“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone ‘like a son of man,’ but dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 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” (Revelation 1:12-16, NIV).
The Christians of the first century knew (or knew of) Jesus as a 30-year old man who was unjustly executed by the Roman government with the complicity of the Jewish religious leadership. Perhaps it was quite out of the ordinary for John and other first-century Christians to imagine Jesus, whom they had known as a compassionate human being, as the God of the Old Testament wielding divine judgment over His Creation.
The language describing the Son of Man figure in John’s vision in the first chapter of Revelation is suggestive of the Ancient of Days figure in one of Daniel’s visions described in Daniel 7, who confers divine authority, power and glory upon “one like a son of man” (Daniel 7:13). Daniel’s vision is considered to be a messianic prophecy in which the “Ancient of Days” represents God the Father and the “one like a Son of Man” represents God the Son, the Messiah Jesus Christ.
“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near” (Revelation 1:3, NIV).
The book of Revelation is perhaps the one book in the New Testament that I’ve read and studied the least. That’s probably because it’s the one I least understand.
There’s so much imagery and symbolism that I don’t get. There’s so many interpretations and I don’t know who and what to believe.
Have its prophecies been fulfilled or are they yet to be fulfilled? Will Christians be raptured before the Second Coming of Christ? Is the millennial reign of Christ on Earth literal or symbolic?
These are some of the questions I carry into my reading of Revelation because I have relied on the interpretations of others I consider more knowledgeable than myself to help me understand its prophetic discourse.
But, the book of Revelation shouldn’t be neglected or ignored in our personal Bible study. It shouldn’t be left to Bible scholars to explain it’s meaning to us.
Revelation has much to offer the diligent and conscientious reader. We know this because it begins by promising a blessing to those who read it. It declares that those who read it and take it to heart (apply it to their faith) will be blessed!
“I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you” (1 John 2:26, ESV).
In the Apostle John’s letter entitled, 1 John, he writes it seemingly to address false teaching and specifically a heresy theologians have named “Gnosticism.”
Gnosticism is is a modern name for a variety of ancient religious ideas and systems that had their roots in the first century but became a more serious problem in the second century.
This religious philosophy held that matter is evil and spirit is good. The solution to the tension between matter and spirit was knowledge, or gnosis, through which humans advanced from a natural state to spiritual state. Gnosticism led to two false theories concerning the person of Christ: representing Jesus as a spirit and making Jesus a dual personality at times human and at times divine.
I don’t want to enter into a theological discussion about Gnosticism or Christology as John offers a simple and straightforward argument for a correct understanding of the humanity and divinity of Jesus. Besides, that discussion is well above my pay grade in these meditations!
But, I want to highlight an important matter embedded in John’s symphonic discussion in this letter that has just as much relevance for the Church today as it did when John wrote the letter in the first century.
“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place…. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:11-13, ESV).
The past few weeks have been, it seems, a series of personal tragedies among some of my friends and colleagues. Terminal illness and death of young people runs counter-intuitive to our existence in this world. It’s just not how life is meant to be.
And, in the midst of great tragedy we are left wondering–why did this happen?
Then, we wonder what to say to our friends who are grieving and struggling with overwhelming loss. How can we explain “Why”?
For those who read and study the Bible, the Book of Job in the Old Testament is often the Bible story we fall back on for comfort and understanding in confronting adversity and tragedy. After all, Job’s ten children and who knows how many grandchildren died when a tornado caused the house where they were all eating together to fall in on them.
Besides his children Job lost all of his considerable wealth and his health and then even Job’s wife scorned him in his affliction.
And, all this happened as a result of some seemingly diabolical wager that Satan made with God.
“For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works” (Titus 2:11-14, HCSB).
In 1976 theologian Francis A. Schaeffer published How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. The book (and subsequent documentary film series) traced the history of Western civilization from Ancient Rome until the time of writing (1976). Schaeffer’s central premise was that when a social order is based on the Bible and on a personal knowledge of the infinite God, it provides an absolute standard by which people can conduct their lives.
These four verses from Paul’s letter to his protege Titus not only declare the gospel but also explain how Christians should live as redeemed human beings, but a little more concisely than Schaeffer’s treatise.
“When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 1:8-9, ESV).
What’s the problem with offering lame or sick animals as a sacrifice? After all, they’re killed and eaten anyway. Deuteronomy 15:21 declared that blemished animals can’t be used for sacrifice to God: “But if it has any blemish, if it is lame or blind or has any serious blemish whatever, you shall not sacrifice it to the Lord your God.”
Malachi’s ministry was to the repatriated Jews whose families had returned to Judea from Babylonian captivity. In Malachi’s time the people seemed to be indifferent to God. So much so, that they weren’t totally obedient to the law of God.
They offered sacrifices, sure. But they offered inappropriate and improper sacrifices. They offered sacrifices to God that wouldn’t even find favor with the governing authorities! So, why would they offer something to God that wouldn’t even be acceptable to men?
God’s people are not so much different today. We do the same thing. We hold out the best for ourselves and give God our leftovers.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water’” (John 4:13-15, ESV).
In the familiar story of Jesus and the woman of Samaria in John 4:1-42, Jesus provided a perfect demonstration of personal witnessing:
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4, ESV).
In a world with ever-changing vocabularies being generated on social media with every meme, rap song, or YouTube video, it’s difficult to keep up with the latest slang.
But, there’s a recent idiom that has relevance for 1 John 4, especially as it relates to describing God Almighty, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
G.O.A.T. is an acronym for the Greatest Of All Time. The acronym is usually used to describe an outstanding player in a particular sport.
So, G.O.A.T. is not a title that is easily bestowed. G.O.A.T. is not used to refer to those who are “kind of great” or “approaching greatness.” G.O.A.T. is a term reserved only for the truly GREATEST OF ALL TIME!
1 John 4:4 is one of the most well-known and often-quoted Bible verses among Christians . We quote it to remind and encourage Christians that they can overcome any difficulty or hardship in their lives.
In fact, I use it on myself in exactly the same way–to remind myself that the God I serve is greater than the devil that creates many of the problems I face in this world.
“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive” (Romans 16:17-18, ESV).
In the Book of Romans the Apostle Paul offered several theological discussions about Christian living. In the previous post in this series from Romans (see Pusillanimous Christianity), we learned that Christians don’t need to be afraid of the future. If your hope is in God and God is in control of your life, then you have nothing to fear because God is in charge of your future.
In Romans 16 Paul continues the lesson about becoming a mature, grown-up Christian. He said that when a Christian is immature and naive, he or she is susceptible to being deceived.
That’s because there are persons that claim to be Christians, who even teach other Christians, but think more about themselves and stroking their own egos than they do about serving Jesus and helping Christians grow spiritually.
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4, ESV).
The Book of Romans provides several theological discussions about Christian living. In the previous post in this series from Romans (see Punctilious Christianity), we learned that Christians shouldn’t let their personal convictions cause someone else to question the legitimacy of their faith.
In Romans 15 Paul continues this lesson on not allowing your personal convictions to cause a Christian brother or sister to stumble.
Paul makes a distinction between the weak and strong Christian and then declares that the primary characteristic of a strong Christian is not to please yourself but to conduct yourself in a way that strengthens your brother or sister.
After all, that’s what Jesus did: “For Christ did not please himself” (vs. 3).