The Savior You Need

jesus

Please read Revelation 1:4-20 in your Bible.  I used the NIV (1984) to prepare this article.

If you were asked, “What kind of savior do you want?”  How would you reply?  Some would question whether they need a savior at all.  Many people assume they’re good enough to deserve a place in heaven or deny that heaven exists at all.

Biblically, we know that is nonsense.  No one is good enough, because God’s standard is perfection and none of us can live up to that.  We all need a savior as human nature alone keeps us out of heaven.

In an article entitled, “Why do I need a Savior?” Eric Segalini compared human nature with the famous literary character Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde.  After a disturbing dream, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote feverishly for days to complete the book.  Segalini sees the dual nature of the title character as illustrating the dual nature of every human being.

Dr. Jekyll is a symbol of the polite, public side of most people while Mr. Hyde is the private side that we want to “hide” from others.  You recall that the story revolves around the good doctor’s experiments leading to a formula that split his personality and transformed him physically.

Eventually, the brutal Mr. Hyde committed murder.  His evil alter ego showed up at bad times and fought Dr. Jekyll for dominance.  It was Hyde that murdered, but Jekyll was no less guilty.  The two personalities shared the guilt, and that’s how we can show everyone needs a Savior without having to open our Bible.  Every person with enough sense to be honest must concede to having their own Mr. Hyde.

Segalini concludes: “Instead of leaving us to the harsh demands of justice, Jesus stepped in on our behalf. He extended both justice and mercy. He offered to be our Savior.

“If we come to Jesus in surrender, sick by our sin and certain of justice’s demands, He will take our place.

“In exchange for our sin, Jesus gives us love, gives us hope, gives us Himself.

“Things didn’t end well for Jekyll, by the way. He kept thinking he had Hyde under control, but they both wound up dead.

“The good Dr. Jekyll disappeared first.

“Jekyll and Hyde’s case is not as strange as the novel’s title suggests. The problem isn’t out there; the problem is me.

“I know what I need, like it or not. I need a Savior.

“Because my dark side lurks. And so does yours.”

(https://www.cru.org/us/en/how-to-know-god/why-i-need-a-savior.html)

We learned Wednesday night at our Study of Proverbs that the “foolish” or ungodly person is self-deceived.  They have rejected God on the basis of the mistaken belief that they are OK all on their own.  This is a difficult deception to dislodge.  Once the problem of sin becomes personal, the search for the Savior can rightly begin.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

The descriptions of Jesus in Revelation 1 point to a powerful being.

REVIEW

Vs. 4 + 8 = HIM WHO IS, WHO WAS, WHO IS TO COME.

V. 4 = He is enthroned = He exercises His authority.

V. 5 = THE FAITHFUL WITNESS = He is trustworthy and truthful.

V. 5 = FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD = He leads us to life.

V. 5 = RULER OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH = He triumphs.

V. 6 = He MADE US TO BE A KINGDOM AND PRIESTS TO SERVE HIS GOD AND FATHER = He delegates power for service.

V. 6 = TO HIM BE GLORY AND POWER FOR EVER AND EVER!

V. 7 = HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS = Just as He ascended.

V. 7 = ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE EARTH WILL MOURN BECAUSE OF HIM = Self-condemned people will lost.

V. 8 = ALPHA AND OMEGA, FIRST AND LAST (v. 17)

V. 8 = THE ALMIGHTY = Jesus has all power.

V. 13 = “LIKE A SON OF MAN” = Jesus is divinely empowered.

V. 13 = DRESSED IN A ROBE REACHING DOWN TO HIS FEET.

V. 13 = WITH A GOLDEN SASH AROUND HIS CHEST.

V. 14 = HIS HEAD AND HAIR WERE WHITE LIKE WOOL, AS WHITE AS SNOW = Jesus has a purity of spirit.

V. 14 = HIS EYES WERE LIKE A BLAZING FIRE = He judges fairly.

V. 15 = HIS FEET WERE LIKE BRONZE GLOWING IN A FURNACE.

V. 15 = HIS VOICE WAS LIKE THE SOUND OF RUSHING WATERS.

V. 16 = IN HIS RIGHT HAND HE HELD SEVEN STARS.

NEW

V. 16 = OUT OF HIS MOUTH CAME A SHARP DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD.

A SHARP DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD is a biblical symbol of judgment. Hebrews 4:12 is the example of how the word of God cuts through the externals and reveals a person’s true self: FOR THE WORD OF GOD IS LIVING AND ACTIVE. SHARPER THAN ANY DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD, IT PENETRATES EVEN TO DIVIDING SOUL AND SPIRIT, JOINTS AND MARROW; IT JUDGES THE THOUGHTS AND ATTITUDES OF THE HEART.  As words come out of a person’s MOUTH, this is an obvious symbol of Jesus’ pronouncing judgment.

V. 16 = HIS FACE WAS LIKE THE SUN SHINING IN ALL ITS BRILLIANCE.

This reminds us of the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration (see Matthew 17; Mark 9; Luke 9), where we read THERE HE WAS TRANSFIGURED BEFORE THEM.  HIS FACE SHONE LIKE THE SUN, AND HIS CLOTHES BECAME AS WHITE AS THE LIGHT.  In the Bible, the presence of God is often described as a brilliant light and is called the “glory” of God.  Artists have illustrated this brilliance by painting a halo around the head of Jesus.

The descriptions of Jesus in Revelation 1 point to a Savior.

V. 5 = HIM WHO LOVES US AND HAS FREED US FROM OUR SINS BY HIS BLOOD.

LOVE is something easily claimed; it is proven by sacrifice for the beloved.  That’s why John’s claim Jesus loves us is paired with the greatest evidence; His self-sacrifice for us.  Jesus demonstrated His love by freeing us from slavery to our sin nature and from the penalty for our sins.  His death on the cross did it.

In the Old Testament, blood sacrifice was the God-given means to forgive sin. As Paul explained in HBS 9:22, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of there is no forgiveness.”  When Jesus came, God did not just drop that system.  He accepted Jesus’ blood as the final and perfect sacrifice, satisfying forever the demand for blood. In 1 John 1:7 it is written, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

V. 7 = EVERY EYE WILL SEE HIM, EVEN THOSE WHO PIERCED HIM.

This is borrowed from Zechariah 12:10: THEY WILL LOOK ON ME, THE ONE THEY HAVE PIERCED.  This verse tells us two things about the Second Coming.  One, everyone will see Jesus at the same time.  This is possible because He is God and is present everywhere at once.  Two, to people who reject Him, it will be a sudden reversal of what they expected.  This will be as Jesus warned in Matthew 24:37-38 and Luke 17:27; “People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.”

It’s natural to expect things to continue in the way we’re used to – some people can be quite insistent on it – but people of faith are supposed to know better.  Jesus’ Second Coming will bring about the completed work of God and with it, a complete change to life and the world as we know it.

V. 18 = THE LIVING ONE: “I WAS DEAD AND BEHOLD I AM ALIVE FOR EVER AND EVER!”

His death on the cross is not the end of Jesus’ story.  He does not remain dead, but is alive; THE LIVING ONE.  This expression is used of God the Father, enthroned in Revelation 4:10 and 10:6.  We have identical descriptions of God the Father and God the Son, showing they are as one.  Jesus was not defeated by death; He lives and defeated death: THE LAST ENEMY TO BE DEFEATED IS DEATH. (1 Corinthians 15:26)

V. 18 = “I HOLD T KEYS OF DEATH & HADES.”

Biblically, KEYS are a symbol of authority.  In Matthew 16:19 Jesus said to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus holds two keys.  One is the key to DEATH.  The One who has authority over DEATH has the authority to give life.  The other is the key to HADES.  This Greek word refers to a place where the spirits of the dead reside until the Second Coming.  It is equivalent to the Hebrew word sheol; it is not a place of torment; it is just a kind of residence or holding area.  This is consistent between Jewish beliefs and Greek mythology.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

          Another way to approach the self-reliant person is to invite them to think about what they have based their self-view on.  A person’s self-worth is likely based on these five areas:

  1. Approval from others.
  2. Appearance.
  3. Achievement.
  4. Your character.
  5. Your faith.

The first three items on that list are material, worldly, and temporary.  Character takes some time to form and good character takes the Holy Spirit and some effort on our part to achieve, but can still be subject to compromise and change.  It’s only the fifth   item that is unchanging and reliable.

Here’s a new thought: what we believe about Jesus Christ is the only good basis for what we believe about ourselves.  It is ironic, but a faithful focus on Jesus is the surest foundation for our self-image.

