Paul here in Romans 2 switches from pointing out the sin of those who do not know God to point out the sin of those who do claim to know Him. The fact is all are guilty, Gentile, and Jew, we have all fallen short of the Glory of God. The thing is the Jewish religious leaders were known for pointing out the sins of others as if they had no sin themselves and Paul here is confronting them on it. The question is has some in American Christianity fallen in the same trap, where we are more known more for our political affiliation and what we are against rather than the unconditional love of God.
We have to ask ourselves what group do we most reflect as in the days of Jesus on earth? The Religious Pharisees, the Political Zealots, or Jesus and His disciples? As for me I just want to reflect the image of Jesus.
How should we deal with those within our own ranks that misrepresent God? We see with Paul that he confronted them. He reminds them in verse 4 that it is God’s kindness that leads the lost to repentance, not judgment. In verse 5 he puts the focus on their own spiritual condition because of their hardness and unrepentant hearts warning them of the great wrath that they will endure according to their works. In verse 10 Paul writes “glory, honor, and peace are for everyone who does good and God plays no favoritism.”
God alone is good, so only through God can we do good. Knowing about God will never cut it, we must know God for any good to come forth. Our judgment is not based on our abilities it is based on our obedience to God. Not what we do for Him, but what we allow Him to do through us in a position of relationship.
The purpose of the law was not to condemn others for no one apart from Christ has fulfilled it. The law was to lead to Christ, it was to teach us how much we need Him, that apart from Him we are no good. So that by faith in Him, through the grace given to us, we now in Christ, do good. Apart from Christ, one could only be a hearer of the law but now in Christ, we can be doers of it, not by our might, or power but in the Spirit. The law of the OT was written on Tablets, the law of the NT is written on the hearts. It is no longer trying to do right outwardly, it is knowing to do right inwardly and then simply following our convictions.
The Jewish leaders taught others in a manner of boasting, as they saw themselves as superior, “being the guide to the blind, the light to those in darkness, an instructor of the ignorant, a teacher of the immature, for they had the full knowledge of truth and the law.” Yet Paul pointed out to them that they were just as guilty as the ones they condemned. The name of God is blasphemed because of them. They are hypocrites! Nobody can obey the law outside of being in Christ, no matter how much knowledge you have.
The issue is our heart! No matter what we place in our head it cannot change our heart without the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament circumcision of the foreskin took place as an outer demonstration of one’s covenant to God as set apart but yet all those under the law fell short. In the New Testament, it is the circumcision of the heart through the work of the Holy Spirit that empowers the believer to live holy.
To become guiltless we must humble ourselves before God, repent of our evil and dead works, which includes that which we did apart from God and that which we did in the name of God without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Our sins are now thrown as it says in Micah 7:19 into the sea of forgetfulness. We are now guiltless, anytime that our past tries to condemn us we reject it as the lies of Satan.
So I encourage you to go to God, repent of anything that you have yet to confess, and walk free of guilt as God’s holy, righteous ones in Christ Jesus.
Sunday January 17th
An obviously intoxicated man sat down on a subway seat next to a priest. The man's tie was stained, his collar was plastered with lipstick, and a half-empty bottle of gin was sticking out of his coat pocket. He opened up his newspaper and began reading.
After a few minutes the guy turned to the priest and asked, "Say, Father, what causes arthritis?"
The priest answered, “It's caused by unrighteous living, being with cheap, wicked women, too much alcohol - just a basic lack of righteousness."
"Well, I'll be darned," the drunk muttered, “I never would’ve guessed that.” And he returned to reading his paper.
A few minutes later, the priest had second thoughts about his abrupt manner, so he nudged the drunk man and said. "I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to come on so strong. I would like to pray for you. How long have you had arthritis?"
The man said "Oh, I don't have it, Father. I was just reading here that the Pope has arthritis."
