Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Sixth Seal

"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places." (Revelation 6:12-14)

These fearful events are the precursor to what is coming. The stars are likely meteors that shower the earth. Mankind has witnessed enormous earthquakes in the past, yet they pale in comparison to what is in store.

The heavens literally split apart possibly revealing what is the very countenance of God. This interpretation would seem to be correct based upon man's fear of God's countenance in the following verses. The word behind scroll is the same word translated book in 5:1.

"And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Revelation 6:15-17)

Men would rather be buried alive than face God's wrath. Would not repentance be a much better option? A man's heart is very hard and rebellious. People want what they want. Catastrophic events, war, famine and widespread death are not sure guarantees of man's repentance. Sometimes people would rather be covered over in some hopeless attempt to escape God's punishment than come to Him on His terms.

These impressive events parallel the Day of the LORD described in Isaiah 2:19-22. In that passage God says, "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" This is a befitting reminder of man's uselessness in relation to the One whose countenance is sufficient to frighten the entire human race.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Fifth Seal

"And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." (Revelation 6:9-11)

The presence of these redeemed reveals the fact that many souls will be saved in the Tribulation period. Certainly, God will use these terrible events to bring spiritual enlightenment to many.

They were slain on account of God's Word. This is what offends people the most. The Bible does not discriminate against race, sect, gender or religion. It has the divine power to cut through the heart of any man thus exposing his sin and need for God (Hebrews 4:12). Christians must be cautious not to lay aside biblical doctrine for false peace. Only the Bible has the power to touch people in their weakest spot.

Not only did these saints profess God's Word, but they lived it as well. Their testimony matched their profession. True salvation worked a change in their lives - a change which is conspicuously absent by many who profess Jesus today. The world hated them because they were unmistakeably God's people.

The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil (John 7:7) ... Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error (I John 4:4-6).

With a desire for justice, these redeemed beg God to repay the evil works of the earth's inhabitants. God reminds them that He is not done but that He intends for other Christians to go through the same fires. "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints (Psalm 116:15)." The preservation of life is not the final goal. The glory of God is the final goal. Wonderful things await those who truly love God.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Burden of Tyre (Part IV)

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot. Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered." 
(Isaiah 23:15-16)

This seems to be a prediction of Tyre's return after the fall of the Babylonians Empire. God said that Jerusalem would remain desolate seventy years after which He would bring His people back and permit the reconstruction of the temple (Jeremiah 25:11-12). Between the siege of Nebuchadnezzar from 585-572 BC and Alexander's conquest in 332 BC, Tyre did revive some strength. Naturally, she would return in some part to her former trade with the nations which is here pictured as harlotry. It is interesting to note how God considers the lost man's ambitions to be nothing better than whoredom - something that leads others down a godless path of vanity.

"And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth. And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing." (Isaiah 23:17-18)

When the Jews returned under Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah, the merchandise of Tyre was used to sustain God's people as they rebuilt Jerusalem and its temple. Nehemiah 13:16 describes how tradesmen from Tyre sold their wares in Jerusalem. After her punishment through Nebuchadnezzar, God would use Tyre and her merchandise to sustain His people. Such things serve to illustrate that the Lord is sovereign in all that He does. He retains the ability to utilize whatever may be needed for the accomplishment of His work while invalidating man's arrogance.

Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyrus, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God ... Behold, therefore I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations: and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness. They shall bring thee down to the pit, and thou shalt die the deaths of them that are slain in the midst of the seas. Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God? but thou shalt be a man, and no God, in the hand of him that slayeth thee ... for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD (Ezekiel 28:2, 7-10).

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Burden of Tyre (Part III)

"Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth? The LORD of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.. Pass through thy land as a river, O daughter of Tarshish: there is no more strength." (Isaiah 23:8-10)

The rhetorical question is asked, "Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre?" The resounding answer is JEHOVAH of the armies. His purpose is to bring man's pride down to the ground. For hundreds of years, Tyre had boasted of her wealth and strength, but the end was near to come. Ezekiel 27 describes some of Tyre's luxuries. This city and her sister Zidon were known for their purple dye which was produced by extracting a fluid from the murex (a type of mollusk). Hundreds of these mollusks were needed to produce just a small amount of dye. One can just imagine the price tag that comes with such a product. For this reason, only kings and the very rich purchased this commodity. Tyre's income from this product was enormous, because it not only produced it but also shipped it around the Mediterranean. Yet, God promised to stain the pride of the Phoenician coast. As a garment would be stained by this expensive dye, even so would Tyre's pride be permanently stained.

As the great Leontes River to the north of Tyre passes through the Phoenician coastal plain, the Tyrians are commanded to pass through their land as they flee the enemy or are carried off into captivity.

The Lord calls Tyre the "daughter of Tarshish" due to the commonality of trade between the two cities.

"He stretched out his hand over the sea, he shook the kingdoms: the LORD hath given a commandment against the merchant city, to destroy the strong holds thereof. And he said, Thou shalt no more rejoice, O thou oppressed virgin, daughter of Zidon: arise, pass over to Chittim; there also shalt thou have no rest." (Isaiah 23:11-12)

Between the attacks of Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander, Tyre would be completely destroyed. Ezekiel 26:4 prophesied of the complete ruin which Alexander and his army would inflict upon Tyre. "And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock." After the attack of the Greeks in 332 BC, Tyre resembled the top of a rock which was bare. Isaiah seems to be alluding to these distant events as he speaks of Tyre's downfall.

Tyre is called the daughter of Zidon. This is an appropriate title seeing she was founded by a colony of the Zidonians.

