So if you find yourself in a situation where you are beaten down on a daily basis you need to hear some encouragement and you need to hear that you will one day win. Revelation is a letter written to a fledgling Christian community that one day they will win. That victory may not take place during their life or on this earth, but one day they will win.
A scroll and its seal normally means that there is a message from the ruler and only certain people are able to read that message because the seal with which it is sealed can only be opened by the person to whom it was addressed. God is the ruler in Revelation 5 and the message that God has written is one that speaks of His victory. The only person who is worthy to open the scroll and to tell about the victory is God himself. The only person who is worthy to recount how we have won the battle is the one who won the battle for us. That would be Jesus.
John was sad because no one on earth was worthy to open the scroll. Isn’t that always the case? We are no worthy, only God is worthy and only God can give us insight into what he has planned next. So while the scroll is not opened in this chapter, this chapter does present to us the fact that only one is worthy to open the scroll. Only one is able to relay to us the victory that is to take place. That is Jesus.
The living creatures that we read about in vss.6-7 have been used by art history to depict the four evangelists and they are seen within cathedrals in their domes as well. Here are some depictions of them.
You can see the four Gospel writers in the four corners in the circles and they are each depicted with one of the metaphorical attributes that we find listed here in Revelation. This is above the Baldacchino in St. Peters in the cupola of the cathedral. I love how cathedrals such as these have the Gospels depicted so prominently within their structure to remind us that the Word of God needs to be that upon which we focus when we find ourselves within the church.
If you can wade through the metaphors and the creatures you will find a depiction of the final judgment where God is on the throne and the 12 tribes and the 12 disciples are represented to depict both the Old and the New covenant that was established by God with his people. We also see the rainbow which was a sign of a covenant that God made with his people as well. Don’t be intimidated by the various other-wordly references, just focus on the presence of the Lord who is worthy to be praised.
While this chapter contains one of the most used and most well known verses in all of Revelation, the letters to the churches remain very consistent. Go ahead and turn to verses 15-16 where we read John say: “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold not hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” These verses have always been taken to apply to us so that we would increase our fervor in respect to our faith. We can’t just cruise along and coast and hope and think that all things are copacetic.
What would a letter to the church in Strasburg sound like?
And to the angel of the church in Strasburg write: I know your works and I hold you close to my heart. For many years you have followed the desires of the Lord even in the midst of struggles and challenges. You have been faithful in many things, yet I have this against you. There have been times of dissension and separation, but those times are behind you now. Put those experiences to rest and focus on the good that the Lord is doing in you midst. There is much that the Lord is doing, rejoice and be glad in it.
To those who would want to focus on anger directed to a false loyalty to a piece of cloth, or to those who would want to be divided by political factions and issues that God’s Word does not address, I say that they will pursue these issues and not find any joy in life. Find joy and purpose on those things that Jesus spoke about and taught. Find joy and purpose in feeding the hungry, caring for the widow and the orphan. Find joy in uplifting the downtrodden and comforting those who mourn. The more we try to find joy in those areas where Jesus taught us to focus on, the more we will find the kingdom of God. Listen to what the spirit is saying to the church in Strasburg.
Here we find letters written by John to the seven churches which were scattered around the region. Find below where the churches were located.
They were in a small geographic area, but all were well within the reaches of the Roman Empire. So, these letters were all written with the intent of encouraging the community, but also pointing out factual defects which each community suffered due either to its geography or its actions. John wants the churches to remain faithful, but it is so difficult for them to do so in a context where people are suspicious if they do not worship the emperor. It sure reminds me a lot of what Soviet Russia used to be like.
I just like this song and it is called Revelation Song so…, I put it on this blog. Here we are, in Revelation. It is probably one of the most misunderstood books of the Bible. If I were to say to you that the Eagles were crushed by the Cowboys and I put it on a piece of paper I’m guessing you all would understand what I was saying. Wishful thinking at this point, but you would understand what I was saying.
What if a thousand years from now someone found this piece of paper and tried to interpret what I was trying to say to my church. They could take that statement a thousand figurative ways while never realizing that we are talking about American Football. Someone a thousand years from now could also see it as predictive and say: one day a group of cowboys will come upon the earth and slay all of the eagles that are present on the earth.
Well, this is what we see happening in Revelation. We have lost so much of the meaning of what the first century author was trying to tell to us. First of all, the author was John, the very same as the one who wrote the Gospel of John, the very same that we think wrote the letters I, II, and III John. We think that he has been banished to the island of Patmos, not the isle of tickling which you find in the video below.
John is writing from this island to a community of believers who had as their number one enemy the Roman Empire (the beast). As a result believers are being killed and tortured and so those who at one time called themselves believers were turning away from the faith. John’s message is simple: Do not compromise. To the one who perseveres and makes it through, they will receive a prize in heaven which is unimaginable. As you read through this book of the Bible think of this theme throughout. Do not compromise.
Now to chapter 1. Probably enough for today, just focus on the fact that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. Jesus is the beginning and the end.
