Monday, April 25, 2016

Revelation 13:1-10

From the beginning, Satan has been the great deceiver. In Eden, he used deception to try to establish a new law and create a new race of rebels against God. At every point in history he has sought to be the great usurper and imposter of God. In place of God, the great deceiver has been constantly seeking to establish himself as the sovereign ruler over mankind. He is not Sovereign, and he is not ever going to be. His destruction is declared throughout scripture, and as we have studied Revelation, especially in chapter 12, we have seen clearly the foiling of all Satanic enterprises.
Now, in Revelation 13, Satan seeks to continue his great deception. From the depths of the earth, a new creature arises. Satan, the dragon, has commissioned this creature to come forth and deceive the inhabitants of the earth. In describing this creature, the imagery is strikingly similar to the details that we know of Christ. It is as though Satan has attempted to create another Christ. Just like Paul warned of “another gospel that is not gospel,” Satan presents another Christ that is not Christ. Just as Christ had been slain and rose from the dead, this imposter had been injured but was now healed. The deception was flagrant, but many would still be willingly deceived by this faux-Messiah.
As Satan, the dragon, unleashed his misleading beast on mankind, he issued claims that mirrored the claims of the resurrected and omnipotent Christ. “Who is like the beast? Who can war against him?” The arrogant confidence was meant to mislead mankind into imagining they had finally found the all-powerful one that their souls longed for. Furthermore, as Scripture tells us in Ephesians 1:13 that all believers and children of God have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, the beast seals all of his own with a mark, signifying his seal on them.
This satanic scheme of deception is dark and wicked. Following the agonies of the previous months, many turn to this false savior in the hope that he will alleviate their suffering. Instead of repenting, they seek shelter in a lie. The final call of this text is to endure faithfully in the face of dangerous blasphemy and agonizing apostasy. John writes to the readers of this vision, “Endure and have faith.” Do not let the darkness of your souls in the face of such a powerful imposter deceive you. Stand firm in the faith. Know Whom you have believed in. Do not lose sight of the “Lamb who was slain” for you. He has not neglected or forgotten you. Endure to the end.

Reflect: Read through Revelation 13:1-10. List some of the deceptive comparisons that Satan seeks to accomplish through the beast that is revealed in this passage?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Revelation 12:13-17

When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee in to the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. – Matthew 24:15-18

For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. – Deuteronomy 32:9-12

Having seen the fall of Satan and his fiery attempts to destroy and devastate the life and health of the chosen people of God, John continued to watch his vision unfold. The dragon, Satan, was defeated and banished from heaven. However, in diabolical rage he unleashed his most vicious attacks on the offspring of the woman, Israel. Chronologically speaking, it is best to understand verses 13-17 as occurring during the time of Great Tribulation. It has already been clear throughout the vision of John that during this period Satan will unleash his most ardent assaults on the chosen people of God.
Now, as the draconic terrors increased, the woman fled into the wilderness. In fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus on the Mount of Olives, the day will come when the persecution of Israel will be so unbearable that they will flee into the wilderness to hide from it. In this moment of Satan’s cruelest endeavors, God showed John that protection was given to God’s people. In a supernatural turn of events wings of protection were given to her. This does not mean that the people of God will grow actual wings, rather, the language seems strongly figurative, and speaks of God’s intervening power in the face of Satan’s greatest destructive schemes. Just like God carried Israel out of the clutches of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, God will sweep away His people in the time of their distress and will protect and care for them like a mother bird cares for her offspring.
Having his attack plan miraculously thwarted by God, Satan continues his storm with a new torrent of evil. With flood-like resources, he poured out his next onslaught against Israel. But despite his greatest efforts, God still protected His own. Nothing that Satan issued against God’s chosen people could ever harm them. Satan, in his most vehement attack, was no match for the magnitude and awesomeness of an omnipotent God. Satan’s greatest attempts are always checked by the power of Providence. Ultimately, even if the power of Satan seems impressive and nearly overwhelming, we have already learned what the outcome of all of his efforts will be. In the chapter prior to this, John had given the prophetic glimpse of the finality of all things – Jesus will reign forever as King and Lord over all things. Satan was doomed from the outset, no effort of his will ever undermine the Divine power and purpose of a Sovereign Lord.

Reflect: How do Matthew 24:15-18 and Deuteronomy 32:9-12 reflect the truths of God that we see plainly in Revelation 12?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Revelation 12:6-12

As John’s vision of the great war between Satan and the angels of God continued, he described the characters in the vision that he was seeing. The first was a woman who represented Israel and who was going to give birth to a child. The second character in the vision was a great dragon who represented Satan and who was waiting to devour and destroy the promised child. The third character was introduced as a man child who represented Jesus and who was born in fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies. As the child was born, God protected Him and He was taken to His throne in heaven with God.
Now, John’s vision continued with the aftermath of the success of the birth and glorification of Jesus. Warfare took place between the angels of God, led by Michael the archangel, and the dragon and his angels. Eventually, the forces of the dragon, Satan, were defeated and were cast from heaven down to the earth. Now, Satan was no longer given access to accuse the saints before God. Instead, he was banished to the earth to grovel amongst mankind. The blindness of the pride of Satan, however, is that he never gives up. Having been plainly defeated by God, he still scraps and scrapes to overthrow and upturn whatever he can. Now that he is exiled to the earth, instead of surrendering to the awesome and indomitable power of God, he lashes out at the people of God and seeks to inflict agony on those who are the followers of God.
But yet again, Satan is not the victor. In verse 11, John tells us that those whom Satan attacked eventually overcame and conquered him by “the blood of the Lamb.” It was not that they were strong enough and warred with the dragon. It is not that they had the self-will to overcome. It was not that they outsmarted, or outwitted him. He is powerful, and deceptive, and cruel. There is no way that these followers of God could overcome such a being with the strength of their own might. Instead, “God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem them.” – Galatians 4:4
Now the people of God rejoiced at the deliverance offered to them through the conquering blood of Jesus. He had overcome Satan and defeated Him. There was no battle that the saints would win in their own power. All victories would come through the help and strength of the one who had once for all defeated Satan through the sacrifice of His own blood. Jesus offered/offers help to all those who come to him. Satan does not get to be the victor in the future, and he certainly doesn’t get to be the victor in the present. Falling on Jesus and trusting in His atoning work and saving power is the only hope we have at victory of temptation and the wiles of Satan.

Reflect: Read Job 1:6-12. How does this connect to Revelation 12:10?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Revelation 12:1-5

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. - Isaiah 7:14

I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in in him. Psalm 2:7-12

After seeing the end of all nations, and the exaltation of Christ’s throne over all things, John continues describing his vision by travelling back in time and giving the over-arching picture of what has taken place and what will take place on earth. Like any great story it is important to understand the back-story and history before you can fully understand what is happening. John’s vision is just the same. In his vision, he goes all the way back to before the creation of mankind and tells the story of the desperate war that Satan has waged against God throughout the ages. In the story, Satan is pictured as a great dragon that drew a third of the heavenly bodies with him when he was cast to earth.
The imagery used in these verses describes the actions of Satan as he lay in wait to undermine the promised Savior from God. In these verses Israel is described as a woman clothed with the sun, moon, and twelve stars. This seems to be very similar to the language used by Joseph in Genesis 37 in his prophetic dream of his family (his father, mother, and his brothers who were eventually the twelve tribes of Israel). Now, the dragon prowls waiting to devour and destroy the promised child that was to be born out of Israel.
In verse 5, when the child is born, John uses some very specific language to describe who this child is. First, he is a man child. This doesn’t seem like much, but this detail eliminates perhaps more than half of the descendants of Abraham. The second detail is that he comes as one who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. This detail comes from the prophetic language of Psalm 2. Perhaps it would narrow the scope to those who were in the monarchial lineage of David. However, with the final detail there is no room for confusion when John clarifies by saying that he “was caught up unto God, and to his throne.” There is only one who is seated on the right hand of the Father, Jesus.
The great dragon labored vehemently in his desperation to destroy Jesus. In the ministry years of Jesus, we saw this taking place most boldly when Jesus overcame the overt temptations of Satan. The dragon had tried to undermine the work of this promised Savior, but it was to no avail. Jesus is stronger than Satan. There is no overcoming Jesus, one is only overcome by Him.

