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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Lesson 49 - The Millennial Kingdom

April 14, 2018

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

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

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

     We are currently living in the church age, which will come to an end when the church is raptured to heaven (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Afterward, there will be a period of time known as the Tribulation, which will begin when the Antichrist signs a seven year peace treaty with Israel (Dan. 9:24-27; cf. Revelation chapters 6-18). The time of Tribulation will come to an end when Jesus returns to earth to put down rebellion (Rev. 19:11-21) and establish His kingdom (Matt. 25:31; Rev. 11:15; 20:1-6). 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 20:1-6. 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).

 

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

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Lesson 48 - The Judgment of Israel and the Nations

April 8, 2018
  • "The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He." (Deut. 32:4)
  • "Righteous are You, O LORD, and upright are Your judgments." (Ps. 119:137)

     Righteousness and justice are related words. The former speaks of God’s moral character, whereas the latter speaks of the actions that flow out of His character. Whatever God’s righteousness requires, His justice executes; either to approve or reject, to bless or condemn. God is righteous by nature (Deut. 32:4; Ps. 119:137, 142; Isa. 45:21; John 17:25) and in all His ways (Ps. 145:17; Rev. 15:3). 

     Scripture teaches that Jesus Christ will return to earth after the seven year Tribulation (Acts 1:9-11; Rev. 19:11-21), and when He returns, He will sit on the throne of His earthly kingdom (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:3-4, 34-37; Luke 1:31-33; cf. Matt. 19:28; 25:31) and will judge both Jews and Gentiles who opposed Him (Ezek. 20:33-38; Matt. 25:31-46). We know from Scripture that Jesus’ earthly kingdom will last a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-6).

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Lesson 47 - The Resurrections

April 8, 2018

     When God originally created Adam and Eve, He created them in His image (Heb. צֶלֶם tselem), to have personality, consciousness, self-consciousness, intellect, volition and emotion (Gen. 2:16-27). God formed Adam’s body from the dust of the earth “and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [Heb. נֶפֶשׁ nephesh; Grk. ψυχή psuche]” (Gen. 2:7; cf. 1 Cor. 15:45). At that moment Adam became a living being. When Adam sinned through disobedience and brought sin into the human race, he also brought death, both spiritual and physical (Gen. 2:15-17; 3:1-8; Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:21-22). Death means separation. Spiritual death refers to separation from God, and physical death refers to the separation of the soul from the body. The unbeliever who is alive on the earth is separated from God in time, and should he continue his entire life rejecting the Gospel message (John 3:16; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Eph. 2:8-9), then he will be separated from God for eternity in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15). At physical death, the soul is separated from the body. The body returns to the earth (Gen. 3:19), and the soul returns to God (Ps. 104:29; 146:4; Acts 7:59). Solomon states, “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7).

     Death is not the final victor in life. God created the soul to be forever united with the body; therefore, God will resurrect (Grk. ἀνάστασις anastasis) each body that has died and will reunite it with every human soul. It is necessary to distinguish between resuscitation and resurrection. There were times when God raised, or resuscitated, a person back to life, but that person was subject to death, and eventually died again (John 12:9-10). When a person is resurrected, they never die, but live forever (John 11:25-26). 

     Concerning resurrections in general, Daniel wrote, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Dan 12:1-2). Daniel is writing in general and referring to the resurrection of believers and unbelievers. The resurrection of believers means the body and soul will be reunited and spend eternity with God in heaven. The resurrection of unbelievers means the body and soul will be reunited and spend eternity separated from God in the Lake of Fire. We learn from other biblical passages that there are several resurrections mentioned in the Bible:

  1. The resurrection of Jesus (Matt. 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Rev. 1:5).[1]
  2. The resurrection of church age believers at the Rapture (1 Cor. 15:51–53; 1 Thess. 4:14–17).
  3. The two prophetic witnesses who are killed and resurrected during the Tribulation (Rev. 11:8-11).
  4. Old Testament saints (Job 19:25-27; Isa. 26:19; Ezek. 37:12-14; Dan 12:1-2, 13), and Tribulation saints (Rev. 20:4-6), will be resurrected at the beginning of Jesus’ millennial reign.
  5. The resurrection of all unbelievers at the end of the Millennium who stand before the Great White Throne before being thrown into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15). Those who are part of the second resurrection partake of the second death (Rev. 20:14).

