Decmeber 8, 2019 ADVENT SERIES: FAITH MEETING FAITH Luke 1:39-55 It was one of those moments when faith meets faith. Such moments move us to search for the mighty or the magnificent. When we think of them, we may think of the heroines of the faith doing heroic acts or look for champions performing dauntless deeds. But today, if we look for the magnificent moments of faith only in the mighty, the proud and the powerful, we shall miss seeing one of scripture’s great acts of faith completely. In this passage, it comes in a simple visit between two family members, both of whom are expecting a child. Both have had some strange events surround their pregnancy and both probably needed some reassuring – especially the younger of the two, who was new to the responsibilities of life, not to mention this matter of life giving. Through the years we have sought to soften the scene by romanticizing the struggles of faith right out of the Christmas story. Someone has said that, like her depiction on some bulletin or magazine covers, Mary is always portrayed as “being beautiful, fair, her clothing spotless, her face radiant” (“Jesus Had a Mother” by John McCormick Buchanan). She looks like she has just stepped out of a beauty parlor and doesn’t have a care in the world. Seeing her, one would think that here is a woman who knows exactly what is going on — but nothing could be further from the truth. Luke discovered that after Mary’s visit from the angel — a visit that irreversibly changed her life — Mary decided that she needed some help sorting everything out. And who wouldn’t? After all, it is not every day that an angel shows up on one’s doorstep to announce not only that you’re pregnant but that the baby is somehow, some way, God’s child. It is not every day that one has to break this kind of news to the family or, worse yet, the man to whom she is about to be married. Then came the days of waiting while Joseph wrestles with what to do. Does he believe or not? Can this be true or is the woman he is about to spend the rest of his life with, to put it gently, a little unstable? It is a lot for anyone to go through alone, the waiting and wondering. So, Mary turns to the only one she can think of, someone who, that gossipy angel told her, has just had a similar experience. More than a generation separates the two, as does some distance, but Mary knows that if she is going to make any sense of this at all she is going to have to turn to her friend and cousin Elizabeth. She is older, wiser, and may be able to help her get a handle on just exactly what is happening. So, Luke relates the story, as soon as the angel left her, “with little delay Mary got ready and hurried off to the hillside town in Judea where Zacharias and Elizabeth lived.” (NT in Modern English – JB Phillips) It was a moment when Mary needed some support. She needed to hear from someone older and more discerning that what was happening was God’s will and that Mary would be up to the task. We all need some support. All through our lives we have turned to people who have lived the life and gone through many trials and tests. We have asked questions and sought wise counsel from those we have confidence in! Proverbs 1:5 says, “Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance” (NLT). To put it simply: while Mary believed in God’s promise, she needed another human being to believe in her. She needed someone to comfort her and say, “Mary, you have done the right thing and because you have — believe it or not — you’ll be up for anything you have to face.” Is it any wonder that down through the centuries Mary became the favorite among the common people? She struggled to believe, just like they struggled to believe; she struggled to trust, just like they struggled to trust; and she needed to be reassured the same way that they did. Aren’t we there, too? Looking, struggling, seeking, yearning for some confirmation that there really is something to this business of faith. And that God, as someone said is not “just something humans made up to make them feel better.” Augustine said, “God does not expect us to submit our faith to Him without reason, but the very limits of our reason make faith a necessity.” Each of us this morning like Mary are looking, struggling, seeking and yearning for some type of confirmation that there really is something to this business of faith! We look to those who have walked the way of faith for many years, hoping and praying for some little tidbit of advice that would let us know we are doing the right thing. Mary goes looking for Elizabeth, hoping to hear her words that what she is doing makes sense. And with the discernment of decades rightly lived, Elizabeth tells Mary that what she is doing is not only right and proper, but it will be a joyous blessing for her and for generations still to come. When Elizabeth greets Mary, faith is meeting faith and it is to our benefit. For Mary is, I think, nothing less than a vital connection between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and you and me. In conceiving the child, Mary is a sign that God is in this life with us, down to the smallest, most basic, experience. She is the sign that this religion of ours is not about esoteric theological propositions or secret rituals. It is about life — birthing and growing and loving and dying. Mary tells us that God is a part of all of that and so keeps us in touch, connected. If Jesus was going to share our humanity, then He would have to have a mother. In the same way that every one of us came to be here this morning, Jesus needed to have a mother. Jesus needed a mother in the same way that all of us needed a mother: to love Him, comfort Him, care for and about Him until the day He died. Mary did that. She was His first follower, His biggest fan, and was there for Him to the end. And for all this, Elizabeth says with great insight and foresight, she would be called blessed (Luke 2:42). That the Son of God had a mother is a reminder, that God’s work gets done when otherwise ordinary people hear the voice of God and decide to say “yes.” Mary is a reminder that faith means following dreams — dreams that begin with God – with courage and expectation. We live in expectation of a better life, a better world, where people like Mary and Elizabeth, like you and me, gather and where, once again, faith meets faith, to the glory of God and for the good of all God’s children. How does this apply to us and how can we put it into practice? Each of us need to be supportive of each other by praying for each other, listening for our cries, reaching out to help, and being there for each other. There are so many around us and possibly in this building today that are looking for support…for someone to believe in them as they are looking, struggling, seeking, yearning and trying to discern God’s path for them! Let our faith meet faith with open arms as we work together for the Kingdom of God!
December 1,2019 ADVENT SERIES: COURAGEOUS HOPE 1 Peter 1:18-21 In 400 AD the great Coliseum in Rome would fill up with spectators to watch the sport of human beings battling with gladiators, wild beasts or even one another until one or the other were killed. On one such day as the contests were being watched a Syrian monk by the name of Telemachus stood up in the vast arena. He was torn by the utter disregard for the value of human life and jumped into the arena in the midst of a gladiator’s battle. He cried out, “This is not right! This must stop!” Because of his interference with the battle, and for the crowd’s amusement, he was killed! Through his death he kindled a flame in the hearts and consciences of thinking people. History records that within a few months the contests began to decline and very shortly passed from history. Why? Because one courageous man dared to speak out for what was right! We use hope so carelessly that I believe the word has lost its value and significance. We hope the Vikings win (right!), we hope it doesn’t snow today or tomorrow and the list goes on! I wonder if we have forgotten what real hope is? I would like to share with you this morning what authentic and courageous Hope really is. Please understand it is so much more than a cliché or empty promise. Here is a good description of hope: “To trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; to expect something beneficial in the future (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology). We have entered the advent season and this is the season of Hope for all people. It was the season of Hope for a people who were waiting for the Messiah to appear in Jesus’ day! Let me share with you about Courageous Hope: First, Courageous Hope is bold – not passive. God gave a promise that a Savior would come. For many years, God’s people hoped and waited in anticipation for the promised birth of Christ. They boldly expected God to fulfill His promise to His people. How many of you like to hear the words, “Just wait”? I would expect not many of us like those words, especially when we are in a hurry, which is most of the time. We want fast, quick, and instant no matter if it is food, service, money or even technology – we just do not want to wait! Do you remember trying to wait on Christmas and then when Christmas Eve arrived not being able to go to sleep because Christmas morning would arrive soon? You and I waited in anticipation to open our presents and you know as well as I do it is not an easy task for the curious and eager to “just wait.” Think about the many hundreds of years that God’s people waited in anticipation and hope for the promised birth of Jesus. Year in and year out they waited boldly not passively. The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” The first mention of God’s promise of Christ was to Adam and Eve as God cursed the serpent in Genesis 3:15, “From now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (NLT) and was fulfilled in Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet…” (NLT). Imagine that! He had planned His promise before He created the world. A Savior would come. A King. Christ. Every day – all year – God’s people waited, reminding themselves that the Messiah would come just as God had promised. They waited. They watched. They hoped. He would not come sooner than planned nor later than scheduled. At just the right moment – Jesus came. Luke 2:6-7, “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Telemachus had some courageous hope that his boldness would change the way things were done and it did! Second, Courageous Hope is genuine – not false. From the earliest accounts of Genesis to the day of Jesus’ birth the hope was genuine. Let me share with you Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38). When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple shortly after His birth, they met two people – Simeon and Anna – who had been waiting their whole lives for the Messiah to show up. The pair rejoiced greatly because God had rewarded their patient and genuine hope by allowing them to see the promised Son of David. Most of us today know that we can be lured into a false hope if we are not careful. We think that we will somehow find peace and fulfillment if we can just get the job, or the spouse, or the kids, or the house we’ve always dreamed of. Simeon and Anna tell us that waiting only has meaning if we are waiting for the right thing. They had a courageous hope that was truly genuine as they waited patiently for the Messiah. Telemachus’ courageous hope was genuine because he jumped into the arena with the knowledge he would probably die, but his cause was worth it! Today as we look back on courageous hope let us not forget the sacrifice that was made by Jesus for us to have that courageous hope. Jesus jumped into the arena of life with the knowledge His death would give to us life, but His cause was worth Let me close with this: It’s the one thing we can’t live without…the deepest part of our souls cry out for it – HOPE! Hope that it will all be okay. Hope that someone is standing in our corner…for us! Hope that someone is standing in our corner…with us! And as you race through the chaos of this Christmas season we want you to know this truth – Hope is here. Not a false hope that makes untrue promises, not a guarantee of an outcome invented by any man or woman, not a fantasy or an illusion or a make-believe occurrence, not a fantasy or an illusion or a make-believe invention, but real lasting hope. Hope that God is still good, Hope that God Himself is with us, Hope that He is really holding our lives all together, Hope that God is still running our world Hope that God has not his face way from any person or any situation, Hope that you are loved in your worst moment and pursued as you run away, Hope that God is more intimately involved in our lives than we’ll ever know - Hope is here! Hope that you’re being offered new life in this very moment and that you’re madly loved by the God who offers it. So, make no mistake about it…Hope is here, no matter where you’ve been or where you are. Hope is here, and we respond to that living Hope with worship and praise. Hope is a person who became flesh in Bethlehem and His name is Jesus. Hope is here for you! (www.sermoncentral.com/hope is here). My challenge to you this week is to become a beacon of hope for those who are around you! How do you do this? You share the message of Hope found in Jesus that is found in you!
