Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual growth’

Revelation 8

In Revelation 8, John tells the story of what happens “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour”.  There are different ideas about this silence, but the silence in heaven possibly demonstrates a sober, awestruck silence at the judgments to come, now that the seals are off and the scroll can be opened.  Judgment is coming for all, and many will find their names are not listed in the Book Of Life.  God has been clear that all will stand before Him and give account for their life.  That likely happens after the seventh seal is removed.

When the seventh seal was finally removed, the end did not immediately come.  John then recounts what will happen as the seven angels with seven trumpets blow their horns.  Each is followed by destruction and actions that impact the earth.  Guzik writes ‘Since John brings a report from eternity, it is difficult to assign a chronological and sequential element to these judgments. It is most important to emphasize that they are real, even if their sequence is hard to pin down with certainty.’  We don’t know exactly how all these things work in the Revelation prophecy and story.  But we do know they will happen, as they are part of God’s Word to us which is true and will be fulfilled.

This chapter reveals what will happen with the first four trumpets as they are played by the angels holding them.  These first four trumpets reveal the severity of God’s judgment. He attacks all the ordinary means of subsistence, such as food and water; and He attacks all the ordinary means of comfort, and knowledge, such as light and the regular rhythm of days. The first four trumpets also reveal the mercy of God’s judgment; these are partial judgments striking only one-third of what they impact, and are meant to warn and lead a rebellious world to repentance before the final curtain closes. For now, God spares more than He smites.  But that will change.

So as John ends this chapter, the warning comes through the loud cry of an eagle flowing overhead.  “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow”!  The first four trumpets caused some significant damage and impact, but the worst is yet to come.  The angel’s woes are well founded, because one-third of the earth’s population will die with the next three trumpet blows.  Judgment comes closer and closer, and most are not prepared to stand before a holy and just God to give account for their lives!

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Revelation 7

In Revelation 7, John writes about the 144,000 and the great multitude.  He begins describing the four angels who are standing at the four corners of the earth in complete control of all things.  The angels were holding back the winds which symbolize the destructive force of God’s judgment, as often experienced in the Old Testament. “I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel”. John tells us that the 144,000 chosen are divided among the 12 tribes of Israel. Though only God may know their tribal ancestry, there are 12,000 from each tribe which is listed in scripture as such.

We aren’t told what the specifics are for those who are sealed in this way.  Guzik tells us that there are clarifications about the 144,000 in Revelation:

  1. They are called the children of Israel (Revelation 7:4).
  2. Their tribal affiliation is specific (Revelation 7:4-8).
  3. They seem to be protected and triumphant through the period of God’s wrath, meeting with Jesus at Mount Zion at His return (Rev 14:1).
  4. They are celibate (Revelation 14:4).
  5. They are the beginning of a greater harvest (Revelation 14:4).
  6. They are marked by integrity and faithfulness (Revelation 14:5).

It is best to see the 144,000 as specifically chosen Jewish people who come to faith in Jesus, protectively sealed throughout the tribulation as a sign.

John goes on to tell us “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb”!  John knew they came from different nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues so we know that there will be differences among people in heaven, just as there is on earth. We will not all be the same. We will be individuals.

The multitude recognizes that God is the source of salvation, and no one else. Salvation isn’t something we earn, it is something God gives.  Everyone is worshiping God who sits on the throne. “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever”! John paints the picture of what heaven will be like.  On earth, when we face trials and suffering, God is there to give us strength and comfort.  But someday, every tear will be wiped away in heaven.  “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”.  What a glorious God we worship!

Revelation 6

Revelation 6 has John watching as the scroll is opened.  “Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, Come”!  From the previous chapter, we understand this scroll is the history and destiny of mankind and creation, and only Jesus – the Lamb – had the right to open the seals on this scroll at the culmination of history.  This chapter has the Lamb opening six of the seven seals.  With the removal of each seal, the instruction is to come.