Righteousness and unrighteousness are the two sides of a coin that Paul is addressing here in Romans chapter 1:
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles in behalf of His name, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul starts out by identifying himself as a bond-servant of Jesus. A bond-servant was someone who was totally dedicated and continually at the disposal of his master. It meant that Paul was completely devoted to Jesus, who had called him to be His servant.
He also says that he was called to be an apostle. An apostle was someone who was sent out on an official mission. In Paul’s case he was called to be an official messenger of the gospel to the gentiles.
In verse 5 Paul says that the call of his apostleship is to teach an obedience of faith to the gentiles. This is because obedience flows from faith and true faith implies complete submission to the call of God.
He identifies those who he is writing to as “saints”, called by God and loved by God, filled with God’s grace and His peace. These terms will be continually repeated throughout the whole letter, as God’s calling, love, grace, and peace will be explained at greater length in the coming chapters.
Paul also wants to encourage and commend these Roman believers for the testimony of their faith that he has heard about. Because at the time that he was writing this letter Paul had not yet been to Rome.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the world. 9 For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, 10 always in my prayers requesting if perhaps now, at last by the will of God, I will succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also just as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to the uncultured, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Paul tells them that although he hasn’t visited them yet, he had often intended to go to Rome.
One example of this would be found in Acts 19:21
Now after these things were finished, Paul resolved in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”
And then Paul focuses on the key message that he wants to share with them when he comes:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Although the gospel was considered to be foolish by the supposedly wise and cultured members of his society, Paul saw the gospel message as divine wisdom, and he was not embarrassed to share God’s way of salvation, not matter what others thought of him. In our world today, many people still ridicule the gospel message and call it foolishness.
But to Paul it was the only true source of power. And that’s true for us as well. The life-changing impact of the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit is essential because of the inherent weakness and spiritual inability of humanity to set ourselves from free the bondage of sin. We need help from a power greater than ourselves to get free.
Paul said that this power was available to anyone who was willing to believe. Although salvation is unmerited, meaning that it can’t be earned; faith is still required for the power to be acquired.
He also emphasized that the gift of salvation was offered to the Jewish people first.
This was true in terms of the history of the redemption story, which came down through the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, through David to Jesus. It was also the pattern of Paul’s missionary outreaches. In visiting the various cities of the world Paul would always begin by expounding on Scripture in the synagogues, preaching Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. Then, if the Jewish citizens rejected his message, he would share it with the gentiles.
This next verse, verse 17, is the verse that caused Martin Luther to challenge the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church - thereby establishing the entire Protestant Reformation:
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written: “But the righteous one will live by faith.”
Since we can’t obtain righteousness on our own, the only hope that we have is to receive righteousness from God as a gift. This is a key theme in the book of Romans. We will see it again in chapter 3, in chapter 5, and in chapter 10. In each instance, it is clearly explained that this righteousness can only be received through faith, not by works or effort.
As a righteous judge, God through the death of His Son Jesus justifies, or declares righteous, and forgives the sins of those who come to faith in Christ as their savior.
Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4
“Behold, as for the impudent one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous one will live by his faith.”
This provides the biblical basis for justification by faith alone, indicating that the way to eternal life by faith was already known in the Old Testament.
After verse 17, Paul now shifts his attention from the righteousness that comes by faith to the unrighteousness that comes by rejecting faith. In the New American Standard Bible the title over this next section is:
Unbelief and Its Consequences
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
So the first consequence of unrighteousness is that it opens people up as the objects of God’s wrath.
That wrath is God’s righteous judgment against immorality and evil. Justice demands a consequence.
Notice that Paul says that God’s wrath IS revealed, meaning that God’s judgment is not limited to the future. The consequences of sin are already shown in the world around us. Its effects are visible even now.
Paul uses two words together - ungodliness and unrighteousness. This is significant because moral decay always follows spiritual rebellion.
And the end result of these two things working together is that the unrighteous want to suppress the truth. When confronted with the truth of God’s righteousness, fallen, sinful humans seek to deny it. But they actually do know what the real truth is, which is why they are “without excuse” as Paul will go on to explain in the next few verses.