As already mentioned, Chittim generally refers to the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean. Even in distant countries, the Tyrians would have no rest as they were pursued by their enemies. Carthage was founded by the Tyrians, and it too would eventually be destroyed by the Romans. No matter where the citizens of Tyre fled, trouble would follow them.

Some believers act just like the Tyrians. When God brings chastening, instead of submitting, Christians will often try running to a different location only to be followed by God's loving hand of chastisement. Submitting to the Lord is far better than being pursued by endless troubles.

"Behold the land of the Chaldeans; this people was not, till the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness: they set up the towers thereof, they raised up the palaces thereof; and he brought it to ruin. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish: for your strength is laid waste." (Isaiah 23:13-14)

This verse is difficult to interpret. The Lord seems to be referring to the future destruction of the Chaldean Empire. Assyria was responsible for much of Babylon's grandeur. Coming from humble beginnings and receiving their kingdom from the Assyrian Empire, the prideful Babylonian would, at the last, have nothing in which to boast. He too would be brought to ruin when God was finished allowing the Babylonian Empire to run its course. In light of this reality, why should Tyre think that she would escape God's retribution? If the mighty Chaldean Empire would be brought down, certainly Tyre would be destroyed.   

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Fourth Seal

"And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." (Revelation 6:7-8)

The Greek word behind pale represents a pale or yellowish green color such as would characterize a corpse. Utilizing the methods of the previous two horses, Death reaps a full harvest of souls. Hell, which is personified, follows close behind, swallowing up the souls of people everywhere. The initiation of the Great Tribulation will bring about the extermination of one fourth of Earth's population. The importance of individual Christian witness is heightened by the reality of these things. These are days to be consistent in one's witness for Jesus, not defeated or lazy.

The last means of death is noteworthy. God will permit animals to be the executioners of mankind. Animal worship has been in existence for some time (Romans 1:22-23). The value placed upon animal welfare in modern-day society is frightening. A man's life is almost looked upon with less value than that of his dog! Almost with a sense of irony, God will take what man has esteemed above its rightful place, and He will use it to destroy him. As Moses said, "...Your sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23)."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Second and Third Seals

"And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword." (Revelation 6:3-4)

The second horse was fiery or blood red in color. Undoubtedly, this color suits him because he represents war and bloodshed. At the commencement of the Great Tribulation, there will be worldwide unrest. Jesus told His disciples that the end times would be marked by "wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6)." God withholds much of the wickedness within man's heart. The question should not be "Why are things so bad?" but rather "Why are they not worse than they are?" God's gracious hand restrains much of man's sin, but when the One Who restrains is removed, wickedness will run wild (II Thessalonians 2:7-8).

"And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine." (Revelation 6:5-6)

This black death angel is seen weighing the food supply as he brings about worldwide famine. The horse's color represents the effects of famine upon the human body (Lamentations 5:10). The scales remind the reader of how food is measured out in times of want and not simply eaten to one's own satisfaction (Ezekiel 4:16). In contrast to this gloomy picture, the repentant sinner finds a limitless supply of spiritual food through belief in Jesus Christ the Messiah (Isaiah 55:1).

A measure is almost one liter. In John's day, the penny (Greek denarius) was a day's wage. In modern, western terms, this would be similar to paying $60 to $100 for a single liter of wheat or three liters of barley grain. These numbers help put into perspective the severity of the famines which are yet to come. During the days of the prophet Elisha, the siege of Samaria resulted in mothers eating children and a donkey's head becoming a highly sought after commodity (II Kings 6:24-29). The end times will be similar in nature and will cover the entire globe.

God's reasons for not cursing the oil and the wine are not easy to expound. Perhaps the merciful hand of God simply prevents the complete annihilation of all food stuffs. Perhaps the real necessities of life like bread will be rare while the more luxurious items like wine and oil will be available. This would prove God's ability to remove what is needed while protecting what is not in an effort to get man's attention. Whatever the reason, God's hand may be seen in these events as He uses harsh measures to deal with the hardness of mankind.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Burden of Tyre (Part II)

"Be still, ye inhabitants of the isle; thou whom the merchants of Zidon, that pass over the sea, have replenished. And by great waters the seed of Sihor, the harvest of the river, is her revenue; and she is a mart of nations. Be thou ashamed, O Zidon: for the sea hath spoken, even the strength of the sea, saying, I travail not, nor bring forth children, neither do I nourish up young men, nor bring up virgins." 
(Isaiah 23:2-4)

Just twenty miles to the north, the coastal city of Zidon was closely linked to Tyre. Zidon was built upon a promontory and was also a city of sea trade. Solomon requested that Hiram send him cedar trees from Lebanon with which to build the temple. In his request, he acknowledged the skill of the Zidonians to hew timber (I Kings 5:6). From this example, the close connection between Tyre and Zidon may be seen.

The name Sihor means dark and it is used in reference to the Nile of Egypt (Joshua 13:3, I Chronicles 13:5, Jeremiah 2:18). The nutrient-rich soil deposits carried down by the floodwaters of the Nile aided in Egypt's crop production. These valuable resources were exported to Tyre where they were deposited and distributed. The word behind mart means gain or revenue. Through the trade center of Tyre, the nations gained great wealth.

The strength of the sea is in reference to Tyre and her advantageous situation. Zidon would be confounded as she watched the cessation of Tyre's wealth, commerce and influence.

"As at the report concerning Egypt, so shall they be sorely pained at the report of Tyre. Pass ye over to Tarshish; howl, ye inhabitants of the isle. Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days? her own feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn." (Isaiah 23:5-7)

The report of Egypt's punishment through the Assyrians struck fear in the people of other nations and so would the report of Tyre's destruction. In an effort to escape the invading armies, the inhabitants are seen fleeing Tyre in ships and setting sail for the port of Tarshish.

