much of the fruit of the light (cf. John 15:1–6). He might even be outwardly indistinguishable from a child of darkness (cf. Matt. 13:24–30).[3]

 

[1] Other persons were commanded by God to write what He revealed (Ex. 17:14; 34:27; Deut. 27:8; Jer. 30:1-2; 36:2; Rev. 1:11, 19), and some chose to write on their own (Luke 1:3).

[2] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Re 1:16.

[3] Ibid., Eph 5:9–10.

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Overview of Jesus’ Second Coming and Kingdom on Earth

May 27, 2018

     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; 7:14, 27; Matt. 6:10; Luke 1:31-33; cf. Mark 11:9-10), He will rule absolutely with “a rod of iron” (Ps. 2:9; Rev. 19:15), and His reign will be marked by righteousness and peace on the earth (Isa. 11:1-9). Also, we know from Scripture that the earthly kingdom will last a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-6), and afterward will become an eternal kingdom (Dan. 2:44; 7:27; 1 Cor. 15:24). 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 20:1-7. The millennial kingdom will see Jesus seated on the throne of David, in Jerusalem, ruling over the world. He 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; 33:14-15). Satan will be bound during the reign of Christ (Rev. 20:1-3), and a new worship system will be implemented (see Ezekiel 40-46).

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Revelation 1:1-8

May 19, 2018

 

The Central Idea of the Text is that John is given a revelation from Jesus, about Jesus, to the seven churches in Asia. The word Revelation translates the Greek word ἀποκάλυψις apokalupsis, which means an unveiling or disclosure of information. The word is transliterated “apocalypse” in English, which has the idea of chaos, disaster, or destruction, and often connotes a dark and hopeless future accompanied with despair. The revelation given to John is both by and about Jesus, and is intended to inform us about what God will accomplish in the future.

  • "John’s prophecy is primarily the revelation of Jesus Christ, not the revelation of future events. You must not divorce the Person from the prophecy, for without the Person there could be no fulfillment of the prophecy. “He is not incidental to its action,” wrote Dr. Merrill Tenney. “He is its chief Subject.” In Revelation 1–3, Christ is seen as the exalted Priest-King ministering to the churches. In Revelation 4–5, He is seen in heaven as the glorified Lamb of God, reigning on the throne. In Revelation 6–18, Christ is the Judge of all the earth; and in Revelation 19, He returns to earth as the conquering King of kings. The book closes with the heavenly Bridegroom ushering His bride, the church, into the glorious heavenly city."[1]

 

John states there is blessing upon all who read and heed the words of this prophecy. The word blessing translates the Greek word μακάριος makarios, which means blessed or happy, and is used seven times throughout the book (Rev. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). The revelation provides information concerning God’s sovereign rule over creation and mankind, either directly, or through Jesus. Jesus is called “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5), who has “dominion forever and ever” (Rev. 1:6), who is “coming with the clouds” to establish His kingdom on earth (Rev. 1:7; cf. Dan. 7:13-14), and is “the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8). This introduction frontloads the idea that Jesus is coming back to establish His kingdom on earth (Rev. 11:15; 19:11-21; 20:4-6). This is the earthly kingdom that was promised to David’s son—Jesus—who will rule over the world forever (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 1:31-33; Rev. 11:15; 20:4-6).

 

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 566.

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Introduction to the Book of Revelation

May 19, 2018

Author & Date

     The apostle John wrote the book of Revelation while exiled on the island of Patmos by the Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96). “Some of the early church fathers (Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Irenaeus, and Victorinus) wrote that the Apostle John experienced exile on the island of Patmos during Domitian’s reign.”[1] Accepting their testimony helps to date the book around A.D. 95-96.

Audience

     John wrote the book of Revelation to seven churches that resided in Asia (modern day Turkey). These churches are listed in Revelation chapters 2-3.