Here in Revelation 1, we have seen the divine side of Jesus emphasized.  We have had our hope in Him renewed by focusing on the Second Coming.  When we center our life on the person of Jesus, we will be less invested in what others think of us, how we appear to them, what worldly achievements we have piled up, and even our own personal growth.  What should be most determinative of who we are is who Jesus is.  When we seek to duplicate Jesus in what we say and do, one of the beneficial effects is that we find freedom from worries about anything this world says about us.  The truth sets us free!

 

Resources:

The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Leon Morris

He’s Something Else

liverbirds

Please read Revelation 1:4-20 in your Bible.  I’ve used the NIV (1984) as my resource for this article.  This is the second of three articles in a series.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the phrase “he’s something else” (the title of today’s message) can mean, “unusual; extremely good or extremely bad.”  (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/something-else) As I’m pointing to Jesus and saying “He’s something else,” I feel it’s necessary to make it perfectly plain that Jesus is SO unusual He’s one of a kind, and so extremely good He’s God.  So – make no mistake about that.

I also want to make certain that no one thinks I’m applying to Jesus the hit song “He’s Something Else,” made famous by the all-girl band, the Liverbirds.  Like some other rock group I won’t mention, the Liverbirds were from Liverpool, England, performing from 1963-1968.  They took their name from a mythical bird, a symbol of Liverpool.  In 2009 Irene Cara covered the song, changing the title to “My Baby.”  That song has nothing to do with Jesus either.

Now that we’ve got all that settled, let me tell you what I DO mean when I say “He’s something else.”  We will continue our look at Jesus in Revelation one to see Him in a different light, to emphasize the divine side of His absolutely unique existence as both God and man.  We will also, along the way, be reminded that when He comes the second time, it will not be as a helpless peasant child, but as the All-conquering Hero, the One who restores creation to its perfection, according to the plan of God the Father.  This is the second in a series of three messages to view Jesus in this way.  Yes, I think it’s that important.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

  1. The descriptions of Jesus in Revelation 1 point to a powerful being.

REVIEW

Vs.  4 + 8 = HIM WHO IS, WHO WAS, WHO IS TO COME.

  1. 4 = He is enthroned = He exercises His authority.
  2. 5 = THE FAITHFUL WITNESS = He is trustworthy and truthful.
  3. 5 = FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD = He leads us to life.
  4. 5 = RULER OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH = He triumphs.
  5. 6 = He MADE US TO BE A KINGDOM AND PRIESTS TO SERVE HIS GOD AND FATHER = He delegates power for service.
  6. 6 = TO HIM BE GLORY AND POWER FOR EVER AND EVER!
  7. 7 = HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS = Just as He ascended.

NEW

Verse seven = ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE EARTH WILL MOURN BECAUSE OF HIM.  This sounds very negative but consider this: in Revelation, a SIMILAR phrase – INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH – is a euphemism for wicked, self-condemned, unbelieving folk (Revelation 3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 12, 14; 17:2, 8).  They are OF THE EARTH, not of heaven in their spirituality and moral life.

They will MOURN because only at the end they will see they’ve rejected Jesus at their peril.  They may cry out, but it will be too late.  Zechariah 12:10-14 speaks of mourning, but there it is a cry of repentance provoked by the Holy Spirit, not at all what John records.

Verse eight = Jesus is the ALPHA & OMEGA, FIRST & LAST (v. 17). The words “I AM” remind us of God’s declaration to Moses, naming Himself as the “I AM,” or Yahweh.  ALPHA/FIRST refers to Jesus activity in the creation of the world (see Colossians 1:16).  He is the source, the beginning of all that exists.  OMEGA/LAST = His Second Coming is the event signaling the end of the universe, Jesus is also the end of all that exists.  This proclamation is repeated twice at the end of John’s vision; Revelation 21:6 & 22:13.

Verse Eight = Jesus is THE ALMIGHTY.  This is how the Hebrew words Yahweh Sebaoth are translated; “Lord of Hosts.”  The Leader of the Angels is one aspect of God’s complete power over His creation.  God is all powerful but He chooses to not use His power to negate the free will of the people He’s created.  Instead, He relies on the guiding power of love.  We do well to follow His example, using love to influence others.

Verse thirteen = “LIKE A SON OF MAN.”  According to the Gospels, Jesus used the title “Son of Man” more than any other to refer to Himself.  It is important we understand this choice.  It may sound less powerful than “Son of God,” but it is a title no less divine.  The title SON OF MAN originates in Ezekiel 2:1, where an angel addressed the prophet in this way and repeated it dozens of times in the book.  In Daniel 7:13, a figure endowed with divine power is said to be LIKE A SON OF MAN.  In Daniel 8:17, Daniel himself is called a SON OF MAN.  This phrase is repeated in Revelation 1:13 in a description of Jesus and in 14:14 as a description of an angel.

This title is used for prophets, angels and Jesus Christ.  It refers to someone endowed with a message from God and the divine power to make it known to all people in miraculous ways.  I assume Jesus saw this as His ministry and that is why He referred to Himself in this way.

Verse thirteen = He was DRESSED IN A ROBE REACHING DOWN TO HIS FEET.  Wearing a full-length robe was a sign of wealth and/or authority.  Persons so dressed did not do menial work for a living; they would be the ancient equivalent of what we call a “white collar” laborer.  This is yet another symbol of Jesus’ personal authority.

Verse thirteen = WITH A GOLD SASH AROUND HIS CHEST.  In Old Testament times, the high priest wore a gold breastplate adorned with twelve semi-precious stones.  Perhaps this SASH is meant to remind us that Jesus is our High Priest.

In Revelation 15:6 the seven angels who carried the plagues wore gold sashes.  The image of a gold sash is an ancient equivalent of having a badge or ID.  It verified the person wearing it had authority.  Whether high priest or angel, they represented God and enacted His will.

Verse fourteen = HIS HEAD AND HAIR WERE WHITE LIKE WOOL, AS WHITE AS SNOW.  White is a biblical symbol of purity.  The fact that His head is white indicates a purity of Jesus’ inner man.  This also directly associates Jesus with the Ancient of Days described in Daniel 7:9, whose head of hair is also WHITE LIKE WOOL and whose clothing was as WHITE AS SNOW.

Verse fourteen = HIS EYES WERE LIKE A BLAZING FIRE.  Fire is, among other things, a biblical symbol of judgment.  That His eyes are ablaze indicates that Jesus sees accurately and judges fairly.  This description is repeated in Revelation 2:18 & 19:12, marking it as important.

The phrase EYES OF THE LORD is repeated over 100 times in Scripture, it refers to God’s omniscience, His attention to His people, and whether or not they obey His moral law.  For example, in 2 Chronicles 16:9 it is written, FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD RANGE ALL OVER THE EARTH TO STRENGTHEN THOSE WHOSE HEARTS ARE FULLY COMMITTED TO HIM.  This is also seen in Hebrews 4:13; NOTHING IN ALL CREATION IS HIDDEN FROM GOD’S SIGHT.  EVERYTHING IS UNCOVERED AND LAID BARE BEFORE THE EYES OF HIM TO WHOM WE MUST GIVE AN ACCOUNT.

Verse fifteen = HIS FEET WERE LIKE BRONZE GLOWING IN A FURNACE.  FEET were considered the lowliest part of the human body; washing the feet of others was done by the lowest slave.  To sit at someone’s feet was a place for a learner, showing their humility before their teacher (Deuteronomy 33:3; Luke 10:39).  To be under someone’s feet was to be utterly defeated (Joshua 10:24; Psalm 8:6).  Given this cultural understanding, how extreme is this statement? HOW BEAUTIFUL ON THE MOUNTAINS ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD TIDINGS, WHO PROCLAIM SALVATION, WHO SAY TO THOSE IN ZION, “YOUR GOD REIGNS!” (Isaiah 52:7).  I mean, beautiful FEET?  Really?

The prophet Ezekiel described FOUR LIVING CREATURES he saw in a vision.  One detail is that they had feet that BEAMED LIKE BURNISHED BRONZE (1:7), but theirs were calf-like (hooved?).

In the Bible, BRONZE is a sacred metal.  Many of the furnishings of the tabernacle were to be made of bronze.  When a plague of snakes killed many of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, God commanded Moses to raise up a bronze snake and all who beheld it were saved (Numbers 21).

GLOWING IN A FURNACE = a FURNANCE is a biblical symbol of judgment, a place where fire melted metals to refine them.

Put all these elements together and in this one detail you get a picture of God defeating the enemies of His people, one of the things that will happen in connection with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Paul wrote of this in 1 Corinthians 15:25 = FOR HE MUST REIGN UNTIL HE HAS PUT ALL ENEMIES UNDER HIS FEET.