Reflect: Read Luke 10:18. How does this verse fit with today’s text?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Revelation 11:13-19

But the Lord shall endure forever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment. And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness. The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings. When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble. – Psalm 9:7-12

Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. – 1 Corinthians 15:24-28

After a brief interlude describing the two witnesses that would come in the end times, John’s vision of the trumpet judgments continued. Instead of telling what the judgment looked like for the inhabitants of the earth, John explained what effect the trumpet judgment had in heaven. Prior to this, the majority of trumpet judgments were described simply by their effects on the earth, but because this was the last of the seven, John explained what he saw taking place in heaven as a result of the seventh trumpet.
Through the execution of this final judgment, all the dominions and kingdoms of the world would be finally declared “the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.” The prophetic glimpses of the Old and New Testament find their fulfillment in this one moment. Every nation that has existed in rebellion is finally subdued under the authority of Jesus Christ. It was not that they were not His possession, rather, the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Rather, these kingdoms were in rebellion and considered themselves to be independent of his power. However, in this definitive moment they are brought under the indisputable power of the Almighty God.
The earth raged, but God’s justice and power was inimitable. He alone had the authority to reign and now he was executing that judgement over heaven and earth. Nothing could stand in His way, the final justice would be executed, and all the forces of rebellion would be turned in total submission to Him.
Now, we must understand that although we see finality of all kingdoms in this chapter, this is not the end of the Revelation narrative. Rather, we have merely reached the halfway point of the book. In this moment, we get a glimpse of the end that is coming. These few verses describe what happens in heaven, but the next several chapters will tell how the final trumpet resulted in unbearable judgment and agony on the earth. Perhaps this contrast might help us see the turning of events from the perspective of a Sovereign God. While the earth peals apart at the seams and rebellious creatures writhe in agony, God is plainly declared king over all. And as God sits on His throne, the heavens shake with the magnitude of His awesomeness. There is something truly fearful and awesome about the greatness of God.

Reflect: Read Psalm 104. Write out some observations of God’s greatness that you see in this psalm.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Revelation 11:1-12

Toward the end of the seven trumpet judgments there is a brief pause in the unleashing of justice on the unrepentant inhabitants of the earth. This pause lasts through chapters 10 and 11. In chapter 10, a great angel stood on the land and on the sea and eventually fed a scroll to the apostle John. Moving into chapter 11, John was then told to use a reed to measure the temple of God. Many have speculated that the temple here might represent the church with an outer court of those who profess to be Christians but are not truly obedient to the truths of Scripture. Others have said that it is an actual temple rebuilt and refashioned in the end times at the heart of Jerusalem. The literal understanding seems to leave us assuming this may refer to an actual rebuilt temple.
Whether this is an actual temple or a spiritual reference to the church, the same principle of prophetic hope still applies. For those who would receive this letter and were facing apostasy from within the church and persecution from without, the glimmers of a future rebuilt temple or even an acknowledgement of the church in a future era should have served as a reassurance that although things were at times troubling, God was still in control and eventually He would carry out His plans on earth. With such heavy demonic themes and the unleashing of the forces of terror, getting a glimpse of the temple must have served as a welcomed respite in the midst of a troubling vision.
As the vision continued, John heard a voice declare, “and I will give unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy.” Here in the last days while the seventh seal was being released, and between the sixth and seventh trumpet, God in His grace sent two messengers to preach for three years. With unrepentance at an all-time high, God dispatched two preachers to declare the truth and challenge the wayward lifestyle of the disobedient. Many have speculated that these two witnesses are Old Testament figures like Enoch and Elijah, but that detail is pure speculation and is not revealed in Scripture. What is revealed through the presence of these two witnesses is that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Eventually, in his vision, John saw that after three years, a great beast emerged from the bottomless abyss and killed both of the witnesses, leaving their dead carcasses lying in the street for all the world to see. After their death, those who had refused to repent of their sin in the face of dreadful tribulation horrors then began to rejoice at the murder of these two witnesses. No longer would their convicting words and testimony shame and pain the conscience of mankind, instead, the world would revel in their death and the silence of their message. However, John saw that the celebration over the killing of God’s witnesses was cut short when God resurrected them three days later in the face of the whole world. Finally, the supernatural power of God was demonstrated miraculously in plain view of all who scorned and mocked the witnesses as God caused them to ascend up to heaven to be with Him.
God does not abandon His own. He always wins. He is merciful and gracious in His offer of reconciliation to His enemies, but when that offer of peace is neglected, His sure and swift justice is unleashed. This text should demonstrate above anything else that God is gracious, long-suffering, and just. It should engender faith and hope in believers knowing that God is always in control.

Reflect: How does the reaction of the world at the death of the two witnesses mirror the teaching of Jesus in John 15:18-19?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Revelation 10:1-11

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. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. –Revelation 5:1-5
As John described the dramatic scene of the opening of the book, he described how that the book in the hand of God was originally sealed closed and no one could open it. Finally, Jesus showed up, took the book from God’s hand and began to open it. As each of the seven seals was unfastened, a different judgment was issued forth from heaven on the inhabitants of the earth. In the final seal, seven trumpets began to sound one at a time issuing seven more distinct judgments.
When we arrive at Revelation 10, we are between the sixth and the seventh trumpet. In the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments, God released a demonic force of millions to wreak havoc on the population of the earth. Now, while the world writhes in calamity, John sees another vision. It is almost as though he is taking a brief interlude between the horrors of the sixth trumpet and the terrors of the seventh.
In John’s vision, a bright and beautiful angel comes down from heaven and stands on the earth. Some commentators speculate that this figure could be Jesus, but I don’t really see John making that point. Rather, this mighty figure comes to the earth as an angel, a messenger, to declare the end of all God’s judgment. It is not over yet, but he declares that the end will be coming soon. The last judgments are being readied and will shortly be poured out on those who writhe in unrepentance.
There are two interesting details worth noting. First, as John beheld this angel coming down and establishing his message, there was the sound of seven thunders that came from the sky. As John began to write what he heard from those seven thunders, a voice stopped him and made him keep from writing. What in the world could John have heard? The entire book of Revelation is filled with awe-inspiring details, what details could possibly be kept back from being written? Was it something that was too terrible? Was it something that would be too confusing? No matter what it was, God chose to not reveal it yet, but on that day, the revelation will be made plain.
The second detail worth noting is the book. In Revelation 5, there was a book that was sealed closed and no one could open it until Jesus showed up. After Jesus took the scroll from God, he began to open one seal after another. Now, in Revelation 10, there is an “open” book that is brought to John. It seems by the word choice that is used to describe the book that John is given, that this is the same book that we saw a few chapters earlier. Now, John was told to take the book and eat it. This is very similar to what Ezekiel was told to do in Ezekiel 3. John, like Ezekiel, takes the word of God in and finds it pleasing at first. However, after the reality of God’s impending judgment sets in, John’s stomach was turned. The task of declaring the upcoming judgment of the seventh trumpet would not be a pleasant thing.

Reflect: What specific words used in regards to the Revelation 10 book would make us think it was the same book as the one in Revelation 5?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Revelation 9:12-21

Trumpet after trumpet sounded the judgment and wrath of God. With the fifth trumpet John saw in his vision the fury of demonic power released from the bottomless pit. For five straight months death was taken away from the earth, and in its place came the torment of the ages. Devils unleashed the most savage tortures upon mankind, and all the nations writhed in distress at the stings of demonic devices.
As the fifth month ended, it seemed as though a respite had finally come. The devils had been given a limit to their persecution. They could only harm and torment mankind for five months, but after that, their terrors must abate. However, when the fifth month ended, there was no rejoicing. As John’s vision continued, there was a new unleashing of horror. With the sixth trumpet, a second wave of demonic terrors began. From the Euphrates River were released four demonic beings who led 200 million satanic beings in an onslaught against mankind.
With faces like lions, and mouths of destruction, these beings roared across the planet leaving unbridled carnage in their wake. For five months men had been tormented, but they had not been killed. Now, the demonic forces were given power over the lives of those who were still living on earth. None could escape, all were in danger of the devastating and deadly fire of these demons. God’s judgment was being unleashed in the most terrifying manner on all of mankind. Eventually, a third of the earth was killed.
What was the response of the people on earth in the face of such dire circumstances? John tells us in verse 20, that those who were not killed by this terrible annihilation turned further away from God. Instead of repenting of their sin and acknowledging the grace of God in sparing their lives, those who survived this onslaught continued in sin and debauchery. Seeing the terrors of God unleashed frightened them for a season, but their sin was too enticing and they returned back to idolatry, sexual sin, and immorality.
The terrors of the Almighty had left them unchanged. They were not fazed by destruction. Instead, they gathered to themselves more sin, and rejected the gospel message that they had heard. They did not want God’s salvation, they wanted to have one more moment of pleasure while they still could. They refused to believe that what God offered was better than what they could fulfill with their own sinful desires. But this should not be surprising, rather, this is simply the nature of fallen man since the Garden. The sinful heart always beholds the truth of God with a skeptical eye.
What John saw in his vision is not isolated to the future day of God’s wrath. Many do this today. Hearing of the impending destruction of God on them, many turn in mockery and scorn. At times, we imagine that when God shows His power, they will believe on Him. This text teaches us a much greater truth. In the depravity of the human heart, mankind is not convinced of the truth of God by merely being tormented. Only the Holy Spirit can accomplish the transformation necessary in a man for him to become a repentant believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without the Holy Spirit doing His incredible work of regeneration and conversion in these last inhabitants of the earth, they merely become blasphemers and further disbelieve their need for repentance. It takes the supernatural work of the Spirit to transform men, not simply Divine terror.

