Out With The Old, In With The New (Rev 21)

Comment

Out With The Old, In With The New (Rev 21)

I can’t think of a more fitting time to look forward to a new day, one where all things are made right. Once again, our nation is rocked with the agony of senseless violence and more families have to cope with unthinkable loss. God help us.

It. Is. A. Broken. World.

We all grope around looking for answers – why did this happen, how can we prevent this, who is to blame? Maybe more strict gun control laws would help, but it seems like the genie is out of the bottle already. Perhaps we can get serious about addressing mental health issues, or maybe its a prescription drug problem, or possibly a breakdown in family training? I think, as a society, we should be exploring all of these possibilities and seeking to address them as best as we can. But the greater reality is: evil continues to ruin creation.

Evil expands and contracts and as hard as we try, humanity just can’t seem to get a handle on it.

That’s why God promises that a new world is coming. One that His power initiates. We’ll be looking at that new world in our study in Revelation this Sunday as we read chapter 21.

Once evil has been dealt with (ch 20), a new heavens and new earth emerge. Not that God is crumpling up the good that he created, but like one of those renovation shows, he expels all that is rotten and offensive, and rebuilds with good materials.

The vision John has is of the great restoration and redemption God has in mind. All the things that bring misery and heartache and pain are removed and we are provided with life from God’s own presence among us. It’s more than my mind can truly conjure.

Some stuff to take note of: underline all the places where John says “there is no more” and then all the places where he describes things as “new”. What is out and what is in? How does that help us understand our priorities as Christians in this world today?

Once again, John hears about a bride, but what he sees is a city. We’ll go into all the measurements and stuff on Sunday. Think about this: where does the city come from? We seem to have imagined the gospel to be about going up to heaven when we die…yet how does that seem to fit with what is described in Revelation 21?

The city of Babylon represented something besides a city a few chapters back. What do you suppose the New Jerusalem might be representing? As you consider some of the details of this city – no temple, constant light, no closed gates, all the nations included – what might those represent, and how might that influence how we understand our purpose and priorities as the church today?

I’m looking forward to this chapter – we’re finally done with monsters and flames. I think we could all use a bit of good news. 

Comment

The Final Clash (Rev 19:11-21; 20)

Comment

The Final Clash (Rev 19:11-21; 20)

Gandalf’s charge in the second of the Lord of the Rings trilogy is probably one of my favorite moments in all of those movies. Admittedly, those movies are suffering over time (nobody should be allowed to make movies that are that long) – but that moment always sticks out for me. It, of course, reminds me a lot of what we’ll be reading about this Sunday as we continue our study in the book of Revelation, reading chapters 19:11-20:15.

We will be reading about Jesus’ Parousia – Jesus’ second coming. Still – we’ll have a lot of dense imagery to get through, so be warned.

As you read the description of the One riding the white horse – who do you believe He is? Why do you believe his clothes are stained red with blood before any battle takes place.

When we read this opening account, we see two armies lined up for a classical battle scene – but by the time we get to v20, prisoners are rounded up and the vultures are already at work. Why do you think there is no battle described here? What do you think the symbolism of the sword from Jesus’ mouth taking down the armies of the earth may mean?

Chapter 20 is a doozy. It is here, within 6 verses that we have a great controversial subject which has divided the church for ages. The Millennial Kingdom – the 1,000 year reign of Christ. We will be discussing the various views about how this should be interpreted – and I’ll do my best to explain these ideas as simply as possible (we’ll try to avoid this).

No matter how one interprets the details of chapter 20, one thing comes across loudly and clearly. All of human and spiritual creation will be accountable to someone. Who is the Someone identified as? We are told (symbolically) in a courtroom scene that ledgers of deeds will be examined to determine a person’s fate. However, there is one book (singular) which seems to set deeds aside. What book is that? Read Revelation 13:8 – what does the name of that book imply about how we get our names in it?