Verse fifteen = HIS VOICE WAS LIKE THE SOUND OF RUSHING WATERS.  In Ezekiel 43, the prophet was given a vision of the glory of God returning to His temple.  He wrote that the VOICE of the glory WAS LIKE THE ROAR OF RUSHING WATERS; a sound that commanded attention.  Like a mighty waterfall, no one should miss the message of God or His commands.  This image requires us to sit up and take notice!

Verse sixteen = IN HIS RIGHT HAND HE HELD SEVEN STARS.  The RIGHT HAND is a symbol of authority; a king’s scepter was held in his right hand.  Verse twenty explains the SEVEN STARS as being the ANGELS OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES to whom the letters of chapters 2+3 are addressed.  In some way, the angels represent these churches and are responsible for their condition.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

          “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” is the witness of the writer of Proverbs (9:10).  “Fear” in this sense is the realization that God is all-powerful.  He can do as He wills and it is only because He wills good for us that we are able to stand.

My prayer is that this study of John’s vision will reintroduce some awe and wonder, some reverence and holy fear back into our conception of Jesus.  While He is the Gentle Shepherd and the Great Physician, He is also the Conquering King of Kings and Divine Judge.  Both sides of Jesus are necessary, not just for biblical accuracy, but for a balanced view that promotes salvation.

 

RESOURCES:

Harper’s New Testament Commentaries, G.B. Caird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please read Revelation 1:4-20 in your Bible.  I’ve used the NIV (1984) as my resource for this article.  This is the second of three articles in a series.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the phrase “he’s something else” (the title of today’s message) can mean, “unusual; extremely good or extremely bad.”  (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/something-else) As I’m pointing to Jesus and saying “He’s something else,” I feel it’s necessary to make it perfectly plain that Jesus is SO unusual He’s one of a kind, and so extremely good He’s God.  So – make no mistake about that.

I also want to make certain that no one thinks I’m applying to Jesus the hit song “He’s Something Else,” made famous by the all-girl band, the Liverbirds.  Like some other rock group I won’t mention, the Liverbirds were from Liverpool, England, performing from 1963-1968.  They took their name from a mythical bird, a symbol of Liverpool.  In 2009 Irene Cara covered the song, changing the title to “My Baby.”  That song has nothing to do with Jesus either.

Now that we’ve got all that settled, let me tell you what I DO mean when I say “He’s something else.”  We will continue our look at Jesus in Revelation one to see Him in a different light, to emphasize the divine side of His absolutely unique existence as both God and man.  We will also, along the way, be reminded that when He comes the second time, it will not be as a helpless peasant child, but as the All-conquering Hero, the One who restores creation to its perfection, according to the plan of God the Father.  This is the second in a series of three messages to view Jesus in this way.  Yes, I think it’s that important.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

  1. The descriptions of Jesus in Revelation 1 point to a powerful being.

REVIEW

Vs.  4 + 8 = HIM WHO IS, WHO WAS, WHO IS TO COME.

  1. 4 = He is enthroned = He exercises His authority.
  2. 5 = THE FAITHFUL WITNESS = He is trustworthy and truthful.
  3. 5 = FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD = He leads us to life.
  4. 5 = RULER OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH = He triumphs.
  5. 6 = He MADE US TO BE A KINGDOM AND PRIESTS TO SERVE HIS GOD AND FATHER = He delegates power for service.
  6. 6 = TO HIM BE GLORY AND POWER FOR EVER AND EVER!
  7. 7 = HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS = Just as He ascended.

NEW

Verse seven = ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE EARTH WILL MOURN BECAUSE OF HIM.  This sounds very negative but consider this: in Revelation, a SIMILAR phrase – INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH – is a euphemism for wicked, self-condemned, unbelieving folk (Revelation 3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 12, 14; 17:2, 8).  They are OF THE EARTH, not of heaven in their spirituality and moral life.

They will MOURN because only at the end they will see they’ve rejected Jesus at their peril.  They may cry out, but it will be too late.  Zechariah 12:10-14 speaks of mourning, but there it is a cry of repentance provoked by the Holy Spirit, not at all what John records.

Verse eight = Jesus is the ALPHA & OMEGA, FIRST & LAST (v. 17). The words “I AM” remind us of God’s declaration to Moses, naming Himself as the “I AM,” or Yahweh.  ALPHA/FIRST refers to Jesus activity in the creation of the world (see Colossians 1:16).  He is the source, the beginning of all that exists.  OMEGA/LAST = His Second Coming is the event signaling the end of the universe, Jesus is also the end of all that exists.  This proclamation is repeated twice at the end of John’s vision; Revelation 21:6 & 22:13.

Verse Eight = Jesus is THE ALMIGHTY.  This is how the Hebrew words Yahweh Sebaoth are translated; “Lord of Hosts.”  The Leader of the Angels is one aspect of God’s complete power over His creation.  God is all powerful but He chooses to not use His power to negate the free will of the people He’s created.  Instead, He relies on the guiding power of love.  We do well to follow His example, using love to influence others.

Verse thirteen = “LIKE A SON OF MAN.”  According to the Gospels, Jesus used the title “Son of Man” more than any other to refer to Himself.  It is important we understand this choice.  It may sound less powerful than “Son of God,” but it is a title no less divine.  The title SON OF MAN originates in Ezekiel 2:1, where an angel addressed the prophet in this way and repeated it dozens of times in the book.  In Daniel 7:13, a figure endowed with divine power is said to be LIKE A SON OF MAN.  In Daniel 8:17, Daniel himself is called a SON OF MAN.  This phrase is repeated in Revelation 1:13 in a description of Jesus and in 14:14 as a description of an angel.

This title is used for prophets, angels and Jesus Christ.  It refers to someone endowed with a message from God and the divine power to make it known to all people in miraculous ways.  I assume Jesus saw this as His ministry and that is why He referred to Himself in this way.

Verse thirteen = He was DRESSED IN A ROBE REACHING DOWN TO HIS FEET.  Wearing a full-length robe was a sign of wealth and/or authority.  Persons so dressed did not do menial work for a living; they would be the ancient equivalent of what we call a “white collar” laborer.  This is yet another symbol of Jesus’ personal authority.

Verse thirteen = WITH A GOLD SASH AROUND HIS CHEST.  In Old Testament times, the high priest wore a gold breastplate adorned with twelve semi-precious stones.  Perhaps this SASH is meant to remind us that Jesus is our High Priest.

In Revelation 15:6 the seven angels who carried the plagues wore gold sashes.  The image of a gold sash is an ancient equivalent of having a badge or ID.  It verified the person wearing it had authority.  Whether high priest or angel, they represented God and enacted His will.

Verse fourteen = HIS HEAD AND HAIR WERE WHITE LIKE WOOL, AS WHITE AS SNOW.  White is a biblical symbol of purity.  The fact that His head is white indicates a purity of Jesus’ inner man.  This also directly associates Jesus with the Ancient of Days described in Daniel 7:9, whose head of hair is also WHITE LIKE WOOL and whose clothing was as WHITE AS SNOW.

Verse fourteen = HIS EYES WERE LIKE A BLAZING FIRE.  Fire is, among other things, a biblical symbol of judgment.  That His eyes are ablaze indicates that Jesus sees accurately and judges fairly.  This description is repeated in Revelation 2:18 & 19:12, marking it as important.

The phrase EYES OF THE LORD is repeated over 100 times in Scripture, it refers to God’s omniscience, His attention to His people, and whether or not they obey His moral law.  For example, in 2 Chronicles 16:9 it is written, FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD RANGE ALL OVER THE EARTH TO STRENGTHEN THOSE WHOSE HEARTS ARE FULLY COMMITTED TO HIM.  This is also seen in Hebrews 4:13; NOTHING IN ALL CREATION IS HIDDEN FROM GOD’S SIGHT.  EVERYTHING IS UNCOVERED AND LAID BARE BEFORE THE EYES OF HIM TO WHOM WE MUST GIVE AN ACCOUNT.

Verse fifteen = HIS FEET WERE LIKE BRONZE GLOWING IN A FURNACE.  FEET were considered the lowliest part of the human body; washing the feet of others was done by the lowest slave.  To sit at someone’s feet was a place for a learner, showing their humility before their teacher (Deuteronomy 33:3; Luke 10:39).  To be under someone’s feet was to be utterly defeated (Joshua 10:24; Psalm 8:6).  Given this cultural understanding, how extreme is this statement? HOW BEAUTIFUL ON THE MOUNTAINS ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD TIDINGS, WHO PROCLAIM SALVATION, WHO SAY TO THOSE IN ZION, “YOUR GOD REIGNS!” (Isaiah 52:7).  I mean, beautiful FEET?  Really?