Reflect: Reread v.15. What does the phrase, “which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year,” tell us about the Sovereignty of God?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

In the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

“Mom said that she doesn’t think that dad will make it…” were the words that I heard before my brother broke down crying on the other end of the line. It has been nearly 14 years since the shadow of death loomed so heavy over our family. As I collapsed up against the cold block wall of my office, the raging river of questions flooded my mind with sorrow and despair, and the threatening tide of doubt crashed against my confidence in the goodness and wisdom of God. Is this how it goes? Will I ever hear his voice again? What about all the conversations I want him to have with my sons? I just want to be with mom right now…, the surge of pain flooded over my faith and left me neck deep in uncertainty. How powerful, and how dangerous is news. In an instant, I was crippled. My mind was clouded, my body was shaking. What was I to do?
The thought of, I’m not ready for this, slowly squeezed its way into my mind.
The feeling I had reminds me of a video I once saw of astronauts in training. In the video, NASA placed these aspiring astronauts into human gyroscopes. Perhaps you have seen one of these before, where a rider is strapped into a seat that is suspended in the center of several metal circles. Once started, the metal bands rotate sporadically causing the seat to be sent out of control, spinning and flipping in every direction. It is the task of the astronaut while facing such exhausting mental disorientation to focus and regain control of his own body and the movements of the gyroscope. In this moment of sheer panic, he must find his bearings and regain composure.
Sitting in my office, I was strapped to my own sort of gyroscope. The mental, emotional, and spiritual bands of this situation left me spinning and flipping out of control. I needed to find my bearings and regain composure, but every spiritual surety that my mind could see was being quickly hurled out of grasp by incessant waves of confused emotion. John Owen spoke well when he said “the heart is made up of so many contradictions.” It was like I was plunging down the face of a steep cliff towards a bottomless pit. The fingertips of my mind would barely grasp the ledge of some spiritual truth and would briefly stall my descent, but almost immediately the feeble grip would be torn by the convulsing of my emotions and again I would plunge further into the chasm of fear.
Before I hung up the phone with Matt, my mind caught a glimpse of the truth, God is not surprised. We are surprised. News is a powerful and dangerous force over us, but an all-knowing and all-powerful God is never caught off guard by anything. As one hand grasped the ledge of God’s power, the other clutched securely onto the ledge of God’s goodness. With my body trembling under the strain of my emotions, I finally surrendered my heart to the good and wise Providence of God.

“God, my flesh and my heart fail, but you are my rock!”

I breathed the Psalmist’s words in prayer through the phone, and the Spirit of God did His great work of preaching the truth to my mind. God is good. God is wise. God’s ways are perfect. Gladly will I glory in my infirmities and my heartaches and the convulsions of my soul, because they are not meaningless. The God who has filled the waves of the sea with purpose, has filled the waves of the soul with so much more. My physical body and my emotions fail, but He is the rock that I can fall upon. When I flail and crumble with emotion, it is to Him that I can turn. Like a little lamb, comforted by the rod and staff, I can look tragedy in the face and say, “You are simply an obedient servant of my Father. Your reach will never go beyond His desire, and your power will only extend to His design.” I can rest in His wise, loving, good, and perfect but not-yet understood Providence. The waves will crash around this Rock, but He will not be moved.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Revelation 9:1-11

The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. – Jude v. 6
As a three-fold “Woe” was unleashed through the last three of the seven trumpets, terror flowed out of an abyss and poured across the earth. In John’s vision, it began when a fallen star was given permission to open the abyss and retrieve the beings and demons that had been trapped there. The one who came to unlock the abyss is described in ways that match the language used by both Isaiah and Jesus.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. - Isaiah 14:12-15

And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. - Luke 10:18

Here this fallen star or angel appears to be Satan, and he is given permission to unlock the abyss and release those demons that have been imprisoned there. Although scripture is not explicit on when or how these specific demons were locked away in the pit, we do see some indications that certain demons were in fear of being locked away during the ministry of Jesus.

And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. – Luke 8:30-31

Here the demons being cast out begged Jesus to not send them into “the deep.” The words “the deep” clearly don’t mean the sea, because after Jesus cast the demons out of the man, they went into some pigs and ran into the ocean. Here, Jesus clearly had the power and the option to banish these demons to this locked-up pit that we see in Revelation 9, and in this instance He didn’t. This abyss, or pit, must have been filled with the worst of the worst of the followers of Satan. Now, in the last days, permission was given to unlock the pit and release its inhabitants to attack the inhabitants of the earth.
As these vile beings poured out of the abyss, they unleashed an unbelievable terror on mankind. Miraculously, for five months, no human being was able to die. This would be a spectacularly wonderful thing for all those involved if it weren’t part of the God-ordained punishment of their unbelief and rebellion. However, their miraculously extended lives were filled with hellish agonies. As the demons flooded out like swarming locusts, they were given the ability to sting those who had somehow survived the torments of the Tribulation up to this point.
The astonishing preservation was blended with excruciating pain. 
Why would God do this? Why wouldn’t he just sweep with a coup degras and wipe out all of these people? Why allow them to continue to suffer? The key reason that we can find in the context is that there were those around them that were unscathed by these demon attacks that were declaring the gospel to them. This was God being longsuffering. The most gracious thing that He could do was to bring them to despair. Instead of striking them dead and replacing their temporal pain with eternal punishment, He extended temporal pain that they might turn in desperation to Him and be spared from everlasting pain. For five months the terrors of the fifth trumpet deluge rolled across the earth in darkness and agony so that those who had not turned would be given yet another chance to repent and believe.

Reflect: From Luke 8 and Revelation 9, who do we see as unquestionably in power over Satan and his demons?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Revelation 8:10-13

As the final seal of the scroll was opened, seven angels began blowing trumpets to signal the next wave of God’s judgment on the earth. With the first two trumpets came blood, fire, hail, and the devastation of the waterways of the earth as the water was turned to blood. In John’s horrifying vision, the earth’s shipping and food supplies were devastated by the terrible unleashing of God’s judgment. Now, the third angel sounded his trumpet and a meteoric catastrophe was released.
With some symbolism, John describes how that a great star plummeted to the earth. Perhaps our modern scientific terminology prevents us from calling this star an actual star, since, all the stars of the universe are typically larger than our own sun. And since the sun is approximately 1.3 million times the size of the earth, it would be impossible for our sun (or any other star) to plummet to the earth’s surface (if anything, the earth would sizzle on the sun’s surface like a little water droplet on the stove). We would have to understand that John’s use of the word star is less scientific and more descriptive. Here a heavenly body that glows and burns as it cuts through earth’s atmosphere (perhaps a meteor or asteroid) falls from the sky and devastates the earth’s water supplies in the process.
The word used to describe the calamity it causes on the water supply is “Wormwood.” This is a term that has been used in various forms to describe poisonous and toxic substances. In essence, John is saying that a third of the earth’s water supply will be polluted and unpotable. In verse 11, those who drank from the poisoned and bitter waters will die as a result. The catastrophic effects of this giant meteor would no doubt leave people wondering if their next sip of life-sustaining water would be their last. What an incredibly frightful time, where you can’t even trust a drink of water!
While the inhabitants of the planet writhed under the judgment of God, the fourth angel began to call with his trumpet, and the unthinkable terror continued. The sun, and the moon, and the stars were all thrown into an astrophysical chaos. John describes it as a darkness that swallowed up a third of each. Whether the inner gravitational workings of the universe began to unbind or collapse, or some other inexplicable calamity was occurring, the reality is that the heavens above would never be the same once this trumpeter finished his disastrous call.
It is an interesting point that the first four devastation-trumpeting angels take up only six verses, and the remaining three trumpeters will require the next three chapters. Arriving at the end of chapter 8, John explained that he saw an angel soaring through heaven proclaiming a triple “Woe” on the earth for the remaining three trumpet calls. In the words of this angel, the devastation of the earth’s food supplies, water supplies, shipping, and the undoing of the heavenly bodies was just the beginning. The remaining three trumpets would bring much more horror and terror than the first four.
God’s justice is sure. There is no wrong deed that will be left unjudged. In His justice, God will undo all the wrong of all the ages. He will cleanse the earth of its sinfulness and the marks of the fall. As we see the terrible and fearful works of the Almighty God, we must not lose sight that His ways are perfect, and His judgments are pure and right. His cleansing work is not just random and cruel. It is executed with the clearest wisdom and purpose to achieve an eternal goal known most perfectly to Him. We must look on in fright and respect as we read the terrors of the just hand of the Almighty.

