2012-01-20 – “Pastoral Poetry”
Greetings and Salutations for the New Year to you!
May God’s strength and peace be your guide in 2012!
With schools re-opening on Wednesday it is time for the eDevs to start again and I must say that it is with a certain nostalgia that I am writing to you… There are two reasons for this:
Firstly, in December Calvin Cook, one of our denomination’s senior ministers passed away. Calvin was a great mentor and encourager to me and I will miss his encouraging and provocative emails very much. This eDev series is dedicated to his memory.
Secondly, this year marks the tenth year of EmmDevs. Can you believe it? Thank You Lord for your faithfulness!
9 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. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches. (Revelation1:9-10)
We start a new series today: “Revelations Reassurances.”
We’ll be looking at some of the gems in the book of Revelation. This won’t be a verse by verse commentary, or even an overview, but rather I’ll be trying to use Revelation as I believe John meant it: As an encouragement to believers who face tough circumstances, who find their faith being tested and who experience opposition from the world.
Many people think that Revelation was meant to be a book about “How it will all end.” But that does not make sense! How would a book about how the world would end in 2000+ years’ time be of great comfort to the early Christians in the first century? To limit Revelation to being a “book about the End Times” is to completely underestimate the book!
Jesus spoke about history and the end times and described it as a woman in labour: There is a contraction, then relief, a contraction and then relief, and this cycle continues until the baby comes. History is the same: It is a cycle of contractions and relief and we don’t know which contraction will bring the end. (Although many have foolishly tried to guess!)
Revelation was written for the church to read during the contractions of history. It is a dramatic and colourful book that does not shrink back from trouble – it describes trouble in terms of monsters, beasts, thunderclaps, bowls of judgement and other vivid pictures. But it also describes God as our glorious champion and our ultimate victory as a complete certainty.
Eugene Peterson describes Revelation as “Pastoral Poetry.”
Nearly two thousand years ago, John wrote to comfort a church experiencing trouble and opposition and today we still draw comfort, inspiration and courage for the year ahead from Revelation’s Reassurances.
2012-01-24 – “Triple Triplets”
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. (Revelation1:4-5)
Many years ago, Annette Stiff, one of our elders, gave a children’s address I will never forget. She brought a sprig of a bush from her garden. It had blossoms on it: mauve, lilac and white.
“What kind of bush is this?” she asked.
Eventually the right answer came out – it was a “yesterday, today and tomorrow bush” and she explained how each individual blossom transitions from purple to white, usually over a period of three days.
“We are like the blossoms,” she said, “but God is like the whole bush!” He knows us at every part of our lives and He is the same – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”
John’s view is the same: He is an old man (a white blossom) but God is the One who is, was and is to come. I think it’s significant that John starts with God’s role in the present because it’s the present that vexes us most!
But today, yesterday and tomorrow is not John’s only triplet. He is also, more subtly making a reference to the Trinity. As we have seen he has described the Father as timeless and unchanging, but he also talks about the Holy Spirit and the Christ the Son.
In many translations, the phrase “Seven Spirits” is translated “Sevenfold Spirit” which is quite helpful in conveying what is meant. Seven is a number of perfection, when God’s Spirit is described as “Seven Spirits”, John is really saying that God’s Spirit is always perfectly present and near.
And John is still “tripletting” when he describes Jesus! Here are the three introductory points John would make about Him:
* He is the faithful witness – He accurately revealed God to us.
* He is the firstborn from the dead – He finished His mission and triumphed.
* He is the ruler over the kings – and by implication He is coming to reign!
In the midst of trouble and hardship we need a big and erosion-resistant view of God. John provides this for us.
- An unchanging Father through our todays, yesterdays and tomorrows
- A Spirit is a supernaturally and amazingly always present
- The Son who reveals God, conquers our greatest fear and is our champion.
2012-01-25 – “Among the Lampstands”
12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. (Revelation1:12-13)
John is describing his transition from worship to vision. He has _heard_ the voice of Jesus instructing him to write down what he sees and to send it to the churches.
Now John turns to _see_ the voice that was speaking to him…
So what did he see?
“Seven golden lampstands and someone like a ‘Son of Man’ among them.”
(The lampstands are a symbol of the church)
Now wait a minute! If Revelation is about Jesus being the victorious champion and John was turning to look for this voice that was speaking to him, why does he see the symbol of the church first?
Surely he should have eyes only for Jesus? Surely he should have seen Jesus first? And why is Jesus “among” (in the midst of) the lampstands?
Because Jesus _chooses_ to be revealed and seen in and through the church. Because He _chooses_ to be at work in and through the church. The church is God’s plan in the world and Revelation consistently describes the church as the Bride of Christ. The church is the reason He came to the cross and the reason He is returning again.
But not the organised structural church with all its faults and foibles, but the church made up of people who love His name and long to have Him “among” us.
No matter how tough times are: Jesus is among His faithful church!
2012-01-26 – “Not the beard and sandals”
… and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. (Revelation1:13-16)
As glorious as the truth of the incarnation is, there is a danger inherent in the picture of Jesus walking in the dusty streets of Nazareth or teaching on the peaceful shores of Galilee. The danger is the temptation to reduce Jesus to beard and sandals. The risk we run is that we might limit and domesticate Him.
John inoculates us against this danger. He does so by describing Jesus in all His glorious majesty. Paul tells us that when Jesus came to earth, “He made Himself nothing” and “humbled Himself even to death”, but now we can see Him in His fullest resurrection glory.
So what does John see?
