The Book of Revelation Revisited 4 – Seven Seals

The apostle John has just been spiritually transported to God’s heavenly throne room, where He is able to look upon our Creator. This is a major shifting point in the relationship between God and man, because heretofore, no one was allowed to look upon His face except His Son. (Ex. 33:20; Jn. 6:46.)

However, the glory of God’s countenance is so overwhelmingly magnificent that John cannot describe it other than as a stunning rainbow, emitting from incomparable jewels, with accompanying flashes of lightning and peals of thunder. (Rv. 4:3 & 5.) Surrounding God’s throne was 24 other thrones, occupied by 24 ‘church elders’ – consisting of the 12 apostles of Jesus and representatives for the 12 tribes of Israel. The elders were prostrate before Christ in worship, bringing forth the prayers of the saints. for His consideration. (Rv. 4:10, 11.)

John also sees the ‘seven Spirits of God, representing the Holy Spirit in His complete fullness.

Then, the apostle shifts his gaze to God’s right hand:

And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals?” Rv. 5:1, 2. NKJV

The scroll contains God’s final plan for redemption – the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is written on both sides and sealed, denoting its completeness. There will be no further additions.

To John’s amazement and relief, the ‘one who is worthy’ turns out to be the ‘Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David – Jesus Christ who takes the scroll in the presence of the elders and of angels who worship Him:

“You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God, and we shall reign on the earth.” Rv. 5:9, 10. NKJV

We see then that only the Son of God is worthy to carry out His Father’s plan for salvation. Christ is presented here as a ‘lion’ (especially to those who rejected Him), and as a ‘lamb’ (to those who have invited Him in their hearts. John further describes Jesus as having the appearance of a lamb who has been slain (to represent His death and resurrection); and having 7 horns and 7 eyes – symbolizing His divine power and complete amalgamation with the Holy Spirit.

Next, Jesus calls John to witness an overview of the nature of events which will unfold during the seven-year tribulation period. Jesus begins by opening the first four seals, which reveal the symbolic ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse. The first rider is interpreted by some to be the Antichrist (counterfeit christ), who is loosed upon the earth at the beginning of the tribulation.

The apostle Paul had also prophesied about this event:

…that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God… 2 Thess. 2:3, 4. NKJV

The ‘Day’ is the day of God’s wrath.

The second rider represents war – interpreted by some as a personification of a great ‘army from the north,’ said to be a coalition from countries that comprised the old Soviet Union and those populated by Islamic radicals.

The third rider signifies famine, and the fourth symbolic of death and disease.

When Jesus opens the fifth seal, John sees a vision of all who have been martyred for Christ, pleading for justice; but they are told to be patient a bit longer, so that our merciful God can use a little more time to gather in anyone who may yet choose Him.

The opening of the sixth seal reveals a preview of severe cosmological disturbances that will manifest when Christ returns to the earth.

Before the seventh seal is opened, we are privy to the first of three ‘interludes’ in heaven, where we can see the disposition of the saints during the various phases of John’s visions:

Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice…”Do not harm the earth, the sea or the trees till we have sealed the servants of God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed. 7:2 – 4. NKJV

What follows in a list of the 12 Jewish tribes of 12,000 each – all of which have been sealed by the angels. The ‘seal’ is the name of the Lamb and of God – the seal of salvation. (Rv. 14:1) Some interpreters see the 144,000 as a symbolic number of Jews who come to the realization the Christ is the Messiah, after they witness the rapture of the church of Christ, and watch God defeat the enemies of Israel in the final battle. Thus, like the church of Christ, the Jews are sealed as well. (Rm. 11:26)

John’s vision of the ‘interlude’ continues as he sees the appearance of an innumerable multitude of people from all over the world, dressed in white robes and worshiping the Lamb of God. (Rv. 7:9, 10.) One of the ‘elders’ explains who they are:

“These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore or thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Rv. 7:14 – 17. NKJV

Some interpret the multitude to be Gentiles from around the world that witness the rapture of the church, the defeat of Israel’s enemies by God, and the salvation of the Jews. In the face of all this, they too decide to embrace Christ. (Zech. 8:23)

This interpretation then, calls for an additional rapture, which occurs at mid-tribulation. It is another loving example of God’s mercy – giving His children a final chance to come to Him.