Archeological evidence would seem to indicate that Tyre and Zidon were settled sometime near 2000 BC. The book of Joshua mentions this city in its description of Israel's borders, and it calls Tyre a "strong city (Joshua 19:29)." Tyre's longevity served to make it inhabitants only more arrogant, but the Lord was soon to bring its pride to the dust.

When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Tyrus, undoubtedly he carried many away captive. Also, Alexander the Great sold many into slavery when he defeated the island fortress of Tyre. The Lord predicted these things when He described the feet Tyre's citizens carrying them off to distant lands.  

Monday, December 19, 2016

The First Seal

The First Seal (6:1-2)

"And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer." (Revelation 6:1-2)

John is commanded to come and view the events because God wants His people to know and to understand. Many things in Revelation are difficult; however, many things are easily understood. The difficulties of this book should not be used as an excuse to ignore what can be understood and applied.

Based upon the nature of his mission, this rider atop the white horse would appear to represent the antichrist. The Roman culture of John's day would have quickly recognized the significance of the white horse. It was a symbol of victory. The rider carried a bow, yet he had no arrows to accompany it. This may indicate that his rise to power will be relatively unattested as a world full of unrest, disease and hunger seeks to find itself a pseudo-savior.

God will allow this "man of sin (II Thessalonians 2:3)" to be crowned as king of the earth. His campaigns will be successful. Before him, nations will bow as the restraining hand of God's Spirit is removed and evil is permitted to excel.

The prospect of these things can be frightening, yet it must be remembered that God is fully in control. Nothing is done apart from His permission. He has reasons for all He does.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Burden of Tyre

"The burden of Tyre. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them." 
(Isaiah 23:1)

Biblical Tyre was located on the Mediterranean coast northwest of the Sea of Galilee. For better comprehension of this prophecy, it would help to understand Tyre's historical context.

The city began on the mainland and later branched out onto an island about one half mile from shore. Tyre means a rock in Hebrew. Obviously, this name is derived from the rocky island on which the second part of the city was built. Having a harbor on both the northern and southern ends, this city became an ideal location for trade ships to anchor and to unload their wares.

Because of their wealth and ability to resist attack from the mainland, the Tyrians became an arrogant people. In Ezekiel 28:2, the Lord rebuked the prince of Tyrus for vaunting himself as deity. With this in mind, Isaiah's predictions of Tyre's frightful end take on more meaning.

The prophecies of this passage seem to have in view two separate invasions of Tyre. The first was made by Nebuchadnezzar who besieged the city from 585 to 572 BC. Although he was successful in his campaign against the city of the mainland, the fortress city of the island seemed to escape the brunt of his fury. The second major invasion came in the days of Alexander the Great. In 332 BC, he demanded entrance into the island city of Tyre after having subjugated the towns of the mainland. After having his demands for entrance rejected and his ambassadors killed, Alexander constructed a causeway across the water, thus connecting the mainland to the island of Tyre. With the advantage of such a feat, he was soon able to penetrate the city and bring about its complete destruction.

The location of Tarshish continues to elude historians. Many believe it was located at the extreme end of the Mediterranean Sea in the country of Spain. Regardless, it was a city of trade within a land of great wealth. Once every three years, Solomon and Hiram, king of Tyre, sent trade ships to Tarshish to amass items of value and luxury (II Chronicles 9:21). Tarshish is commanded to howl in agony due to her loss of trade with Tyre.

Here, Chittim is used in a general sense to describe the island and coastal peoples of the Mediterranean region. The entire Mediterranean world would feel the impact of Tyre's downfall.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Lamb of God (Part IV)

"And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever." (Revelation 5:11-14)

The English word myriad is derived from the Greek word behind ten thousand. The idea is that "an innumerable company of angels (Hebrews 12:22)" surrounded the throne of God.

Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure (Psalm 103:20-21) ... Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts (Psalm 148:2).

Despite the grandeur of such a scene, it is doubtful that even this amazing spectacle was sufficient to offer adequate praise to the Holy One of Israel. Yet, God's graciousness permits inferior beings to do what they can in offering Him worship. God is good. In unison, the heavenly chorus credits the Lamb with power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and blessing. In Christ, all of these objects are seen in their purest sense. Without Him, these beautiful things would not exist. He is all-powerful (John 8:48). He has all riches both in earth and in heaven (Hebrews 1:2). He is personified wisdom (Colossians 2:3). He defines strength (I Samuel 15:29). Honor crowns Him (Hebrews 2:9). His glory cannot be hidden (Matthew 17:1-2); and blessing would have no meaning apart from His saving work (I Peter 1:3-5).

No level of creation is exempted from the Lamb's praise. Someday, all will praise Him, even His enemies (Philippians 2:9-11).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Lamb of God (Part III)

"And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:8-10)

The prayers of God's people are not forgotten. It may seem, at times, that God does not hear; yet, over and over again, the Scriptures complimented by God's working in the life assure the believer that God is aware of all. Psalm 141:2 says, "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." God's value of prayer is seen in the picture of the incense altar which was a crucial part of the Tabernacle furniture. The Lord hears all, and He has not forgotten. His timetable is just different than man's.

Only Christ's blood is worthy of receiving redemption's praise. To be offended by the blood of the cross is to reject the means by which sin's debt has been paid. Apart from belief in the bloody spectacle of Christ's atonement, there is no redemption. "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission (Hebrews 9:22)."

Ethnicity, class and gender mean nothing to God when dealing with the subject of salvation. Christ died for all (I John 2:1-2). One need not complicate such a simple concept. Here, God's love for all is seen in the various peoples which surround His throne. In all dispensations, God would have His own to be a light of holiness and love so that the lost might be pulled from the darkness of sin.

