The Revelation of the Gospel

Today’s reading is Acts 22.

I know I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know when I say that Paul is telling this Jewish crowd about the defining moment of his life. It’s a moment he mentions over and over again. In Acts, he brings it up two different times. It occurred back in Acts 9, but he mentions it here in Acts 22, and brings it up again in Acts 26. He talks about it in 1 Corinthians 15:8, when he defends his apostleship (even though he was as one born out of due season). This is what he is talking about in 1 Timothy 1:12-16, when he discusses Jesus’s commission on his life. It is actually what he is talking about in Ephesians 3:3, when he claims the mystery was made known to him by revelation. And it is what he wrote briefly about in Galatians 1:11-17 when he explains that he did not receive the gospel from men but received it through a direct revelation of Jesus Christ. He goes on to explain in Galatians 1:16 that he did not merely mean that He learned the gospel because Jesus Himself revealed it to him. No, he means he learned the gospel because Jesus Himself was revealed to him. On that Damascus road, the light of the Son blinded him, but now only through that revelation could he truly see. Jesus was revealed, the veil was lifted, the gospel had shown into his heart, how could he do anything but proclaim the resurrected savior and king Jesus Christ? Never forget, the gospel is Jesus. Jesus is the gospel. May we see the gospel. May we see Jesus. May we proclaim the King as Paul did, that His light may dawn and continue to enlighten the whole world.

Today’s reading is Acts 22.

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Inspiration, Revelation, & Research

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

I fear I too often oversimplify things. I usually do this to keep from causing difficulties or doubts. However, I’m learning that while it avoids difficulty in the short run, sometimes it causes problems for people in the long run who discover how complex things are and then believe we Christians don’t know the complexities. For instance, sometimes I gloss over the true nature of inspiration of Scripture. The recorded Word is very much like the incarnate Word. It is a coming together of deity and humanity. Inspiration does not mean God Himself wrote the Scriptures using men’s hands as the tools. It means God got His message to people. He got what He wanted in there. However, how did He do it? He used men. Certainly, there were times when God told men through miraculous revelation what to write. However, there were other times when men experienced and researched and then recorded what they knew from very natural means. Luke makes this case at the beginning of His book. He doesn’t claim to have sat down in his office and simply allowed God to guide his hand in the writing. Nor does he claim God dictated this book to him. Rather, he researched, studied, interviewed. That is, he acted like an ancient Greek or Roman historian. Through those means, God got what He wanted in this book. Therefore, when we refer to passages in Luke we can say at the same time, “Luke said,” and also, “The Holy Spirit said.” Just as incarnate deity in Jesus Christ poses difficulties at times, inspiration through human authors does as well. It is complex. That, however, is the beauty. God working in man, working with man, working through man. Isn’t that just like our own lives as we walk with God? Sometimes it is messy, but the end result will be glorious.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 1.

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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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Repent and Give God the Glory

Today’s reading is Revelation 16.

Of course, there are some differences, but don’t these bowls of wrath sound familiar? Painful sores, darkness, water turned to blood, hail. Obviously, the Holy Spirit is again calling to mind the plagues of God on Egypt. Further, He is calling to mind Pharaoh’s own hardness of heart that refused to repent and give glory to God. However, notice right in the middle of this the interjection, “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” Does that sound familiar to you? It should. It is a mixture of what Jesus said to the church at Sardis in Revelation 3:2-3 and to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:18. Smack in the middle of all this judgment coming on the Bride’s enemies, there is a reminder that these messages are for us, the Bride, the church, as well. This is not simply an issue of insiders and outsiders. This is not just an issue of having gone through some entrance requirements, having our name on the role, paying our weekly dues, and now it doesn’t matter how we live. We who make up the Bride are to stand against the enemy as much as God is to judge the enemy. How often do Christians end up turning their back on the Lord because of hardship instead of repenting and giving glory to God. Remember, no matter what, God is the Savior. He is the Lord. He is the deliverer. Even when it looks like He is going to lose, even when we can’t understand why He is behaving as He is, He deserves glory. Whether you are in the church or without, let God’s disciplines accomplish their goal. Do not curse God and die, rather surrender to God and give Him the glory. I promise you, in the end, you’ll be glad you did.

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 17.

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The Glory of God

Today’s reading is Revelation 15.

When the Babylonians took Solomon’s temple apart, the glory of God was gone. When Zerubbabel and Joshua rebuilt the temple, however, there was no visible manifestation of the Lord’s glory. When Herod refurbished the temple, there was no manifestation of the Lord’s glory in the temple. However, under Jesus Christ, the sanctuary not made with hands in the heavens is full of the glory of the Lord. Here is the picture of victory. In fact, it is the same picture that demonstrated victory in Exodus. We often think the crossing of the Red Sea is the climax of Exodus. Not so. The climax is when the glory of the Lord enters the tabernacle. God had sent the plagues on the enemies, He had delivered Israel through the Red Sea, He had brought them to Mt. Sinai. But the climax is when God shows His abiding presence by entering the tabernacle. That is exactly what is going on here. God has sent plagues of judgment and will continue to do so in the next chapter. But the real glory is that He is in the midst of His people. He takes residence in the sanctuary, which is His church. The promises of restoration are fulfilled not in a temple rebuilt on earth, but in the heavenly temple of God’s house. Praise the Lord! He dwells with His people.

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 16.

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