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Jesus is Coming March 22, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 22:7-21.

Summary: In this passage, God the Son declares that:

  • He is coming soon
  • those who heed His warnings in this book will be blessed, as they will be able to 1) enter the Holy City, 2) partake of the tree of life and 3) partake of the water of life
  • those who do not heed His warnings in this book will be punished, as they will be 1) excluded from the Holy City, 2) excluded from the tree of life and 3) afflicted with many plagues
  • He is the ultimate author of this book.

John also declares that he is the human author of this book. He concludes by praying that his readers would receive the unmerited favor of God as they anticipate the coming of God the Son.

Thoughts: This book demonstrates that those who refuse to worship God and hold to His testimony will be punished. Indeed, Christ promises to judge unrepentant sinners by:

  • removing a lampstand from its place
  • fighting against His opponents with the sword of His mouth
  • casting Jezebel on a bed of suffering
  • causing those who commit adultery with Jezebel to suffer intensely
  • striking down the children of Jezebel
  • coming like a thief
  • spitting them out of His mouth
  • trampling them in the great winepress of His wrath
  • causing them to experience physical anguish
  • destroying the world.

While we are conditioned to seek short-term pleasures, God repeatedly warns us that indulgence in short-term pleasures will have long-term consequences. Thus, we must continue to heed His warnings in this book and worship Him – even in the midst of difficult circumstances (e.g. persecution).

This book also demonstrates that those who worship God and hold to His testimony will be rewarded. Indeed, Christ promises to reward His true followers by granting them:

  • the right to eat from the tree of life
  • the crown of life
  • preservation from the second death
  • some of the hidden manna
  • a white stone with a new name written on it that will only be revealed to its recipient
  • authority over the nations
  • the morning star
  • white clothes
  • His acknowledgment before His Father and His angels
  • preservation from the hour of trial that will come upon the world
  • a pillar in the temple of God – with His name and the name of His city written on it
  • the right to sit with Him on His throne.

While these rewards may appear somewhat abstract as we live in this material world, God repeatedly calls us to meditate upon them and live holy lives that are worthy of them. On a personal note, I have been greatly encouraged by my stroll through this book, and I pray that I would be able to live a holy life that is worthy of these rewards – with God Himself being the greatest reward.

The River of Life March 18, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 22:1-6.

Summary: In this passage, the angel from the previous passage shows John the river of the water of life. God is its source, and He uses it – through the tree of life – to remove the curse of the Fall. In particular, He will grant His people the light of His eternal presence. The angel then certifies that God is the ultimate source of this vision.

Thoughts: I long for the time when I will be allowed to:

  • “drink” from the river of the water of life
  • “eat” from the tree of life – especially since it bears fruit every month.

Now I think that believers will not (literally) eat or drink in the next life – as God will grant us new bodies that transcend our current physical limitations. Thus, this passage demonstrates the wondrous fact that God will continually meet our spiritual needs and desires in the next life. As believers, we should earnestly desire that glorious state – and continue to live out that desire in our current (ephemeral) state.

The New Jerusalem March 16, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 21.

Summary: In this passage, God declares that He will enter into a new union with His people – where He will completely remove the consequences of the Fall. He exhorts His people to hold to His testimony so that they can enter into this new union – especially since those who do not hold to His testimony will be thrown into the lake of fire. One of the angels who poured out a bowl of the wrath of God then shows John the new Jerusalem; it is a beautiful city that reflects the glory of God. Indeed, its streets, gates, walls and foundations are composed of the most precious stones and metals. John notes that only those who hold to the testimony of God will be able to enter the new Jerusalem.

Thoughts: In verse 4, we see that believers will no longer be subject to “death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” These words must have greatly encouraged John’s original readers while they faced intense persecution for their faith. It would have been natural for them to abandon their faith and receive (short-term) pleasures – especially when some of their brethren were dying for their faith, leaving others to mourn their passing. Yet God called them to maintain their faith in the face of their (short-term) sufferings so that they could receive genuine (long-term) pleasures. These words should also greatly encourage modern-day believers who face intense persecution for their faith.

Here, John delights his readers with a wondrous description of “the Holy City, Jerusalem.” I am inclined to believe that John had a heavenly vision, and he had the challenging task of conveying the contents of that vision to his readers using earthly language. Perhaps the description of the foundations of the city walls that he provides in verses 19 and 20 demonstrates that his vision was consumed by an entity of infinite worth, and so he conveyed that infinite worth by mentioning an array of precious stones. My prayer is that I would eventually see this entity and experience the same sublime feelings that overwhelmed John when he wrote this letter.

In verse 27, we see that “the Holy City, Jerusalem” will be pure and unspoiled. Henry offers some insights on this point in his commentary:

There the saints will have no impurity left in them. In death they will be cleansed from everything that defiles. On earth they feel a sad mixture of corruption with their graces, which hinders them in God’s service, interrupts their communion with him, and intercepts the light of his countenance. But as they enter the Most Holy Place, they are washed in the bowl of Christ’s blood and are presented to the Father spotless.

