Revelation 21, 22 (Ps. 48) Lynne McCarthy 12/24/21
Observe: John sees a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more. (21:1) The terrors of the last judgment lead to new Eden, our perfect home. The new beautiful Jerusalem descends from the heavenlies, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (2).
The big surprise: And I saw no temple [church, cathedral, chapel] in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. (22). We are the Lord’s bride-church. Light radiates from the Lamb, the glory of God, with no darkness, no locks on gates, nothing ugly or false. The city is perfect even in its structure; a cube, golden, jewelled as the ephod of the high priest, a reminder of the Holy of Holies in the Temple past. The Testaments merge as the names of the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles are written on its walls and foundation.
The river of life has its source at the throne of the Father, the tree of life yielding twelve kinds of fruit, its leaves for the healing of the nations, recalls Psalm 1. Eden is restored, God’s gracious Presence ripples through its centre. Those called by the name of the Lamb will see God’s face, forever.
John attests to the truth of his prophetic vision in the epilogue (22:6,8,16), warning those who add or subtract from this Word of consequences – plague or removal of their share in the life of the holy city. Daniel, told to seal up the words of prophecy (Dan 12:4,9) is the opposite for John. (10) Patterns of behaviour, either unbelief or faith, will become irreversible -- something to consider deeply. (11). And John ends with a blessing of grace. (21)
Interpret: Beginning a new life is difficult when one has to leave everything behind. Think of refugees/survivors in those terrible camps or flimsy boats, of people who have lost everything in environmental catastrophes, of believers under threat of death meeting with others in secret.
Scripture, according to a Bible Project blog, is “the epic story of God and his creation, of blessing, temptation, sin, exile, and salvation. … reading this today, we have the advantage of knowing the entire story was leading to Jesus.” We won’t complete this epic until Christ’s return -- a new epic.
Creation for humans to cherish is marred by sin and the wrecking hasn’t stopped. God’s redemptive movement from Abraham to David to Christ, (second Adam/son of man/son of David/son of God), pushes evil away. The Church (Jew and Gentile in Christ – all of us!) is now a bride. What we have all been waiting for: the new heaven, the new earth, life eternal with Father, Jesus the Lamb and Holy Spirit, our fellow saints and the heavenly folk, is all so new we won’t want to remember what we were, where we came from. Death is gone and we are eternally alive with and to God.
Already, but not yet. While in this body we long to be freed, and it will happen. John groans, Come, Lord Jesus. He responds, Behold, I am coming soon. And that is grace and hope.
Apply: So -- “no small feat” (remember the posters? the videos to study the Word? Pastor Dave’s coffee? Feels like a long time ago.) We’re finished, but not. Now we go more deeply into the Word, new things to learn in renewed faith and love for God, always something we didn’t notice in our first, fourth, tenth readings. Our 2022 study and Psalms blogs bring a new focus: real transformation. We must remember He is coming sooner than we think.
Ask: Has my faith deepened this past year? Do I know Jesus, His love, His desire to have His church as His bride? How do I prepare for citizenship in this new country? Am I willing to keep on with Him?
Pray: King Jesus, until we are in Your kingdom, keep us praying, praising, loving, longing for You. Strengthen us when we meet adversity and adversaries because You are our strength. Make us one in You, that Your Kingdom of peace may come, Your will be done among us and beyond.
Sing: City of the Great King - Jason Silver
New Jerusalem - Jason Vermeulen
Revelation 22:20,21 - The Corner Room
Revelation 19-20 (Ps 47) Lynne McCarthy 12/23/21
Observe: Babylon the Great has fallen!(18:21) The ‘great multitude’ and the heavenly council shout Hallelujahs to exalt God and His true judgments! Celebration now -- the Lamb’s marriage feast to His bride, His Church! Clothed in beautiful white linen, the righteous deeds of the saints (19:8b), His invited guests assemble, a beatitude is given for these holy ones (9).
Heaven splits open, and a crowned rider on a white horse emerges, the righteous[LM1] Judge, clothed in a blood-reddened robe (His shed blood!), a two-edged sword (remember Pergamum (2:12)?) issuing from His mouth with which to strike down the nations (15). His names: Faithful and True, the Word of God, Lord of Lords and King of Kings – and one He alone knows. He rides out in God’s wrath with His heavenly army, victorious.