Interpretive Approaches

  1. The nonliteral or allegorical approach – this view lets the reader make the text say whatever he/she wants, but primarily sees it as an allegory in which good triumphs over evil.
  2. The preterist approach – The word preterist comes from the Latin word praeter, which means “past.” The preterist view regards the book of Revelation as already fulfilled in the first century—some say up to the third century—and contains no future prophecy.
  3. The historical approach – this view sees the book as being fulfilled throughout church history, from the time of the apostle John until the second coming of Jesus (common among the Protestant reformers). “It holds that the book has been in the process of being fulfilled throughout the whole Christian era.”[2]
  4. The futurist approach – this view interprets the book of Revelation in a consistent, literal manner while recognizing the use of types and symbols throughout (i.e. lampstands, the number seven, etc.). It sees the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 as representative of all types of churches throughout church history, and views Revelation 4-22 as future.

     This author will follow a normal, grammatical, historical approach to the book of Revelation. This approach considers words and phrases within their context, and reads them according to their normal meaning, unless something within a passage indicates it should be interpreted otherwise. There are symbols used throughout the book of Revelation; however, many of those symbols are either interpreted within the passage itself, or can be interpreted by similar passages that provide understanding. For example, the seven stars are angels (Rev. 1:20), the great dragon is Satan (Rev. 12:9), and the leopard, bear, and lion (Rev. 13:2) resemble the animals mentioned in Daniel (Dan. 7:4-6).

Purpose of the Book

     The purpose of the book is to reveal Jesus Christ, His authority over the church and the world, and the establishment of His kingdom on earth after His Second Coming.

Outline

     The outline of Revelation is given within the book. The Lord Jesus told John, “Therefore write [γράφω grapho – aor/act/imp] the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things [μετὰ ταῦτα meta tauta – Rev. 4:1]” (Rev. 1:19).

  1. The things which have been – Chapter 1
  2. The things which are – Chapters 2-3
  3. The things which shall be – Chapters 4-22

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Jud 25.

[2] Charles C. Ryrie, Revelation-Everyman's Bible Commentary (Chicago, Ill. Moody Publishers, 1996), 6.

 

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Lesson 52 - The New Heaven and New Earth

April 21, 2018

Revelation 21:1-27

Then I saw a new [kainos = new in a qualitative sense] heaven and a new earth [not the first time it is mentioned in Scripture; see Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13]; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away [been destroyed], and there is no longer any sea [no oceans, but still rivers; cf. Rev. 21:6; 22:1-2].  2 And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem [perhaps what Jesus mentioned in John 14:1-3], coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband [prepared by God].  3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne [of Jesus], saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them [for all eternity], and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes [show of compassion]; and there will no longer be any death [no more separation]; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain [things associated with the present world]; the first things have passed away.”  5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new [He was the first creator; cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16].” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”  6 Then He said to me, “It is done [γίνομαι ginomai perf/act/ind = i.e. the New Creation is complete]. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost [cf. John 4:10-11].  7 “He who overcomes [by faith in Jesus; see John 6:28-29, 40; 1 John 5:4-5] will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.  8 “But for the [unbelievers whose lives are characterized as] cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death [cf. Rev. 20:11-15].”  9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God [which is beautiful, like a bride at her wedding], 11 having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like [comparative words] a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper.  12 It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.  13There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west.  14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb [though both are God’s redeemed people, Israel and the church are distinguished in the eternal state].  15 The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall.  16 The city is laid out as a square [like the Sacrificial Altar, the High Priest’s breastplate, and Holy of Holies; Ex. 27:1; 28:16; 2 Chron. 3:8], and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal [would roughly cover an area from Texas to North Dakota and Oklahoma to New York].  17 And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards [216 feet thick], according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements18 The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.  19 The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald;  20 the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.  21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was [made from a] a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.  22 I saw no temple in it [which was used to point people to God], for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple [God Himself is personally present all the time].  23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.  24 The [believing] nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it [perhaps multitudes of believers who were born during the millennium and enter into eternity, yet live outside the New Jerusalem].  25 In the daytime (for there will be no night there) [perhaps implying we’ll never sleep] its gates will never be closed; 26 and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; 27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it [because all unbelievers have been assigned to the Lake of Fire], but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. 

