The End Of Time

Finally, John the Witness is shown the end of the world in a rapid-fire sequence of scenes (346).

  • Jesus returns to the earth with his church and wins an instant & total victory over the forces of evil.
  • Satan is bound for a thousand years, during which time Jesus restores & rules the earth.
  • Satan is then unbound briefly. His inevitable attack against Jesus results in his inevitable defeat; Satan’s forces are totally crushed & he is consigned permanently to hell.
  • All people are judged by God. Those who submitted to Jesus are taken to heaven; those who rejected Jesus are also consigned permanently to hell.

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The revelation concludes with encouraging images of God’s heavenly glory.  In Genesis, the first book of the inspired Jewish scriptures, we get a glimpse of God’s created children living with him in an earthly paradise.  At the end of Revelation, we get similar glimpses of God’s faithful children, living with him in a heavenly paradise, beyond the ravages of time.

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At the conclusion of the revelation, John is given several important commands by Jesus:

  • We are to worship God, not men. (Nothing good comes from worshiping men, as the prior revelations have made clear.)
  • God’s people are to rely on God’s Holy Spirit to serve Jesus; that service involves showing & telling other people what Jesus does for us and what Jesus expects us to do for him.
  • We are exhorted to trust the inspired scriptures for understanding the end to come — not adding to them or taking away from them. (The Bible may not contain everything there is to know about God, but those things it does contain are things we need to know about God.)
  • In this regard, we are encouraged to expect that Jesus may come back at any time, to begin the end described in these revelations. As Jesus taught his chosen witnesses, it’s absolutely important always to be ready for his return.

God, please help me to love Showing & Telling people about You.

(346) Revelation 19-22

Trouble On Earth

Continuing the record of his revelation from Jesus, John the Witness writes that he was taken up into heaven, where he was given a glimpse of God’s heavenly glory.  But John was also given an extended series of insights concerning a future time of devastating tribulation, which will be experienced throughout the entire world (345).

  • These revelations echo what Jesus had told his closest followers just before his execution. But they also elaborate our understanding of the trials which new believers will face, after the faithful church has been removed from the earth.  (Among these new believers will be many who previously had been Christian in name only & many who previously had rejected Jesus altogether.)
  • These revelations also emphasize a constant theme: For believers on the earth during this devastating time, the only way out of the tribulation will be to go through it, trusting God for deliverance from pervasive persecution & suffering.

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Elements of this intensive tribulation, as revealed to John, include slavery, war, poverty, plagues, martyrdom & natural disasters – all on a vastly larger scale than ever before experienced on the earth.

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John is also shown that Satan will continue to attack God’s chosen people, Israel, and that Satan will keep up constant attacks on new believers in Jesus.  Graphic symbolic language — drawn from several parts of the inspired Jewish scriptures — is used throughout this section of John’s record of the revelation.  People will be inflicted with loathsome sores, the seas & rivers will be turned to blood, men will be scorched with fire, people will experience widespread darkness & widespread pain, and the earth will be utterly shaken to its foundations.

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Babylon is used as an image of institutions of worldly wealth – more concerned with serving themselves than with serving God.  The eventual & total destruction of such institutions is revealed to John; the world will be shocked, he is told.

Despite all this, John is also told that many Jews & Gentiles still will refuse to repent & submit to Jesus, so great & powerful will be their addiction to their selfish sins.

God, please help me to love depending on You for perseverance.

(345) Revelation 4-18

John’s General Letter To Christian Friends

John opens his first letter (340) by saying that Jesus has left us with a choice.  Either we can continue to live in the darkness of the world, or we can live in the light of fellowship with Jesus.  When we insist that we are sinless, we remain in darkness.  When we admit our sinfulness, we come into in the light.

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Living in the light of Jesus is evidenced by what we actually do, not just by what we say.  If we say we love God while we hate other people, our claim of loving God is a lie.

Hatred for other people typically arises from our ungodly love for the things of this world.  But this world is temporary, John says, while life after physical death is permanent.  As to where that permanent life will be lived, John echoes Jesus by insisting that love for the world leads to hell, while love for God leads to heaven.

