Revelation 21: John had reminded the reader to be an overcomer or a conqueror because the reward is beyond description and the loss is irreparable. What do we have to overcome or conquer? It is the sin of the flesh, the eyes and the pride of life.
Standing and hearing that it is done, his mind may have swiftly been taken back to the first images of these 7 churches that John knew and ministered to or even further back to the Garden of Eden. What blessings await the conquerors are the very ones God would have showered upon Adam and Eve had they obeyed to not eat of the tree of life.
Once forbidden, a conqueror will be given permission to feast upon that very tree. Because Adam and Eve ate, hanging over their head was the second death. But you who are conquerors will never have to fear the death that will forever separate you from God. You will not only feast on the Tree of life but also be nourished with the hidden manna as you listen for your new name being called by God. Instead of being fearful when you hear God calling you will answer: “Here I am!” Adam and Eve had tried to cover themselves with fig leaves but God will cover the conquerors with white clothing; the garment given to those who are righteous.
Adam and Eve plunged all of humanity into sin yet Jesus paid the price of their decision. We who are conquerors will stand by seeing our name in the Lamb’s Book of Life; be a pillar in God’s temple and sit with Jesus on the throne.
Beloved, heaven is indescribable but it is only for the conqueror. Are you one?
Revelation 13 Many celebrities have passed from life to death. They were easily recognized having sought fame and fortune and big names in lights. Yes, many achieved that; but did they plan for their eternal destiny? The world spouts; “they went to a better place” but we know that without Christ that is not to be. They were blinded by the glitz and glamour and the pride of life.
That is why the words of John just scream off the page: “If anyone has an ear, he had better listen!” lest you fail to see the deluding influence of the beast and the dragon’s offer. Like many today, they will be awestruck and ask “Who is like the beast” Who is able to go to war against them?” Many will be deceived into thinking that this is the true man of God has arrived. Have we heard these words before? Yes, we have, for centuries earlier Antiochus Epiphanes was touted as the same.
Antiochus said follow me or else.
Christ said, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.
So where is the encouragement in this entire sad tale? It is this beloved; if we follow Him we will be given the privilege of making disciples for the kingdom and they, in turn, will not be deceived by the beast or dragon. But, there is a qualifier; we must have steadfast endurance and faith as we run the race so we can hear: well done thou good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of the Lord.
Revelation 12 Throughout the centuries wars have been fought, land claimed, peoples subjugated and the trophies displayed. The Jewish nation has faced more anti-Semitism than many other people groups. Satan is the author of the fiercest pogroms and holocaust deprivation yet unlike other people groups which are lost to history, the Jews have not only survived but thrived. Yet, the powerful aggressive Satan, that has accused all who choose to believe God from Genesis 3:15, will one day meet his demise—but we aren’t there yet in John’s book.
Instead, John reveals to us the ultimate battle scene in heaven between Michael and the Dragon. Michael finally has the permission to throw the Dragon, the Serpent, a.ka. the Devil out of heaven and there is a sigh of relief. But even though there is no longer the presence of the Accuser in heaven, he is reigning on earth seeking whom he can devour and destroy because he is filled with terrible anger.
Between the battle in heaven and the drama unleashed on earth, we join with the Hallelujah chorus praising God for His salvation and power. Let all heaven rejoice!
Fleming Rutledge writes:
“Throughout the Psalms, it is continually repeated: God is the One who saves, the One who is powerful to deliver. God alone can make right what is wrong. God alone can overcome death and the demons.”
[ Advent; The Once & Future Coming of Jesus Christ; William Erdmans Publishing Co. 2018; pg 162]
Psalm 147:16 “He sends the snow that is white like wool; he spreads the frost that is white like ashes.”