Reflect: If God has the power to undo the heavens and cause catastrophic astrophysical events, what does that tell us He is using that same power to do right now while we do not see these catastrophes?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Revelation 8:1-9

In Revelation 4, Jesus appeared before the throne of God and received from God the title deed to the earth in a scroll form. This scroll was bound with seven seals, and as Jesus unfastened each of the seals, a different judgment rolled down from heaven and worked to purge Creation of the rebellion of mankind and the dominion of Satan. The first four seals each unleashed one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the fifth and sixth seals unleashed the wrath of God like nothing before seen.
When we arrive at Revelation 8, we find the Lamb (Jesus) opening the last of the seven seals. In opening this seal, there will be seven angels who will blow seven trumpets. By the time the seventh trumpet is blown, in chapter 16, there will be seven bowls of God’s wrath poured out on the earth. Even though the previous six seals were absolutely horrifying in their magnitude, this seventh seal will bring unimaginable devastation on the planet.

The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him. – Habakkuk 2:20

As Jesus opens the final seal to the scroll, affirming His authority and entitlement as Ruler and Sovereign of all of Creation, John sees the roaring praise chorus of heaven lull into a quiet hush. No more are the 24 elders singing praises. The angelic beings that fill the corridors of heaven have all been silence. The innumerable mass of saints that have been cheering in worship all stand still and quiet. All of heaven goes eerily silent for about half an hour. Why? Perhaps as the final seal is seen and understood, there is a gravity over what is about to occur. Through this final seal the long-suffering God will finally pour out His justice and wrath on the earth. Every being in heaven holds his tongue and awaits the judgment of God.
The silence is broken when an angel approaches. Here John tells us that there is a heavenly altar where the angel offered incense along with the prayers of the saints. The fragrance of the incense rose with the prayers in the presence of God. Finally, the angel cast his incense-filled censer at the earth. Much of the sights that John saw here in heaven mirror the Old Testament Tabernacle with its altar of incense and a censer. In the tabernacle, the priest would fill the censer with incense and fire from the altar and then would walk through the people to sanctify and ceremoniously cleanse them. Now, the angel filled up his heavenly censer with the prayers of the saints and the fire of God. The earth was to be cleansed and purified by the wrath of God and the prayers of the saints.
When the fire-filled censer crashed into the earth, the earth shook with thunder and an earthquake, and the sky crackled with lightning. Following this dramatic show by this angel, seven other angels prepared to blow seven trumpets that they had with them. Much like the seven seals, each of these trumpets would carry with it a certain purifying and powerful event.

And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. – Joel 2:30

When the first trumpet sounded, hail and fire mingled with blood rained down from heaven. The trumpet judgments would have some striking similarities to the plagues that God had poured out on Egypt. Like the hail and fire that came from heaven in Egypt, this first trumpet catastrophe would bring with it the devastation of crops and livestock as farms around the world would be crushed and burned with falling hail and fire. Famine had begun earlier, but now, the wrath of God was falling on the crops and was absolutely devastating the earth’s greenery and food supply.

Reflect: Read Joel 2. What similarities do you see with that prophecy and what is happening here in Revelation?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Revelation 7:9-17

Have you ever done a research paper? I remember some of my first attempts at doing research papers in school. I was always the worst at it. There were deadlines for notecards and outlines and first drafts and revised drafts. I never could seem to get into a rhythm of getting things done on time or of getting things done with any measure of excitement. Every time that a teacher would announce “we are going to start a research paper” a small part of me would die at the prospect of the step by step laboring and the series of new deadlines that would arrive in my life. At the beginning of the school year the end of the research paper always seemed so far away and almost impossible. It was hard to imagine that through a few trips to the library, and weeks of work that eventually a fully completed research paper would emerge. (Sidenote: If you ask my teachers they will confirm my abysmal performance at these projects.)
I wonder what it was like for the first century church as they began plugging away at gospel living and gospel declaration. The gospel was spreading, but so was heresy. New churches were being started, but persecution was swallowing one congregation after another. Would the church ever be able to grow? Pentecost had proven to be an anomaly with thousands converted, and that must have been exciting for the Apostles, but would all of those who were added to the church that day remain in the church?
With this in mind as we come to John’s vision in Revelation 7, I can only imagine the joy and excitement that John felt as he beheld the spectacle of a countless host of believers. There was no such thing as a countless host of believers in the first century church. Now, on the precipice of eternity, John gazed on a throng that was so immense and so diverse that he had no way of tabulating its number. The message that he labored to teach in Asia Minor to churches that were now under threat of being cast away, that message would prevail. There would be millions more to come who would hear it and believe it. The gospel would not die at the end of the first century with heresy and persecution. No, the gospel would prevail and would spread and eventually in Revelation 4 and Revelation 7 believers from every nation, kindred, and tongue would join together in worship around the throne of God.

“Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.” – Revelation 7:12
The praise of those who had seen the mighty work of God was incredibly broad, yet it somehow understated the full reality of who God is. With the inability to fully fathom His immensity and splendor, in the inexpressible and ineffable awesomeness of His character, and because of the incomprehensibility of His manifold greatnesses, this group of saints roared with the profoundly simple praises that they could muster. The dread of persecution was gone, and God was now their provision, warmth and joy.
For John, a leader of the first century church, this glimpse of the future hosts of heaven worshipping God from all over the world must have left him with a renewed vigor to spread the gospel as far as he could. Similarly, as other saints have read John’s vision of a multi-cultural, ethnically diverse, God-glorifying multitude, they have counted their temporal life as nothing and have plunged into cross-cultural evangelism and missions work knowing that God planned to redeem some from all over the world. May we be encouraged to join the ranks of those who have gone before us and have gotten excited about the glimpses of these great masses. For John the research project was just beginning, but how exciting it was to realize that the massive work God would be accomplished through the gospel.

Reflect: What would John perhaps feel as he beheld the hosts of converted saints in heaven? What could that motivate him to do? What should this motivate us to do?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Revelation 7:1-8

As the earth roared with the sound of the great Flood, Noah and his family huddled inside the ark. God’s plan of salvation for this chosen group was executed perfectly. While the wrath and justice of God washed the entire planet clean, Noah and his family were preserved by the Sovereign power of God. When the night air filled with wails of Egyptian parents, the Israelite parents huddled inside their homes holding on to their own firstborn children thanking God for the salvation He had given them through the bloody doorposts. Here God had preserved those whom he desired, and spoiled the rest with His wrath.
Throughout scripture, in the face of some of the greatest tragedies, we see the preserving hand of God protecting His own. 
While floods of wrath and waves of death sweep around His people, they rest secure in His Sovereign protection, guarded by His faithful promises and limitless power. 
It should come as no surprise that amidst the unbelievable onslaught of the wrath of God, and the terrible annihilation of the earth through the opening of the six seals in Revelation 6, that God preserves a number of His own by super-natural protection.
While persecution claims the lives of some believers, there are many who are protected and safe-guarded from the frightening terror of God. In Revelation 7, John sees a crowd of people called the “servants of God” who are ethnically Jewish. These are people who most likely were converted as a result of the shocking events that transpired in Revelation 6. Having seen the fulfillment of Scripture (both Old Testament and New Testament prophecy) this group of people repented of their sins and turned in faith to Christ. Now, these converts from this great Tribulation period are marked by God as His own.
It seems that much like Noah and his family, and the Israelites in Egypt were preserved, this group of converted Jews endures and survives the carrying out of the end times. Instead of succumbing to the awful tragedies of war and famine and disease, this group remains faithful to God and is spared the devastation of His wrath. We must be clear though that this does not mean that they may not die during this period. Clearly in Revelation 6:10-11, there are some who perish through persecution carried out by wicked people, and perhaps even some might become victims of the cataclysmic splitting of the universe and the down-pouring of meteors and asteroids. But, for these who perish, unlike the non-believers they are not enduring the wrath of God. Rather, they are being brought immediately into the presence of God to worship, praise and enjoy Him.
By comparison, those who reject God and try to run from Him will receive the wrath of God that extends beyond the horrifying deaths that they will face in this time of sorrows. Their exit from the earth in death will be simply the “first death” that they will experience. As objects of God’s wrath, these will not enjoy the presence of God, rather, it will be the most devastating experience these beings could ever endure.
Here, however, we find a group of 144,000 that God spares from both physical death and from His wrath. Represented in this group are 12,000 from each of the tribes of Israel. Here God in his perfect Sovereignty elected the precise number that He saw fit. 
Just as He always has, He secures safety for those Whom He wills, and it is no different for this special group of Jewish believers.