19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
The entire created world around us should be enough evidence for anyone to know these two key truths about God:
21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible mankind, of birds, four-footed animals, and crawling creatures.
Paul stresses that all of humanity has the opportunity to know God through the revelation of His creation, therefore, humanity’s greatest sin is their refusal to acknowledge what is already known to be true.
People simply refuse to honor Him or give thanks to Him. They might worship what God created, talking about the wonders of nature and the beauty of the environment, but they won’t acknowledge the one who created it all. And one consequence of rejecting God is that their minds and hearts grow dark.
That’s why Paul says “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” Intellectual arrogance before God brings forth a twisted sense of values. Worship of God is exchanged for devotion to man-made idols. And what happens as a result of this twisted idol worship? Impurity becomes acceptable behavior.
24 Therefore God gave them up to vile impurity in the lusts of their hearts, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
That’s a general way of saying that things start to get perverted when we allow the truth to be denied and twisted. Now Paul is going to break it down to the real nitty-gritty – so get ready for these verses:
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged natural relations for that which is contrary to nature, 27 and likewise the men, too, abandoned natural relations with women and burned in their desire toward one another, males with males committing shameful acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
Here is how one commentary sums up those two verses:
The effect of perverting the instinct to worship God is the perversion of other instincts from their proper functions. The consequence is degradation of the body, domination by lust, the disintegration of what is truly “natural”, and bondage to uncontrollable passions.
I want to take a minute here to clarify a few things about these verses:
28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a depraved mind, to do those things that are not proper,
God gave them up. Isn’t that so sad? Choosing sin over God risks abandonment by God to a spirit of licentiousness. It’s as if God says, “You want to worship at the altar of sin rather than worshipping me? Have at it! See how that works for you!” And what is the end result of that path?
29 people having been filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, and evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unfeeling, and unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them.
One interesting fact about this description of a life filled with sin is that Paul was writing this letter to the Romans while he was living in Corinth, which was one of the most sinful cities in the entire known world. Right outside of his own window Paul could see the clear evidence of their bondage of sin. The fact is that the rejection of the reality of God’s judgment not only removes all forms of restraint, but it actually becomes a source of further rebellion in the form of encouraging others to sin. Sinners gonna sin. And sinners gonna try to get others to join them.
I think that it’s important to bring balance to our understanding of these issues by bringing in these additional verses from Paul in 1st Corinthians 6, verses 9-11:
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor those habitually drunk, nor verbal abusers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Unrighteousness has no inheritance in God’s Kingdom. None of it, from sexual sin, to stealing, to greed, to drunkenness. It’s just not acceptable to a holy God. But such were some of us before we were washed in the blood of Jesus, and sanctified by His grace and justified by putting our faith in Him.
So when we see people around us who are still trapped in the darkness of their sinful choices, before we are too quick to judge them, let us stop for just a moment and recall this important truth –
There, but for the grace of God, go I!
Here is a quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
God’s grace stands over man’s sin. Now, the grace of God is not just some passing phrase, not just some old concept that we should be ashamed to use now. It’s not just some mechanical concept that has no deep meaning. Grace has a very vital place in any life. It has a very vital place in understanding the whole predicament of man and the whole predicament of the universe, for you can never understand life until you understand the meaning of the grace of God. The whole of life hinges on the ever flowing power and ever flowing stream of God’s grace. Grace is just that something that God gives us. It’s a gift that we don’t merit, that we don’t deserve, but which we so desperately need. That’s grace, and none of us could live without it.
In today’s world, people just quit so easily. Whether it be a marriage, job, family, ministry, or just a gym membership, etc. when they lose interest, whether through boredom, seemingly irreversible differences, or extreme challenges, they just move on and seek something new.
We are in a New Year, 2021, and every year people make new resolutions, this can be good, but it often leads to shame and disappointment when one falls short. It seems easier to try something new rather than fix what is broken but it doesn’t lead to anything that lasts.