Both cover the rooftops and the barren ground that is asleep from its work in summer and lie dormant. Ah, the winter scene! The first snowfall is beautiful but many snowfalls later it becomes drudgery. It is cold, wet and the snow has picked up the colors of the landscape of a barren ground that is asleep as well as the roadside dirt. How like us when we first meet Jesus and our sins are covered but then the snowplows come and seek to cover our new relationship. We find ourselves slipping and sliding in our daily sins and temptations. Rather than repenting we just allow the snowplows to cover our sin with our works that never will cleanse. “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness” [1John 1:9] Confessing is agreeing with God about the dirty snowbanks sins in our lives. Forgiveness is new and refreshing like the new blankets of snow he sends our way. Cleansing is every trace of the gray and dirty snow has been removed just as the psalmist said: “he removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us” [Ps 103:12] It is as if He sends a new blanket of snow to cover over what He has forgiven.
The winter scene is a picture of our relationship with God and each newly fallen snow is a reminder that with confession comes the covering of our sin.
Revelation 10 The Mighty Angelic Being and the Mysterious Scroll
Scrolls held private messages from one to another. In chapter 5 John is found weeping but assured that the Lamb of God is worthy to open the seven-sealed scroll. With each seal broken John witnesses more and more of God’s merciful judgments being poured out. They are merciful because men have not yet seen His full wrath and the truth of Peter’s words are true: God is not willing any should perish but come to repentance.
The mystery of that scroll’s contents will be revealed but for now, John is not to share what Paul said are the “things too sacred to be put into words.”
John, Daniel, and Ezekiel were given scrolls to read and to ponder of the wonder and majesty of God as well as the impending things to come. Daniel was told to seal his up, Ezekiel was told to share what he had eaten and John is told that he was to eat. The message will be sweet as honey in his mouth but bitter in his stomach and then he is to prophesy again.
Why doesn’t God reveal the mystery? The secret things belong to the Lord our God but those that are revealed belong to us…” [Deut 29:29]For now, God has revealed all that we need to know at this point but one day God will reveal its contents. Until then we must be about the Master’s business of seeking those who need repentance.
Revelation 6 and Gal 4:4 The Sovereignty of God
Through the centuries the world has sought to find peace and so in God’s sovereign will He chose to send prophets and teachers and then His very own Son that they may know how to have what the angels proclaimed: peace on earth. Until His perfect time, He revealed his eternal power and divine nature in all of His handiwork in the sunrise, the clouds as they rush across the sky, and then at His perfect time the birth of the Christ child.
God has permitted men to have free will to choose His love or not. Think of the drama of the Christmas story as it unfolds to show us the various characters that brought the drama to life. We read of the hatred of Herod and the contrasting love of the Magi. We read of the angels singing while the shepherds cared for the sleeping sheep. Today we rehearse the prophets of old and hear their words: As for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, seemingly insignificant among the clans of Judah – from you a king will emerge who will rule over Israel on my behalf, one whose origins are in the distant past. [Mic 5:2 ]
It is only through Christ that men will have perfect peace!
Do you know Him?
Revelation 4 When Jesus walked and talked with the Apostle John and the other 11 disciples he remarked:
“I tell you the solemn truth, I am the door for the sheep.”
The other disciples have been martyred but John has been spared so that he might write in a book what he sees as commanded by the risen Christ.
And so in some miraculous way, John is transported from the craggy sterile windswept isle of Patmos to the entrance of heaven. Just as John had stood and then entered the empty tomb, he now stands before heaven’s open door. At the tomb, he entered and believed. Because he believed, Christ opens his eyes to see inside a majestic throne room. With senses heightened, John sees flashes of lightning and hears roaring and crashes of thunder. The beauty is just as the prophets had said and immediately the words of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel came rushing back to him and he exclaims:
It is just as they said!
John says I saw the sovereign master, the Ancient of Days seated on a high, elevated throne! Above the blazing throne was a form that appeared to be a man with hair as white and soft like lamb’s wool. The throne had flaming wheels and sitting on the throne was one who gleamed as jasper and carnelian. Encircling the throne was a rainbow like an emerald and around the throne were elders and creatures who worshiped. The elders had white clothes and golden crowns about their heads and there were four living creatures that never rested day or night saying:
“Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God, the All-Powerful,
Who was and who is, and who is still to come!”
One day, if you, like John, have made the decision to accept Jesus as Savior, you will see what the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and then the Apostle John saw. You too will worship day and night.
The question is, will you see it? Is Jesus your Savior?