November 24, 2019 THANKING GOD SERIES: JUST THANKING GOD! Psalm 100:4-5 Let me begin this morning by sharing with you 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (NIV). “Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]” (The Amplified Bible). It is not uncommon for folks to compile wish lists for Christmas or New Year’s resolutions as we near those holidays. But often we overlook our Thanksgiving list – a list of all that we are thankful for. I came across some Thanksgiving lists and this list is from several housewives who were especially thankful: For automatic dishwashers because they make it possible for us to get out of the kitchen before the family comes back in for their after-dinner snacks. For husbands who attack small repair jobs around the house because they usually make them big enough to call in the professionals. For smoke alarms because they let you know when the turkey’s done. Here is another Thanksgiving list: A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need washing & gutters that need cleaning – because it means I have a home. My huge heating bill – because it means I am warm. The piles of laundry – because it means I have loved ones nearby. The clothes that fit a little too snug – because it means I have enough to eat. I am sure if we were to make our Thanksgiving lists, we would also include the major things like life, health, family, friends, and the nation we live in, despite all its flaws. But most of all, I think we would all agree we are thankful for salvation and the mercy God showers upon all of us. As we look back at this passage in Psalms, we see the psalmist tells us to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” This is great and we need to do this, but then the psalmist tells us why we should enter His gates with Thanksgiving and His courts with praise Here are the why’s: God is Good. Psalm 145:9a says, “The LORD is good to all…” and in Psalm 103:11 it says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is his love for those who fear him.” God is good in the blessings he grants us: The gift of grace and salvation. The blessing of living in a free country. The blessing of being a part of this church. The blessing of free choice in our lives. The enemy will try to get us to doubt the goodness of God but do not let him do so! Have you ever heard of the Johnny Appleseed Blessing? Here it is: Oh, the Lord is good to me, And I thank the Lord For giving me the things I need The sun, and the rain, and the apple seed. The Lord is good to me. Let me ask you this question…how often do you stop from your busy schedules and take time to just praise God for His goodness? God’s Love Endures Forever. Psalm 107:1 tells us, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” In the 136th chapter of Psalms the author ends each of his refrains with these words, “His love endures forever.” These simple words remind us that all things display God’s love at work on behalf of His children. The word “love” in the Hebrews means a loyal love, faithful love or what you might call a covenant love. It’s love that lasts because it is based on an unbreakable commitment. It’s the love of a husband for his wife or the love of a mother for her children. God’s love is eternal because His covenant is eternal. He cannot not love His children. But the meaning goes beyond that. God’s love endures! When you feel yourself tempted to despair, ponder this thought: His love endures forever. When you want to give up, write down this thought and stick it on your refrigerator: His love endures forever. Tell your husband: His love endures forever. Tell your wife: His love endures forever. Tell your children: His love endures forever. When the devil starts whispering in your ear about what a loser you are, you tell old Scratch to hit the road because: His love endures forever. When you have had all you can take, when the world seems to collapse around you, stand up, lift your head, and shout to the skies: His love endures forever! No matter where you are going this week: His love endures forever. No matter what your problems: His love endures forever. God’s Faithfulness Continues Through All Generations. In Psalm 119:90 it says, “Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth and it endures.” I came across this quote from an author by the name of Mary Lyon. This is what she says about God’s faithfulness: “As I study Old Testament biblical characters, I am amazed at the faithfulness of God. They failed like we do. They sinned like we do. They allowed fear to get the best of them just like we do. God, however, was faithful.” God’s faithfulness is not dependent on us. It is dependent on Him. He is faithful, period. His faithfulness is who He is. We do not change God’s faithfulness. God’s faithfulness changes us.” Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” It does not matter where we are or what we have done…God’s faithfulness still continues through all generations! In a world of wickedness, it is through His faithfulness that confirms us through the Word and keeps us from evil. In the moment of testing, He is faithful in not allowing us to be tempted above what we can bear. During a period of pride or disobedience, it is in faithfulness that He allows us to be afflicted that we might be drawn back to Him. In the hour of broken fellowship, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all our unrighteousness. How do we know God is good, God’s love endures forever and that God is faithful? Look around you this morning and see people who have seen and lived it for many years! I want to challenge you this week as you prepare for Thanksgiving…take some concerted time and just thank God for all that He has blessed you with and then bless God as Psalm 103:1 tells us, “Bless the LORD all my soul and all that is within me bless His Holy Name.”
October 27, 2019 BACK TO THE FUTURE: Part 2 (11) Revelation 2:18-29 Christ says in v. 21, “’I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.’” Plenty of opportunity was given to this church to repent; almost a thousand years was granted, yet she refuses to repent. John 3:19, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” Revelation 9:20, “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.” Romans 9:22-23, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And he did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory.” Our God is a patient, loving God! He gives lost sinners and wayward believers opportunity on top of opportunity to get right with Him. When we refuse, we can expect nothing less than His judgment. Next Christ tells us v. 22, “’Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.’” The word “of sickness” is supplied as a reading help in the NASB. Because the false prophetess in Thyatira was evidently committing adultery in a bed, Christ was going to judge her on a bed. Even though some of the church members were led astray by the fake prophetess, they were going to be judged unless they changed the path they were on. In v. 23a Christ says, “’And I will kill her children with pestilence…’” The words, “her children” likely refer to her spiritual children/proselytes vs. her biological children. The word “pestilence” is literally “death.” 1 Corinthians 11:29-30, “For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason, many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.” We see in v. 23b, “’…and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.’” 2 Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that he may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.” We are not saved according to our works, but we are rewarded according to our deeds, whether good or bad. People’s deeds reveal their spiritual condition. That is what James meant when he said in James 2:18, “I will show you my faith by my works.” Isaiah 26:9, “At night my soul longs for You, indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently; for when the earth experiences Your judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.” In v. 24, “But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them – I place no other burden on you, ‘Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.’” Not everyone in Thyatira was caught up in sinful behavior and false teaching. All false teaching can be traced back to Satan; he is the origin of all false doctrine and heretical teaching. All false teaching can be traced back to the physical origin of Babylon. Isaiah 47:12-13 says, “Stand fast now in your spells and in your many sorceries with which you have labored from you youth.” Revelation 17:5, “On her forehead a name was written a mystery, ‘Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abomination of the earth.’” Jesus tells them that all He expects from them is that they stay the course. He wants them to avoid being sucked into the vortex of evil that is swirling around them. John MacArthur said, “People ask me all the time ‘do you think there are a lot of Satanic religions around today’ and I say, ‘yes, every religion that is not Christianity is Satanic.’” Jesus says, “’…hold fast…’” is literally “adhere strongly to”. Christ commands his followers to strongly cling to the truth that they have and not to turn loose of it. “’…until I come…’” could refer to His coming for the church, or His coming in judgment upon the others. I believe it refers to the fact that many during the Tribulation will refuse to knuckle under to the false religious system in Revelation 17. In v. 26, “’He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.’” The word “overcome” (nikao) means to be the “victor or conquer”. The overcomers in the New Testament are believers. 1 John 5:4 says, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” “Keeps my deeds until the end” references the perseverance of the saints – an indicator of true salvation. “My deeds” is in contrast to Jezebel’s deeds. Matthew 7:24-27, “’Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and acts of the, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rains fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell – and great was its fall.” Christ promises believers who are faithful that they will join Him in His millennial rule. The word in v. 27 translated “rule” (poimanei) means “to shepherd,” indicating that they will not simply be administering justice but will also, like a shepherd using his rod, be dealing with his sheep and protecting them as well. Though Psalm 2:9 refers to Christ’s rule, John’s quotation of it here relates the ruling (shepherding) to the believer who overcomes. Believers will have authority just as Christ does. In v. 28, “’And I will give him the morning star…’” You might ask what is the morning star? The last chapter of Revelation gives us the answer: “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” (Revelation 22:16) Jesus says he will give the overcomers Himself and they will know Him fully. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” In v. 29, “’He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” This phrase is repeated each time in Christ’s address to the seven churches of Revelation. In the gospels (it is never used in John), it is always used to highlight radical truths, great principles and promises. Note that Jesus says it is the Spirit speaking to the churches, even though He is the actual one talking. 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” So, the question begs to be asked…what happened to Thyatira? The letter was written at the end of the first century. By the end of the second century there was no church in Thyatira, it was gone; out of existence; vanished! Let me share some final thoughts with you this morning: This letter reveals the seriousness of practicing and tolerating sin, and that God will judge continued, unrepentant sin in the church. They weren’t grievous wolves from the outside, they were perverse people on the inside. We should not “tolerate” any sin or false teaching either in the church or our individual lives. A pattern of obedience is a mark of true Christians; true believers will one day be rewarded and reign with Christ.
