Themes From Revelation – Living Now Toward the Not Yet

November 13, 2018

2 Peter 3:8-18  Another theme from the Revelation is living now toward the not yet. One practical example of this sort of thing is investing for retirement, and another is training for Olympic competition. What is coming guides what is done now. Let’s see some aspects of this from Revelation.

 

What Now and Not Yet are Like

  • The ultimate not yet is unimaginably glorious for Jesus’ people and unimaginably bad for those not in Christ.
  • The in-between not yet will involve struggle, suffering, pressure, opposition, and temptation.
  • Not yet will become now, and we want to be ready.

 

The Perspective of Revelation

  • The pictures and promises of Revelation help us know how to see God’s work, Jesus, ourselves and situation, evil and suffering, the world and its values.
  • The pictures and promises of Revelation function as motivation.
  • Whether in times of crisis or not, there always are forces and influences opposed to God’s heart and purpose, as well as to His people and our faithfulness.
  • How we live in the now is vitally important, and the not yet is more important because this existence is temporary and the not yet is eternal.

 

The Call on Us Now – The call of Revelation is to be faithful, obedient over comers who share God’s values, perspective, and purpose. We are to be different and live different. We do this partly because of how God sees the right now and what He is doing toward the not yet. In contrast, here are some ways professing Christians live in the now that are not helpful:

  • Disengage from the now because the not yet is coming.
  • Become defensive instead of discerning when we face opposition, misunderstanding, or censure.
  • Become hardened toward the lost
  • Try to discover timetables and interpretations that not ours to have.

 

When we do well at living now toward the not yet:

  • We live in need grace, but hopefully, less and less of it.
  • We live by the Spirit and hopefully more and more so.
  • We display who Jesus is so a lost world can make informed choice about Him.
  • It is easier to ramp up our living toward the not yet in hard times if we already do it regularly.

 



Themes From Revelation – Justification, Sanctification, and Faithfulness

November 06, 2018
 
Titus 2:11-14 & Hebrews 10:19-24  Last week, we looked at the broad theme of suffering among Jesus’ people, and this week, we find another theme of the Revelation concerns what God expects of people, specifically Christians.

 

The Need for Justification (Be Made Right With God) – To me, justification is not stated as clearly in Revelation as other Scriptures, but it is implied more clearly in chapters 5 & 12. Elsewhere in the New Testament, we see it in the cross and hear it on the lips of Jesus, see it in Colossians 2:11-15, find it explained in Romans and Galatians, and see it quite clearly in Romans 5:1-2 & 6-9. Revelation presents a choice between being a condemned part of the world order or being a Kingdom citizen in Jesus. Of all the ways people might try to be right with God, it happens through Jesus.

 

The Expectation of Sanctification (Be Different and Live Different) – Revelation clearly presents Jesus’ expectation that Christians differently than the world. We see this in the seven letters, as well as the condemnation of the world’s wickedness and contrast of Christians with that lifestyle. Other New Testament Scriptures calling for sanctification in Christians include 1 Peter 1:13-21, 1 Peter 2:11, 2 Timothy 2:19, 1 John 3:6 & 9, and more. We may face pressure and temptation to live in un-Godly ways, but the call of the Bible is to reflect Christ in our lives.

 

The Call to Faithfulness (Remain in Jesus by Faith) – In the Revelation, the call to faithfulness is expressed as the call to not deny Christ and not worship the Beast or receive his mark. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the call to faithfulness is found in verses like Matthew 10:32-33, 2 Timothy 2:12, 1 Corinthians 15:2, and Colossians 1:22-23 among others. Even today, Christians face pressure to turn their backs on Jesus, deny Him, and recant their faith. They may face things that   diminish their faith in Him and loyalty to Him. This calls for a deep and true relationship with Jesus Christ in ongoing covenant faith and faithfulness.

 



Themes From Revelation – Suffering for Christ

October 30, 2018
 
2 Timothy 3:12 & Romans 12:14  Before we move on from the Revelation, I want to look at some broad themes found there. One of those themes is suffering for Christ. We are called to have our lives, thoughts, and values shaped by the character of Jesus, the Word of God, and the priority of the Kingdom, which will bring us into conflict with those who do not. Types of suffering include grief, disappointment, anguish of heart and mind, various types of loss, tragedy, victimization, and suffering related to following Jesus. Reasons for suffering include living in a fallen world, our own choices and others’ choices, God’s discipline and refining, and opposition and persecution for following Christ. The scope or intensity of suffering for Christ can vary. It can look like inconvenience as we can no longer do things we did before coming to Christ or cannot allow our children or grandchildren to participate in un-Godly things. It can look like sanction and loss of relationships as we miss opportunities or suffer distance from friends or family because we cannot participate in sin or  condone it. Suffering can look like outright opposition or persecution in verbal, physical, or other forms.