The praises of these souls reveal the position of the believer. He or she is both a king and a priest unto the Father. This is possible only because Jesus Christ as both King (Zechariah 9:9) and great high Priest (Hebrews 4:14) has led the way and opened the doors of man's redemption. In him, the believer reigns as a king, subjected to the highest Authority and the earthly authorities established by Him yet liberated from all fear and destined to possess all things regardless of earthly troubles (II Corinthians 6:4-10). As a priest, the saint can approach God at any time in prayer and be fully confident in the ability of His Spirit to guide. In keeping with the picture of the Old Testament priest, the Christian can offer the sacrifices of worship, thankfulness, praise and the souls of men (Romans 15:16). The priesthood of the believer is autonomous. He is not in need of some earthly spiritual "father" to intercede for him. As a subordinate believer-priest, he can approach the one and only Father at any time through the Spirit of the priestly Son.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Lamb of God (Part II)

"And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne." (Revelation 5:5-7)

Just when all seems lost, John is admonished to cease his weeping. Man's failure brings sorrow, but God's perfect righteousness brings joy. Truly, no ordinary man nor any spiritual being is worthy to hold the title deed to the earth; however, God the Son is no ordinary man, neither is He a created being. He is the Almighty.

The text first refers to Him as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. In his prophecy of Judah's future, Jacob referred to his son's tribe as a lion. He also clearly prophesied that the Lord Jesus would arise from the lineage of this tribe and eventually rule over all of Israel.

Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be (Genesis 49:9-10).

Being illustrated by one of nature's most fierce and fearless creatures, the Lord Jesus Christ is presented as the One Who is sure to conquer all (Joel 3:9-17). The elder declared that the Lion has prevailed or literally conquered. Because Christ Jesus has conquered sin and death, the believer partakes of this same victory as he finds a place of security under the wing of the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:37).

John's eyes are quickly drawn to a picture which beautifully illustrates Christ's goodwill toward men. As the Lion, Christ possesses the right to rule; and as the Lamb, He alone has the power to redeem. A number of observations may be made concerning this Lamb. First of all, He is pictured in the Old Testament sacrificial system. In the countless offerings made under the Mosaic Law, the sinless blood of Jesus Christ has been clearly presented (Hebrews 9:6-10, 24-28). Secondly, this Lamb was chosen before the foundation of the world (I Peter 1:19-20). God's amazing love toward mankind is demonstrated by the fact that He was willing to be the Sacrifice long before mankind sinned. Thirdly, Christ is the Lamb of God's choosing. As Abraham and Isaac made their way to Mount Moriah, Isaac asked his father this question, "My father ... Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" With a profound yet simplistic prophecy of Christ's work on Calvary, Abraham replied, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering... (Genesis 22:7-8)." Lastly, this spotless Lamb is the righteousness of the saint. Good works are not sufficient to clothe an individual with the garments of righteousness; therefore, Jesus Christ offers His white robe of righteousness to the one who will place faith in Him (Isaiah 54:17, 64:6, II Corinthians 5:21).

The title of Lamb calls to mind the words of John the Baptist who exhorted men toward faith in the blood of Christ when he cried, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36)." This title also moves one to consider the pain, shame and death of the cross which God the Son was willing to face in order that everyone might have the opportunity to accept the free gift of salvation.

With holy boldness, the Lamb takes the book from the hand of the Father - a gesture which clearly signifies His sole right to set in motion the events which follow.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Lamb of God

"And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon." (Revelation 5:1-4)

God the Father is seen holding the title deed of the earth. This "book" was in the form of a scroll which had writing on both sides. The scroll was rolled and sealed, and rolled and sealed thus being divided into seven sections. This title deed represents the right of ownership. None but God has the authority to decide the future of the world. Man strives to achieve a God-free environment, but he will never accomplish his purpose. The Almighty holds the future in His right hand.

Search is quickly made for one who is worthy enough to set in motion the end time events, but not a man can be found. All three levels of dominion are searched - the heavens, the earth and the underworld; yet all are deemed entirely unworthy. Such a prospect moves John to tears as he considers the reality of man's failure, and his inability to fulfill all righteousness. Apart from the righteousness of God, man could not gain the victory over evil.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Throne of God (Part III)

"And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." 
(Revelation 4:8-11)

The exact purpose of the creatures' appearance may be a mystery, but the overall purpose of their ministry is not. They tirelessly worship the Almighty Creator. As with the seraphim of Isaiah's vision, the "one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3)." Their reverent and ceaseless praise is a humble reminder that each of God's children is to be thus occupied.

Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips (Hosea 14:2) ... By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name (Hebrews 13:15).

Ultimately, the crowns of the believer's rewards will be returned to the One Who gave them. Christian rewards are not intended to be badges of honor which commemorate the greatness of one while shaming the faults of another. They are intended to be given back to Christ as gifts of gratitude for the service which is made possible only by Him. This reality chases away any thought of human pride which might be inappropriately connected to the obtaining of a crown.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Throne of God (Part II)

"And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle." (Revelation 4:4-7)

The identity of the elders remains a mystery; however, their robes and their crowns are conspicuous. Each is clothed with the pure, white robe of Christ's righteousness (Revelation 3:5, 18, 19:14, Ephesians 5:25-27, I Peter 2:24, II Corinthians 5:21). If salvation is solely by grace through faith in Christ's blood, the white robes cannot primarily represent anything but the merit of the Savior. Good works are a manifestation of salvation, but they are not the agent of it. The Christian's eternal security resides in the reality of Jesus' flawless righteousness which is imparted to the believer upon the moment of repentant faith (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4).

