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Archive for December, 2012

As much as Genesis 1 begins the account of God bringing life to a lifeless earth, so Revelation 6 begins the account of God destroying it. In Genesis, God had been “hovering” as He waited for just the right time to begin His creation. But in Revelation He is “hovering” for another reason. At just the right time He will begin His destruction; and here in this 6th chapter, that time has come. In Genesis He is the Creator; but here in Revelation He is a “conqueror bent on conquest”. And specifically here in chapter 6, He has mounted up and is “riding out”.

These judgments come in waves, with each wave getting worse. The beginning may not necessarily be seen as judgments, even by those who are expecting them. In the early stages, “peace will be taken from the world”. There will be food shortages and natural disasters. Are we there yet? We can’t say for sure, but before these waves are over, there will be no doubt.

The first wave is described as seven seal judgments. The seventh seal ushers in a more intense wave referred to as the seven trumpet judgments. Opening a seal does not make a lot of noise; but it’s hard not to hear a trumpet. As the first wave of seal judgments might not be seen as this beginning of God’s judgment, these trumpet blasts seem to be designed to make it a little clearer. It gets so bad during this time that “men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them”.

It’s a little hard to imagine all that is supposed to happen. As many today would scoff at the idea that the things we are seeing are a part of these judgments, still, there will be those, even as things get much worse, who won’t believe it. John tells us that “the rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent”.

There is at least one unmistakable event that takes place during these trumpet judgments. God will raise up 2 witnesses that will prophesy for 3 ½ years. They will have miraculous powers “to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want”. At the end of the 3 ½ years, they will be killed. “Their bodies will lie in the street for 3 ½ days and the inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts. But after the 3 ½ days, a breath of life from God enters them and they stand to their feet.”

Like I said, it will get to the point that it will be unmistakable. We obviously are not there yet, but it is at least possible that we are on the front end of it all. Over time, it will become clear. We either are or we are not. There are a lot of details in this account of “what must one day take place” that I do not understand. But the more familiar we are with what can be understood, the easier it will be to recognize these waves as they begin to hit.

These first two waves of judgments – the seven seal and the seven trumpets – end in this 11th chapter. As they could be categorized as judgments on the earth, the last trumpet judgment ushers in a new wave that could be categorized as judgment on the inhabitants. John transitions with, “the time has come”. It is time for the next wave where we will see the Woman, the Dragon and the Beast. It is not good.

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In the first 3 chapters of Revelation, John, while he writes the series of letters to the churches, is on the island of Patmos. This 4th chapter begins with John being called up to heaven where he will remain throughout the rest of this book.

The first thing John describes is the throne in heaven. The thing that struck me was his description of the four living creatures around the throne. One was like a lion. One was like an ox. One had a face like a man. One was like a flying eagle. Each of the four creatures “never stopped saying: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

I had a thought I had never considered before. By the lion doing what it is created to do, day after day after day, is it not perpetually declaring, “holy, holy, holy”? The eagle, as it does what God created it to do, is it not also declaring . . . and the ox? All three with different design do what they were designed to do.

And then I thought about the one that had a face like a man. Do we do what we were created to do? Do we all work to provide for the betterment of our families? Do we all choose as a mate, a member of the opposite sex that we might produce a family? Do we honor God in and with our lives? It is the only one of the 4 that chooses.

As a side note, I thought of when God created man. If God had intended for man to be with man and woman to be with woman in addition to man being with woman, He would have created 6 people – 3 men and 3 women – but He didn’t.

There is a verse in chapter 5; “with your blood you purchased men for God”. Funny, He didn’t have to purchase the other creatures; they do what they were made to do. But man . . . man had to be “purchased”. And then, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God.”

I’ve wondered more lately than ever if I am doing what I was created to do. I watched Men of Valor a few nights ago. Trained Men of Valor fought against evil to rescue a woman who had been taken hostage and was being tortured. These trained men who rescued her cussed and drank a little, but I couldn’t help but to wonder if maybe they didn’t cause God to stand up and take notice. I wonder if He didn’t stand up and say, “Now that’s what I’m talkin about”.

In both the 4th and 5th chapters, John refers to “the seven spirits of God”. Could these spirits be like facets of a diamond? Isn’t there a part of God that both loves and hates? Is He not both full of mercy and yet He will eventually judge? Is He not both gracious and jealous? Is He not also a God of vengeance?

We are at a critical point in our nation’s history. A couple of states just voted to accept gay marriage. Our government is leaning toward raising taxes so that it does not have to cut its out of control spending. Both financially and morally we are bankrupt. Business as usual is as much out of line for our government as it is for us. Personally I am searching for a better way “to serve our God” in these trying times. I believe the question we should all be asking is, what will we, who have “with blood” been “purchased for God”, do to serve Him? And will it be enough to bring Him to His feet?

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In this letter to Sardis I saw a difference in what he wrote to Pergamum. The people of Pergamum, for the most part, “remained true”, but there were some among them “who held to the teaching of Balam”. But with the church of Sardis, they, for the most part, “were dead”, and yet had some who were very much alive. One was a batch of good apples with a few bad ones and the other a batch of bad apples with a few good ones.

How is He described and what are the words He has to say to this predominately bad batch of Christians? First, He is described as the One who is “holding” them. He specifically is “holding” the leaders. He who could have written them off and let them go; instead, He “holds” them.

His word to them . . . “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die. Remember what you have received and heard; obey it and repent.” In the same way that we might hold in our hands an apple with some bad spots in it, deciding whether to pitch it or cut the bad spots out and keep it, similarly He, with this church is in effect holding it and choosing to keep it. He is willing to cut the bad spots out; the question is . . . will they let Him? And His final words: “He who has an ear, let him hear.” We who have the spots . . . will we see it?

To the church of Philadelphia, He is described as, “holy and true”. It is a similar description as to the church of Laodicea – the last of the seven churches. To them He is the “faithful and true witness”.

What’s interesting is that the church of Philadelphia is “holy and true” right along with Him, while the church of Laodicea is not the same “faithful and true witness”. To church of Philadelphia, though they had “little strength, yet they had kept his word and had not denied his name”. While others advanced, they on the other hand remained in relative obscurity. To the so called religious who had looked down on them . . . and worse, “I will make them acknowledge that I have loved you”.

To this group of “holy and true” believers – who probably struggled with whether or not He was even mindful of them – He lets them know that their day is coming. He is encouraging them to “hold on” and to “overcome” – to remain “holy and true”.

To the church of Laodicea though, the “faithful and true witness” has a bone to pick with this group who has not been. They are lukewarm; they have no passion. “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich.”

To this church in particular – but I think really to all – He has these life changing words. And for any “who have an ear to hear them” – for any who will “overcome, just as He overcame, he will give the right to sit with him in heaven”.

It is popular today to think that we are covered by grace regardless of how we live. But when you are really familiar with His words to us, there is a bit of a different picture painted. Jude refers to “godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality”. That is not a popular message today. “Who do you think you are to tell us how to live?” But these are His words . . . not ours.

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