1. Christ is _among_ the lampstands (i.e. with the church) (we discussed this yesterday…)
2. His robe and sash depict kingly and priestly majesty.
3. His head and hair suggest wisdom, purity and dignity.
4. The blazing eyes hint at omniscience, justice and purity.
5. Glowing bronze feet most probably indicate judgement.
6. His voice, like rushing waters, indicates power and glory.
7. The stars are messengers of the churches, held in His right hand show that He is in charge and interested in the leaders of the church.
8. The double-edged sword from His mouth reminds us the authority of His Word.
9. His face is glorious and majestic – and as happy as we are to see the sun after a dark night, John is happy to see the face of Christ.
This is a glorious picture and it challenges us never to domesticate Jesus. In the “Chronicles of Narnia”, CS Lewis depicts Christ as Aslan the lion. In his story one of the characters says “Aslan is not a tame lion.” To which someone responds “Is He safe?” And I love the response: “He isn’t safe – but He’s good!”
2012-01-27 – “Do not be afraid”
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation1:17-18)
“Fobos” is the Greek word for fear, terror and fright.
It is used in the New Testament to describe the fear Peter felt of the wind and waves when he was walking on the water, the fear Joseph felt when an angel appeared to him, the fear the temple-bouncers who were supposed to arrest Jesus felt of the crowds, the fear of the lazy talent servant towards his hard master, and the fear of the three disciples at the Transfiguration.
It is a primitive, knee-buckling and debilitating fear. It brings the worst out in us, it paralyses us and inhibits faith. The Bible regularly reminds us that this kind of fear does not belong. In fact, those who count these things tell us that the Bible says “do not fear” some 365 times – one for each day of the year.
But I am interested in _why_ we do not have to fear:
1. He places His right hand on John. It’s a simple gesture, but one of great comfort and closeness.
2. He is the First and Last – there are no surprises to Him. He knows where we have been and He knows the road ahead. We can trust Him to guide us through.
3. The greatest fear we have is for our lives, but Jesus has conquered death. He has conquered our mortal (pun intended) enemy. Not only has He overcome, but He has dominated death – He holds the keys.
We are often tempted to “fobos” but we don’t have to be debilitated, paralysed or inhibited – Jesus is close, Jesus has the bigger picture and Jesus is our Victorious Champion!
Don’t let fear bully you!
2012-01-31 – “God’s plan: The Church”
Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches (Revelation1:19-20)
Revelation chapter one ends with John being instructed to write down Seven Letters to Seven Churches in Asia Minor. These letters are lovingly dictated to John by Jesus Himself.
There has been much scholarly debate about these Seven Letters and the congregations they are addressed to. Some have postulated that each of these letters represent a historical chapter in the church’s journey. But this is problematic: If we knew the end of the world would be soon, then we’d be the Seventh Church, but if it is another thousand years before Jesus returns, then which church are we? I think there is a better explanation…
The Seven Letters were written to seven real congregations in seven real geographical contexts in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and they all existed at the time that John wrote to them. The number seven is symbolic of completeness and I think it is best to say that at any time in history there are congregations that are loveless, persecuted, tempted to compromise, flirting, snoozing, courageously faithful or lukewarm. (Or some combination of these!)
These letters represent God’s heart toward the churches and there is a phrase repeated in all the letters: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
As we noted earlier, Jesus stands among the Lampstands, He is passionate about the church. His plan is to be at work in the Church. John had been at the first church, Ephesus, for many years. These Seven Churches would have been familiar to him. As he writes, he experiences God’s care, concern and priority for these congregations, and we are once again reminded that God cares about the local church.
So, if God cares about the local church, so should we.
I found this great quote recently:
If you don’t cross over from “What-can-I-get?” to “What-I-can-give?”, your church will become increasingly unsatisfactory to you. (James MacDonald)
2012-02-01 – “Letter 1: Ephesus – Lovelost”
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. (Revelation2:4-5)
The first congregation to receive a letter is in Ephesus. It was a great and busy city with a congregation founded by Paul, pastored by Timothy and later by John himself. Legend has it that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was buried there.
The congregation worked hard and were diligent. Jesus recognises this in the early part of the letter: “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.”
But hard work and good doctrine faded away in the light of the basic diagnosis: heart-sickness. They had forsaken their first love. Going through the motions had become the order of the day.
Sometimes this is us too. We are adept at the rituals and traditions, we say the right things, attend the services and meetings, but the thought of the cross doesn’t take our breath away and privilege of worship doesn’t make us want to lift our hearts and hands.
There is a prescription for the “lovelost condition.”
1. _R_emember what it was like when you first understood God’s love.
2. _R_epent of the things that distracted you. (Repent means “turn around.”)
3. _R_e-do the things you did when you were “love-full.”
As with many prescriptions, it’s pretty obvious and simple, but if we follow it, the results are a heart that starts to come alive again.
2012-02-02 – “Letter 2: Smyrna – Faithful”
2 These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty–yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
When I look at how easily I complain and get discouraged, I feel a bit like a “Spiritual Wimp” when I look at that challenges that were faced by the church in Smyrna.
The city of Smyrna was the jewel of Asia Minor. It was a city that had been destroyed and then rebuilt from scratch – one of the few cities that had been properly surveyed, planned and laid out. Although it was a free city, it’s residents were fiercely loyal to Rome and there was a large Jewish Population.
The letter to Smyrna speaks of the afflictions (Greek: “Huge Pressure”) and poverty (literally “destitution”) of the church. It speaks of the strong resistance and persecutions that they experienced.
