How The World Ends As We Know It – part 5: Book of Revelation

In part four of this series, we saw the apostle John transported in the spirit up to God’s heavenly throne room, whereupon he was witness to His glory, the twenty-four elders (who represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles of the New Testament), and four angels as well. We also discussed, at length, some of the prevailing thoughts behind the concept of the church ‘rapture.’

John now continues sharing his vision of the throne room:

The Lamb:

And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” Rev. 5:1, 2. NKJV

The scroll contains God’s final plan for redemption – the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is written on both sides and sealed, denoting its completeness. There will be no further additions.

When no one in heaven or from earth steps up to take the scroll, the apostle begins to despair; but then his melancholy is interrupted:

But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and loose its seven seals.”

And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb…And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” Rev. 5:5 – 10. NKJV

We see then that only the Son of God is worthy to carry out His Father’s plan for salvation. Jesus is presented here as a ‘lion’ (especially to those who rejected Him), and as a ‘lamb’ (to those who have invited Him in their hearts) – with the appearance of having been slain (to represent His death and resurrection). The seven horns denote His power, which is both great and divinely complete; and the seven eyes represent His amalgamation with the Holy Spirit.

A Tribulation Overview:

Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.” Rev. 6;1 NKJV

The angel is calling John to witness an overview of the nature of the events which will take place in the seven-year tribulation period.

As Jesus opens the first four seals, the symbolic ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse’ are revealed. The first rider on the white horse is interpreted by some to be the Antichrist (counterfeit Christ) – who is loosed upon the earth at the beginning of the tribulation.

The apostle Paul had prophesied about this day: …that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God… 2 Thess. 2:3, 4. NKJV

The ‘Day’ is the day of God’s wrath.

[Some interpreters see this first rider as Christ Himself, but that interpretation is problematic. One, he is pictured with a bow; two, he is going out to conquer, and three, he is nothing like the real Christ who is depicted (as we will see) in chapter nine of Revelation.

Jesus has never been portrayed in scripture with a bow, but with a sword. Also, He does not need to go out conquering - He has already conquered death and holds the keys to Hades. (See Rev. 1:18)]

The second horseman is astride a red horse, and he represents war – especially the great final war against Israel (prophesied by Ezekiel in chapters 38 and 39). (Some interpret him to be the personification of a coalition of a great army ‘from the north’ – from countries said to comprise the old Soviet Union and those which house Islamic radicals.)

The third rider on a black horse represents famine, and the fourth on the pale horse, death and disease.

When Jesus opens the fifth seal of the scroll a vision is revealed of the souls of those who have been martyred for having testified of Him and for keeping His word. They are crying out for justice, but are told to be patient just a little longer while our merciful God gives the world a little more time that there may be others who will make a decision to come to Him.

The opening of the sixth seal makes known severe cosmological disturbances as Christ returns to the earth; and also shown are the unbelievers fleeing in fear – wishing death upon themselves rather than have to face judgment.

Before the seventh seal is opened, there is an interlude in heaven…

First Interlude:

This is the first of three ‘interludes’ in Revelation where we see the disposition of the saints during the various phases of John’s vision:

After this I saw four angels standing at that four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Rev. 7:1 ESV

No wind? That would indeed require major climactic and cosmological changes.

Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea or the trees till we have sealed the servants of God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed. Rev. 7:2 – 4. NKJV

Revelation then gives us a list of twelve Jewish tribes of twelve thousand each – all of which have been sealed by the angels. The list contains the tribes of Levi and Joseph – both of whom were usually not listed in the twelve tribes in previous scriptures. The tribes of Ephraim and Dan are not listed. (Some interpreters believe that they were omitted due to their continuing practice of idolatry.)

Some Christian sects see these 144,000 as being representative of a heavenly ruling class. (I don’t particularly resonate with that.)

Note that if the 144,000 were a part of the church of Christ, they would not have needed to be sealed, because the church has already been sealed. (See Eph. 1:13, 14.)

[The seal is the name of the Lamb and of God - the seal of salvation. (See Rev. 14:1)]

Other interpreters see the 144,000 as a symbolic number of Jews who come to the realization that Jesus is the Messiah after they witness the rapture of the church and see God defeat the enemies of Israel in the final battle. Thus they, like the congregants of the church of Christ, are now sealed as well. (See Rom. 11:26)

John’s interlude vision continues: After these things I looked, and behold a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues standing before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Rev. 7:9, 10. NKJV

One of the twenty four elders turns to John and reveals the identity of the multitude:

These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.

They shall neither hunger anymore or thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Rev. 7:14 – 17. NKJV

This multitude is interpreted by some to be the people around the world (non-Jews) who witness that rapture of the church, the defeat of Israel’s enemies by God Himself, and the salvation of the Jews by Jesus. After they finally witness all of this, they also decide to embrace Christ as well. (See Zech. 8:23) This interpretation then, calls for an ‘additional rapture’ which occurs at mid-tribulation.

It is another loving example of God’s mercy – giving His children a final chance to come to Him.

To be continued…

Goodnight and God bless.

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April 19 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

How The World Ends As We Know It – part 4: Book of Revelation

In part three of this series, we looked at Jesus’ messages to the ‘seven churches of
Asia:’ a collection of churches with traits (good or bad) that Christ revealed to the apostle John. John could then speak for Him in order to help the churches strengthen their positive Jesus-centered behavior and to eliminate those behaviors that were not. Jesus conveyed these seven messages to have them used as instructional tools for His church in all ages so that they might be the most effective agents for the growth of the kingdom of God.

In the throne room of God Himself:

Immediately after John receives the seven instructions, Jesus calls him up to God’s throne room in heaven:

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice which I had heard addressing me like [the calling of] a war trumpet said, Come up here, and I will show you what must take place in the future. Rev. 4:1 AMP

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. Rev. 4:2 NKJV

We see then that Revelation is now shifting its perspective both heavenward and toward future events.

[This is one of the major scriptures cited as being a symbol for the 'rapture' of the church at the time of the tribulations (i.e. God's judgments of wrath) that lie in store for those who reject Him.