     The apostle John mentions the “first resurrection” (Rev. 20:6). The “first resurrection” actually occurs in several stages starting with Christ, and involves only believers who will live with Christ during His millennial reign and for all eternity (Rev. 20:4-6). It is called “the first resurrection” in the Bible, “not in the sense of being number one or prior to all resurrections, but in the sense that it occurs before the final resurrection, the resurrection of the wicked.”[2] The final resurrection is for unbelievers only who will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, which will occur after the millennial reign of Christ. Charles Ryrie states:

  • "The resurrection of the just is also called the first resurrection and will occur in several stages, not all at once. The dead in Christ will be raised first at the rapture of the church (1 Thess. 4:16). The redeemed of the tribulation period who die during that time will be raised before the millennium (Rev 20:4). The redeemed of Old Testament times will also be a part of the resurrection of the just. Expositors are divided over when they will be raised, some believing that it will happen at the rapture when the church saints are raised, and others holding that it will occur at the second coming (Dan 12:2—the writer prefers the latter view)…all unsaved people of all time will be raised after the millennium to be judged and then cast into the lake of fire forever (Rev 20:11–15). At their resurrection they will apparently be given some sort of bodies that will be able to live forever and feel the effects of the torments of the lake of fire."[3]

 Biblical_Resurrections.jpg

[1]Unidentified Old Testament saints were raised after Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 27:50-53). There is some question as to whether these people were resuscitated and died again like Lazarus (John 11:43-44) and Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:52-56), or resurrected, never to die again.

[2] John F. Walvoord, Major Bible Prophecies (Grand Rapids: Michigan, Zondervan Publishing, 1991), 379.

[3]Charles C. Ryrie, “Resurrections” A survey of Bible doctrine (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1995), 182-183.

 

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Lesson 46 - The Second Coming of Christ

March 24, 2018

     Jesus came into the world once. At His incarnation He added humanity to Himself (John 1:1, 14), walked among men and lived a sinless life (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 John 3:5). At His first coming, He repeatedly offered the earthly Davidic kingdom to Israel (Matt. 4:17, 23; 9:35; 10:7; cf. 2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:3-4, 34-37; Luke 1:31-33), but His offer was rejected by the Jewish leadership and people (Matt. 11:20; Matt. 12:14; 27:22-23), so the kingdom was postponed for a future time (Matt. 21:43). Jesus then went to the cross and died for our sins (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-8; 1 Pet. 3:18), was buried, and raised again on the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Afterward, Jesus walked with His disciples for forty days after His resurrection and then ascended bodily into heaven as His disciples watched (Acts 1:9). Jesus promised to return again (Matt. 16:27; 19:28; 25:31), and this will happen after the time of Tribulation (Matt. 24:21, 29-30). 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 oppose Him (2 Thess. 1:3-10; Rev. 19:11-21). The major purposes of Jesus’ Second Coming include:

  1. Fulfilling Prophecy (Ps. 2:1-12; Isa. 11:1-5; Dan. 7:13-14; Zech. 14:1-9; Matt. 19:28; 24:29-30; 25:31; Acts 1:11; 2 Thess. 1:6-10).
  2. Judging the world and establishing righteousness (Ps. 96:13; Isa. 9:6-7; Jer. 23:5; Matt. 19:28; 25:31-46; Rev. 20:4; 11-15).
  3. Rescuing persecuted believers from the Tribulation (Matt. 24:22).
  4. Bringing saved Jews into the Promised Land (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:18; 17:8; Ezek.; 37:21-25; Rom. 11:25-26).
  5. Fulfilling the promises of the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 34:25-27; 37:26).
  6. Judging the Antichrist and the False Prophet (Rev. 19:20).
  7. Casting Satan into the Abyss for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3).
  8. Establishing the earthly Davidic kingdom in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:3-4, 34-37; Luke 1:31-33; cf. Isa. 9:6-7; Jer. 23:5; Dan. 7:13-14; Rev. 20:1-6).
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Lesson 45 - The Great Tribulation

March 24, 2018

     Why the Tribulation? Because Jesus Christ is coming back to earth to set up His millennial kingdom and He must put down rebellion. God’s wrath will destroy the rebellion of: 1) Satan and his angels, 2) unbelieving Israel, and 3) unbelieving Gentiles. At the close of the Tribulation, Satan will be defeated and eventually bound (Rev. 12:7-9; 20:1-3), all unbelievers will be destroyed (Rev. 19:19-21), leaving only believing Jews and Gentiles to enter His kingdom on earth (Rev. 19:19-21; cf. Matt. 24:29-25:46). In spite of all the satanic rebellion in the world during the Tribulation, God remains sovereign and in complete control (Rev. 17:17; cf. Prov. 16:4). He also reveals His love and grace during the time of the Tribulation, which is extended toward:

  1. The 144,000 Jews He saves and calls to service (Rev. 7:4-8).
  2. The martyrs who have died for their faith in Jesus (Rev. 7:9-17).
  3. His two prophetic witnesses whom He resurrects (Rev. 11:11-12).
  4. The nations to whom He sends His gospel message (Rev. 14:6-7).
  5. Those who enter into His kingdom after the Tribulation (Rev. 20:4-6).