Each elder also wore a crown of gold. The New Testament presents five different crowns which may be earned by the saint. These crowns are the fruit of, not the means of, salvation. The Crown of Rejoicing is connected to winning souls through the presentation of the gospel (I Thessalonians 2:19). The Crown of Righteousness is linked to the saint's faithful fulfillment of the ministry to which God has called him or her (II Timothy 4:8). The Crown of Life portrays the rewards of those who are faithful through the various temptations and testings which might befall them (James 1:12, Revelation 2:10). The Crown of Glory is the reward of the church leader who has faithfully and humbly carried out the labors of his position (I Peter 5:4); and lastly, the Crown of Victory (incorruptible crown) illustrates the reward of those who are willing to subject their flesh to the higher calling of God's holy will (I Corinthians 9:24-27). Everything about these elders points the reader back to the grace of Jesus Christ and the eternal rewards connected to His service.

At this juncture, it does the reader well to stop and take note that none of these crowns would be possible were it not for the fact that Jesus was willing to wear the Crown of Thorns; and these crowns of eternal reward cannot be obtained apart from first accepting both the human reproach and the godly hope connected to Christ's thorny crown (Luke 9:23).

The lightnings and thunderings of God's holiness characterize His throne and call to mind the scene of Daniel 7:9-10.

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him... .

Once again, God's complete Spirit is presented. Only this time, He is illustrated by seven burning lamps. This fire calls to mind the omnipresent nature of God's Spirit. "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3)." The Lord's Holy Spirit will soon be presented as being one with the Lamb, thus picturing the cohesive nature of the God-head (Revelation 5:6). By God's grace, this is the same Spirit Who regenerates (Titus 3:5) and fills the believer (Ephesians 5:18). He is also given abundantly to the saint (Titus 3:6), and He is able to take the feeble child of God and to bring him before the very presence of this fearful throne through His work of intercession (Hebrews 4:16, 10:22, Romans 8:26-27).

A sea of glass surrounded this majestic throne - a sea which would soon be filled with the souls of Christ's redeemed (Revelation 7:9, 13-14).

It is difficult to say exactly what the various faces of the four beasts represent; however, the following are possibilities: Christ is King (lion), Christ is Man (man), Christ is the Sacrifice (ox), Christ is God (eagle). They seem to be similar in nature to the seraphim of Isaiah 6:2 and the cherubim of Ezekiel 1:10, 18-20, 10:1. Both the seraphim and cherubim guarded the holiness of God, and such seems to be the duty of these creatures here as their multiple eyes keep watch in every possible direction.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Throne of God

"After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter." (Revelation 4:1)

This verse may very well be picturing the rapture of the Church. From this point onward, the New Testament church is no longer seen. For this reason, it is not beyond the realm of possibility to consider this event to be synonymous with the events described in I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and I Corinthians 15:51-54. The placement of this command to "come up here" prior to the commencement of the Great Tribulation is also excellent proof for a pre-tribulational rapture.

"And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald." (Revelation 4:2-3)

Caught up by God's Spirit like the prophets of old (Ezekiel 37:1), John immediately finds himself before God's holy throne. This throne was set; it was laid as an unmoveable foundation. Earth's kingdom's are temporary, but God's is permanent. Whether aware or unaware, the world's kingdoms are subject to a far greater Authority. In a wicked and changeable world, a Christian can find security in the firm nature of his Savior's throne.

The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all (Psalm 103:19).

The blinding light of God's holiness was hued with blood reds (jasper, sardine) and deep, rich green (emerald). The sight must have been overwhelming. The holy and merciful God Who so graciously revealed Himself to the elders of Israel at Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:9-11), once again permits Himself to be partially viewed as He prepares to disclose the frightening, yet victorious, events of the end times.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Burden of the Valley of Vision (Part V)

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open." (Isaiah 22:20-22)

God may not have removed Shebna from Judah, but He did replace him with Eliakim. When the king's ambassadors went to present their pleas before Isaiah, Eliakim is seen as being over the king's house (Isaiah 37:2).

Eliakim means God has raised up. In rejection of Shebna's pride, God chose Himself a man who would display the fear of the Lord - something much needed not only in Isaiah's day but also in modern times as well.

The laying of a key upon one's shoulder was symbolic of committing unto him the responsibility of government (Isaiah 9:6). As a God-fearing father takes interest in the spiritual and physical wellness of his children, Eliakim would take interest in the wellness of Judah's people.

The opening and shutting of the doors may represent his literal authority to decide who was admitted into the royal rooms and buildings. It may also carry with it the idea of making decisions which would have lasting effects. Either way, a great burden of responsibility was placed upon Eliakim, and he alone could decide whether to use it for evil or for good.

"And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house. And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons. In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the LORD hath spoken it." (Isaiah 22:23-25)

As a tent stake provides support for the structure, Eliakim would provide paternal support for his family and for all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The vessels would appear to be symbolic of the people and various duties of office for which Eliakim would be responsible.

The abrupt termination of the nail could be a warning against potential pride in the heart of Eliakim. Should he exalt himself, he too would face the same end as Shebna. However, more likely it is in reference to the coming Babylonian invasion and eventual destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Eliakim's posterity would not permanently occupy the position. Eventually, Judah's sin would be punished severely through Nebuchadnezzar, and in that day Jerusalem and all its positions of authority would be brought down to the ground.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Burden of the Valley of Vision (Part IV)

"Thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say, What hast thou here? and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here, as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock?" 
(Isaiah 22:15-16)

Shebna was in a position of high authority. To be over the house was to be next to the king (II Kings 10:5, 15:5). The placement of this rebuke leads one to believe that Shebna was an adversary rather than an advocate of Isaiah's prophecies. Could he have been encouraging the people toward an alliance with Egypt against Assyria (Isaiah 30:1-2)? None can say for certain, but the possibility is very real.