The word 'rapture' is not found anywhere in the Bible. An evangelist named John Nelson Darby first preached the concept in the early 1800s. 'Rapture' (as it used in various biblical interpretations) means to be 'caught up' or to be 'taken away;' and it is used to refer to when it is believed that Jesus will return and take God's children out of harm's way during the tribulations. How and when this rapture occurs (or not) depends upon who is doing the interpreting. This concept of 'rapture' is formulated from various scriptures. One of these is from Jesus Himself:

"…watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." Luke 21:34 - 36. ESV

Jesus is telling us to stay in right standing with God, and to remain on spiritual alert for Christ's return, so that we, as God's children, can escape the fate reserved for the rebellious. That escape path looks like this:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thess. 4:16, 17. NKJV

Jesus comes and gathers all of God's children (both dead and alive) and swoops them up to heaven. Why?

For God has not appointed us to [incur His] wrath [He did not select us to condemn us], but [that we might] obtain [His] salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ… 1 Thess. 5:9 AMP

Take notice! I tell you a mystery (a secret truth, an event decreed by the hidden purpose or counsel of God). We shall not all fall asleep [in death], but we shall all be changed (transformed)… 1 Cor. 15:51 AMP

Jesus has His faithful followers covered, (as we saw in part 3 of this series):

Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Rev. 3:10 NKJV

I understand this to mean that we won’t suffer the trials, because we won’t be living on the earth.

Let’s recap the sequence of events so far: John was called up to heaven immediately after he received the church messages regarding how to remain a steadfast follower of Christ – how to conduct oneself in the ‘church age.’

John then receives an overview of how God’s wrath will manifest. (Some interpret the ‘risen John’ as a symbol of the raptured church. As such, they see the church caught up to heaven before the tribulations occur.) Those who ascribe to this interpretation believe that the rapture will be a hidden event that is separate from Jesus’ globally public ‘second coming.’

Other interpreters refer back to the Old Testament book of Daniel (7:25) and see that scripture as a prophetic vision that indicates that the saints will have to suffer through the first half of a seven-year tribulation period before they are ‘raptured.’

Finally, there are other interpreters who look to what Jesus sequenced in Matt. 24:29 – 31: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven and the power of the heavens will be shaken.

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all of the tribes of the earth will mourn, and see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet. and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one heaven to the other. (NKJV)

Thus, these interpreters believe that the ‘rapture’ will occur after the tribulations.

The important thing to understand is that these are the best interpretations that man has to offer. What we can know with certainty is that God will indeed rescue His children, through Christ, at some specific point in time, and separate them from the stiff-necked unbelievers whose outcome is mercifully not ours…]

Back to the throne room: John is seeing the Creator of the universe. We know that at this point, a major shift has taken place in the relationship between God and Man, because heretofore, no one was allowed to look upon the face of God except His Son. (See Ex. 33:20; John 6:46)

However, the glory of God’s countenance is so overwhelmingly magnificent that John cannot describe it in a corporeal fashion. Instead, John describes what he perceives as a stunning rainbow with an accompanying radiance given off by incomparable jewels – all the while joined by flashes of lightning and sounds of thunder. (See Rev. 4:3 & 5.)

John also sees others near the throne:

Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns on their heads. Rev. 4:4 NKJV

These ‘elders’ consist of representatives of the church – a unification of the twelve tribes of Israel along with the twelve apostles. John sees the twenty-four elders prostrate themselves before Christ in worship, as they also bring forth the prayers of the saints for His consideration. (See Rev. 5:9)

John also sees the ‘seven Spirits of God’ that represent the Holy Spirit in His complete fullness. [Some interpreters view this as the completed fullness of the Holy Spirit within the saints.

Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit would be with the saints forever. (See John 14:16) So they take this coming together of John with the unified Holy Spirit to indicate that the saints are 'raptured' into God's presence at this time, i.e. before the tribulations, because they cannot be separated from the Holy Spirit once that unification has taken place.

The apostle then describes a 'sea of glass' before the throne. (See Rev. 4:6) Some interpreters claim that when the word 'sea' is not used in the Bible as a specific body of water, it is used to describe a vast throng of people. They see this sea of glass as a symbol representing the redeemed saints. (Personally, I think that is a bit of a stretch of the imagination.)

Finally, John describes four 'living creatures' around the throne [similar to the angelic cherubim and seraphim that populated the visions of the Old Testament prophets Ezekiel (ch. 1) and Isaiah (ch.6)], whom, along with the twenty-four elders, are worshipping God.

The stage is set. The action begins…next time

Good night and God bless.

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April 12 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

How The World Ends As We Know It – part 3: Book of Revelation

In part two of this series, we examined the first chapter of Revelation: the greeting from the apostle John who was transcribing the visions given to him by Christ Himself, the greeting from the Godhead (Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit), John’s description of the present-day transcendent Christ, and Jesus’ mandate to the apostle to address seven distinct churches with regards to their godly behavior or the lack thereof.

Christ’s messages to the church:

In John’s vision, Jesus begins by addressing the church in Ephesus: “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.

Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent.” Rev. 2:1 – 5. NKJV

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Rev. 2:7 NKJV

First we see that Jesus is intimately protecting the overseers (pastors or angels) of the church, and that He Himself is in their midst by the Spirit. Then He states that the church’s doctrine is sound, the church resists evil, and is patiently persistent in its purpose. However, Jesus accuses the church of having become ritualistic – more of a rigid ‘religion’ rather than a place where the love of Christ can be found.

Jesus’ remedy is for the church to keep their love and zeal for Him as their centerpiece, and to repent of any behavior that diminishes that. It is out of His endless love for His church, that He brings this criticism to them, so that they can clean it up before He is forced to remove the church from it’s ‘bride of Christ’ status.

Finally, He lets them know that those who do return to His love and take a stand for keeping their focus on it will be rewarded with eternal life.

(Keep in mind that all of these seven messages are just as urgent for the churches and their congregants today.)

Christ now addresses the church of Smyrna: “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you in prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.

Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life…The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.” Rev. 2:9 – 11. ESV

This is a church that Jesus finds no fault in. He acknowledges their material poverty, but reminds them of their far greater blessings in their spiritual wealth. Jesus also lets them know that He is aware of their persecution by Jews who thought they were the true children of God just because of their genealogical line. He goes on to say that Satan himself is motivating these persecutors.

However, Jesus tells them if they will remain steadfast in their faith, they will come out of that persecution poised for eternal life. (‘Ten days’ is symbolic for a ‘short time’ of suffering.)