The prophet Ezekiel described FOUR LIVING CREATURES he saw in a vision.  One detail is that they had feet that BEAMED LIKE BURNISHED BRONZE (1:7), but theirs were calf-like (hooved?).

In the Bible, BRONZE is a sacred metal.  Many of the furnishings of the tabernacle were to be made of bronze.  When a plague of snakes killed many of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, God commanded Moses to raise up a bronze snake and all who beheld it were saved (Numbers 21).

GLOWING IN A FURNACE = a FURNANCE is a biblical symbol of judgment, a place where fire melted metals to refine them.

Put all these elements together and in this one detail you get a picture of God defeating the enemies of His people, one of the things that will happen in connection with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Paul wrote of this in 1 Corinthians 15:25 = FOR HE MUST REIGN UNTIL HE HAS PUT ALL ENEMIES UNDER HIS FEET.

Verse fifteen = HIS VOICE WAS LIKE THE SOUND OF RUSHING WATERS.  In Ezekiel 43, the prophet was given a vision of the glory of God returning to His temple.  He wrote that the VOICE of the glory WAS LIKE THE ROAR OF RUSHING WATERS; a sound that commanded attention.  Like a mighty waterfall, no one should miss the message of God or His commands.  This image requires us to sit up and take notice!

Verse sixteen = IN HIS RIGHT HAND HE HELD SEVEN STARS.  The RIGHT HAND is a symbol of authority; a king’s scepter was held in his right hand.  Verse twenty explains the SEVEN STARS as being the ANGELS OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES to whom the letters of chapters 2+3 are addressed.  In some way, the angels represent these churches and are responsible for their condition.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” is the witness of the writer of Proverbs (9:10).  “Fear” in this sense is the realization that God is all-powerful.  He can do as He wills and it is only because He wills good for us that we are able to stand.

My prayer is that this study of John’s vision will reintroduce some awe and wonder, some reverence and holy fear back into our conception of Jesus.  While He is the Gentle Shepherd and the Great Physician, He is also the Conquering King of Kings and Divine Judge.  Both sides of Jesus are necessary, not just for biblical accuracy, but for a balanced view that promotes salvation.

 

RESOURCES:

Harper’s New Testament Commentaries, G.B. Caird

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Superman or Son of Man?

superjc

Please read Revelation 1:4-20 in your favorite Bible.  I used the NIV (1984) to prepare these remarks.

The comic book character Superman turned 80 on April 18th last year.  Did anybody celebrate?  Imagine the effect if he used his “super breath” to blow out the candles!

Twelve years ago the movie “Superman Returns” had a line in it that got me thinking about the subject of Superman and Jesus.  From the first time I heard it, it sounded like a paraphrase from the Bible and it offended me to hear it used that way.

The line is spoken by Sir Anthony Hopkins, voicing Superman’s father, Jor-El.  As Superman orbited the earth, we hear Jor-El say, “They are a good people, Kal-el, or they want to be.  But they need someone to lead them, to show them the way.  That is why I have sent you to them, my only son.”

The director of this picture, Bryan Singer, is quoted as saying, “Superman is the Jesus Christ of superheroes.”  This is evidence of many intentional parallels between Superman and Jesus as a means of making the comic character more popular.

Ironically, the character of Superman was created by two Jewish boys, Jerry Siegel and Joel Schuster.  A compelling argument can be made that Superman was created as a counter-point to the growing threat of Nazi Germany in 1938.  I’ve read that Superman was modeled after Moses and seems designed to counter the Nazi ideal of an ubermensch, a member of the Master Race.

Superman may have started out being modeled on Moses, but there’s no doubt his handlers have turned a New Testament corner since then.  I have compiled a list of parallels between Jesus and Superman.  There’s too much evidence there to explain it in any way other than a deliberate attempt by those who’ve handled the character for EIGHTY YEARS to wrap Jesus in blue tights and a red cape.  It may be shrewd marketing, but I don’t like it and between the two – Superman and the Savior – there’s no question who’s real and who’s more powerful.

In order to deepen our understanding of Jesus, we’re going to use this occasion to take a look at Him in a slightly different light – the supernatural portrayal of Jesus in Revelation.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

  1. The descriptions of Jesus in Revelation 1 point to a powerful being.

Verses four and eight = HIM WHO IS, AND WHO WAS, AND WHO IS TO COME.  This expression of praise is offered by the FOUR LIVING CREATURES to God the Father, seated on His throne in Revelation 4:8.  It refers to the present, past, and future – all three tenses of time – as a way of saying God is eternal.  As God, the Son of God existed before His birth in this world, He lived in a particular era of human history, and He will come again to this world to complete His victory.

Verse four = He is enthroned.  He is KING OF KINGS in 1 Timothy 6:15.  That same title is used in Revelation 17:14 and 19:16.  This title is a way of saying Jesus has the right to rule over all creation and that His authority and power have no limits.

Verse five = THE FAITHFUL WITNESS.  Palm 89:37 refers to the moon as a FAITHFUL WITNESS God set in the sky.  It is a dependable predictor of tides and is regular in its phases.  Revelation 2:13 refers to Antipas as a FAITHFUL WITNESS.  In John 14:6, Jesus referred to Himself as THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.

Taken together, this is a way of saying as the moon is dependable and predictable in its appearance and effects, Jesus can be trusted to tell the truth about God the Father.  In fact, theologians refer to Jesus as the “Personal Revelation” of God.  In His words and deeds Jesus taught and demonstrated God’s begin and His character.

Verse five = FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD.  Throughout the Bible, the FIRSTBORN always gets special treatment and the “first fruits” are the most special part of the harvest, offered to God in gratitude.  Paul applied this to Jesus’ resurrection in Colossians 1:18; AND HE IS THE HEAD OF THE BODY, THE CHURCH; HE IS THE BEGINNING AND THE FIRSTBORN FROM AMONG THE DEAD, SO THAT IN EVERYTHING HE MIGHT HAVE THE SUPREMACY.  In 1 Corinthians 15:20 Paul similarly described Jesus as the FIRSTFRUITS of the dead.  All this reminds us that Jesus has led the way into eternal life.  Our resurrection will be like His; if we want to know more about our life after death, we need to study His.

Verse five = RULER OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH.   THE KINGS OF THE EARTH is an expression is found four more times in the Revelation (6:15; 17:2; 17:18; 18:3), each time denoting the rulers of worldly kingdoms that have allied themselves to resist God.  The fact that Jesus is RULER over them is not meant to imply that He is responsible for their bad behavior, only that His rule is complete.  Though THE KINGS OF THE EARTH oppose Jesus, it is a futile gesture; His power is irresistible.

To His disciples enduring persecution, this is welcome news.  Though the KINGS of this world seem to hold power, God is in charge; He will sustain His people.

Verse six = He has MADE US TO BE A KINGDOM AND PRIESTS TO SERVE HIS GOD AND FATHER.  KINGDOM = Because Jesus Christ is RULER over all, He is able to make us part of His KINGDOM.  We are called out of earthly “kingdoms” to be obedient to Jesus’ will first and foremost.

PRIESTS = Way back in Exodus 19:6, Moses told the people that God’s will was to make them a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS.   This promise is mentioned again in Revelation 5:10, virtually word-for-word. This promise is unusual because only rarely in the history of God’s people have priests also been kings.  But that’s part of the point – when Jesus comes again, the world will be set back in the order God intended.  The New Testament makes it plain that all believers are PRIESTS and no longer need another human being to intercede between us and God

The purpose of all this is plainly spelled out: TO SERVE our GOD AND FATHER.  We do not rule on our own authority or serve as priests on our own will.  Instead, God delegates this power to us so that we can serve Him.

Verse six = TO HIM BE GLORY AND POWER FOR EVER AND EVER! This verse reads like a hymn of praise.  It is repeated as such in Revelation 19:1.  It is here to remind us that the focus of true service is never on self, but is always, only on God.  He deserves the GLORY and alone possesses the POWER.

