Friday, January 13, 2017

5 questions every person should be Asking

Read Revelation 22.

The closing themes of the Bible answer some of the most important questions humans need to be asking.

What is Life?
The Bible tells us about real life and how we can have it.  In the New Testament, eternal life is often simply called "life" as opposed to temporal physical existence.  Those who do not believe in Jesus "shall not see life" (John 3:36).  Jesus said, "Come to me that you may have life." (John 5:40).  "I came that they may have life." (John 10:10b).  "...by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31)

Chapter 21 closes stating that only "those who are written in the Lamb's book of life" will be living eternally with God.  The subject of life continues in chapter 22.  Here we are told that in the New Jerusalem there will be a river of the water of life and the tree of life.  That tree of life has not been seen since God ousted Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3.

When will Jesus return?
Jesus said, "And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again..." (John 14:3)  At his ascension back to heaven, angels announced, "This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11)  In Revelation 22, three times Jesus is quoted as saying, "I am coming soon."  Concerning this book, the angel told John that these things "must soon take place" (v.6) and "the time is near" (v.10).  Indeed, the opening verses of Revelation state, "...the time is near." (1:3)

But it has now been nearly 2,000 since the Apostle John wrote those words.  Concerning these prophecies there is nothing preventing the next steps in God's future plans from taking place.  They are imminent and could begin at any moment.

Who is Jesus? (v.13)
Don't miss the clarity of Jesus' identity.  "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."  Compare that statement with Revelation 1:8.  "I am the Alpha and Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."  Jesus clearly claims to be God Almighty.  Those who say Jesus never said He was God have never read this book.

What is the warning? (vv.18-19)
Those who believe the Bible is God's written word understand that it has been supernaturally preserved for us as inerrant and infallible, is complete, and is without error.  According to verses 18-19, there is no new revelation to add to it.  Beware of false prophets who claim to have a new "prophetic word".  One of the cults even claims to have "another gospel" of which Galatians 1:6-9 condemns outright.  There are no lost books of the Bible as advertised occasionally on television.

The punishment for such falsehoods is "God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book."

What should be our response to this book? (vv.17, 20-21)
The Holy Spirit speaks to every human heart, and the primary communication of God's people to the world, is "Come" to Jesus.  Every person has a crying need to deal with their sin and guilt.  That sin debt has been paid on the cross.  The spiritual thirst within every person may only be satisfied with the eternal life giving soul refreshment that Jesus offers to us.

"Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!"

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Welcome Home!

Read Revelation 21.

The future continued to be revealed to the Apostle John.  He saw a new heaven and new earth with a beautiful bejeweled city called New Jerusalem.  What is described in this chapter is how many people envision heaven.  Keep in mind that chronologically this new city will not be seen until the 7 years of Tribulation and the 1,000 of the earthly kingdom are completed.

What will our eternal home look like?

1. New Jerusalem.
The city will be astonishingly beautiful.  It will be constructed of precious gemstones with gigantic pearls for gates and streets of gold.  The size will be a cube measuring 1380 miles in length, width, and height.  The walls will be about 216 feet thick.

In honor of our spiritual heritage, the 12 gates will have the names of the 12 tribes of Israel.  The city will be based upon 12 foundations with the names of the 12 Apostles.

While these stunning things will certainly catch our attention, the focus will not be on what is there but Who is there.  It will be the dwelling place of God and we will live with Him. (v.3)

2. The Environment.
There will be no more tears.
There will be no more death.
There will be no more mourning.
There will be no more crying.
There will be no more pain.
There will be nothing unclean, detestable, or false.
Why?  Because there will be no more sin.