What is chilling is how prophetic this letter turned out to be. Some sixty years after this letter was written, the Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna was put to death by burning and in the account of this we read that the Jews brought wood for the fire even though it was a Sabbath. (This is why the letter speaks of the Synagogue of Satan.)
What rattles my cage is the brevity of the letter. It is terse and crisp – kind of like orders passed on a battlefield. Jesus doesn’t spend a lot of time saying “O shame, you poor dears going through such a tough time…”
Here are the key thoughts:
1. Smyrna was rebuilt, but Jesus died and rose again!
2. God knew their suffering and poverty.
3. They experienced a richness of faith in spite of the challenges.
4. There’s more trouble coming – so brace yourselves!
5. Be faithful and you’ll receive His reward.
The letter to Smyrna reminds me that I have no right to plain sailing or smooth roads. It reminds me that faith requires courage and perseverance. And it reminds me that my ultimate hope lies not in this life’s comfort, but the eternal life that Jesus offers me.
2012-02-03 – “Letter 3: Pergamum – Compromising”
13 I know where you live–where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city–where Satan lives.
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. (Revelation2:14-16)
Pergamum had long been a capital city and was once famous for its great library (the word “parchment” is derived from “Pergamum” *) and culture with a temple to Zeus and Asclepsios. Pergamum was also the administrative centre of Asia Minor, making it the place where Caesar worship was promoted and enforced from. This is why Jesus identifies it as the place “where Satan has his throne.”
Jesus commends them for being faithful – they live (without running away) in the most dangerous city in Asia Minor. Even when Antipas, one of their leaders, was martyred – they continued to “hang in there.”
But there is a concern: Jesus is concerned that they are being tempted to compromise – Baalam and the Nicolaitians are one and the same – both promoted having an “open mind” toward idols and sexual immorality. This form compromise had two key thoughts:
“Go with the flow – don’t make waves” and
“If it feels good – do it.”
Jesus is greatly concerned at their compromise – He is concerned that they have lost their grip on the truth. Keeping ourselves away from idols and away from licentious living are core-values for those who have their eyes on Christ.
The threat against the church in Pergamum is probably the most relevant to us today. We have a strong history of giants of the faith who have taken their stand, but day-to-day the thoughts and value systems of everyday Christians are being eroded as we are tempted by the idols of wealth, materialism and social acceptance. And while this is going on the media bombards us with sensuality that is far removed from the secure foundation of love and marriage.
Jesus warns that He will come to combat these with the “sword of His mouth” – this is a reference to His Word and we are reminded that solid Biblical Teaching is the antidote to compromise.
Are you clear on where you are being pressured to compromise? If you throw a frog into a pot of hot water, he hops out. Heat the water slowly and he doesn’t realise he’s in trouble until it’s too late…
* The interesting background here is that Pergamum tried to seduce the leading scholar at the library in Alexandria to come to their library. The Egyptians, enraged at this, refused to export papyrus to Pergamum forcing them to invent parchment.
2012-02-07 – “Letter 4:Thyatira – Flirting”
Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her (Jezebel’s) teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come.
This letter is unusual: it is the central letter and the longest, but the historical city of Thyatira is not nearly as noteworthy or influential as the others. The most notable feature was that it was on a prominent trade-route and there were a number of trade-guilds that dealt in purple-dyed woven linen.
(Lydia, dealer in purple cloth, converted in Acts16:14, came from Thyatira.)
Jesus commends the congregation for their service and perseverance which came from their love and faith, but he is concerned about a “Jezebel” who leads the congregation into idolatry and immorality. Even more concerning was a notion that in order to defeat Satan one had to enter his stronghold, i.e., experience evil deeply.
In all likelihood, the scenario was that the various trade-guilds would hold banquets in the temples where food would be dedicated to idols and as the wine flowed the immorality started. Not attending these meals would take Christians out of the business “loop.”
There are many parallels today: think of the businessman who is tempted to go for drinks with the guys in the office after work and the trouble that often comes from that.
So, there may have been prominent women who were in the linen business, like Lydia was, but who said “It’s not so bad, you can go, after all, you don’t know whether your faith is firm unless you have tested it!
It’s kind of like the teenager who, when caught, said “Yes I am smoking, but I’m not inhaling it into my lungs…”
If you read the whole letter, it portrays a fierce picture of Christ and delivers an urgent message: You can’t play on the Devil’s Playground and think you won’t get hurt.
2012-02-09 – “Letter 5: Sardis – Snoozing”
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. (Revelation3:1-3)
The city of Sardis has an amazing history. It had an impregnable geographic position which made besieging it a pretty hopeless task. But Sardis was twice defeated by small groups of soldiers who mounted a stealth mission to go up a crack in the mountainside and on reaching the top, they found the city gates unguarded and let their comrades in.
The city of Sardis had a reputation of becoming flabby, lazy and complacent in the wake of their past successes. They lacked discipline and were disorganised: Trusting in their past successes, they were asleep in the light.
Sadly, the Church in Sardis seemed doomed to repeat its home-city’s mistakes.
- They looked alive, but were pretty much dead.
- The little bit of life they had was slipping away.
- They had very little to show in terms of action.
But they didn’t need anything new: they didn’t need a new preacher, a new course, or a new angle – they just needed to go back to what they had received and heard. They had all they needed, but they were asleep in the light and needed to wake up.
It seems that one of the church’s greatest enemies is comfort and success. The church in Sardis wasn’t being persecuted and there were no false teachers misleading them. They had simply fallen asleep. They were flabby, lazy and complacent.