Comment

Bye Bye Babylon, Hello Hallelujahs!  (Rev 18-19:10)

1 Comment

Bye Bye Babylon, Hello Hallelujahs! (Rev 18-19:10)

Are you familiar with the term “too big to fail”? It’s a phrase that emerged in the late 80’s to describe large corporations, specifically financial institutions which have become so large and globally interconnected that if they were to fail, it would have catastrophic effects on the whole economic system. They are too big to fail, therefore it is incumbent on the government to support and subsidize them should they actually face a potential failure.

We actually saw this concept play out in reality in 2009.

When we look at the world systems that are in place – systems we’ve known our whole lives, it would seem that those systems are too big to fail. Yet, as we’ll be reading about in our study this week, there is a point in time somewhere where God has drawn a line. The broken systems of this fallen world, as immutable as they seem to be, will fall and be swept away. This Sunday we’ll be reading Revelation 18 – 19:10.

Chapter 18 provides us with a more detailed account of Babylon’s demise. Babylon, as we presented last week, is a code word in the Bible to describe humanity’s efforts to create a society and ethos apart from God. Paradise without a Creator. Those systems are bound for failure, and invariably create more torment and pain than they ever resolve.

What details are brought out about Babylon in chapter 18? Who is lamenting over her? What do they cry about? What does that tell us about the symbolism of adultery and prostitution? It might help to contextualize this imagery if you read Jeremiah 51(especially v6-8 and v60-64).

When we get to chapter 19, we find a contrasting action to the lament and weeping of chapter 18. Four distinct HALLELUJAHS (Praise the Lord in the NLT) are sounded. What reasons are stated for praising God in those four sections? At one point we are told about the “wedding feast of the Lamb”. What does the imagery of a “bride” conjure up concerning our relationship to Christ as His people? What can we learn about being a follower of Jesus in 21st Century America from this section?

1 Comment

By The Waters of Babylon (Rev 17)

Comment

By The Waters of Babylon (Rev 17)

Most of us are familiar with the archetypal trope of the femme fatale. The term is French for fatal woman. She is usually presented as a temptress, driven, manipulative and shrewd. She is often very dangerous to the men she tangles with, usually being cast as a villain in the story. From the Bible to Arthurian tales, to Shakespeare, to modern film-noir we encounter this archetype. Certainly there are stories with men who fit the pattern as well; the homme fatale. A handsome, mysteriously seductive, yet dangerous man. I suppose the female version is more prominent because it overturns and threatens the formerly normalized power dynamics, making for a more intriguing story. That’s my theory anyway.

As we continue our study of Revelation we’ll be reading chapter 17 and we will encounter an archetypal femme fatale: the harlot described as Babylon. Revelation is all written in symbolic language, remember, so what is really being described has nothing to do with women or prostitution, but rather, fidelity to God.

The woman is described as sitting on the Beast we encountered earlier, in chapter 13. When you read over her description, what might the various details about the scarlet clothes, the jewelry and what it is that she is drunk on be symbolizing? If we remember the last time this sort of imagery was employed, in chapter 2, when the church in Thyatira was rebuked for committing adultery with Jezebel, it was most likely addressing a compromise of convictions in the church. What might this woman in chapter 17 be representing?

When the Beast is described, attention is paid to his heads and horns, with cryptic significance assigned to them. We’ll cover the various theories about what they might be representing on Sunday.

If this imagery is describing the systems of power and popular ethos in our world, what warning might we take away from it? What encouragement could it give?

The chapter is filled with vivid and disturbing images – hopefully we’ll be able to get a handle on the message it conveys. 

Comment

Right Undoing Wrong (Rev 15-16)

Comment

Right Undoing Wrong (Rev 15-16)

With this teaching we’re going to spend a significant amount of time talking about judgement and wrath, specifically, God’s judgement and wrath. We’ll be continuing our study in Revelation, covering chapters 15-16. It’s not very often that an entire message finds judgement as its focal point, but this is the nature of the two chapters we’ll be reading and we wouldn’t be treating the text honestly nor honorably if we were to skim past it. So buckle up because we’re going to look squarely at this subject…and believe it or not, I think it may prove to be encouraging.