 

So, how does suffering relate to God’s nature and purpose? In ways, following God’s instructions prevents suffering, and in other ways, following those instructions may lead to suffering handed to us by others because they do not like how we live. Additionally, we know that God can use suffering in positive ways, and we know that, even for those who persecute us, God wants them to come to Jesus in faith. Let’s go further and make some observations about suffering for Christ from the Revelation:

  • Suffering for Christ and because of Him can be the product of Satan’s instigating work
  • Suffering for Christ fits within the redemptive plan and purpose of God
  • The world may oppose and persecute us to punish non-conformity or to try to force conformity to its ways.
  • We are called to face suffering for Christ well and walk through it faithfully.
  • Suffering opposition and persecution for Christ is part of allegiance to Him and citizenship in the Kingdom.
  • We can find encouragement and perspective in the person of Jesus and unfolding and future culmination of God’s plan.

 



Jesus Lord of All – And Coming Again

October 23, 2018
 
Revelation 22  How much of your thinking about God, church, Christian life, and this present existence is influenced by the idea of Jesus coming back? What might it mean for us that He is coming back, and what should it mean for us? We are…
 
Encouraged in Hope Because He is Coming Again (1-5) – In part, the content of our hope includes the healing, nourishment, refreshing of God’s life abundantly given; belonging to God and bearing His character; the full fellowship of God; and serving Him and reigning with Him. This comes from our holy and loving God in the work of our Savior and King, Jesus. So, as great as this existence can seem, it pales in comparison to what is coming. And, as much pressure and temptation as this world can apply to us, there is reason to overcome in Christ.  
 
Called to Readiness Because He is Coming Again (6-15) – The call throughout the Revelation is for us to be faithful, obedient overcomers, and the book provides us guidance to obey in being faithful to Jesus.  So, we are called to be ready in obedience, ready in Jesus’ cleansing, and ready in the company of the righteous. Notice, there is a distinction and there is reward involved.
 
Invited to Expectant Anticipation Because He is Coming Again (16-21) – We find a word of welcome to those who would share in the hope of Jesus and a word of welcoming Jesus back. Is our desire for His return? We find a word of warning, and we find a word of witness of Jesus promised return, desire for His return, and the grace of God as we wait.   Are you living in the hope, the readiness, and the anticipation of  Jesus’ return? Jesus’ lordship and return give us perspective on the world and its ways, on how to live here, and the call to be ready for His return.


Jesus Lord of All – All Things Made New

October 16, 2018

Revelation 21  What do you think about new things? Does it depend what we are talking about? How do you connect the idea of newness to the Christian life and our current existence? Now that we have seen victory unfold for Jesus’ followers, we find God making all things new.

 

The Fulfillment of God’s Redemptive Purpose (1-6) – Scripture paints the picture of God’s overarching, eternal plan of redemption from beginning to end, and this new creation is its culmination. Notice also that God, in being the Alpha and Omega, is the initiator and culmination of His plan for us to be right with Him and be a community in fellowship with Him and each other with no suffering or sin.

 

The Call of God’s Distinction (7-8) – The question arises as to who can get in on the blessings of this new creation and be a part of it. God makes plain the offer of saving grace in covenant with Him. That covenant is in Jesus Christ by faith in Him and repentance of sin, and it is clear that God expects us to remain faithful to that covenant and live sanctified lives that reflect the new life of Jesus that He has put within us.

 

The Centerpiece of God’s Work (9-27) – The New Jerusalem is a gift from God. It radiates God’s glory, is inhabited by God’s people, is filled with God’s presence, and is characterized by God’s purity.

 

Themes for Today – As great as this is, what does it mean for us?

  • We have a choice between the empire of the beast serving Satan and the empire of Jesus serving God.
  • There is a contrast between the prostitute (Rome / world influence of sin) and the Bride of Jesus in glory and righteousness.
  • We see what God promises to those who refuse what the world offers.
  • All things being made new calls us to hold this life and world loosely.

 

God is into making things new, and we see the culmination of that. We are called to be recipients of God’s creative work through repentance and faith in Jesus. We are called to live like we are being made new and look forward to the completion of that work.