John’s vision shifts earthward to see how the inhabitants are faring at this time, and then it returns to Jehovah’ s throne room as Jesus opens the last of the seven seals:

When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of the saints on the golden alter which was before the throne. Rv. 8:1 – 3. NASB

Then the angel took the censor, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. Rv. 8:5, 6. NKJV

The seventh seal reveals the ‘judgments of the trumpets,’ which herald the coming of the cataclysmic events of the tribulations. From this scripture, we can take comfort in knowing that the prayers of the saints are ever-present before God’s throne.

The censer that the angel threw to the earth contains the prayers of the saints calling for justice to be served upon their persecutors. God is answering them through His imminent judgments on the ungodly.

Next time…

Goodnight and God bless.

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The Book of Revelation Revisited 3 – Introduction to the Rapture

Immediately after the apostle John receives the messages for the seven churches in Asia, Jesus calls him up in the spirit, to the very throne room of God in heaven:

…I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a [war] trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” Rv. 4:1 AMP

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. Rv. 4:2 NKJV

We see then that Revelation is now shifting its perspective to both a heavenward locale and towards future events.

This is one of the major scriptures cited as being symbolic of a ‘rapture’ of the church, whisking it away from the time of the ‘tribulations’ (God’s judgments of wrath), which lie in store for those on earth who have rejected Him. The word ‘rapture’ is not found in the Bible. The first description of this concept has been attributed to an evangelist in the early 1800s, who preached it.

“Rapture’ as it is used in biblical schools of thought, means to be ‘caught up’ or taken away,’ referring to when it is believed that Jesus will return and take God’s children out of harm’s way during the tribulations. How and when this rapture occurs, or not, depends upon who is doing the interpreting. The concept has been formulated from various scriptures. One is drawn from what Jesus said:

“…watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Lk. 21:34 – 36. ESV

Another is from the Holy Spirit-inspired apostle Paul:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the LORD.  1 Thess. 4:16, 17. NKJV

So, Jesus comes and gathers all of God’s children (both dead and alive) and swoops them up to heaven. Why does He do that?

For God has not destined us to [incur His] wrath [that is, He did not select us to condemn us], but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ… 1 Thess. 5:9 AMP

Listen very carefully, I tell you a mystery [a secret truth decreed by God and previously hidden but now revealed]; we will not all sleep [in death], but we will all be [completely] changed [wondrously transformed]… 1 Cor. 15:51 AMP

Returning to the Revelation narrative, Jesus said this to the faithful church (of Philadelphia) in His previous address to the seven churches in Asia:

Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Rv. 3:10 NKJV

I understand this to mean that the children of God will not suffer the trials because we won’t be living on the earth.

There are three different interpretations regarding when this ‘rapture’ will take place. The first says that Rv. 4:1 – 2 (above) means that it will happen as a hidden event prior to Jesus’ globally public ‘second coming.’ The second interpretation is borne out by those who refer to Dan. 7:25, which they take to mean that the rapture will occur at the midway point of the 7-year tribulation period. Finally, there are others who look at another scripture spoken by Jesus, and believe it to mean that the rapture will occur after the tribulations are complete:

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give up its light; the stars will fall from heaven and the power of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all of the tribes of the earth will mourn, and see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one heaven to the other. Mt. 24:29 – 31. NKJV

The important thing to understand, is that these are the best interpretations of the Holy Spirit – induced scriptures that man has to offer. What we can know with certainty, is that God will indeed rescue His children, through Christ, as some specific point in time and separate them from the stiff-necked unbelievers, whose outcome is thankfully not ours…

Goodnight and God bless.

The Book of Revelation Revisited – 2

The apostle John begins describing the events of Revelation from Holy Spirit-inspired visions that he received while banished on the island of Patmos, by the Romans, for preaching the gospel.