Verse seven = HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS.  In Mark 13:26 and Luke 21:27 Jesus predicted that at the end of this age, the world would see Him appear in the CLOUDS with great glory and power.  Psalm 68:4 locates God in the clouds, a symbol of His rule over the Earth; SING TO GOD, SING IN PRAISE OF HIS NAME, EXTOL HIM WHO RIDES ON THE CLOUDS; REJOICE BEFORE HIM – HIS NAME IS THE LORD.  (see also Psalm 104:3).  In Ezekiel 30:3, the prophet linked the appearance of CLOUDS with THE DAY OF THE LORD, which is the Old Testament’s way of referring to the events related to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  In the book of Exodus, God directed His people on their travels with a PILLAR OF CLOUD during the daylight hours and by means of a pillar of fire at night (13:21-22).  In the DNL 7 vision the Son of Man came from the CLOUDS and is clearly God; this also predicts how Jesus will appear to us. At the end of the Gospel of Luke and the beginning of the book of Acts, we are told that Jesus left His disciples and returned to heaven, disappearing among the clouds.  Angels standing nearby promised that He would return the way He’s left: among the CLOUDS (Acts 1:9-11).

This expression looks ahead to the day when this promise is kept: Jesus’ Second Coming.  It is reassuring to know this will happen; it can happen any time.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

We’re so entrenched in the “Gentle Shepherd” version of Jesus that we’re troubled by John’s depiction of Jesus.  It’s as if we expect the Second Coming to arrive as a gentle tap on the shoulder, followed by an apology for disturbing us.  It’s ludicrous that we should expect the sudden appearance of Jesus as conquering king to be meek and mild, accompanied by a gentle swell of violin music.

The end of the universe as we know it will be with a bang, not a whimper.  John’s vision of the ultimate triumph of Christ should mobilize us to action, not bore us into a little nap!

This is important because Jesus’ Second Advent will occur without any warning other than what we’ve been given, so preparedness is the issue here.  Are you ready?  Are you helping others become ready?

Readiness comes after accepting God’s gracious offer of salvation.  It is doing the daily work of prayer, study of Scripture, and loving one another.  We demonstrate our eagerness for heaven by making earth as much like heaven as we can.

Resources:

Message #1172

Zondervan Bible Commentary, F.F. Bruce

The Answer is “No and Yes”

ambition

The question: “Is this as good as it gets?”

          Ambition can get you in a lot of trouble.  Too much is a problem, as is too little. If a person has ambitions that are selfish or materialistic, they’ll find the pursuit of God to be frustrating.  Ambition that creates competition can be divisive.

Pastors are not immune to this issue; there’s a surprising amount of literature on the subject.  For example, I read an article titled “The Ambition Engine” by Pastor Skye Jethani.  He wrote about how his seminary experience revealed a dark side to pastoral ambition. “On the first day in a small class, when asked to introduce ourselves and say why we had entered seminary, the first student said, ‘I’m here because I’m going to be the next Bill Hybels.’ Really, I thought. Hope that works out for you.

“The next said, ‘My grandfather was a pastor, my father was a pastor, and I’m supposed to be a pastor too.’ Daddy issues? The third student revealed his three-year plan to become senior pastor and then transform his congregation into a megachurch. ‘My denomination wants me to have an M.Div. degree,’ he said, ‘but once I’ve proven I can grow a big church, I don’t think they’ll make me finish the degree.’ Good grief, I thought.”

https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2010/fall/ambitionengine.html

Yes, ambition can cause some particularly stupid notions.  Achieving a balance requires deep knowledge of one’s self, obedience to the Holy Spirit, and a willingness to change to meet changing circumstances.

On way to promote a healthy balanced ambition is to keep asking yourself, “Is this as good as it gets?”  The answer will lead to maturing faith if your ambition sits squarely on God.  In Philippians, Paul evidences a good balance of ambition and contentment.  We’ll look at it this morning following the “thesis, antithesis, synthesis” method.

“Is this as good as it gets?”

  1. No way – God is not finished with you (Philippians 1:6).

CONFIDENT in the Greek meant “persuaded, convinced, trusting in the object.”  You might say this word refers to an earned trust.

Paul used this word five times in his letters, twice here in Philippians (see Galatians 5:10; Philippians 1:6; 2:24; Philemon 1:21; Hebrews 6:9).  Of these references, twice he was CONFIDENT IN THE LORD (Galatians 5:10 and Philippians 2:24).  The other three times his confidence was in the recipients of his letters.  Paul never expressed confidence based on himself, only on t LORD and His people.  The LORD had earned Paul’s trust and though church folk disappointed him, Paul knew t LORD would never abandon his people.

The phrase BEGAN…CARRY ON TO COMPLETION encompasses the scope of salvation.  God took the initiative with each of us; He BEGAN the process of salvation right after the sin of Adam and Eve.  God has not abandoned or forgotten any of His people; He will save everyone who calls on Him.  The beginning and the end are in God’s hands; let there be no doubt about that.  But we are all still in process; let there be no doubt about that either.

How long will the process last?  Paul’s answer here was UNTIL THE DAY OF CHRIST JESUS.  The DAY OF CHRIST JESUS occurs just six times in the New Testament; three of them here in Philippians.  This DAY is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the event that signals the completion of God’s work of salvation.

The life we know right now cannot be as good as it gets because we are in process, and the process is not complete.  The Bible calls this process “sanctification,” a word that means becoming increasingly holy.

If we are convinced that some day in the past or the present life is as good as it gets, we must be frozen at a point in our maturing.  All of us need to cultivate a little “godly discontent” in this regard.  We should always acknowledge that the biggest room in our home is “room for improvement.”

“Is this as good as it gets?”

  1. Yes – be content (Philippians 4:12).

Paul has seen it all: times of NEED and times of PLENTY.  He did not exaggerate in the least.  On the PLENTY side, he grew up in a family wealthy enough to purchase Roman citizenship.  On the “needy” side, he suffered a great deal because he faithfully preached the Gospel (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 for a lengthy list of all Paul suffered for the sake of the Gospel).  This fact proved that Paul’s joy did not depend on his circumstances.  Even in all his sufferings he was CONTENT will all God provided.

Having seen it all, Paul learned the SECRET OF BEING CONTENT IN EACH AND EVERY SITUATION.  It was a “SECRET” in the sense that contentment is something learned by experience and by individual commitment.  No one can be content for you or teach it to you.  It must come from within your heart.  Again, Paul’s contentment was not limited to moments of ease; EACH AND EVERY SITUATION includes all the normal and extraordinary situations he faced.

Isn’t contentment the opposite of ambition?  On the surface, contentment can feel like saying “I don’t need or want any more.  I am fine with what I have/what I am right now.”  On the surface, ambition can feel like a hunger that cannot be satisfied, a dissatisfaction that motivates movement.

To me, it’s more helpful to see these emotional conditions as two ends of a balancing pole.  Wire-walkers sometimes perform with a pole in their hands, using it to achieve balance on the wire.  Similarly, contentment and ambition are two virtues we hold in balance to keep us steady as we make our way through life.  There will be circumstances where we need to be more content and others where more ambition is needed.  God supplies wisdom so we know the difference. Our final note on this passage narrows the issue down for us.

“Is this as good as it gets?”

  1. Yes and no – be content with God’s material provision;

be ambitious for godliness instead (Philippians 3:13-14).

In humility, Paul admitted he hadn’t TAKEN HOLD of all Jesus had done for him.  The phrase TAKEN HOLD means to “seize, grasp the meaning, understand.”

He hadn’t yet been raised to heaven.

He hadn’t been MADE PERFECT (12).

Those things happen on the other side of this life.  And yet, at that moment, Paul had as his ambition to take hold of as much of it as possible on this side of life.

Paul noted two steps in achieving this ambition.

One: FORGETTING WHAT IS BEHIND.  God gave me a series of one-liners to understand and apply this truth:

– Resist the urge to gold-plate the past.  The days behind held their share of sorrows too.

– Resist the urge to hold grudges.

– Forgive and forget the offense, but hold tight to the lessons learned.

– Seek forgiveness from people and God wherever offense and sin is unresolved.

– Reject the devil’s false guilt.

– Love unconditionally, as God has loved you.

– Remember people in the most positive light.

– Sentiment clouds our judgment; best avoid it.

– Discard limitations your past places on you.

Two: STRAINING TOWARD WHAT IS AHEAD.  Imagine the victory, then pour yourself into achieving it under God’s direction.

No amount of effort will change the past.  Some of your efforts may immediately change the present.  Every effort will have an effect on the future.  That fact alone ought to dictate where we devote our attention.

For the believer, Jesus awaits us on the other side of the finish line.  We pour our heart and mind and strength into faithful obedience because we await His welcome on the other side of that line.  If our eyes are on anything other than the finish line, we tend to veer off course and/or slow down.

