Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Daily Bread for Dec 30, Rev 20-22

Today’s readings are Rev 20-22.

In Rev 20, we see the beginning of the thousand-year reign of Christ. The chronology is a little confusing in these chapters. Suffice it to say that there is a wedding and there is a reign. At the end of the reign, which lasts a very long time, perhaps a literal thousand years, perhaps not, there is another battle between the Lamb and Satan. This battle leads to the final defeat of Satan and judgment on all who opposed God.

A new heaven and earth appear. This is the new creation. Bear in mind that much of the language used is symbolic and metaphorical, meant to convey the perfection and holiness of heaven and the presence of the unbridled glory of God. Many pages have been written trying to formalize what John describes in these chapters. Most of it is indescribable. God is not giving John blueprints here. He is revealing His glory.

Once again, God reigns in sovereign authority over all. In the beginning, man fell and was separated from God. Now man is restored to God. The journey back to the garden has been completed by the grace of God, and all things have been made new again. We see a new Jerusalem, this one with no temple, no sun or moon. It is lit by the glory of God with the Son as the lamp. It is a safe, pure and holy place, eternally preserved in its holiness (Rev 20:25-27).

The new city is marked by multiples of twelve. It is 12,000 stadia (presumably, squared). The walls are 144 cubits. There are twelve gates built on twelve foundations, each of the foundations representing one of twelve Apostles, each gate named after one of the twelve tribes. The foundations are a clear allusion to the new church which has been built on a “foundation of the Apostles and prophets” (Eph 2:20). The text does not distinguish which of the twelve Apostles are honored in this fashion. Note that the text does not limit the number of Apostles to twelve. It only says that the foundations of the gates numbered twelve and each bore the name of an Apostle. No mention is made as to who may be included in the twelve.

Laboring over that detail can be an intriguing exercise but would miss the point being made here. Heaven is all about inclusion of all believers to the glory of God. The Bible, which is rapidly coming to a conclusion, is the story of God and His plan to reveal His glory in the redemption of His children. It's not about who's who in heaven.

In the designation of the tribes and the Apostles on the gates in Rev 21 we see a union between the Old Testament and the New. This is symbolic on several levels. It honors the original, faithful Jews who are now united with the new church, all of them occupying the new Jerusalem. It recognizes that they have all been part of God's plan to bring His chosen ones into His presence. It shows that God has been actively working throughout the history of the world. The multiple twelves we see in the walls, gates and dimensions of the city indicate perfection. Trying to determine actual measurements or literalize any of these details would again miss the point John is making. He is portraying a city that is intricately perfect in every way, existing for the glory of God.

Rev 22 depicts the river of life, running through the city. On its banks, we see the tree of life, hidden since Adam and Eve's ejection from the Garden. The curse has been reversed, man is restored to an intimate, eternally secured relationship with God and His blessings are abundant and never-ending.

John ends his book with the encouragement and assurance that Jesus will return soon. Meanwhile, we see a reminder that the Bible is the complete and perfect self-revelation of God and is not to be tampered with, edited or improved upon. Rev 22:20 makes it clear that the Scriptures are the words of Christ. It is fitting that the last verse is a testimony to the grace of God.

It is compelling that the first verse of Genesis tells us, “In the beginning God…” This occurs at the very first moment of human history. Thousands of years later, as those who believe in Him take their first steps into eternity, the Bible ends with “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” The first and last words of the Bible are about our holy, sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, loving, triune God. We would do well to remember that all that lies in between are about Him as well.

God is on the throne, Jesus is at His side and He has brought His children home.

Daily Bread for Dec 29, Rev 17-19

Today’s readings are Rev 17-19.

Rev 17-18 retell and lament the fall of Babylon as a way of symbolizing what is about to happen. Babylon is symbolic of the world system, which has been in place since the fall in the garden. Just as Babylon did at the hand of the Persians, the world system will come to a violent end when Christ returns.

With the battle over and the victory won, worship commences in heaven, as we see in Rev 19 -- intense, loud, joyful, unbridled worship. The Lamb is now on a white horse and is portrayed as an all-powerful, conquering king. The bride is presented to the Lamb. She has "made herself ready," but her beauty has been "granted" to her (Rev 19:8) in the form of righteousness, described symbolically as “fine linen, bright and pure.”

Significantly, the bride is not beautiful in and of herself but derives her beauty from what has been given her by God. This is a lesson in how God relates to His children. Any value the children may have comes directly from their relationship with His only Son. 

The beast, the false prophet and everyone who followed them become dinner for the birds. They are utterly defeated (Rev 19:17-21). Of course, this is not news. It was foretold in Gen 3:15 and has been a consistent theme throughout the Bible. Satan is subject to God’s authority and used for His divine purposes. The devil is a created being. God is the sovereign ruler over all creation.

Daily Bread for Dec 28, Rev 13-16

Today’s readings are Rev 13-16.

Rev 13 speaks of the era between Christ being seated on the throne and His return. Satan (the dragon) wages war on the woman (Israel and the church), during this time. However, the dragon remains subject to the authority of God in all he does (Rev 13:5-7).

Rev 14 is an encouragement to believers, who are blameless, for not aligning themselves with the beast (Rev 14:5). The faithful ones will be rewarded when they are taken up into heaven.

Rev 15-16 describe the seven cups of wrath, which are like the seven trumpets and the seven seals, but far more severe. While the trumpets and seals were used by God to call people to repentance, the cups are the unbridled wrath of God being poured out on those who have rejected Him and embraced the beast.

"The mark of the beast" is mentioned in Rev 16:2. This is another warning that has frequently been misunderstood and misinterpreted. Whatever physical form this mark may take, it will be consciously received in commitment and surrender to the beast. Many fear that using a credit card, a microchip or even things like the Euro can inadvertently bring eternal damnation upon a believer. This simply isn't true. The mark John describes is not just a monetary system. It is the willful, conscious rejection of God while embracing Satan. The mark cannot be inadvertently received. It comes as a decision to follow Satan.

