Posted in Ephesians, Matthew, Revelation

Choosing Jesus In The Darkness

“As I watched the Lamb broke the first of the seven seals on the scroll.” Revelation 6:1

In Matthew 24, Jesus gives to us the conditions on earth while the gospel is preached: false religion, wars, natural disasters, and persecution of the truth that in some instances ends in martyrdom.

In Revelation 6, we see these same four conditions but they are seen from heaven’s perspective. They are not incidental; they are necessary before the day of the Lord can come.

Seals were not part of a Jewish legal document – they were on the outside and represented conditions that had to be met before the document could be opened or enforced. Jesus is the only One who is worthy to break the seals which lead to the coming day of the Lord, but we must ask, “Why?” Why has God insisted that the gospel be preached in such darkness before He comes to actively rule the world?

Here’s my opinion: He wanted us to choose Him in the darkness, so we never reject Him again for all eternity. The first group, the angels, chose Him in the light and eventually a third fell away. Angels have free will even as we do, and a third of them chose self-rule over God’s rule even while living in a perfect heaven, and beholding God’s beauty face to face.

By having us choose Him in the midst of darkness, in the midst of the worst conditions and the ugliness of sin and horrors of the curse, it will be almost impossible for us to reject Him when we see Him face to face in the light and glory of heaven.

Ephesians 3:10-11 says this: “God’s purpose was to use the church to display His wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in heavenly places. This was His eternal plan, which He carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.” “All” means both the angels that fell away and those who remained true.

Those who fell away are judged as they see the church choose Him even while they can barely see Him, when they had rejected Him while seeing the beauty, glory, and power with absolute clarity. Those who remained loyal see through Christ’s coming and the church’s devotion more of the beauty of God’s love and humility. This strengthens them, I can imagine, and further secures them from the danger of ever falling away in the future.

When the day of the Lord begins, every eye will be able to see God’s active judgment and redemption, but right now we must choose Him in the darkness. God Himself has ordained this!

Posted in Revelation

The Seven Seals Of Revelation

“When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” Revelation 8:1

If Revelation stood alone, I would conclude that the seven seals are all future as many commentators believe, but the rule of Scripture is that clear truth interprets obscure passages, and not the other way around.

I believe the first five seals of Revelation have already been opened by Jesus. The five seals correspond exactly to what Christ said would happen in their generation before the fall of Jerusalem. (Deception; wars and rumors of wars; earthquakes and famines; death; martyrdom) They were opened by Jesus in the first century; they were already opened when John wrote Revelation from Patmos in 95 AD; and they’re still open today.

The fifth seal is the martyrdom of those who were killed “because of the word of God and because of the testimony they maintained.” John is writing to people that are in danger of being martyred under Domitian’s rule. He writes to them as one who is a fellow partaker “in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus.” He is on the island because of “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus,” the same reason the martyrs were killed. (Revelation 1:9)

He is writing because the Lord’s coming is very near – He ends the book with the words of Jesus, “I am coming quickly.” After the fifth seal has been opened, John sees those who have been martyred and hears their question, “How much longer?” There has been a delay and they are waiting for the coming day of the Lord to avenge their deaths. The answer: “a little while longer until all those who will be killed like you is complete.” (Revelation 6:11)

The second coming is imminent but delayed. Then John sees the sixth seal opened and the very signs Jesus gave for the rapture happen before his eyes. The earth prepares for the wrath of God while the saints are suddenly found before the throne of God. Jews come to Christ as a Spirit of mourning comes upon every tribe when they see the One they had pierced. One Hundred forty-four thousand Jews become evangelists who “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” (Revelation 14:4)

Those who were ready for the Bridegroom’s coming are kept “from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world,” (Revelation 3:10) while everyone else must endure it. Let’s live ready!