God’s judgement is one of those unfortunate concepts that falls into two extremes in the history of church doctrine. Some elements of the church get so focused on judgement and wrath that a caricature is created of God, one that resembles pagan concepts more than biblical ones. On the other hand, some in the church are so concerned that talk of God judging might undermine the message of his grace that they also create a caricature of God; one of a doting old grandparent who just winks and smiles in the face of all that’s wrong.

But what are we to make of wrath and judgement ascribed to God, not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New, as in the chapters we’ll be reading this Sunday?

I believe without reservation that God is not mad at humanity. I believe the message of the Gospel, that God so LOVED the world he sent Jesus, his son, as an atoning sacrifice. I also believe what the bible says about God’s wrath. The main issue is the focus of that wrath. This is something we’ll talk about at length.

For now, just consider this: what comes to mind when you hear the word “wrath”? When you think of judgment, what do you envision? In what ways could God’s judgement be a positive thing that compels the nations to worship God, as is described in chapter 15:4?

Don’t get nervous – I think it’s important to talk about these ideas and do our best to grapple with them. If we observe this rightly, it’s very possible to come away from a teaching like this with a whole new sense of hope.

Comment

Destinations In View (Rev 14)

Comment

Destinations In View (Rev 14)

Do you remember being a child and watching scary movies? Sometimes, when the monster was about to attack or the action got really tense, it seemed prudent to hide under a blanket, or cover your eyes, or suddenly get interested in something else until the tension eased in the story. Who am I kidding…I’m still like that. However, as a young tyke, I can remember my mom noticing my worry and reminding me: “it’s just a movie, it’s not real”. If it were a movie she had already seen, she would sometimes let me know how it ended: “It’s okay, they’ll stop the monster, I’ve seen this”. I don’t think people cared about spoilers then as much as they do now.

Anyway, as we are returning to our study in Revelation, we’ll be reading chapter 14, where we’ll be getting some reassurance in the midst of some really tense images. The chapter intends to remind those who follow Jesus about their destination. (spoiler) There’s a good ending for those who believe.

In v 1-5 we are greeted with some familiar characters – the Lamb and the 144,000 followers of the Lamb. We first met these 144K back in chapter 7, and we concluded that they were most likely a symbolic representation of God’s redeemed people throughout time. They showed up as an interlude between the 6th and 7th seal…a quick look at God’s protection of his people, right before we saw the finale of history.

As we look at how these people are described in v 4-5, what significance do we assign to each of these symbolic characteristics?

Verses 6-12 has a vision of three angels, or messengers, each declaring invitations and warnings. The first angel has the invitation of the gospel. To whom is that gospel offered? What similarities do you see between those people and the people of chapter 13? What does this tell us about God’s heart?

This chapter is pretty loaded with disturbing pictures and forecasts – most of which we’ll try to unpack on this teaching. 

Comment

Things Get Beastly (Rev 13)

Comment

Things Get Beastly (Rev 13)

We’ll also be returning to our study of the book of Revelation! We’ll be reading chapter 13.

This is probably one of the most famous chapters of this whole book because it contains the infamous and mysterious sequence of numbers: 666.

In order to really get the full effect that John’s vision is seeking to evoke, it would serve you well to read Daniel 7, because it contains very similar imagery. Daniel’s dream of a series of beasts rising from the sea is usually, and certainly by John’s day, considered a forecast of the successive empires that ruled the ancient world. Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and finally Rome.

Given that idea – what do you suppose the beast from the sea in John’s vision might represent? What similarities are there between Daniel’s dream and John’s vision? Who is it that is said to give this beast his power and authority? What main characteristic of the sea-beast stands out to you?

John then sees a monster from the earth. He has horns like a lamb but the voice of the dragon (chapter 12). Who can you think of that is described as a “lamb” earlier in this book? What significance to you see in having the appearance of a “lamb” but the voice, or words of a “dragon”? What is the earth beast’s mission? Count how many times the word “worship” is repeated in this chapter. Do you find that significant? What is it that is withheld if a person does not worship the beast?

Politics, religion and money. It appears to be a toxic combination, doesn’t it? If you were to read this as an encouragement in following Jesus, what message would you take from it?