The things that last are the things that we build on each year, builders examine the previous year and see where they fell short and make adjustments to improve on them so that things continue to develop for the better in the different aspects of their life. Even severe trying times can actually be stepping stones to deeper intimacy. When people suffer together they can either be drawn closer or further apart. Kingdom-minded believers use adversity to deepen their walk with God and the fellow disciples around them.
Our God is the Master Builder, He never quits, He never fails! We need to have this in mind as we read Revelations 21 regarding a New Earth and a New Heaven. The word new in Greek does not mean new as we think, it is more similar to the word renew. If God has to start all over it means He failed, no, it is not a new Earth or new Heaven, it is Earth and Heaven completely renewed, restored back to the original plan and purpose, as it was in the garden of Eden before sin.
It says in Acts 3:21 “that Jesus is seated in Heaven until the restoration of all things.” We are in the age of this work, ministry is all about restoration. Look at our mission statement, People Restored And Inspired Serving Everywhere. We who are restored to God are now in the restoration business with God. He is here with us Spiritually but at the next age, He will be with us physically. The Lord will come to complete the work we have continued as we transition from the age of grace to the age of eternal reign.
We all have experienced the unfaithfulness and lies of others, even from our own family members and friends, but one thing we know is our God is as written in Revelations 21:5 “faithful and true.” What He promises will come to pass! There is a better day coming and the time is soon. Well, isn’t it over two thousand years since this was written, that doesn’t seem soon, well, in light of eternity, it does, and we are called to live as if stepping into the next age could be today.
In the majority of Revelations, we have seen a dark picture of the fall of this world described as Babylon but here in the last two chapters we get a glimpse into the beautiful restoration of this world, with the Heavenly Jerusalem descending as we step into the eternal reign we will have with Christ.
In the eternal age, there will no longer as promised in verses 3-4 be any tears for He will wipe them away, death will no longer exist, grief, crying, and pain will cease. Yet in this present age, we can have a foretaste of what is to come.
“And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.” - Romans 8:23
Through Holy Spirit God is with us, and though things are not yet complete, we can still press into intimacy and have Him wipe our tears, comfort us, and renew us in His presence right here, right now!
2021 is a year to press in for RENEWAL! Renewed marriages, renewed families, renewed ministries. RENEWAL, RENEWAL, RENEWAL!
Now the rest of Revelations 21 through 22 describe this New Earth and the New Jerusalem that comes down but in whatever you see, don’t just picture it as what is to come, but reach out for the foretaste right now!
In Revelations 21:6 it says the Lord “will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life, in Revelations 22:1-5 it describes the river of living water that comes from the Throne of God, and the trees alongside with leaves as the healing for the nations. In verse 17 it says “Both the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Anyone who hears should say, “Come!” And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift.”
This is an invitation for the here and now so while we are living in expectation for what is to come, let us make the most of what we have through the Holy Spirit. The Throne of God will come to earth and be amongst us but we still have access in the Spirit to the Throne of God right now. The voice of the Spirit says daily, come, and drink! It is a gift, it restores, refreshes, and revives, so don’t ignore the nudging, the still small voice.
The last verse of Revelations says “The Grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen!
As we drink we take in grace! So DRINK, DRINK, DRINK!!!!
Sunday December 27th
“War against the beast”
This morning we’re going to cover 9 chapters of the book of Revelation! So pay close attention because I don’t want you to miss out on any of the significant details. For instance, at the end of chapter 13 we will find out that the number of the beast is 666, which many of you already know. But did you also know:
A lot of people think that Revelation is all about future events, but some of John’s vision was a recapping of events that had happened since the beginning. In those two verses, the woman most likely represents the nation of Israel and her child is Jesus, who came through the line of Jewish heritage.
3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven crowns. 4 And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and hurled them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her Child.