Jesus now gives John a message for the church of Pergamum (also called Pergamos): These things says He who has the sharp two edged sword: “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.” Rev. 2:12 – 14. NKJV

“Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight them with the sword of My mouth…To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” Rev. 2:16, 17. NKJV

Jesus begins by saying that He is bringing a two-edged sword (the truth of the word of God), indicating that this church has doctrinal problems. He first commends the church for their persevering faith in Him – especially in light of the fact that it is located in an area know for its prolific paganism; moreover, these pagan practitioners are persecuting the church.

Then He brings an admonition against them for having perverted the gospel by allowing false teachings to permeate the church. Jesus tells them to repent, or face a severe chastisement – which would include an expulsion of the wayward clergy and or of the guilty congregants.

Finally, He says that those who repent and remain steadfast in their faith will be rewarded with heavenly blessings (‘hidden manna’), and they will receive an acquittal from their transgressions. *

*(‘White stones’ were given by judges in ancient times to those accused of crimes but were found innocent.)

Jesus’ fourth message is for the church in Thyatira: “I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” Rev. 2:19, 20. ESV

“…all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.

But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned the deep things of Satan, to you I say, do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast to what you have until I come. The one who conquers and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations…And I will give to him the morning star.” Rev. 2:23 – 28. ESV

Here is a church filled with love, faith, and service; yet they have allowed a so-called ‘prophetess’ in the church who is swaying some of its members into satanic ways. Jesus refers to her symbolically as ‘Jezebel,’ (the evil wife of King Ahab in ancient Israel, who had advocated paganism).

Christ is letting them (and us) know that they will definitely reap what they sow – especially if they don’t repent from their unsound practices in the church before His return. His remedy to the church is for it to remain by Him and in His truth. Then it will receive the ‘morning star’ (which is Jesus Himself) as its ultimate reward.

Jesus’ next message is for the church of Sardis: “The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation for being alive, but you are dead. Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember then, what you have received and heard. Keep it and repent.” Rev. 3:1 -3. ESV

“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Rev. 3:5 NKJV

This church has let the Spirit depart from their presence through their lackadaisical approach to ‘doing church.’ Jesus is attempting to shake them up – calling them a ‘dead’ church (except of a handful of faithful parishioners), and telling them to repent, to return to His truth and live it out. The reward for their efforts will be His grace, as He wraps them in the white garments of His righteousness.

The sixth message is for the church in Philadelphia: “The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and not one will open.”

“I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” Rev. 3:7, 8. ESV

“Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” Rev. 3:10 – 12. ESV

Jesus has the ‘key of David;’ in other words, He has sole authority over who enters the kingdom of God and who does not. (See Is. 22:22)

He has only praise for the church in Philadelphia – encouraging them to remain steadfast on their current path. He also promises to protect them from the destruction brought about by the ‘tribulations’ that are coming in the last days.

[Note that some people interpret this scripture as being a symbol of a 'rapture' (a heavenly ascension) to save the followers of Christ from the tribulations on the earth.]

Finally, Jesus says He will affix those who endure as pillars in God’s temple in New Jerusalem – where they will reflect the very nature of God and His Son.

Jesus final message is to the church in Laodicea: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.” Rev. 3:15 – 17. ESV

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Rev. 3:18 – 21. NKJV

Jesus didn’t have any good things to say about this church. It was filled with ‘fence sitters’ – uncommitted, without zeal for Christ, and placing its focus on things material.

Still, Jesus loves his church so much that He is basically telling them, ‘I still love you and I still care; that’s why I’m busting your chops. Return to Me for the gold in My word.’ He pleads with them (us) to open the door of their hearts because they hold the key. Jesus can only come in your heart if you unlock it. The solution is always the same: repent! (Turn away from the world’s ways.)

Jesus also says that those who do their best to remain righteous will play some part in His reign. [Some interpret this to mean that they will rule with Christ during the ‘millennium’ age’ (to be examined later).

The bottom line with respect to these seven messages is that Jesus is guiding us in building a stronger church by being stronger Christians. How? By patiently enduring our trials as we wait for Him to return, use good discernment to separate ourselves from ungodly behavior and live like Jesus, keep Christ at the center of all that we think or do, keep the undefiled word of God in our hearts, be zealous for God and His Son, and carry the gospel to as many as we can, and repent when we slip and fall. Our God is a forgiving God; that’s why He sent His Son.

That’s the makings of a strong church…

Good night and God bless.

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April 05 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

How The World Ends As We Know It – part 2: The Revelation of Jesus Christ

In part one of this series, we discussed what the book of Revelation was (a book about the ‘end times’), what the source of the revelations was (Jesus Himself), who transcribed them (the apostle John), and the common views regarding the interpretation of the symbolism within the book by biblical scholars.

The Greeting:

Let’s jump right in and begin. John initiates Revelation with a greeting: [This is] the revelation of Jesus Christ [His unveiling of the divine mysteries]. God gave it to Him to disclose and make known to His bond servants certain things which must shortly and speedily come to pass in their entirety. And He sent and communicated it through His angel (messenger) to His bond servant John, who has testified to and vouched for all he saw [in his visions], the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Rev. 1:1, 2. AMP

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. Rev. 1:3 NASB

John leaves no doubt that the revelations he has written were given to him directly from Christ, who got it directly from His Father, and he declares that every aspect of these divine disclosures will come to pass.

In addition, he tells us that reading and acting upon the words of these revelations will make us blessed. In fact, it is the only book in the entire Bible that makes that declaration. Obviously then, this book is not to be feared, but instead to be devoured with joyful expectation.

John continues his greeting / announcement: John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him , even they who pierced Him. And all tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Rev. 1:4 – 7. NKJV

John has been given a divine imperative to share Jesus’ revelations to the seven churches, i.e. his fellow ‘bond servants.’ (All followers of Christ are His bondservants.) There were more than seven churches in Asia, but these seven were singled out, because they represented specific examples of congregant behavior that either brought blessings or curses to their specific church. These examples are still found in the church today.

The apostle clarifies further that the seven churches are being greeted by the entire Godhead: Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is described as the ‘faithful witness’ because He continually delivered (and stayed true to) the testimony of His Father, even to the point of His earthly death. Jesus is also portrayed here as the ‘firstborn of the dead’ because He was the first to die and be resurrected to eternal life. [Others in biblical history had been resurrected from the dead, (e.g. Lazarus) but they later died again.]