The common practice of the day was to prepare a grave in the vicinity of one's established life. Such endeavors were symbolic of stability, respect and wealth (Matthew 27:60). Shebna was obviously very comfortable with his position in the face of God's chastisement.

"Behold, the LORD will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover thee. He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country: there shalt thou die, and there the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord's house. And I will drive thee from thy station, and from thy state shall he pull thee down." (Isaiah 22:17-19)

As a ball is helpless in the hands of a child, Shebna would be powerless to deliver himself as God allowed him to be violently carried off by the Assyrians. The chariots of glory are likely Judah's war chariots for which Shebna was responsible. Instead of being a symbol of strength for Judah, these things would become a picture of her reproach when they fell under the control of the enemy.

The Scriptures are silent as to Shebna's ultimate end. If he is the same man presented in Isaiah 37:2, he is seen in a reduced status of scribe yet not removed from leadership entirely. Perhaps he repented at the preaching of Isaiah and God did not need to carry out His wrath, or perhaps he was taken captive at a later time.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Burden of the Valley of Vision (Part III)

"And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die. And it was revealed in mine ears by the LORD of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord GOD of hosts." (Isaiah 22:12-14)

Through Isaiah and the other prophets, God had called His people to repentance. The weeping, mourning and wearing of sackcloth should have been prevalent as a manifestation of the heart change; instead, God found in the vast population of Israel a carefree and sensual attitude. If tomorrow brings death, then why not thoroughly enjoy the present? This insatiable lust to gratify the flesh was practiced by the Epicureans of Paul's day (Acts 17:18). Epicurus believed that pleasure, not principle, was the ultimate end. In his rebuke of Corinth's false teachers, Paul quoted this verse here in Isaiah (I Corinthians 15:32). Such base reasoning has always existed.

Death and not dialogue was God's response to this hardness of heart. God is very longsuffering; however, when a man completely rejects repentance, he has no other option. The doctrine of repentance has been dulled, and in many cases rejected, by most religious circles. Yet, God continues to present just one choice. Change or die. Contrary to false teaching, a person cannot have his or her sinful lifestyle and a relationship with God.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Burden of the Valley of Vision (Part II)

"And he discovered the covering of Judah, and thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest. Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many: and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool. And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall. Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool: but ye have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago." (Isaiah 22:8-11)

The LORD uncovered or laid bare Judah before the approaching army. Without the aid of God, tiny Israel would soon be gobbled up by her much larger enemies. Her helplessness apart from divine aid seems to be the emphasis of this first verse.

The house of the forest is likely the house of the forest of Lebanon built and fortified by Solomon (I Kings 7:2, 10:17). Rather than look to God in the face of adversity, Judah was trusting in her feeble defenses.

Threatened by Sennacherib, Hezekiah set about to repair the damage done to David's fortress in Mount Zion (II Chronicles 32:5). He also diverted the Gihon spring - the source of which is found on the northeastern end of the city. Through the construction of a tunnel, the water was brought into Jerusalem (II Chronicles 32:3-4, 30). The pool of Siloam mentioned in John 9:7 was fed by this spring.

In order to strengthen their defenses, the inhabitants of Jerusalem disassembled various homes and used the materials to fortify the wall against Sennacherib's attackers. According to the account of II Chronicles 32:7-8, Hezekiah encouraged the people to look to God for help. Perhaps that was in response to the warnings of Isaiah. Regardless, God was not pleased with the initial preparations of His people, because the efforts involved everything but seeking the face of God. Obviously, this should have been the first step.

Looking back at Israel's failure to trust God is easy; however, an honest man would have to admit that he too has failed to put God first as he should. Israel's failure to remember the Ancient of Days in a time of trouble should be a reminder of the faithless tendency that haunts every man.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Burden of the Valley of Vision

"The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops? Thou that art full of stirs, a tumultuous city, a joyous city: thy slain men are not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle. All thy rulers are fled together, they are bound by the archers: all that are found in thee are bound together, which have fled from far." (Isaiah 22:1-3)

To better understand the context of this prophecy, it would be helpful to read II Kings 18, II Chronicles 32:1-20 and Isaiah 36-37. This chapter deals with the future invasion of Assyria, and the end of the chapter may have the Babylonian invasion in view as well.

Jerusalem is represented by the poetic title of the valley of vision. Whether this name is derived from the valleys surrounding the city or whether it is derived from the small valleys within the city one cannot say for certain. Regardless, the title applies to the city of David and God's dealings with her through the armies of the heathen nations.

Jerusalem is presented as being in a stir. Upon the flat roofs of the city's houses (a common place to assemble), people are gathered together. Undoubtedly they are disturbed by the news of Assyria's march toward Jerusalem. Having a reputation of being a joyous city, Jerusalem is now presented as a place of despair as God seeks to get her attention through the fear of Sennacherib and his men.

Under normal circumstances, an invading army would be met by soldiers and a battle would be the natural result; however, the opposite is found here. Rather than fighting, Judah's men have fled in fear and sought refuge behind the walls of the city where the enemy's archers have hemmed them in. The picture is one of dread, defeat and despair. Before Assyria, Judah is helpless. Jerusalem has been surrounded, and none but God can deliver her (II Chronicles 32:22).

"Therefore said I, Look away from me; I will weep bitterly, labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people. For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord GOD of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains. And Elam bare the quiver with chariots of men and horsemen, and Kir uncovered the shield. And it shall come to pass, that thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate." (Isaiah 22:4-7)

As Isaiah considers the vision, he becomes overwhelmed at the destruction of his people. When Sennacherib invaded Judah, he attacked other cities beside Jerusalem. Lachish was one of those cities. Undoubtedly, other towns were conquered and many would have lost their lives in the process. A mass grave containing over fifteen hundred bodies discovered at Lachish may be the result of Sennacherib's invasion.