Once again, this is most likely a recap of the devil’s rebellion against God and his attempt to kill the young Jesus by having all male babies in Bethlehem killed by King Herod. We see more proof of this in verse 5:
5 And she gave birth to a Son, a male, who is going to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her Child was caught up to God and to His throne.
Now let’s skip to verse 7, because a theme will be introduced here that will tie all of these chapters together:
7 And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, 8 and they did not prevail, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
Two things that I want you to focus on here:
And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore.
Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten crowns, and on his heads were blasphemous names.
So here comes the beast, another significant theme in these chapters. Or I should say here comes the first beast, because there is more than one. This is the one that many people like to equate with the antichrist, but John never calls him that in Revelation. Then down in verse 7:
It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority was given to him over every tribe, people, language, and nation.
So the dragon is at war with God and the beast is at war with the people of God, because they are obviously on the same evil team.
And then another member of their team shows up in verse 11:
Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon.
So we now have a dragon and two beasts, and one of the beasts sound like a dragon when he talks.
And this second beast is also known for this: (verses 16-17)
And he causes all, the small and the great, the rich and the poor, and the free and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 and he decrees that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.
That’s the thing everyone is watching out for. Will it be an implant, a chip, a barcode? Who knows for sure? And then of course in verse 18 we get a little more information about this beast:
Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.
Rather than focusing too much on the number, let’s take note of the statement that this number is “that of a man”. We’ll get back to that later.
Keep in mind that the main theme of these chapters is war. And in chapter 14 we see that God is warring against the followers of the beast: (verses 9-11)
Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
Let’s suffice it to say that you don’t want to be on the losing side in this battle! In chapter 15, verses 1-2 we see that the armies of God are indeed victorious, in case you were worried about that:
Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished. 2 And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who were victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God.
In case you are looking for Armageddon, that if found in chapter 16, verse 13-16
And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; 14 for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the entire world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and people will not see his shame.”) 16 And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.
That is literally a place, Mount Megiddo. Next, in chapter 17, we have another beast, a scarlet beast, with a harlot riding on his back. He has ten horns, and verse 12 tells us that they represent 10 kings.
Then verse 14 says that: These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings.
So once again, there is a war, Jesus wins the war!
How complete is God’s victory? Chapter 18, verse 21 tells us:
Then a strong angel picked up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will never be found again.”
That sounds like a total victory to me! And if you want another description of it, here is chapter 19 verses 11-16:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many crowns; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written: “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
If you ever want to get a picture of this in your mind, watch the scene from the Lord of the Rings where Gandalf returns on a white horse leading the armies of the fellowship to victory!
And this leads us to chapter 20 and the final battle against Gog and Magog, in verses 9 and 10:
And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Ding-dong the beast is dead. The dragon is dead. And the armies of the enemy are dead! Jesus has won a total victory. So then there’s this – we’ve been reading all of John’s writings, including the book of Revelation, from a theme of intimacy.
In other words, it’s really great that our team, Team Jesus wins the final battle. But how are you doing with the daily battle of life? How are you doing with that war within you? The one that Paul describes this way in Romans 7:21-23
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully agree with the law of God in the inner person, 23 but I see a different law in the parts of my body waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my body’s parts.
There is a war going on within me every day, Paul says. It’s a war between my spirit man, who wants to do the right thing and obey God, and my fleshly man who wants to do his own thing and really doesn’t care what God wants.
And some days, Paul says, it feels like my flesh is holding my spirit captive.
Have you ever felt that way, knowing what the right thing to do is, but finding yourself drawn to do the wrong thing?
You see it’s one thing to read all about Jesus’ victory over the dragon and the beasts. That really gets most Christians excited, and it definitely should.
But we’re still living here, in this life, in these bodies, fighting these battles.
And some days we feel like we’re losing the fight.
How will we survive? That’s what Paul asks in verse 24:
Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
But in verse 25 he answers his own question:
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
That’s OUR key to victory too!
The same Jesus who defeats the dragons and the beasts around us can defeat the beast within us!