Posted in Daniel, Revelation

The Beast

“The beast which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come out of the abyss and go to his destruction.” Revelation 17:8

In Daniel 7 the beast has its body destroyed and is thrown into the blazing fire when the Messiah returns to the earth. (Daniel 7:11; 13)   How can Vespasian be the beast when Jesus didn’t return to end his reign?  In fact, after the Jewish war ended Vespasian reigned six more years until his peaceful death in 79 AD.  How can he be the beast when everything that was supposed to happen to the beast didn’t happen to him?

Is it possible that the beast is both the one who appeared in history using Vespasian and the one who inspires and possesses a future anti-Christ?  The beast, according to the text above, is more than a human being; it is a creature of darkness that has been released in the past, now is restricted, and will be released again before the coming of Christ.

The Apostle John writes Revelation after one of the judgment events has already occurred in history (the fall of Jerusalem), and before the final one (after the second coming). John assures us that the beast who comes up out of the abyss, and once was (had already appeared), now is not (is not presently active in the world), yet will appear again before he is destroyed.  

What Daniel sees is a composite of both comings of the beast. Just like Old Testament prophecies about Jesus are sometimes confusing because they don’t distinguish or even see two comings of the Messiah; Daniel can’t see two comings of the beast.  He can only see what God shows him, so what he describes is everything that the beast will do until God destroys him.

In Daniel we’re told that after the beast changes Jewish law (Vespasian did this at the destruction of the temple), the saints will be placed under his control for a time, times, and half a time. (Daniel 7:25) This is a reference to his second appearance where John sees a future anti-Christ speaking “great blasphemies against God,” waging “war against God’s holy people and conquering them,” and being “given authority to do whatever he wants for forty-two months.” (Revelation 13:5-7)   Revelation 12:14 calls this same period, “time, times, and half a time,” the same words used in Daniel seven.

Posted in 2Timothy, Revelation, Romans

The Puzzle of the End Times

“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy and all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.”  Revelation 1:3

The God who helps us with our smallest problems is the Ruler over history.  History will one day be seen to be His story, and knowing that brings a blessing to our lives especially at times when they seem pointless or chaotic.  John wrote Revelation from Patmos, an island prison where the emperor, Domitian, had sent him because of “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 1:9)  As God revealed His bigger plan, we can imagine John’s comfort in the soon coming of the Lord and the assurance of His ultimate victory.

The evil and darkness of this world will be short lived.  As surely as Jesus came the first time to save us from our sins, He will come a second time to secure His bride, judge the world, and set up His kingdom. (2Timothy 4:1)  Just how these events will unfold is unclear.  There are many pieces to the end times’ puzzle and no one but God knows exactly how they fit together, yet John tells us in the text above that there’s a blessing in just contemplating the mystery.  What exactly is the blessing?  I believe it’s more of the fear of the Lord.  Let me explain.

Paul tells us to “behold both the kindness and severity of God” in Romans 11:22.  Our tendency is to only behold His kindness because it’s pleasant, but it’s in beholding His severity that we grow in the fear of the Lord and stay in a place where we will only experience His kindness.  The end of Romans 11:22 goes like this: “…to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.”  Jesus wants nothing for us but kindness, but to ensure that blessing, we must have the courage to behold His severity.  When someone warns me of danger I feel love, not offense. 

 Jesus came the first time as a Lamb to save the world; He’s coming a second time as a Lion to judge it.   At that time it won’t matter how close our theology about the end times matches what actually happens, but only that we are in a right relationship with God.  May God engage both your mind and heart as you join me in contemplating the end times’ puzzle over the next few days.

Posted in Malachi, Revelation

No Compromise

“Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” Revelation 22:10-11

Why is God telling those who do wrong to continue to do wrong? Shouldn’t He tell them to repent? He’s not writing to those who are in the world in this book, but to “His servants” (Revelation 1:1) who are living in a culture of compromise and will be tempted to backslide.

The message of this passage could be paraphrased like this: “Don’t plan on the people around you changing – they might not. Instead, make sure you don’t change and give in to the culture of compromise around you. Be separate in your desire and make sure the pursuit of your life is different from the worldly people around you.”