The first vision shows Jesus as He appears today:

Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair where white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like brass, as is refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. Rv. 1:12 – 16. NKJV

The white hair denotes the wisdom of His Father (Dan. 7:9), the flaming eyes suggest Christ’s omniscience, the feet of brass His omnipotence, the voice of many waters represents His power and authority to speak for God (Ezek. 1:24), and the two-edged sword symbolizes the power of the word of God to seek out the truth. (Heb. 4:12)

Jesus then tells John that He has conquered death and is victorious over the devil. He also explains the symbols in John’s vision that we saw last time (Rv. 1:17 – 20.): the stars being the angels of the seven churches, and the lamp stands the churches themselves.

Next, Jesus gives John the messages for the seven churches – which ultimately are messages for church congregants everywhere, as each church is a reflection of them:

Jesus said that the first church was ritualistic – coming off as a rigid religion, rather than a place of love, where He can be found. His remedy is to return to our initial love and zeal for Him, keeping Him as our center focus. In addition, to repent of all behavior that has diminished that focus. (Rv. 2:1-5.)

It is easy to let our faith-related activities fall into thoughtless robotic habits. We need ‘daily dips’ in God’s word to remind us of the infinite love that the Father and the Son has for us.

The second church is living in material poverty. Christ acknowledges that, but He tells them that their greater rewards come from their spiritual abundance. He also recognizes their suffering from persecution by Satan-inspired detractors of the gospel in the world. Jesus tells them that if they will remain steadfast in opposition in the world’s ways, they will be rewarded with eternal life.  (Rv. 2:8 – 11.)

Not everyone is blessed with material abundance. As long as your lot in life is not due to sloth, you can seek God, knowing that you’ve tried your best, and He will provide what you need. (Mt. 6:25 & 33.) Remember too that the closer you get to God, the more you’ll be attacked by the devil’s minions; but Christ has got your back. (1 Jn. 4:4)

Jesus condemns the third church for polluting their doctrine with worldly behavior and false religion – commanding them to exercise immediate repentance. (Rv. 2:12 – 16.)

The only doctrine that belongs in the church is the Bible. The emphasis on the immediacy of repentance is because you don’t want to be caught up in unrepentant sin when you die or when Jesus returns, because at that point in time, salvation is no longer available.

The fourth church is filled with love, faith and service, but has allowed a satanic false prophet into their assembly. Jesus demands immediate repentance and a full-faith return to Him and His gospel. (Rv. 2:18 – 25.)

You know when there is a fox in the henhouse. It’s when anyone is teaching anything contrary to scripture. They must be uprooted.

The fifth church had lost the presence of the Spirit because of their ho-hum approach of doing church.  Jesus called it a ‘dead’ church. He speaks the remedy, which consists of repenting, returning to the Truth, and then living it out. (Rv. 3:1 – 4.)

Christ speaks only praise for the sixth church – encouraging them to continue on their faithful path, even in the face of persecution, because He will be by their side. (Rv. 3:7 – 11.)

Conversely, Jesus had nothing good to say about the seventh church. It was a place of ‘lukewarm’ parishioners with no spiritual conviction and a misplaced focus on material things. (Rv. 3:15 – 17.)  Yet even with this church, Jesus offered encouragement:

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” Rv. 3:18 NKJV

Jesus loves you so much. He cares so much, that if you mess up, He’s going to bust your chops to try to nudge you back onto the right path.

The bottom line with respect to these seven messages, is that Jesus is guiding us in how to build a stronger church by being stronger Christians. We do that by patiently enduring our trials as we wait for His return, using good discernment to separate ourselves from the ungodly, emulate Jesus, keep Christ as the center of all that we think or do, keep the undefiled word of God in our hearts, be zealous for God and His Son, carry the gospel to as many as we can, and repent when we slip and fall.

Our God is a forgiving God – that’s why He sent His Son.

That’s the making of a strong church…

Goodnight and God Bless.

The Book of Revelation Revisited

I’m revisiting the last book of the Bible, The Book of Revelation or The Revelation of Jesus Christ, because four years have passed since I last posted a related series called ‘How the World Ends as We Know It.’ I believe the book should be read annually to reset our focus, fill us with clear knowledge, and build up our faith in the marvelous promises that God will fulfill for His children at the end of time.