That why Paul is able to say in Romans 8:37
In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
Yes, Jesus Christ has defeated every last enemy that we will ever face. Nothing can come against us from the outside and nothing from within us can defeat the resurrection Holy Spirit power that we’ve been given!
I truly believe that the only reason why we sometimes feel defeated is because we forget that we’ve already won.
Are you ready to declare victory today?
Much of Revelations 6-11 speaks to some as what has already occurred if you are a preterist for others whether you are pre-, mid, or post-trib, what is still to come. What I am going to focus on in these chapters is what we can apply to right now! For it says in Revelation 1:3 "blessed is the one who hears and keeps the words in this prophecy." What we see mainly in these chapters are the seals and trumpets of judgment. In chapters seven and eleven though we have some scriptures that I believe the Lord would have me highlight that can be used to deepen our intimacy with the Lord.
So just like you would go into a 7-Eleven convenience store and choose something that stands out to munch on, I have chosen out of Revelation 6-11, some verses in chapters 7 and Eleven to munch on. Most things in a convenience store are not beneficial to our good health, now all of scripture is beneficial but you understand my point, I am choosing some things that I believe will most benefit us today. Some healthy goodies that will bring us nourishment.
We see at the beginning of chapter seven after the Lord revealed the seals of judgment, He now reveals how 144,000 will be sealed or protected by God during this time of great tribulation. There is a lot of speculation about who these 144,000 are, but as we see in the scriptures they include 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel.
What we can take from this is that those who walk with God are sealed, divinely protected. Let's look at some scripture:
"Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame" - Song of Solomon 8:6
"In Him you also, after hearing the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and after believing in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit," Eph. 1:13
We have a seal over our heart, the Holy Spirit, so we can trust the Lord as long as we are choosing to follow His lead we are walking in divine protection. We need not fear like the world, God got us, death has been swallowed up, even when our physical bodies perish, we have eternal life as spirit beings.
In verses nine through seventeen we see a picture of a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.
The Lord's will is for that which is in heaven to be done here on earth. When we on earth gather together in the diversity of ethnicity, in the worship of the Lord, we are reflecting heaven. So therefore it should be our prayer to see it become our reality. We, therefore, are to embrace and celebrate diversity, as the Lord brings the different ethnic groups together, which we are beginning to witness here at Praise Tabernacle. What we are to do individually is look for every opportunity to build relationships with people that are different from the culture in which we were raised. Just being in the same room does not mean we are really together, our hearts must be joined. This takes knowing each other's stories, learning to identify with each other's pains. It is a process but it is worth the sacrifice of comfort and the fear of offense. Our call as the church is to reflect heaven not to be like the world.
What was this multitude in this vision doing in heaven?
They were shouting with a great roar, "Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb." And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings, and they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshipped God. They sang, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever, Amen!"
We are called to live a lifestyle of worship, it is more than a song, it is a way of life, where we walk in the power and strength of God every day in every situation bringing honor and glory to Him through everything we say and do.
"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Cor. 10:31
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." - Deut. 6:5
"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." - Col. 3:17
Now we see in verse 13 one of the elders asking "Who are these who are dressed in white?" He goes along and says "these are the ones who died in the great tribulation. He now tells John that they now serve God day and night at His throne and that they now have shelter and will never hunger or thirst again and their tears have been wiped away.
This gives those who are going through major difficulties the hope that there will be a day when the pains of this world are gone. This age is only temporary, it is like just a wink of the eye compared to eternity. Yet, even in this age spiritually we already are clothed in God's righteousness and we can look to Him for help and deliverance.
"For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin so that we could be made right with God through Christ." 2 Cor. 5:21
"17 You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. 18 So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on." 2 Cor. 4:17-18
"My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth!" Psalm 121:2
It is so important that we live on every word that comes from God, this world is full of lies and deception and we will get caught up in it if we are not relying daily on the Word of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. If you are battling with your mind and emotions I encourage you right now to run to the Father.