October 20, 2019 BACK TO THE FUTURE – Part 1 (10) Revelation 2:18-29 (NASB) This morning we are going to look at the city of Thyatira. This church is designated as the Pagan Church. Its time frame is from 606 AD to the Tribulation in the last days. Thyatira was located about 40 miles south east of Pergamum halfway between Pergamum and Sardis. The city of Thyatira was under Roman rule for over 3 centuries. It was famous in its day for commerce as the city was on a main trade route and tradesman from around the world bought and sold there. This city was well known for its woolen industry and the dyes produced there. The dyes that were made there could not be found any where else in the known world at that time. It was also a center of trade guilds (like unions today). This industry is mentioned in Acts 16:14, “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” (NASB) The church at Thyatira produced what is known in religious history as the Dark Ages. “Dark” indicates that the program of merging paganism with Christianity, begun under the church at Pergamum, increasingly emphasized paganism, which is darkness. The light that Jesus Christ entrusted to His church almost flickered out during the Dark Ages and it was not rekindled until the days of the Reformation. Let’s look at these verses: In v. 18 Jesus says, “’The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this.’” It is not surprising that Jesus uses the title “Son of God” in this verse, whereas in v. 13 He uses the title, “like a son of man.” He is reminding the church at Thyatira and us today that He is the Savior and He alone is worthy of worship. In those days as well as today there were and are false teachers who are prone to advocate the human nature of Christ at the exclusion of His divine nature. Jesus, also, uses this term to instruct those in the Church of Rome who are prone to think of Him as the “Son of Mary.” Then He says, “…whose eyes are like blazing fire…” Jesus is coming as One who sees all. He sees he works of the hands and the motives and thoughts of the heart. He comes seeing all. He comes, not as the meek and lowly Jesus, but with His eyes ablaze with anger over sin. His eyes indicate a penetrating gaze that finds the truth and knows those who are His. 2 Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that he may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” “…and whose feet are like burnished bronze.” Kings in ancient times sat on elevated thrones, so those being judged would always be beneath the king’s feet. The feet of a king thus came to symbolize his authority. Glowing feet indicate judgment. Brass and bronze are also symbolic of judgment. Jesus not only comes as One able to see all, but He also comes as One able to judge all! Christ is looking with piercing judgment on the church because she permitted false teaching to creep into her midst and led people astray. In v. 19 Jesus says, “’I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.’” When we look at the church at Ephesus and at the church at Thyatira, we see they are the opposites of each other. Ephesus, who had grown cold and whose deeds paled to what works they showed in the beginning. Thyatira showed progress and maturity in that their faith was evidenced by works that were growing. The same should be said of every Christian. The word “deeds” speaks of them as being active in good deeds and benevolent outreach. Their “love” for humankind characterized this church. This word love is an agape type of love…unconditional love that has no boundaries, it is a God type of love. Everything we do is to be done out of a heart of love or it is worthless. A love that won’t act is not genuine love at all. Their “faith” which refers to “faithfulness” means these folks could be counted on to get the job done. They were faithful not fickle. Their “service” means ministry. What they did was Kingdom work! Their “perseverance” means endurance and speaks of the long time period of this church. Their “work” continued on and were commended by Christ. There were some outstanding men that stood for the truth of God’s Word during the Dark Ages. John Wycliffe, John Hus, Savonarola and many others were martyred because they refused to give up their belief in the Word of God and Christ Jesus the Lord. The time of the Dark Ages was a sad and testing time for Christians. The Bible is the “light of the world” and it is the church’s commission to let that light shine. Jesus then says in v. 20, “’But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads my bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.’” Christ condemns what was evidently a rampant immorality in the church that was spearheaded by a prominent female figure that Jesus likens to the OT character of Jezebel. Jesus specifically calls out the deeds which are spiritual adultery, which is a symbol of the idolatry brought in during this period, and the worship of idols signified by the eating of things sacrificed to them, which is a symbol of the union of the church with the world. When Christ says, “’…you tolerate the woman Jezebel…’” the Greek word “tolerate” simply means “let go” and “allow.” The main complaint Jesus had against the church was that they were allowing a false teacher to parade her teaching and practices in their midst, with the end result being some being led astray. We need to remember that the church is not to be a home for false teaching. The word “prophetess” is only used in the New Testament here and in Luke 2:36 to speak of Anna – it means one who interprets oracles or visions. The easiest way to justify false teaching is to make the claim that you are a prophet from God and that the things that you advocate and teach have come directly from Him. Know that this is a pattern that has been repeated over and over in history. False prophet – False authority – False god, gospel and Messiah. What was Jezebel teaching? The term immorality is “porneuo” (where we get the word pornography), which means to fornicate. The reference here certainly includes spiritual adultery, the possibility of cultic fornication cannot be ruled out. The combination of food sacrificed to idols with sexual immorality may refer to the common practice of participating in the sacrificial meal of the pagan gods and indulging in sexual intercourse with temple priestesses in cult prostitution. The worship of Baal in Jezebel’s day involved intercourse with temple prostitutes. 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is that you abstain from sexual immorality.” 1 Corinthians 10:19-21, “What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or than in idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” We need to keep the door closed on demonic influence. Rev. Gary Thomas, a Catholic exorcist says, “A lot of folks dabble in the occult, or they will be involved in practices that…classical Christianity at least would consider to be idolatrous. People can get themselves involved in Wicca, or people will go see some sort of fortune-teller, or people will go to a séance, or they can go, and they can learn how to channel spirits…demons are always looking for human beings…” Let us be a church that stands for the truth this morning and lifting high the banner of holiness!