 



Jesus Lord of All – As Victory Unfolds (Part 1)

October 02, 2018

Revelation 19  I think it was the summer before my sophomore year of high school when I first heard of the Ironman Triathlon, a grueling race consisting of a 2.4 mile swim,   112 mile of cycling, and a 26.22 mile marathon. Much like that marathon, living the Christian life as obedient, faithful overcomers requires ability, endurance, and ongoing motivation. We find some of this encouragement in Chapter 19 as we begin to see victory unfold.

 

Victory That Calls for Praise (vv. 1-10) – As we read these verses, we find praise to God for His overthrow of the center of world evil and corruption and praise for the promise of us being with Jesus in victorious celebration. Here are some themes we find:

  • Praise in heaven and earth from angels and the redeemed
  • Both God’s redeeming grace and His wrath exist as aspects of His goodness, holiness, and righteousness
  • The temporary, apparent victory of evil will end in eternal punishment
  • The temporary, apparent defeat of the righteous ends in eternal reward
  • As far off distant as heaven and God’s work may seem and as close and real as the world may appear, we are called to maintain a true perspective on what is real and lasting and what is coming
  • In His time and His way, for His glory and in His power, God will do His thing in His way for His purpose
  • God is doing something you want to be encouraged by, prepared for, and part of

 

Victory as Jesus Rides Forth (11-16) – This is Jesus, and He is ruler of all, faithful and true (genuine and reliable), equitable and just, the one who sets in motion God’s will and purpose as the Word of God in creation, incarnation, redemption, and now conquest. Jesus is Lamb of God and Lion, Suffering Servant in the past and victorious conqueror, brings love and wrath, offers mercy and judgment, is slain one and slayer. The same Jesus who was broken hearted over the lost and broken in body for the lost in the battle of the cross will, in God’s perfect timing, end the age of grace with a different form of battle. What does this do to our thinking?

 

Victory as the World Powers of Evil Fall (17-21) – Here we see the condemnation and punishment of those who lead people away from Jesus and exalt themselves in blasphemous rebellion against Him.

 

How do we prepare for Jesus’ return, and how can we find encouragement in these pictures of unfolding victory that call us to take Jesus and spiritual matters very seriously?

 



Jesus Lord of All – The Doom of Godlessness

September 25, 2018

Revelation 17-18  How much of a problem does God have with what is going on in our world? How should His future actions against godlessness and His attitude  toward it affect how we live?

 

Pictures of Godlessness (17:1-18)

  • Biblical Pictures – We see representations of Rome, the Roman Empire, and the Antichrist. Here are those things that exalt themselves against God and His people and propagate wickedness.
  • Elements of godlessness include moral and religious corruption, leading others into sin, profiting from wickedness and the destruction of others, persecuting the righteous, blaspheming God, pride and pretense, prioritizing pleasure, and prioritizing materialism.
  • Aspects of the godless agenda include godless pronouncements, promoting godlessness, persecuting Christians.
  • Expressions and agents of godlessness include godless philosophies; godless messages and cultural pressure; and godless people, institutions, and governments.

Proclamations From Heaven (18:1-8) – These include desolation and devastation (vv. 1-3), a call for sanctification (vv. 4-5), and a declaration of  recompense (vv. 6-8).

Responses From Earth (18:9-20) – These include a cry of fear as it all comes apart (vv. 9-10), self-centered disappointment over the loss of enjoyments of godlessness and its commerce (vv. 11-19), and recognition of God and His punishing work (v. 20).

Pronouncements From Heaven (18:21-24) – We hear a word of destruction of godlessness and the systems and people who support it and live in it (v. 21), a conclusion to those actions and structures (vv. 22-23a), and justice from upon those who lead others to sin and persecute God’s people (vv. 23b-24).

Concluding Observations

  • God is not unknowing or uncaring about evil in our world or the suffering of His people.
  • God’s delay in dealing with evil gives people the opportunity to repent.
  • God expects His people to think, prioritize, speak, and act in ways that are markedly different from the world and its ungodly ways.
  • We find encouragement: be faithful, obedient, over comers – don’t be seduced by evil or intimidated by persecution.

 



Jesus Lord of All – As God’s Wrath is Poured Out

September 18, 2018
 
Revelation 15-16  What do you think of when you hear the term “wrath” or when we speak of God’s wrath? We must not think of the capricious wrath of mythological gods or the sinful, short-tempered anger of fallen humans. In these chapters, we see God’s righteous wrath poured out.  
 