This text is from the last chapter of the New Testament and is amazingly close to another passage in the last book of the Old Testament. “‘They will be mine’, says the Lord Almighty, ‘on the day when I make up My treasure possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who don’t.’” (Malachi 3:17-18)

Whatever else you do, choose to live holy before the God who saved you and before the generation around you. Make sure you don’t just believe differently, but actually live differently. Anything less is deception.

Posted in 2Corinthians, Acts, Exodus, John, Revelation

Thinking Right

“But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.” Acts 14:2

Belize and Mexico are two places I regularly go for missions trips and in both places you can’t drink the tap water. It looks fine but is contaminated, so you can’t drink it or you become sick. A few years ago our whole team got sick and it was traced back to a restaurant where they had cooked the chicken we ate in contaminated water. You only have to get sick once to become very careful about what you drink!

Are we as careful about our thoughts? In our text we have a group of Jews who “refused to believe” the good news of God’s love and redemption through Christ and then poisoned others with their judgments. When we stop seeing ourselves and others as loved and worth redeeming, we tend to take up the enemy’s accusations instead. (Revelation 12:10) This is poison. Satan sows suspicion and bitterness toward others in our minds if we let him, and he can even use us to divide homes, friends and churches. He knows that a kingdom divided will not stand and is the master at using poisonous thoughts to bring offense, isolation, envy, and jealousy.

The judgments we make appear to be “the truth,” so we justify ourselves in thinking them and even speaking them, but judgment isn’t the whole truth. God loves people and sent His Son into the world to save us, not to condemn us. (John 3:17) We overcome the accuser by testifying about the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11) which was shed for us and for everyone we know. The whole truth, therefore, is not just what is wrong with people, but must include what God has done through His Son to make them right. (2Corinthians 5:19)

When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, they drank from a water source that was poisonous. Moses cried out to God, and God showed him a tree. (Exodus 15:25) He cut it down, threw it in the water, and it became sweet. God didn’t show him a different place to drink that had pure water; He redeemed that which was bitter and made it sweet. He wants to do the same thing with our thinking. Why don’t we identify our poison, bring it to the cross, and allow God to sweeten our thoughts toward even the most difficult sinners in our lives.

Posted in 1Corinthians, Revelation

Passing God’s Tests

“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Revelation 2:10

This is kind of a disturbing passage. These are people God is pleased with, yet He is allowing a time of testing at the hands of the devil in which they will be put in prison. Do you feel like you are in some type of prison right now? A situation that you can’t change, an affliction that you can’t remove, or some type of thorn in your flesh that God doesn’t seem to be delivering you from? I want to encourage you, it’s just a test. God wanted the church at Smyrna to know that He, the One who loved them, was allowing it, and that He had rewards for those who passed it. How do you pass God’s tests?

  1. Know that God has limited them. Jesus said there would be a beginning and an end – it would last 10 days and then be over. When you are in a test it is tempting to despair because it feels like this will be the rest of your life. Don’t worry, this too will pass. We can’t shorten God’s tests but we can lengthen them by having a horrible attitude. (See Israelites in the desert for 40 years) 1Corinthians 10:13 promises that in all temptations (same Greek word as tests) “God is faithful; He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
  2. Don’t be afraid. Satan works through fear and God works to free us from fear. Trust God in your prison and don’t give into fear. Oftentimes the purpose of the test is to get us in a situation where we would normally be afraid, so that we can learn to walk in faith. 
  3. Be faithful. Keep doing what you know is right even if it doesn’t seem to be working. Keep praying, reading, loving, and obeying – God wants to see if we will be faithful when things are rough, or if we’re only fair weather Christians. What’s the worst that can happen – you dying? Jesus said to be faithful even to the point of death. What’s so bad about being home with Jesus forever in the eternal city where the streets are made of gold, and where we rule and reign with Him for all eternity?
Posted in John, Luke, Revelation

Living on God’s Time

“When He (Jesus) approached Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for Peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes…you did not recognize the time (kairos) of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-42; 44b)

Yesterday we discussed the difference between sequential time (chronos) and God’s special time (kairos). How do we live on God’s time?