I want to begin looking at this book of the Bible, a single chapter, by starting at the end of the chapter. What you find from vss. 24-25 is a benediction which many people see as a classic benediction. Read it again and see yourself at the end of a service being ready to be sent out into the world to do your thing.
There are some issues when we talk about Jude and its authorship and its canonical status. Okay, what am I talking about? Jude is self-described as the brother of James. We know pretty much for sure that he is not the brother of James, the brother of Jesus. It must be another James, and people think it is someone called James the Just who was a well-known Christian in the 1st century. Another reason why it is a problematic book is that the author, Jude, refers to this guy named Enoch in vs.14 and following and basically quotes from a book which is called apocryphal and not part of the Bible.
So, what is the apocrypha? It is a series of books that were not considered as part of the Bible, which is the term canonical, and were written in the early church and used for reference. It would be similar to letters and books written about God but not considered by the early church as being parts of the Bible. The book of Enoch was one of those books. It was a book written early in the history of the church, but it was not considered part of the Bible.
This is the shortest book in the New Testament. The author speaks about judgment day and how it will be unkind to quite a few people. He writes to make sure that the readers are aware of the false teachings that are circulating, specifically dealing with those who have stepped away from the faith. Next stop, Revelation!
If you look at vs.2 you will see the reference to it being well with my soul. I love this song and not just because my daughter sings it with such passion and it brings a tear to my eyes almost every time we sing it. It also reflects what John is saying to his community. No matter what is happening in our life and in our world. It is well with our soul.
Paul calls a couple people out by name, one in a negative way and one in a positive way. Diotrephes takes part in ministry just to build himself up. Demetrius works for the church and the people of the church. John wraps up this third letter by telling the church that he can’t wait to see them face to face.
This isn’t the end of John, we hear from him again in Revelation. I can’t wait!
It is interesting that we find here in II John, and it is only one chapter, a very direct theological statement geared to speaking against a group of people called the gnostics. The gnostics didn’t believe that Jesus had actually come in the flesh. They didn’t believe that God could actually become a human. If you pick up this reading at vs. 7 we read a condemnation of those who don’t believe that Jesus is God in the flesh.
So today we have a number of heresies that people preach. There is the heresy of the prosperity Gospel where a preacher will say that God will bless you abundantly only if you give the church money in abundance. There is the heresy of legalism which states that we have to earn our salvation through certain works. The list can continue. There is also a common heresy even today which follows along with what John is addressing. Some want to differentiate God from Jesus. Jesus was a good teacher, a great human. God is God, how can Jesus be God? Jesus is God. There is no distinction. Jesus is God in the flesh.
There really is no wiggle room in debating the divinity of Christ. Jesus is divine. John was dealing with people who did not believe that Jesus was divine. I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.
You may wonder why John wrote these letters. He answers this question very clearly in vs. 13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” So, we know that John is writing to believers. He is writing to that community who profess Jesus as the Lord and Savior. He is writing to believers so that they would be assured that they have eternal life. Do you ever wonder if you will have eternal life? This verse assures us beyond a shadow of a doubt that we will have eternal life.
But there is more in this chapter. We read that those who are children of God do not sin. Wait, what? I sin, am I not a child of God? It seems like John says that. We should be used to this author making statements that stake a post in the ground and require that others measure themselves against that statement. I find myself falling short of that statement. And yet at the same time I know that I am a child of God and that God has forgiven me of that sin. I know that I have the Son and so as a result I have life. I praise God for that.
He ends this chapter and this letter by encouraging us to keep away from idols. Idols, those things which take the place of God in our lives. Those things that provide a barrier between us and God. Anything can do that, anything can be an idol. Just be aware of what is putting a barrier between you and God. Once you have identified it then you have identified an idol in your life.
Okay, so it isn’t Chris Tomlin, but it is probably a camp song that we all grew up singing and it is from the Scripture that is found on Day 51 of the 90 Day Challenge. I haven’t taken the time to thank you for faithfully following your Scripture and reading along on the challenge. It is a blessing to me to be able to be in the Word daily and know that when I reflect on it there are others that are doing the same. Praise God for that.
So, besides a classic camp song, this Scripture has spawned a real challenge to all of us to love one another because we know that the source of this love is God. One of the most telling lines of this Scripture is where we hear in vs. 10 that the real sign of love is not that we love, but rather that God has loved us. Us loving God is easy. He is perfect, he created us, he redeemed us, he has done everything and then some for us. God loving us…well, not so easy. Even while we were yet sinners…he still loves us.
Then there is vs.18 one of the most quoted Scriptures that I use these days. Have you noticed how our country has changed since 9-11? We have become a country of fear. We make decisions based on fear. Our presidents make decisions based on fear. We make policies based on fear. If we were able to truly love then we would not fear. I know, you say that the Bible was not written to address politics. I tell you that it absolutely was. Jesus stood up to the most powerful nation in the world. Yeah, you tell me, but he was crucified. But in that crucifixion he conquered death and gave us not only eternal life, but a way to live here on this earth.
We have to not allow fear dictate our lives. If perfect love casts out all fear, and I believe it does, then we have to cast it out and live our lives based upon the promises and the hope that Jesus instills within us. I think we have a long way to go to reach that goal.