     In all the judgments, God is righteous and just, whereas men are wicked and “deserve” wrath (Rev. 16:6-7; cf. 19:2).  Rather than turning to God, the rebellious will:

  • Try to hide and flee from Him (Rev. 6:15-16)
  • Seek a horrible death rather than conform to His will (Rev. 9:6)
  • Not repent of their rebellion (Rev. 9:20-21)
  • Rejoice and celebrate at the death of His servants (Rev. 11:7-10)
  • Side with the Satan (Rev. 13:3-4)
  • Blaspheme and curse God’s name (Rev. 16:8-9, 11, 21)
  • Make war with Jesus Christ (Rev. 19:19)

The Tribulation will come to an end when Jesus returns and puts down all rebellion and establishes His millennial kingdom in Israel.

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Lesson 44 - Events Preceding the Second Coming of Christ

March 18, 2018

     In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus describes the period between His first and second coming (Matt. 13:25-30, 36-40). We know this to be the church age in which we currently live."In general, Matthew 13 speaks of the entire period between the first and second comings of Christ without reference to the rapture or the particulars of the church as the body of Christ. It describes the sphere of profession of faith and the mingled picture of good and evil. The dual development of both good and evil throughout the age, climaxing in judgment and separation, characterizes the period."[1] Dr. Chafer argues there are nine signs given in that section:

  1. False Christs (vs. 5)
  2. Wars and rumors of wars (vs.6)
  3. Famines (vs. 7)
  4. Pestilences (vs. 7)
  5. Earthquakes (vs. 7)
  6. Martyrs (vss. 9-10)
  7. False prophets (vs. 11)
  8. Abounding iniquity and cooling ardor for Christ (vs. 12)
  9. The gospel of the kingdom to be preached in all the world (vs. 14)[2]

He also argues there are four additional signs given in 2 Peter chapters 2-3:

  1. Denial of the Person and deity of Christ (2:1)
  2. Denial of the work of Christ that He bought us when He died on the cross (2:1)
  3. Moral apostasy over departure from moral standards (2:2-22)
  4. Departure from the doctrine of the second coming of Christ and the judgments related to it (3:1-13)[3]

     The rapture of the church will bring the church age to a close. It is at this time that Jesus will call all Christians from the world to heaven (1 Cor. 15:51-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-18), leaving only a professing church behind (i.e. not true Christians such Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other groups who take the name “Christian”). “This event will bring to a close the purpose of God in terms of the church as a separate company of saints, and the departure of the church will set the stage for the major events leading up to the second coming of Christ to the earth to set up His millennial kingdom.”[4]

The Period of Preparation

     The removal of the church from the world will allow evil to prosper in new ways without restriction. Evil embraces religion, and there will eventually come a worldwide religion described as Babylon the Great in Revelation 17. This will be the time when Israel’s blindness will be removed and many will be saved (Rom. 11:25-26). Like the Jewish apostles who started the church, so there will be Jewish evangelists who will convert many to Christ during the time of the Tribulation (Rev. 7:4-8). It is also during this time that there will emerge a confederation of European nations that will form the basis for a one world government where Antichrist will rule (Dan. 7:7-8).

The Period of Peace

     The Antichrist will rise to world power and broker a seven year peace treaty with Israel and her surrounding hostile neighbors (Dan. 9:26-27). It is implied in Scripture that the Jewish temple will be rebuilt and animal scarifies will be reinstituted (Dan. 9:27; 2 Thess. 2:3-4).

The Period of Persecution

     The Antichrist will break the peace treaty with Israel half way through the seven year Tribulation and will take political control of the nations of the world and set up a global economic and religious system which he controls (Rev. 13:7, 16-17). This begins the period of worldwide persecution known as the great Tribulation (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21; Rev. 7:14). During this time the Antichrist will set himself up in the Jewish temple as god (2 Thess. 2:4) and will persecute all who do not worship him (Rev. 13:8, 15). God will pour out great judgments upon the earth and the vast majority of mankind will be destroyed (Revelation chapters 6-18). The troubles of the world will cease only when Christ returns (Rev. 19:11-21).

 

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer; John F. Walvoord; Major Bible Themes (Grand Rapids, Mich. Zondervan Publishing, 2010), 313.

[2] Ibid., 313.

[3] Ibid., 3:13.

[4] Ibid., 314.

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Lesson 43 - Israel in History and Prophecy

