Friday, March 30, 2012

Four: A Letter to Thyatira

To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations-
'He will rule them with an iron scepter;
he will dash them to pieces like pottery'-
just as I have received authority from my Father.
-- Rev 2:26-27
The Son of God commends the saints in Thyatira for their love, faith, service, and perseverance, but he is not entirely happy with them because they tolerate "that woman Jezebel," who misleads his servants into immorality and idolatry. She sees no harm in compromising with the pagan culture around them so that the saints might share in the prosperity of the wicked, but the Son of God knows their hearts. She and her children will be punished; they will not survive or possess the kingdom. The kingdom is reserved for the overcomer, and the overcomer will receive authority over the nations just as the Son of Man has received authority from his father.

Guarding against Jezebel and Balaam is an ongoing task. Their influence is clear when divorce and unwed mothers are as common in the church as outside, when "Christians" are as fascinated with sex and sports idols as the world, and when church leaders are as focused on the "bottom line" as CEOs. We must resist the seductions of the world and be overcomers if we are to possess the kingdom.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Three: A Letter to Pergamum

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.
-- Rev 2:14 NIV

God rescued Israel out of Egypt and made her a kingdom and priests unto himself. However, they did not remain devoted to God. At Baal Peor, Moabite women enticed Israelite men to participate in an idolatrous feast according to instructions given to their king, Balak, by the false prophet Balaam. Consequently, God's anger burned against Israel. Now the saints in Pergamum have also been freed from slavery to sin and have also been made a kingdom and priests unto God. Despite dwelling where "Satan has his throne" (probably a reference to a pagan temple), most have remained true to the name of Christ and refused to renounce their faith in him (2:13). Nevertheless, some in Pergamum have been seduced by the pagan culture's promise of full participation in the economy if they would only recognize their gods by eating at the temple feasts.

The Son of Man sends a clear message to those seduced by their culture. The Lord will not tolerate any other gods. If they do not repent, he will come and slay them with the sword of his mouth. The slain will be cut off from further participation in his kingdom. On the other hand, those who heed his warning will receive "hidden manna," true food that endures unto eternal life. They will also receive a white stone with a new name engraved on it. Because white stones were sometimes used as tickets, this may mean that the faithful will be given personalized tickets to the Messianic banquet. It is more blessed to eat in the kingdom of heaven than to eat in the temples of false gods.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Two: A Letter to Smyrna

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.
-- Rev 2:10 NIV

The Son of Man wishes to encourage the saints in Smyrna because they live in enemy territory. They are slandered and afflicted. They live in poverty. They are about to face more persecution, and some of them would be put in prison. Nevertheless, they should remain confident. Their Commander had himself endured a cruel death but had come to life again (v. 8). They had true riches (v. 9) laid up in heaven where they could never be stolen. They would suffer persecution, but just as Daniel and his three friends had been vindicated after a trial of ten days (Daniel 1:12 ff.), so they would also be vindicated after ten days (v. 10). Furthermore, those who remained faithful until death would receive a crown of life (v. 10). Their Commander is saying, "Don't give up. You will possess the kingdom!"

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

One: A Letter to Ephesus

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
-- Rev 2:4-5 NIV

The Son of Man commended those in Ephesus who had been made a kingdom and priests because they did not tolerate false teachers. Nevertheless, he warned them that their lampstand would be removed if they did not reclaim their first love. The essence of priesthood is love, both love for God and love for people. Truth is good, but truth without love will never proclaim the gospel to the whole world or make disciples of every nation. Truth without love will not win the victory. The Son of Man, therefore, exhorts the saints to reclaim their first love so that they might participate in his eventual victory: "To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7).

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Son of Man and the Saints

The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
-- Revelation 1:20 NIV

The seven churches have been identified as those in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Certainly those churches are addressed here, but the number seven suggests that they represent all churches of all times because seven is the number of completeness. Here, the Son of Man is pictured as walking among the churches and communicating with them. What is his relationship to the churches and the saints in them?

