New Testament Challenge

Revelation Chapter 22

The last book in the Bible is about God's message to all of mankind of what is to come.  Interestingly enough, the Bible starts off in Genesis with "The Tree of Life" and ends with the same "Tree of Life" in Revelation.   

God sends The Angel to share his message and this Tree of Life is reintroduced as our means to eternal life.  Here we see prophesy and God's promises fulfilled.  We are left with hope because despite reading all about the coming suffering and judgments ahead of us, we can always count on the proverbial "Light at the end of the Tunnel", which is GOD.  That is what we are walking towards, so if we can keep that in our focus, walking daily with him and not dwell in all the other challenges we are faced with, our future will be set and we will be rewarded with eternal life.

Chapter 22 ends with the title JESUS IS COMING.    Throughout the Bible GOD warns the world of Jesus' imminent return by giving plenty of advance notice to all before his wrath is unleashed (think of the warnings through Noah or Abraham regarding Sodom and Gomorrah) and he did this to give everyone  time to repent and to be ready to receive him and have eternal life with him.   We should not forget that as Christians, we are all going to be with Jesus Christ as believers and the way we live our lives here on earth, may very well determine just how we will reign with the Lord.   He gave us free will, he died for our sins, he desires for us to commit our lives to holiness.

Jesus came to us the first time as an expression of GOD's love and he came to die for our sins. But the Bible says that when he returns, he will come in vengeance to pour out the wrath of GOD on those who have rejected GOD's love and grace.   The good news is, there is still time for all to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before his return.   If you haven't done so yet, it's not too late.

Revelation Chapter 21

In Revelation 21, we read about God’s revelation in a vision to John, the author, about the end of the world when Jesus returns.  The new holy city of Jerusalem, described as a beautiful bride dressed for her husband, Jesus Christ, comes down from heaven.  The magnificence and splendor of God’s glory illuminating the city, its perfect structure, and building materials of precious minerals, stones and pearls  is beyond our comprehension.  Those whose names are written in Jesus’s Book of Life, God’s children, are allowed to enter the city freely.  In this walled city, there is no more death or sorrow or crying or pain because it is God’s home where God lives with His children who have been given life through Christ.  Evil cannot exist here.

The fate of those who are not God’s children is the fiery lake of burning sulfur which represents endless separation from God and eternal, excruciating pain and sorrow. 

For me, the most beautiful aspect for God’s children in this new city is the existence with God where pain and sorrow and death do not exist.  As people of the world we live in, we spend much of our time, effort, worry, and resources in our earthly lives to deal with and battle pain, sorrow and death.  They are our constant shadows.  For some, the battles can be all-consuming and overwhelming especially without God’s help. But thanks to God, through Christ there is a beautiful, new heaven and earth which is God’s home where God welcomes His children who trust in Jesus.  In this home, we honor and glorify the Lord God and Jesus Christ, who are the temple at the heart of this city.

I recently visited my cousin who has suffered with extreme pain from a growing cancer tumor for more than five years despite treatments.  She looks forward to being in the new city, Jerusalem, of no pain, sorrow or death.  Her faith in Christ, in spite of her suffering, has made this city of God’s habitation all the more real and beautiful to me.

Revelation Chapter 20

When I realized, I was to write about this chapter it overwhelmed me.  Even the most profound Biblical scholars don’t agree on the interpretation of this book.  As I studied the chapter and prayed for insight, one thing kept glaring at me….

"Books were opened" (Rev 20:12). This has to be the scariest line in the entire Bible. Revelation 20 tells us that someday, the books will be opened. Someday, every single person will stand before the throne of God –  We will be standing there by ourselves – just me and God. Solo. My family and friends are not surrounding me and supporting me. I am not there with life's achievements – position, power, glory, grades, ribbons. I am not there with my money and my wealth. I will stand before God by myself and the books will be opened.