Reflect: Can you think of any other instances in Scripture where God lovingly preserved a group of His own people from death or destruction?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Revelation 6:9-17

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. – Matthew 24:3-9
As John’s vision of the end times continues, the details that unfold before his eyes maintain a striking similarity to the message that Jesus had spoken on the Mount of Olives. In Revelation 5, Jesus had taken the scroll from God’s hand and began opening it one seal at a time. As He broke open each seal, a new level of devastation and pestilence was unleashed on the sin-filled world. False peace was followed by devastating war. Famine and disease riddled the planet and brought humanity to its knees. Now, John watched as Jesus opened the fifth seal on the scroll.
Instead of a cataclysmic event occurring on the earth, John saw a number of martyrs petitioning God to do justly and exact revenge on the wrong doers. These martyrs had been slain for declaring the gospel and preaching the truth, and now they were asking God to dispense vengeance on those who had killed them. Here, we see souls asking God to unleash the fury of the fierceness of His wrath.

For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. –Hebrews 10:30-31
For a moment the wrath of God is withheld, but as John looks back at Jesus, he sees Him opening the sixth seal. Instantly, the cosmos was rattled with a tremor that stretched beyond the earth and across the heavens. The Sun went black, the moon went blood red, and heavenly bodies began plummeting to the earth. The heavens were ripped in two and every inch of the earth writhed with the upheaval of God’s retribution. There was no place safe, the “day of the Lord” that had been prophesied for ages was now at hand, and God was exacting His unbridled vengeance on a rebellious and insolent human race.
John finished his explanation of the devastation of the sixth seal by describing the response of those unrepentant who were doomed to live through this apocalyptic nightmare. Their insolence became utter despair as they hid themselves and begged the mountains and rocks to fall on them so they might by chance escape the wrath of God. Every rank and every income level finally found themselves with one common experience – absolute torment at the hands of a vengeful and just God.
What a horrifying series of events. What a truly dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The one thing that I am reminded of as I read John’s account is that God’s vengeance is not executed on His own people. For those who come in faith to Jesus, the wrath of God is not a threat. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. We can rejoice, but we also should become clarions of the impending destruction of all who are unrepentant and that continue in their sin. The judgement day of God is coming, and all who do not believe will face the unstoppable wrath of God.

Reflect: Read Ezekiel 30:3, Joel 2:1, Joel 3:14, Obadiah 15, Zephaniah 1:7, and Zechariah 14:1. What do you find about the “Day of the Lord” from these prophecies?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Revelation 6:1-8

After Jesus took the scroll from the hand of God, all of heaven burst into worship and praise. Jesus had been the only one worthy of receiving honor and praise in the presence of God. Now, standing there in heaven with the scroll in hand, Jesus began opening the seven seals that bound the scroll. Historically, the opening of the seals would represent the claiming of the contents of the scroll. From Revelation 6-19, Jesus opens the seven seals and reclaims His rightful position as Sovereign of the universe.

The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. - Psalm 110:1

This prophecy of David was one that Jesus quoted to the Saduccees in Luke 20, and expressed how that it was speaking of Him. Now, in the book of Revelation, as Jesus opens the scroll and breaks the seal, we see the overwhelming power and terrible vengeance of God executed on all the inhabitants of the earth as Christ claims ownership of all of Creation. Knowing that the type of literature we are reading is prophetic, we can understand also that John is possibly using quite a bit of symbolism. Whether or not the exact object that he saw was the exact object that he used to represent is not as important as the message that he is seeking to transmit.
As Jesus Christ opened the first seal, a powerful force emerges that John refers to as “a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow.” After Christ opens the second seal, another comes, and thus occurs a similar occurrence with the breaking open of each of the first four seals. The horsemen of the apocalypse have long intrigued the secular mind. Pop culture plays up these horsemen and many artists have sought to render paintings and drawings of these colorful end-times harbingers. The interpretation of what each of these represents is a matter of centuries of dispute with the church fathers even failing to come to a consensus on the exact interpretation of the vision of John. What I will seek to do now is to explain what seems to be a fair interpretation of the events that we find here in the text.
The first horseman comes on a white horse with a crown of victory and a bow, and he comes in conquest. It is interesting that he is not using his bow to conquer, but that instead he merely carries it with him. We perhaps can see this first figure coming with much power, but no need to exercise that power. This figure would then be seen to sweep the world with bloodless conquest, establishing peace through strength and unity. He is said to ride on a white horse much like the one we find Christ riding in Revelation 19. Here an imposter of Christ has come to delude the world into thinking that peace has arrived, but momentarily that peace will be done away with. Seeing this powerful force of deception, conquest, and peace, I would imagine we could understand him to represent the rise of the Antichrist and his feigned offer of peace that we find in 1 Thessalonians 5 and Matthew 24.
The second horseman comes on a red horse and carries a sword. He represents a massive force of war that shatters the false sense of peace and plunges the world into chaos. Eventually mankind turns on one another and bloodshed ensues. Immediately after this chaos begins, Jesus opens the third seal and the third horseman comes on a black horse with measuring instruments in hand as he declares a dire message of famine. This apocalyptic messenger has come to decimate the earth’s food supplies and plunge the entire earth into anarchic starvation. Finally, the fourth seal is broken, and the fourth horseman comes on a pale horse bringing pestilence and death. The chaos of broken peace, war, famine, and disease now ravage the globe. Godless and Christless masses writhe in agony at the disaster that has occurred and a quarter of the earth is slaughtered.
These frightful sights must have left John feeling sick. As he beheld the justice of God, rebellious humanity writhed under the agony of unbridled wrath and judgment. This was just the first four seals of the scroll, what horrors would the remaining three bring? What a dreadful thing when the fierceness of the wrath of God is poured out on mankind.

Reflect: As He claims what is rightfully His, Christ executes wrath on rebellious and impenitent mankind. How is this right and just?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Revelation 5:8-14

Have you ever received an unbelievable surprise or received a gift that you did not expect but that left you reeling from excitement after you received it? I remember one of my first memories of Amber and me when we were in college. We were meeting up for an evening together, and she brought me a wrapped box filled with gifts. When I opened the box, I was just floored that she had spent her own money on me and that every gift inside the box was so personal and just about me. I remember the rest of the evening that we spent together I was so elated to be with this beautiful girl and to have this wonderful gift that I just buzzed with excitement.
Now, I imagine John in heaven seeing one spectacle after another, and being floored with wonder at sights his mind could barely even grasp and many more things he was simply unable to fathom. The emotion had overtaken him and he had gone from elation to despair when no one had stepped forward to open the book in the hand of God. However, when Jesus finally appeared before the throne of God, I can only imagine John’s reaction. This was certainly a “mind-blown” moment. The anticipation had climaxed at the appearing of the One who could rightfully claim the title deed to all creation. 
Now, the one who died for all had come to redeem all things. 
I can only imagine the overwhelming excitement that John must have felt as Jesus walked up to God and took the book out of God’s hand.
It seems from Revelation 5 that heaven was absolutely silent as Jesus walked up to the throne of God. All eyes in heaven were turned to Him as he grabbed the book from His Father’s hand. But in that instant, the silence was crushed with the roar and praise of millions in heaven. The sounds of the 24 elders and all of the people with them singing blended with roars of millions of angels as all of heaven began the much awaited praise service and worship of Christ.
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 2:9-11
Here in Revelation 5:13, we see Paul’s prophecy fulfilled as every living being joined together. From Babel in Genesis 11 until now, mankind had failed to cooperate with one voice, but in the redemption of all things, Christ reunited mankind for the one purpose for which they were created – to worship Him. In Romans 8 we find that from the first sin of mankind in Genesis 3, all of creation groaned under the curse of sin, but now, on this day, the redemption of all things had come. All of heaven and all of earth joined in a great song of praise to Jesus. Even the four beasts that had encircled the throne crying “Holy, Holy, Holy,” now joined in the praise with the refrain of “Amen!”, which means “let it be so!”
What a spectacle! John could have never imagined such a sight. Now, he stood there and watched as the culmination of redemptive history was carried out in front of his very eyes. With millions of beings roaring together, the praising of Christ must have left John feeling invigorated with excitement. Standing there in heaven he beheld a glimpse of the future glory that awaited. What a comfort it must have been for an old saint stranded on the prison isle of Patmos. Jesus was not a defunct cult leader, he was the Sovereign of the cosmos and one day all would be gathered to worship Him. 
I can only imagine the joy that flooded John’s soul as he beheld the Savior, his Savior, exalted and praised in heaven.
Reflect: Reread Revelation 5:8-14. What songs are sung in heaven?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Revelation 5:1-7