Invitees are not the only ones who will feast: at an angelic signal, carrion birds gorge on all those who reject the great King. Beast and false prophet and their numbers defy His army, their lies fodder for the King’s sword. Heavenly battles are drawing to an end, though not yet done.
An angel with a key to the Abyss (= hell) chains the Dragon (that ancient serpent who is the devil or Satan (20:2; Gen 3)), locking him into the depths for 1000 years. Martyrs and the faithful now reign with Christ. The evil one, freed for a little while (3) deceives yet again and rebels still sin. Battles for God’s people continue, but God protects them (9). Finally, Satan is thrown into the lake of burning sulphur – the ‘second death’ (from which the church in Smyrna is delivered (2:11b)).
John sees a great white throne – stark, austere, no splendid rainbow or jewels, Jesus seated as judge. The dead and those released from the sea, Death and Hades stand before the throne. Jesus opens the Book of Life to judge their deeds. Death and Hades, with those whose names are not in His Book, end in the lake of fire. At last, The old has passed away; behold, the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17).
Interpret: This end begins Jesus' reign on earth, rebellious unbelievers eternally suffer. Uneasy reading, yes, but hopeful! Names are in the Lamb’s Book of Life because of what Jesus did, not by their good deeds. The Book records their [our!] faith in Jesus and their good works, prepared for us by God from before time (Eph. 2:10).
Jesus’ first coming to earth was humble, but what a return! A King crowned with victory over death and sin, a splendid white horse (no donkey now!), His mighty Word-sword destroying evil, His testimony the spirit of prophecy (19:10). What does this cryptic phrase mean? IV Press, in an article on prophecy, comments: “A true testimony to Jesus means obedience to his commands and faithfulness to his teaching. And, as Jesus openly confessed his allegiance to his Father, so the true Christian openly acknowledges faithfulness to Jesus.” *
Apply: Judgment is an unknown-future reality. We will be judged; let’s not be found wanting (an incentive to self-examination. The Spirit will help if we ask.) Applying the Word to our daily lives in faith and love sparks hope. John wrote Revelation to encourage and bring hope to the suffering church. As we wait for Jesus’ return, we read Revelation with the same hope, knowing that all, at the end, will be well.
We’ve almost finished our Bible in a Year, but this isn’t a ‘project done’ to cross off our To Do list. By His grace the Holy Spirit has kept us, daily reading and changing. We fix our eyes on our Faithful and True Jesus that He keep us in His Word, day after day, year after year, until we faithfully and truly love Him, His Word, and one another, until He comes again. Those glorious names, Faithful and True, can be ours, too.
Ask: Lord Jesus, will you help me, by Your Spirit, to read Your Word again and again, to love it, and to love You first and always?
Pray: Jesus, You are our strength and our song, our salvation (Isa. 12:2)! Jesus, Faithful and True, grace us to stay faithful and true to You, always.
Sing: Salvation Belongs to our God - Jeremy Fisher
Worthy is the Lamb - Handel's Messiah
Psalm 47 - God Mounts His Throne - Paul Inwood
A Tale of Two Cities by Pastor Dave
“They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings – and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
Revelation 17: 4
Revelation 17-18 (Psalm 46)
I encourage you to watch the Bible Project Video (click here) and listen to Lynne’s sermon (click here).
Charles Dickens’ masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities, deals (unsurprisingly), with two cities and key themes such as revolution and resurrection. If we look at today’s chapters, and take a sneaky peek at chapter 21, we see two cities: Babylon; the New Jerusalem (21: 2, 9); and similar themes. By the time John writes this book, Babylon has gone, he is speaking figuratively. Babylon represents all that is worldly, all that is idolatrous, all that is in revolt and opposition to God. It may well be that he has Rome in mind but when we read 17: 8-9 we realise that revolt and opposition against God, comes in each age, and in different guises. Humanity is seduced by sexual immorality, luxuries and consumerism; the latter linking to profit in trade and exploitation in slavery (17: 2, 4; 18: 3, 9, 13). Eventually these foundations of revolt against God will fall (18: 2, 17, 21); along with these collapses are consequences. Practically there is impact on people’s lives (18:22-24), and in these circumstances it is nearly always the poor and marginalized that suffer most. Spiritually there is an accounting and judgement.
Those that stay true to God and are not seduced (18: 4) and will be victorious (17: 14). Judgement will come (18: 20), which will bring joy for the Lamb’s faithful followers. Resurrection will take place and a New Jerusalem will be born, a place of perfection for the bride of the Lamb (21: 2, 9).