The number 666…..what does it mean? I’ll get into my thoughts on that during this teaching.

Comment

A Birth And A Battle (Rev 12)

Comment

A Birth And A Battle (Rev 12)

As we approach the celebration of Jesus’ entrance into our world this Christmas season, we’ll find interestingly, in our study through the book of Revelation this week, the birth of Christ from an apocalyptic perspective. Well be reading chapter 12:1-17.

Once again in our study we’ll see that things aren’t always as they appear. As the curtain is pulled back behind the serene scenes of a baby lying beneath the stars in a manger, we’ll find a sinister character lurking in the shadows. We’ll see the birth of Christ as the invasion it truly was into enemy occupied territory.

Is the red character described in vs 4 the one that comes to mind this time of year? When you think of Christmas do you see it as the turning point of an epic battle? Could recognizing our world as a war zone help bring any comfort as we walk through the trials and difficulties of this
life?

Verses 7-9 Clearly identify the dragon as Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. Who else might we wrongly or unwittingly mistake as our enemy? Have you ever found yourself in the midst of life’s difficulties wondering or feeling like God was against you? Our text gives us a glimpse of the battle that was going on behind the scenes of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. It says God’s angelic army lead by Michael, defeated Satan and his cohorts. Does that victory bring any comfort or clarity as to the source of our troubles? Remember in Matthew’s gospel (12:24-25) when the pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of the devil? He said a kingdom divided against itself couldn’t stand. Could our God, the giver of every good and perfect gift, be the source of both good and evil?

In verses 10-12 we get some insight into our role in this epic battle. They expose Satan’s age old strategy of accusing and condemning God’s people who overcome it says by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony…We overcome in other words, by accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf and by how that effects our identity. When we invite Jesus’ to be Lord of our lives the word assures us we’re not the same old people we were before.(2 Corinthians 5:17) His influence in our lives radically changes everything!! How has embracing Christ changed your view of yourself? Who are you ,according to Him?

Finally we see a picture seemingly right out of Godzilla with the dragon stomping through the streets spewing water at the woman…clearly he is trying to drown her out once and for all… Who does vs 17 identify as those the dragon is making war with? Does knowing that you’re not alone as you undergo constant assault provide any sense of peace? The church has been under attack from the very beginning. What comfort have you found in our fellowship of believers. Have you ever considered those sitting in the rows beside you as allies in this spiritual battle? How could meeting together regularly with your own seal team (Navy) prove helpful as you walk out this good fight of faith?

It should be an interesting study!

Comment

Can I Get Two Witnesses?  (Rev 10-11)

Comment

Can I Get Two Witnesses? (Rev 10-11)

While Revelation may be the most puzzling book of the Bible, chapters 10 and 11 prove to be the most puzzling section of Revelation. The imagery is dense and the symbolism is deep and this will take some thinking as we navigate our way through this section.

We’re first introduced to an angel holding a little scroll which John is instructed to eat. If you read Ezekiel 3, it gives some context to this odd requirement. What do you think this action symbolizes for John, and what might the scroll represent?

In chapter 11, John is instructed to measure the temple, symbolically indicating it’s preservation. At the time of Revelation, the temple had been destroyed more than 20 years earlier. What do you suppose this temple represents? Hint: 2 Corinthians 2:6.

The witnesses are described as lampstands and olive trees. What else has been described as a lampstand in Revelation? What might these witnesses represent?

Wear your thinking socks for this teaching, this will be a challenge, but well worth it!

Comment

The Trumpet Section (Rev 8-9)

Comment

The Trumpet Section (Rev 8-9)

This week we’ll be reading two chapters in Revelation – chapters 8-9 – as we continue on our journey through this book. There is a dense amount of imagery in this section dealing with another set of 7 events. We’ll be reading about the seven trumpet judgments that come on the earth. As we’ve said many times already, there are a myriad of differing views about what these images mean and when they take place.

I am someone who is persuaded by the interpretation that says this set of seven trumpets and the set of seven seals prior to it, are describing the same events but from differing perspectives. These may be descriptions of the state of the world during the period of time between Christ’s ascension and his return.