As he beheld God in His glory being praised by the angelic hosts and elders, John noticed that God held a book in his hand. After noticing the book, John heard an angel that beckoned all of heaven to send forth any who was worthy to open the book that God held in his hand. So what is this book? Why should it be opened?
In verse 5, we find out that this book was fastened with seven seals. Understanding that at the time of John’s writing this, books as we use them with cut pages and bindings were not yet used regularly in the Middle East, John perhaps is speaking of a scroll that has seven seals on it. In the ancient world, it was common for those writing a will to do so with a scroll with seven seals. Seeing a scroll like this would lead us to believe the scroll here is the will and testament of God. Sealed-scrolls were also used for land deeds in the ancient world, and perhaps the imagery used here indicates that God is holding the will and deed to all of His creation. We could then understand that whoever holds this scroll possesses the authority to rule and reign all of creation. Furthermore, the only one who can open it is the one who is the rightful recipient or heir of its contents.
Now, all of heaven listened with anticipation as the angel cried loudly for the one to show himself who could rightfully open the will of God and the deed of creation, effectively claiming His rightful place as Sovereign of the Universe. I imagine that as John beheld the incredible sight of God and the glories of heaven, he was moved with a flood of emotion. Enraptured by the invitation to such a worthy One, John must have eagerly glanced as far as he could see across the heavenly expanse to catch a view of the One who would open the scroll. But no one replied. No one answered.
John’s joy and anticipation quickly became a distraught disappointment and he began to weep. Overwhelmed by the prospect that no one could claim the right to this will, John wept in despair. Perhaps it was because John realized what the opening of this will and deed would mean. In claiming the title of Sovereign of the Universe, the one who opened the scroll would eventually undo the brokenness that marred God’s beautiful creation. In unwrapping each seal, this worthy one would cleanse creation of the misdeeds and wrongs that Satan had constructed. With a purging fierceness he would wash away the damage and restore the universe to perfect harmony. But now, no one came, so John wept.
John’s weeping was interrupted by one of the elders. “Weep not: Behold!” The word translated “behold” is the same as our saying, “Look!” John turned his eyes towards the one that the elder acknowledged in the midst of the elders and John saw one who stood as a Lamb. The elder told John that it was the Lion of Judah and Root of David. Both of these names were Messianic references, and speak of Jesus. However, as John looked at Him, he didn’t see a lion, rather he saw a lamb that had been slain. The lamb wasn’t dead now, but he had been. Having read John 1, we know Jesus had been called the “Lamb of God” by John the Baptist. Now, the Lamb was resurrected and stood before God.
Jesus, the Lion, the Root, the slain Lamb, came into the presence of God to answer the call of “Who is worthy to open the book?” With confidence, Jesus did what no one else would ever dare to do, He took the book out of God’s hand. Here with fearless audacity, One finally had come to claim the title of Heir to the will of God and Sovereign of the Universe. He had endured suffering and had been slain so that He could redeem all of creation, now, He had come to claim His rightful place of glory with God.

Reflect: Read Daniel 7:13-14. How does this passage compare to what we read in Revelation 5?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Revelation 4:6-11

Heaven is about God.
As John continues describing his vision of heaven, he tells how he saw four beasts that encircle the throne of God. In Ezekiel 1, we find a description of four heavenly beings who sound strikingly similar to these that John saw, and in Isaiah 6, we find another group of beings called Seraphim who seem to have a very similar job. In both Isaiah and Revelation, these beasts fly around the throne of God and cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” Through the radiance of His burning glory they scream with every fiber of their being the unending truth that God is perfect and pure and above all others.
Even in explaining these wonderful creatures whose abilities and presence far exceeds his own, John turned quickly from their description to their purpose - they spend day and night declaring the glory of the thrice-holy God. The spectacle was almost unbelievable, and without a doubt, John’s description of these beings could have stretched on much longer than two verses, but in the presence of the eternal and almighty God, these magnificent creatures were mere ornaments.
As John describes the angelic praise service that takes place around the throne of God, he sees further that the 24 enthroned and crowned elders fall down on their faces. Here John saw what was simply a faint echo in Psalm 95:6, “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.” God is now surrounded by bowing and kneeling monarchs who after beholding his majesty have relinquished their own. In the face of the eternal King, no monarch dare retain his kingly authority. All power and rule flows from God himself, and on this day, every regal claim is returned to its Originator and rightful Owner.
Now, having taken a posture of complete humility, they join with the angelic creatures in a praise song that fills the heavens. Their praise addresses the very heart of worship. Our English word “worship” comes from an old English word that has the same root as the word “worth.” To truly worship something is to place a high value on it and to joy and meditate in that value. Often we find things to worship, whether it is a car, or a game system, or a new pair of shoes, or a fashion style, or family, or relationships, but none of these things are of ultimate worth. We may treat them as though they are the most valuable thing in existence, but they will never attain the worth that we ascribe to them.
There is only one who is worthy of unbridled worship. Here in John’s revelation of the throne of God, we find the one who is most worthy of worship. The one who is praised by the highest beings in all of creation sits on His throne while the elders cast their crowns at his feet and declare Him to be the most praiseworthy. Their song testifies to their perspective. In the presence of the Holy God of all the ages, they cannot help but cry out, “Thou are 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.”
I imagine that John was mesmerized at what he saw. The astonishing sight of God on his throne being worshipped by angelic beings and elders must have left him feeling speechless. It must have also left him with an overwhelming sense of the power and might of God. Nothing in life could challenge this kind of King. We may not always have His throne in sight, but we know His reign is unhindered and unimpeded. Nothing thwarts His purposes and nothing impedes His power. John’s life was in peril on the isle of Patmos, but the God of the universe was still on His throne and still in control.

Reflect: Why doesn’t John spend a lot of time describing the heavenly beings that he beheld?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Revelation 4:1-5

A recent flood of heaven tourism books have appeared and have found wildly popular success. Most of these books start with the same premise, a person faces a near death experience and comes back to tell of the grandeur and splendors of heaven. The books have come from a number of sources and while many of the wildly popular ones are the stories of young children innocently (or as Alex Malarkey honorably admits “deceptively”) recounting their encounters with Jesus and God in heaven, there are a few for the intelligentsia like the one written by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander titled, The Proof of Heaven. Here a professional and an intellectual denies all other’s attempts at describing the afterlife and uses vague ambiguities to prove that although everyone else has gotten it wrong, he actually has been to heaven and it is much like swimming through an amorphous lightning-filled black jello.
What should Christians do with these accounts? Are they real? According to one of the most popular of these story-tellers, Alex Malarkey, he was just making it up. As for the others, I would say that we need a serious measure of discernment. One thing that is continuously constant amongst the varied experiences is that they all seem to have one thing in common, the heaven that they speak of is consistently different from the heaven we read of in scripture. These pseudo-heavens don’t have bowing masses singing the worship and praise to God like we find in Isaiah or Revelation. Rather, heaven is merely a place of reunion and feeling happy.
Something in me wants to package John’s account in Revelation 4-5 and market it as “Man claims to have seen heaven and writes about it!” I wonder if it would be nearly as popular as its contemporary fictional counterparts. John’s account speaks of a reunion. It even speaks of great joy. But the heaven that John writes about is not about the people going there as much as it is about the One Who is already there. The reunion of the nations is for the express purpose of worshipping God. The joy that is experienced is directly related to being in the presence of the Redeemer of all Creation.
This is the first thing to notice with in John’s revelation of heaven. 
Heaven is about God. 
Starting the description of what he saw in heaven, John writes first about the most prominent feature of heaven, “behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.” Here is the key feature of heaven, it is filled with the glory of God. Are the saints of history past going to be there? Will there be angels? Yes, but they all are presented in one context – how they are relating to God. Just as no one in an art museum focuses on the linoleum floor or the velvet stanchions, no one who enters the throne room of God spends time speaking in terms of anything except in how it relates to God.
Continuing his description of heaven John introduces 24 elders who are seated around the throne of God. They are unnamed and under-described, because even though they are elders and enthroned they are merely adornments for the great One who is on the throne in their midst. Here seated before John was the One who has forever existed and who through the power of His word created all things. Here sits the one who rules and judges all. His throne is in heaven above all the thrones on earth and above all other thrones in heaven. The fear and respect due Him by his position and power are magnified as bolts of lightning crackle and the flames of His Spirit blaze in front of Him.
This is what heaven looks like – God, surrounded by things that worship God.

