End Game: Part 5, The Worthy One – Revelation 5

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals, and I saw a might angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’(Revelation 5:1-2, NIV).

In Revelation Chapters 4 and 5 John received a sneak-peek into the heavenly throne room of God prior to viewing the apocalyptic events he will describe in Chapters 6-20.

Chapter 4 established that redemption is the grand master plan of God for the universe. Chapter 5 revealed the Worthy Redeemer, the One who consummates the redemption master plan.

Chapter 4 declared the worthiness of God for conceiving the great redemption plan. Chapter 5 proclaimed the worthiness of the Redeemer for accomplishing the great redemption plan!

After seeing God sitting on a throne continuously worshiped by twenty-four elders and four living creatures who surrounded the throne, John noticed that God was holding a scroll sealed with seven seals and with writing on both sides (inside and outside).

The symbolism here is fairly straightforward. The double-sided scroll represents the title deed to the inhabited world with the legal, signed title written and sealed on the inside and the abstract or description of the document written on the outside.

The seven seals signify the absolute inviolability of the scroll. Only the ones who had their seals engraved on a document were allowed to open it. And, the seals had to be broken before the contents of the scroll could be revealed.

The seven-sealed scroll establishes God’s intention to reclaim the world as the final act in his redemptive purpose. And, it becomes apparent that God’s redemptive efforts will include not only the final redemption of His people but also the judgment and overthrow of evil, specifically, the Devil or Satan, who has been in control of the world since the Fall in Genesis 3.

If we stand by this interpretation that the seven-sealed scroll represents the title deed to the world, then the opening of the seven seals represents precursors to the end of the world. God intends to reclaim a world which has been infiltrated by evil and the final stage of this reclamation will come with the climactic events described in Revelation 6-20.

Because it was a double-sided scroll with its description on the outside, John likely understood what the scroll contained. He was, therefore, deeply saddened as it seemed to him that no one had the supreme qualifications to execute it (vs. 3-4).

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End Game: Part 4, Casting Crowns – Revelation 4

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this(Revelation 4:1, NIV).

Meta tauta is Greek for “After this” and is repeated twice in Revelation 4:1.

If the letters to the seven churches in Chapters 2-3 are indicative of the the Church Age, then meta tauta possibly refers to what occurs after the Church Age. The first meta tauta  seems to mean “after having seen the previous visions” while the second meta tauta seems to mean “after the fulfillment of the previous visions.” Some interpret “Come up here” and this second meta tauta to refer to the rapture of the Church.

But, it is important not to force the book of Revelation into a literal, historical interpretive grid by overlaying the events of our day into the details of this ancient apocalyptic book. Revelation is not meant to be a primer on how and when the Apocalypse will occur but is  better interpreted through the framework of the redemptive plan of God at work in human events.

What John sees in Chapters 4 and 5 provides a context for the apocalyptic events of Chapters 6-20. John received a sneak-peek into the celestial control room. The door into the heavenly sanctuary and the throne room of God was left open for John to peer in. What John saw in the heavenly sanctuary was akin to what some of his prophetic predecessors experienced and observed (see, Isaiah 6:1-5 and Ezekiel 1).

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End Game: Part 3, Church Counsel – Revelation 2-3

“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 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” (Revelation 1:19-20, NIV).

In Revelation 1:4 John identifies who he is writing his Revelation to–the seven (primary) churches in the province of Asia (often called Asia Minor).  Today,  this region comprises much of modern Turkey.

What’s significant about this region is that it would be key to the expansion of Christianity in the Roman empire.

Again, in Revelation 1:11 John identifies his target audience and this time names the the seven churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.

After identifying Jesus as/with Daniel’s “Ancient of Days” in Chapter 1 John is then commanded to write down “what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” Some interpret this command to mean: (1) what has taken place in the historical past; (2) what is taking place in the present; and (3) what will take place in the future.

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End Game: Part 2, The New Ancient of Days – Revelation 1:9-20

“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.

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End Game: Part 1, Righting What’s Wrong – Revelation 1:1-8

“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!

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The Enemy Within – 1 John

“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.

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Good Intentions, Not So Good Advice – Job 1-42

“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.

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How Should We Then Live? – Titus 2:11-14

“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.

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Give God Your Best, Not the Rest – Malachi 1:6-14

“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.

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Witnessing 101 – John 4:1-42

“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:

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