The first four seals each were removed and then came a horse – white, bright red, black and pale – which bring a specific impact:

  • The white horse brings a dictator who imitates Jesus
  • The red horse brings war and conflict
  • The black horse brings scarcity and inequity
  • The pale horse brings death

Our modern age has seen hundreds of millions killed by dictators, war, and famine. Yet all that will pale in comparison to the death toll coming in the wake of this ultimate dictator in those end times.

Then the fifth and sixth seals are opened.  The fifth seal brings forth the cry of the martyrs. “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain  for the word of God and for the witness they had borne”.  If you had the thought that following Jesus was easy street or a rose garden, think again.  The fact that these souls were under the altar emphasizes that their life blood was poured out as an offering to God. “They cried out with a loud voice”. These souls in heaven cried out for vengeance and made their cry to God, and left the matter of justice and judgment with Him.

The removal of the sixth seal brought about cosmic disruption.  In the Bible, celestial disturbances are often connected with the coming of the Messiah.  Look at all that happened:

  • there was a great earthquake
  • the sun became black as  sackcloth
  • the full moon became like blood
  • the stars of the sky fell to the earth 
  • the sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up
  • every mountain and island was removed from its place

The question is asked as the chapter ends: “who can stand”?  The answer is simple and clear.  Only the believer can stand before this great judgment, the one who is justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  With Him, there is no hope.  That day is coming.  Are you ready?

Revelation 5

Revelation 5 has John writing about the Lion, the Lamb and the Scroll.  “Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals”. John begins with reference to the throne which was the focus of the last chapter, but now he shifts his attention to the scroll held by the enthroned Lord.  There is a problem in that no one was able to open and look at the scroll.  “No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it”.

John could not have said it any stronger. It was as if the strong angel looked through the entire universe to find someone worthy, and did not find anyone worthy to even look at the scroll.  But then, an answer to the dilemma was found.  “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals”. Because of the elder’s announcement, John expected to see a Lion, but saw a Lamb instead.  Jesus was not only Lion, He was also the sacrificial Lamb who was slain to take away the sin of the world.

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain”. The Lamb looks as though it had been slain. It’s hard to describe what John saw, but this Lamb had the marks of sacrifice on it.  Jesus was the sacrificial offering who poured out His blood to deal with the sin of mankind.  But as He takes the scroll, those who are there say “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth”. The true Ruler of the world is honored.

Guzik gives us a true picture of the song that was sang to the Lamb:

  • The song honors the price of redemption: for You were slain
  • The song honors the worker of redemption: have ransomed people
  • The song honors the destination of redemption: have ransomed people for God
  • The song honors the payment of redemption: by Your blood
  • The song honors the scope of redemption: every tribe and language and people and nation
  • The song honors the length of redemption: have made them a kingdom and priests to our God
  • The song honors the result of redemption: and shall reign on the earth

The reality is that Christ is worthy of our praise.  “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing”! The Lord God lives forever and ever and is ever worthy of our praise.

Revelation 4

Revelation 4 gives us a glimpse of heaven looking down on earth. “After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, Come up here, and  I will show you what must take place after this”. In the description of heavenly things, John uses symbols. However, not everything is symbolic. As in the parables of Jesus, many of the details are merely descriptive and they are not necessarily intended to carry a special significance of their own. Revelation four introduces us to the place judgment comes from: God’s throne in heaven.

Behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne”.  This throne was what first impressed John, and it is the centerpiece of his vision.  The throne is not empty. There is some One who sits on this great heavenly throne. The throne is a powerful declaration of not merely God’s presence, but of His sovereign, rightful reign, and His role as eternal judge.  We can’t think about much of anything until we reconcile in our mind that there is an occupied throne in heaven, and the God of the Bible rules from the throne.  He alone is in control.  He alone will judge each of us as we stand before Him.

Around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald”. Around this setting of all sovereignty, power, authority and glory – this setting of the throne of God – God has a reminder of His promise to never destroy the earth again with water, a promise that directs His sovereignty.  He is faithful to His Word, and the rainbow reinforces that truth.  John goes on to describe what he saw around the throne of God.  There are many different interpretations of what John saw, some of which may be prophetic or symbolic, and some of which is likely just details of what is.