John also calls Jesus the’ ruler over the kings on the earth.’ [Remember that His name is above all names. (see Phil. 2:9, 10.)]

Notice too that John points out the Son of God already loves us, has already washed our sins away, and has already made us kingdom priests for His Father – wherein we now hold the same high honor as did the children of Israel. (see Ex. 19:6)

Finally, we see that every eye will see Jesus’ return simultaneously, even those who crucified Him. Therefore, all peoples from all ages will witness Christ’s second return; and those who had heard of His salvation and denied it, will mourn. This scripture then invalidates the claims of certain Christian sects that say Jesus returned during World War 1 or that he had visited some indigenous tribes in Latin America with some ‘revised gospel.’ When Jesus returns, it will be a global event.

Next, the apostle shares a direct greeting from God Himself: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8 NASB

God is asserting His authority as the author and creator of all things. He is declaring that what is about to be revealed is by His own hand, and will come to pass. ‘Alpha’ and ‘Omega’ is Greek for ‘the beginning and the end’ – meaning that all things begin with God and that He will determine their final fate and state at the end of time.

John meets Jesus (again) and receives his commission:

John then tells us that he was banished to the island of Patmos (a place where the Romans commonly exiled political dissidents – located in the Aegean Sea, 60 miles from the city of Ephesus) for preaching the gospel. He continues by saying that on a particular Sunday (the ‘Lord’s Day’) he became filled with the Holy Spirit and began to receive his prophetic visions:

…and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,”* and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia… Rev. 1:10, 11. NKJV

*(Note that the NASB and ESV Bible translations (and most of the oldest New Testament manuscripts) do not include the ‘Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last,’ portion in Rev. 1:11; yet it is part of the NKJV and AMP translations. It is said to have been placed here to emphasize the God-likeness of His Son, who was God’s creative agent and is whom God works through to bring His plan to its total fulfillment.)

All seven churches were located in modern-day Turkey.

The apostle continues: Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.

His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. Rev. 1:12 – 16. NKJV

John is seeing Christ as He appears now, in His complete ascendant glory. The white hair denotes the wisdom of His Father (see Dan. 7:9), the flaming eyes indicates Jesus’ omniscience, His feet of brass symbolize omnipotence, the voice with the sound of many waters represent the power and authority granted to Him to speak as the voice of God (see Ezek. 1:24), and the two-edged sword depicts the ability of that same word of God to search out the truth. (see Heb. 4:12)

The apostle was so taken aback by Christ’s glory and majesty that he fell at His feet, sorely afraid; but Jesus laid His right hand upon John and said: Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Rev. 1:17, 18. NASB

(This basically says the same thing as the ‘Alpha and Omega’ phrase that was omitted in so many Bible translations of Rev. 1:11, as previously noted.)

Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. Rev. 1:19 – 20. NASB

We see then that Jesus has conquered death and is victorious over the machinations of the devil.

Christ Himself also reveals the meanings behind the symbols – the stars being the ‘angels’ of the seven churches (thought to be literal guardian angels, overseers for each church, or a personification of the church itself), and the lampstand as being the church, i.e. a source of divine light in a dark world.

[Given how Revelation tells of things past, present and future, I personally understand Jesus' command to John to record what is revealed to him to include these same time frames. There are some interpreters who believe the events Jesus describes only refers to things present (the church age) and to things in the future (the end times).]

Jesus tells John to write to seven particular churches in Asia, which He will indicate to him one by one – following a particular sequence that would represent how a messenger would have geographically delivered them if he had traveled along a Roman postal route in that region.

The fact that Jesus chose seven churches denotes a divine completeness. Note for example Rev. 1:4 above that describes the seven spirits comprising the Holy Spirit, that are present before the throne of God.

Jesus is going to tell us what positive and negative things are present within the churches throughout the ages. (Some interpreters believe that each particular church Jesus addresses represents a specific time frame within the church age, but I see no biblical support for that.)

Christ’s messages to the churches consists of urgent warnings for those churches who need to clean up their act, to do so before He returns – because once He arrives, it will be too late.

We’ll look at these messages next time…

Good night and God Bless.

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March 29 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

How The World Ends As We Know It: The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Introduction:

The final book of the Bible is Spiritually revealed to the apostle John by Jesus Christ Himself. John was believed to have transcribed these revelations in the mid 90s A.D. – near the end of the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian.

This last book is called the Revelation of Jesus Christ; it has also been referred to as the book of Revelation, or the book of the Revelation to John. The word ‘revelation’ is translated from the Greek apocalypsis, meaning ‘the unveiling of things previously hidden.’

The Revelation of Jesus Christ is a study of eschatology, i.e. of the ‘end times’ – an examination of the time between the first and second coming of Christ, and of all of the spiritual forces that are driving the events that occur during these times. In this book, we see the history of creation and the unfolding of its dramatic climax as we watch God’s great plan for Man come to completion.

As the nature of the spiritual forces behind the scenes is revealed, we become privy to the oppositional tactics of the devil – who, because he cannot create anything, must attempt to accomplish his ends through distorting and misusing what God creates.

This biblical book is also the last evangelical appeal to the unbelievers to get aboard the God Train before it’s too late. In addition, it brings comfort to believers, as it reveals to them the splendor of their imminent heavenly redemption.

Many followers of Christ avoid the book of Revelation because they are frightened by what they read. However, this fear is only a byproduct of misunderstandings that they have, regarding the content. These scriptures are actually meant to be a blessing to those who read it. It is also the only book in the Bible that portrays Jesus Christ as He is today.

Revelation is rich in symbolism; and many times, the book itself tells us how to interpret them. Other times, we must look to other scriptures throughout the Bible that offer similar symbolic use as a crosscheck, in order to come up with its correct interpretation in Revelation.

Given the human tendency to quantify and qualify meanings to suit one’s own belief systems, biblical scholars have formed various ‘camps,’ each having their own opinions regarding how some of the symbolism should be interpreted – both with respect to the meanings themselves, and with regards to which time-frame these symbolic acts are taking place in.

One camp, the Preterist, holds the belief that the events described in Revelation occurred during the time of the apostles – thus denying the validity of the prophecies concerning Christ’s second coming, the resurrection of Man, and the creation of new heavens and a new earth. In my personal opinion, this view would disqualify much of the New Testament scripture; and I’m a big fan of the belief that the Bible is like being pregnant – it’s either all true, or none of it is.