As mentioned earlier, the vision of the Son of Man is drawn from Daniel 7, which forms the basis of a significant portion of Revelation. In Daniel 7:14, the Son of Man is given an eternal kingdom and rules over all peoples, nations, and languages. There is opposition to his rule for a time (Daniel 7:21), but in the end he will give the kingdom to "the saints of the Most High," and they will possess it forever (Daniel 7:18, 27). The saints in the churches and the saints of the Most High are one and the same. At the beginning of his reign when opposition to his rule has just begun, the Son of Man speaks to the saints who will possess the kingdom. He speaks to them to encourage them and admonish them that they might be patient when suffering and faithful when tempted to compromise so that they will be found worthy to possess the kingdom when victory is achieved. The king is speaking to his army and rallying his troops for the battle ahead. The Son of Man is king and commander. The saints are his soldiers, and the churches are military outposts in enemy territory.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Little Respect for God's Word

What Not to Say: Avoiding the Common Mistakes That Can Sink Your Sermon, by John C. Holbert and Alyce M. McKenzie (Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) is a book for beginning preachers. It covers topics such as what not to say at the beginning and end of sermons and what not to say about God and the Bible. Although they approach the topic from an unusual angle and offer some good suggestions, I cannot recommend the book. There are many other books on preaching, and most that I have read are better than this one. Chapter two on what not to say about the Bible illustrates why I do not recommend the book.

Holbert and McKenzie admit that sometimes they envy their Unitarian students who may prefer to preach from "Emerson of Thoreau," but affirm their conviction that the Bible is "somehow more than merely literature, more than merely just another book" (p. 21). They affirm that it is more than literature because it birthed and sustained the synagogue and church and formed the bedrock of western civilization (p. 21). However, their "somehow more than merely literature" does not include the position I affirm, which is that the Bible is ultimately authored by an all-wise and all-knowing God.

The consequences of their view become evident in their second example of how not to use the Bible in preaching. They denounce an unnamed preacher for using a pronouncement of Paul concerning those who "exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural." Three reasons are given for denouncing this preacher. First, they affirm that Paul, who wrote nearly two thousand years ago, had a "limited" understanding of human sexual behavior. They suggest that Paul's view of what was "natural" or "unnatural" does not conform to their modern view. Contrary to the authors, I affirm that by God's design, males and females are complementary. The two together do what one cannot do alone. For example, bolts and nuts are complementary parts; they can form a firm bond when used together according to their natural function. That bond cannot be formed by bolts alone or nuts alone. To try to use them in a different way is unnatural. Similarly, neither males alone nor females alone can fulfill their natural function as sexual beings. To try to use them differently is just as unnatural today as it was two thousand years ago. The more "enlightened" view of the authors is that any relationship based on love and mutuality must be noble. I humbly disagree with their assertion. Love and mutuality are important, but they do not justify a homosexual relationship any more than they justify an adulterous relationship.

The second reason the authors denounced the preacher who cited Paul on natural and unnatural sexual behavior is that Paul lists many other sins after this one. They ask rhetorically, "If I am to conclude that same-sex relationships are somehow disallowed by God, then why am I not as intent on rooting out these other, apparently equally dangerous human traits?" While I cannot speak for the man they are denouncing, I can speak for myself. In my forty years of preaching, I have preached many more sermons on gossip, lying, stealing, and disobeying parents than I have on same-sex relationships. In my sixty years of life, I have heard many more sermons on sins later in Paul's list than on homosexuality. The authors assume that if we preach on a sin, we will automatically exclude all who have ever committed those sins from our assemblies and that our churches will be empty. On the contrary, the reason for preaching about sin and its remedy is to fill our churches with sinners transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Finally, the authors say that the primary emphasis of the Bible is on justice among the nations, proper use of money, and proper love of neighbor rather than proper sexual relationships. Certainly I agree that the Bible has more concerns than proper sexual relationships, but that is not the same as saying that it has no concern with proper sexual relationships. Furthermore, I am not certain that one sermon is evidence that a preacher has misplaced the emphasis in God's word. My responsibility as a preacher is to preach the whole counsel of God, not just part of it.

I received an electronic version of this book from Westminster John Knox Press for review purposes. I give the book a rating of one out of five.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Meaning of a Touch

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
-- Revelation 1:17-18 NIV

Commoners have difficulty believing royalty would have any interest in their own affairs and or could possibly understand their struggles or sufferings. Commoners are awed by the power and prosperity of royalty. Accordingly, when John sees the one who reign over all peoples, nations, and languages, the one whose thone in heaven is exalted above all others, he falls at his feet as though dead. Then the Son of God does an amazing thing. He reaches out and touches John. He says, "Do not be afraid." While it is true that he is "the First and the Last" and "the Living One," he has also died. He has been born just like we are, lived in poverty just as many of us do, endured unjust accusations and condemnation, felt the pain of cruel punishment, and understood the alienation of death. He has become the Son of Man so that he might sympathize with the sons of men, so he reaches out and touches John. But the touch is more than the touch of sympathy. It is also the touch of power because he who has been killed is now alive forever. Furthermore, he holds the keys of death and Hades. He is willing to use his power on behalf of those he understands and loves.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Son of Man Speaks