I will do my best to render a concise and succinct exploration, which hopefully, will not be near as voluminous as the first 13-part series…

The contents of the Revelation of Jesus Christ were revealed to the apostle John by Jesus Himself. The word ‘Revelation’ here, is translated from the Greek apocalypsis, meaning ‘the unveiling of things previously hidden.’ It’s a study of eschatology, i.e. of the ‘end times’ – the time between the first and the second coming of Christ.

Revelation serves to reveal the great battle between the good and the evil spirits in heaven; and it is also the last evangelical appeal in the Bible to reach out to unbelievers, so that they might latch onto their own salvation before it’s too late.

There are horrific scenes of how things play out for the unbelievers; but for the children of God, the book is meant to be a blessing of comfort, as we are given a vivid picture of our heavenly redemption.

John begins by telling us that Jesus directly relayed John’s revelations from God, and then he says that every word will come to pass. (Rv. 1:1 – 3.) John then shares the divine imperative that he receives at the outset:

John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Rv. 1:4 – 7. NKJV

John then, has been divinely directed to share Jesus’ revelations to the ‘seven churches in Asia.’ These particular seven were singled out because they represented in total, the broad examples of congregant behavior within each, (which still applies to today’s church), that either brought a blessing or a curse upon the church.

We see that the churches are being greeted by the Godhead: Jehovah God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is described as the ‘faithful witness’ because He continually delivered (and stayed true to) the testimony of His Father. Christ is also described as the ‘firstborn of the dead’ because He was the first to die and then be resurrected to eternal life. Finally, John refers to Jesus as the ‘ruler over all the kings on the earth. Indeed, Jesus’ name is above all names. (Phil 2:9, 10.)

Notice too, John points out that the Son of God already loves us, already washed our sins away, and has already made us kingdom priests for His Father – wherein we now hold the same high honor as the children of Israel. (Ex. 19:6)

Finally, we see that every eye will recognize Jesus’ return simultaneously, even those who crucified Him – physically or mentally. And all who had heard of His salvation and denied it, will mourn.

Next, the apostle shares a direct meeting from God Himself:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rv. 1:8 NASB

God is asserting His authority as the author and creator of all things – declaring that what is about to be revealed is by His own hand, and that it will come to pass. ‘Alpha’ and ‘Omega’ is Greek for the ‘beginning and the end,’ meaning that all things began with God, and that He will determine their final fate at the end of time.

The stage is set to begin…

Goodnight and God bless.

All God’s Children Are Preachers

Or they should be. We have all received Christ’s Great Commission:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words]…” Mt. 28:19 AMP

Fortunately, God never leaves us at a loss. He sent the Holy Spirit to the apostle Paul so that he could teach his disciple Timothy how to lead the church. And knowing how to be a church leader is something all God’s children should learn, because we are all walking, talking and acting ambassadors of the church of Christ.

So, we come from the same place Jesus came from, when we represent Him – from love and faithfulness:

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Tim. 1:5 ESV

And before we get too far into the how of our commission, we must ground ourselves into the why:

…God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time… 1 Tim. 2:3 – 6. NKJV

Our Creator wants everyone to be saved; and the only way for that to happen, is for all to be led into a personal relation with God through Christ. So, we must testify:

And great, we confess, is the mystery [the hidden truth] of godliness: He (Jesus Christ) who was revealed in human flesh, was justified and vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. 1 Tim. 3:16 AMP

We have to ‘train’ for our mission, separating ourselves from the ways of the world, and walk by the spirit. Godly behavior is a reflection of our faith in God’s word, which locks us into His kingdom. We stay strong by staying in His word; and we’ll need that strength when we come up against ungodly resistance:

Have nothing to do with irrelevant, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness…for godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for that life to come. 1 Tim. 4:7, 8. ESV

For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 1 Tim. 4:10 NKJV

Let’s return to seeing how we attend to our ‘commission’:

…pursue righteous, godliness, faith, love, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life, to which you were also called… 1 Tim. 6:11, 12. NKJV

…keep the commandment unstained and free of reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ… 1 Tim. 6:14 ESV

Paul wrote a similar command to his disciple Titus, with regards to the self-conduct needed to confess God’s word:

He must hold firmly to the trustworthy word [of God] as it was taught to him, so that he will be able both to give accurate instruction in sound [reliable, error-free] doctrine and to refute those who contradict [it by explaining their error]. Titus 1:9 AMP

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned…so that everything may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. Titus 2:7, 8 & 10. ESV

Okay. We’re out there ready to spread the word. What is our leading message?