March 18, 2018

Israel Past

     The history of Israel begins with God who chose the nation to be His representatives from eternity past. Israel was created by God (Isa. 43:1, 15), and He loves them with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:1-3). God chose them because of who He is, not because of any greatness or goodness in them (Deut. 7:6-8). Israel began with a unilateral covenant which God made with Abraham, promising “I will make you a great nation” (Gen. 12:2). The Abrahamic covenant was later expanded with the Land Covenant (Deut. 29:1-29; 30:1-10), the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:14-24), and the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). Though Abraham had children by different women (Sarah, Hagar, and Keturah), the Abrahamic promises were restated only through Isaac (Gen. 17:19-21) and Jacob (Gen. 28:10-15). Because of a crippling encounter with God, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, which means “he who wrestles with God” (Gen. 32:24-30). The sons of Israel (i.e. Jacob) went into captivity in Egypt for four hundred years as God had foretold (Gen. 15:13), and remained there until He called them out through His servants Moses and Aaron (Ex. 3:1-10). God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage through a series of ten plagues that destroyed Pharaoh and the nation (Exodus chapters 5-14). Then God entered into a bilateral covenant relationship with Israel at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:1-8), and gave them 613 commands—which comprise the Mosaic Law—and these commands are commonly divided into moral, civil, and ceremonial codes. Israel would know blessing if they obeyed God’s commands (Deut. 28:1-15), and cursing if they did not (Deut. 28:16-68). The nation of Israel remained in the wilderness for forty years while God tested and humbled them (Deut. 8:2-5). After Moses died, God brought the Israelites into the land of Canaan (i.e. the land promised to Abraham) under the leadership of Joshua (Deut. 31:23; Josh. 1:1-9), and there the land was divided, giving a portion to each of the descendants of Jacob. After Joshua died (Josh. 24:29-31), Israel repeatedly fell into idolatry and suffered divine discipline for their rebellion (read Judges). This went on for nearly 300 hundred years as Israel fell into a pattern of idolatry, after which God would send punishment, then the people would cry out to God, Who would relent of His judgment and send a judge to deliver them, then the people would serve God for a time, and then fall back into idolatry. The period of the Judges is marked by people who did not obey the Lord, but “did what was right in their own eyes” (Judg. 17:6; 21:25). Samuel was the last of Israel’s judges, and then the people cried for a king because they wanted to be like the other nations (1 Sam. 8:4-5). God gave them their request (1 Sam. 8:22), and Saul became the first king in Israel (1 Sam. 10:1). Though Saul started well, he quickly turned away from the Lord and would not obey God’s commands. Saul reigned for approximately 40 years and his leadership was basically a failure (1 Sam. 13:1; cf. Acts 13:21). Later, God raised up David to be king in Israel (1 Sam. 16:1-13), and David reigned for 40 years and was an ideal king who followed God and encouraged others to do the same (1 Ki. 2:10-11). God decreed David’s throne would be established forever through one of his descendants (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:3-4), and this is Jesus (Luke 1:31-33). Solomon reigned for 40 years after David (1 Ki. 2:12; 11:42-43), and though He was wise and did many good things (ruled well, built the temple, wrote Scripture, etc.), he eventually turned away from God and worshiped idols (1 Ki. 11:1-10), and the kingdom was divided afterward (1 Ki. 11:11-41). The nation was united under Saul, David, and Solomon.

     Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, ruled over the two southern tribes (Judah) and Jeroboam ruled over the ten northern tribes (Israel). Israel—the northern kingdom—had 19 kings throughout its history and all were bad, as they led God’s people into idolatry (i.e. the “sins of Jeroboam” 1 Ki. 16:31; 2 Ki. 3:3; 10:31; 13:2). The ten northern tribes came under divine discipline because of their idolatry and were destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. Judah—the southern kingdom—had 20 kings throughout its history and 8 were good (some more than others), as they obeyed God and led others to do the same (they were committed to the Lord like David, 1 Ki. 15:11). However, Judah repeatedly fell into idolatry—as the 10 northern tribes had done—and were eventually destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The dispersion of Israel was promised by God if they turned away from Him and served other gods (Deut. 28:63-68). Since the destruction by Babylon, Israel has been under Gentile dominance (Luke 21:24; Rom. 11:25). After a temporary regathering under Ezra and Nehemiah, Israel continued under Gentile dominance with the Medes & Persians, Greeks, and Romans. Because of their rejection of Jesus as Messiah, God disciplined Israel again in A.D. 70, and the Jews were scattered all over the world (Jam. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1). Israel’s current state is one of judgment (Matt. 23:37-39).

Israel Present

For nearly 1900 years God has faithfully kept His word to disperse Israel because of their idolatry (Deut. 28:63-68) and their rejection of Jesus as Messiah (Matt. 23:37-39). Now, since 1948, Israelites are back in the Promised Land; even though the majority of them are atheists who reject God. This could be a fulfillment of prophecy in which God has regathered His people before the time of the judgment of the Tribulation (Ezek. 20:33-38; 22:17-22; Zeph. 2:1-2). Logically it makes sense that God will regather Israel as a nation (Ezek. 36:22-24) before He regenerates them and gives them a new heart (Ezek. 36:25-28). Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum argues two regatherings of Israel. The first is a regathering of Jews in unbelief, which sets the stage for the Tribulation. The second regathering is in belief, which prepares them for Messiah, who will rule over them during the millennium.

  • "First, there was to be a regathering in unbelief in preparation for judgment, namely the judgment of the Tribulation. This was to be followed by a second worldwide regathering in faith in preparation for blessings, namely the blessings of the messianic age. Once it is recognized that the Bible speaks of two such regatherings, it is easy to see how the present State of Israel fits into prophecy."[1]

     As Christians, we are glad to see Jews returning to the Promised Land and support the nation of Israel. This support is by no means a blanket endorsement of all Israel does, for the nation may behave immorally like any other nation. However, we recognize that God is working to set the stage for prophetic events, and that Israel being in the Promised Land is a part of that.