Reflect: In what one simple way do most accounts peddled amongst the heaven tourism books fall short of describing anything near the reality of heaven that we find in Scripture?

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Churches of Revelation

How are we supposed to read prophetic literature? If all Scripture is “profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness,” does this mean that we need to receive all Biblical prophecies with an eye to the future? To answer this question, we must first understand that biblical prophecy was written nearly 2,000 years ago, and that it was originally written to a different group of people than those of us who are reading it now. Certainly when it was written it spoke of future events, but as we study Biblical prophecy many of those events have already occurred. They were future events to the original audience who heard it or read it when it was first given.
Perhaps one of the best examples of this is when we read Jeremiah 25:12, “when seventy years are accomplished I will punish the King of Babylon…and will make it perpetual desolations.” Jeremiah gave this prophecy as the Babylonian Empire was taking over the entire Middle East. It would be several decades later, after Jeremiah had died, that another prophet would be reading the scrolls of Jeremiah and would come across this prophecy. We read in Daniel 9:2, “I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” Here Daniel realized that Jeremiah’s prophecy was related directly to his current situation and he was able to rejoice that the promise that God had made through Jeremiah was being fulfilled, then, in his own lifetime.
Seeing this prophecy and fulfillment of prophecy should help us to guard against presumptuous interpretations that imagine that we are the final fulfillment of prophecies in Scripture. We never want to presume that we are the primary audience being spoken to in the prophecy, and we do well to understand all biblical prophecies in light of the original audience who would have first received the message.
In John’s Revelation of Jesus, especially in light of the first three chapters, there is a wide range of speculation as to what John’s vision means. Some have come to believe that the seven churches of Revelation represent seven separate periods of church history over the past 2,000 years. This errant view says that each church represents a segment of church history and each messenger is a historical figure from this era. For example, the church of Ephesus is said to represent the first age of the church from A.D. 33 to A.D. 170. The messenger is claimed to be the Apostle Paul, although there is no argument from Scripture or any evidence for this beyond pure conjecture. According to this subjective extrapolation, other church ages were led by men like Irenaeus, Martin Luther, and John Wesley, none of which finds any authority in the pages of Scripture.
We do best to understand the Revelation of Jesus Christ speaking to His churches to represent first and foremost, Jesus speaking to his actual churches there in Asia Minor in the first century when John would have recorded this prophecy. We do not need a mystical explanation that goes beyond the original intention and reassigns new meaning to a perfectly clear and needful message. Seeing Christ rebuke and encourage His churches in the first century, we in the 21st century can understand that where we are similar to these churches, His rebuke or encouragement comes to us. Just as we might read in the gospel accounts of the loving correction of Christ to His disciples and understand the heart of the Savior towards His followers, we should read Christ’s loving direction for the actual, historical, factual, real churches in Asia Minor and understand that His desires for His churches have not changed.

Reflect: If the churches in Revelation are real churches, how is this section of Scripture profitable for us?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Revelation 3:14-22

Of all of the letters to the churches of Asia Minor, the last one, the letter to the church at Laodicea, was the most scathing. Of the previous six messages that John received by revelation from Jesus, four were rebukes and two were commendations. The churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia were patiently enduring hard times, but the churches at Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, and Sardis each had succumbed to a slow-fade into false doctrine and sin. Now, in His final message, a message to the church at Laodicea, Jesus unleashed the direst of corrections for the lack of life and faith in the church.
While the church at Sardis was “mostly dead,” (to quote Miracle Max from the Princess Bride) there were still some in the church who remained faithful and were admonished to persevere. But this was not the case with the church at Laodicea. This real and historical church of the first century had departed from the gospel that was first preached there and now they were all “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” It wasn’t just that they were in danger of becoming these things, they were already gone. Sadly, in the rebuke we find that although they were completely bankrupt spiritually, they were self-deceived into thinking things were going quite well.
“Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” 

Their material prosperity had blinded them to their spiritual depravity. 
In a city so successful financially, the church had become a bastion of materialism. In Matthew 13, Jesus warned of this exact thing happening to one who would hear the word of God proclaimed but would then remain unchanged, “The care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” The deception of riches promised security. Instead of living by faith in the Providence of a loving God, they lived by faith in their well-managed bank accounts. Instead of relying on God for constant provision for every need in the spirit of the Lord’s Prayer, “give us this day our daily bread,” they confidently passed on building bigger barns to store more and more goods for themselves.
Their physical state was regarded as highly successful, but their spiritual state was depressingly neglected. They disregarded the teaching of Jesus in Mark 8:36, “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” Their investment strategy was too short sighted. They had worked up a 5, 10 and even 50 year plan, but they had neglected their eternal plan. Now, the Lord of eternity had called on them to repent and turn from their deception. Their negligence must become repentance. Their indifference must be changed to radical abandon. They must do as Christ told the rich young ruler and pursue the Kingdom of Heaven at all costs, or their unconverted, money-loving souls would be lost.
Finally, Jesus says, “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.” This text is often used as a personal call to conversion, but that is not what this text is saying. Jesus is not knocking at the door of someone’s heart, he is knocking on the door of this faux church. The church is filled with self-secure non-believers, and Christ is beckoning them to open the door of the church and repent of their apathy and indifference. He is not threatening to condemn them, they are already condemned, he is offering them the only hope of escaping condemnation. If they as a church will open the door and turn from their wicked ways, their church will be spared from the impending destruction that comes on all unbelievers.

Reflect: What was the problem with the church at Laodicea? How do we see some of these trends in American churches today?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Revelation 3:9-13

In his message to the sixth church of Asia Minor, the glorified Jesus lovingly commends the church of Philadelphia for their faithfulness and endurance in the face of opposition. Like the church of Smyrna, the church at Philadelphia was a small church, but they were unwavering in their commitment to Christ. Now, while the other churches were receiving reproof and warnings this church was praised as a devoted and persevering church. Like Smyrna, this church was also facing persecution from the pagan culture and from the Jewish leaders in the city, but this did not keep them from faithfully obeying the commands of Christ.
As a reward, Christ promised them a number of things in this message. The first promise they received was that those who stood in opposition to them would one day bow in subjection to the message of the gospel. This was not a call for revenge, it was just a promise that one day justice would be set right. For now, they endured mocking and abuse, but because they had faithfully endured it, Jesus said that the mockers and abusers were destined to be changed into worshippers. In this one promise, Christ addresses the heart of human sinfulness that often derails gospel proclamation. Hurt feelings become bitterness, and bitterness grows into hatred, and hatred blossoms into vengeance of word or action. Enemies are evil, and often we desire their destruction. But here we see what happens if instead of seeking revenge, we sought to endure. Just as God is long-suffering, we too should be.
Through endurance and patience grace finds its most marvelous work. Now, having endured patiently, the church at Philadelphia was promised as the reward of their patience the conversion of their enemies. What a wonderful thing to be able to see those who normally would have caused pain, bitterness, and hatred, to instead receive God’s transforming grace that causes them to become those who cause joy, peace, and spiritual strength. Perhaps we too often short-circuit the work of God because unlike the Philadelphians we desire to get even or to constantly voice our problems with those around us. May God help us to patiently endure wrongdoing so that we too can rejoice in the day of conversion.
Finishing his message to the church at Philadelphia, Jesus promises so much more than seeing their enemies brought to faith. From verse 10 through 12, Christ tells the church that their faithful endurance has brought them the riches of heaven that cannot be taken away. Their eternal reward is secure, and they can rejoice because the day is coming when they will receive that reward. No trials or tribulation or troubles will be able to keep them from receiving what Christ promised them. Rather, they were destined to enjoy God forever. All that was left for them was to hold fast and continue doing what they had been doing.
What an encouraging letter this must have been. They were not perfect, and they knew that, but Christ sent a message through the Apostle John to tell them that they were doing well. The persecution must have been daunting, but they continued to be faithful, trusting that God would reward them in due time. Like Paul they could echo Romans 8:18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” May God help us to patiently endure testing and frustration in the same grace and hope with which these dear saints persevered.
Reflect: What promises did Christ make to the church of Philadelphia? How do we sometimes undermine the promises of Christ?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Revelation 3:1-6

Following his untimely death in 1924, the leader of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Lenin, was embalmed and placed in a mausoleum in Red Square at the heart of the Soviet Union’s capital, Moscow. For nearly 100 years scientists and curators have preserved Lenin’s body, and have kept it on display in an elevated bullet-proof glass case in the middle of the tomb. Every year, a group of preservationists remove Lenin’s body and ritualistically give him a bath and a clean outfit so that he can endure the next year. In effect, they wash and dress a dead man every year.
Imagine that happening to you after you died. Every year for the next century, a group of people take you out of your coffin, wash you, dress you, and put you back in your coffin for another year. The profound peculiarity of the entire process has left many in Russia wondering why the government doesn’t just bury him, but President Putin has continued to argue for the value of maintaining the memorial to the fallen Soviet leader. For him and for some of his countrymen, there is a great value to be had in washing and dressing a dead man. Perhaps it even makes them feel like he is alive again. 