I often struggle to maintain my communion with God, as I am easily distracted during worship services, daily quiet times and prayer. I often wish that God would heal my distracted mind – enabling me to focus on Him and give Him my undivided attention – yet I am acutely aware that I will never be able to honor Him fully in that regard during my earthly existence. While this is rather frustrating, the present state of affairs causes me to long for the next life, where I will be able to maintain my communion with God; indeed, I long for the time when I will savor all of His words and delight in His presence.

The Dead are Judged March 12, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 20:11-15.

Summary: In this passage, John observes the throne of God – where the dead are judged based on their (recorded) deeds. If their names are not found in the book of life, then they are thrown into the lake of fire – which is the second death.

Thoughts: This passage reminds me of the third verse of Jesus Paid It All. In particular, I know that my earthly deeds do not merit a mention in the book of life; thus, I am completely dependent on the:

  • grace of God in my election to His family
  • finished work of Jesus Christ in securing my election.

Since I am constantly aware of my sinfulness, I cannot imagine boasting about my earthly deeds before the throne of God. That being said, I pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to work in me so that my earthly deeds would demonstrate that I am mentioned in the book of life. Moreover, I pray that when I stand before the throne of God, I would be able to rejoice in (and with) Him during the proclamation of His (recorded) deeds through me in this life.

Satan’s Doom March 9, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 20:7-10.

Summary: In this passage, Satan is released from the Abyss. He then gathers the nations for a climactic battle against all believers. They place believers in a quandary – yet God abruptly destroys them with fire. Satan is then thrown into the lake of fire – joining the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth in their eternal torment.

Thoughts: While I believe that many of the events that are described in the preceding chapters of this book have already occurred, I also believe that the events that are described in this passage will occur at the end of time. Thus, my curiosity is piqued regarding the identity of “the nations in the four corners of the earth – Gog and Magog.” How will Satan influence them to oppose God and His people? Will all believers migrate to a single location at some point in the future – or will they be attacked wherever they reside? How will God deliver them from their enemies in their hour of need? Will the events that are described in this passage occur in this generation? In any event, believers can be encouraged by this fact – God fights for them. Moreover, He will finally defeat Satan and deliver them from his power.

The Thousand Years March 5, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 20:1-6.

Summary: In this passage, John observes an angel holding a chain and the key to the Abyss. This angel binds Satan, throws him into the Abyss and seals it for a thousand years. John also observes Christian martyrs – in particular, those who refused to worship the beast out of the sea. They reign with Christ during the imprisonment of Satan in the Abyss. Indeed, they have overcome both physical and spiritual death; now, they will serve God.

Thoughts: This passage may indicate that Christian martyrs will receive greater rewards in the next life than other believers. While the concept of a heavenly hierarchy is debatable, I certainly hope that if a heavenly hierarchy exists, then martyrs would be placed above other believers. I believe that those who suffer in a special way for the name of Christ should receive a special reward, as they have consciously decided to hold to His testimony – while overcoming the persistent temptation to commit apostasy and embrace the pleasures of this world. I also believe that if a heavenly hierarchy exists, then Christians who are not martyred will not experience feelings of resentment in the next life – as they will be content with their heavenly rewards. If any readers have some thoughts on this point, feel free to share them as a comment.

The Rider on the White Horse March 5, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 19:11-21.

Summary: In this passage, John observes God the Son seated on a white horse; He leads an army – also seated on white horses. An angel then calls all birds to devour the flesh of those who oppose God the Son and His army; that army is led by the beast out of the sea and the kings of the earth. God the Son emerges triumphant; moreover, the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth are captured and hurled into the lake of fire. Their army is slaughtered – providing all birds with a macabre feast.

Thoughts: My impression is that many Christians view Christ as a warm, loving shepherd who holds His sheep – i.e. believers – in His arms and cares for them. This is an accurate depiction of Christ – yet it is limited in its scope. In this book, John depicts Christ as a conqueror who is willing and able to destroy His enemies. We see that He will punish those who persecute His people while engaging in idolatry and sexual immorality – especially when they refuse to repent of their sins. We see that He demands to be worshiped, as He is holy, omnipotent and righteous. Thus, as Christians, we must continue to wrestle with the complexity of Christ and His character, as that will deter us from growing complacent in a life that is replete with temptations.

In this passage, we see that birds are called to feast on the dead bodies of those who oppose Christ and refuse to worship Him. I have not witnessed vultures feasting on carcasses in the wild – though I have observed this macabre act on several nature programs. I wonder if anyone who opposed Christ when this letter was written – i.e. those who worshiped the Roman emperor – read it. If so, did the threat of vultures gorging themselves on their flesh compel them to repent of their sins? Did they dismiss this threat and continue to venerate the Roman emperor? I hope to meet at least some of them in the next life, as that would show that they had taken these threats to heart and repented of their sins. I certainly hope to avoid a fate where vultures gorge themselves on my flesh.