Again, as you read these images, use your imagination to picture the scenes and consider how those images make you  feel. Revelation is a book meant to be experienced as well as read. In what ways have we seen our ecological environment negatively impacted, and how might that relate to the images of chapter 8?

Most of these images are showing us what happens when humanity gets its own way – we want to call the shots and rule the world, and the world becomes a tormenting place as a result.

All of these judgments carry that theme. And the last verses of chapter 9 show us the disheartening results. Judgement, and the threat of it, does not seem to change people’s hearts. What can we learn from this as we carry out the mission of the church?

Comment

Sealed and Secured (Rev 7)

Comment

Sealed and Secured (Rev 7)

Many commentators view Revelation 7 as the most comforting and encouraging vision of the entire book. That is the section we’ll be reading this Sunday as we continue our series through these famous last words.

The vision starts rather oddly, with four angels holding back what appear to be destructive winds from scorching the earth. The reason they are held back is because God’s people are to be sealed, or marked first. Read Ezekiel 9:1-4 and Ephesians 1:13-14. How would you interpret the “seal”?

The 144,000 and the innumerable multitude are images we’ll talk about more on Sunday. The main thing to notice in the section though is God marking those who are His own. How would his persecuted first readers have found hope in that, and how can we find hope from that image today?

The rest of the chapter has some of the most tender imagery we’ll find anywhere in the Bible. In V 15-17, read over what it is the One on the throne and the Lamb will do for the people who belong to God. Use your imagination to envision the scene, then transliterate it to experiences you’ve had in this life that are similar. For instance, the One who sits on the throne will give His people shelter. Literally, provide a tent for them. In Near Eastern thinking, this is saying “bring them as family”. What does it mean to you to belong to a family – to experience the provision and protection that extends well beyond what you can achieve alone?

What do these images convey about the heart of God towards us?

I love this section – I hope you will too!

Comment

The Crisis of Resistance (Rev 6)

Comment

The Crisis of Resistance (Rev 6)

We’re going to be reading Revelation chapter 6 on this study. The first 6 seals of the scroll will be opened and we’ll look at the conditions of this broken world that are the result of God’s kingdom breaking in. Also…you’ll get to see a drawing of how I envision John’s description of the infamous Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Read the passage over if you get a chance before Sunday and use your imagination to see and feel what John describes.

What are conditions like for a world that resists God’s rule?

What encouragement do we take from the souls under the altar who were martyred for their faith? What are they told and how does that shape our own response to unjust treatment by this world?

What does the final cataclysmic description tell us about the result of resisting God’s rule? Who is described as trying to hide under the earth? What kinds of people are they? What does that tell us about the source of this broken world’s problems?

Stuff to ponder.

Comment

All Things Visible and Invisible (Rev 4-5)

Comment

All Things Visible and Invisible (Rev 4-5)

It was  Girolamo Fracastoro, in 1546, who insisted that there was an unseen force in our world that had a profound effect on our physical health. At first, people thought his views were preposterous – but by the late 1800’s, thanks to Louis Pasteur, it had become clear that micro-organisms, or germs, were behind diseases that were plaguing Europe. It’s common knowledge now. We wash our hands regularly and practice good hygiene because we believe there is an unseen world of germs around us at all times, effecting and infecting us if we’re not alert.

The Bible challenges us to take that a step further – to embrace the idea of an enchanted, spiritual dimension where unseen forces are at work. The Bible sees God’s realm, we could say “heaven”, as a world that overlaps and affects our own world, but is hidden from view.

This Sunday as we continue on in our study of the book of Revelation, we’ll be reading all of chapters 4 and 5. They’re short chapters, and I really hate to split them up because they are meant to be read together. In these chapters, John is given a revelation (hence the book’s name) of the unseen realm of God. He enters into the throne room, or command center and sees who is really in control of history.

It would be easy for John and the churches of his day to think that evil had the upper hand and that God’s plans were no longer in his charge. The vision he receives is meant, through rich symbolism, to reveal to him that all is not as it seems on the surface.