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify of Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11 – 14. NKJV

…when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4 – 7. NKJV

Returning to Paul’s message to Timothy, we see how God equips us for spreading His salvation message:

For God has not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Tim. 1:7 NKJV

We are meant to use that power to deliver the message, keeping it pure, and teach others to spread the word as well:

By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us guard the good deposit entrusted to you. 2 Tim. 1:14 ESV

…be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Tim. 2:1, 2. NKJV

Again, all of this requires that we stay in the word of God:

Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, correctly handling and skillfully teaching the word of Truth. 2 Tim. 2:15 AMP

Remember though, do not let your knowledge puff you up, but rather stay humble in the task that you have been entrusted with. You are saving lives, as you tell the good news with gentleness – disarming the hearer with love:

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Tim. 2:24 – 26. NKJV

Paul is saying  that we need to be intimately familiar with the accurate meanings of God’s word (via the Holy Spirit), so that we are always prepared to engage in communication that is rich in salvation for the ears of the recipient. And to be the most effective, the speaker must be one who has separated him or herself from the ways of the world.

Finally, Paul sends us on our way, reminding us that time is of the essence:

…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and understanding. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching…As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Tim. 4:2, 3 & 5. ESV

God wants all His children out soldiering for His kingdom, gathering souls for their salvation – while there are still people willing to receive His message.

That is the greatest love we can show to others, presenting them with a chance to latch onto endless love. Whether they accept it or not is entirely up to them. We can tell Jesus that we did our part.

You’re equipped, you’re ready – get on out there!

Goodnight and God bless.

How BIG is Your Jesus?

For He has rescued us and has drawn us to Himself from the dominion of darkness, and has transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption [because of His sacrifice, resulting in the forgiveness of our sins [and the cancellation of sin’s penalty]. Col. 1:13, 14. AMP

He is mighty BiG.

It is the blood of Jesus that broke Satan’s hold over us – granting us amnesty from our old worldly selves, and it ushers us into Christ’s kingdom.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. Col. 1:15 – 17. NKJV

Jesus is the animated essence of God, drawn into existence before time or space began, to become God’s creative force for the entire universe – both material and spiritual. All things were made for Jesus, He has dominion over them and their very existence is dependent upon Him.

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn of the dead, that in all things He may have preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. Col. 1:18 – 20. NKJV

(There were others who were raised from the dead, by the Old Testament prophets and by Jesus Himself, but they all eventually went on to die again. Jesus was the first to be resurrected to eternal life.)

Jesus is the centerpiece and the ultimate authority of the church. He is the reflection of the will of God, and the instrument of our reconciliation with our Creator. Our BIG Jesus is still at work today – cleansing us to make ourselves presentable before God. Our part is to remain in faith:

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight – if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard… Col. 1:21 – 23. NKJV

It is imperative as God’s children, to convey to as many as we can, the bigness of our Savior and His salvation – because there is no salvation at the end of time for those who hear our message and reject it.

As for ourselves, we must walk as Christ walked to the best of our ability and turn aside from the lies in the world:

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith… Col. 2:6, 7. NKJV

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Col. 2:8 ESV

We can do this by keeping our focus on His bigness, and He in turn, passes some of that to our spirit:

For in Him all the fullness of Deity (the Godhead) dwells in bodily form [completely expressing the divine essence of God]. And in Him you have been made complete [achieving spiritual stature through Christ], and He is the head of all rule and authority [of every angelic and earthly power]. Col. 2:9, 10. AMP

Therefore if you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, sharing in His resurrection from the dead], keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Col. 3:1 AMP

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory. Col. 3:3, 4. ESV

So, walk BIG for your BIG Jesus. You are the expert on God and His salvation through Christ. You are a facilitator of God’s salvation – a purveyor of His word. Express the BIGNESS…

Goodnight and God Bless.

Making Spiritual Progress

We make spiritual progress only because God within us is doing the work:

…He who began a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return]. Phil. 1:6 AMP

God wraps His arms around you and never lets go. All the while, He’s working within you, bringing you to spiritual perfection – preparing you for your Christ-deliverance into eternity.