God’s Wrath is Poured Out Against a Background of Praise (15:1-4) – This praise is coming from those who have made it through the trials as faithful, obedient overcomers, and they celebrate God’s mighty acts of salvation, provision, and deliverance.  
 
God’s Wrath is Poured Out From God’s Presence (15:5-8) – God’s wrath relates to salvation’s plan, for God has, in many ways, extended patience, mercy, and grace in drawing people to Himself, but He will pour out wrath on those who have refused to enter covenant with Him through Jesus. God’s wrath also relates to His glory as it shows His power and holiness and vindicates His Name, His Word, and His people’s faithfulness.
 
God’s Wrath is Poured Out on the Earth (16:1-21) – We do not need to know every detail or decipher the points that are unclear to understand the horror of these manifestations of God’s wrath and the dreadful results and everything turns against those who are not incovenant with God and they, instead of coming to Him, harden against Him.
 
Some Observations About God’s Wrath
* If God’s wrath will be poured out, I certainly don’t want to be under it, nor do I want to be on the losing side (world’s system and Satan’s ways) that will suffer that wrath.
* If God’s wrath will be poured out, it should stir a concern for those heading toward it.
* Some will not let themselves be drawn to God either by His love nor by His wrath.
* Our call is to be faithful, obedient overcomers in Christ Jesus.


Jesus Lord of All: Godly Perspective in the Struggle

September 11, 2018

Revelation 14:1-20  Have you ever needed the hope and encouragement of a Godly perspective in the midst of struggle, difficulty, or discouragement? Chapter 14 provides this.

Seeing God’s Redeemed and Their Redeemer (1-5) – Perspective is found in this picture. For those in Christ, our citizenship is in heaven, regardless of where we find ourselves. We bear God’s name as His property, live like citizens of the Kingdom, and overcome through walking faithfully in Jesus that we may sing the song of those who are born again and overcomers.

Listening to God’s Messages (6-13) – Perspective is found in hearing the call to worship God through recognizing His place, people’s need, and coming judgment that people might repent. It is found in understanding judgment is coming on Satan’s allies and those who follow his evil ways. It is found in remembering the promised rest coming to those who overcome Satan’s pressures in faithfulness to Jesus.

Stay Aware of What’s Coming (14-20) – Perspective is found in remembering that, with God’s coming judgment, there is coming and end to the age of grace in which people may repent, and end to the suffering of God’s people, and an end to the stench of sin that dishonors God and destroys people.

We need a God’s perspective when the temptation to compromise is strong and Satan seems to have the upper hand. We need God’s perspective when our burden for the lost to be saved and the saved to grow in Christ decreases. Remember the culmination of God’s overarching plan. Remember, Jesus is Lord of all, and let God’s perspective be your perspective so you live as an obedient, faithful overcomer.

 



Jesus Lord of All: In the Midst of Escalating Conflict

September 04, 2018

Revelation 12:1-13:18  Sometimes, we might wonder what is going on around us, what our role is, and if there is a Godly perspective that might help us walk through it. We find this in Chapters 12-14.

The Conflict of Redemption (12:1-6) – In symbolic language, John conveys the earthly ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and this can help us as Christians. There is something larger going on (God’s redemptive plan and Satan’s work against it).

The War in Heaven (12:7-12) – Here, we see the heavenly counterpart of the victory of the cross. Satan wants to condemn you before God, but, Jesus broke his power. The way we get in on that victory of justification before God is the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony that Jesus is Lord.

The Struggle on Earth (12:13-17) – The enemy is engaging in intentional efforts against God’s plan and people. This helps us understand some of the difficulties around us and calls us to draw up into Jesus to be faithful.

Satan Finds an Ally (13:1-10) – It is suggested that, in John’s day, the first beast was the Roman empire, and in ensuing eras, I believe this is a person, institution, individual, etc. that raises itself in opposition to God in Christ to take His rightful place, blaspheme God, and oppose God’s people in the power of Satan. I also suspect there will be a final, ultimate expression of this beast.

Things go From Bad to Worse (13:11-18) – Scholars suggest this second beast may have been the imperial system for promoting and enforcing emperor worship during John’s day. As we move forward, this is some force insisting on worship and allegiance to the first “beast” and imposing persecution to enforce it.

We are called to refuse to be impressed and intimidated by Satan’s ways and efforts and, instead, to remain faithful to Jesus, overcoming by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.