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.

 



Jesus Lord of All – Word, Witness, and Victory

 August 28, 2018

Revelation 10:1-11:19  As we move into Chapters 10-11, it has been suggested that the  material in 10:1-11:14 does not come chronologically after the 6th trumpet but is gives us insight into something affecting the church during the trumpets.

 

John and the Little Scroll (10:1-11) – The scroll and John’s experience here has to do with God’s message regarding His plan, purpose, and people. It is a message of powerful participation and sweeping declaring, and we see that some aspects of His plan are open, while others remain a mystery. We also discover that it is both sweet and bitter.

 

God’s Promise of Protection (11:1-2) – Scholars agree that measuring, in this instance, indicates protection, and there is some disagreement over the nature of the temple and what the exclusion of the outer courts means. Some believe the temple refers to saved Christians, and the distinction between the protected and the trampled is either indicative of true Christians versus false ones or spiritual protection with physical and circumstantial suffering.

 

God’s Promise of Powerful Witness (11:3-14) – Without going into the diverse interpretations of time and the witnesses, let me make some general points.

  • The witness of God’s salvation and judgment will go forth until He allows it to stop
  • There will be a time when evil seems to overcome and silence the Gospel and witness of righteousness
  • There will be suffering in connection with that witness and rejoicing when it is silenced
  • God’s power is available to demonstrate the validity of the witness and protect it
  • God will vindicate the truth of the message and people will realize it.

 

God’s Promise of Victory (15-19) – Here, we see the ultimate victory of God in Christ. It is victory in the fullness of God’s timing for the glory of God and   extended to those in covenant with God through Jesus. Let’s get ready for that 7th trumpet.

 



Jesus Lord of All – As the Trumpets of Judgment Sound

August 21, 2018

Revelation 8:1-9:21  These images in these two chapters may be even more difficult to walk through than those in the preceding ones. The point is not to assign explanations and meanings to every detail to glean the principles and allowing the pictures to impact us. Think about it like a movie – the technical details are important to the director, but when we sit in the theater, the point is the experience and its impact on us.

 

Postlude and Prelude to the Trumpets (vv. 1-5) – Some suggest the seventh seal and the silence marks the end, and dramatically, it sets up to expect the next wave of revelation. Notice the prayers of the saints and the connection with God’s judgment. I believe we need to pray for God to deal with evil and try to bring people to repentance.

 

First Movement: The First Four Trumpets (vv. 6-12) – Most commentators I have read see these as natural disasters of epic proportions. If so, I think we see God destroying out from under people the things that they worship, serve, and depend upon in place of Him. As we listen to these trumpets we find the burning destruction of both vegetation and the seas, the bitter destruction of the water, and the darkening destruction of the light.

 

Interlude: Eagle’s Proclamation (v 13) – This is an ominous assurance that God will deal with sin in ways that are devastating to those who refuse Him.

 

The Fifth and Sixth Trumpets: Hellish Devastation and Death (vv. 1-12) – Commentators seem to agree that this judgment and the next are supernatural and demonic, although there is more disagreement on the sixth trumpet and its events. Don’t get caught up in the details but understand the frightening reality of demonic torment and demonic death upon those who choose rebellion against God. We see God’s ability and choice to use evil against evil and as evil’s own punishment and effort to turn people to repentance.

Hellish Decisions (vv. 20-21) – As things come out from under people and hardship unfolds, there is the possibility of repentance. Why do people not  recognize something is wrong and turn to God instead of going farther in the wrong direction?

 

Our Call – Our call is to be faithful and obedient, pray for God’s to deal with evil and for people to repent, be sure we are born again, and walk well in Christ.