Another camp, the Historicist, believes that Revelation describes the historical events from the time of the apostles through the creation of the new heavens and new earth.

Yet another camp, the Futurist, ascribes to a view that none of the events in Revelation have taken place yet.

The final camp, the Idealist, holds up Revelation as a portrayal of a general struggle between good and evil, and the suffering of the modern church (taking place in present time), right up until the second coming of Christ.

In addition, each camp has various sub-branches as well.

Well, I’m not going to use any of these views as a rule of measure when it comes to symbolic interpretation. Instead, we will look at the scriptures line-by-line, (because it is complex), and I will attempt to make a biblical case for each interpretation, present the differing opinions out there, and then you can pray about it and draw your own conclusions.

Finally, Revelation also shifts back and forth within various time frames and between earthly and heavenly perspectives. We’ll examine these as well.

It’s all about how the world ends, as we know it; and for those on the side of God, it will be a good thing.

It’s going to be a great ride…

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March 22 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

Confessions of Godly Love: The Books of 1, 2 & 3 John

Historical Interlude:

In the epilogue of our last post, Finishing The Race For Jesus – part 2, we found out that the Roman emperor Nero had the apostles Peter and Paul executed in approximately 67 A.D.

In that same time period, a riot born of religious differences broke out between the Jews and the Greeks in the Israeli city of Caesarea. It has been referred to as the ‘Great Revolt,’ because as the riot spread, the Jews rebelled against Roman rule as well. The Jews had even defeated a Roman garrison in a surprise attack. But in response, Nero ordered his general Vespasian and sixty thousand soldiers into the city to brutally crush the resistance in 68 A.D.

In response, the apostle John took Mary, the mother of Jesus, and moved to Ephesus.

In 70 A.D., the Romans laid siege to the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the temple [exactly as Jesus prophesied would happen (Matt. 24:2)], and they invaded the Israeli city of Masada as well. The historian Josephus tells us that over one million Jews were killed and ninety-seven thousand more were enslaved. Other Jews fled to areas around the Mediterranean region…

Leaping ahead in time to the rule of the Roman emperor Domitian, (81 – 96 A.D.) we find a growing prevalence of Christian persecution once again. At approximately the same time, John writes his gospel, as well as three letters that would become to be known as the epistles 1, 2 and 3 John. John must have been a revered elder in the church of Ephesus during this period.

The Letters:

John writes his three letters to what is thought to be the churches surrounding Ephesus, for the purpose of reassuring them with regards to Christ’s return – responding to the exodus of church members who were leaving because they had lost their faith. He reaches out to remind the church that having a relationship with Christ is the only way to have one with God.

His letters also warn of the dangers of false teachers, and he lays down a foundation for Christ-like living – consisting of faith, obedience, and love.

John begins by revealing the nature of the relationship of the Father and the Son and our place in it: [We are writing] about the Word of Life [in] Him Who existed from the beginning, Whom we have heard, Whom we have seen with our [own] eyes, Whom we have gazed upon [for ourselves] and have touched with our [own] hands.

And the Life [an aspect of His being] was revealed (made manifest, demonstrated), and we saw [as eyewitnesses] and are testifying to and declare to you the Life, the eternal Life [in Him] Who already existed with the Father and Who [actually] was made visible (was revealed) to us [His followers].

What we have seen and [ourselves] heard, we are also telling you, so that you too may realize and enjoy fellowship as partners and partakers with us. And [this] fellowship that we have [which is a distinguishing mark of Christians] is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (the Messiah). 1 John 1:1 – 3. AMP

John is telling the church that Jesus is the living word of life, and that He was there when everything in this universe was created. He is also saying that he was in the actual physical presence of Jesus, and that he wants to convey what he has learned directly from Him, so that they too would lay hold of their salvation gift.

Next, John speaks to the great purpose of God as expressed in Christ: …God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5 NKJV

John continues by telling us how we too can get a hold of that light:

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:6, 7. NKJV

Thus we are ‘walking in the light’ when we live in a Christ-like manner (one that passes the scrutiny of our Creator because of Christ’s blood-induced transformation). Subsequently, we can reflect our godliness outwards to others, in a manner that helps create loving fellowship.

We cannot underestimate the importance of God’s forgiveness through His Son, because our very nature is in perpetual need of it, right up until the day that we rise from this earth:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:8 – 10. NKJV

We all fall from time to time. Thank God that in Jesus we have an advocate (one who supports us) and a propitiator (one who restores our favor with God):

And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the whole world. 1 John 2:1, 2. NKJV

What is our part in this exchange of God’s free gift of salvation?

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.

By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:3 – 6. NASB

Jesus Himself told us that the way we show our love for Him and His Father is by keeping their commandments to the best of our ability. (See John 14:21 & 23.) That would have us walking like Jesus – walking in the light, and walking in love:

…the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.

But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:8 – 11. ESV

Love and hate cannot coexist. Godly love rises above the hateful practices in the world; and we must practice that love in order to make the separation that all God’s children must make:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. 1 John 2:15, 16. NKJV

There it is, the three-pronged root of all man’s troubles: ‘lust of the flesh’ (placing the will of the body above the heart of God), ‘lust of the eyes’ (focusing on forbidden fruit and coveting the possessions of others), and the ‘pride of life’ (putting oneself before God). God tells us that we can rise above that root:

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:17 ESV

We need to do that, because our adversary is now rising against us in full steam:

…it is the last time (hour, end of this age). And as you have heard that the antichrist [he who will oppose Christ in the guise of Christ] is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen, which confirms our belief that this is the final (the end) time. 1 John 2:18 AMP

Who is a liar bur he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 1 John 2:22 NKJV

For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 2 John 7 NKJV

No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:23 ESV

He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. 2 John 9, 10. NKJV

…do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is the Spirit of God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 1 John 4:1 – 3. ESV

The spiritual battle is on. The ‘end times’ began the moment that Jesus ascended into heaven, and they are steadily advancing towards their termination. These times are blanketed with a plethora of false teachers: people who are wittingly or unwittingly doing the devil’s work. They are ‘antichrists’ due to the nature of their behavior, different from the Antichrist, whom we shall meet in the very near future – who has already begun his work in the spirit, through his ‘antichrists.’