When we live this earthly life in constant fellowship with Jesus, the upside is that we are no longer obligated to sin; we can actually live without sinning!  But the downside is that our sinless lives will attract the hatred of the world around us.  In this context, John again insists that sinless living necessarily involves loving other people, as Jesus has commanded.

John then warns about the importance of distinguishing the spirits of the world from the Spirit of God.  We know that people have the Spirit of God when they confess that Jesus is the Christ promised by God, and when they freely love other people.

Since God has loved us so much in sending his son Jesus to die for our sins, certainly we should love other people in the same unselfish way.

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The love of God in our hearts – inspired by our faith in Jesus & evidenced by our love for other people — is powerful.

  • Love overcomes all our fear of the hatred of this wicked world, which is ruled by Satan.
  • As we love God & are ruled by him in this world, we are preserved by God forever.

God, please help me to love people as You love me.

(340) 1 John 1-5

Suffering In The Spirit

Continuing his first letter to Christian friends (328), Peter emphasizes the blessing of sharing in the sufferings of Christ.  We should thank God when we get to suffer for following Jesus.

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Enduring such suffering joyfully can be the most powerful witness for Jesus.

In church life, leaders are to model humble submission to God, rather than becoming spiritual dictators.  The humility of Christ is wanted for all members of any faith fellowship, especially its leaders.

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This is important because we have an enemy, who will use any device to destroy Christian fellowship.  Satan wants to devour us spiritually, as a roaring lion physically devours its prey.

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Remaining humble before God is our best defense against Satan.

At about this same time, Luke wrote his record of the acts of the Holy Spirit through the witnesses for Jesus, and the miraculous spread of the Christian faith from the Middle East into southwestern Asia & southern Europe.  His narrative began with Jesus’ return to heaven, and covered a period of about 30 years – up to the time of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome.

The book of Acts shows us how Jesus worked through his church then, and how he desires to work through his church now.  It is paraphrased in previous posts on this blog, and harmonized chronologically with letters from early Christian leaders.

God, please help me to love the joy of suffering with You.

(328) 1 Peter 4-5

Paul Reminds Ephesian Friends of God’s Expectations

Paul then turns to how God expects his chosen people (his adopted children) to respond to his many blessings (319).

As to how we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit, Paul offers a couple of ideas.

  1. We have to start thinking of ourselves as one body, instead of as a bunch of unrelated people. God always gives us opportunity to get over ourselves.
  2. We have to let the Holy Spirit have his way, rather than trying to organize God’s church our way. The Holy Spirit can anoint & use whomever he chooses.  And the Spirit does not always choose to use the people we might think best-suited for leadership or service in the church.

Spirit-led living involves submitting to the rule of our spirit rather than the rule of our flesh.  If each member is being ruled by his spirit instead of his flesh, then the body as a whole is becoming more mature & Christ-like.

In this context, Paul emphasizes that God provides spiritual gifts to every believer, including normal everyday men & women & kids.  God has chosen to do his work in the world through everyday people, until Christ comes again.

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God uses people to build up His church.  God uses His church to serve people in need — regardless of their relationship with God — which shows that we love them, which shows that we love God.

Paul then considers what Spirit-led living looks like in a few everyday human relationships – specifically, marriage, parenting & work.  In each case, the main idea is that our relationships in the world are opportunities for us to deepen & demonstrate our devotion to Jesus.  We show our love for God by being godly marriage partners, godly parents & godly employees.

Paul concludes the letter with a warning: God’s enemy, Satan, works overtime to undermine God’s work in the world.  But God has given us spiritual armor to defend against Satan’s attacks.

Metaphorically, the armor includes a belt, a breastplate, shoes, a shield, a helmet & a sword.  Spiritually, what these represent are truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation & the inspired scriptures – all to be employed prayerfully.