Have we become like this? We have been blessed by God and have enjoyed peace and prosperity and this has lulled us to sleep. We look alive, but actually we are dead. The Risen Christ urges us to:
1. REMEMBER: Go back to simple basics (don’t chase “new” novelties)
2. OBEY: Put those simple basics back into action.
3. REPENT: Make sure we don’t fall asleep again.
2012-02-10 – “Letter 6: Philadelphia – Enduring”
I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. (Revelation3:11-12)
Philadelphia (Modern day Alashehir) was a city of commercial importance conveniently located as the gateway to the provinces of Mysia, Lydia and Phrygia. Its gateway position was by design as it was built to broadcast Greek Culture to these provinces and by 19AD many in these regions had completely adopted Greek Culture. The city was plagued by persistent and frightening aftershocks of a great earthquake that took place in 17AD.
Jesus commends this congregation: Like the city, they have an open door of ministry in front of them and although they have little strength, they have kept and shared the faith in spite of strong opposition.
What does Jesus have to say to this enduring congregation?
- He is coming soon: the people in Philadelphia had learned to live in readiness for the persistent aftershocks. Jesus’ coming will be as unexpected as the aftershocks and we should be ready.
- Hold on to what you have: So often we concentrate on what we don’t have. Jesus isn’t concerned about what we DON’T have. He would like us to use what we DO have. I hear many people say “I can’t preach like so-and-so” or “I can’t lead like such-and-such.” But God asks us to use what we have. His gifts to us are our crowns if we use them to His glory!
- Overcomers are pillars: In Philadelphia, the frequent aftershocks meant that pillars were needed to strengthen the buildings. When your buildings were dodgy and the aftershock came, you would have to run out onto the street for safety. But overcomers are pillars and if your building has pillars you don’t have to flee (“leave”) to the open when the shaking comes!
Overcomers are those who recognise that Jesus is coming and use what they have to serve Him and He makes them pillars to His glory.
2012-02-14 – “Letter 7: Laodicea – Lukewarm”
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (Revelation3:15-20)
Laodicea was a very successful trading and banking city positioned on the most important trade route in Asia Minor. It’s citizens were so rich that when the city experienced a terrible earthquake, the city refused help from Rome in the rebuilding. They also farmed sheep that produced a luxurious glossy black wool that was used to mass-produce an outergarment for which Laodicea was well known. They also produced an eye-salve that was very popular amongst healers throughout the empire.
The Lord Jesus writes them a tough letter: there is nothing positive about the church in Laodicea.
They are indifferent, inbetween, indecisive and ineffective: LUKEWARM.
It was in their successes that their failures lay.
They thought they were wealthy, clothed and of good-sight. But spiritually they were poor, naked and blind.
Jesus counsels them to get three things:
-Gold refined by fire – be willing to suffer for your faith
-White clothes – pursue righteousness rather than mediocrity
-Salve – Initially eye salve burns and so does facing up to the truth
Here’s His challenge to them:
“19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
Materialism, comfort and independence are some of our greatest enemies. When we are not aware of our need for Christ, we tend to live our own lives, becoming indifferent, inbetween, indecisive and ineffective: LUKEWARM.
Let’s remember that we were once poor, naked and blind and that in spite of our material comfort, we still desperately need Christ.
Andre’ Steenekamp sent me this stunning weblink that lets you look at pictures of these seven churches.
2012-02-15 – “The THRONE”
You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being. (Rev4:11)
You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.(Rev5:9) (Revelation4:11-5:9)
The whole of Revelations chapter four is a description of God’s throne in heaven. The One sitting on the throne shines like a jewel and an emerald-like rainbow encircles the throne. There are four living creatures who represent the whole of creation worshipping around the throne and there are twenty four elders who lay down their crowns before Him and say “You are worthy…”
After starting with the church and the call to “hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches, John now devotes a whole chapter to the idea that God is on the throne and should be worshipped.
Why is worship so important?
Because it is the best way to deal with the obvious reality:
God is _so_ big and _so_ good that to do anything other than worship would be an inadequate response.
John uses the word “worthy” in ch.4 and 5. In chapter four he argues that God is worthy of our praise because of creation. In chapter five he shows us that God is worthy of our praise because He alone was able to save us.
God is WORTHY: He created atoms, molecules, quarks and quasars. He lit the fires of the sun and spoke oceans and rivers into being. He paints sunsets and knits babies together in the womb. Whether we discover a universe in our microscopes or in our telescopes, we know it all comes from Him and when our jaws drop at the beauty of the mountains or the power of the tsunami, we recognise that the “Lord God made it all.”
But there’s more: He was slain! He entered our humanity and came to explain Himself to us in words and in actions that we were able to understand and then He let us crucify Him. There on the cross, He embraced our failure to worship and carried our resulting brokenness on Himself. Then He triumphed over that darkness and brought life to you and me.
Worship is celebrating God’s “worth-ship” and John shows us that this just makes sense!
2012-02-16 – “The Structure of Revelation”
REV 6:1 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. (Revelation6:1)
Before we can continue with our journey through Revelation, we need to understand its structure. It is a mistake to think that the material in Revelation is arranged chronologically. It is not the case that the things described in ch.16 necessarily follow the things described in ch.12. It’s like a movie where you jump between different locations and characters until it all comes together in the grand finale.
Michael Wilcock*, in one of the best commentaries on Revelation that I have ever read, argues that John has written Revelation like a play with 8 Acts. Each act reviews the story of God’s dealing with humanity from a certain perspective. To get the full picture, we need to put all the perspectives next to each other. Each of the eight Acts have 7 scenes/themes/symbols/motifs.