October 13, 2019 BACK TO THE FUTURE (9) Revelation 2:12-17 This morning we are going to look at the church at Pergamum: The Compromising Church (312-606 AD)! The city of Pergamum was the capital city of Asia Minor and was renowned for its political power, intellectual achievement and its pagan worship. The city had a 200,000 volume library and it was a place where parchment was invented. Papyrus was made from reeds and parchment was made from animal skins. What the city was really famous for was its pagan temples. It was during this time the church began to shroud itself in “mystery” and ritualism. The church was introduced to pagan practices during this time and the compromising began! The name Pergamum literally means “marriage” or “elevation.” As the church became married to governmental authority and elevated to a place of acceptance, it declined in spiritual blessing and power. Though the church was doctrinally pure they had drifted into compromise. Jesus is calling them back to the right path. There is a word for us today in the 21st century. There is always the danger that we might drift off center. There is the danger that we might hold the right doctrines, but still drift into compromise with the world around us! Let’s look at these verses: V. 12 says, “’These are the words of him who has the sharp double-edged sword.’” This church was in a desperate need of a word from the Lord. So, when Jesus comes to them, He comes to them as One having a “sharp double-edged sword” which is clearly the Word of God. Ephesians 6:17 says, “…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…” Jesus comes to them declaring that he has a word for them from God. What Jesus is saying is that the problems that the church at Pergamum had and the problems we have today in the church can be cured by the Word of God. Christ used that Word to sanctify His Church (John 17:17), to clean it (15:3), to bring it joy (15:11), and to bring it peace (16:33). V. 13a says, “’I know where you live – where Satan has his throne…’” Jesus knew all about this church, where it was, what it was doing and what it was facing. He knew them intimately and we need to remember that Jesus knows our church here just as intimately as He did in Pergamum. This church operated right in the middle of a city chosen by Satan as his headquarters, which was later moved to Rome. Satan directed the affairs of his worldwide kingdom, perverting the souls of human beings. Please understand today there is a spiritual battle taking place and Satan is free and he operates as Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this age…” and in Ephesians 2:2, “…the ruler of the kingdom of the air…” In other words, he is still active in our world he has a seat of power that he operates out of! Jesus is reminding the church at Pergamum that He knows they are living in a tough place. He also, knows where they are, and He has a word for them! He knows your situation too! He knows it when you are in a difficult place and when you face persecution! He knows the pressures society places on you as Christians. He knows, He cares, He is there, and He will help you! V. 13b says, “’Yet you remain true to my name…’” As I mentioned before this church was doctrinally pure, but they allowed sin into the church by adopting the ceremonies of paganism. This was later supported by artificial doctrines of an unscriptural nature that went on to pollute the true doctrines of the church. The enemy succeeded in subverting this teaching by making it a dogmatic or rigid doctrine rather than a vital and personal relationship with Christ. Rationalism came into play in the nineteenth and twentieth century and produced a modernistic view that the church today can be found guilty of having a false doctrine regarding Christ. This may be hard to believe but there are churches today as in the days of the New Testament where people can sit through an entire service and never hear the name of Jesus!! We need to make much of His Name! We need to sing it, shout it, preach it and tell it! Bowman UMC ought to be marked as a “Jesus” church. When guests come here, they ought to hear about Jesus! We are not here to promote Methodists, this church, this preacher, or anything else you want to name…we are here to exalt Jesus! V. 13c, “’You did not renounce your faith in me…” The church remained in the faith. There were some things that they held fast to…some fundamentals. They believed in the verbal, plenary (complete) inspiration of the scriptures. They believed in the virgin birth of Christ. They believed in the vicarious (done in place of) death of Christ. They believed in the victorious resurrection of Christ. V. 14b says, “’…Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality…’” In Numbers 22 – 25 we see the story of Balaam and Balak. It is referenced here by Christ because the Israelites intermarried with the Moabites, which was contrary to God’s will for them. The children of Israel became polluted socially and spiritually. This was typical of the church at Pergamum even though they were faithful to Christ’s name they did not remain separated from the world but incorporated pagan beliefs into their lives. Tim Lahaye says, “The only time Christians have unlimited power of the Holy Spirit at their disposal is when they are obedient to the will of God. When they disobey God and make alliances with the world, they are entering into a powerless state that will enmesh and ruin them.” (Revelation Unveiled, p. 62) This church at Pergamum sounds like many of our denominations today who have allowed the world to infiltrate them and have brought sin into the church. This morning here is the basic principle of God reduced to the barest minimum…repent or be judged by the Word of God. This principle, which has never changed, applies to both individuals and churches. Unless we are willing to repent of our sins and our violations of the stated Word of God and return in obedience to the Word, we will be judged by the Word, the “double-edged sword.” Here is the challenge to the church at Pergamum and to us today! V. 17b, “’…I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.’” The hidden manna is referenced to the heavenly food sent by God to the children of Israel in the desert. For us today it typifies the spiritual food provided by God in His Word. Understand that this is an individual feeding, not a church function. Just as the Israelites had to go individually and gather the manna, so we as the children of God are dependent on God for his or her individual spiritual supply. The white stone has an ancient custom reference. White in the Bible refers to the righteousness of God. In ancient days a white stone meant acquittal. If a man had been tried by a court, the jurors published their vote by laying down a white stone. Signifying that they were acquitting him of the crime. Because Christ died guiltless, we receive the white stone of acquittal with a name for Christ on it that is yet unknown to us. The white stone, then, stands as a beautiful symbol of the eternal acquittal we gain through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The question that needs to be asked is have we as a church or individually compromised on our beliefs in God’s Word? If we have done so, we need to repent because “today is the day of salvation.” October 6, 2019 BACK TO THE FUTURE (8) Revelation 2:8-11 Last week I shared with you about the church at Ephesus, the apostolic church and the loveless church. This morning we are going to look at the church at Smyrna, the persecuted church (100-312 AD). Some have even named this church, “the rich little poor church.” The church in Smyrna was a much-persecuted church in a wealthy city that had little time for Christians. It was located about 35 miles north of Ephesus. This was a prosperous city with a population over 100,000 people and was aptly named, “The Crown City” because it was surrounded by hills that resembled a crown. It was noted for its production of myrrh which when crushed would exude a fragrant odor that was used by the living and an embalming agent for the dead. The Smyrna period of church history was probably one of the worst times of persecution for the church of Christ that has ever been known. Even though the church was persecuted it became a vibrant church as well. Satan learned that persecution will not stamp out the Church of Christ! Let’s look at these verses in depth this morning: V.8 says, “’These are the words of him who is the First and the last, who died and came to life again.’” It is kind of interesting in the way that Jesus introduces Himself to each church. To the church at Ephesus He referred to Himself as the One who “holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands” (2:1). He is emphasizing that He faithfully provides for the churches. To the church at Smyrna He emphasizes His eternal nature – “’the First and the Last’” – and His death for their sins – “’I was dead’” – and His resurrection – “’and behold I am alive for ever and ever’” (1:18). This is a unique characteristic in how Jesus introduces Himself. Christ is telling us that we do not worship a dead man, as do the Muslims or the Buddhists, but a Christ who is alive. Because He lives, He is able to work on behalf of His children in any age of history. V. 9a says, “’I know your afflictions…’” This was a severely persecuted church. The word, “afflictions” helps us to understand what they were going through. Christ tells those believers in Smyrna that he knows as well what suffering they are going through and His tone is one of understanding. Some translations use the word “tribulation” which means “pressure.” It was used in that day to refer to crushing an object under the weight of very heavy stones. The church in Smyrna was paying the price for their allegiance to Jesus. The pressure was on and they were under afflictions. V. 9b says, “’I know…your poverty – yet you are rich!’” The church at Smyrna was not only being persecuted physically but financially as well. Smyrna was not only a trade city, but it was also a city that regulated its workers as unions do today. These people were denied jobs and promotions because of their testimony. These people had nothing in a city that typically had everything. Because the people of this church were denied work, they enjoyed few monetary assets. Actually, this was typical of the second and third century churches. I read somewhere that the churches of the first three centuries were marked by material poverty and spiritual power…but the churches today in the 21st century are marked by material wealth and spiritual weakness. A sad repose to the church of today…that we are materially rich but spiritually poor! Jesus says, “’…yet you are rich!’” What an amazing principle for us to consider…regardless of what you have in your checking accounts, CD’s, stocks, bonds, etc., knowing Jesus Christ brings wealth in this life and in the life to come! Tim LaHaye says, “Many who are as poor as the proverbial ‘church mouse’ are rich in this life in the things that money cannot buy: joy, peace, happiness, contentment, and eternal accomplishment.” (Revelation Unveiled, p. 54) Paul gives us a look at that unseen wealth in 2 Corinthians 6:10, “…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” I pray this morning we understand we are only rich in knowing Christ as our personal Savior. The closer we are to Jesus Christ today, the richer we are. The further we are from Him, the poorer we are! V. 9c says, “’I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan.’” The believers in Smyrna were an afflicted church, afflicted by false teachers who claimed to be Jews but were not! The New Testament definition of a Jew is one who is circumcised in “the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code” (Romans 2:29) Remember that submission of the heart to God, not observance to a set of rules, is His desire for us! The words Jesus uses in this verse, “’…a synagogue of Satan’” describes many churches of the 21st century. Any church that preaches a gospel other than the gospel of Jesus Christ is a synagogue of Satan regardless of what it is called! We have many churches today that preach a message other than the one laid down in the Word of God and they are not Christians at all and will be condemned by the Savior Himself. V. 10 says, “’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…’” Christ again reminds us of two things here – “’Do not be afraid’” and “’Be faithful, even to the point of death.’” Christ is telling us the church will suffer persecution. The “ten days” here might be a reference to the ten persecutions the Christians suffered under the Romans. It could, also, mean that persecution will be severe, but brief. Either way, they are informed that more pain and suffering is on its way! Tim LaHaye writes this: “Those who have Jesus Christ have enough, regardless of the intensity of the persecution! When grace is needed, grace is supplied; when courage is needed, courage is supplied; for we have the divine promise that our God is able to ‘meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.’” (p. 56) “’…and I will give you the crown of life.’” There is a popular phrase that says, “You can’t take it with you!” That is true but not entirely true for Christians, because in Matthew 6:20 says, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Christians can send their riches ahead of them by storying up “treasures in heaven.” V. 11b says, “’He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.’” The second death is that state where people who have died in unbelief are resurrected and cast alive into an eternal state of separation from God in the place called the “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:5). The saints of God need never fear that happening to them because they have passed from death into life (John 5:24). Their faith has bought them eternal life and they will be crowned with victory and glory when they arrive home. Let us thank God, there is far more waiting on us there than we will ever have here! I want you to know this morning that it will probably get bad down here before we leave this old world. There will be trials, there will be persecutions, there will be pain and afflictions. But in the end…when it is all over, we, who are blood bought through Jesus Christ, will be going home to spend eternity with Him!
