Good News of Great Joy

Today’s reading is Luke 2.

When Luke was written, “gospel” or “good news” was not a religious word. It was a political word. That is, “gospel” or “good news” usually referred to some great news about the emperor, the empire, or victory. It was the word used to describe the birth of the coming emperor or the ascension of a new emperor or the victory of the emperor over Rome’s enemies. When the angels used this word to describe the birth of Jesus, it was a powerful word for those Jewish shepherds. The anointed King of Israel, the descendant of David was born. He would be both Lord and Savior of the Jews. Rome would not be able to withstand this King. It was very much a challenge to the politics of the day. It was good news of great joy because finally the real King had been born, and victory over all enemies was coming. What good news of great joy this still is today. Our King was born. He lived. He conquered. He reigns. Follow Jesus today. He is the Savior. He is the Lord. He is the King. He is the Emperor. He is the only way to victory over and salvation from every enemy, including sin and death. And that is good news of great joy.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 2.

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The River of Life

Today’s reading is Revelation 22.

John’s story telling expands even more. We’ve had the repeated cycles in the book. Further, we’ve seen how as he ended his story, he went back to pick up themes he used at the beginning of the book. Now, here at the end of our entire Bibles (can that be a coincidence), John goes all the way back to the beginning of the whole story. What we are witnessing is the restoration of the Garden, but it is a new and improved Garden. It is not just a tree of life, but a river of life surrounded by life-giving trees. There is no night because God is it’s light. And the inhabitants reign forever and ever without fall or failure. WOW! No doubt the ultimate fulfillment of this picture is in eternity where Christ’s church finds its ultimate victory. However, don’t miss the point John is making for his readers in their particular predicament. He is pointing out that this imagery is not merely the church in eternity. This imagery is Christ’s church at all times. Christ’s church, Christ’s bride is this garden city. As the Garden was God’s first sanctuary, His first dwelling place with man, the church is God’s final resting place with man. Whether on earth or ultimately around His throne in heaven, Christ’s church is His temple, His dwelling place, His city, His kingdom, His Bride. And here is the kicker. If you want to be part of the Bride, the city, the kingdom in eternity, you have to be part of it now. The Spirit and the Bride say come. Come now. Come drink from the fountain of living waters that flows from God’s throne, by Christ’s cross, through the Heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, the church. And never leave this refreshing stream. I understand, in its present form, we don’t always see it as this image at the end of Revelation. But this is what it is and, in time, it will be vindicated and demonstrated as such. So, get in now and stay there.

Next week’s reading is Luke 1.

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The Bride

Today’s reading is Revelation 21.

I know we’ve talked about the Bride before, but now we meet her again in all her glory. At the beginning of Revelation, we were introduced to her in the image of the seven churches. At that time, they were struggling with faithfulness and loyalty to the Hero. But now, just as one of the seven angels with the seven bowls of God’s wrath introduced us to the seductress (Revelation 17:1), one of those same angels shows the Bride. The seductress was out in the wilderness, the Bride is at the top of a mountain. The seductress was pictured as a woman on the back of dragon, though she was called the city Babylon. The Bride is pictured as a city. And what a city. Perfectly square, with insurmountable walls, unassailable gates, unbreakable foundation. It is full of the glory of God. The Lamb is it light. God Himself is its Temple. While I don’t want to take away the beautiful picture of eternity most of us jump to when we see this picture, we need to understand that John’s point was not simply that in the end we go to heaven. His point was this is the bride of Christ; this is the kingdom of Christ; this is the church of Christ. Yes, the enemies gather around our city. Yes, they besiege our city. Yes, they mount their attack against our city. But our city is unassailable. The question is not who will win this war. The question is to which city will you flee for refuge: Babylon or the Heavenly Jerusalem? When you see how the story ends, the choice is obvious.

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 22.

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Lake of Fire

Today’s reading is Revelation 20.