As you read over the descriptions he gives – let your imagination run wild. I’ve done some drawings that I’ll put on the screen this Sunday – but those are just to provide spacial reference – don’t let my drawings limit your imagination. See the colors in your mind – listen to the thunder and blink reflexively at the flashes of lightening. Feel the wind brush your skin as the mighty mass of wings on the four living beings fan the air. Smell the burning oil from the seven lamps, be dazzled by the crystal sea. We’ll go over what all these symbols may mean, but the summation is that they are declaring God’s sovereign rule over all things visible and invisible. No matter how things may look to the naked eye, God is firmly in control. How would John’s first readers have found comfort in this idea? In light of our turbulent world, what comfort can we derive from these images?

Chapter five introduces us to a scroll with writing all over it, sealed up with seven wax seals. This is God’s plan and purpose to redeem all things (Daniel 12:8-10). The question goes out, asking who is worthy to open this scroll – that is, who is able to enact this plan? It is here that the core of Christian reality is displayed. John is crying because no one is capable of doing this – but he’s instructed to cheer up and look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah is able to pull it off. When John looks, what does he see? It’s not a lion at all…just the opposite.

There is a message here for all who suffer and who are concerned that evil has the upper hand in this world. God is ruling from his throne, and his plan to redeem all things is still firmly in his grasp. But how he’s at work doing that is the surprising thing. Not by might, not by power as we understand power. What does a slaughtered lamb communicate to us? What does the cross demonstrate for us? What is the power that God has determined to use to overcome the world?

It’s really important to grasp this. Our own sense of well-being and stability flows from our acceptance of this important truth. We do not lose when we pick up our own cross to follow Jesus – that path leads straight to the throne of God and the making of all things new.

Comment

Enduring In A Hazardous World (3) (Rev 3)

Comment

Enduring In A Hazardous World (3) (Rev 3)

Have you ever watched the show "The Walking Dead"? If not, don’t watch it for my sake. It’s not for everyone, and it is certainly in the horror genre of shows – but as a die-hard comic book fan I feel it’s my duty to watch it. Zombies have certainly made a cultural impact lately. I’m not sure what the appeal is or why it seems like the rage, but a rage it is nonetheless. The premise of the show is that a mysterious virus has infected the earth and re-animated corpses – so that dead people walk around and seek to devour living humans. Oddly…Jesus sort of makes that kind of picture for us in the text we’ll be reading this Sunday, albeit, he’s speaking spiritually.

We’ll be continuing our study of Revelation, reading all of chapter 3 and finishing up the letters to the seven churches.

Jesus’ complaint against the church in Sardis was that they had the reputation for being alive…but they were the walking dead.

What sorts of things can you think of that would give a church a name for being alive and vibrant yet spiritually disconnected? How can we as the church and as the people who make up the church avoid such snares in our own communities and spiritual pursuits? As we read this letter, what do we discern that Jesus is expecting from the church in the last days?

The church of Philadelphia receives no correction – just encouragement to hold on even though they little influence (strength). Jesus promises vindication for them – but how does he envision that vindication coming about?

The church of Laodicea receives what is probably the most recognized rebuke. Being neither hot or cold, their lukewarm condition elicits the threat of being spit out. It’s harsh, right? They claim to be rich and needing nothing, but Christ sees them as poor, naked and blind. In what ways can we start drifting into a sense of self-sufficiency? How would we correlate Jesus’ offer of pure gold, white clothes and eye medicine with what he offers us in a redeemed life?

We’ll cover the promises made to the faithful on this study – but they are very encouraging to me.  Hope you think so too!

Comment

Enduring In A Hazardous World (2) (Rev. 2:12-29)

Comment

Enduring In A Hazardous World (2) (Rev. 2:12-29)

In this study we’ll be continuing through the letters to the seven churches in our study of the book of Revelation. We’ll be reading chapter 2:12-29, where the cities of Pergamum and Thyatira will be the recipients. Jesus follows the same pattern: commendation, correction, warning and promise.