Read these chapters carefully. Notice that the events described are not possibilities nor are they conjecture. They are depicted as having already occurred. While they remain in the future, the outcome of all this battling and war in the heavenly realm has a foregone conclusion. God remains in control of everything throughout. Satan is not God's opposite nor is he God’s equal. He is a created being functioning under the sovereign authority and power of God and will be held accountable for every evil deed he does. This is true of the end times. But, it is true today as well.

Daily Bread for Dec 27, Rev 9-12

Today’s readings are Rev 9-12.

In Rev 9, having blown the trumpets, the angels are the heralds of the living God, pronouncing His judgment on the world. Notice that, as the woes are released, they are subject to God’s authority who limits them as to what they may do. Meanwhile, God’s children are protected from the trial and suffering the woes bring (Rev 9:4).

The first four trumpets affect a part of the world but not all. Judgment is being poured out. Justice is being served. But, there is still time for those who remain to repent and be saved.

God is in sovereign control of all that is occurring. He is orchestrating the events at the end of history with the same precision and power that He has been exercising throughout the Bible from the beginning of Genesis (Rev 10:7-11).

We see God’s accuracy and precision in the measurements prescribed in Rev 11:1-3 which shows us that God is omniscient down to the slightest detail. His omnipotence is on display in Rev 11:4-14).

Rev 12 depicts war in the heavenlies between "the woman" and "the dragon," both of which are symbolic. The woman is a sign of God's goodness and sovereign authority and the dragon a symbol of pure evil. The dragon loses and is ejected from heaven. These signs, whatever earthly counterparts they may or may not represent, are also representative of all spiritual warfare. The battle may be fierce but will be dominated and controlled by the power and presence of God.

Notice that God preserves and protects His people throughout (Rev 12:6, 14). Also, notice that the woman's baby, who is Christ, soundly defeats the dragon once He is seated on the throne. This is a depiction of Christ's ascension into heaven shortly after the resurrection, where He was "seated at the right hand of God." (Eph 1:20). This is not to say that all spiritual battle ceased at that point. But, it certainly guarantees that the outcome has been predetermined.

Daily Bread for Dec 26, Rev 4-8

Today’s readings are Rev 4-8.

Rev 4 sets the stage for heightened suffering for the church at the hand of the world in which they exist. These chapters also portray the coming judgment of the Lamb upon the world and all those who would cause His bride to suffer. God is sovereign over all that happens and is pictured as seated on His throne, surrounded by His divine delegation. The book of judgment is opened by Christ, the only One able to do so, for He is the One who was slain. This is the final judgment that will fall upon those who reject Him. All heaven rejoices and worships Him. He judges those who refuse Him.

Rather than looking at these events as some future occurrence, we should see them as the ongoing process of God refining His church, preparing it for glory.  The suffering and persecution have been happening all along, as has the gradual falling away of some. Yet, God is gracious and "walks among His lampstands" faithful to prepare them for this coming battle and the victory He has already guaranteed His children.

Rev 5 depicts Christ seated at the right hand of God and wielding authority and power. He is the only worthy one and reads from the scroll before opening each of seven seals.
As the seven seals are broken, and the four horsemen are unleashed, notice that it is Christ who is in charge of all.

There are many interpretations of what the seven seals represent and who the horsemen are. Looking at the language seems to suggest the horsemen represent the gamut of human lust gone wild. This runs contrary to what many of us have learned about these symbols. Carefully considered and removed from overly-speculative applications, the idea that they are the four attributes of an unbridled and unholy mankind plays well into the fallen state of the world and the true nature of human beings apart from Christ. If this is true, then Christ, when He begins to open the seals, leaves men to their own devices and the impact it has on the world is disastrous. Once again, this is one interpretation among many. Take a quick overview and see if it rings true to you.

If this is accurate, it lends a new meaning to each of the horses and their riders. The rider on the white horse represents humankind setting itself up as a conquering king, taking the place of God, opposing Him, displaying a lust for conquest and power.

The rider on the red horse represents men battling against themselves, fighting each other for control of that power. Civil war breaks out all over the world as mankind struggles first with God and then with each other.  Peace is taken away.

The rider on the black horse represents the effects of all that war, sorrow, grief and mourning. There is also considerable suffering that follows the wars. Famines and shortages of necessary goods follow, causing more grief and suffering.

The rider on the pale (light green) horse represents disease and death, the aftermath of the famines and shortages. Many die.

The fifth seal is a plea for justice on behalf of those martyred for the sake of Christ. They have been the innocent victims of mankind left to its own self-centered, godless desires. The martyrs cry out and pray. They must wait for their justice, but it will surely come.

The sixth seal is a sign that the end is very near. There is a shaking of the earth, signs in the heavens and mountains crumbling. This may be a description of future events, but it is more probably John telling us the stage has already been set for the final battle. The shaking and the signs have been with us for quite some time as have wars and their rumors. Perhaps there will be an escalation of these things just before the battle. Perhaps not. Either way, John tells us, the church should not despair because we have the promise of heaven. Those who do not believe only have judgment to look forward to. 

Rev 8 begins with the seventh seal and silence. There is an indication that this is the mark of the end of history. Before describing it fully, we hear about the seven trumpets in the hands of seven angels, perhaps representing the prayers of the of the martyrs for justice to be served. The first four angels wreak utter devastation and suffering on those who have rejected the Lamb. This level of tribulation for those who have rebelled against God is terrifying. It was foreshadowed by the violent way Joshua took the promised land and is a somber warning to those who turn their back on the gospel.