I have provided a rough breakdown of the Acts and Scenes below… but what is the point of all this technical stuff???
It’s to show that Revelations is relevant whether we live in 1st century or the 21st.
We have already been challenged by the first Act which looks at the Church in the world. Although the seven letters were written to actual historical churches, we saw how relevant their struggles are to ours…
So, let’s give thanks for John who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gave us an amazing set of pictures to help us grasp how God works in our world.
Here are the eight Acts and their seven sub-divisions
1. The church in the world: 1:9-3:22
Describes the condition of the church in the world.
Seven Letters to Churches in Asia Minor.
2. The suffering church: 4:1-8:1
John in the control room of heaven. Creation represented in the creatures and the throne is central. Worship features very strongly. The suffering of the church throughout history is explored.
There are Seven Seals that are opened.
3. Warnings to the World: 8:2-11:18
Explores the warnings God gives to the evil world throughout history.
There are Seven Trumpets blown
4. Drama of History: 11:19-15:4
Shows what is going on in history: The coming of Christ, the growth of the church, the reality of the enemy: 2 Beasts
There are Seven Visions or Scenes.
5. Punishment of the World: 15:5-16:21
Shows how points in history come where evil-doers are so committed to their evil that they continue in it and must be brought down.
There are Seven Bowls of Wrath
6: Babylon the Whore: 17:1-19:10
This scene focusses in on the destruction of evil. Babylon represents evil and oppressive world systems throughout history.
There are Seven Words/Poems/Songs
7: The Drama Behind History 19:11-21:8
Shows what is going on behind history: Highlights the key players and events.
There are Seven Visions
8: Jerusalem the Bride 21:9-22:19
This is what lies beyond history. This is our hope.
The are Seven Revelations
* Wilcock, M The Message of Revelation, Series: The Bible Speaks Today, J.W. Stott (Editor), IVP, 1975.
2012-02-17 – “Suffering in Perspective”
“Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. (Revelation5:2-7)
This section of Revelation deals with the suffering of the church over the ages. This is symbolised by a scroll with seven seals on it. The seals represent aspects of the suffering church: The white, red, black and pale horses of conquest, conflict, famine and plague; the cries of the persecuted and earthquakes.
Here in the opening of the seals we are offered a breath-taking and beautiful picture:
John is weeping because no-one can open the scroll – suffering is not something we can afford to be glib about. One doesn’t want to stick cheap plaster on serious wounds. Whoever opens the seals can’t be a lightweight.
Suffering is something we struggle with and whomsoever deigns to open the seals of suffering needs to have the necessary integrity, authority and comprehension of our struggle with the pain, violation and anguish that suffering causes us.
So who is capable enough to open the seals and the scroll??
Who has the credibility and integrity to open these tough seals of suffering in a worthy way??
John gets his answer: “‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.”
Jesus is worthy to open the painful seals of suffering!
- He is the Lion of Judah who has taken on suffering and overcome
- He is the Lamb who was slain – He has tasted the worst of suffering
- He has sent the Holy Spirit (“seven spirits”) into our hearts to comfort us.
Suffering is a theological, philosophical, and emotional heavyweight. We dare not risk cheap answers.
The good and beautiful news of Revelation is that Jesus our Champion takes on the heavyweight of suffering and, at great cost, overcomes and comforts you and me.
2012-02-21 – “Persecution in Perspective”
9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.
Just a reminder… We are in the second act: the suffering church (4:1-8:1) John in the control room of heaven. Creation represented in the creatures and the throne is central. Worship features very strongly. The suffering of the church throughout history is explored and there are Seven Seals that are opened.
Suffering has been placed in perspective as we see that it is no-one less than the Lamb of God who opens the seals that represent suffering. We’ve already seen the horsemen of conflict, chaos, plague and famine each unleashed by an opened seal and now as the fifth seal is opened, we come face to face with the persecution of the church.
We tend to think that the persecution of the church is something that belongs to history, but the facts tell us that more Christians have been killed for their faith in the last 100 years than in the 1900 that came before. Today in North Africa and some other countries people take huge risks by becoming people of faith.
It’s hard to think that God allows His church to be persecuted. In order to take the gospel into the corners of the world, the message must go even where it is not welcomed. In these unwelcoming corners, God’s people pay a great price to live out the good news.
They are depicted as being in a privileged position – under the altar because their sacrifices are aligned to what Christ has done for us. In faith they cry out “How long?” and are given a white robe and encouraged to wait and endure.
The white robes represent blessedness, purity and belonging.
Persecution is a tough reality of the life of the church.
It is OK for us to cry out “How Long?”
God doesn’t always rescue us from persecution, but those who are persecuted are placed under the altar: They are very close to Jesus. They are robed in white because their suffering has brought them to a place of close dependence on God.
2012-02-22 – “Bethlehem revisited”
A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4 His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. (Revelation12:1-6)
This passage forms part of the “Fourth Act” of Revelation which is a re-telling of the world’s history from a cosmic perspective.
The woman represents Mary, the Israelites and the Church. Her child is Jesus Christ, our Messiah, and the dragon is Satan who misled a third of the angels (stars) and they were flung to the earth.
The dragon’s attempt to devour the Child reminds us of Herod and the command to kill all the baby boys. But the Child is destined to rule with an iron scepter (a rule of power and authority) which points towards Christ’s victorious resurrection. The “snatching up” refers to the Ascension.
