Week 4 – Revelation

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7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of
the holy one,
the true one,
who has the key of David,
who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
Rev 3:7 (ESV)

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness. – Psalm 84:10 (NASB)

    The psalmist proclaims that he would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than to live in the tents of wickedness. He knows, there is no sure foundation, no real home to be found outside God’s presence. Everywhere else is simply only wandering about in the wilderness.

    The letters to the churches in Revelation are each introduced by an aspect of Christ, taken from John’s initial vision in chapter 1, all except for this church in Philadelphia. Here, the “keys of Death and Hades” are exchanged for the “key of David” – the key to the holy Kingdom of God. Christ reminds this church that, not only does he have the power to open the gates of death and hell, it is Jesus Himself, who is the doorkeeper for the Kingdom of Heaven, the New Jerusalem, and that none will get in to see the Father, unless they go through Him. (John 14:6) There is no other way.

    How much more important is it then for us as the church to direct those we meet to Jesus Christ Himself, and not ourselves and our own good deeds! It is Christ who opens and shuts the door and it is eternally more important what the people we meet think about Him rather than what they think about us. Certainly we are called to good works, but we pass the praise and the praisers themselves on to Christ rather than hold them up pretending to be guardians of the Kingdom ourselves. Likewise, we need not take scorn for our faith personally, but instead, let us show the mocking world exactly Who it is that holds the way to life and death.

 

 

    

    

    

Revelation Week 3

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“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
– Revelation 2:17

    Jesus gave the churches in Revelation precious promises… kingdom promises, promises that we may hold fast to just as much as these first century Christian communities. Pergamum, the capitol city of Asia Minor, enjoyed prestige and opportunities that were not afforded many of the other six cities. With a huge acropolis featuring many pagan temples, Pergamum was very much like a “Little Rome” and carried all the cultural opportunities that came with it… and also the curses. It was here, more than many of the other cities, where Christians were more often persecuted by the empire for not attending to emperor worship, or for being “atheists” by not worshipping idols. It was here that the pressure to compromise one’s faith was greatest, for it was easy to lead a very successful life in Pergamum by leading a private Christian life and simply going along with the flow publicly.

    The message the Spirit gives to these churches is this though… “To the one who conquers…” who overcomes that temptation to compromise, “I will give some of the hidden manna” (originally found in the Ark of the covenant, in the Holy of Holies), that is food and provision for the journey at hand. “and I will give [them] a white stone, with a new name written on the stone…”. The imagery we need to remember here is that of Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness (book of Numbers) and the way God miraculously provided for them every single day, every step of the way, even when they were surrounded by enemies with weapons and technology far greater than their own. Why didn’t those Israelite’s give up and join the Canaanite’s around them? Because God promised them a land of their own where they would draw all nations toward Him. A land where, once they moved in, they could leave their former slave lives behind and start brand new. Like these white stones, the Romans often used as tickets to get into the main events of the day, Jesus is promising the church admittance into the coming Kingdom, and a brand new start where they can leave their former selves and compromises and sins behind and begin again. God promises them a brand new day if they only repent, trust, and obey.

 

May God be so gracious to us this day as well.


 

Revelation Week 2

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“As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and
the seven golden lampstands,

the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and
the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

Rev 1:20 (ESV)

 

Readers of Revelation have often wondered at the significance of the number ‘7’ which recurs throughout the book. Today though, I wonder about the symbol of the lampstand, used to represent the churches to whom this letter is written. Why lampstands? I believe the Old Testament prophets provide us some clue to that answer.

 

1The Lord said to Moses,2 “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to keep the lamps burning continually.3 This is the lampstand that stands in the Tabernacle, in front of the inner curtain that shields the Ark of the Covenant. Aaron must keep the lamps burning in the Lord’s presence all night. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation.4 Aaron and the priests must tend the lamps on the pure gold lampstand continually in the Lord’s presence.” – Lev 24:1-4 (NLT)

 

6 “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations,” – Isaiah 42:6 (ESV)

 

He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” – Isaiah 49:6 (NLT)

 

and from the teachings of Jesus:

 

14  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so
that they may see your good works and
give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Matt 5:14-16 (ESV)

 

So we, like lampstands, are set before the Holy of Holies, to shine continually… not so God can see, but so the world can see their way to God. We are a light to the nations. Our works, like pressed olives, are meant to feed that flame and shine for our heavenly Father, not for ourselves. So we burn and shine, as tiny replicas of the bright image of Christ until our wicks burn out and we return to his hand like the shining stars he holds.

God bless you in your witness to the world this week.

 

 

 

 


 

A Journey through the Apocalypse of John – Chapter 1

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The next couple months I intend to preach a sermon series on the Apocalypse of John, otherwise known as the book of Revelation. Since I will not be preaching on every passage in the book, but focusing on the main themes throughout, I am writing a weekly devotional material in order to pick up some of the material in between the sermon’s scripture selections. So, without further adieu…

 

Chapter 1

 

“Therefore, write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.” – Revelation 1:19

 

The call of God upon all of the prophets was to receive a message greater than themselves and re-communicate it to God’s people. While we traditionally have placed individuals who speak the word of God to us on a pedestal, the biblical reality is significantly different. John here, as Isaiah and Moses before him, does not immediately rejoice at the opportunity to bear God’s word to His people, but instead, upon seeing Christ in His glory, “fell down at His feet as though dead” (v.17). Even one such as John, “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (v.10) finds himself in a state of holy fear at the sight of the resurrected Christ and at the sound of His voice. Jesus then reassures him, and asks him to write the things he sees and the things the Lord will reveal to him.

If the mere sight of Christ is enough to knock John off his feet, how is he to write down the vision he will receive about God’s judgment, redemption, and recreation of the entire world? Often God asks us to do more than we think we can do on our own strength. However, the book of Revelation, John’s Apocalypse, stands as a testimony to the fact that God indeed enables us to do those very things he asks us, whether we believe them possible or not. God delights in using the weak to show His strength and He wants to change the world through us, in ways we could not even imagine.