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?
I was once told that one way to achieve true inner peace and harmony is to finish whatever you start.
So, this morning for breakfast I finished a couple of things that I started last night - a frozen pizza, a gallon of ice cream and a chocolate cake…. And I feel better already!
Today we will finish up what we started in our study of 1st John with chapter 5 and we’re also going to start and finish two more letters - 2nd and 3rd John.
We’re going to see quite a bit of similarity in each of these letters, because John has some consistent themes that he wants to drive home. In fact, this final chapter of 1st John continues with the earlier themes of acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah and keeping His commandments:
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
Keep in mind that the commandment John is continually emphasizing is the commandment to love each other! That’s why he says that if we love the Father we must love the children of God. In fact, John is suggesting that if we can’t love God’s children (each other) then maybe we haven’t truly embraced Jesus as our Messiah, because that’s what He wants from us. In other words, we can’t say, “I love you Jesus, but I just don’t want to love those other people who love you!”
These next verses are one of the clearest places in the Bible where we see evidence of the Trinity:
5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. 10 The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. 11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
To put it plainly, you can’t have a relationship with God the Father unless you have a relationship with God’s Son, Jesus. And the Holy Spirit testifies that this is the truth, so they are all in total agreement.
And John spells out the great benefit of our faith in Jesus as God’s Son by saying it’s the assurance of our eternal destiny:
13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
Does that mean I should ask for a Cadillac or a mansion? Not exactly. John says I should be asking for things that are “according to His will”, which means that my requests need to line up with God’s plans, not my plans.
This next section is a bit of a challenge:
16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.
To make some sense of this, here is an explanation from a commentary:
The distinction between kinds of sin is not a ranking of the seriousness of sins. Instead, we have here a distinction between kinds of sinners. "Sinning not unto death" is committed by someone who already has eternal life. When these sins are dealt with through prayer for forgiveness and the "atoning sacrifice" of Jesus Christ, God hears the prayer of the believer and forgives the repentant sinner. But where there is no confession of faith in Jesus, there is "sinning unto death". This sin is that leads to death for the one who is guilty of it.
In other words, believers can have our sins forgiven because we know enough to confess, repent, and be cleansed. But unbelievers can’t have their sins forgiven because they refuse to turn to God and repent, that’s what makes their sin “unto death”.
John closes this chapter, and his letter with this reminder that we’ve been given the power to keep away from sin:
18 We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.
Now let’s compare those themes with 2nd John and 3rd John
2nd John in verses 1-3 is addressed to:
1 The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2 for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
3rd John is addressed to:
1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.
In both of these letters, the author identifies himself only as “The elder”. He doesn’t call himself by his name.
But that shouldn’t surprise us, because John didn’t use his name in his first letter either, and he didn’t call himself by name in his Gospel either. He just referred to himself as “the disciple that Jesus loved”.
Now let’s compare verse 4 of 2nd John with verses 2-4 of 3rd John:
4 I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father.
Okay, now compare that to these verses:
2 Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. 3 For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth. 4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.
In the letter of 1st John, we saw an emphasis on “walking in the light”. In these two letters, John uses the expression, “walking in truth”. I think we could say that these are essentially the same thing, since Jesus is the light of the world, and the way, the truth, and the life. So if we are walking in Christ, then we are in the light and in the truth!
Verse 5 and 6 of 2nd John are going to remind us very much of 1st John chapter 2:
5 Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.
We learned before that the commandment to love one another is something that we as believers should know from the very beginning of our faith. But it’s also a new commandment each time we choose to obey it by loving someone when conflict arises.
Does John address loving each other in his third letter? Yes, he does, but with a very specific focus:
5 Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; 6 and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.
8 Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.
John is reminding the people that they should show hospitality towards brothers and sisters in Christ who had traveled to visit them from other cities. He says, that, although these visitors were “strangers” in the sense that they had never met them before, they were all a part of the family of God, and “fellow workers” for the sake of the gospel.
In fact, John was very displeased with certain individuals who didn’t show hospitality towards some of the visiting believers that were sent by John. In 3rd John 9-10 he says:
9 I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. 10 For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.
John had written letters of recommendation for the visitors, asking the church to host them.
But Diotrephes not only wouldn’t treat these visitors properly, he told the others to shun them. John says, “When I arrive there, I plan to have a few words with him to straighten him out”!
After all, doesn’t shunning, or refusal to show hospitality to visitors, sound like very un-Christian behavior to you?
Well, then it might surprise you to know that in verses 7-11 of 2nd John, John actually INSTRUCTS the church to shun some people!
But there is a specific reason why he recommends this, and it has to do with the antichrist spirit that John spoke about in his first letter:
7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.
We have to understand that a lot of false teachers had been traveling throughout the Christian churches attacking the truth of the gospel—saying that Jesus was not the Son of God.
John says this is clearly a lie from the antichrist spirit. And John warns the believers not to receive people with that spirit into their houses or even give them a friendly greeting. Just avoid them.
Do you see the difference between this warning about avoiding people who are walking in “antichrist” spirits and the exhortation in 3rd John to welcome fellow believers who come proclaiming the truth?
In contrast to Diotrephes, who is in big trouble, John highly commends another guy with a D-name:
11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself; and we add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.
In all likelihood, Demetrius was the one who was carrying this letter from John to Gaius and his church. Since there wasn’t a Post Office back then, letters were carried by messengers. Some Bible scholars think that Demetrius may have also been a traveling teacher himself; and if so, John’s letter would have been a way of encouraging Gaius and the church to show hospitality to him, rather than shunning him as Diotrephes was trying to do.
John’s closing words from his second and third letters are very similar. Here’s 2nd John 12-13:
12 Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full.
13 The children of your chosen sister greet you.
And this is the closing to 3rd John 13-15:
13 I had many things to write to you, but I am not willing to write them to you with pen and ink; 14 but I hope to see you shortly, and we will speak face to face.
15 Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.
I think we could sum up the final chapter of 1st John and these two short letters with a few simple phrases:
I often think of God’s instructions to us in Micah 6:8
“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?”
God has already told us what He wants:
Justice, kindness, and humility – that’s it!
It so similar to what John has been telling us in these letters about truth, love, and fellowship. Just a few simple things that we should focus on.