It is time to embrace Christ, in order to have God at your back: You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 NKJV

(Jesus trumps Satan every time!)

…abide (live, remain permanently) in Him, so that when He is made visible, we may have and enjoy perfect confidence (boldness, assurance) and not be ashamed and shrink away from Him at His coming. 1 John 2:28 AMP

If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God. Therefore the world does not know us because it did not know Him. 1 John 2:29 & 3:1. NKJV

The children of God consist of those who do their best to emulate His Son, having faith that their righteousness is completed in Christ. Those who are choosing to remain in the ways of the world will not be part of these children who reside in God’s grace. That’s why we continue in our quest to fill the kingdom – trying to overcome the ignorant and self-destructive ways of the obstinate, with the message of hope.

We, as children of God, are even now being prepared (transformed) for our date with destiny – when our risen spirits become housed in incorruptible, glorified bodies, in the image of Christ: Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2 NKJV

Until that time of our glorification, we must keep up our righteous vigil:

And everyone who has hope in Him, purifies himself just as He is pure. 1 John 3:3 NKJV (How? Through confession, repentance, and faith in the cleansing blood of Christ.)

Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is not sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 1 John 3:4 -6. NKJV

What John is saying is that Christ came to wipe our sin slate clean – past, present and future; so that when (in spite of our best efforts) we do slip up, Jesus’ journey to the cross will wipe away the stain and restore us with His righteousness, provided through the Father’s grace. (So, in effect, the sins of the true children of God cannot stick. You can say then, in a manner of speaking, that they cannot sin.)

Unfortunately, this grace does not apply to the willful sinner who has no regards for the consequences: He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:8, 9. NKJV

The darkness hates the light, and the world will hate the children of God accordingly:

Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into the life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. 1 John 3:13 – 15. NKJV

The act of love is the highest form of righteousness, and the lack of love the antithesis:

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

…let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:16 – 18. NKJV

When we act out our love for God by loving others, we are keeping His commandments, and keeping our hearts in the right place. In response, He will send His loving blessings our way:

…if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is the commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another as He gave us a commandment. 1 John 3:21 – 23. NKJV

And as you know, with God, it’s always about the love…

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 1 John 4:7 – 13. NKJV

By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment…There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:17 – 19. NASB

If you know God, you know love. You have love flowing in and out of you because God loved you first; and He’s still sending that love to you through His Son. You are a mirror of God’s love in this world. Because of that, you won’t have to tremble with those who have denied Christ, on the Day of judgment. As a child of God, that day will be a day of celebration:

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 1 John 5:1, 2. NASB

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4, 5. ESV

Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself…that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not know the Son does not have life. 1 John 5:11, 12. ESV

…the One who was begotten by God carefully watches over and protects him [Christ's divine presence within him preserves him against the evil], and the wicked one does not lay hold (get a grip) on him or touch [him]. 1 John 5:18 AMP

A child of God is one who loves God by loving Christ and by living out His word – who is also filled with faith, and reaches out with a love testimony about God’s salvation through His Son. That’s what it’s always been about.

God is Love. God is faithful. God is true. When you decide to become a child of God, your eternity will be spent completely loved…

Goodnight and God bless.

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March 15 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

Finishing The Race For Jesus – part 2: The Book of 2 Timothy

In the first of this two-part series, we examined the last letter (2 Peter) written by the apostle Peter just before his demise. At approximately the same time, the apostle Paul writes his last letter as well – which came to be known as the biblical book of 2 Timothy.

We find Paul arrested and imprisoned in Rome once again. This time he is awaiting his imminent execution. Just like it happened to Jesus, many of the lukewarm believers are now abandoning Paul in his final hours. Yet Paul soldiers on, writing his last letter to his faithful disciple Timothy, to encourage him to continue fighting the good fight of faith:

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you…For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord…who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel… 2 Tim. 1:6 – 10. NKJV

God has placed a gift within each and every one of us, to be used for advancing His kingdom, by leading others to salvation through Christ. It is our most precious duty as the children of God. So, how do we do that?

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and the love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. 2 Tim. 1:13, 14. ESV

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Tim. 2:1, 2. NKJV

Paul is telling us to preserve God’s word in its purity, and to continue to ask the Holy Spirit for deeper revelation of that word, in order that we may both perceive it and pass it along to others with the utmost clarity – so that they may do the same. Our task is a godly and sacrificial one that rises above the opposition in the world:

Take [with me] your share of the hardships and suffering [which you are called to endure] as a good (first-class) soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier when in service gets entangled in the enterprises of [civilian] life; his aim is to satisfy and please the one who enlisted him. 2 Tim. 2:3, 4. AMP

Think over these things I am saying [understand them and grasp their application], for the Lord will grant you full insight and understanding in everything. 2 Tim. 2:7 AMP

Then, Paul tells Timothy that regardless of present personal circumstances and appearances, the power behind the word of God will always accomplish His will:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 2 Tim. 2:8, 9. ESV

Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. This is a faithful saying:

If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.
If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him, He will also deny us.
If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. 2 Tim. 2:10 – 13. NKJV

We have the power of God in us to overcome anything that the world throws our way. God, through Christ, strengthens us with a guaranteed hope that we were spiritually reborn when we accepted Jesus as our savior. Our heavenly calling is to spread the gospel in the midst of the spiritual struggles on earth, so that we can claim our eternal reward.

There is no hope for those who deny the Son of God. We however, can rest in peace, knowing that we stand in His loving acceptance through our faith in Christ. Our heavenly charge is to share this peace with as many others as we can, by living out Christ’s example:

Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.

But avoid all empty (vain, useless, idle) talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. 2 Tim. 2:15, 16. AMP

Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” 2 Tim. 2:19 NKJV

Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Tim. 2:21, 22. NASB

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Tim. 2:24 – 26. NKJV

Paul is saying that we need to be intimately familiar with the accurate meanings of God’s word (via the Holy Spirit) so that we are always prepared to engage in communication that is rich in salvation for the ears of the hearer. Keeping that as our prime focus, we can rise above the petty and meaningless drivel that passes itself off so often as viable discourse in the world. Also, for God’s words to have impact, they must come from the mouths of those who have separated themselves from the ways of that same world.