"Books were opened" (Rev 20:12).Does this scare you? It should. It should if your name is not written in the other book, the book of life. It should if you are not a believer. It should if you do not confess Christ as your Lord and Savior…

Is your name in the Lamb's book of life? How can you know? You trust Him. How can you know you trust Him? Your life begins to change, as He changes you, from the inside out. However, as much you struggle, He plants inside you that deep, deep desire to live for him. And we can be assured, as Jesus said in Revelation 3:5, He will never blot our name out of that book. We can be assured that we will be His forever, in the forever kingdom of the Son of Man.

To sum it up—this verse says it all……..

(John 3:16) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

There you have it – whoever believes in Him shall NOT perish.  Blessed assurance, we need not be afraid.

Revelation Chapter 19

Merry Christmas! 

As Christmas nears each year, I seem to gravitate to one of the classic hymns: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (ancient Latin origin). Both the music and lyrics have a hypnotic grip on me:

“O come, O come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear” 

With child-like giddiness, I long for Christmas to arrive - it overflows with joy, echoing the glorious birth of Jesus, Messiah! 

Although “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is commonly viewed in the context of anticipation of the virgin birth, it can be heard as a beckoning for the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 19 is massive. It is climactic. THIS IS THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST, which Jesus Himself talked about in Matthew 24! This is a grand scene, nearly indescribable – shouting, singing, praise, falling-down worship, and then…:

Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. 

Revelation 19:11-14

The image of Jesus as the Faithful and True rider of the white horse is beyond compare. Could this be the same flawless yet fragile Jesus that was placed in the manger in Bethlehem? Is it really the same innocent yet condemned Jesus that perished on a cross at Golgotha? Could it be the same Jesus that was placed in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb yet was raised from the dead on the third day?

YES! On all counts! This is exactly the same Jesus! This is Emmanuel, God With Us! And here, in Revelation 19, He is the conquering, everlasting, omniscient, omnipotent KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS! In vv.19-21, John graphically described Jesus’ vanquish of the beast and the false prophet (two-thirds of the Satanic Trinity), leaving only Satan himself for later.

Especially after reading vv.11-21, I find myself open-mouthed and wide-eyed. As Christians, we are in relationship with this same Jesus! One of the sweetest beatitudes in scripture is found in this chapter:

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

Revelation 19:9

As believers, we are blessed to be invited to the wedding feast! And collectively as Christians (the Church), we actually are Christ’s bride! In this truly extraordinary relationship, Romans 8:31-39 comes to mind – we are more than conquerors!

This Christmas, contemplate that the flawless and fragile infant we celebrate (the first coming of Jesus) is the King of Kings, the ultimate conqueror we eagerly await (the second coming of Jesus)!

“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel”

Amen!

Revelation Chapter 18

After John was given the vision of Babylon falling, he hears another voice with a double edged message.  One edge  cutting into Babylon and her followers and the other challenging God’s people to “give back to her as she has given, pay her back double for what she has done, mix her double portion from her own cup.  Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself.” (vv.6-7)  These instructions seem to fly in the face of what Jesus taught, that revenge belongs to God alone.  So, in Revelation, Christians to “heap burning coals” is in obedience to the commands of Jesus as well as Peter (I Peter 3:9) and Paul (Rom. 12:19-21). This paradox calls for patience, endurance and faithfulness which result in Christians participating in judgment by not taking up the sword, like Jesus, being the slain Lamb of God.  

The other edge of the message refers to how the world reacts to the demise of the Babylon/Roman Empire.  The three laments from the kings, merchants, and seafarers are repeated, “Woe! Woe! O great city, O Babylon, city of power…”  What are they lamenting about?  The loss of life?  I doubt that. They are lamenting about the loss of revenue, loss of profit, material wealth!  I wonder what we, here in America, would lament about should disaster, calamity on a large scale occur?  I think about what some people said in light of the oncoming hurricane Florence to the East Coast,  “…we’re not evacuating our homes/businesses because we want to be available  to see, protect what we own…”  At the risk of life, material possessions are a priority? As Christians, when Jesus asks for commitment, what  are we committed to? What are we willing to give up for following Christ?