The Apostle Paul undertook one method in realizing his ambition: I PRESS ON.  The phrase PRESS ON pictures a runner stretching forward to cross the finish line.  The athlete is pouring every last bit of strength into finishing the race; his effort leaves everything on the field of competition.  Nothing needs to be reserved for after the race of life because there is nothing left to be done after this race.

For many of us, life is a marathon, not a sprint.  The effort required to be faithful does not relent until death comes to us.  Quitting is not even an option.  When weariness comes, we may have to change our pace, but we keep moving on toward our heavenly goal.

Paul had one goal in life: TO WIN THE PRIZE FOR WHICH GOD HAS CALLED ME HEAVENWARD IN CHRIST JESUS.  The PRIZE in this case is eternal life; a forever spent in God’s presence and in fellowship with the rest of His people.  We know that because verse eleven ends with a reference to THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD.

There is nothing this world can offer that compares with heaven.   Our problem is not so much having trouble believing that, but our problem is more often remembering that.  We don’t always behave like people who are headed for heaven, do we?  The world can easily distract us and our human nature can easily betray us so we don’t act as heaven-bound folk.  That’s called SIN and we need to avoid it and repent of it when we fail to avoid it.

The parts of us that survive the death of the body are the good and godly things.  Nothing evil or worldly makes it into heaven.  It’s upon us to partner with the Holy Spirit in filling our days with godly words and deeds.

“Is this as good as it gets?”

          A man became envious of his friends because they had larger and more luxurious homes. So he listed his house with a real estate firm, planning to sell it and to purchase a more impressive home. Shortly afterward, as he was reading the classified section of the newspaper, he saw an ad for a house that seemed just right. He promptly called the realtor and said, “A house described in today’s paper is exactly what I’m looking for. I would like to go through it as soon as possible!” The agent asked him several questions about it and then replied, “But sir, that’s your house your describing.”

https://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-illustrations/1126/house-for-sale/

God revealed to Paul that he should be continually ambitious for spiritual maturity but content with the material things God had already provided.  This allowed Paul to be undeterred by circumstances, numbers, or any other material signs of success or failure.  That is a worthy example for us to follow.

Here’s one way we can put this into practice.  The next time you feel compelled to upgrade to the bigger, faster, newer, or prettier version of something we already have, require yourself to make a matching contribution to church or charity.  Doubling the expense will cause you to think twice about buying the item at all and might just simplify your life.

Worth the Wait

patience

<Image retrieved from http://bookboon.com/blog/2017/02/patience-important-soft-skill/.>

Please use your favorite Bible to read Isaiah 30:18-26.  In a momentary departure from the usual, I’ve used the NRSV to prepare my remarks.

Wait for it – God will dispense perfect justice.

Today we’re going to talk about patience.  I am always grateful for the opportunity to TALK about patience but aren’t always as appreciative of the opportunity to practice it.  Patience is a virtue, but not everyone understands it in the same way, as illustrated by the following quotes on the subject of patience.

+ “At my age, patience is not a virtue… it’s a luxury.”  – Erma Bombeck, humorist

+ “You can learn many things from children… how much patience you have for instance.”- Franklin Jones, businessman & humorist

+ “Patience and diligence, like faith, can move mountains. – William Penn

+ “Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead.” – Mac McCleary

+ “I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.” – Edith Sitwell English biographer, critic, novelist & poet

+ “Opportunity knocks but once, but misfortune has much more patience.” – Dr. Laurence J. Peter, educator & writer

+ “Patience is what you have when there are too many witnesses.” – Anonymous

+ “Genius is patience.”  – Sir Isaac Newton

+ “Patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to maintain a good attitude while waiting.”  – Anonymous

An even better understanding of patience can be found in Isaiah 30:18.  It is an unusual verse in that it explains the patience of God and commands His people to follow His example.  There are texts aplenty to be cited to support either of those propositions, but to find both in one verse is, to my knowledge unique.

  1. The general principle: God graciously waits for our repentance; we must patiently wait for His justice (v. 18).

God waits for us to repent; He graciously gives us a lifetime of opportunities because He wants to be merciful.  Mercy tempers JUSTICE.  God is just, but He waits for people to repent and be saved. Justice delayed is not justice denied.  God’s justice will be perfect and universal and complete when it happens.  Peter also explains what seems like a delay in God completing his plan.  (See 2 Peter 2:8-9.) God’s holiness demands justice be completed, so this is a limited time offer.

This prophecy has an immediate and ultimate fulfillment.  The immediate recipients were the people of Judah.   They were to be faithful until He delivered them from Babylon.  The ultimate recipients of this promise are all those who love God and are called according to His purpose.  Judgment Day comes at the end of human history and is the day of ultimate justice.

  1. A specific example: God’s promises to His people (vs. 19-26).

This section explains and expands on the promises of vs. 15-18 by applying the principle to the situation in which the Judahites found themselves.  The people of Judah were captives in a foreign land and they would be for 70 years. It was a situation so far outside our own experience we can’t imagine how lonely and forsaken what that must’ve felt.

But – and this is the important part – God had not forsaken his people.   He made promises to them to motivate their faithful endurance.  We will examine each of them, noting the immediate and ultimate fulfillments we see.

Promise #1 = No more tears (19).  Restored to their homeland, the Jews would have no more reason to WEEP.  This promise fits perfectly with Revelation 21: 4, where God promises to wipe every tear from their eyes.

Promise #2 = God hears and answers prayer (19).  We should never use the expression “unanswered prayer.”  Verses like this assure us God hears and answers them all.  His answer may be “yes,” “no,” or “hold, please,” but those are all answers.  Seventy years is a lifetime to most of us, but even if you have to wait a lifetime, the point is that God responds at just the right time to the cries of His people.

Promise #3 = He sends ADVERSITY and AFFLICTION only for a limited time (20).  BREAD and WATER are the usual fare of prisoners of war.  Isaiah uses them as metaphors of the trials we face in life. The end of the Jews’ Babyloninan trial would be the appearance of their TEACHER (the Messiah).  This was fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming.  For us, the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy is that our trials will end at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Promise #4 = He will guide you (21).  The emphasis here is not on the fact that God would be willing to guide them for that had always been the case.  The emphasis is on the degree of their repentance; they will at last listen and heed God’s guidance.  They will no longer ignore God and thereby wander off the path.

Promise #5 = He will meet your needs (23-25).  The references to RAIN, SEED, GROUND, GRAIN, CATTLE, PASTURES, OXEN, DONKEYS, SILAGE, and RUNNING WATER all sound worldly, like God is offering prosperity in return for loyalty.  It is a mistake to see these verses in such materialistic terms.  Instead, this promise has two less obvious meanings.

One, it is a promise to the Jews that they will be restored to their land.  In Judaism, the land is of central importance.  It was the Promised Land and to be out of it – even for just 70 years – was the worst sign of God’s having forsaken them.  To return to it was a sign of forgiveness.

Two, it is a promise that God would provide all they needed to survive.  Everything from SEED to GRAIN comes from God.  If we think our brains and strength are the means by which we provide for ourselves, we had better stop and remember who gave us brains and strength in the first place.

Promise #6 = In fact, God’s care will be so complete that even the DAY OF SLAUGHTER will not be a thing to be feared (25).  Referring to something like a DAY OF SLAUGHTER and the falling of TOWERS seems out of place, a downbeat in a passage packed with positivity.  Instead, its realism.  In this world there will never be a time of ONLY good news.  Everything is a mix of pleasant and unpleasant, gain and loss, good and bad.

It is a warning, based on fallen human nature:

– Do not take God for granted during the days of prosperity.

– Do not turn to idols and give them the credit for days of ease.

– Do not repeat the sins of the generations that resulted in your current exile, for you will suffer a similarly disastrous outcome.

Promise #7 = Enlightenment (26).  The repeated use of the number seven is not an accidental one; it is a significant number in the Bible, starting with the seven days of creation.  It is a divine number.  Scientifically, I’m not sure that the sun shining with seven-fold intensity would be a good thing.  However, most of us would be happy to have the sun shine seven times more often than it seems to shine.  I think the point is that – along with everything else from SEED to GRAIN – God will provide abundant sunshine to make the crops grow.  This factor is singled out because sunshine is one part of the ag process over which we exercise no control.

Promise #8 = Healing (26).  The LORD is clearly the power behind the throne of Babylon.  Though it was Babylonian soldiers that overran Jerusalem, they achieved victory only because God allowed them to do so.  Just as God allowed his people to be injured and wounded, He will be the means of their healing.  He will personally bind up the hurts of His people.