Our age offers many seductions that can lure us away from the truth of God: satisfaction in material wealth through consumerism; liberalism in sexuality; freedom to define our own truth; and an inexhaustible supply of information that supposedly promotes knowledge. As with most matters, truth and blessing can be found to some degree in these areas, (in others words it is not all bad). Where they are not founded on Christ (God’s truth) however, they lead us away from God and will harm us. The pandemic is showing the fragility of such foundations. Looking at the examples I have given we have to agree that: wealth cannot save us and consumerism can harm others; our true identity is found in who we are in Jesus; not ALL 'truths' can be true, only Christ as truth; and so much knowledge requires wisdom to discern truth. God’s call upon our lives is to remain true to Him, to hold fast and to keep an eternal perspective. Our age too will come to an end, as will our lives; how will we fair when we finally stand before our Almighty God? As faithful followers of Christ we will be able to rejoice in the Lord and look forward to an eternity of joy, fulfilment, worship and purpose.
The Question of Application
In which city do we find our hearts most at home: Babylon or the New Jerusalem? Are we living in revolution against God, or resurrection in a new life?
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, bring us to the dwelling which your Son is preparing for all who love you; give us the will each day to live life eternal; let our citizenship be in heaven with the blessed, with the whole company of the redeemed and with countless angels, praising, worshiping and adoring your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who sits on the throne for ever and ever. Amen
Holy – The City Harmonic
December 21st – Les Kovacs Revelation 14-16
Observe: In Chapters 14 through 16, we see the continuing contrasts between the judgements upon the followers of Christ versus the followers of the Satan. They do not necessarily unfold in chronological order.
As Chapter 14 opens, we see a vision of the sealed believers of Christ. These stalwarts are seen singing praises to God while standing on Mount Zion. They are described as spiritually pure, in stark contrast to the wicked people marked as worshippers of the Antichrist. John next describes seeing three angels delivering messages of warning and prophecy. They include messages of God's impending judgment on sin and evil which will befall the people who have who accepted the mark of the beast, described in in the previous chapter. Those who take that mark are bound for eternal punishment. This passage ends with a word of encouragement for Christians who suffer persecution for their faith. The last section of this chapter describes Jesus holding a sickle to be used during the harvest separating the believers form the wicked.
In Chapter 15, the first vision John sees are seven angels. They carry the last seven judgments, represented by bowls that will complete God’s wrath against the wicked. The scene is one of celebration, as the redeemed believers sing a song of worship to God. These seven angels proceed out of the tabernacle in heaven, which was filled with smoke to hide God’s glory until the judgments were competed.
Chapter 16 describes the seven bowl judgments on the non-believers, those who had the mark of the beast. They include: painful sores; turning the sea to blood, and killing all sea life; turning the rivers to blood so the people had no water to drink; causing the sun to blaze hotter so they were seared by the intense heat; the world was plunged into darkness; and the great Euphrates River was dried up to allow the armies of the east to invade. During this time, three demons appeared that performed signs, and prepared these armies for the final to battle at Armageddon. The seventh plague or judgment, was a devastating, worldwide earthquake and 100 pound hailstones. Through all of these judgments/plagues, the non-believers continue to curse God.
Interpret: We see these righteous judgments being poured out on the non-believers, the people who would rather follow the ways of the world, which is the way of sin, instead of repenting and following the ways God. Chapter 16:2 says that these only affect those who had the “mark of the beast and worshiped its image”. At this point in time, the wickedness of unbelievers on earth will have reached a peak, and because of their refusal to bow before the Lord, the earth will have been devastated and no longer be able to sustain life. The wrath of God will tear apart those who fight against Christ. But just as the Israelites were protected by the blood of a lamb on their doorframes during the last plague in Egypt, so too, will Christians be protected from these final judgments by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
Application: These chapters of Revelation hold both a dire warning and a blessing. The warning is for those who defy God, and the blessing is for those who follow Him. During the last days, however long that might be because no one knows, the temptations of this world will continue to increase over time. The influence of the kingdom of the evil one will continue to spread until it pervades every aspect of our lives, including the church. Eventually the activities of the world will become so vile and repugnant to God that He will bring about His judgment of wrath on the people of the world. To non-believers this will be a truly terrifying time. But for Christians, there is the sure hope of deliverance from our sins by and through the blood shed by Jesus, the Lamb of God, for all who believe in Him.