September 29, 2019 BACK TO THE FUTURE (7) Revelation 2:1-7 This morning we are going to be looking at the first church of the seven mentioned here in chapters 2-3. The church at Ephesus is considered to be one of the finest and largest churches of the New Testament times. This church at Ephesus was started by Paul as referred to in Acts 18:19-20. The name means, “desired ones.” Though the church was doctrinally pure the city itself was a haven of wickedness given over to the worship of Artemis. Vs. 2-3 Jesus says, “’I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary.’” They were not allowing the world to influence their worship or their walk. Looking from the outside anyone would have concluded that they were a rock-solid congregation. If you were to attend their services, you would have been in awe of their worship. It was, also, characterized by its fervent evangelism. This church is referred to in a number of ways…it is the Apostolic Church (30-100 AD), a working church, a separated church, a pure church, an enduring church and also, a “loveless” church. What the people couldn’t see was this church was just going through the motions of serving Him. Christ knew that they did not love Him like they had once loved Him. As it was in Ephesus, many in our day are merely going through the motions. Many simply do not love Jesus like they once did…and it shows!! Let me ask this rhetorical question…do you love Him with all your heart, your soul and your mind? V. 4 Jesus says, “’Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.’” Christ had this one condemnation of the church…their lack of love for Him. He informs them that they have a spiritual heart problem. Although the church was basically faithful, it had unconsciously succumbed to the natural tendency of letting that which was holy to become commonplace or profane. This is the root word for profanity. I imagine the biggest problems the Ephesians thought they had was dealing with paganism and persecution. Jesus tells us a different story by telling them the biggest problems they faced was a personal problem with the Lord Himself! What He saw the church could not see! Understand that He knows us better than we know ourselves. No one in the church would have guessed there was a problem between them and Jesus…but there most certainly was! Let’s take a look at ourselves this morning. Now if I was to ask you if you were alright…I imagine most of you would say you were good. But sometimes the problem we have is that we try to compare ourselves with others. To be quite honest we do not generally compare ourselves with someone who is living better than ourselves, but mostly we compare ourselves with those who live less holy than we do. The standard of holiness is bit higher than that! God’s standard of righteousness is Christ Himself! What happened? “You have forsaken your first love.” Tim LaHaye says, “Although the Ephesians loved the Lord, they had lost the spontaneous sparkle of their love for Him.” (Revelation Unveiled, p. 48) The word “forsaken” means “to send away.” It was used of a husband divorcing his wife. Jesus is talking to a people who have walked away from their love for Him. The church at Ephesus abandoned His love. They forsook His love. They disregarded His love. Like a man divorcing an unwanted wife, they have symbolically sent the Lord away. Then Jesus then uses the word, “first” which means “first in rank or importance.” The church at Ephesus still loved their church. They still loved their doctrines. They still loved their activities. They still loved their busy schedules. They still loved all they did…they just didn’t love Jesus more than all those other things! V. 5 Jesus says, “’Remember the height from which you have fallen.’” Christ is reminding the church at Ephesus to remember their faithfulness of earlier years and to take an inventory of their spiritual lives. To be quite honest we in the twenty-first century need to do the same! “’Repent.’” The church at Ephesus is now told they must turn back from their coldness and indifference so they can have a vital, living relationship with Jesus. “’Do the things you did at first.’” This is a testimony to their love for Christ. The Lord’s call here is for the Ephesian believers to return to the simple fundamentals of the faith. It is a call to return to the altars of prayer. It is a call to come back to the Word of God. It is a call to return to a place of worship. It is a call to obedience to His will. It is a call for the church to walk in holiness before the Lord. “’If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.’” What this means is that the church at Ephesus will cease to exist as a congregation. Jesus is telling them that their lack of love is so serious that it threatens the very existence of their church. If you look historically and archaeologically for this church all that is left of this great city is a pile of rubble. There is no Christian church there…only a land inhabited by Muslim nomads. All that remains is the result of a church that failed to stay in love with Jesus. Perhaps our problem in the modern church is that we do not love Jesus like we should. Oh, we love Him, but it isn’t that all-consuming love that it needs to be! Oh, we love Him, but there was a time when we loved Him more! If we were to be honest with ourselves, we would probably have to sing the hymn, “Oh, How I Love Jesus” this way…“Oh, How I Loved Jesus!” V.6 Jesus says, “’But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.’” This group of follower’s practiced sensuality by completely separating one’s spiritual and physical nature, thus giving themselves license to sin. This was a very dangerous principle because every human being is dependent on an abiding relationship with Christ to maintain spiritual vitality. Another aspect of this group was that it caused the local church to look to human beings for the solution to their problems rather than to the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit, who “will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13) V. 7 Jesus says, “’He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” Jesus is speaking to those spiritually minded Christians who are willing to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The test of the hearer is seen in our conduct, for the Bible teaches us to “be doers of the word and not hearers only.” (James 1:22, KJV) “’To him who overcomes…’” This is the promise given to all Christians the right to eat of the Tree of Life. This is the tree that Adam and Eve were told not to eat of but now it is a symbol of eternal life and will be eaten only by those who overcome! Who is an overcomer? 1 John 4-5, “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” Overcoming the world is the experience that takes place in the life of the individual who puts his or her faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other way by which a man or woman can become an overcomer. Let me ask this rhetorical question again…do you love Him with all your heart, your soul and your mind??
September 22, 2019 BACK TO THE FUTURE (6) Revelation 1:17-20 Let me remind you of what we looked at last week. John heard a loud voice like a trumpet and turned around and saw Jesus. John attempts to describe the risen, glorified Jesus. As he does, he pictures for us the Jesus we will see when we arrive home in Heaven. As we move on to the first part of v. 17, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead…” When John sees Jesus, he falls at His feet “as though dead,” knocked out cold by His glory. Know this…when we see the glory and majesty of Christ, we will instinctively bow in adoration to Him. If you think about our chaotic world conditions…cold, naked fear grips the hearts of most people. For the first time in history the proliferation of nuclear bombs makes it possible for terrorists or rogue nations to destroy cities or whole countries. Those without Christ have every right to fear, but this should never be for you and me, who call ourselves children of God.” 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” Then John continues in v. 17, “…Then he placed his right hand on me and said, ‘Do not be afraid…’” When Jesus laid His right hand on John, He was emphasizing His essential deity by announcing to John the words He spoke to the disciples many times. He often used the terms, “do not be afraid,” “peace be with you,” and “do not let your heart be troubled.” What a Savior we have! We should praise His Name for the times He has reached down to us and lifted us up in our hearts! Where would we be if the Lord never showed up in our hearts to “whisper sweet peace” to our souls? Remember Jesus told us in Matthew 28:20, “…And surely I am with you always…” The greatest cure for natural fear is the spiritual peace we can have in knowing Jesus personally! I want you to know why we should never fear anything, and it is found in v. 18-19, “’…I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.’” “’I am the First and the Last.’” John is reminding us that Jesus is the “Author and Finisher” of all things. He is the One who has always been and the One who will always be. He was there before the beginning and He will be there after the end. Jesus stands as the great bookends on either end of history. Kings may come and kings may go, but Jesus has, is and will forever reign. He is timeless and He is eternal. Tim LaHaye says it this way, “He is before all things; and after all things are through, He will still be in control.” (Revelation Unveiled, p. 41) “’I am the Living One; I was dead…’” This speaks of Christ’s sacrificial death for our sins and His resurrection. Jesus died, but His death was not like any other death in the history of the world. He died not for Himself, but He died for others. He went to that cross to pay a price He did not owe…for a people who owed a price they could not pay. He gave His all for those who had nothing to offer and He paid the price to redeem His people from their sins. He accomplished through one offering what millions of gallons of animal blood had never been able, nor would ever be able to do. He paid the full redemption price for all those who would call Him by faith. Hebrews 9:14, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.” God said: Let us form man in our image. The world says: We must conform man in our image. The Devil said: I will deform man by sin. Education says: Let us inform man by knowledge. Society says: We will reform man by culture Only Christ says: I will transform man by My great love and by My death on the cross. “…and behold, I am alive for ever and ever!” Here Jesus proclaims Himself to be the One who will never taste death again! He lives and He will live forever. When every ruler and every subject in every kingdom has faded from the fabric of time He will live forever. When every rich man and every poor man has faded from the fabric of time He will live forever. When every kingdom and every deed has been forever diluted from the stream of history He will live forever. When all those things have faded from view…Jesus will still continue to be Lord and He will still continue to be God. He is the remaining One! Don’t worry that something is happening to Him…it is not! I came across this quote: “When the dust of time has been swept into the vast dustbin of eternity, Jesus will still be the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!” (author unknown) Oh, that you and I would realize the decision to accept or reject Jesus is an eternal decision; just as He is able to “save forever and ever” so He is able to damn forever those who reject Him. “’And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” When I think of keys, I think of having access to something! I have keys just like you have keys. Because I have these keys, I have access to the things connected with these keys. Because I have these keys, I can go places others are not allowed to go. Jesus stated that in His hand He held “the keys of death and Hades.” These keys were purchased with His own blood. Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “…by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” We as Christians need not fear death or Hades. Hades in the Greek is referred to as “the realm of the dead.” It is the unseen abode of the unbelieving dead and is often called “hell.” When the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20 happens, death and Hades will be “thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14) Those outside of Jesus Christ have every right to fear this event. The child of God, however, should never fear death, Hades, or the lake of fire. Why? Because Christ our Savior has the keys of death and Hades and remember a key is a symbol of release! One day Jesus will open all the graves. His people will rise again and join Him in glory. However, those who have died in their sins will also come out of the grave and they will face Jesus in judgment. Because I know Him, I can go to Heaven, because He has unlocked the gates of that city of His children. Maybe you are wondering what will happen when you die. Jesus can give you peace in that area today! Maybe your life is filled with more questions than answers. Jesus can give you peace in that area too! The way to defeat that fear is to ask Jesus in your heart this morning. What He does is changes you and makes you into a new creation in Christ. He takes all your fears and transforms them into fear not's!