Israel Future

     Israel has a future hope because of the promises and covenants God made through the patriarchs and prophets (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:18; 17:8; Deut. 30:1-10; 2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:33-37; Jer. 31:31-33). Though unbelieving Israel is currently under divine discipline (Matt. 23:37-39), God’s covenants and promises are still in effect (Rom. 9:1-5), and will remain in force until Jesus returns and is accepted as their Messiah. Once Messiah returns, Israel will possess all of the land that was promised to them (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:17; 17:26), and they will possess it “forever” (Gen. 13:15).[2] In addition to possessing all the land, Israel will benefit from a descendant of David, seated on a throne in Jerusalem, ruling over them forever (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:3-4). This descendant is Jesus Christ (Luke 1:31-33).

 

[1] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology, Rev. ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1994), 716.

[2] Covenant theologians often argue that God has already fulfilled His promise to Abraham that his descendants would possess the land (Josh. 21:43-45; Neh. 9:8). God was faithful to bring Abraham’s descendants into the Promised Land, and though they eventually came to control it under the reign of Solomon (1 Ki. 4:21-24), they did not possess it all, and this seems plain from other biblical passages (Josh. 23:5-7; Judg. 1:21, 27-28). In addition, it was stated in Scripture that Israel would possess the land “forever” (Gen. 13:15; cf. 17:8), and this has not happened. God will, in the future, give Israel possession of all the Promised Land, and they will possess it forever.  

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Lesson 42 - The Gentiles in History and Prophecy

March 4, 2018
  • "They will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:24)

     The word Gentile translates the Hebrew גּוֹי goy and the Greek ἔθνος ethnos. The Hebrew word goy is used in a general sense of any ethnic group of people who reside in a known territory, and so it used to refer the descendants of Abraham (Gen. 12:2; 17:4-6; 21:18), the nation Israel (Ex. 19:6; Ps. 83:4), and others, such as the “Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites” (Deut. 7:1; cf. Josh. 23:13; Judg. 2:21, 23). However, over time, the word Gentile—both in Hebrew and Greek—came to be used in a technical manner of any people group who were not sharers of the covenant promises God made with Israel (Eph. 2:11-12).[1] Biblically, the Gentiles were generally marked by wickedness (Deut. 9:4-5), idolatry (2 Ki. 17:29), and detestable practices such as child sacrifice, divination, and sorcery (Deut. 18:9-10).

     The nation of Israel, under the Mosaic Covenant, was promised blessing by God if they obeyed His commands (Deut. 28:1-15), and divine punishment if they did not (Deut. 28:16-68). Over the centuries since their deliverance from Egyptian captivity, Israel repeatedly disobeyed God and accepted the values and practices of the nations around them (Ps. 106:33-40). Eventually, God disciplined His people, using Gentile nations (Ps. 106:41-43), and sent Israel into Babylonian captivity for seventy years (Jer. 25:8-12; cf. Ezek. 12:9-13; 17:20). During the time of the Babylonian captivity God revealed to Daniel that there would be great Gentile kingdoms that would follow Israel’s fall and which would dominate world history (Dan. 2:29-45; cf. 7:1-28). These kingdoms were the Babylonians, Medes & Persians, Greeks, and Romans. However, God would eventually establish His own kingdom on earth, and this was revealed to Daniel as well (Dan. 2:34-35; 44-45).

     The Babylonian captivity that occurred in 586 B.C. marks the beginning of what Scripture refers to as “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24; cf. Rom. 11:25), a period of time in which Israel—particularly Jerusalem—will be under Gentile dominance until the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of the seven year Tribulation. “The Times of the Gentiles can best be defined as that long period of time from the Babylonian Empire to the Second Coming of the Messiah during which time the Gentiles have dominance over the City of Jerusalem.”[2] Though God is currently accomplishing His plans in the world through Gentiles, He still has future plans for His people, Israel. This is made clear in several places in Scripture (Rom. 9:1-5; 11:1-2, 5, 25). Jesus stated, “Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). The use of the word until means the dominance of the Gentiles will eventually come to an end, and when it does, God will once again work through the Jews to accomplish His plans in the world.

 

[1] Though many aspects of God’s covenants refer to Israel alone, the Lord promised that Gentiles would be blessed through Abraham (Gen. 12:3), and this blessing came through Abraham’s descendant, Jesus. The result is that Gentiles who have believed in Jesus as Savior are partakers of the spiritual blessings of God; for Scripture reveals, “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off [from covenantal blessings] have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13; cf. 19-22).

[2] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah : A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events, Rev. ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 21.