Babylon has fallen. The beasts have gone to destruction. The armies of the enemy have become a feast for the birds. God’s saints reign victorious. But then Satan gets to raise another army. What’s up with that? I could be completely wrong, however, I think the Holy Spirit’s point is Revelation recounts a particular war with the enemy. Satan had used a particular beast and false prophet to attack Christ’s kingdom–some suggest Rome and Emperor worship, others say Jerusalem and Temple worship. Whichever the specific enemy John had in mind, that enemy would be defeated. However, that doesn’t mean Satan was completely defeated. He would attack again. As with the temptation of Jesus, he departs and awaits another opportune time. John isn’t trying to give a prophecy of a particular moment in history; he is simply saying Satan will lose that war, but he’ll be back. However, no matter when he rises again, no matter what kind of army he gathers, no matter which earthly city and kingdom he works through to attack Christ’s kingdom, he is going to lose. Ultimately, like the cat’s paws he uses to attack, he will be thrown with all his minions, armies, messengers, beasts, into the lake of fire. He won’t be reigning there as the “King of Hell.” No, he will be tormented there just like everyone else who ends up there. Yes, siding with Satan provides pleasure and power for a moment, but its end is in fire. Hang on to Jesus. He always wins.

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 21.

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The White Horse Rider Returns

Today’s reading is Revelation 19.

Do you remember the rider on the white horse from Revelation 6:1-2? He’s back. And this time, we absolutely know who He is. He’s actually been riding throughout the book, but it is not until this last cycle we see His ultimate victory. He went out conquering and to conquer, but what happened next was shocking. Instead of immediate conquest and ensuing peace, the enemies seemed to be conquering. No doubt, we’ve read the cycle multiple times. We know Jesus always wins no matter how it looks in the moment. However, with each cycle, we got a fuller and deeper picture. Now, he circles back and brings complete closure and demonstrates full victory. He went forth conquering and to conquer, and now we see it truly happening. But not only do we see Him, we see the armies in fine linen, white and pure. Do you remember who was given the white garments in the fifth seal in Revelation 6:11? Those martyrs are part of the conquering army now. God had told them to wait. The waiting is done. Victory has come. In Christ’s kingdom even death doesn’t signal defeat. It is merely a rest stop on the way to victory. Praise the Lord! Over and over and over again, the message is found: Jesus Always Wins!

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 20.

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Rejoice, O Heaven

Today’s reading is Revelation 18.

Babylon is Fallen! We have been repeating the cycle over and over. Jesus goes out to conquer, but things don’t seem to be going His way, but then He wins. We come to the ending of the final cycle. Each time, we’ve been given a fuller picture of the story. For the next several chapters, we’ll see the judgment of the enemies and the victory of Jesus. Heaven rejoices! The apostles, prophets, and saints rejoice. And what an interesting statement is made in Revelation 18:18. “What city was like the great city?” In one sense, no city. Babylon was vile, immoral, ungodly. However, it is actually an ironic question. When asked from the perspective of what other city was so mighty as Babylon, the obvious answer is, “Well, the city of God which defeated Babylon.” We’ll meet that city in a couple of chapters, but we already know who that city is, right? Yep. It’s us. We are the city of God. No matter how mighty Babylon, Rome, Moscow, London, Washington ever think they are, the Heavenly Jerusalem is more mighty and will always come out victorious. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 19.

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Babylon

Today’s reading is Revelation 17.

A great contrast starts in this chapter. We finally meet the immoral woman. The seductress who competes with the Bride to steal the love of the Hero, or at least keep the proper marriage from happening. Think Ursula in the Disney version of “The Little Mermaid.” Or the step-sisters in the stories of Cinderella. She has been mentioned earlier in the book (think Jezebel in the letter to Thyatira). John sees her as a woman on a seven-headed dragon. She is named Babylon and is described as a city. Doesn’t that also fit the hero stories we’ve read in the past. This is the enemy city that needs to be defeated for the Hero to win the day. The one key I hope we notice in all this is a statement that is often overlooked. The ten horns are ten kings. We often get so distracted by trying to figure out who the ten kings are that we actually miss the important part. These ten kings will receive authority. They will make war on the Lamb. However, that authority is only for one hour. Doesn’t that highlight what we’ve noticed about everything in this book. Yes, at times it looks like the enemy is winning. Babylon is drunk with the blood of the saints. Her supporting kings have authority with the beast who in earlier chapters made war on the saints and even conquered them (Revelation 12:7). But this authority last for only one hour. That’s it. Just one hour. Then the Lamb conquers them. Obviously, this is not a literal amount of time. It is, however, demonstrating that the time is small, so hang on. Yes, the immoral city arises and conspires with the kings of the earth in great immorality and attack on Christ and His Bride. But their victory is short lived. So hang on. Jesus always wins! Judgment is coming on the seductress, the immoral woman, the sinful city. Don’t join her, avoid her. Which, by the way, was the heart of the warning to Thyatira.

Monday’s reading is Revelation 18.

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