We help God maximize that work when we embrace His path to the best of our ability:

…that your love may abound more and more [displaying itself in greater depth] in real knowledge and practical insight, so that you may surely learn to recognize and treasure what is excellent [identifying the best, and distinguishing moral differences], and that you may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ [actually living lives that lead others away from sin]… Phil. 1:9, 10. AMP

It sounds like a monumental task, but it really isn’t. If you continue searching the word of God and live out His commandments, the Holy Spirit will constantly bring you greater revelation of God’s purposes, which, He wants to fulfill through you. As you do this, God occupies more of your heart, tweaking your perfection, and applying compassion: picking you up when you fall short, and setting your feet back upon His path. So, you see that the odds of completing your mission are really stacked in your favor.

And how does that mission look?

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents – which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake… Phil. 1:27 – 29. NASB

…having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his interests, but also to the interests of others. Phil. 2:2 – 4. ESV

It always comes down to walking the walk. The more that we emulate Jesus, the more of God’s purpose will be revealed – where He immerses us in His love, so that we can radiate that love outwards.

When we pursue our spiritual progress, Christ brings us closer to Him and His Father, revealing yet more of God’s divine plan, and allowing us to play an ever-increasing part. In that part, we must stand in faith and unity for the gospel, even in the face of worldly opposition – tirelessly working through whatever suffering the world brings to bear, continuing to usher in more souls for salvation.

God calls us to be humble and live in peace – united in Christ, holding the needs of others above our own.

Jesus is the ultimate example of humility: He relinquished His divine nature and stature, in order to become a mere mortal. In so doing, He could feel our sufferings; and out of His limitless compassion, take our deserved divine punishment upon Himself, for the salvation of the mortals that He and His father love so much.

Likewise, it is to the glory of the Father and the Son, that we too put our personal concerns aside, and strive to bring the Key (Jesus) to the kingdom to everyone that we can touch in our lifetime:

…it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life… Phil. 2:13 – 16. NKJV

We must be diligent in our continual pursuit of spiritual progress. We cannot forget the reverence that we must hold for God and His Son, nor the imperative that we must muster for completing the tasks that They set before us – especially in the face of opposition:

…I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Phil. 3:7 – 11. NKJV

We don’t have to be perfect in our endeavor. Nevertheless, we remain a marvelous work in spiritual progress because of our sincere efforts:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Phil. 3:12 ESV

Why?

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. Phil. 3:20, 21. NKJV

Transformed and transcendent.

We are content because we have faith. We have faith because Christ empowers us. We have abundance because our Father is a promise-keeper. (Phil. 4:11, 13 & 19.)

You are a marvelous work in progress…

Goodnight and God bless.

The True Easter Story

I’ve written about Easter for many years. This year I thought that I’d do the same, but that I would use a chapter out of a book about Bible stories that I’m writing for adolescents. I hope you enjoy it…

The True Easter Story

No, Easter is not about Easter egg hunts or eating chocolate bunnies and eggs from ‘Easter baskets.’ Here’s the real deal:

After Jesus died on Good Friday, He was buried in a cave with a really heavy rock placed over the entrance that would be really hard to move.

On Saturday, the priests had soldiers stand guard at the tomb so that no one could steal Jesus’ body and claim that He was alive.

Yet early Sunday morning (Easter morning), Jesus’ mother and one of His friends (also named Mary) came to the tomb. Just as they arrived, an angel appeared and rolled away the stone. All the soldiers fainted.

The angel told the two women that Jesus was not in the tomb, because God had resurrected His Son from death to life!

Nothing is more important than this event. God put His new and last plan in motion – washing us clean from our sins with the blood of His Son so that we can stay in the presence of His love forever! It’s not because we did anything to earn it; it was a gift from God because He loves us so much.

Mary and Mary ran off to tell the apostles that Jesus was alive. While they were running, they met Jesus along the way. They were overjoyed. Jesus told them where the apostles could find Him.

The apostles did not believe them at first; but two of them ran back to the tomb and only found Jesus’ burial clothes.