There will be no temple for we will be in the very presence of God for worship.
There will be no night and no need of lights.  "The glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb." (v.23)

Two eternal questions are answered in this chapter.
1. Who will not be living in this city?
"If anyone's name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (20:15)  "...the lake of fire burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." (21:7)
Verse 7 explains the clear warning to those who do not turn to Jesus.
-The cowardly or fearful.  This is the opposite of faith.  They just cannot bring themselves to trust in Jesus so they chose to do nothing.
-The faithless or unbelieving.  They doubt the truthfulness of the message.
-The detestable or sinful.  They would rather pursue their temporal pleasures instead of dealing with the reality of their eternal fate.
-The sorcerers.  They place their faith in evil spiritual activity instead of God and His word.
-The idolaters.  They put their faith in their own made up religion.
-The liars.  They are committed to false thinking about sin and eternity.
2. Who will be living in this city?
"...only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life." (v.27b)
These are the ones who heard the good news of Jesus and personally placed their faith in Him.  "...whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." (John 5:24)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

And God's great kingdom shall come to Earth

Read Revelation 20.

Armageddon will not be the end.  There is much more ahead.

1. Satan temporarily Contained. (vv.1-3)
When Jesus returns He will put down the rebellion and deal with the chief instigators (19:19-21).  Satan will then be "bound", "shut", and "sealed" for a time until his final judgment takes place.  Jesus will establish His earthly rule and reign, sitting on "the throne of his father David" (Luke 1:32).  How long will Satan be restricted and how long will the earthly kingdom last?  Six times in the first seven verses the time is stated to be 1,000 years.  There is no hint anywhere in the Bible that this is a grammatical hyperbole or that this is a comparative statement such as 2 Peter 3:8.

2. God's kingdom on Earth. (v.4a)
A number of thrones will be set up for those who will judge matters during this 1,000 years of earthly reign.  Who will these judges be?
-Believers in Jesus-"Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" (1 Corinthians 6:2
-12 Apostles-"...that you may...sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Luke 22:30)
-Jesus-"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne."

All believers in Jesus "will be priests of God and of Christ, and they shall reign with him for a thousand years." (v.6)

3. The first Resurrection. (vv.5-6)
These events complete the stages of what is called the first resurrection.
-Jesus was the first to be resurrected, guaranteeing the rest. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
-The dead who belong to Christ will be raised at the "catching away" according to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.
-Tribulation believers will be last (Revelation 20:4b).

4. The final War. (vv.7-10)
At the end of the 1,000 years, Satan will be released again.  He knows he is a defeated foe.  He knows he cannot win, so he will try to take as many people with him as possible to eternal punishment.  The global rebellion will come from a group called Magog whose leader is Gog.  As in the battle of Armageddon, the fight will be over quickly.  Satan will be thrown into the Lake of Fire to be tormented forever and ever.

5. The final Judgment. (vv.11-15)
It is clear that believers in Jesus have already been judged for their works and rewarded previously.  This judgment is for all those who throughout earth's history have never repented and turned to God.  The first death is physical.  Being thrown into the Lake of Fire for the purpose of eternal torment is called the second death.

Jesus said that people need a second birth.  In order to "see the kingdom of God" we need to be born spiritually into God's family.  Physical birth gives us temporal life.  The second birth gives us eternal life.

Monday, January 9, 2017

What the return of Christ will look Like

Read Revelation 19.

This is the real Hallelujah chorus!  The word only appears four times in the New Testament and all four are contained in the chapter.  It means praise Jehovah.

The vision of the coming Great Tribulation has been revealed.  Meanwhile in heaven, the believers have been welcomed home, rewarded, and assembled for the marriage supper of the Lamb.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, sacrificed Himself on the cross "so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27).

Verse 10 provides a wonderful summary statement of this entire book.  "For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."  The focus of Revelation is not about events.  It is "the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1:1a)  Those who brush aside prophecy as unimportant to the Christian life, brush aside Jesus.  Dismissing some parts of the Bible as not important questions God's integrity and exposes one's laziness.  "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."  The spiritual maturity of each believer is dependent upon being fully equipped by the "whole counsel" of the Word of God (Acts 20:27).

At this point, Jesus is now ready to be revealed to the unbelieving world.  As describe here, He will come again literally, visibly, personally, and victoriously.  Jesus taught in Matthew 24:29-30, "Immediately after the tribulation...Then...they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."