But the key learning here in this vision is what happens around God’s throne.  Those who are there recognize who God is and place Him in the spot He belongs.  “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come”.  God is not only worthy of our praise, but also is eternal.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  His glory is coming.  “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created”.  Here is the reality of what is.  John ends this chapter reminding us that God is the Creator and worthy of our praise!

Revelation 3

Revelation 3 has John continuing his analysis of the final three of the seven churches that are addressed.  He writes about Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.  He begins with the church at Sardis where he writes “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead”.  This church had the external appearance of life, but under the covers they were really dead.  A good reputation is no guarantee of true spiritual character.  God’s message is that they need to “Wake up, and strengthen what remains….remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you”.

Appearances mean nothing to God.  He knows the state of our heart.  He knows whether we are truly alive or are secretly dead.  And if we have fallen away and are dead, there is one solution – to repent and return to what we know as truth.  Philadelphia had been built with the deliberate intention that it might become a missionary city. The church at Philadelphia had a different problem.  While the Sardis church had the outward signs of life, they were dead.  Philadelphia had impostors in its ranks that were pretending to be part, but really were not.

Jesus was completely pleased with this church. He had nothing negative to say to the church at Philadelphia. The church of Philadelphia is commended for keeping the Word of the Lord and not denying His Name.  The church at Sardis doesn’t have the same review.  “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth”.  In this spiritual sense, lukewarmness is a picture of indifference and compromise. It tries to play the middle, too hot to be cold and too cold to be hot. In trying to be both things, an individual ends up being nothing.

God is committed to helping us become more like Christ.  That is His plan for us as Christ Followers.  “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent”.  God is in the business of growing us up and maturing us into Christlikeness.  He will move us toward that if we don’t make those choices on our own.  He won’t allow us to continue on a bad path, or to live a lukewarm life.  He is continually pursuing us.  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me”.  We have a willing Savior who is ready and able to take action in our life.  He doesn’t force His way in.  He patiently waits for us to open the door and allow Him to move in our life!

Revelation 2

Revelation 2 begins the letters to the seven churches which all share a similar structure. In this chapter four of the churches are addressed. In each letter John gives:

  • An address to a particular congregation
  • An introduction of Jesus
  • A statement regarding the condition of the church
  • A verdict from Jesus regarding the condition of the church
  • A command from Jesus to the church
  • A general exhortation to all Christians
  • A promise of reward

We can see the condition of each of these seven churches and then apply those learnings to our own walk with Jesus by examining what Jesus has to say to each church.

The good each church has or is doing is called out.  The church at Ephesus gets this review.  “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary”.  Some glowing and positive comments.  These kinds of statements are made about each church.  But then comes the reality on the condition of the churches.

Again, for the church at Ephesus John writes “you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first”.  John’s charge is for the church to return to their first love – a passion to walk closely with Christ.  He tells them to:

  • Remember how you used to spend time in His Word?
  • Remember how you used to pray?
  • Remember the joy in getting together with other Christians?
  • Remember how excited you were about telling others about Jesus?

Each of the four churches in this chapter, have similar areas they need to change.  In some, there is sin that needs confessed and repented of.  But in all, there are areas where the church has fallen away and in order to get things back on track some repentance is needed.  John tells us to “hold fast” to the Truth of God’s Word and walk in obedience to His commandments.

Lest we think this doesn’t apply to us, John ends with these words.  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”.  The lessons we can learn here in how these four churches (and the other three in the next chapter) are confronted is important.  This letter applies to each of us as Christ Followers.  The struggles these churches faced are similar to ours.  We’re all human after all, and sin is a very real threat to our faithfulness in walking with Jesus.  We all need to confess, repent and return to our first love for Christ.  He lives in us and wants to live through us, but we must clean up our lives and allow Him to have control.

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