At the beginning of Revelation 1:3, God told John to write down what he saw, and pronounced a blessing on those who would study what John wrote: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near”. God promises that He will bless you, if you follow His command to read and hear the words, if you take to heart what He reveals through it.
Although difficult times lie ahead, as Christians, we have the entire, and infallible, Holy Bible, and especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to instruct us in the ways in which we are to take it to heart. In John 13:14 Jesus says to His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” As people who walk in the light of God’s truth, we must be people who have a genuine and deep love of others and of God. Our lives must reflect our obedience to Him, regardless of the challenges and persecutions we may face, because of the hope we have in Jesus.
Questions: Despite the terrifying visions of the end times, do you believe that following Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we ask you to guide us to walk in your truth by obedience to your will for us. We pray for your Holy Spirit to open the Scriptures to us more and more as we strive to walk in your will. Help us to never be deceived or led astray by the subtle temptations of the world, and strengthen us to meet the challenges of life in ways that honour and glorify only you. And may we always be known as followers of Christ by the testimony of our lives. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.
Song: The Name of Jesus – Chris Tomlin
OBSERVE: In chapter 12; we observe great things appear in heaven: a cosmic, pregnant woman and a red dragon, which turns out to be Satan. War breaks out as Michael the archangel leads the heavenly forces to defeat Satan. Following in chapter 13; we observe on earth a series of beasts blaspheming God, oppressing the saints, and insisting on conformity to ways that are idolatrous.
Of particular focus in chapter 13; we read about the Lamb who was slain at the creation of the world and how all those in the Lamb’s book of life will be safe. Then we read about the beast who oppresses God’s faithful; who has a number of a person.
INTERPRET: Chapter 13 tells us the beast who is oppressing God’s faithful has “the number of a person” and his number is 666 or, in some Greek manuscripts, 616. But what does this mean? Historical readings usually take the number as a reference to Nero, the Roman emperor famous for persecuting Christians. In Hebrew, letters of the alphabet also serve as numerals (a system called “gematria”), and when “Neron Caesar” is written in Hebrew, the letters have a numerical value equal to 666, while the Hebrew letters for “Nero Caesar” have a value of 616. Other scholars have noted an alternative connection to a different emperor, Domitian.
Idealist readings usually take the number as a symbol for anyone supremely evil. Just as the number “seven” represents what is pure or perfect, the number “six” symbolizes impurity or imperfection. A threefold six is “triple bad” and anyone who repeatedly fails or opposes God may have earned this number.
Futurist readings usually assume the number to be a code for an evil person who still is to come into the world at the end of times.
APPLICATION: While scholars have gone back and forth attempting to discern the real meaning of 666; our focus needs to be on verse 13:8: “All habitants of the earth will worship the beast – all those names that have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.”
There is an obvious progression in the Old Testament in terms of God’s provision of a sacrifice for sin. First God provided one lamb for one person – Abraham offered a ram in the place of his son Isaac. Next God provided one lamb for one household. This happened at the first Passover, when every family in the covenant community offered its own lamb to God. Then God provided one sacrifice for the whole nation on the Day of Atonement; a single animal for the sins of Israel.
But all these lambs were just preparing us for the coming of the Christ. They were signs pointing to salvation in Christ’s sacrifice. Finally the day came when John the Baptist “saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1: 29). This was God’s plan for provision all along: one Lamb to die for one world. By his grace God has provided a lamb – “the Lamb who was slain”.
This wonderful truth needs to be our focus. We are safe and in the Lamb’s book of life because we believe in the atoning sacrifice of THE Lamb of God. We need to live lives that focus on the victory of the Lamb and not allow ourselves to be disoriented by what already has been defeated. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.
PRAYER: Holy God; you always give to me what you ask from me. Again and again I see that your demands are not burdensome but that in Christ you provide for me everything you require of me. Help me to focus on you and your victory and not dwell on what you have already defeated. AMEN.