He will return wearing multiple titles.  Jesus is Faithful.  He is True.  He is the living Word of God (John 1:1-5).  He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  He even has a name no one knows but Jesus Himself (v.12).

The initial purpose of His return will be to put down this worldwide rebellion.  No meek and mild Jesus here.  "He will rule them with a rod of iron.  He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty."  This will fulfill the message of Psalm 2.  The chief weapon will be His spoken word that like "a sharp sword" comes out of His mouth. (19:15)  It is the same method Jesus used in creation, "And God said..." (Genesis 1), when He spoke the world into existence (Psalm 33:9, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 11:3).    

Today, God has graciously allowed us to have the written word of God.  The Apostle Paul called it "the sword of the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:17).  It is the believer's only offensive weapon in our daily spiritual warfare.  Jesus used it to overcome temptations (Matthew 4).  Disciplining ourselves with Scripture is the secret to victoriously Christian living.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The beginning of the End

Read Revelation 18.

A rebuilt city of Babylon will serve as both the headquarters of the world's government and its religious system.  The one in charge of enforcing the worship of the Antichrist is called the second beast in chapter 13 and depicted as a great prostitute in chapter 17, living in opulence with far too much influence.  The angel announced that God will destroy Babylon in a single hour (vv.10, 17, 19).  The merchants of the world will mourn greatly.

The sins of this city "are heaped up high as heaven" (v.5).  An identified voice calls out, "Pay her back as she herself has paid back others" (v.6).  Exactly what are those sins?

1. Sexual Immorality. (17:2)  
Once a person or a culture disregards or eliminates the moral teachings of Scripture, they will run rampant sexually.  Anything will eventually be considered acceptable because each one will be a standard unto themselves.  During the Tribulation, no behavior will be out of bounds, except perhaps, certain edicts from Babylon.

2. Commercial Immorality. (18:3)
With the one-world government controlling all buying and selling (13:17), approved merchants and other leaders will make themselves wealthy.  They will bedfellows for personal pleasure and ill-gotten financial gain.

3. Pride. (18:7)
When one's heart is in rebellion against God, there will arise a false belief that life may be lived on their own terms without consequence.  But the ancient wisdom of Proverbs 16:18 is still true.  "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."

4. Demonic Spiritism. (18:23)
The world will be religious.  They will be involved in spiritual worship.  At issue is that their system of religion will originate and be empowered by Satan himself.  As the ultimate liar, deceiver, and counterfeiter, he will offer the world a false messiah.  Sorcery and witchcraft will be included.  The Greek word for sorcery has to do with drugs.  Historically, Babylon is the founding place of astrology and all false religions.

5. Murders. (18:24)
The target of the government's hatred will anyone who is committed to Jesus.  In a culture that will pride itself in the tolerance of anything, Christians will not be tolerated.  Their godly lifestyles, their beliefs, and their refusal to worship the Antichrist will bring persecution and may cost them their lives.  It is this same spirit of antichrist who throughout history has always attempted to thwart the plans of God by annihilating God's people.  "And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth."

God's call to His people also has not changed throughout history.  "Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins..." (18:4).  Believers are to live separated lives.  We are in the world but we are not of the world.   Protecting ourselves from sinful influences and practices is key to influencing our world for Christ.  The Apostle Paul made this same point in his day.  "Therefore go out from their midst and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you..." (2 Corinthians 6:17)

Friday, January 6, 2017

2 lessons for us from Armageddon

Read Revelation 17.

The battle of Armageddon will not be an international war as many have used the term.  Nor will it be the end of the world and human life on earth.  It is most helpful to go to the one and only definitive source that describes Armageddon for a clear understanding.  The nations of the world will not be at war with each other.  In fact, they will unite in order to wage war against their common enemy.

To explain this to the Apostle John, images are shown to him.  There was no need for John, or us, to be confused by these or to speculate as to their meanings.  Each is explained within this chapter.