Look verse twenty-two, for here we find the application of these truths, the human half of this promise-keeping: repentance. Verser twenty-two is clear that repentance involves throwing away your idols.  THEN YOU WILL DEFILE YOUR SILVER-COVERED IDOLS AND YOUR GOLD-PLATED IMAGES.  YOU WILL SCATTER GOLD-PLATED IMAGES.  YOU WILL SCATTER THEM LIKE FILTHY RAGS; YOU WILL SAY TO THEM, “AWAY WITH YOU.”

The references to the idols being plated with precious metals is meant to remind us that idols are things that look precious and important on the outside but are worthless and woody underneath.  Idols are always superficial things that have no lasting value.

Repentance involves rejection of idols.  This is not a casual attitude.  The word RAGS describes the most foul, defiled thing of which the writer could think.  Repentance involves an 1800 turn, hating and casting aside the sinful things we used to worship and adore.

Since most of us do not have silver or gold-covered statues set up on little altars at home, we have to think of “idols” in a more symbolic sense.  We need to think about the things in this life that we love but cause us to sin and worse, occupy the place in our life that God is supposed to take: first place.  Those are the things we have to cast out.

What are the gold-plated idols in your life?  Even good things like Family, friends, church, business, can all be idols.  When you pray, ask God to reveal them to you and be prepared to act on His response.

Strategies for Last Days Living

Please read 2 Peter 3:11-18 in your Bible.  I used the NIV for my research, but there is no compulsory choice.

As if he’d received a diagnosis of terminal cancer, the Apostle Peter dealt with the question, “How would I live if I knew today were my last day?”  In our time, people have answered this question by writing “Bucket Lists.”  It’s become so common we all know that a “Bucket List” is the things you want to do before you “kick the bucket.”

There’s even a website where members can explore over SIX MILLION ideas of things to add to their Bucket List.  You can not only get ideas there, but you can share your own Bucket List items and your experiences crossing them off.

Have you seen the TV commercial where they guy is driving his elderly dog all over, crossing items off the dog’s Bucket List?  Do you remember the product they were selling?  HINT: a dog can’t use it.

Notice that most of the items that make Bucket Lists are possessing worldly items or doing things that excite or please the flesh.  Many are taking advantage of the fact that you won’t be held responsible for some mean-spirited or illegal acts.

How many Bucket Lists have you seen that include something like GROW IN THE GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST?  How about you?  If it became clear your time was drawing to an end, would this make your Bucket List?  Would it be a priority?

REVIEW (See the previous two posts.)

  1. We are called to be Saints among Scoffers (3:1-7).
  2. God’s timing is not your timing (3:8-10).

NEW

  1. Last Days Living (3:11-18).

Number One Last days Living Strategy = Live like it matters (vs. 11-13).  Knowing that this reality will end in fire could just as easily become Nihilism or some other excuse for ungodliness, saying, “The end is near and clear, so it doesn’t matter what I do.”

Peter wants to deny the SCOFFERS this excuse by asking the pertinent question: “Since the end is coming some day, how should we live today?” (11)  And then he immediately answers it; “We should live HOLY AND GODLY LIVES.”

The word HOLY describes a spiritual condition.  It means that my existence is set apart to God.  I no longer live for myself, but for God’s will.  The word GODLY describes a moral condition.  It means that with God’s help I am going to do the right thing with all the days given me.

Peter gave two good reasons for living HOLY AND GODLY LIVES in v. 12.  Firstly, AS YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY OF GOD. The Second Coming of Jesus is an event only His followers will anticipate with relish, because it is the day on which all the promises of God are realized, our faith is vindicated, and we go to our eternal home in new bodies, heavenly versions of our bodies.  Verse thirteen elaborates on this PROMISE God, adding that we have a new HOME to which we can look forward.  It is nothing less than a new reality (a NEW HEAVEN AND EARTH).  It is a place characterized by RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Secondly, in the phrase AND SPEED ITS COMING.  He didn’t need to, but God has chosen to partner with us in bringing about the DAY OF GOD!  We learned last Sunday that the Second Coming was being held back to give everyone every opportunity to repent and be saved.  As you and I participate with God in helping people come to faith, then we move God’s timetable ahead if the people who are going to be saved are saved sooner.  If anyone who claims to follow Christ but has never had the experience of leading someone to Christ, then they have not participated in speeding the Day of the Lord and need to be serious about their claim.

Number Two Last Days Living Strategy = Live blamelessly and biblically (vs. 14-16).  The phrase SO THEN in v. 14 might be paraphrased, “Now that you’re properly motivated, here’s where your part comes in.”  What will be true of people who are headed for heaven is their daily choice to MAKE EVERY EFFORT to live the HOLY AND GODLY LIVES mentioned in verse eleven.

Heaven-bound believers will MAKE EVERY EFFORT to live that way beyond all accusations of falsehood or hypocrisy.  Peter describes this EFFORT in terms of the EFFORT put into our relationships.

SPOTLESS and BLAMELESS refer to our relationships with one another.  We want our moral and spiritual life to give evidence that our claims of faith are true and give form to our witness to those who’ve not yet believed.

AT PEACE WITH HIM refers to our relationship with God, that we have accepted His gift of salvation and been forgiven our sins.

Verse fifteen reminds us of what we learned earlier; the “delay” of the Second Coming is a demonstration of God’s PATIENCE.  As we are the beneficiaries of God’s PATIENCE, it is fitting that we patiently await the fulfillment of all God’s promises.

In verses fifteen and sixteen, Peter supports this teaching by referencing the writings of his fellow Apostle, Paul, noting how the two of them were in agreement on this issue.  This is interesting, because Peter and Paul weren’t always on the same side of issues and Peter had to bear Paul’s rebuke at least once.  What Peter does in these verses is also important because it is Scripture verifying itself as the word of God, His revelation to us in written form.

Peter wants to protect the truth, especially the truth about the Second Coming, from the SCOFFERS.  One way he goes about that is to say, “Paul’s had to deal with his own scoffers and we are both in agreement about this teaching concerning the Second Coming to refute their false teaching that it’s not going to happen or has already happened.”

Number Three Last Days Living Strategy = Live guardedly, growing in Christ (vs. 17+18).  The word THEREFORE warns us that a summary and/or application of the previous teaching is about to occur.  In this case, we’ve been served notice: a WARNING has been given.  Peter warned his readers that this reality and all the people who have – by rejecting God – declared their allegiance to it, will be destroyed by fire.

Part of what makes this teaching so crucial is that it is a warning we all need to hear repeatedly.  Unbelieving people need to hear it so they will repent and be saved.  Believers need to hear it to renew our commitment to follow Jesus in the days we have left.

Peter’s warning is to the people in the church, as indicated by his salutation – DEAR FRIENDS – in verse fourteen.  That church people can be believers and unbelievers may come as a shock to some.  As much as we try to honor the doctrine of regenerate church membership, experience, reason, and Scripture combine to demonstrate that every local church has some degenerate members.

First, he warned the unbelieving church folk (the degenerates) that they need to be on GUARD lest the false teaching of the SCOFFERS cause them to fall away from what otherwise looked like a SECURE POSITION.

Second, he warned the believing church folk (the regenerates) to confirm their true standing in Christ by GROWING IN THE GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.  Science teaches that growth is part of the definition of life; things that are alive grow.  Peter sets forth two signs that we can use to judge whether we are alive in Christ or just faking it.

First, the phrase GROWING IN GRACE means that the temperament and character of a true disciple will be in the process of becoming more like Jesus.  We need to acknowledge that aging and maturing are two different things.  In fact, it may be observed that the majority of people “freeze” at a point of maturity and though they continue to age, they do not mature.

Second, the phrase GROWING IN KNOWLEDGE means that a true disciple is always a learner, always humble about what they know.  Humble people know in their hearts and say aloud that the more they learn, the more they realize they have more to learn.  Humble people acknowledge the biggest “room” in their home is “room for improvement.”

So believers and unbelievers are both being warned, but to different ends.  Peter is NOT warning the believers that they can forfeit their salvation.  Instead, he is giving church folk (both believers and unbelievers) a warning that simply claiming faith is not enough.  A genuine faith is not merely assumed or claimed; it is proven by how we live in these LAST DAYS.  Since God already knows our hearts, we are proving our faith to ourselves and others by the maturing of our character into Christ-likeness.

Believers are NOT given this warning to undermine our confidence in our salvation, but to give us signs we can see on our own, to verify our confidence.  This warning was given to humble us and cast us back on the grace of God and stand on that alone.  In this understanding Peter was again in agreement with Paul, who wrote; SO IF YOU THINK YOU ARE STANDING FIRM, BE CAREFUL THAT YOU DON’T FALL! (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Peter ends this letter giving GLORY to OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, which is the happy task of all His followers and the best use of our LAST DAYS on earth.