Hallelujah! February 28, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 19:1-10.

Summary: In this passage, John hears a great multitude in heaven:

  • praising God – as He has punished the great prostitute for her sins and avenged all martyred believers
  • proclaiming the marriage between God the Son and His pure church.

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures join this doxology. An angel then proclaims that all who participate in the marriage between God the Son and His pure church are blessed. John is overcome by these words and actually prepares to worship this angel; the angel stops him, though, and re-directs his worship to God Himself.

Thoughts: Strolling through this book has compelled me to ponder the challenges that modern-day believers in First World countries face. In particular, I think that our situation is analogous to that of the Israelites during:

  • the times of the judges – especially after God delivered them from their enemies and granted them a respite from their tyranny
  • the reign of Solomon – after David had thoroughly subdued their enemies; at that time, the nation was prosperous, and Solomon was able to build a magnificent temple for God.

In those instances, Israel inevitably succumbed to idolatry and drifted away from God. Thus, I think it is important for modern-day believers in First World countries to consider:

  • Do we worship any idols?
  • What can cause us to drift away from God?

I believe that the answers to these questions will vary – to some extent – among believers. Yet we are bound by our shared calling to worship God in spirit and truth. Hopefully we can spur each other on in this regard, especially as we anticipate the return of the Lord.

The Fall of Babylon February 26, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 18.

Summary: In this passage, John observes a mighty angel declaring the downfall of Babylon the Great – since she has:

  • committed adultery with other nations
  • indulged in excessive luxury.

Believers are exhorted to separate themselves from her – since God will judge her for her sins. Her abrupt downfall is mourned by many unbelievers, including:

  • the kings of the earth
  • the merchants of the earth
  • seafarers.

Believers are also exhorted to rejoice over her downfall – since she has persecuted them and even executed many of them. A mighty angel then describes the totality of her downfall.

Thoughts: Verses 12 and 13 demonstrate the economic power of ancient Rome. She enjoyed the finest luxuries and ruled over a vast empire – yet God called believers to “come out of her…so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues.” These verses should challenge those of us who live in First World countries. For example, if our nation belongs to the Group of Eight, then one could argue that it possesses the economic strength of ancient Rome. In that case, what aspects of life in a prosperous nation compete with our call to worship God alone? Is God calling us to “come out of” our nation and avoid “her sins?” Do we need to emigrate to less prosperous nations? As God’s holy people, we must wrestle with these questions as we seek to maintain our spiritual purity.

In verses 10, 17 and 19 we see that the downfall of ancient Rome occurred “in one hour.” This highlights the rapidity of her demise; as a history buff, I believe that these verses should greatly encourage modern-day believers – especially those who live in Third World countries. Great leaders have built vast empires over the course of human history – yet we have seen that all empires eventually decline and fall. This stands in sharp contrast to the permanence of God’s power and His sovereignty over human history. In light of this, we should strive to worship our eternal, sovereign God. Indeed, history has repeatedly demonstrated that God is more worthy of worship than any empire or world leader.

The Woman on the Beast February 23, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 17.

Summary: In this passage, one of the angels who has dispensed the wrath of God shows John the great prostitute; she sits on a beast, and she displays her finery. It is noted that she causes the world to commit adultery with her; moreover, she has caused the death of many believers. Initially, John fails to divine the meaning of the beast; thus, the angel tells him that the beast – and his heads and horns – represent ruling authorities who reign over all unbelievers. The beast will attempt to defeat God the Son – and His followers – yet he will fail. The angel also asserts that the beast – and his heads and horns – will attack and destroy the great prostitute – according to the will of God.

Thoughts: Spiritual adultery is a major theme in this passage, and this spurred me to ponder the spiritual purity of modern-day believers. In particular, I believe that the spiritual purity of a modern-day believer is related to their time management skills:

  • Do we allow technology to master us – or do we master technology? Do we mainly use our smartphones for mobile gaming – or do we use them to inform, inspire, connect and equip?
  • What are our hobbies? Are they particularly time-consuming? Can our hobbies advance God’s kingdom?
  • Do we allow our careers to master us – or do we master our careers? Since we typically spend a sizable chunk of each weekday at work, are we honoring God during that time block?

The path to maintaining spiritual purity was clear to John’s original readers – they simply had to avoid worshiping the Roman emperor; of course, they could lose their lives in the process. While the path to maintaining spiritual purity may be less clear to modern-day believers, I hope that my thoughts can be useful in this regard. I should also note that I struggle with time management, and I have a lot of room for improvement.

Verse 14 is a timely reminder of God’s sovereignty – even over the most powerful forces – as “he is Lord of lords and King of kings.” Modern-day believers are still being persecuted by powerful entities such as the Chinese government and Islamic State. Yet this verse reminds us that regardless of their worldly power, our invisible God is their Ruler. Moreover, He is the Ruler of all spiritual forces – including Satan himself. This reality should spur us on as we demonstrate the fact that we are counted among “his called, chosen and faithful followers.”