September 8, 2019 BACK TO THE FUTURE (5) Revelation 1:12-16 This morning we are going to delve into some of what John saw and describes to us the readers. The seven churches that John refers to in verse 11 can be looked at as the seven stages of church history. Let me list them for you: Ephesus – Apostolic Church (AD 30 – 100) Smyrna – Persecuted Church (AD 100 – 313) Pergamos – State Church (AD 313 – 590) Thyatira – Papal Church (AD 590 – 1517) Sardis – Reformed Church (AD 1517 – 1790) Philadelphia – Missionary Church (AD 1730 – 1900) Laodicea – Apostate Church (AD 1900 - ??) As you look at these churches and the time frame in which they are categorized you will notice that most of their church history has concluded. You will also notice their influence still carries over from stage to stage. There are trends in the history of the church that still exists today! If we look just a little deeper, you will notice that the seven churches comprise of seven methods in which Satan will attack the church or individuals inside the church. This is why we must heed Paul’s call by putting on the whole armor of God as found in Ephesians 6:11-18 and “resist the devil” found in James 4:7. Let’s open our Bibles and read Revelation 1:12-16. V.12, “…I saw seven golden lampstands…” Remember from last week when John turned around to see who was speaking to him because the voice was like a trumpet, he saw it was Jesus here in v. 12. You might ask what are the seven golden lampstands? I read it just a minute ago in the last part of v. 20 where Jesus says, “’…and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.’” A lampstand is a fitting description of the church as Jesus was the light of the world, but he told His disciples, “You are the light of the world…” in Matthew 5:14. Even though we give light, we do not manufacture the light; just as a lampstand does not manufacture light but gets its light from oil or electricity generated through it. You and I as children of God are a means of light. Christ is the light, but He uses the churches and the children of God in the churches as lampstands to shine His light forward. Christ has ordained the Church to be His torchbearer in this generation. The only limitation placed on the brilliance of the light is the yieldedness of the lampstand, the Church. Let’s look at vs. 13-16. The vision of Christ is graphically descriptive, not only of Christ in His glory but also of His relationship to the churches of His day and churches of all ages. As John turned around to see who it was that was speaking to him, he saw the seven golden lampstands and a person in the midst. He lists ten descriptions of Christ. Before we move on notice that only the stars and the lampstands are interpreted for us. There is nothing else about the person of Christ that is interpreted. The reason for this is the Holy Spirit has revealed the person of Christ in other parts of the Bible. Let’s look at vs. 13-16 now. V.13, “…and among the lampstands was someone ‘like a son of man’…” John’s description of this man was not one that depicted a horrible, grotesque looking man from the supernatural world. What John described was someone who looked human in His appearance. “Son of man” is a frequent description that Jesus used of Himself. As a matter of fact, it is used of the Messiah in all four Gospels including Daniel 7:13 which says, “’In my vision at night I [Daniel] looked, and there before me was one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven…’” “…dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet…” This description of the man was typical of the long robes of the high priests as they ministered in the Holy Place in the Temple. The Hebrew writer tells us Jesus is our great high priest when it pertains to all things in our relationship with God. “…with a golden sash around his chest…” This description refers symbolically to strength and authority that was common in the ancient world. If you were to see an average working man, he would be wearing a short tunic of loose-fitting clothes. Only those in authority wore a golden sash or a girdle. Jesus said of Himself in Matthew 28:18, “…’All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow…” This description reminds us of something not just old but something that is an antique…worth much. It gives much credence to Isaiah’s description of Christ in Daniel 7:9-13 in which Christ is called the “Ancient of Days.” If we look at the white it also speaks of the righteousness of God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. “…and his eyes were like blazing fire…” If we were to translate these words literally it would say, “his eyes shot fire,” telling us that something was wrong. Haven’t you ever heard the phrase, “see red”? If someone sees red, they become very angry or annoyed. As we progress through this vision, we will see why Christ was “seeing red”! “…His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace…” Bronze in the Bible always means judgment. It reminds us of the brazen altar outside the tabernacle, where sin was judged. “…and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters…” If you have ever been to any type of waterfalls the closer, you get to it the louder it becomes. Niagara Falls is a classic example of a roar that churns the turbulent waters into a noisy and deafening sound. This should remind us that on the day of judgment God’s voice will be like a deafening, overpowering sound. For those who are caught up in worldliness and materialism of this world they will all take heed to His voice for they will be entering into their hour of judgment. But remember as the church of Jesus Christ or as individuals Christians we can hear His voice all we need to do is listen! “In his right hand he held seven stars…” The Lord Himself revealed the meaning of the seven stars in v. 20 which says the angels or messengers are the seven stars of the seven churches. There are many different views on this meaning, but I like to think God has given the church a supernaturally created being that is especially assigned to that specific church. Perhaps like a guardian angel that Jesus refers to in Matthew 18:10 about the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Wouldn’t it be kind of great with all the enemies armed against the church, both natural and supernatural that we would have an angel working for us? I don’t know about you, but we certainly could use one if we don’t!! “…and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword…” Ephesians 6 refers to the Word of God as “the sword of the Spirit.” Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is “sharper than any two-edged sword.” The spoken word of Christ will be so powerful that there will be no defense on the day of judgment. “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” This description shows us the divine nature of Christ and reminds us of the event that took place on the Mount of Transfiguration, where Christ “was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” (Matthew 17:2) For just a moment in His earthly ministry, Peter, James and John saw Jesus in His divine glory, just as John saw Him in his vision. Let there be no doubt about it: This is Jesus the Christ the divine Son of God! Remain vigilant this morning because Jesus’ return is imminent! September 1, 2019 BACK TO THE FUTURE (4) Revelation 1:9-11 We know this morning that this book is a book of prophecy and it extends all the way to eternity. But it also has some personal information about John, and he gives us some insight into how he came to write this book. In the verses we are given some a glimpse into what John was going through and how the Lord came to him in a vision. As we look at these verses, I want you to keep this thought in mind…people matter to God. Even though this book looks at some very complex prophecies, awesome judgments and profound truths…God still takes time to give us some insights to who John is! Let’s look at this passage in Revelation 1:9-11. This morning we are going to take a look at John because people do matter to God in New Testament days as well as in the 21st Century. V.9 says, “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.” I want you to see who John is by his words. He begins with, “I John…” Notice that John has now referred to himself 3 times (vs. 1, 4, 9). He is identifying himself as an apostle and even though he was well known among the seven churches he was also, the pastor of the church in Ephesus at one time. Even though he did not refer to himself as the apostle John he did identify himself in two ways. “I, John, your brother…” We see first of all he was their brother. John MacArthur says it this way, “John was an apostle, a member of the inner circle of the twelve along with Peter and James, and the human author of a gospel and three epistles. Yet he humbly identified himself simply as your brother. He did not write as one impressed with his authority as an apostle, commanding, exhorting, or defining doctrine, but as an eyewitness to the revelation of Jesus Christ that begins to unfold with this vision.” Next, he adds these words, “…and companion…” John was not only their brother spiritually but was also their companion. Other translations use the word, “co-sharer” (Lexham English Bible), “fellow partaker (New American Standard Bible) in three specific ways. He was their partner “in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus.” He is emphasizing that Christians are members of Christ’s Kingdom and because of that truth persecution would grow against them, but if they remained in the faith they would patiently endure because they were all “…in Jesus.” This is a description of how we should live our lives. There is no place to stop, no place to quit, no place to sit down and do nothing. “…was on the island of Patmos…” The question might be asked is why was John on this specific island? Tradition tells us that Domitian banished John to Patmos. It is a small island located in the Aegean Sea about 30 miles from Ephesus. It is 10 miles long and 6 miles wide. It was formed from rough, volcanic rock and was used by the Romans as a prison. “…because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” John was sent there as opposition to Christianity was gaining momentum and because he preached the word of God that bore witness to Jesus Christ. Garrett Osborne says, “Life there was not too harsh…John would have lived a fairly normal life as an exile on that island. John was not under house arrest or in a dungeon. He had the freedom to walk around the island and banishment meant he could take as many possessions as he wished to the island. John was carrying on what Christ had commissioned him to do…proclaim the gospel and because of that obedience he was being punished for his faithfulness to Christ! On a side note here, someone once asked, “If you were ever accused of being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Would your family, your neighbors, your friends, your colleagues and so on be surprised that you were arrested? Or even worse, would you even be arrested? Something to really think about in these last days! V.10 says, “On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet…” Notice first of all that John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day! The words, “in the Spirit” occurs three other times in this book but it means, “the Holy Spirit enabling a vision and/or experience that was beyond the bounds of normal human apprehension. John MacArthur said, “Under the Holy Spirit’s control, John was transported to a plane of experience and perception beyond that of the human senses. In that state, God supernaturally revealed things to him…” The expression “on the Lord’s Day” means different things to different theologians but I believe on a Sunday, while on the island of Patmos John was in worship and the Lord Himself showed up and met with him. Despite everything that John faced on that remote island he rose above it and found himself in the presence of the Lord for worship. John’s physical location was that island, but his spiritual location was in God’s presence. John was literally occupied in two worlds at once. Another little side note here: It is ok to get lost in worship as it will allow you to step out of this old world and enjoy a tiny bit of Heaven! “…and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet…” This sound got John’s undivided attention and if we were to look ahead at vs 12-13 and 17-18, we can see the loud voice was none other than Jesus Himself! John received two commands from Jesus in v. 11. “’Write on a scroll what you see…’” He had to write what he saw! The words he writes is a reminder to all of us that this book was not written by a man…he was only the penman. The author of this book, along with every other book of the Bible, is the Lord Himself. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” “’…and send it to the seven churches…’” John was then commanded by Christ to send his letter directly to the seven churches. These churches were real churches and are representative of the church as a whole. This Revelation is not just for those churches that existed in that day and time…they are also a message to us in our day as well. God had a message for those churches and that message rings true for our churches today! This morning God is reaching out to us and asking us to be prepared for His return. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be found lacking…I want to be found faithful until He calls me home. Let each of us today determine to serve Him, love Him and worship Him and, if necessary, suffer for Him.