We’ve been considering Jesus’ corrections for the churches to discern what it is God is expecting from the church as we live in these last days – what is our emphasis to be? What should characterize our ministry? As we looked at Ephesus and Smyrna, we learned that prioritizing love and minimizing fear were our expected attitudinal priorities.

Pergamum was a capital city in the Roman Empire – the ruling city of the province of Asia. Jesus refers to it as the city where Satan’s throne is…and Satan’s city. Jesus certainly does a little name-calling in these chapters. What do you think he means by this, considering that “satan” means enemy or accuser?

The church there had some good things going on, but Jesus addresses their tolerance of teachings that bear similarities with the actions of Balaam, the Old Testament rogue prophet. You can read about him in Numbers 22-24. Clearly, the symbolism is meant to indicate that the church in Pergamum was in danger of being absorbed by the cultural influences of their day. Applying that to our own time and culture, what influences do we need to be mindful of? What aspects of our present culture flow with the values of God’s kingdom, and what aspects do not? How do we make that determination?

The promise given is that of hidden manna in heaven. What did manna provide for the Israelite? What might this invisible, heavenly-sided manna be for us?

The promise of a white stone with a new name is intriguing. There are many different views about its meaning. I’m partial to the connection with the “tessara hospitalis” view. What does the white stone speak to you?

We’ll also be reading the letter to the church in Thyatira, and while it’s the longest of the letters, we’ll deal with it briefly, since it largely carries a similar warning to that of Pergamum. This time around, the false teachings being tolerated are compared to the Old Testament character Jezebel – whom you can read about in 1 Kings 18 and 19.

Committing adultery with “Jezebel” is symbolic in nature – indicating, not actual adultery, but spiritual unfaithfulness on the part of the church. Apparently they were being tempted to follow doctrines that led them away from Christ and to something or someone else. What things in our world vie for our affection or allegiance in competition with Christ? How can we examine our loyalties and see to it that Christ holds the highest priorities in our choices?

This will be a challenging study – hope you enjoy it!

Comment

Enduring In A Hazardous World (Rev 2:1-11)

Comment

Enduring In A Hazardous World (Rev 2:1-11)

Man…what a year 2017 has been! We’re on track to break records for the magnitude and frequency of natural disasters this year. USA today says we’ve already tied the record for billion dollar disasters. It is reasonable that people are wondering about the end of the world.

I’ve been asked multiple times if I think these are signs of the last days. My answer is “absolutely”. According to Matthew 24, all of these things – wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, storms, diseases – are going to characterize the world as we wait for Jesus to return. From the time Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, we’ve been on the final stretch of history until he returns. So, yes, these are indicators of that…but in many ways, it’s just another tragic day in a broken world. These are the labor pains as a new world is breaking in. Since labor pains usually increase as the birth draws closer, it seems reasonable that these upheavals will increase as we get closer to the end.

Given that, how should the church be responding to this? What is Jesus expecting from us as this world reels and becomes hazardous? If the world were going to end tomorrow, what does God want to see from us?

That’s what we’ll be considering this Sunday as we continue our study in Revelation, reading chapter 2:1-11.

This begins another section traditionally called the 7 letters to the 7 churches. As we stated before, there were more than 7 churches in Asia Minor, so highlighting 7 of them carries the implication that these instructions are for all churches throughout all time.

The first church addressed is in Ephesus. They are commended for an active ministry and doctrinal purity. They were hard at work, serving each other and holding on to orthodoxy. But Jesus zeroed in on something that was lacking. What was it? They were doing the stuff that most churches are always being prodded towards – but it doesn’t seem to be worthwhile without the component Jesus identifies as missing. Jesus tells them to “remember”, “repent” and then “do”. What would that look like lived out in real life?

What does that tell us about God’s expectations of us as this world rocks and reels? What is our main mission as we march toward the end of history?

We’ll also be reading the instructions to the church in Smyrna. They aren’t corrected for anything – but they are encouraged not to do something. What is it? What does that tell us about God’s expectations for the church in the last days? What should characterize our attitudes and ministries? How does that square with frantic end of the world predictions you’ve encountered?

These are some things to think about!

Comment