The woman – now representing the church goes into the desert (a place of spiritual shelter) for 1260 which is three-and-a-half years which is half of seven and simply points out that the church goes through periods of trial and tribulation.
In the verses that follow we read that the Dragon and his followers go to war against the armies of heaven and are finally defeated…
So, here we have the story of the history of human-kind.
As John sees it, it all centres around the birth of the Christ-child and hinges on the Church.
While the Bethlehem-baby-in-a-manger narratives of Matthew and Luke are comforting to us, John’s cosmic story reminds us of the high stakes and that the birth of Jesus is really really significant.
Maybe it is appropriate that we consider this passage on Ash Wednesday. It is a powerful reminder that Christmas, Lent and Easter are about a war. A war in which God gave His Son and established the Church. We go into Ash Wednesday cognisant that God went to war for us!
2012-02-23 – “Beasts and their numbers”
1 And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea.
And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.
11 Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. 12 He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast
16 He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
18 This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666. (Revelation13:1-18)
Here we get to one of the chapters in Revelation that has caused much wild speculation and has caused much confusion. Let’s look at this briefly:
We are in the section in Revelation that overviews the drama of history of the church, and these visions are firmly rooted in John’s own historical experience.
Yesterday we saw how the dragon (Satan) tried to destroy the Child (Christ) but failed. Now he is trying to destroy the woman (the church.)
The dragon calls forth two beasts: one is a figure of authority. The other is the religious system that serves the first beast. In John’s historical context, the first beast was Caesar who declared himself as god, and the second beast was Roman culture and military that enforced emperor worship. Christians could be required by law to burn a pinch of incense before the statue of Caesar and bow down before his statue. Failure to do this resulted in exclusion in the marketplace at the very least and being thrown to the lions in the arena at the worst.
The “mark of the beast” is symbolic. If seven is a symbol of God’s holiness and perfection then six is to fall short of that. 666 is a trinity of imperfection. It is a “man’s number” and Paul reminds us that as far as humankind goes “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 666 is a human god-wannabe. Wearing the mark of the beast is to worship a god-wannabe.
Many conspiracy theorists have panicked about the barcodes on food, arguing that it is a 666, but the point is that you don’t get the mark of the beast by accident, you get it by worshipping the first beast through the system of the second.
A nice example of how this repeats itself through history would be the way Hitler (first beast) set up the Getstapo (second beast) to establish the state church where people sacrificed true faith for obsessive nationalism (the 666).
Throughout history we have seen and will see these beasts and their mark.
2012-02-24 – “Stubborn Evil”
The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony 11 and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. (Revelation16:10-11)
We get to the fifth section or act of Revelation: “Punishment of the World” (15:5-16:21.) This short section shows how points in history come where evil-doers are so committed to their evil that they continue in it and must be brought down.
There are Seven Bowls of Wrath:
1. Painful sores on those who worship the beast.
2. The sea turning into blood.
3. The rivers turning into the blood because of the martyrs.
4. The sun and moon scorch people.
5. Darkness, but people still don’t repent!
6. Three frog-like spirits that deceive the wicked
7. The final battle (Armegeddon)
As one reads these descriptions, one cannot help but be reminded of Moses, Pharaoh and the Ten Plagues. There’s the sores, the water-into-blood, the darkness and the frogs.
Babylon also makes its appearance here, and, as we will see next week, is John’s codeword for Rome. There’s an important historical context here:
- The Israelites were in slavery in Egypt in about 1500BC
- They were in exile in Babylon around 586BC
- They were oppressed by Rome in the first century AD.
Egypt’s army was destroyed in the sea (“it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died” Rev16:3)
Babylon was defeated overnight when the Persians blocked the Euphrates (which had served as Babylon’s moat) by night and marched in on dry land and sacked Babylon.
Rome was ultimately sacked by the Barbarians.
The point of this “Bowls Section” is to point out that evil may flourish, but it also self-destructs. Pharaoh’s arrogance led to his destruction. Babylon was defeated overnight. Rome would still fall.
The bowls are poetic language and describe how evil festers, infects and self-destructs. If one imagines the smoke, flames, trauma and drama of the actual fall of oppressive regimes throughout history (be it Egypt, Babylon, Rome, or the Nazis), one could quite easily imagine the poetic images of seas and rivers of blood and scorching suns and moons.
The real heartache is that the wicked don’t repent even when they receive clear warnings and must face their final Armegeddons.
The reassurance we have is that evil will not endure – it will face its Armegeddon.
2012-02-28 – “Evil Personified”
3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. 5 This title was written on her forehead:
BABYLON THE GREAT
THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. (Revelation17:3-5)
The next section in Revelation tells the story of the corrupting and oppressive world systems that have been a snare for God’s people. The section is about Babylon the Whore (17:1-19:10). There are Seven Words/Poems/Songs and these are marked by the clear rhythmic poetry of funeral dirges.
As we have seen before, God’s people have suffered under the cruel and polluting influence of great world systems in their histories. (Egypt, Babylon and Rome.)
John cannot name Rome as the enemy directly: so he alludes to her by telling us the name on her forehead. The first word, “MYSTERY” is our clue that this is a puzzle to be solved. He’s telling us that he is writing in code. Babylon is John’s code-word for Rome. A few verses later he makes it clear: “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits…” (v.9) This is a clear reference to Rome as her designation as the city on seven hills is commonplace among Roman writers (e.g., Virgil, Martial, Cicero).