The great prostitute.
The symbolic woman is identified as one who lives in opulence.   She has intimate relationships with all the world's leaders.  Her actions are called immoral as she has sold herself to these leaders in exchange for money and power.  Her influence over these leaders is akin to drunkenness.  Her relationship with the peoples of earth is she sits on them, as a picture of oppression.  She is guilty of killing believers in Jesus (v.6).  This describes the religious system, established by the false prophet in chapter 15.  Empowered by Satan, the object of worship is the Antichrist.

She wears the label of Babylon.  Babylon is the mother or source of all rebellious belief systems against God.  The city may be traced to Genesis 10-11 when founded by Nimrod.  It was the place of defiance against God in constructing the infamous tower of Babel.  All false religion and idolatry may be traced back to this one city.  "The woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth." (v.18)  Here we are told that the religious system will have power over government, at least for a time.  Verse 16 indicates that world leaders will reach a point where they will reject this religious control, strip her of her authority, and destroy her once and for all.

The kings.
These leaders from various parts of the globe are described as heads and horns on the prostitute.  World leaders are often labeled as heads of state.  They wield horns of power.  Verses 2, 10 and 12 make clear who they are.  They will be of "one mind".  Collectively, they will submit their authority and military might to for the purpose of waging full scale war on the Lamb of God. (v.14).

The beast.
He is the 8th leader mentioned in verse 11.  This is the Antichrist, the beast of chapter 13.

So, what does this have to do with us?
1. How ludicrous for human beings to think they can rebel and fight against the God of heaven?  Jesus is "Lord of lords and King of kings" (v.14b).  He is omnipotent.  They cannot win this war.  This demonstrates the demonic inspired insanity that results from rejecting Jesus.  Yet, people today reject Jesus and do not think there will be any consequence.  It is a loser's belief.

2. All of these prophecies underscore that God is actively at work in this world.  "For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled."  (v.17)  And, more importantly for today, He has a plan and purpose for each of our lives that He is working out right now.  Pursue Him.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Preparing for Armageddon

Read Revelation 16.

The 7th trumpet blew in 11:15.  But the judgments of that alarm are not unleashed until chapter 16.  7 more angels will appear each with a bowl full of God's wrath to be poured out on the earth.  The Lord has delivered similar plagues as these in Egypt to humble that pride-filled pagan nation, preparing the exodus of the Jews.  And, some similar events have already taken place in Revelation.  The difference here is that these plagues will be worldwide, building toward the end of the Tribulation and the return of Christ.

Bowl #1 (v.2)
Previously, such a plague only affected 1/3 of mankind.  Here, these boils will come upon all those who have received the mark of the Antichrist and worship him.

Bowl #2. (v.3)
Again, when this happened before in Revelation, only 1/3 of sea life died.  Here, "every living thing died that was in the sea."

Bowl #3. (vv.4-7)
Next, all the sources of fresh water will be turned to blood.  John was even told why this specific judgment will happen.  "For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink.  It is what they deserve!"

Bowl #4. (vv.8-9)
The sun's intensity will be so great that it will burn people.  The prophet Malachi spoke of this day.  "For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble.  The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch." (Malachi 4:1)

Bowl #5. (vv.10-11)
This plague of darkness is directed right at the center of the Antichrist's power and worldwide control.  The prophet Zephaniah described this event hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.  "A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against lofty battlements." (Zephaniah 1:15-16)

Bowl #6. (vv.12-16)
The Lord will cause the Euphrates River to dry up in preparation for the armies of the east to easily cross.  These, along with a trio of demons, will be headed toward a place called Armageddon.

Bowl #7. (vv.17-21)
The sights and sounds of this judgment are unimaginable.  From thunder, lightning and great hailstones from the sky to earth-splitting quakes, God will be demonstrating His power over His creation.

What is the point?  It is two-fold.  On one hand, these judgments are meant to humble those who have rebelled against the Lord and cause them to repent.  But instead, their stubborn hearts are so hardened by personal sin and satanic deception that they curse the very One who is able to save them.  The second purpose is to bring the Tribulation to a climactic conclusion.  It will culminate with the glorious appearing of Jesus.