"But Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” - Matthew 4:4
In chapter eleven we read about the two witnesses which most theologians believe are Enoch and Elijah who were taken to heaven without physical death. Here during the great tribulation, they will appear in Jerusalem and have supernatural protection to prophesy even in the midst of those who want to harm them, they will be empowered to close up the sky, have power over the waters, and to turn them into the blood and to strike the earth with every plague whenever they want. They eventually will be martyred by the beast but after 3 and a half days they will be resurrected, for the whole world to see.
In Revelations 11:15, the seventh trumpet is released and the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever!"
This is a picture of what is to come but the question is what are we to be doing here and now?
"13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come." Luke 19:13
"12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." Matthew 11:12
"For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea." Habakuk 2:14
"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." Matthew 28:19
So we see clearly that we are not just to sit around and wait for this to happen, we are to get to work, not our own works but to be vessels of the Holy Spirit, for God to use us daily to advance His Kingdom as we continue the work of His Son, destroying the works of the Devil, saving those that are lost, making disciples of others, healing the sick, raising the dead, miracles, signs and wonders, and through it all most importantly sharing the love of God. There is a great reward for those who obey this as we see in the last few verses of Revelations 11.
"16And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17saying,
“We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18“And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” 19And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm."
Intimacy with God leads to a greater revelation of Jesus Christ. Revelations 1:3b says "the one who hears the words of this prophecy and keeps what is written in it are blessed! We read here that this is not just a book of prophecy about the future, but it has instructions for us to obey today. We are going to study this book in a manner that I believe few have ever done not to figure out end-times eschatology but as the Series says to deepen our intimacy with the Lord.
Jesus reveals Himself to John as the one who is, was, and is coming! This speaks to us that we are not to be too concerned about our past, present, or future but to trust the Lord that He is the God of our past, present, and future. Therefore since our lives are in His hands, we can be free of the guilt of our past, we can enjoy the fullness of the present, and trust that in Him the future is bright.
John while enduring tribulations on the island of Patmos was in the Spirit and heard a loud voice saying, "write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches." No matter what we face in life we are to remain in the Spirit. It is often in our lowest place that we rely on God the most and therefore open ourselves to spiritual experiences. Let tribulation not become something that drives us away from God but ever closer for that is where maturity is developed. Revelation is often released during tribulation because that is when we ask questions, we like John then are to write it down, for there will be a time that we are called to speak to the body of Christ and help them with the wisdom that took us through.
We see in Revelations 1, Seven churches, Seven Lampstands, Seven Stars. The number seven means completion, the revelation of Jesus Christ is given to complete us, as we witness Him as John did, we become secure in Him. We need to go beyond head knowledge and experience Jesus Christ, intimately and personally for us to become the vessels He uses for others to encounter Him through us. I encourage you to get in the Spirit and ask the Father to reveal Himself more to you!
Sunday December 6th
Here’s a little riddle to start off our study of Revelation chapters 2 and 3 this morning:
Guess this word:
1. The word has seven letters...
2. It was there before God...
3. It is greater than God...
4. It is more evil than the devil...
5. All poor people have it...
6. Wealthy people need it...
7. If you eat it, you will die.
The answer is:
And speaking of 7 letters, these next two chapters contain the seven letters that Jesus dictated for John to deliver to seven different churches in the area that we refer to as Asia Minor.
It starts with these words to the church in Ephesus:
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:
2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. 6 Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’
This first letter sets a pattern for all seven letters – Jesus commends the church for what they are doing well, then points out where they need to improve.
Then He promises a reward for those who overcome the challenges that they are facing.
These promises to the overcomers present us with some interesting questions:
(1) Who is an overcomer?
(2) What is the nature of obtaining these promises?
The term “overcome” means “to conquer, prevail, or triumph.” Overcomers are those who overcome sin and worldliness and who stand faithfully for the Lord in the midst of the spiritual battle around them.