In her rejection of God, Jerusalem finds herself in a state of absolute despair. Such is always the case when men reject God's authority. Similar words were spoken by Jesus to the citizens of Jerusalem upon their rejection of His Messiahship (Luke 23:30-31).

At this time, Elam was subject to Assyria, and apparently its citizens were a part of the Assyrian army. According to Jeremiah 49:35, the Elamites were known for their use of the bow. The location of Kir is unknown. It is mentioned in II Kings 16:9 as a place to which Tiglathpileser III deported the captives of Damascus.

Already mentioned by Isaiah in 17:5, the valley of Rephaim was likely one of the choice valleys mentioned. Along with this valley, one could add the valley of Jehoshaphat (Kidron) and the valley of Hinnom. All of these places would be filled with Assyrian warriors as they surrounded and prepared to attack Jerusalem.  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Letter to the Church of the Laodiceans

"And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:14-16)

Jesus Christ is a faithful Witness of the truth. He never fails to guide men toward the truth of Scripture. Such was not the case with the church at Laodicea. They had failed in living the truth of Scripture before others. They needed to return to their mission of being salt and light in a sin-cursed world (Matthew 5:13-16).

Jesus' title of the beginning of the creation is not referring to Him as a created being. Jesus is God; therefore, it is not theologically possible for this passage to be placing Him on the same level as creation. Rather, this title identifies Him as the One Who made all things - the One by "Whom also [God] made the worlds (Hebrews 1:2)." In Him, creation finds its beginning.

Laodicea did not have its own local water supply. Aqueducts carried cold water from Colosse and hot spring water from Hierapolis; however, by the time this water reached Laodicea, both sources were lukewarm. The people of this congregation would have easily identified with the idea of being tepid.

Cold water has value, and hot water has value; but lukewarm water is often putrefying. To most people, it is not gratifying to drink nor is it pleasant to use for bathing. Lukewarm people are much the same way. They are frustrating to deal with because of their tendency to change positions depending upon the situation. They are not easily identified as being either cold or hot toward Christ; therefore, they are very dangerous due to their hypocrisy. God does not want His people to be serving two masters. A man cannot serve God and the world (Matthew 6:24). The Lord wants His people to be zealous for Him. As both cold and hot water have value, even so the Lord wants His people to have a distinct value for Him. Anything less is putrefying. Not even the world appreciates a hypocrite, so why should God?

"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see." (Revelation 3:17-18)

Laodicea was a very wealthy town. After the city had been destroyed by an earthquake in 60 AD, the citizens refused imperial assistance from Rome and completely rebuilt the town by means of their own wealth. This self-sufficient attitude apparently had penetrated the church and plagued the members.

Although endowed with every earthly pleasure, the man without God as his focus is a most miserable creature. The Lord reminded His people of their spiritual condition. They looked good on the outside, but inside they were "full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness (Matthew 23:27)." The Greek word behind wretched is the same word Paul used to describe the horrid condition of his sinful flesh (Romans 7:24). If a believer is not walking in the Spirit, what has he left with which to please God? God was not impressed with their well-to-do households. The respected position of their city offered Him no benefit. The Lord desired "truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6)." He demands the very same from His people today.

The city was rich; but Christ is far richer. The Lord admonished the assembly to "lay up for [themselves] treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal (Matthew 6:20)."

The city was known for its luxurious black wool; but Christ offers the spotless white robe of His righteousness (II Corinthians 5:21). Such language seems to indicate that many in the church were not truly saved but were merely false professors. This is certainly within the realm of possibility. A worldly and apathetic church will lead to an unregenerate membership.

The city was known for its "Phrygian powder" which was manufactured from Phrygian stone and used as an ointment for the eyes. The Lord encouraged them to stop taking pride in these limited medicines and to start seeking after the One Who can open both the physical and spiritual eyes of the blind.

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:19-20)

Contrary to the world's teaching, rebuke is a natural outflow of genuine love. God exposes and disciplines those He truly cares about. People should not be deceived by the apparent well-being of the sinner. Such an individual is simply storing up the wrath of God against himself. The Lord will not permit the Christian to live indefinitely in sin. Rather than become angry at this reality, the believer is commanded to repent. He should change his mind toward his sin and let this change of mind affect his actions. Repentance might be described by this very simple phrase, "God is right and I am wrong; I will let Him change me."

Verse twenty is often quoted in witnessing to the lost; however, its true context deals with Christ's relationship to His Church. As a whole, the members of the Laodicean church had dethroned Christ from their hearts. Wealth, position, physical comfort and influence had left no room for the Savior. Such a tragedy might happen to any Christian of any age. The human heart has not grown purer with time. Every man is capable of withholding love from the One Who has bought each man with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

The Lord is very merciful, and He knows who will listen and who will not. Graciously, He reached out to the church of Laodicea. He did not have to. He chose to. His longsuffering nature is every Christian's example.

"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." (Revelation 3:21-22)

As with the other churches, the Lord closes with a gracious promise to the genuine believer. The Laodicean church could have read this and considered their pursuit of the city's temporary wealth and power versus the believer's eternal reward in heaven. Temporal gain is so appealing and yet so fleeting.