SONG: REVELATION SONG
Blog Post 45 – Revelation 4-6
Revelation 4 is describing the Throne of God in heaven, surrounded by a rainbow that appeared to be made of emerald, 24 smaller thrones atop which sat 24 elders robed in white and crowned with golden crowns; there was lightning flashing all around with peals of thunder, as well as seven torches. All of this was encompassed by a sea that looked like glass or crystal. There were mighty angelic creatures all around which never ceased to say:
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”
John then describes the One who sits upon the throne as holding forth a scroll sealed with seven seals as an angel cried out “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” Nobody is able to come forth as worthy and John is overwhelmed with sadness. Then one of the elders assures him, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” They all watch on as a Lamb comes forth before the throne, looking as it if had been slain, taking the scroll to Himself. At this point, everyone present falls down and sings a new song, and saying “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” The following chapter goes on to describe in detail the opening of the seven seals.
If we thought there was too much in any given chapter in the bible to interpret in any one blog, that feeling is tripled for any point in the book of Revelation! It is a book that relies heavily on symbolism and imagery to convey meaning, the exploration of which is far too great an undertaking.
I’ve decided to focus on the main picture here of Lamb who is Worthy. The Gospel of John (I know, different John) goes to great lengths to emphasize Jesus as the Passover Lamb. Just as Paul calls Jesus the second Adam who takes sin, or Jesus as the better Moses by whom we walked in a fulfilled law through faith, Jesus is also the better Passover lamb under whose blood anyone can take refuge from death. As a perfect spotless lamb was sacrificed, whose blood was smeared on the rough wooden lintels (horizontal piece of wood that spans the top of a door frame) of the Israelites in Egypt, to save them from death, so Jesus whom John the Baptist called “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29) was sacrificed on our behalf. It was His blood smeared on the rough lintel of the cross under which, between two hands pierced and open to the world, we all find refuge from death and the forgiveness of sin.
We have all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God and are relegated from His presence. However, Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin on your behalf and on mine. He underwent the worst form of torture and death, even though He had done no wrong and committed no sin, so that by His precious blood we may be saved, purified, justified, sanctified, and eventually glorified. This Son of God emptied Himself and became nothing, identifying Himself with sinful humanity, and in an act of incredible grace and love died in our stead. He was raised from the dead as proof of who and what He is.
It is this Lamb who is worthy to do what we see in Revelation. He is God’s own Son, the second person of the Trinity, and the only one worthy to initiate that which must take place in the book of Revelation, for He has been exalted to His original place of glory, seated at the right hand of God the Father, interceding on our behalf and welcoming to the fold any who call upon His name. He offers free comfort, forgiveness of sin, grace unmeasured, joy, peace, salvation, and everlasting life to anyone who calls upon His name!
The Lamb of God in Revelation is the same one whose birth we mark around this time of year. Don’t let December come and go without dwelling on the fact that we all owe our very life to Christ in the most intimate ways and by the most obvious ways. Have you taken time to truly reflect on the miracle of Christmas? If it stirs nothing in your soul or mind after much thought, I pray that you take even more time and clear away that which has clouded your spirit. This life is too short to live only halfway for Christ. If there be found idolatry or pride or selfishness in any of us, let it be rooted out at its foundation to make way for the coming Saviour. Amen!
Father God, thank you for sending your Son that we might be forgiven and know the true joy of being right with you. We pray for an increase of joy and knowledge of exactly who you are and what you’ve done for us. Let us never take our eyes off you as we navigate these treacherous times and give us new hope that each day you bear us up on your shoulders. Amen!
Song: Build My Life (Pat Barrett)
Text Rev. 1-3 (Ps 40)
Observe An angelic being (angelos = messenger, watcher) reveals a series of visions to the exiled apostle John, which he must record. (1:1)
With beatitudes for those who hear and keep what is written (1:3), John greets the churches, speaking of him who was and is and is to come (1:5), Jesus, loving His church, made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father (1:6). John, in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day (1:10) tries to describe his vision of Jesus glorified. John falls as dead, but Jesus, the messenger, revives him. Jesus holds the keys to Death and Hades (18b). John must write to the angels of seven churches in Asia Minor (modern Turkey[LM1] )
We read his letters to the angel of the church in (city). God has appointed an angel (seven stars) to guard each church. (1:20; 2,3)
Interpret “Squeeze John and you get the Old Testament,” says a writer. Revelation is full of hyperlinks and John often repurposes Hebrew Bible references. Numbers are significant in apocalyptic writing: seven symbolizes perfection or completion (watch for it!). Other symbols in these chapters:
Lampstands (1:12,20) with seven branches, (recalling the constantly burning menorahs in the Temple), are the seven Asian churches, lights in the surrounding darkness. John sees Christ walking among the churches. Daniel 7 speaks of the ‘son of man’; here, One like a son of man (1:13) moves in the midst of the lampstands (2:1); Christ is the centre of worship in His church.