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.
-- Rev 1:12-13 NIV
When John hears a loud voice like a trumpet, he turns to see who is speaking to him. Standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands, he sees one like a son of man. Although his is like a son of man, all else about him speaks of divinity. The voice like a trumpet reminds us of the trumpet at Mount Sinai where God spoke to the Israelites. The golden lampstands remind us of the temple where God's presence dwelled among his people. His long robe, his snowy white hair, and his eyes like flames of fire remind us of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9. Indeed, he is none other than Jesus, the Son of Man and the Son of God. He is the one Daniel saw in the vision who came before the Ancient of Days with the clouds of heaven and was given "dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him" forever and ever (Daniel 7:13-14). He is the son of Mary to whom God would give the throne of David and whose kingdom would never end (Luke 1:32-33). He is the one the disciples saw just outside Jerusalem ascend with the clouds into heaven where he took a seat on the throne at the right hand of God (Acts 1:9; 2:29-36). This one who is exalted far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, this one whose name is above every name that is named both in this age and the age to come (Ephesians 1:20-21) is the one who commissions John to send personal messages to the churches. Let all in the churches who have ears to hear listen to his words.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Survey of Revelation

Revelation 1:9 is the beginning of the first of John's seven visions. Before reading those visions, we will briefly identify them.

Vision #1 (Rev 1:9 - 3:22) Son of man dictates letters to the saints in seven churches

   Vision #2 (Rev 4:1 - 8:1) The Lamb opens seven seals

      Vision #3 (Rev 8:2 - 11:18) Angels sound seven trumpets

         Vision #4 (Rev 12 - 14) Enemies oppose God and his people

      Vision #5 (Rev 15-16) Angels pour out seven bowls filled with God's wrath

   Vision #6 (Rev 17:1 - 21:8) The king of kings defeats God's enemies

Vision #7 (Rev 21:9 - 22:5) The saints dwell in the new heavens and new earth

The first and last vision deal with the saints, first in the midst of their struggles on earth and finally when they have gained the victory and dwell in the presence of God and the Lamb. Each of the visions 2-5 deals with a situation faced by the saints on earth and ends with God's judgment of the nations on their behalf.  This suggests that they run parallel to each other, not consecutively.

A Paradox: Kingdom and Suffering

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
-- Rev 1:9 NIV

John had just told his readers that Jesus had made "us to be a kingdom and priests" to serve God. He had identified himself with them as the people of God, but now he also identifies himself with them as a brother and companion in "suffering" and "patient endurance" that are ours in Jesus. It is a paradox, but true, God's kingdom and suffering go together. Those who have enlisted as soldiers of Christ Jesus must be willing to share in suffering. The soldier is not above his king, nor a disciple above his teacher. The king learned obedience by the things he suffered, and his soldiers learn the same way. The king won his victory because he did not shrink from suffering and death, and his soldiers also win the victory because they do not "love their lives so much as to shrink from death" (Rev 12:11 NIV). The battle has raged from the time of John. It rages today in many parts of the world. The battle will continue to rage, and even become more ominous, but those who are faithful until death will receive a crown of life (Rev 2:10).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Herod the Great (Builder)

Ehud Netzer's book The Architecture of Herod the Great Builder is both informative and interesting. Herod the Great (73 - 4 BC) was nearing the end of his life when Jesus was born. However, one of Herod's great architectural projects, the rebuilding of the temple and its precincts, was still not finished during the ministry of Jesus some 30 years later. That great project began about 15 years before Jesus was born (see John 2:20). Many other projects, however, had been completed, and archaeologists like Ehud Netzer have done us a great service in describing them for us.

Part I surveys Herod's known building projects including those at Masada, Jericho, Samaria, Caesarea Maritima, Jerusalem, and Herodium. The descriptions of each project include detailed floor plans and architectural drawings. (A few black-and-white pictures can be found in the introduction and plates at the end of the book.) Part II discusses the planning of the projects, Greco-Roman influences, and Herod's personal involvement.

The descriptions of Herod's architecture in this book demonstrate that Herod was not only an ambitious builder, but also an innovative and creative one. When he built the artificial harbor at Caesarea Maritima, he was one of the first builders to pour concrete underwater. Along with innovative engineering, Herod exhibited creative design. When Herod built a hippodrome in Jericho, he included a theater in the semicircular end turning the hippodrome into a multi-function facility. Of special interest to me as a Bible student were descriptions of the Antonia fortress, the temple mount, Herod's palace in Jerusalem, and the three towers just north of it.