Finally, we want to bring the good news with gentleness. We are not to try to win our way through violence, but instead we want to peacefully disarm with love…

We are beacons of light for Christ, uncovering the darkness – a task that will grow increasingly vital as time passes and the doubters turn more and more to the base desires of their flesh:

…in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness but denying its power.

Avoid such people. 2 Tim. 3:1 – 5. ESV

Sounds like the ‘last days’ are ‘these days’ don’t they? It’s up to us to keep the faith because this ‘cold new world’ will be increasingly hostile towards the followers of Christ:

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Tim. 3:12, 13. NKJV

Nevertheless, exposing people to the ‘good news’ remains our prime focus, because it is only that news, which brings the eternal life that will be conferred by God Himself upon those who accept it, and it will complete God’s intended work in them:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim. 3:16 NKJV

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and understanding.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Tim. 4:1 – 4. ESV

God wants all of His children out soldiering for His kingdom, gathering souls in for their salvation while there are still people willing to receive His message.

That is the greatest show of love that we can make for others – presenting them with the chance for endless love. Whether they accept it or not is entirely up to them; we will have faithfully delivered the message and can stand at the judgment seat of Christ at the end of time, and hopefully speak the words of Paul’s final outpouring for His Savior:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Tim. 4:7, 8. NKJV

I can just picture Jesus welcoming Paul with open arms, exclaiming, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Epilogue

Shortly after the apostle Paul (and Peter simultaneously) finished their last letters, church tradition tells us that Nero executed them both.

We can be eternally grateful that God sent these powerful soldiers of His to deliver the salvation promise with such clarity, conviction, and boldness; and they did so in spite of the many obstacles that the devil had laid in their paths.

There is only one original apostolic Love Soldier left standing. Next time…

Good night and God bless.

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March 08 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

Finishing The Race For Jesus: The Book of 2 Peter

In the mid 60s A.D., there was a fire in Rome; and the emperor at that time (Nero) blamed the Christians. Subsequently, he launched a murderous campaign against them.

The apostle Peter writes a letter during this time, to the same churches in Asia minor where he had sent his previous one (now known as 1 Peter). This new letter has come to be known today as the biblical book of 2 Peter. In it, Peter intimates that he is imprisoned yet again, and that he is certain he is about to be executed. Indeed, this would be his last letter.

Yet, Peter is finishing his race for Jesus in full steam – writing now to encourage the church to stay committed to godly ways, and to resist any false teachers who try to distort the pure doctrine of the church of Christ.

Peter begins by describing some of the gifts that God bestows upon His children to help them reach that godliness: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Pet. 1:2 – 4. NASB

God empowers us, through Christ, to be able to live a godly life; and we advance that empowerment when we continue to walk in the word of God – becoming more Christ-like daily.

Peter then tells us how to hang on to our divine gifts:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 1:5 – 8. ESV

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 1:10, 11. NKJV

Peter is asking us to run our race for Jesus until we take our last breath, or until He returns, whichever comes first. Jesus will be waving the checkered flag, congratulating you, saying ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’

Peter continues to encourage his audience by reminding them that Christ Himself conferred apostolic authority and the wisdom of God upon him. So, they can take everything that Peter says right to the bank:

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Pet. 1:16 – 21. NKJV

We can see then that all of the authors of the books of the Bible were Holy Spirit-inspired, so that they could receive and reveal the pure, unadulterated word of God…

At this point in his letter, just like the apostle Paul, Peter warns the church about satanically driven false teachers, who will try to destroy it. This will be a continual battle that will be fought right up until Jesus returns:

But also [in those days] there arose false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among yourselves, who will subtly and stealthily introduce heretical doctrines (destructive heresies), even denying and disowning the Master Who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

And many will follow their immoral and lascivious doings; because of them the true Way will be maligned and defamed. 2 Pet. 2:1, 2. AMP

And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment…making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment…for them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.  2 Pet. 2:3, 4, 6, 9 & 17. ESV

Peter is saying that we must always be alert, discerning the godly from the ungodly – following God’s righteous path so that we do not fall prey to the darkness that awaits the sons and daughters of disobedience. Regardless of what they may spew from themselves, we are to stay firm in the true hope of Christ’s return:

…you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 2 Pet. 3:3 – 4. NASB

Nevertheless, do not let this one fact escape you, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people’s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should return to repentance. 2 Pet. 3:8, 9. AMP

God has a plan; and He promises that all of it will come to pass. It will be fulfilled when He decides that it is time for time to run out, and not a second earlier. God is not stretching out the time for your heavenly transition because He’s sadistic. He does so because of His great love for the human race. God wants everyone to have a chance to latch onto his or her salvation.

God made that promise over two thousand years ago. However, if you look at how old the universe is, (believed to be over sixteen billion years), 2000 years is just a flash in the pan.

God is a promise keeper. He will send His Son for us. How will that look?

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works upon it will be exposed.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation. 2 Pet. 3:10 – 15. ESV

You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Pet. 3:17, 18. NKJV

When Christ returns, He’s going to help His Father do a major universal re-do; and it will be a wonderful, marvelous new beginning for the children of God – who have been doing their best to live holy lives, rejoicing in the fact that Jesus makes up the difference when they have fallen short. Hallelujah!

Good night and God bless.

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March 01 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

God Wants You To Lead – part 2: The Book of Titus

In the first of this two-part series, we took up the study of the biblical book of 1 Timothy, wherein the apostle Paul sent a letter that would become that book, to his co-worker Timothy – to both show him how to lead people into the kingdom of God by being a godly example, and to tell him of the importance of quelling the opposition of false teachings that attempt to distort what the true nature of godliness is.

During Paul’s missionary travels, (after he was released from his Roman house arrest) he established a church on the island of Crete. When finished his task, he charged his disciple Titus with shepherding that church, while he continued on with his missionary travels.

[Titus was a Greek who had traveled with Paul to Jerusalem and accompanied him on his third missionary journey - where he represented Paul when he delivered the apostle's letter to the church in Corinth (which would become the biblical book of 2 Corinthians)].

Paul writes this letter to Titus (at approximately the same time as he wrote 1 Timothy) from the Grecian city of Nicopolis. As he did with Timothy, Paul is writing Titus to encourage him, and to instruct him in how to lead in church and how to deal with false teachers.

(Any time we take a stand for Christ, we will be under attack. Thankfully, God equips us to be able to withstand those assaults.)