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So, essentially, Paul is encouraging the Ephesian believers to do the following things — all as guided by God in prayer:

  1. Stick to the truth about God.
  2. Refer everything to Jesus, who alone is righteous.
  3. Live peaceably with other people.
  4. Believe that all things are possible with God.
  5. Trust the power of the Spirit to overcome the power of sin.
  6. Share the inspired scriptures with other people.

God, please help me to love being led by Your Holy Spirit.

(319) Ephesians 4-6

Paul’s Testimony Before King Agrippa

King Agrippa gave Paul permission to speak (311).  Strengthened by the Holy Spirit, Paul began: “I am glad, King Agrippa, to present my case to you, especially since you are expert in all customs & questions regarding the Jews. I beg you to hear me patiently.

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“All the Jewish leaders know my devout manner of life – even from the time I was learning Jewish law as a youth in Jerusalem.  They know that I grew up to live as a Pharisee, the strictest sect of our religion.  So it is odd that I am now being judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our first Jewish forefathers.  All twelve tribes of Israel serve God earnestly night & day, hoping to attain this very promise.  I am accused by the Jews simply because I teach that this hope has been realized, and this promise has been fulfilled, in Jesus!  Why do my accusers find it incredible that God has raised Jesus from death?

“I admit that, like them, I also once opposed the name of Jesus of Nazareth. I did this vigorously in Jerusalem, where I had many Christians imprisoned, on the authority of the chief priests.  When some of them were executed, I also cast my vote against them. I sought them out in every synagogue; I punished them & even compelled some to blaspheme the name of Jesus.  Eventually, my rage against the Christians was so great, that I obtained permission to extend my campaign of persecution to foreign cities.

“As I journeyed to Damascus for that express purpose, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me & my travelling companions. We all had fallen to the ground, when I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is too hard for you to resist me!’

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So I said, ‘Who are you?’  He said, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth.  I have appeared to you for this purpose: to make you my servant & a witness – both of what you have already seen, and of what I will yet reveal to you!

“I will deliver you from unbelieving Jewish people.  I will also deliver you from unbelieving Gentiles.  I am sending you now to the Gentiles — to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light & from the power of Satan to God — that they may receive forgiveness of sins & an inheritance among all who are set apart from the world by trusting me.'”

God, please help me to love seeing & hearing You.

(311) Acts 26:1-18

Paul Continues Caring For His Corinthian Friends

In the letter known as 2 Corinthians, Paul continued encouraging & instructing the church in Corinth (295).

Both here on earth & eventually in heaven, the aim of Christian life is to please God.  Here on earth, Paul saw himself as God’s ambassador to the world.  As such, he realized that he was always proclaiming — in his words & by his deeds — that we are reconciled to God solely through the sacrifice of his son Jesus.

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Paul wanted the Corinthian believers to see themselves in this way, too.  Strengthened by the Holy Spirit, we are called to share this message of reconciliation with the world.  However, we must always maintain a careful degree of separation from the world, because the world is ruled by God’s enemy, Satan.

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For various reasons, the Christian church in Jerusalem had fallen on hard times.  They were being persecuted by unbelieving Jews & by some Roman officials, to the extent that many had fallen into serious poverty.  By contrast, the church in Corinth was well off, so Paul repeatedly encouraged the Corinthians to support the impoverished Christians in Jerusalem.  But Paul emphasized that their gift wouldn’t be much of a gift, unless it was a willing sacrifice, like that which Jesus made for us.

Paul was especially concerned by false teaching about God in the Corinthian church.  Often, false teachers will mix the truth of God with the lies of the world.  Paul wanted the Corinthians to be on their guard against this.  But when contending with false teachers, Paul wanted the Corinthians to remain humble before God.

God had shown Paul that, in his flesh, he was not sufficient to do his job for Jesus; it was only by God’s grace that he was sufficient to do his job for Jesus.

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So Paul concluded his letter with a warning.  When we preach that all our power comes from Jesus, we must be careful to examine ourselves — to be sure we’re practicing what we preach.  We must be careful to rely on Jesus, not on ourselves.

God, please help me to love relying on Your grace.

(295) 2 Corinthians 5-13