Sash (1:13): worn around the waist, a priest readies for battle; around the chest, a king reigns on His throne. Priest, King… and Ancient of Days.
Stars (1:16, 20): the angels of the seven churches[LM2] . Jesus holds them in His right hand as they guard the churches.
Keys: denoting authority. Jesus’ possession of ‘keys to death and Hades’ shows his authority over these fearful things. Hades/Sheol were not places but
Structure of the letters (2, 3): Each begins with, “To the angel…”; includes an image/symbol taken from chapter one; “I know your works…”, a commendation or criticism; what God will do; His promised reward to the faithful; each ends with, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Lord says to the churches.”
These churches were not the only ones in Asia, but characterize the church in the named city. (the words “Church” or “churches” occur 19 times in chapters 1-3, but not after chapter 4-end.)
Ephesus: the mega-church. Rich, comfortable -- spiritually cold. No repentance? Their lampstand will be removed. (There is no church there today.) But the victorious will eat of the tree of life in paradise.
Smyrna: the persecuted church. No rebuke. Poor, slandered, but loved and encouraged by Jesus as He tells them they will suffer. Faithfulness will win them the crown of life, the ‘second death’ will not touch them. (Modern Izmir, Turkey, with an estimated 70,000 Christians.)
Pergamum: the impure church. The ‘Nicolaitans’ (nikos = victory; laos = people), a pagan sect, promoted idolatry and immorality; many in the church fell for this. God will use His double-edged sword if there is no repentance, but for the few faithful, a white stone gives them entry into God’s life.
Thyatira: the compromised church. Longest letter. Noted for textile and purple dye industries (Phoebe in Acts 16, from Thyatira, dealt in these). ‘Jezebel’, a false prophetess, blended worship of Baal and Yahweh, encouraged sexual immorality. To those struggling to flee the deep things of Satan with its attractions of power and occult knowledge, Jesus says, Hold fast what you have until I come. The morning star, bright light emerging from darkness, is theirs.
Sardis: the dying church. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead, a horrifying indictment of the institutional church. Unless they wake up, Jesus will come like a thief in the night (Mt ). The few faithful will wear white garments, their names etched in the book of life.
Philadelphia: the steadfast church. No rebuke for this small church; the rewards for its faithfulness are many. The open door recalls Jesus as Good Shepherd, His sheep free to go in and out while He keeps them safe from predators (Roman empire). He has the key of David and gives them this sign of His power and authority.
Laodicea: the self-deceived church. (laos = people; diké = justice) Lukewarm, robbed of their love, passion, zeal for God by the culture. If no repentance, He will spit them out of his mouth. Jesus stands at the door and knocks, wanting to be let in, as if He has lost His authority! Because they don’t need Him, ironically, they’ve switched positions; Jesus is outside, they’re in. Their self-sufficiency (and lack of self-knowledge) is historically true: a massive earthquake in 60 AD destroyed the city but Laodicea refused help even from the Emperor. Jesus warns for conviction, not condemnation. He loves them!
Apply A challenge: Removing 21st century blinders while thinking 1st century! The many symbols are rich, dazzling, puzzling, codes for early Christians under state/Satanic persecution. So we ask: Who was this letter for? Why? What was their understanding at the time? How does this relate to the Hebrew Bible? Instead of speculation, let’s look, look, look until we see that Revelation (and the entire Bible) unveils Jesus, faithful Witness, Redeemer and Saviour.
The struggle is ongoing: divisions, self-centredness, complacency, resisting authority, immorality, syncretism, apathy, hard hearts, indifference, pride, coldness/lukewarmness … has anything changed? In our humbly accepting correction, holding fast to what God has given, repenting (often!), hearing and heeding His commands, Christ of the lampstands and the two-edged sword walks among us. Centred in His light and truth, we love Him above all else, love one another. We look forward with joy to His return, taking His promises, rebukes and affirmations to heart. He loves us!
Ask Which church do we resemble? Suffering Smyrna/Izmir? Steadfast Philadelphia? Lord, would You help us read, hear, and take to heart this word? So we don’t become complacent or lukewarm, would You strengthen us to hold fast to You?