Revelation 22:1-21

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal [without pollution], coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life [First seen in the Garden of Eden, Gen. 2:9; 3:22-24, and later Promised to believers, Rev. 2:7], bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing [qerapei,a - therapeia – healing, care, health] of the nations.  3 There will no longer be any curse [affecting the planet; cf. Gen. 3:17-21]; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.  5 And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.  6 And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place [or happen quickly].  7 “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”  8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things [as a witness]. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things [cf. Rev. 19:10].  9 But he said to me, “Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.”  10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.  11 “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.”  12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done [salvation is by grace / rewards are by works; cf. 1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:10-11].  13 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end [all creation begins and ends with Christ].”  14 Blessed are those [believers] who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.  15 Outside [of paradise] are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying [i.e. all unbelievers].  16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”  17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost [salvation is free to those who want it].  18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book [such activity would indicate unbelief].  20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus [John agrees].  21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Summary: The new heavens and earth will be the place for the New Jerusalem, which is described in detail. In the eternal state there will be no sickness or death, for the curse will be removed, and believers will fully enjoy the blessings of God.

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Lesson 51 - The Judgment of the Great White Throne

April 21, 2018
  • And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it [Christ; cf. John 5:22], from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.  12 And I saw the [unrighteous] dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne [of Christ], and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the [unrighteous] dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds [good works ≠ God’s righteousness, which is given at salvation to those who by faith trust in Jesus as their Savior; cf. Rom. 3:21-28; 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9].  13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them [all unbelievers of all time] according to their deeds.  14 And death [which came into existence in the Garden of Eden] and Hades [the place for the dead] were thrown [together] into the lake of fire. This is the second death [eternal separation], the lake of fire.  15 And if anyone’s name [among all the unbelievers] was not found written in the book of life [and they will not be], he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:11-15)

The great white throne judgment is for unbelievers only. The three major judgments stated in Scripture include:

  1. Christians before the bema seat in heaven (1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10). This is a judgment for rewards, not salvation.
  2. The judgment of Gentiles (Matt. 25:31-46), both saved and lost. This judgment concerns entrance into the millennial kingdom.
  3. The judgment of all unbelievers immediately preceding the eternal state (Rev. 20:11-15).

     Believers will not stand before the great white throne because we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, having trusted in Christ alone for salvation (John 3:16; 20:31; Acts 4:12; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5).  Salvation is based on the work of Christ for us (John 10:28), but eternal rewards are based on the works we do for Christ (1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10). The “book of life” reveals if a person has eternal life (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27). Those who have eternal life will enter heaven and those do not, will not.

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Lesson 50 - The Judgment of Satan and Fallen Angels

April 14, 2018

     At some unknown time in the past Satan rebelled against God and led a host of angels to join to him (Isa. 14:12-14; Ezek. 28:11-18). Subsequently, he seduced Adam and Eve and led them in rebellion against God (Gen. 3:1-7). Satan was judged at that time for his actions (Gen. 3:14-15). Jesus pronounced Satan’s judgment in John 16:11, which judgment was secured at the cross when Christ died for our sins and released us from Satan’s captivity (2 Tim. 2:26; cf. Col. 1:13-14).

Satan Cast out of Heaven

     Halfway through the seven year Tribulation, there will be war in heaven, and the archangel Michael and his angels cast Satan out of heaven (Rev. 12:7-9).

Satan Bound and Cast into the Abyss

     Revelation 20:1-3 describes the future binding of Satan in which he is cast into the abyss and incarcerated for a thousand years. The reason for Satan’s imprisonment is that he will not be able to deceive the nations during the reign of Christ. Though Scripture is silent, it is assumed that demons are also incarcerated—or suppressed—during the reign of Christ.

The Final Judgment of Satan

     Satan is released after the thousand years of incarceration and immediately resumes his old activities of leading rebellion against God (Rev. 20:7-8). Satan and his armies are quickly defeated by God (Rev. 20:9), and he is cast into the Lake of Fire where he will be forever (Rev. 20:10). Apparently the demons are judged as well and assigned to the Lake of Fire with their leader (Matt. 25:41; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:6).

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