  1. We have to recognize the trap of becoming enslaved to chronos time. I am a very scheduled person and it’s easy for me to define success as keeping all my appointments and fulfilling all my priorities for any given day. God wants to free me from that mindset, so I can begin to look more and more for His kairos appointments. Jesus was the master at this. He would often be interrupted on His way somewhere, but instead of driving on, He would recognize the timing of God and minister to the interruption. This is how many were healed and delivered in the gospels. He said that His secret was only giving Himself to what He saw the Father doing. (John 5:19)
  2. We need to recognize our utter dependence on God to “see.” Most of the Jewish people missed what God was doing in their day and then it became “hidden” from their eyes. The Laodiceans were also “blind,” yet Jesus promised, “eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see” (Revelation 3:18) if they would only repent. Why couldn’t they see? They had stopped acknowledging their continual dependence on God and had said in their hearts, “I need nothing.” To see we must continually humble ourselves and recognize we need God’s grace to see what He is doing.
  3. We need to fear God enough to respond quickly and wholeheartedly when a kairos opportunity is available. Jesus wept when He entered Jerusalem because His people had missed the time (kairos) of their visitation and had missed the mercy God wanted for them. The Israelites missed the kairos of God when they were on the edge of the promised land. When they finally decided they wanted to go in, the opportunity had been removed and it was too late. Let’s not hold back when opportunities are open to speak, or love, or give, or pray. Let’s seize the kairos of God and make sure Jesus never has to weep over us for the mercies we missed.
Posted in 2Corinthians, Genesis, Revelation

Free From Shame

“I advise you to buy from Me… white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed.” Revelation 3:18

Jesus is speaking to the church at Laodicea who has lost any place of deep connection with Him. He actually pictures Himself outside the door of their hearts, knocking to gain entrance. Part of what is keeping them from opening the door is shame.

“The shame of your nakedness” is a reference to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. When God first placed them there, they were “naked and unashamed.” (Genesis 2:24) It was when they disobeyed God that shame came into their spirits and they looked around for things to hide themselves with.

When shame is on our spirit, even as Christians who love God, we live in a fear of being exposed as not good enough. Living in fear reduces our lives, so many don’t ever know or develop who they really are. Jesus is ready and waiting to take away the fear shame brings, so His children can put on the righteous robes He paid for. Paul writes: “He (the Father) made Him who knew no sin (Jesus) to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Corinthians 5:21)

If you feel dirty, you will live dirty. Jesus wants us to feel clean on the inside so we don’t have to hide or pretend any more. He delights in us even though we are weak and immature – He’s knocking on the door because He wants to free us from the power of shame. Let’s open our hearts wide to His love and break all agreement with the enemy’s accusations over our lives.

Posted in John, Revelation

Discernment and Accusation

“…the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.” (Revelation 12:10)

If there has ever been a time that we need discernment, it is today. There are many with tickling ears and many who will tell those ears whatever they want to hear for a price. There are many abuses that need to be called out and stood against, but there is another abuse that has slipped into the body of Christ under the guise of discernment, and that is accusation.

This spirit has caused fear and division in the church and has kept many people from experiencing the genuine power of God. People under this “wisdom” content themselves with the fact that they go by Scripture, but Scripture is not an end in itself; it’s supposed to lead us to a living relationship with Jesus. Jesus said to the Pharisees: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39) 

I had fried chicken this week. Because it had been in the refrigerator for a while I looked it over closely before I ate it. If I had seen any trace of mold on it I would have immediately thrown it away – that is discernment. However, I fully expected that there would be bones in with the chicken that I would have to throw away. Even though there were bones, it was worth it for the meat. Any ministry you receive from will have bones with it. Either you won’t agree with everything, or you won’t agree with the way it was presented, or some quirk in the person delivering it. It takes humility to receive from any ministry, but if we will humble ourselves God can teach us through anyone.

In my mind we all “know in part” now and have to give each other some room to disagree on non-essentials.  One of my favorite sayings from church history goes like this: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”