Revelation Chapter 17

The rich imagery of the book of Revelations is something I have yet to fully delve into and understand.  In the meantime, we know that all Scripture is beneficial for teaching, reproving and setting things straight.  Even with my limited understanding of the book of Revelations, the Holy Spirit revealed a big truth from my own life.

The Harlot

I remember the first time I realized I was “playing the harlot” and it shocked me at the time.  There are many ways to play the harlot, and most of them have nothing to do with sexual immorality.  For me, it was a high-tech company in the Bay Area that seemed to be providing me with everything I needed.  They gave me ample compensation, matched my retirement fund contributions, kept us all healthy through medical insurance, paid me for time off whenever I needed it.  They even provided a free campground for my extended family to vacation at every summer.  I began to think of this company as a sort of provider for my families’ needs – and that is where I was playing the harlot.

By enlarging my view of this company, I was taking my eyes and my heart away from God as my true Provider.  They call this “spiritual infidelity” and it is very serious.  What I have learned all these years later is that God has many ways to provide for us.  He rebukes the devourer, for example.  He sometimes makes what we have “never seem to wear out” (Israelites in the desert) – haven’t you experienced that?  He brings us so much contentment and peace that our desires are fewer and our rest is greater.  Sometimes he uses a job.  In the end, only God is our Great Provider.  No company, benefactor or inheritance will ever take His place. 

Today, all I want are His Plans, His Thoughts.  By simply asking Him daily what are His Plans, His Thoughts for me, I’m tied securely to Him and free from the bondage of spiritual infidelity to a false provider. 

Revelation Chapter 16

We are nearing the end of the New Testament challenge and I have read about many great miracles and of people’s lives being transformed in positive ways.   God’s wrath has been mentioned but not put on display.  Well now I see it, and it strikes me as if I am watching a horror movie, and I don’t like horror movies!  I have heard people described in a positive light as “God fearing”, and I often think why would people fear the God that loves us so much that he sent Jesus to bring us new life and to reconcile us to Himself.  Well maybe it is this side of God, the side that is described in this chapter, that we should  fear.  I don’t really know.  But this chapter has made me think.

Revelation Chapter 15

As you read this blog, we are in the middle of the Christmas season.  If you are like me, you are probably enjoying the sights and sounds of the holiday season, going to Christmas parties and indulging far too much in good food.  I love the Christmas story, almost everybody I know loves the story.  Emmanuel, God with us.  Jesus, humble in birth, redeemer of our broken souls, the Messiah. I like this part of God, or as Ricky Bobby said in Talladega Nights, “I like the Christmas Jesus best”.

However, my task is to write about Revelations 15, and this chapter highlights another part of God’s character – His wrath.  This part of God isn’t so popular.  Maybe if I lived in a different place where injustice and cruelty ruled society I would read this chapter with anticipation and hope, but I’m a child of California. I’ve lived a life free from want, persecution and injustice.  Life is pretty good in Cali, so I struggle with the idea of God’s wrath.

As I’ve grown older, God has opened my eyes to see and care about the injustice, cruelty and deep sin that reigns across the globe.  We live in a broken world full of broken people, and it needs to be set right.  As I read Revelations 15, I get a sense that God’s wrath is not just punishment, rather it is more about setting all things right.  In the song of Moses in this chapter we read “Great and marvelous are your works, O Lord God, the Almighty.  Just and true are your ways,O King of the nations.”  Just as God’s humility and mercy as seen in the Christmas story are beyond anything I can imagine, so are his justice and wrath.  He is just, He is true, and I can trust that his wrath is needed and fair.

At the end of the chapter we read that no one could enter temple until the angels completed their work.  The time of intercession was over, and the time of God’s wrath was at hand. It is important for me to remember that this time is coming.  I can’t just live in the Christmas season.  Or as Pastor Lee recently said in a sermon, we need to give Jesus more than just our gifts (gratitude for saving us), we need to cast him our crowns (authority over our lives).  Revelation 15 helps to move me in this direction because He alone is Holy, and His ways are just and true.