In this section he describes how Babylon corrupts the world in terms of greed, blasphemy, sensuality, corruption, materialism and gross abuses of power.
He goes on to compose a number of “doom songs” which catalogue what will be the destruction Rome and is in fact applicable to many other corrupt regimes throughout history.
The point of this section? To describe evil systems as seductive and corrupting. We should not gloss over this point too quickly. Just one simple example will suffice: Have you noticed how commonplace blasphemy has become in Hollywood’s movies? And we pay money to watch movies where the name of Jesus is used as a cuss-word!! (But we don’t “make waves” because Babylon has infected our society and people will think us weird)
The doom songs we see in this section indicate that Babylon has extended her seductive claws into the echelons of trade, commerce and power. When she is destroyed some will cheer but many, who have been beguiled by her materialism will weep. Evil can be very seductive and like a drug, we can become addicted to the systems of the world.
2012-02-29 – “Our Hero”
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation19:11-16)
The next section of Revelation (19:11-21:8) forms the Seventh Act and is the penultimate act in the play. It is probably the most difficult section to understand and has been the cause of much debate. Before we get into it, we must re-iterate the keys we’ve been using to understand Revelation:
1. We’re working with a woman-in-labour understanding of history. Revelation doesn’t only speak about the end (the birth), but is relevant for every “contraction”.
2. We’ve seen that Revelation is not chronological, but rather that there are different Acts in the play, and, just like there are different witnesses of a car accident (one witness sees a Ford and a Mazda, one sees a red and blue car, another sees a young student driver and an old lady driver etc), there are different perspectives on this “labour.”
This section centers around the Champion on a white horse, it describes the defeat of the beast and it describes two periods of 1000 years in which the beast is bound and the saints reign.
After careful reading and cross-referencing with other passages of Scripture, we understand it as follows:
1. The Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Jesus is the heart of God’s victory over Satan.
2. Jesus ascension starts a period where Satan is bound and limited in the world and the Christians are able to spread the gospel throughout the world. This is the age of the church and it is the two sets of 1000 years (imprisonment of Satan and reign of the saints) combined.
3. Once all the contractions of the “labour” are complete (symbolic 1000 years are over), Satan will be released to face the Final Judgement.
One of the best analogies to understand this is from World War 2: The victory of World War 2 came from “D-Day”, the day the Allied Forces wedged their way onto Europe’s mainland on the beaches of Normandy, but it would take months of fighting before they marched into Berlin for “V-Day” when the war would finally be over.
Our D-Day is the Resurrection of Jesus, the V-Day will be when it is all wound up. We are in the 1000 years right now: The power of sin, death and Satan have been broken by the cross and we can proclaim forgiveness and salvation to all who would receive him.
Our best key to this section and our reassurance is the triumphant picture that the opening verses give us: Not “Gentle Jesus meek and mild” but “Christ triumphant and victorious” – OUR Champion and OUR Hero.
2012-04-18 – “Closing Triumph”
After a long break (longer than intended – my apologies!) EmmDevs are back.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
We’ve reached the final Act in Revelation. Here’s what we’ve seen so far:
1. The church in the world (with seven letters to seven churches)
2. The suffering of the church (with seven seals opened)
3. Warnings to the world (with seven trumpets blown)
4. The Drama of history (described in seven visions)
5. The punishment of evil (poured out of seven bowls)
6. Evil personified as Babylon (judged in seven words)
7. The Drama behind history (key characters in seven visions)
For anyone familiar with the Old Testament this set of seven sevens should have theirs instincts twitching because 7X7=49 and this heralds the “Year of Jubilee” which was a socio-economic-political concept in the Law which was unfortunately never practised. The idea was that after seven cycles of seven years, the _fiftieth_ year would be a year in which debts were cancelled, slaves set free, land restored to rightful owners, and oppression dealt with.
It was meant to be a cyclical “reset/reboot” button for the economy and society. It was meant to give people a taste of what things would be like with God in charge instead of tyranny-tending-humanity.
It never happened.
God’s people simply did not have the courage or the internal generosity to implement it. Our sinful nature rebelled against it.
The Age of the Church culminates in the coming of Christ and when He comes, the debts of those who belong to Him will be cancelled and the world will be restored and suffering will end. This passage is a beautiful image of this.
2012-04-19 – “Where’s the sea?”
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (Revelation21:1)
Before we finish the series on Revelation’s Reassurances, I’d like to spend a few days in ch.21&22. I’ll explain why later… (How’s that for creating suspense?!?)
I love the sea. I love swimming in it and I love watching it when it roars and thunders. I love the smells and sounds and the salt spray on my face.
So I was surprised and, quite frankly, disappointed when I read that the New Jerusalem has no sea…
But we need to understand the context… The Israelites were not a sea-faring nation. The only seas they were willing to deal with were Galilee and the Dead Sea. (The Galilee sea is not much bigger than the Vaal Dam and the Dead Sea is… well, dead.) As far as the real sea was concerned, they saw it as a place of uncertainty and sea-monsters. In the mindset of the Israelites, the sea was unpredictable, dark, perilous and untameable.
It came to represent evil in all its uncertainty, ferocious and unpredictable. The sea represented their fears of rampant and frightening creatures. (Stories like Jonah’s Big Fish would just reinforce this notion!)
So the reassurance that John’s vision offers us is that there will be a time when rampant, unpredictable and ferocious evil that seems way bigger than us will no longer be there – at all!
Today you and I still face this kind of darkness and evil, but it is comforting to know that even if evil seems as big and uncontrollable as the oceans, (think of what a tsunami can do) there will be a time that God will deal with it completely! It just won’t be there!