Psalm 141:2 & Luke 1
Advent is the “in-between” season as we wait to celebrate the Christ child’s birth. Thus it was in God’s “in-between” time Zechariah was chosen by lot to offer the prayers for the saints waiting outside the Temple. Like Zechariah, we all must learn to wait on God’s perfect time. Zechariah had often prayed but it seemed like those prayers were falling on fallow ground. Would God ever hear and answer? Yet God’s answers come without an age restriction. God had a specially chosen assignment for him and his barren wife Elizabeth. As Zechariah stood ministering God was not only listening but had a message of hope for Zechariah. He would have a son; John the Baptist, to be the forerunner of Jesus.
Do you sometimes think that you are too old to do God’s work?
Perhaps Zechariah felt that way but he also saw faithful waiting was honored even in his advanced age. As was the custom, the lots were cast and Zechariah’s name emerged. He had waited a lifetime for this! In great excitement, he left the Judean hillside where he and his barren wife, Elizabeth resided and walked to Jerusalem.
Now in the courtyard near the brazen altar, Zechariah slowly and meticulously chose the censer to carry the burning coals to reignite the smoldering coals of the incense altar. He then carefully, ever so carefully with his aged palm, reached down to take two handfuls of the incense which would bring a sweet aroma heavenward. In the Holy Place Zechariah quietly stood and then began his work. “Yahweh, hear and accept my prayer.”[Ps 141:2] As the smoke from the burning incense wafted upwards he wondered; did my prayer fill God’s nostrils with a sweet aroma? God not only heard but chose to answer Zechariah. Swiftly Yahweh dispatched Gabriel to earth and to Zechariah. Go and tell Zechariah I have heard and am answering —-Yet the aged priest said to the angel: How can this be?
How often does God send His answer and we say how can this be?
Are you waiting for a prayer to be answered? How do you respond?
Revelation 3 For several weeks now I have led a wonderful group through the book of Acts in our online Bible Study. In doing so we have seen where Paul has left his footprint. Now the Apostle John, spared from martyrdom, picks up the torch and writes to those churches where Paul preached. He is writing to remind them of Paul’s message:
Christ lived, was crucified and was raised from the dead.
Christ has tasked John to write letters to each church to encourage them to overcome and be conquerors. Each church would be a lesson in itself but for today let’s peer over John’s shoulder to see his message to the church in Philadelphia.
Beloved Philadelphian believers, Jesus knows your deeds. He knows that there are some of the Asian Jealous Jews that have infiltrated your midst. Just as they fought against Paul as he preached, they are seeking to fight against you. Just as they followed Paul from place to place seeking to undermine his work, they are doing it now with you. They deny the Lord and his penalty for their sin. Yet through it all the Holy Spirit put his hedge of protection around Paul and He is now protecting you. Know this; one day these antagonists will acknowledge that Jesus has loved them.
Beloved, today as we read these words we know this truth: one day they will look on him whom they have pierced. [John 10:37]
Pray for them! Pray for revival of their hearts.
Beloved, today we need a revival! Pray for not just the jealous Jews BUT for all who have not heard or who have denied His Name. Jesus is coming soon!
Rev 2 Paul wandered through what we know today as Turkey, planting churches. As he was preparing to return to Jerusalem for the feast he prayed over the Ephesian elders on the seashore of Miletus because he knew that in the future fierce wolves would seek to turn their faith away. The Apostle John has been given witness to that very happening some years after Paul’s death. Although steadfastly persisting it was through manmade efforts not the true love of God. We too get caught up in the works of today and fail to return to our first love of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. But not all is lost. Listen to what John writes from the lips of Jesus:
“To the one who conquers, I will permit him to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.” [Rev 2:7]
He is holding you in his grasp so you may not fail. He has engraved you upon his palm. Your ‘job’ is to remain faithful and do not give up but hold on. He is walking with you just as he did with those two on the Emmaus road long ago. Do not be not slow of heart to believe, but remain steadfast. His blessing and his magnificent and precious promises are ahead. He has overcome death’s sting so you could walk victoriously today. Therefore, be ye steadfast, immovable; your labor will not be in vain.