August 25, 2019 BACK TO THE FUTURE (3) Revelation 1:5b-8 Last week I shared with you that the seven churches spoken of (chapter 2 & 3) were real churches with real problems in v. 4. We are a church today that is real and with real problems! Nothing has really changed except for the fact we are in the 21st century instead of the 1st! I went on to share that Jesus is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth in the first part of v. 5. Today I want to move on and look at vs. 5b-8. If you have your Bibles let’s look at these verses. Let’s look at the last part of v. 5, “to him who loves us…” This is an amazing phrase because it lets us know that God’s love for us continues on day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year! His love never stops as it is unceasing, unfailing and unconditional. Let me put it this way…He loves us with an everlasting love! It was His love for us that brought Him to this world. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It was His love for us that bound Him to the cross. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” His love for us is a guarantee that can never fail. Romans 8:37-39, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “…and has freed us from our sins by his blood…” The word “freed” can be translated as “cleansed.” Jesus shed His blood on the cross and when we trust Him…His blood frees us and washes and cleanses us from every stain of sin! But there is a condition and it rests on this one thing… we must confess our sin!! 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” There is an old hymn called, Deeper Than the Stain Has Gone and the chorus says this: Praise the Lord for full salvation, God still reigns upon His throne. And I know the blood still reaches Deeper than the stain has gone. V. 6 says, “…and has made us to be a kingdom of priests to serve His God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.” This phrase sends us a reminder that Christ doesn’t leave us like He found us! He found us in sin, but He loved us, and He washed us in His blood and saved us. Amazing as it may seem, once we become Christians by faith, Christ makes us kings and priests. He takes our old hell bound life, make us new creations and turns us around so we are heaven bound! Now we may not look like kings today, but there is coming a day when we will rule and reign with Him. 2 Timothy 2:12, “…if we endure, we will also reign with him…” Tim LaHaye said, “Our present condition does not accurately convey our future realization, but it is as certain as the eternal God.” The next two verses give us a small glimpse of what we can expect as this book unfolds. It reveals to us some exciting things that are going to happen as we continue through this book! V. 7 says, “Look, he is coming with the clouds…” Christ is coming again. Yes, Jesus is coming again! This is a certified, guaranteed promise. If we read in Acts 1:11 it says, “This same Jesus, who has been taken away from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go to heaven.” The world waited in anticipation for 6,000 years for the Messiah to come. He came, He lived, and He died so that you and I might have redemption through His precious blood. Just as Jesus left this world, He will return in the clouds to catch away His bride, you and I! “…and every eye will see him…” When Jesus returns in the clouds it means that He will come visibly to the earth and every eye will see Him. That means not only those who are on the earth at that time…it means every eye will see Him! The thought of everyone being able to see the same thing at the same time all over the world was considered impossible just 20-30 years ago. With the advent of satellite technology people can witness events as they are happening simultaneously. When Jesus returns, He will not need any news agency to broadcast His coming…He will appear in the clouds and the whole world will be able to see Him at the same time. “…even those who pierced him…” Jesus told Caiaphas, the high priest in Matthew 26:24, “’…But I say to you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” Caiaphas is now dead and those who “pierced him” and all that participated in the crucifixion of Jesus will face Him again, for He is coming visibly in power and great glory. “…and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him…” Matthew 24:30-31 says, “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” The Bible makes it clear that the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus will not be a pleasant event for the people of the world. This passage is speaking about His second coming not the rapture of the church. These are two different events that we will look at later on in this book. They will mourn because they have rejected Christ and are eternally lost. If the book of Revelation teaches us nothing else, it teaches that Jesus Christ is coming again to judge this world, and the basis of judgment will be whether or not people have received Him as Savior and Lord. John concludes with “…So shall it be! Amen.” The closer we get to Him the more we should praise Him. The more we learn about Him, the more our hearts should be stirred to give Him praise, honor and glory. Then we seal it with our Amen…so be it! V. 8 begins with the words of Jesus who says, “’I am the Alpha and the Omega…’” What God began in Genesis is now coming to an end in Revelation. Alpha and Omega are from the Greek alphabet with Alpha the first letter and Omega the last letter. Jesus lets us know that He sees all and knows all. This reference to the Greek alphabet reminds us that He is the One who started this universe on its present course, and He is the One who pilots it to its proper conclusion. “’…who is, and who was, and who is to come…’” Jesus proclaims His Deity with these words. Jesus is all-present, all-knowing and all-powerful who transcends time and space. He will see to it that all things go as He planned them, and everything written in this book will come to pass. “’…the Almighty.’” This word means, “one who holds sway over all things.” It proclaims Christ to the be sovereign Lord of the universe. He is the One who is able to bring everything He has planned and promised to fulfillment. He will do it and no one will be able to stop it!” What are we to do with this information? Let me share a few thoughts with you in closing: We should be sure that we are ready to meet Him when He comes! We should be in prayer for those who are not ready, and we need to get busy and tell them how to be ready! We should realize that our time is short in this life and we should commit ourselves to doing all we can for Him while there is still time! One last question for you: Are you ready for His return?