2012-04-20 – “Order Confused!”
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation21:4)
Sometimes we get confused…
We would like this life to be a life of no tears, or death or pain. But it isn’t.
This life is the old order…
And as much as we would like this life to be easy, good and pain-free and as much as we would like to stamp our feet and “deemand” this as our right, it is not.
This order is the one that you and I and Adam and Eve usurped. We grabbed at it. We wanted to be self-determined, self-governed and self-sustained. We wanted to be like God. So we created a world-order: the order of the self.
The problem is that what myself wanted was different from what yourself wanted and so Cain slew Abel and chaos has followed ever since. This is our order… (and it’s pretty bad news and it’s pretty much our fault!)
But there is another order on the way – it is growing like yeast in the dough of the old order and the Day will come when the old order will pass away. We’ll move from the self-order to the God-order. And in His order there is love, comfort and healing…
Just as in a bakery you sometimes get a whiff of the yeast working in the dough, we get hints of the fragrance of the coming order in the midst of the old order, but it won’t be be fully realised until that Day that Jesus comes in the clouds to pronounce His Kingdom, His Order.
But in the meantime, we weep and mourn and endure, comforted in knowing that the old order WILL PASS AWAY!
2012-04-24 – “No Eskom needed”
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. (Revelation21:22-23)
John has seen the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God and he has been privileged to do a tour of this amazing city with the angel. It has dimensions that echo that of the Old Testament Temple and the Holy of Holies, it has 12 layers of foundation stones that are of precious stones and gates of pearl and streets of gold.
But for me all of that splendour pales to drab insignificance next to v.22-23. For no matter how beautiful the city, it would be irrelevant if Jesus weren’t there.
But God (Father, Son and Spirit) IS there – and His presence is so pervasive and so easily experienced that there is no intermediary needed.
In the Old Testament the temple was a symbol of God’s presence to human souls whose hearts were too far away and too dull to recognise God’s Omnipresence. But Eternal Life is about sin and death that have been defeated and that we are forgiven and healed. We are able to experience God’s presence in the closest and most intimate way and Jesus words to the Samaritan woman reach their ultimate fulfilment: We worship the Father in “Spirit and in Truth.”
And Eskom won’t be needed either! The awesome, holy and majestic glory of God, that once glowed temporarily on the face of Moses will now fill our existence with light. It will cast no shadows and we will experience freedom from darkness.
The splendour of the city speaks of the majesty of God, the 12 foundation stones speak of the 12 tribes and therefore the inclusion of all humanity. But at the heart of the picture of the Holy City are not the details of gold and precious stones, but this idea that God is there – and if He is there, we need nothing else.
2012-04-25 – “The Acid Test”
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. 9 But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” (Revelation22:8-9)
One can quite easily imagine the scene – John has already seen so much. All the visions he had seen and his experience of New Jerusalem where God is the light and the temple of the city totally overwhelm his senses and he falls down to worship the angelic messenger who has been his tour guide.
We can’t blame him.
Sometimes the things of God can be so enormous and overwhelming and we are incredibly grateful when someone comes along and makes them more accessible to us. We read that the angel had a measuring rod and helped John grasp the dimensions of the city. In essence the angel made it more tangible and real to John. He clarified the indescribable and brought it down to some sort of scale that John could comprehend.
And so John fell down and worshipped. And we tend to want to worship those who help us get to know God better. But the angel would have none of it. He passed the acid test.
From the angel’s perspective it took character not to grab at the tiny little bit of glory that this one puny little human being offered. It must have been tempting to enjoy basking in the reflected glory of God. But the angel resists the temptation and so must we. It is very tempting to consider ourselves as God’s helpers, as God’s indispensable partners. It is easy for us to enjoy the praise and compliments that others give us.
And there is a fine line here: There are compliments for work well done and appreciation for effort put in, but we must never allow ourselves to fall into Adam and Eve’s trap: trying to be like God, even if it is just in someone else’s eyes.
2012-04-26 – “The final reassurance”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation22:17)
We’ve taken a whistle-stop tour through John’s Revelation. We’ve reminded ourselves that the message of Revelation is not about _the_ end. It is not even that “the end is nigh.”
Rather, the message of Revelation is, “when it feels like the end or that the end is nigh – remember this: God is in charge and evil will not have the final say!”
And so this amazing Pastoral Poetic Prophetic Postage from John has been the comfort of the church in the catacombs, the security of the persecuted church in the Reformation, the inspiration of the churches behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains and the solid rock of churches in North Africa.
Its core comfort is that God is aware and active in the midst of the pain and heartache of the world. Its key truth is that evil is a beast that will ultimately be brought to book. One of my New Testament Profs, Pieter de Villiers, wrote a book about Revelation and entitled it “Leviathan on a Leash.”
But beyond the comfort of knowing that God is with us and that evil is limited, there is an even more important message in Revelation and it repeated and reiterated in so many ways and pictures throughout the book: “Whoever is thirsty can come!”
Revelation speaks of beasts, dragons, calamities, earthquakes, signs, trumpets, candlestands, churches and angels, but emerging through the chaos in the brightness of His glory is Jesus Christ the Champion riding on the white horse of victory – the Son of God who gave Himself for all and conquered death and sin and Satan.
He is our Champion and He offers us life-giving, thirst-quenching water in the midst of a chaotic and broken world and if we drink we will be satisfied!
And this brings us to the end of our series on Revelation.
Hope you enjoyed it!