Crete was a special challenge because it was renown for the state of its moral decadence.

Paul begins by listing many of the same character traits that he revealed to Timothy, that were required for leading God’s children in church. (These apply to us as well, because we are to be a living example of the church of Christ.)

In addition, Paul writes: He must hold fast to the sure and trustworthy Word of God as he was taught it, so that he may be able both to give stimulating instruction and encouragement in sound (wholesome) doctrine and to refute and convict those who contradict and oppose it [showing the wayward their error]. Titus 1:9 AMP

So again, Paul is reminding us of the vital importance of teaching the pure word of God as well as being prepared to discern and correct any errors that others may have in their understanding of it.

The apostle then shares with Titus some of the principles that he can teach with regards to Christian living: Older men are to be sober-minded, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love and in steadfastness.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands so that the word of God may not be reviled.

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Titus 2:2 – 6. ESV

All in all, the advice is to purse a spiritual life, submit to spiritual guidance, live in love and faith, and live from the heart, not the flesh.

Paul returns to the role of godly leadership: Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned…so that everything may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. Titus 2:7, 8 & 10. ESV

Sounds a lot like the leadership that Jesus projected, yes? Your leadership glorifies God. Moreover, your leadership is an integral part of how God opens the way for the lost souls to come home:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11 – 14. NKJV

…when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4 – 7. NKJV

God wants you to lead. He has chosen you to do so; and the two aforementioned scriptures are your leading messages…

Good night and God bless.

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February 22 2014 | experiencing god's love | 1 Comment »

God Wants You To Lead: The Book of 1 Timothy

The time is approximately 64 A.D. The apostle Paul has been released from what would be his first Roman imprisonment. Unfazed, Paul continues his ministry, and is believed to have taken it as far as Spain. Along his journey, Paul revisits the church that he established in Ephesus. After his visit was concluded, he left his ministerial co-worker, Timothy, at the church to be an overseer.

(Timothy began as Paul’s disciple fourteen years prior, during Paul’s second missionary journey to Greece.)

Paul writes Timothy a letter when he reaches the region of Macedonia, to instruct him in how to be an effective leader for the kingdom of God, (especially in church) and to encourage him in his walk. This letter is now known as the biblical book of 1Timothy.

This book is often grouped along with the books of Titus and 2 Timothy in what biblical scholars refer to as the ‘pastoral epistles,’ given that they all deal with church leadership. This is relevant to us because all of God’s children are to be walking, talking and acting ambassadors of the church of Christ.

Paul begins by charging Timothy to stand against false teachings, and gives him instructions regarding the framework in which that stand should be taught:

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Tim. 1:5 ESV

The apostle now contrasts how Timothy should stand up against the ‘false teachers’ attempts to promote Mosaic Law, (intimating that the gospel doesn’t stand on its own), by teaching him the correct utilization of the Law:

Now we recognize and know that the Law is good if anyone uses it lawfully [for the purpose for which it was designed], knowing and understanding this: that the Law is not enacted for the righteous (the upright and just, who are in right standing with God), but for the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and sinful… 1 Tim. 1:8, 9. AMP

In other words, the Law was meant to show unbelievers their sin, and to point towards their need for salvation. The gospel on the other hand, is meant to be a guidepost to the followers of Christ for facilitating a righteous lifestyle.

Paul then holds up his own conversion, (i.e. his transformation from being a persecutor of the church, to becoming a primary disseminator of the churches and an evangelizer for Christ) to fortify Timothy’s faith in the transformative power of the gospel:

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Tim. 1:15 – 17. NASB

There is no one whom the gospel cannot transform…

Next, Paul leads Timothy into the task of facilitating the transformation for others:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time… 1 Tim. 2:1 – 6. NKJV

God wants you to live a peaceful life during your allotted time on this earth. That’s why He tells you to pray for your government leaders, (even if you didn’t vote for them) that they exercise godly wisdom in the dissemination of their governance.

Our Creator also wants everyone to be saved; and the only way for that to happen is for all to be led to a personal relationship with God through Christ.

Paul then lays out the character traits that one should posses in order to be an effective leader for God’s kingdom (in this case, within the church). It entails being above reproach, living by the word of God, and demonstrating visible fruit from their godly efforts in all facets of their lives. Then he sums up his purpose for giving Timothy the descriptions of these traits: …so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. 1 Tim. 3:15 NASB

And what is that truth?

And great and important and weighty, we confess, is the hidden (the mystic secret) of godliness. He [God] was made visible in human flesh, justified and and vindicated in the [Holy] Spirit, was seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, [and] taken up in glory. 1 Tim. 3:16 AMP

Paul now returns to the threat of false teachers:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. 1 Tim. 4:1 – 5. ESV

Paul is giving us a Holy Spirit-inspired warning against saddling up with religiosity instead of the truth of the word of God. In fact, we see that the foundations of many of the denominational doctrinal and traditional conflicts are demonic in nature. God tells us to set those aside stick by His ways:

Have nothing to do with irrelevant, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for that life to come. 1 Tim. 4:7, 8. ESV

Why? It’s because godly behavior is a reflection of our faith in God’s word – the same faith that locks us into the kingdom of God and helps us to resist the worldly mindset:

For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 1 Tim. 4:10 NKJV

Keep in mind that false teachers have a blatant agenda: it is to sow seeds of doubt and discontent, because the master of discontent (Satan) hates the church:

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 1 Tim. 6:3 – 5. ESV

So we see then that these false agendas are completely antithetical to the purposes of God:

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 1 Tim. 6:6 – 8. NASB

God does not have anything against you enjoying your blessings. He just wants you to remember where they come from (Him), and to continue to realize that He is the source of all your needs. When you know that, you won’t obsess over the accumulation of anything, because your faith tells you that God is your great provider. God wants you to know that obsessing over one’s possessions leads to destruction:

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Tim. 6:9, 10. NKJV

Finally, Paul charges Timothy with living the life of a leader for God by living out the characteristics of His Son, in order to bring himself and the souls around him into eternal life:

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life, to which you were also called… 1 Tim. 6:11, 12. NKJV

…keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time – he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. 1 Tim. 6:14 – 16. ESV

God wants you to lead. When you keep your eyes on God, and live and share the purity of His word, you are equipped to do so…

Good night and God bless.

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February 15 2014 | experiencing god's love | No Comments »

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