The book is an excellent resource about Herod's architecture. I would give the book a rating of five although I think a few color pictures would have added to the book.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Every Eye Will See Him

Look, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.
So shall it be! Amen.
-- Rev 1:7 NIV

Many await Christ's return with the clouds in power and glory with loving and eager anticipation, but many would prefer never to see him. Those who crucified him and pierced his side with a spear would prefer not to see him again. Those who betrayed him, slandered him, condemned him, abused him, and mocked him would prefer not to see him again. Those who have cursed him, scorned him, and ignored him throughout the years since his death would prefer not to see him. However, when Jesus returns, he will not be ignored or overlooked. All who do not love his appearing will mourn and wail because he comes to judge the world in righteousness.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Saints Are Priests

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father-to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
-- Rev 1:5-6 NIV
The priest/temple theme also permeates Revelation. Again, John includes himself and his readers among those who have been made priests. In Revelation, he is not talking about the Levitical priesthood or an earthly temple. The saints do not worship and serve their God in an earthly temple made with hands; instead, they serve in the true tabernacle, one eternal in the heavens where the Lamb of God (not a literal lamb, but the real Jesus) has entered once for all times to make atonement for them (Hebrews 9:24; Revelation 5:6). Their prayers ascend up before the true God with incense offered by an angel on the golden altar in that heavenly temple. Those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb will stand before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple (Revelation 7:15).
And he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
-- Revelation 7:16-17 NIV
Worshiping God and experiencing the blessings of fellowship with him are real and eternal. They are not imaginary.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Seeking Strength

Reflections on 1 Sam. 28:15-25

Perhaps you have watched your favorite basketball team or football team being trounced by their opponent. Your team seems to have no energy, no strength. Then you notice their body language. The problem is not just that they are physically exhausted, but they are mentally exhausted as well. They are in despair in their mind and have ceased to believe in themselves. At that moment, something happens that changes everything. Someone steals the ball and breaks away for a dunk at the other end of the court, or someone recovers a fumble. Suddenly body language changes. Heads are lifted, shoulders squared, and steps quickened. What happened? Were their bodies strengthened with a healthy meal? No. Their minds were nourished with hope.

FOR SOUL. When Saul went to the witch in En-dor, he was looking for hope in his soul. He was in “great distress” because God had turned away from him and answered him no more. When Samuel appeared, perhaps to the witch’s surprise, Saul asked Samuel to tell him what to do. In reply, Samuel asked rhetorically why he was seeking advice from one he had made an enemy. Then he repeated the last words he had spoken to Saul: “The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor” (compare 1 Sam. 28:17 with 1 Sam. 15:28). Finally, he told Saul that he and his sons would die the next day, and the Israelite army would be defeated. Saul found no strength for his soul. Whatever spiritual strength Saul may have had left was then exhausted, and Saul collapsed on the ground.

FOR BODY. Perhaps due to his spiritual distress, and perhaps due to the intense preparations for battle, Saul had not eaten anything all day. He needed physical strength too. Although the woman could not provide him with any spiritual strength, she did provide physical strength with food she prepared and set before him. After eating, he rose and went his way. We read no more of Saul until he is mortally wounded on the battlefield the next day. The last meal Saul ate was probably from the hand of the witch of En-dor.

The Saints Are a Kingdom

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father-to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
-- Rev 1:5-6 NIV
As mentioned yesterday, the kingdom is a theme that permeates Revelation from beginning to end. It is important to understand that John and the saints in the seven churches have been made a kingdom. The kingdom of which the saints are a part is not a political kingdom. Instead, it is a not-of-this-world kingdom. It is a spiritual kingdom. Christ does not sit on an earthly throne, but he sits at the right hand of God on his throne in the heavens (Revelation 3:21). He does not defeat the nations and slay the wicked with "the edge of the sword" (literally in the Hebrew Scriptures "the mouth of the sword"), but with "the sword of his mouth" (Revelation 2:16; 19:15). Christ's dominion and victory are real, not imaginary. The saints also use spiritual weapons. The weapons of their warfare are not of the flesh, but they do have divine power to destroy Satan's strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). The saints have taken hold of the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). When they have stood firm against Satan, then it will be granted to them to sit with Christ on his throne and rule the nations with him (Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21). Their victory and dominion are also real, not imaginary.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Kingdom and Priests