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Lesson 41 - The Sabbath and the Lord’s Day

March 4, 2018

     The word Sabbath (שָׁבַת shabath) means to cease or rest. It is recorded in Genesis that God rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done” (Gen. 2:2). That is, God ceased His creative activity of the universe, the earth and mankind. God did not obligate anyone to keep the Sabbath as a special day of rest until He formed the nation of Israel after they were delivered from Egyptian bondage (Ex. 16:23-30). The keeping of the Sabbath was a part of the Mosaic Law given to Israel and was to give them rest from their labor (Ex. 20:8-11; cf. Deut. 5:12-14). The Sabbath was a sign of the Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 31:12-17). God pronounced the death penalty upon all who profaned the Sabbath (Ex. 31:14-15; Num. 15:32-36). Biblical violations of the Sabbath included gathering manna (Ex. 16:23-30), kindling a fire in one’s home (Ex. 35:1-3), gathering wood (Num. 15:32-35), carrying a load (Jer. 17:21-22), or engaging in business (Amos 8:4-6; cf. Neh. 13:15-21). Jesus declared “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27); however, over time, Jewish religious leaders invented additional commands for the Sabbath, and it was these additions that made the Sabbath a burden rather than a blessing. As Lord of the Sabbath Jesus declared that acts of necessity and compassion were permitted on the Sabbath (see Matt. 12:10-14; Luke 13:10-17; 14:1-6; John 7:19-24). Jesus kept the Sabbath as the Mosaic Law prescribed, but not according to rabbinic tradition, for which He and His disciples were wrongly attacked (Matt. 12:1-8; John 5:1-9, 16; 9:14-16; Mark 3:1-5; Luke 13:10-17; 14:1-6). The Sabbath was obligatory for Israel alone, and only for the duration of the Mosaic Covenant, which has been replaced with the New Covenant (Heb. 8:6-7, 13).

The Sabbath in the Present Church Age

     Christians are not under the Mosaic Law (Rom. 6:14), but under the Law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2). God’s commands for Christians living in church age do not obligate us to keep the Sabbath. Christians are warned against setting aside certain days, especially if they think that doing so will merit God’s favor (Gal. 4:9-10).

  • "Following the resurrection of Christ, there is no record in the New Testament that the Sabbath was observed by any believer, even in error. Doubtless the multitude of Judaized Christians did observe the Sabbath; but no record of such observance was permitted to appear in the Word of God. In like manner, following the resurrection of Christ, there is no injunction given to Jew, Gentile, or Christian to observe the Sabbath, nor is Sabbath-breaking once mentioned among the numerous lists of possible sins."[1]

Worship on Sunday

     We know from Scripture that Christians met on Sunday, the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2), and it’s possible they did this because it marked the day of the Lord’s resurrection. However, there is no divine command found in Scripture that requires us to gather on Sunday; rather, the Christian is free to observe all days alike, as every day is an opportunity to love and serve the Lord (Rom. 14:5-9).

 

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer; John F. Walvoord; Major Bible Themes (Grand Rapids, Mich. Zondervan Publishing, 2010), 290.

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Lesson 40 - The Church: The Body and Bride of Christ and Her Reward

February 10, 2018

Figures of Christ and His Church

     The New Testament sets forth several figures of Christ as He relates to the church. These include: Christ as the Shepherd and the church as His sheep (John 10:11-16). Christ as the Vine and believers as the branches (John 15:1-5). Christ as the Cornerstone and the church as the living building (Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:4-6). Christ as High Priest and Christians as believer-priests (Heb. 3:1-2; 4:14-15; Rev. 1:6). Christ as the Head and the church as the body (Eph. 1:22-23). Christ as the Bridegroom and the church as the bride (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-27).[1]

Christ as the Bridegroom and the Church as His Bride

     In the Old Testament, God entered into a covenant relationship with Israel (Ex. 19:5; 34:27; Deut. 5:1-3), which figuratively portrays her as the wife of Jehovah (Ezek. 16:8).[2] God had rescued Israel from slavery and blessed her, but the people became unfaithful to Him and committed spiritual adultery by worshipping other gods (Jer. 3:1-5; cf. Ezek. 16:15-34). Later, God is pictured as separating from Israel, issuing a certificate of divorce (Jer. 3:6-10; cf. Isa. 50:1), which is a picture of judgment upon the nation. Scripture also reveals that God will restore Israel to Himself in a new covenant relationship (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 16:60-63), and Israel will be reestablished as the wife of Jehovah (Isa. 54:1-8; Hos. 2:14-20), which is a picture of future restoration and blessing (Rom. 11:25-29). In the New Testament, Christ is prophetically portrayed as the Bridegroom and the church as His engaged bride (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-27). At a future time, Jesus will call His bride to heaven (1 Thess. 4:13-18) and receive her with a great banquet and celebration (Rev. 19:6-9). Afterward, the church will live forever in the eternal state as the wife of the Lamb (Rev. 21:9).

The Bride Adorned and Rewarded

     As members of the body of Christ, Christians are given spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:28-30; Eph. 4:11) by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11) for the edification and spiritual benefit of the church (Eph. 4:12-16). We are to use our spiritual gifts to glorify God and edify others, whether saved or lost (Rom. 14:19; Eph. 4:29; Gal. 6:10).