The New Testament clearly teaches us that we are in a conflict or a battle. Even after our salvation that conflict still rages on.
Two key passages that illustrate the nature of our conflict with evil are Ephesians 2:1-2 and 6:12:
Ephesians 2:1-2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
These conflicts comes from 3 sources:
(1) Satan, who is our chief adversary
(2) A world system which under the control of the evil one and is opposed to God and His purposes
(3) Indwelling sin or the flesh and all its corrupting power and life dominating patterns
Thankfully Jesus Christ is the ultimate Overcomer - the ultimate source of our victory:
In John 16:33 Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
2 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place."
And 1st John 5:4 tells us - For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.
Nevertheless, the path to victory requires our cooperation with God. It takes discipline, diligence, and commitment to draw near to God and to act on His promises and His provision by faith.
The messages to the seven churches suggests that John is admonishing believers in each church to overcome specific trials and temptations by faithful obedience through the strength that comes with their new life in Christ.
Revelation 2:7 says, “To him who overcomes I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.”
But this is directly connected the admonition in 2:5 which reads, “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first …”
So the promise is only for the ones who heed the warning. It’s not automatic.
Let’s look at what Jesus says to the next church:
8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:
9 ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’
Again we see the admonitions “Do not fear …” and “Be faithful until death” are the context for the promise, “He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death”.
Every Christian is a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). A Christian is not simply an “improved” version of an old person; a Christian is an entirely new creature.
We are made new “in Christ.” But the Bible does not promise that we as believers will live victorious, holy lives. Even as believers we may experience temporary setbacks and ongoing bouts with sin.
Notice that a specific word is spoken by Jesus to the “overcomers” in each of these churches. Jesus speaks a special word of encouragement to each of them, and certainly we may apply these words to ourselves today.
Here is Jesus’ message to the third church:
12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:
13 ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. 15 So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’
Do you see the pattern? The call to repent in verse16 precedes the promise to the overcomer verse17.
18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:
19 ‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
21 I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. 23 And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. 24 But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you. 25 Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. 26 He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; 27 and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
A lot of people get focused on the identity of Jezebel. I think it’s more important to see that the challenge to “hold fast until I come” leads to the promise that, “to him I will give authority over the nations”. There is a clear connection between deeds and rewards. Salvation can’t be earned, but rewards can be, and they should be by sincere believers.
Chapter three starts off with more of the same:
3 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. 3 So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. 4 But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
In verse 5, the promise to the overcomer is tied into verse 4 by the word “thus”. “But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall thus clothed in white garments …”
Revelation 19:8 shows that the white garment mentioned in this verse consists of the “righteous acts of the saints.” It should be evident, then, that the white garment is a reward for works of righteousness that occur after salvation.
7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:
8 ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9 Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Yo, Philly! You want to be a pillar, don’t let anyone take your crown. Hold on to what you’ve got!
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
This final promise to the one who overcomes is set in the context of the Jesus’ invitation to fellowship. We can’t sit down to dine with Jesus unless we are willing to open the door to Him daily.
And ultimately, that’s going to be the source of any overcoming that we achieve – Being with Jesus!
These promises to the overcomers are promises of rewards for faithfulness. But the very source of our faithfulness is knowing the faithful one Himself! We draw our ability to be faithful from our intimacy with our faithful savior, who was obedient and faithful to the very end, even to the cross!
Let me sum it up this way - All of us as believers are overcomers in the sense that we have become children of God, we have been rescued out of darkness and brought into the glorious light of Christ. Every believer is an overcomer in that sense.
But as Christians we can still fail to live fully for the Lord and we can fall short in completely overcoming the desires of our flesh. If we have truly believed in Jesus Christ, we can’t lose our salvation, but we can lose out on some of our rewards by failing to overcome the challenges that we face with the spiritual weapons and resources that we’ve been given.
In every instance that Jesus speaks to the seven churches, He always says, To HIM who overcomes”.
It’s a personal choice. I know what my choice is. Do you?