August 18, 2019 BACK TO THE FUTURE (2) Revelation 1:4-5a The book of Revelation is an amazing book. It is also a very complex book. There are many twists, turns and rapid plot developments in its pages. This book contains all the elements of a great thriller. In its pages you will find action, suspense, mystery, wonder, fear, drama, horror, and much excitement. While it takes a full 22 chapters for all the action to completely develop, he whets our appetites for that which is coming our way in the remainder of the book. The verses we have read today are an introduction into the material that will be developed as we move through the book of Revelation. Let’s look at these verses one at a time this morning: V.4 says, “John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia.” This letter was to be sent to seven specific churches in Asia Minor. These churches are mentioned by name in verse 11 and they are dealt with in detail in chapters two and three. We will consider each of these congregations when we get to those verses. For the time being, what we need to remember about these churches is this: First, they were real, literal congregations, seven of them, that existed at the time John penned this book. Jesus spoke to them about real saints, real sinners, real situations and real solutions. Second, these churches are representative of every Christian church that has ever existed. Every church contains some of the characteristics that marked these early churches. So, while this letter was not addressed to the Bowman United Methodist Church…this book has as much to say to us as if it was addressed to us. We see John write, “Grace and peace to you…” Grace is the Greek method of greeting and peace is the Hebrew form of greeting. Both of these ways of greeting come from God not humans. Grace and peace are not the birthrights of people. Grace and peace come out of our relationship with God! We now possess grace and peace and can now pass it forward. “…from him who is, and who was, and who is to come…” You will notice the word “from” is used three times in vs. 4-5 and each time it appears, it introduces another member of the Godhead. These two verses remind us that this book was not the creation of a man. It is the Words of God to man! Therefore, it carries awesome power and ultimate divine authority and dispenses grace and peace. In this phrase we can see God, the Father. This identifies the God Who is “the self-existent One”. The God Who called Himself “I AM” in Ex. 3:14. The God Who has always existed in the source of grace and peace. The God Who is the eternal One…Who lives in three – dimensions, past, present and future, all at the same time! He is the source of grace and peace. This God, the One Who has always existed…Who exists…Who will always exist, is the source of this grace and peace. This God Who never changes. Malachi 3:6, “I the LORD do not change…” James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” He is our source! The phrase “…from the seven spirits before His throne” speaks of the “fullness, the perfection and the completeness” of the Holy Spirit. It refers to His ministry in our lives. He is able to give us His grace and peace because He is so perfect and so complete. He is all we need as we pass through this life. He is sufficient! The seven spirits are a reference to the sevenfold work of the Spirit…not seven Holy Spirits but the seven ministries of the Holy Spirit. It is found in Isaiah 11:2, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” Now, John tells us that there is a third source of grace and peace. He tells us that these things come “from Jesus Christ”. When John mentioned the Father and the Spirit, he spoke of them in symbolic language. When he speaks of Jesus, he uses straightforward language and sets Jesus on center stage. Why? Well, the purpose of this book is to reveal, to unveil Jesus. So, right here in the beginning, John tells us exactly Who Jesus is. He does not want there to be any confusion about Jesus, Who He is, or what He is about. John knows that believing right about Jesus is absolutely critical to getting everything else right. If you get your beliefs about Jesus messed up, you are going to be off base in everything you believe. “The Book of Revelation presents the Lord Jesus more magnificently than any other book in the Bible.” (Tim LaHaye, Revelation Unveiled, p. 30) Jesus is: “…the faithful witness…” This little phrase calls to mind His coming to the world the first time. Jesus came to reveal the Father as He says in John 12:45, “’I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.’” Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being...” I hope you will pardon the pun, but Jesus is the only Person in history Who has the right to bear the title of “Jehovah’s Witness”! You see, in the Old Testament, Israel was God’s witness to the world. Today the church is His witness to the world as we read in Acts 1:8 where Jesus says, “’…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” All that we need to know is that God is revealed through His Son, Jesus! As Jesus spoke to Philip and said, “’Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.’” (John 14:9) Though there were many instances of other witnesses to the person of Christ, but His witness is enough! This is the reason Jesus could pronounce of Himself, “’I am the way, the truth and the life’” (John 14:6). Jesus is: “…the firsborn from the dead…” Now, Jesus was not the first one to get up from the dead. There were some in the Old Testament (Elisha, Elijah) and several in the Gospels (Jesus raised 3 from the dead). However, these people all died natural deaths later…Jesus was the first one to get up and stay up. The word translated “firstborn” comes from the word that gives us the word “prototype”. Jesus set the standard that the rest will eventually follow. He is the example of what will happen to all those who believe in Him. Just as He got up to stay up from the grave forever, so those who trust in Him will also experience a resurrection one day. Because He lives, those who have their faith in Him have “…crossed from death to life” (John 5:24) and they “will never die” (John 11:26b). Jesus is: “…the ruler of the kings of the earth”. This establishes Jesus to be the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”. This phrase pictures Him as the One Who is in absolute control. We will see Satan send his king, the Antichrist, into the world. He will rampage and exalt himself above “all that is called God.” But even he will have a Master, and His name is Jesus. One day, every ruler, every tyrant, every dictator, every king, potentate, etc. who has ever lived will bow before the nail-pierced feet of the Lord Jesus Christ and will call Him “Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10b). He is the ultimate Ruler! Let me close with this: One of the most thrilling stories in English history tells of the conquests of Richard 1, the Lionhearted. While Richard was fighting battles, his kingdom fell on bad times. His brother, John, did evil and the people of England suffered. They longed for the return of their king. One day Richard returned and John faded into the scenery. Richard laid claim to his throne and no one dared stand in his way. The people shouted with delight, “Long live the King!” One day a King greater than Richard will return and lay claim to a realm larger than Richards! All that is written in Revelation will come to pass and we need to be sure that we are ready to meet Him when He comes. We, also, need to get busy and tell others how they can be ready to meet Him as well! Jesus told us in Luke 21:28, “’When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’” Is there something He would have you do today??
August 11, 2019 BACK TO THE FUTURE (1) Revelation 1:1-3 Over the next couple of months, we are going to take an amazing adventure that I would like to call, “Back to the Future” as we look at the Book of Revelation. I want you to understand that I am still learning about this book and to be honest with you there are as many interpretations of this book as there is sand on the beach. This book has been misunderstood, misrepresented and misinterpreted by many, many people. I am not here today to tell you I am some great scholar of this book because I am not!! But what I want to share with you are instances of truth that I feel would be beneficial for us in this day and time. If you are not aware let me share this with you: We are living in the early days of this book! Jesus is coming and His appearing is imminent! Let me start this morning with some introductions to this book. In theological circles there are four primary interpretations: The Preterist Interpretation. This sees the events recorded in Revelation as being historical records of the first century. This view believes that Jesus has already returned to earth. It ignores the fact that Revelation is clearly prophetic in nature. The Idealist Interpretation. This is a liberal view. The idealist sees Revelation as a series of allegories or stories designed to show the struggle between good and evil. This view does not believe Revelation will become actual events. The Historicist Interpretation. This view believes Revelation to be a sweeping overview of church history. Most of the events recorded in Revelation are considered to be past events. They, also, believe in viewing this book as allegories. This view ignores the book’s claim to be prophetic and normally offers odd interpretation and strange applications of the text. The Futurist Interpretation. This view sees Revelation as being events that are in the future and that it is prophetic in nature. This view is a literal approach to interpretation meaning the events to come will be actual events. The people, places and occurrences are not spiritualized and relegated to myth or allegory. This view sees the book of Revelation as a real, actual, future event. For the sake of argument, I want to take this interpretation and use it for our study of this book. This book was written around 95 AD give or take a few years. The author is John (not John the Baptist), the same disciple who wrote the book of John and 1, 2, 3 John. The title of this book is The Revelation of Jesus Christ not revelations! The word, revelation, in the Greek means, “an unveiling.” It is about “showing or exposing to view” as if a painting were unveiled. Tim LaHaye says it this way, “This book, then, is the unveiling of Jesus Christ…to show his servants what must soon take place.” (Revelation Unveiled, p. 25) The key verse of this book is found in Revelation 1:19 when Jesus says, “’Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.’” We can outline it this way: The Things Which You Have Seen – Chapter 1 The Things Which Are – Chapter 2-3 The Things Which Will Take Place Later – Chapter 4-22 The source of this revelation is something we need to keep in mind because it did not originate with John. This revelation came through a four-fold sequence: God – Christ – Angel – John: to the Church. The true source of this book came directly from God and John was the one who was employed to write what God dictated. There are many people who do not believe in the Trinity and that it is not mentioned in the Bible, but I want to show you a reference to the Holy Trinity. It is found in verse 4 that says, “Grace and peace to you from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come…” The use of these words connotes to the triune God. You can also see the same usage of these words in v. 8. The background of this book was written during the dark days of the early church. They suffered horrible persecution but was written to give them hope, comfort and encouragement. This book was written to let the early church and the church today know how the plan of God would eventually play out. It was not written to frighten people but to give all hope. Titus 2:13 says, “…while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” This is the least you should know about this book: This book is a book of prophecy and it speaks of future events used in symbolic language. This book is tied into the Old Testament. Of the 404 verses in this book…278 refer to the Old Testament in some way. To understand this book, you must have a working knowledge of the Old Testament to understand all that is taking place. Let me give you a picture of this book. The book of Genesis and the book of Revelation stand like great bookends of God’s creation. Those things that were started in Genesis finds its conclusion in Revelation. I hope I haven’t lost you with this introduction, but I felt like you needed to have some background on this book. Let’s Go Back to the Future! In the time remaining let’s look at Revelation 1:1-3. Notice this book is about Jesus! There are some people who think this book should be called, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine.” That is not the title of this book as a matter of fact I just read it in the first line of v. 1. “The revelation of Jesus Christ” and that is what this book is! Jesus is the theme of this Bible! It is possible to even say the Bible is a “Him” book, because it is about Him! Everything we read in the Bible points to Jesus in one way or another. It points to the “unveiling” of the Person, Purposes, Plans, Power and Promotion of Christ. When Jesus was here the first time, He was veiled. He was not recognized as the Messiah even though He was God in the flesh. Philippians 2:7 says, “…but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…” There was one time in Matthew 17:1-8 the veil of His glory was pulled back and His glory was shown. It was on the Mount of Transfiguration. His heavenly glory burst forth but only Peter, James and John viewed it. When the world saw Jesus, they saw His poverty and His humanity. They saw a lowly carpenter from Nazareth. As a matter of fact, the last thing the world saw of Jesus was a convicted criminal dying in sorrow, shame and suffering on a Roman cross. The book of Revelation reveals to us that we have not seen the last of this man, Jesus Christ. He is coming again and when He comes, He will come not destined for a cross but for a crown. He is not coming as a suffering Lamb, but as a sovereign Lord. He is not coming in shame and poverty but coming in splendor and power. The world will truly see Him as He is. As we move through this book, I pray you will that Jesus has always been and will always be the answer to the problems of this world! We see a world in turmoil and Jesus is the answer. We will see when sin, Satan and sorrow have all been defeated…Jesus will still be Lord. Remember no matter what you are facing today that Jesus is the answer…He is your only hope! I want to close today with the chorus of an old hymn: What a day that will be, When my Jesus I shall see, And I look upon His face, The One who saved me by His grace; When He takes me by the hand, And leads me through the Promised Land, What a day, glorious day that will be.