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.
I really feel like I should quote one verse from this chapter and then drop the mic. But there is so much more that I want to talk to you about like: Why does Cain always get the short end of the stick in regards to his sacrifice and why wasn’t it accepted. All we read in Genesis is that for Cain and his offering the Lord had no regard. We don’t know why, we don’t know what it was about his offering that was displeasing to the Lord. But here in I John we read that he is from the evil one. Okay, I understand why he said that because he is talking about faith and action. How can a murderer have faith? So, of course Cain is from the evil one because he was a murderer. But wait, so was Paul! Paul killed Christians before he knew the Lord and he was able to be redeemed. How did I get into a discussion about capital punishment here? If Paul had been put to death for his murderous actions we would not have the churches which we have today. Capital punishment simply cannot be justified by any Scriptural arguments. It simply doesn’t work for Christians.
Here is some image from Tintoretto who is an artist that I really appreciate.
I still haven’t given you the drop the mic verse:
Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action
We can’t really read these verses without having the Gospel of John, chapter 13:34 in front of us. Here Jesus is with his disciples at the last supper and he gives them a “new commandment” (or in the Latin mandatum novum from which we get Maundy Thursday). The new commandment that he gives in the Gospel of John is that “you would love one another”. This really doesn’t sound like rocket science. Well, it isn’t rocket science. It is a new commandment which Jesus insists that his disciples not just hear but actually obey and put into practice.
Now to I John II, he tells the readers in vs.10 that we should love our brothers and our sisters. Now, take note that Jesus actually goes a step further. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5: 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”
The author then makes a random transition from teaching us a new commandment, to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, to warning us about the anti-Christ. At the end of this warning we are reminded to abide in Christ. Again, this is another referral back to the Gospel of John where Jesus tells us in John 15:4ff that we are to abide in him just as he abides in the Father. It is a great second chapter which reminds us of the very many important lessons that Jesus has taught us.
There isn’t much of an introduction to I John. It is believed to be written by the same person who wrote the Gospel of John and who wrote Revelation. So, this person is the beloved disciple, John. The author does not self identify in this book, but does so in II John and III John. This is a book of the Bible that often gets confused with the Gospel of John. In fact, if you read John 1 and I John 1 you will see some similarities as we talk about light and darkness, as we talk about the life that came into this world. There are a lot of commonalities so it is not strange to say that this was written by the same person who wrote the Gospel of John.
A primary memory verse for this chapter is vs.8 which reminds us that we all sin and anyone who says they do not sin, is a liar. That is pretty harsh but those are not my words, even though I agree with them. Saying that we all sin also should not serve as a justification for sin. The fact that we have sinned leads us to believe only that we are in need of a redeemer. I John gets to that in vs.9 where we read one of the greatest assurances of pardon that we know of: “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Another great memory phrase, just a portion of a verses, is seen in vs. 5 where we read that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. What a great reminder that God is the giver of all good and perfect gifts (James 1:17) and that God will certainly make sure that all things work for good for those who trust in the Lord. God is light, and there is no darkness in Him. God is good all the time…All the time, God is good.