Of all the churches addressed in Asia Minor, the Christian Church of today might perhaps identify most with the church of Laodicea. Plagued by worldliness, lust and and an insatiable desire for instant gratification, she finds herself in a place where Christ is no longer the center but rather the outsider. Let her open her ears and repent. He will not keep knocking indefinitely.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Letter to the Church of Philadelphia

"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name." (Revelation 3:7-8)

In contrast to the church of Sardis, Christ had nothing negative to say to the believers in Philadelphia. To these believers, Jesus emphasized His holiness, truth and supremacy. When God gives another the authority to fulfill a task, none can reverse the work (Matthew 16:19). What the church of Philadelphia had sought to do for their Savior could not be nullified by a God-hating world. This reality would have comforted the war-wearied saints of Philadelphia, and it should encourage believers today. So much seems to be working against the truth of God, and yet, the doors of opportunity and change which are opened and shut by God cannot be touched by even the most powerful of men.

Christ praised these saints for keeping His Word - the Bible. He places the denial of His name next to the keeping of His Word. To reject biblical authority is, in reality, to deny the name of Christ. This makes the matter of disobedience a bit more serious. Following biblical order is not optional; it is imperative if a Christian is not to deny the name of Jesus.

"Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." (Revelation 3:9-10)

Christ's true Church will triumph over false teachers. The weaponry of insincere "religious" people seems so powerful. They have, on their side, money, popularity, the common bond of emotion-lead thinking, the appeal of sensuality, etc. Yet, Christ will conquer all of these worldly weapons with the Sword of Truth and make every knee to bow before His holiness (Philippians 2:10-11).

Opposite to the expectation of the predominately unregenerate church of Sardis (3:3), the Lord Jesus promised to deliver the Philadelphian believers from judgment along with the world. This last verse provides evidence for belief in a pre-tribulational rapture. The term them that dwell on the earth is used throughout Revelation of the unregenerate who will undergo the Great Tribulation (6:10, 13:14, 14:6, 17:8). Jesus promised these saints that would escape such things because they were His true children.

"Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." (Revelation 3:11-13)

The Lord reminded them not to lose their rewards. The loss of the crown is not a loss of salvation but rather a loss of Christian reward (II Timothy 4:8). Again, the overcomer is the one who has exercised saving faith in the blood of Jesus Christ (I John 5:4-5). To such a person, God has promised a place of security within the city of His future glory. In the phrase go no more out, the Greek double negative is found thus making this promise highly emphatic. The true believer shall never, under any circumstance, be separated from the side of his God. The Greek word for temple is naoj. This word describes not simply the temple building but more specifically the inner temple - the holiest place of all. Overwhelming security and close fellowship with the Lord Jesus is the future hope of the believer.

As if this were not enough, the Christian will also have upon him the name of God, the name of the New Jerusalem, and the new name of the Lord Jesus Christ (19:12). All of these things only emphasize and drive home the reality that God's child is destined for far better things than what the world can offer. In light of such realities, the commands to stand fast in this life suddenly seem less difficult and much more reasonable (Romans 12:1).

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Letter to the Church of Sardis

"And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." (Revelation 3:1)

The Lord Jesus is presented as having God's seven Spirits. This is the only place where the Spirit is presented directly with the accompanying number seven. There is no need to search for some hidden, mystical doctrine presented by no more than one verse. Throughout the Bible, the number seven often accompanies the inerrant character of God. Perhaps the number seven simply represents the complete and infallible nature of God. Whatever the meaning, Christ Jesus is filled with the faultless Spirit of God unlike the dead church to which He was speaking. If Sardis needed anything, they certainly needed the regenerating work of God's Spirit which could be found by returning to the One Whom they had ultimately offended.

Sardis was one of two churches toward whom God had nothing positive to say. They were physically alive but spiritually dead, because they did not have the Spirit of God living inside them (Romans 8:9).

Sardis was known for many cults, and one of these claimed power to raise the dead. Perhaps this cult had infiltrated the church and taken it over. The strong nature of the language coupled with the absence of praise for any Christian work seems to indicate that a primarily unregenerate membership comprised Sardis' church. This type of "church" is often the result of the toleration and compromise seen in churches such as the one at Thyatira.

The Lord warned them that they were about to lose any and all Christian identity. People do not always consider the destructive end of worldliness within an assembly. Few realize that departure from Christ's doctrine leads to an illegitimate assembly of unregenerate people displaying a "form of godliness, but denying the power thereof (II Timothy 3:5)."

"Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." (Revelation 3:2-3)

Simply put, the majority of this church's membership needed to return to faith in Christ. They were in jeopardy of facing the wrath of God along with the other unregenerate souls of the earth. Christ's return as a thief is used in connection with His second coming (Matthew 24:42-51) and not the rapture. Therefore, He was telling this assembly that they were in danger of being destroyed with the wicked of the earth - something of which God's true Church need not be afraid (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).

"Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the 
churches." (Revelation 3:4-6)

As with the church of Thyatira, God now turns to the few genuine Christians left in the middle of such debauchery and says, "They shall walk with Me in white." The works of the unregenerate church membership illustrated the unwashed nature of their souls, and the works of the outnumbered redeemed spoke volumes of their born-again status. God knows His own.

As previously mentioned, the overcomer is the one who is truly born-again; therefore, being clothed with white raiment is synonymous with having one's sins washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. If such is not the case, one will encounter serious theological complications with this passage and eventually find himself believing that one can lose his salvation. The majority of Sardis' church membership did not have salvation. A man cannot lose something he does not possess. God promised the saved that they were safely clothed with the white raiment of Jesus' righteousness.

To these believers, God made an encouraging promise. He said, "I will not blot out his name out of the book of life." The presence of the double negative ou mh in the Greek text presents the idea of an impossibility. The saved person cannot, under any circumstance, lose his or her salvation. The name has been firmly established within the pages of God's book; and there it shall remain forever (Romans 8:38-39).