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father-to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
-- Rev 1:5-6 NIV
John here compares himself and the saints of Asia Minor with the Israelites of old. Just as Israel had been freed from slavery by the blood of a lamb and made to be a kingdom and priests to serve God (Exodus 19:6), so he and the saints in the churches had been freed from sin by the blood of the Lamb and made a kingdom and priests to serve God. John continues throughout Revelation to use the themes of a kingdom and priests, themes borrowed from the Old Testament, to describe New Testament saints. When you read about God's kingdom and priests in Revelation, you are not reading only about Abraham's physical descendants, but about people of all nations who are children of Abraham by faith.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

When Hope Falters

Grace and peace to you … from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
-- Rev 1:4-5

Judah had endured centuries of servitude to foreign kings after their Babylonian captivity. They longed for the day God would keep his promise and reestablish one of David's descendants on the throne as God had promised (see Psalms 89:20-37). As the centuries passed, their hope faltered (Psalm 89:38-42).

Then, at the darkest hour, Jesus appeared, and he was much more than they expected! He was the faithful witness to God's character, love, and righteousness for he was the exact representation of God's being (Hebrews 1:3). More than that, he was the firstborn of the dead assuring them that even if they died while still waiting in hope, their hope had not been in vain for the dead would be raised. Finally, he was not merely the king of a small nation, but he was ruler of the kings of the earth, for he had ascended to the right hand of God "far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come" (Ephesians 1:21).

The harassed and weary saints of Asia Minor needed to be reminded of who Jesus was. He was the Faithful Witness of a faithful God, he ruled over the earthly kings who persecuted them, and as the firstborn of the dead, he would raise them to life and joy in the presence of God forever.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Strength for the Weak

Grace and peace to you … from the seven spirits before his throne….
-- Rev 1:4 NIV

Later in Revelation 4:5, the seven spirits are equated with seven lamps which burn continually before the throne of God, and those seven lamps are an allusion to Zechariah 4:2 ff. After the return from Babylonian captivity, Zerubbabel and the people of Judah had been struggling to rebuild the temple, and they just didn't seem to have the power or strength to accomplish the task. In their distress, God assured Zerubbabel that just as he had laid the foundation of the temple, so he would set the final capstone in place when it was finished. All obstacles would be removed before him, and the task would be finished "'not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty." Again, this greeting would be especially welcome to the Christians in Asia Minor, who seemed so weak and powerless against the powers of Rome. The Spirit would give them success for success depends not on their strength but on the Spirit of the Living God.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A God Who Helps in Time of Need

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come…
-- Rev 1:4 NIV

For the saints in the churches of Asia who faced daily hardships, persecution, and threats of death, this greeting was particularly meaningful. The God who "is," reminded them of the great I AM who visited the Israelites in their bondage in Egypt, delivered them from Pharaoh's army, and led them to the Promised Land. The second phrase, "who was," connects the God the Christians worshiped to the faithful I AM of the past. The final phrase, "who is to come," reminds them that God will yet deliver them from their tormentors and graciously lead them to a new heavens and a new earth where they would dwell in peace forever and ever.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Letter to the Churches of Asia

The apostle has called his book a revelation (apocalypse) and a prophecy, but he puts it in the form of an epistle or letter. Notice that he begins in verse four and closes in the last verse of chapter 22 like an epistle:

To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,
-- Rev 1:4 NIV

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.
-- Rev 22:21 NIV

If we compare those verses with the beginning and closing of Paul's epistle to the Philippians (Phil 1:1-2 and 4:13), we see that John's book is also an epistle. Since John's book is an epistle or letter, we should read it expecting the writer to discuss a situation faced by the churches at the time he wrote, and we should expect him to teach, encourage, and admonish the churches in a manner appropriate to that situation. In fact, we will find that John teaches as much about the work of Christ as Paul does in Romans, and he will apply that teaching to the situation faced by the churches of Asia in the late first century.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Purpose of a Prophecy

Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
-- Rev 1:3 NIV

Earlier, John called his book a revelation (apocalypse), but now he also calls it a prophecy. John, like the prophets Samuel, Elijah, and Jeremiah, warns God's people of God's impending judgment on their unfaithfulness and calls them to repentance so that they might find God's mercy and forgiveness. Therefore, we who study John's message should look more at ourselves than "signs of the times." How are we being seduced or intimidated by the ungodly culture around us? Why do we who call ourselves Christians practice divorce at the same rate as non-Christians? Why do we enjoy the same lust-laced entertainment and music as non-Christians? Why do we use the Lord's name as frivolously in conversation as non-Christians? Why are we caught up in the same materialism as the culture around us? Unless we repent, knowing the signs of the times will profit us nothing. Blessed are they who hear and take heed.