Revelation Chapter 14

Have you ever stood at the cliff edge of the ocean, on a stormy winter’s evening? It’s barely lit or dark, misty and loud, with strong waves crashing below. Standing on the cliff edge makes me feel like I might be swallowed up by the ocean. It makes me feel very small and a bit nervous. The ocean is so loud, strong and powerful.  We are told in verse 2 that on the day of the Lambs return the sounds are like the roar of the mighty ocean or rolling loud thunder or many harpist playing together. I imagine it being so loud because so many are present at the gathering. I like that verse 3 says that a great choir sang before the throne of God. It’s a celebration for all that are coming home.  This warms my heart because as the scripture says Jesus will returned to take those who belong to him home. John 14:3 says, “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

This chapter is foretelling of what I believe it will be like when Jesus returns to take us home and we stand before the throne of God on the day of judgement. I must admit I have never read Revelation before and this chapter has been so eye opening for me. What stood out to me is knowing the difference between a seal and a mark, because in the end it’s what will differentiate us and signify where we belong. 

Verse 1 tells us “Then I saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” It’s comforting to know, that as promised, Jesus is with us from the beginning to the end. Even more comforting is that he has placed his seal on us, so that we will be identified and it will be known that we belong to him. 

The definition of a seal is to confirm or make secure, join two things together so as to prevent them from coming apart or to prevent anything from passing between them; References to the “King putting his seal of authenticity”; an engraved, a confirmation or a guarantee of something. I love it, because our assurance is Jesus. The definition of a mark is a boundary land such as a line, target, goal or object; References to a line, figure, or symbol made as an indication or record of something. Target, a person who is easily deceived or taken advantage of. Not surprising, since Satan is tricky and a deceiver to all. This really brings to light the term, “Your identity in Christ.” Reflecting on this passage I think that our distinction is the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Mark 1:10 tells us that on the day that Jesus was baptized, “As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove.” When Jesus appeared to the disciples, John 20:22 says, “And with that he breathed on them and said,“Receive the Holy Spirit.” I am forever grateful that when we accept Christ, the Holy Spirit lives in us. It’s our seal of authenticity from the King.  

Revelation Chapter 13

On first reading of chapter 13 I said to myself.  “What in the world is this all about?”  After referring to a couple of commentaries, I have came to find out that this is what it is believed to mean.

- The Dragon is Satan who gives the beasts his own power and authority.

- The first Beast from the sea with the 7 heads and 10 horns with 10 crowns on the horns represents the Roman Empire.  The heads and horns and crowns represent the Roman Emperors.  Nero is represented by the head that was wounded then healed. (Nero was especially cruel and persecuted the Christians)

- The second Beast from the earth is a false prophet who seeks to deceive the earth so that its inhabitants worship the first beast.

- The 42 months represents the time from the beginning of Christ’s ascension and will conclude with His return.  Thus Satan still rages and his evil will cease at the return of Christ.

- The first beast was allowed to persecute the Christians as they did not worship him. 

- The Christians were the ones who’s names were written in the Book of Life that belongs to the lamb (Jesus).

- The mark on the hand or forehead represented the seal of the Roman Empire.  Just as God sealed those who belonged to him, so did the beast (Roman Empire) seal those who indulged in emperor-worship.

- Down through medieval times it was common to use letters of the alphabet to signify numbers.  The Jews, Greeks and Romans all did this.  So words made up of letters would have a numerical value.  The number 666 represented either Nero or Domitian who during their reigns were especially inhumane and their persecution of Christians was in high gear.

- The reason John referred to the number instead of the name of the ruler was for fear of being charged with treason and the punishment of execution.  He cautiously identifies the man in such a way that knowledgable readers would know exactly who he meant and yet the law would not be able to touch him.

Hopefully this will allow us all a better understanding of what this chapter is telling us.  I know for me it really helped.