Pray: Jesus, give us ears to hear what You say to our church, obedience to carry out Your commands, and Philadelphian steadfastness to resist this noisy culture. Come, Lord Jesus!
Sing Guy Penrod Revelation Song https://youtu.be/A3IUqz10ARE
Ps. 40: Steve Angrisano Here am I Lord https://youtu.be/p1EI3hojkYY Ps. 40: Choir of Liverpool Cathedral https://youtu.be/wmfAyXG_eVk
Ps. 40 (A New Song): New Hope Oahu https://youtu.be/oDXMZEgDhNo
“Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion……….
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”
Jude 11, 20-21
Jude (Psalm 39)
I encourage you to watch the Bible Project Video (click here).
Jude is a brother of Jesus who came to see Him as the Christ after His resurrection. Jude now calls himself a servant of that same Jesus. He is writing, it would seem, to Jewish believers as he refers in detail to Jewish history and writings. Essentially his message is a call for the Church to persevere and remain true to the faith. He warns against godless men and teachers who pervert the truth, calling others into rebellion against God and sexual immorality. He details their end by describing the eternal separation from God and punishment that awaits. To link to our ‘application’ section, (see below), let me briefly focus on Cain, Balaam and Korah. Cain did not worship God in truth, sin crouched at the door to his heart; it mastered him and he murdered his brother (Genesis 4: 1-8). Balaam had a covetous heart (Numbers 22-24) and he led God’s people into sin (Numbers 25: 8, 16). Korah rebelled against Moses’ guidance when the sons of Aaron and the tribe of Levi were made the priests of the nation; he wished to exercise a role he had no right to (Numbers 16: 1-35). The first gave his heart to sin, the second with a covetous heart led others into sin and the third had a heart of pride rejecting the authority God had put in place. All rebelled against God.
Instead God’s people are to humbly submit to God through faith. This keeps them in God’s love and enables them to watch over their brothers and sisters in Christ. Their reward is eternal life.
As the Bible project video states, God’s Grace demands a whole life response. Following Jesus means full obedience. This is how we show our love for God and remain in Him (John 15:10). We may go the way of Cain and not fully worship God in truth, rejecting His Kingship. This means we will worship other things which will eventually master us and potentially destroy us (Jude 10). We may go the way of Balaam and covet what we haven’t got. With a dissatisfied heart we may lead others into sin. Or, like Korah, we may reject the authority God has established in His Church and cause division as our pride demands another route.
Instead let us work to build others and ourselves up in the faith, praying in the Holy Spirit and remaining in God’s love through full obedience. May God be the true King of our hearts.
The Question of Application
What do we hear and see in our world that may draw us away from God? How might we build ourselves or another up in the faith and in God’s love?
In God’s strength, and in His Spirit though Jesus Christ, may we build others and ourselves up in the faith. May we give glory to Him who is able to keep us from stumbling and to present us before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy. To the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and for evermore! Amen Amen
King of Kings sung by St. Aidan’s
The King of my Heart by Bethel Music
December 12th – Les Kovacs 2 John 1, 3 John 1
Observe: In the 2nd letter of John, the Elder writes to a church that he is filled with joy to hear that they are walking in truth as the Father commanded. He encourages them to continue in one command that they were told in the beginning, which was to love one another. If they walk in love, they will obey the Fathers commands. He reminds them of this because there had reports of false teachers travelling the region who do not acknowledge Jesus coming into the world. These people are deceivers and the church must nothing to do with them. Listening to them would only implicate the church in their wicked works.
In the 3rd letter of John, the Elder writes to a friend named Gaius. He is overjoyed to hear of his faithfulness to the truth and asks him to welcome other brother and sisters who are spreading the true Gospel, even if he doesn’t know them, and so work together with them for the truth. However, there is a leader in Gaius’ church that is not to be trusted. Diotrephes opposes John and spreads lies about him. He also refuses welcome the missionaries, and anyone who supports them in their work, Diotrephes throws out of the church. John will set matters right when he comes to visit them later. He recommends Gaius emulate a man named Demetrius who does what is good.
Interpret: John warns the church about false teaching. Right from the beginnings of the early church, deceivers have been trying to distort the true Gospel for their own gain. They have spread distorted truths, partial truths, and outright lies about the salvation message Jesus taught. The church must constantly be on guard against such false teachings and not get caught up in the deceptions.