The city of Sardis was an important city with historically popular figures like Aesop and Solon hailing from there, and even a notable church father and early apologist, Melito, coming from there. Before it was conquered by the Persians, Sardis had even served as the capital of the ancient Lydian Kingdom. However, the glory days were all in the past, both for the city and for the church. As Jesus began his message to the church through the vision of John He said, “thou art dead.” This was much worse a rebuke than any of the previous four churches had received. Ephesus had been loveless; Pergamos had been sinful; Thyatira had been theologically misled; but here, the church of Sardis was facing a fate that was much worse,
it was dead.
Sadly, the glory days lingered for Sardis. Those who heard of Sardis imagined that it was full of life, but the truth from the mouth of Jesus to this church was that they were just a fa├žade of what they used to be. They were a dead body that merely got a bath and a new suit. 

Clearly, the early days were good at the church, but by A.D. 90, this church had gone so far away from Christ that they didn’t have any life left in them. 
The truth of God was not being ministered through the Spirit of God, and there was nothing but lifeless and cold formality. The church of Sardis had become little more than a lifeless corpse of its former self. Perhaps the most saddening truth was that this spiritual death had happened and it seemed like no one in the church had even noticed.
In His reproof to the church, Christ called for a renewing of energies and a striving to bring life back into the dead church. It was not ok to simply give the corpse a washing and a new suit, it needed the spiritual life and vitality breathed back into it. Now, Jesus was telling the church that the few good things that remained from before, should be strengthened and fostered. The truth that was left behind, the love that had been forgotten, the fighting for purity and holiness that had been abandoned all would need to be rekindled and a revival would need to be started.
We don’t have much history of what happened after the church at Sardis received this letter from Jesus through the Apostle John, but we do know that Melito was the Bishop of the church nearly one hundred years later and that he was serving God with all his strength. 
Perhaps revival came. 
Perhaps after hearing the reproof and rebuke, the church at Sardis repented of their cold, dead indifference and began striving to love, and learn, and encourage one another. May God help us to do the same. May we not be known as a church that is dead or trapped in hollow routines, may we instead pursue life and strength in Christ. May we guard against cold formality and ritualistic rigidity, and instead pursue Christ with white-hot intensity and life in the church.

Reflect: What was wrong with the church at Sardis? In what ways can our churches tend to be similar?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Revelation 2:18-29

As John continued transmitting the messages from Jesus to the churches of Asia Minor, he began the letter to Thyatira. Of the towns addressed so far, Thyatira was by far the smallest. Although the town was small in size, by all indications of the letter, the church there was growing at an incredible rate. As with the other churches’ letters, the glorified Jesus began with commendation. Here, the church at Thyatira was doing incredibly well in a number of areas. They were full of love, and service, and faith, and patience and good works. This seemed to be a very healthy church. Earlier in the chapter, we had seen that Ephesus was reproved for lacking love, but not the church of Thyatira. They were doing very well in their love and service for one another.
Sadly, however, they failed in a key area that the Ephesians had succeeded. In verse 2, the Ephesians were commended for being able to disprove wrong teaching and lies and that had tried to creep into the church. They may have struggled with loving, but they were not short on right theology. Now, the church at Thyatira was quite the opposite. They were not short on loving, but they were in grave danger of accepting wrong theology. In verse 20, Jesus began his reasons for what he had “against” Thyatira.
In their acceptance and love, they had apparently fallen prey to false teaching and specifically the false teaching of one who called herself a prophetess. Here she is even called by the name, Jezebel, although that does not necessarily mean it was her name. “Jezebel” could perhaps be a reference to the Old Testament pagan queen who perverted the doctrine of God’s people by calling them into sin. This woman in the church at Thyatira had assumed a teaching position and was peddling a blend of Christianity and sin. In His rebuke against her, Christ mentions directly that she was leading others in sexual sin, seduction, and idolatry. 
She was clearly a wolf in shepherd’s clothing. 
For too long she had been preying on the members of this bustling little church in Thyatira. Now, for the purity of His church, Jesus was calling her out and commanding those who were following her to repent.
To this polluted church came the warning of Christ. He was the One whom we saw in the beginning of this vision standing in the midst of the seven candlesticks. He was there in the presence of his seven churches ministering to them and cultivating them. Now, he gave a warning to one of those churches that He was intimately tending. The warning is found in verses 22-23. This woman who was teaching that sin was acceptable in the church would be cast out and would face the dire consequences of her perversion, and those who chose to follow her would also face equal devastation. Sin in the church was unacceptable. Those who taught such lies and those who followed those lies would be cast out of the church by Christ and destroyed.
Thyatira is a case study for sin in the church. There are those who are convinced that some sins are less grievous than others. They imagine that since they are not committing the dreadful sin of fornication they are not that bad. However, in the presence of a perfect and holy God, all sin is unacceptable, and any who would knowingly continue in unrepentant sin fool themselves into thinking that God does not care. God desires that His church be pure and constantly repentant. He wants His people to put away all sins, great and small - the sin of fornication and the sin of complaining, the sin of false doctrine and the sin of gossip, the sin of deception and the sin of selfishness. God desires that His people be pure and holy and that His church reflect His Holy character.

Reflect: What specific warnings does Jesus give to the church at Thyatira in verses 22-23?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Revelation 2:12-17

In His letter to the church at Ephesus, Jesus told John to write that He had something against the Ephesians, namely, that they had left their first love. Their Christian love was lacking and now, Jesus warned them against trying to continue on in cold duty and heartless theology. After that letter, John wrote on behalf of the glorified Jesus to the church at Smyrna. Smyrna was doing well, and the letter was full of commendations for their endurance during a difficult era of persecution. In spite of being tormented, they held fast to their faith and hope in Christ.
As Jesus dictated to John his third letter, a letter to the church at Pergamos, a similarity with the letter to Ephesus appeared. In verse 14, a phrase is repeated from verse 4, “I have something against you.” Here, the church at Pergamos found themselves in the crosshairs of Christ’s judgment. It was not that Christ was just a little bit concerned with the churches. It was not that He was just beginning to see a trend that may become a problem. Rather, the very thing that He saw in them stood as opposition to Him. This was no passing trifle, this was enmity against Jesus. Jesus had something “against” them.
In Ephesus it was their lack of Christian love. In Pergamos, the indictment revealed a more widespread issue. In Ephesus the problem was their heart; in Pergamos, the problem was their whole lifestyle. The city of Pergamos was a vital city in ancient Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). As most other Roman metropolises, Pergamos was a place of polytheistic paganism with temples erected throughout for worshipping the false gods of the ancient world.
However, their love for other gods was matched with an equal hatred for the Christian God. This hatred led to the eventual persecution and even the martyring of Christians in Pergamos. In this letter, Jesus mentions one martyr by name, Antipas. Church history tells us that he was placed inside of a brass bull which had fire under its belly, where he was essentially cooked to death.
But the whole church at Pergamos was not faithful and devoted like Antipas. There were those referred to as “them” in verses 14-17, who clearly were in the church but were not acting like Christians. Instead of being fully devoted to purity, and the truth of the gospel, they found themselves wrapped up in idolatry and fornication. Their lives were marked by superstition, covetousness, and sinful sexuality, yet they called themselves Christians. They had been deceived into thinking that living lives of blatant sin while calling themselves Christians was in some way acceptable to God.
Jesus compared them to the wayward Old Testament profiteer Balaam. In an effort to make money, Balaam convinced an enemy king that to defeat the nation of Israel he must corrupt them through covetousness and sexual sin. His plan worked, and the people of God fell into sin and ultimately were judged by God. Now, in similar ways, the church at Pergamos was living in sin like the world. Some in the church were excusing sin in their lives and encouraging those around them to live equally sinful lives.

“Know ye not that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” - James 4:4
This doesn’t mean that you should not have friends who are non-Christians, rather it means that you shouldn’t pursue the sinful lifestyles of the world and assume that everything is right between you and a holy God. Purity and holiness matters in the life of every believer. Here Christ declares war on all those who have set themselves in lifestyles that are “against” Him. We should see the warning to the church at Pergamos and be reminded that Christ desires us to be a pure people, sanctified and set apart to Him.

Reflect: Read Matthew 10:28. How did the teaching of Christ in this verse cause Antipas to be different from the “them” in the church at Pergamos?