     The Bible teaches that Christians will face a future time of judgment in heaven. This is not a judgment concerning the Christian’s right to enter heaven as the place of eternal residence, for Christ has secured our salvation and there is no fear of condemnation before God (John 3:18; 5:24; Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 11:32). Rather, it is a judgment concerning eternal rewards for the life we’ve lived in service to Christ (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:9-10; Eph. 6:7-8). This judgment will occur after Christ has called His church to heaven (1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Tim. 4:7-8; Rev. 22:12).

     The apostle Paul likens the Christian life to an athletic race, or a boxing match, in which we compete for a prize (1 Cor. 9:24-27). The Christian will be judged for his/her stewardship of resources that God has provided during his/her time on earth (Rom. 14:10-12). This includes spiritual gifts and natural abilities and resources that the believer possesses, and which God expects him/her to use to advance God’s purposes in this world. When the Christian is judged, it will be for rewards, concerning whether we lived for God or self (1 Cor. 3:9-15).

[1] The following list is taken from Major Bible Themes, pages 274-276.

[2] In another place Israel is figuratively portrayed as God’s son (Ex. 4:22).

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Lesson 39 - The Church: Her Organization and Ordinances

February 10, 2018

     As an organization, the local church has historically adopted three forms of government. 1) Episcopalian - which recognizes bishops who organize the local functions of the church (Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist). 2) Congregational - where major decisions are voted by the church members (Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Baptist). 3) Elder led - which is a representative form of church government with appointed persons to lead the church (Bible churches, Reformed, Presbyterian).

Church Leadership

     The elder led model best represents the biblical teaching. Concerning the qualifications for church elders, Paul lists 15 qualifications in his letter to Timothy (1 Tim. 3:1-7), and 17 qualifications in his letter to Titus (Tit. 1:5-9). Though similar in most ways, the two lists differ, both in number and type of qualities mentioned. It would seem Paul was providing a general list of characteristics that one would like to see when considering a person as an elder in the church. The consideration of an elder in the church is something that requires time and observation.  Certainly he must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2); however, much of what is set forth in Scripture relates to his character, home and public life.  Biblically, it appears only God selects elders to serve in His church (Acts 20:28). The Bible does not specify how many elders may serve in a church, or even what process is to be followed concerning their appointment to office. The church has the liberty to follow a relaxed or formal policy depending on its membership. Below is a list of observations about elders:

 

  1. The terms elder, bishop, overseer, and pastor appear to be synonymous (Acts 20:17, 28; Tit. 1:5-7; 1 Pet. 5:1-5).
  2. The first elders in Scripture had their place in the church by apostolic appointment. First, Paul appointed elders in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (Acts 14:21-23), and later, he commanded Titus to appoint elders in the church (Tit. 1:5). Since we do not have apostles today, authority does not rest in a person, but Scripture alone. Church leadership appears to be appointed by God (Acts 20:28; cf. Eph. 4:11-12), and the church recognizes leadership because they measure up to the qualifications set forth in Scripture (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9).
  3. They had to measure up to the qualifications for eldership (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). The two lists are not exact, and one can only surmise that each list served either as a general guideline, or was specifically tailored by the Apostle Paul for each church-group to whom he was writing.
  4. They consist of men only (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6; cf. 1 Tim. 2:12-14).
  5. They solved doctrinal problems in the church through biblical discussion and research (Acts 15:4-11, cf. Acts 16:4).
  6. They worked with “the whole church” in choosing men to send on a missionary journey (Acts 15:22). This is important because elders lead from the front, not the top. They work within the church, and with the church, serving as examples to the church, not “lording” their authority over others (1 Pet. 5:3).
  7. They received biblical instruction from Paul regarding the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Today the elder occupies his time with learning Scripture so he can be spiritually prepared to meet his obligations as a church leader.
  8. They shepherded the church through general oversight (Acts 20:17; 28).
  9. They guarded against false teachers and their false doctrines, guiding believers into God’s will, and feeding the church with the truths of Scripture (Acts 20:28-32; Eph. 4:11-14, cf. Jer. 3:15).
  • All the elders were leaders (1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7, 17), but only some functioned at “preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17; cf. Gal. 6:6; Eph. 4:11-14; 1 Thess. 5:12).
  • They were supported financially by those who benefitted from their oversight and teaching (Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17-18).
  • The elders offered support and prayer for those who suffer (Jas. 5:14).