Not only does John warn about false teaching, but he also points out that even some of those who claim to adhere to the truth, and even be leaders in the church, can succumb to the sin of pride and abuse their position of power. We are to imitate only those whose lives truly reflect the goodness of God.
Application: When John encourages us to walk in the truth, he is means we are to follow the teachings of Christ. When we follow His teachings, we live in a lifestyle were we “love one another” (1:5), a clear reference to the commandment of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Christ according to John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” In this letter John connected this love with walking “according to His commandments” This echoes the teaching of Christ the gospel, where the He told His followers, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Therefore, as people who walk in the truth, we must, as a consequence, also be people who love others and love God. Our love is driven by our obedience to Him.
Furthermore, if we sincerely follow His commands, we will avoid being ensnared by false teachings. In his first letter to the church, 1 John 4:1, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Having a good grasp of scripture and trustworthy, mature Christian friends and pastors will help us to test new ideas, to determine if they of God or not.
John used the words love and truth to describe a life of obedience, and he used the example of Diotrephes to illustrate the dangers of going down the wrong path. As Christians, we have a responsibility to live according to the truth we find in the life and ministry of Jesus. This includes caring for those who serve God’s people. Jesus was surrounded by people who took care of Him. Supporting church leaders requires a level of trust and acceptance that is not necessarily required in other areas our everyday lives. It forces us to step out of our comfort zones and into a territory where we must place our trust in God.
Questions: How often have we heard something from our cultural environment and just accepted it at face value without critically thinking whether it actually lines up with the truth of scripture? Have you ever tested anything against scripture? Would you be willing to challenge it if scripture said it was wrong?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we ask you to guide us to walk in your truth by obedience to your will for us. Help us to love one another as you have loved us. Give us wisdom to discern those things that are of you and those that are of the world, and the strength to choose correctly. And help us support Christian leaders in the good work they do for your children. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.
Song: Until the Whole World Hears – Casting Crowns
TEXT: 1 John (Chapter 3-4)
OBSERVE: Chapter three begins with an encouragement to the readers to fix their hope on the coming Jesus. A clear delineation is then made between children of God and children of the devil and between people who hate fellow believers and people who have God’s love in them. The author proposes two tests for identifying false prophets: they do not confess that Jesus came in the flesh, and they do not heed the tradition preserved from the beginning. Then the author returns to his main point: love is the sign and source of a true relationship with God.
INTERPRET: The previous two chapters of this letter introduced the stark differences between those who truly have fellowship with Christ, as opposed to those who are “in darkness”. Chapter 3 then continues this theme with an emphasis on love. This serves as a bridge between John’s descriptions of lives lived abiding either in darkness or light, to an explanation of how Gods faithfulness gives us confidence as Christian believers.
Chapter 4 emphasizes the way God’s love removes the natural human fear of rejection. Fear is a punishment of its own, and John makes it clear that those who do not believe have every reason to fear judgment. However, believers can have confidence that not only has Christ forgiven their sins but he gives them God’s love. Following in this Godly love leads to acceptance, which leads to confidence, driving out fear. This passage is a vital part of this letter, explaining how confidence in the life of a believer ought to be accomplished.
APPLICATION: Followers of Christ believe that Jesus came in the flesh and died on the cross for their sins. When we are truly transformed by these truths that John is stressing; we come to understand that God’s love is epitomized at the cross. The love that God extended to us should not only have us believe in him but should give us an overwhelming desire to love like him. God’s love is unconditional and unending. God’s love transforms those who believe and it will transform others whom we extend this love to. We need to love like God loved; a Godly love.
God’s love will also help us live a life of acceptance and confidence. God’s reckless love for us should drive out all fear of sin and darkness. Jesus has made a way for us and we are to live lives that reflect the acceptance and confidence we have in Christ. Belief should always be reflected in how we are responding to God’s love for us.
REFLECTION: Have you been transformed by God’s reckless love for you? Are you extending this Godly love to others? Have you put conditions or limits on the love you share with others?
PRAYER: JESUS, I love you because you first loved me and drew me to yourself in acceptance. I have confidence that you will hold me safe and secure in your love so that nothing can come between us. I ask that you empower me with your love so that I may extend this love to others. AMEN.
SONG: RECKLESS LOVE
Bible Blog 2022
This year the blogs are focused on the Psalms and are posted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.