In his book, The Quest For Character, Charles Swindoll wrote about a little blue box held in the Library of Congress.  A label on the box reads: CONTENTS OF THE PRESIDENT’S POCKETS ON THE NIGHT OF APRIL 14, 1865.  Here’s what was in Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the night he died:

  • A handkerchief, embroidered “A. Lincoln.”
  • A country boy’s pen knife.
  • A spectacles case repaired with string.
  • A purse containing a $5 bill — in Confederate currency!
  • Some old and worn newspaper clippings.

The clippings were concerned with the great deeds of Abraham Lincoln. One of them reported a speech by John Bright which said Abraham Lincoln was “one of the greatest men of all times.”

John Bright was a British statesman who was quite right in his assessment of Lincoln, but in 1865 many others had a contrary opinion. The President had fierce critics.   It is touchingly pathetic to imagine this great leader seeking comfort from a few newspaper clippings.

<See https://bible.org/illustration/little-blue-box.&gt;

True believers will, like Lincoln, face adversity in this life.  God promised that following Him would be worth it, but He did not promise it would be easy.  Peter faced his SCOFFERS and Paul opposed false teachers in the churches he founded.  Without bowing to opposition or compromising to the world, the promises and the warnings will be held dear by those who are true.  It is worth it.

Timing IS Everything

Please read 2 Peter 3:8-10 in your Bible.  I’ve used the NIV to prepare these remarks.

In a message entitled “Timing is Everything” Rev. Bruce Goettsche wrote, “You have probably heard the phrase many times, ‘timing is everything’. There is a great deal of truth in that statement.

“The difference between a good joke and a bad one is a person’s sense of timing.  An appropriate pause makes a joke . . . an inappropriate pause can kill the same joke.

“Timing is essential when dealing with people. You don’t ask for a raise when business is not going well or when things are tense around the office. You don’t try to correct someone who feels threatened by you. You don’t ask for a favor when someone is under a lot of stress or angry.

“Timing is important in cooking.  The juicy hamburger on the grill is raw meat if cooked for too little time and a clump of charcoal if it is cooked too long.

“Timing is important in your spiritual life as well.  Jesus was very conscious of timing. He lived His life with an acute awareness of God’s timing for His life. The gospel of John records these words of Jesus,

  1. John 2:4 ‘My time has not yet come’
  2. John 7:6 ‘The right time for me has not yet come’
  3. John 7:30; 8:20 ‘His time had not yet come’

“Peter tells us that the second coming of the Christ is a matter of timing. God has not sent Christ back to earth yet because ‘he wants everyone to come to repentance’.  God is waiting until everyone who will come to Christ, does.”

REVIEW

  1. We are called to be Saints among Scoffers (3:1-7).

NEW

  1. God’s timing is not your timing (3:8-10).

God is eternal; we are stuck in the present (8).  This is one of Peter’s rebuttals of the SCOFFERS – a theological one – God relates to time differently than we do.  All discussions of timing – including the arrival of the Second Coming of Jesus – need to account for this.  Peter is referenced Psalms 90:4, which says, FOR A THOUSAND YEARS ARE LIKE A DAY THAT HAS GONE BY, OR LIKE A WATCH IN T NIGHT.

The word “eternal” does not mean an unlimited amount of time; it is not exactly a synonym for the word “forever.”  Instead, “eternal” means timeless.  God is eternal in that He transcends time; He is not affected by the passage of time nor limited to any one time.

In a sense, God is always in the present moment; He exists in all times simultaneously.  We say that God is present in all places simultaneously (“omnipresence”) and we can also say God is present at all times simultaneously (“omnitemporal…?”).

Back to verse eight.  Peter is saying, “These SCOFFERS who accuse God of being late don’t know God.  He is never late because he is always present.”  That’s why Peter urged his readers DO NOT FORGET this important truth.  Because God is who He is, no one can accuse Him of lateness.  So the gap between the promise of the Second Coming and its fulfillment cannot be explained as some failing in God or something lacking in our faith.  Peter offers the true explanation in verse nine.

God is patient; we want it done yesterday (9).  God is neither late nor slow; instead He is PATIENT.  God is neither unwilling nor unable; instead He is giving people opportunity to repent so the Second Coming will be a day of life, not death.  The fact that the Second Coming has not yet happened is not to be misinterpreted as the SCOFFERS have done (AS SOME UNDERSTAND SLOWNESS).  Instead, it is a demonstration of God’s patience. There is a lot of biblical evidence for the patience of God; see Exodus 34:6; Numbers 13:18; Psalm 86:15; Jeremiah 15:15; Romans 2:4; 9:22 as examples.

The reason God shows patience is bound up in His desire to see all people repent and be saved.  The will of God is made clear in this verse; God’s will is for all people to be saved.

However, God is not going to save anyone against their own will.  He has delegated authority to us in the form of free will.  We decide for ourselves whether or not we accept His gracious gift of salvation.  I explain it this way: Salvation is 99% God’s action and 1% our reaction.  However, our 1% is the deciding factor.  With our one percent we either accept God’s salvation in Jesus Christ and have eternal life or we reject it and suffer eternal death.

This means that God cannot be accused of sending anyone to hell; people send themselves by the choice they make.  If God had His way all of us would be saved.  But then that free will thing is toast.

The Lord is coming; the world is ending (10).  Peter issued two warnings to the SCOFFERS.  One, Jesus’ second appearing will be something they won’t see coming while in their present frame of mind: it will surprise them LIKE A THIEF in the night.  Two, it will have a deadly outcome where they are concerned; they will be destroyed with FIRE.

While the Second Coming is something we are to anticipate every day, when it happens it will be without any obvious warning.

We install locks and security systems to guard against thieves, but they don’t call ahead to schedule their appearance at our homes.  Similarly, the SCOFFERS will be surprised at Jesus’ sudden reappearance.  Their decision not to have faith will mean that they did not see this coming.  The expression AS A THIEF is one Peter borrowed from Jesus’ own teaching on this subject (see Luke 12:30, 41).

The phrase DAY OF THE LORD tells us that the Second Coming is a single event that unfolds a series of consequences.  For example, the DAY OF THE LORD is the same event as Judgment Day, as judgment being one of the reasons Jesus will reappear in this way.  Judgment Day is implied in the phrase EVERYTHING DONE IN IT WILL BE LAID BARE.

The other part of this that is hard for the SCOFFERS to wrap their heads around is that reality as we have known it will come to an end.  What is bound by time will be replaced with what is eternal.

THE HEAVENS WILL DISAPPEAR WITH A ROAR is another way of describing the suddenness with which the Second Coming will occur.  Both heaven and earth will come to an end on that day; Peter makes it clear everything will be destroyed by FIRE: THE ELEMENTS WILL BE DESTROYED BY FIRE.  THE ELEMENTS are what we call “atoms” and “molecules,” the basic building blocks of reality.

– In the Bible, FIRE is a symbol of three things.

One, it is a symbol of purification.  Like gold, which is purified by fire, our faith and moral nature are purified by trials and tests (see 1 Peter 1:7).

Two, as the Apostle Paul used it in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15, FIRE is a symbol of judgment.  What is not of God does not survive the fire, revealing its true nature.  On Judgment Day, each person’s life will be LAID BARE, the truth of our decision exposed in the way we have lived our lives.  All that survives the fire will survive in the new, eternal heaven and earth.  What is burned up is destroyed.

Three, fire is a biblical symbol of destruction (see verse eleven).

In a message entitled, “Don’t Blame The Judge,” Tim Smith wrote, “God has done everything He possibly can to keep you out of Hell and still leave you as a person with free will. Some Christians argue otherwise that it is in fact God who sends people to hell. But when a criminal is sent to jail, we don’t blame the judge, do we? We blame the criminal. The judge isn’t responsible because he’s just following the law. It was the criminal who broke the law and that’s why they were sent to jail. Likewise, God is bound by who he is, a holy, loving, righteous and just God and by His decision to give us free will and then not violate it by keeping us from making bad decisions. So it’s not God who sends us to hell but our decisions and the repercussions that we must live with.”

<Retrieved from https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-tim-smith-stories-hell-83766?ref=TextIllustrationSerps on 7/14/17.>

God’s timing is not ours.  Unless we step into Scripture and see things from God’s perspective, we see everything through this very limiting lens of time.  We must understand that things are NOT going to continue forever the way they have been.  Understanding this motivates us to appreciate the urgency of preparing today for an event that will happen tomorrow.  Preparation begins with deciding to accept God’s gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.