Church Ordinances

     Most Protestant churches recognize the two ordinances of water baptism and the Lord’s Supper, although a few add footwashing. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the only two ordinances given to the church. Both are symbolic acts that point to spiritual realities. Baptism is a picture of the believer’s spiritual union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-7; Col. 2:11-12). The Lord’s Supper is a picture of Jesus’ perfect humanity (unleavened bread) and substitutionary atoning death on the cross (shed blood) which is the basis for forgiveness of sins. Both symbols communicate the work of God on behalf of weak humanity. We cannot atone for our sins and redeem our life or the lives of others (Ps. 26:7-8), but Christ has born the penalty of our sins and paid the redemption price that was too costly for us (Isa. 53:10; Mark 10:45; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are recognizing our weakness and celebrating what Christ accomplished for us. Baptism is also a picture of our weakness, for we cannot unite ourselves to Christ, but God the Holy Spirit accomplishes this for us when He places us into union with Christ at the very moment we trust Jesus as our Savior (1 Cor. 12:13).

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When God Does Not Remove Suffering

February 4, 2018

     Most often prayer is an appeal to God to change a difficult or helpless situation. Sometimes God changes our situations as we request (i.e., concerning employment, health, finances, family matters, etc.), and sometimes He leaves the difficult situation and seeks to change our attitude (2 Cor. 12:7-10). When God does not remove a difficult situation as we request, then He intends for us to deal with it by faith (Jam. 1:2-4). God uses difficult situations to remove pride (Dan. 4:37; 2 Cor. 12:7-10), and to develop our Christian character (Rom. 5:3-5). It’s almost always the case that we prefer God change our circumstances rather than our attitude; and yet, it seems both biblically and experientially that God prefers to do the opposite. Though the Lord is concerned about our difficult situations, He’s more concerned with developing our Christian character than relieving our discomfort. However God chooses to answer, He has His reasons and they always glorify Him. A challenge to us is to trust that His plan is better than ours, wherever it happens to lead us, or however difficult the journey becomes.

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Lesson 38 - The Church: Her Worship in Prayer and Thanksgiving

February 4, 2018

     Prayer is discussion with God. It is motivated by different causes and takes different forms. Most often prayer is an appeal to God to change a difficult or helpless situation. Sometimes God changes our situations as we request (i.e., concerning employment, health, finances, family matters, etc.), and sometimes He leaves the difficult situation and seeks to change our attitude (2 Cor. 12:7-10). When God does not remove a difficult situation as we request, then He intends for us to deal with it by faith (Jam. 1:2-4). God uses difficult situations to remove pride (Dan. 4:37; 2 Cor. 12:7-10), and to develop our Christian character (Rom. 5:3-5). It’s almost always the case that we prefer God change our circumstances rather than our attitude; and yet, it seems both biblically and experientially that God prefers to do the opposite. Though the Lord is concerned about our difficult situations, He’s more concerned with developing our Christian character than relieving our discomfort. However God chooses to answer, He has His reasons and they always glorify Him. A challenge to us is to trust that His plan is better than ours, wherever it happens to lead us, or however difficult the journey becomes.

  1. Basically, one can address God as Father only as a member of the family of God (Matt. 6:9; John 1:12; Gal. 3:26; 1 Pet. 3:12).
  2. Prayer can be taught (Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4).
  3. Prayer should be directed to God the Father (Matt. 6:6; Luke 11:2; Eph. 5:20; 1 Pet. 1:17), in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:13; 15:16), and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 6:18).
  4. God conditions some things on prayer (Jam. 4:2).
  5. Believers should claim God’s promises when praying (Ex. 32:11-14).
  6. God’s past actions provide a historical precedent to encourage believers in prayer (Ps. 22:2-5, 11; 44:1-4).
  7. Praise is often a response to answered prayer (Ex. 15:1-21; Ps. 28:6-7).
  8. Both the Holy Spirit and Jesus intercede for us to God the Father (Rom. 8:26; Heb. 7:24-25).

Types of Prayer

  1. Submission (Matthew 26:39-44)
  2. Lamentation (Psalm 55:1-7)
  3. Confession (Psalm 32:3-5; 130:2-4; 1 John 1:9)
  4. Crying out (Psalm 13:1-2)
  5. Intercession (2 Samuel 12:16)
  6. Imprecation (Psalm 69:22-28; 109:4-20; 140:9-11)
  7. Thanksgiving (Eph. 5:20; 1 Thess. 5:18)

Basic Parts of Prayer

  1. Confession of personal sin (Ps. 32:3-5; 66:18; 1 John 1:9).
  2. Thanksgiving to God for His goodness (Eph. 5:20; 1 Thess. 5:17-18).
  3. Intercession for others (Eph. 6:18).
  4. Intercession for self (Heb. 4:16).
  5. Willingness to accept God’s will (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

Reasons Why Some Prayers Are Not Answered

  1. Lack of faith (Jam. 1:5-8).
  2. Selfishness (Jam. 4:2-3).
  3. Worship of other gods (Jer. 7:16-18; 11:12-14).
  4. Failure to take in Bible teaching (Prov. 1:24-31; 28:9; Zech. 7:11-13).
  5. Carnality (Ps. 66:18; Mic. 3:4; Isa. 1:15; 59:1-3).
  6. Lack of harmony in the home (1 Pet. 3:7).
  7. Lack of obedience (Deut. 1:43-45; 1 John 3:22; 5:14).
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