Later that afternoon, two of Jesus’ disciples (but not of the 12 apostles) were walking along a road, saddened because of Jesus’ death. Suddenly, Jesus appears to them but keeps them from recognizing Him. He asked them why they were sad. They answered Him by saying that they watched Jesus die; and they were now doubting if He really was the Messiah.

Jesus then taught them about everything that the Bible said regarding the coming of the Messiah, so that they would understand why He had to die. Then He ate bread with them and let them recognize Him. When they did, He disappeared right before their eyes!

At the same time, the apostles were meeting in a house when all of a sudden Jesus appeared in the room. They were frightened because they thought that they were seeing a ghost. Jesus calmed their fears by letting them touch Him, to see that His body was solid.

He also showed them the holes where the nails had been driven through His wrists and feet. Finally, He eats some food in front of them.

The reason that Jesus’ body was solid but could appear and disappear at will, was because His body had changed. Jesus now had all of the powers that He had in heaven, before he came to the earth.

When we leave this earth, we too will get a new body. It will never wear out, never die, and it will have powers that we can’t even imagine.

Jesus then breathed upon the apostles to give them the Holy Spirit.

Eight days later, Jesus appeared to the apostles again and then spent another 40 days on the earth before He returned to heaven. During that time, He was seen 500 times by various people.

Jesus met with the apostles and told them to go all over the world, making new disciples for Him, and to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Then, Jesus opened their minds up and gave them a complete understanding of the Old Testament and everything that He had said, so that they could tell everyone about their Easter gift. And that is something that we are all supposed to do.

When Jesus finished speaking, He rose up to heaven while the apostles watched. Then, two angels appeared to give them God’s promise that Jesus would come back.

The apostles then understood that everything Jesus said was the truth. They also knew that Jesus’ promise of coming back was true – His promise of coming to be with us forever, where we all live filled with love.

That’s the true Easter Story. Happy Easter!

Before and After Jesus

How great is your transformation in Christ? Well, let’s see who you were before that took place:

…you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Eph. 2:1 – 3. ESV

Who are you now?

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding richness of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Eph. 2:4 – 10. NKJV

God loved you even before He helps you clean up the mess that you made of your life. When you choose Him, through Christ, God pulls you away from the clutches of Satan; and you are no longer grouped with the ‘sons of disobedience’ (those whose promised future is one of annihilation).

You were dead spiritually, but now you are alive by the grace of God through Christ – all because you were obedient and exercised your faith, which draws in the free gift of God’s salvation. You have been raised to sit in heavenly places, meaning that you have a vital role in advancing the kingdom of heaven, a role that God Himself will reveal to you.

Yet hold on! There’s even more to your transformation:

But now [at this very moment] in Christ Jesus you who once were [so very] far away [from God] have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace and our bond of unity. He has made both groups – [Jews and Gentiles] – into one body and broke down the barrier, the dividing wall [of spiritual antagonism between us], by abolishing in His [own crucified] flesh the hostility caused by the Law with its commandments contained in its ordinances [which He satisfied]; so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thereby establishing peace. Eph. 2:13 – 15. AMP

God’s intent was for there to be only one church, with Christ as its head; and for it to welcome all peoples (Jews and Gentiles alike), that make Jesus their Savior and do their best to walk in His gospel. If you are a member of that church, you are now on God’s team:

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Eph. 2:19 – 22. NKJV

You have a heavenly citizenship, and you are a spiritual part of this church of Christ, the holy temple of God. So, being that you are a vital spiritual member of the Love Church, it would behoove you to search out a physical church to be involved with. Why? Because it is in imperative to hang out with like-minded Christians, so that you can draw strength from each other to stay strong and accountable in your faith.

Church is also a good place to bring people who are still dabbling in the world, so that they can be immersed in the corporate love of God. You are the Love Church. And that being so, God tells you how to be it:

…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Eph. 4:1 – 3. ESV

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men… Eph. 4:11 – 14. NKJV

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Eph. 4:15, 16. ESV

The Love Church then, is filled with Love Children – those who walk humbly in love and unity, as they exercise their God-given gifts of the Spirit, to edify one another in their kingdom purpose: bringing the saving love of God, through Christ, as a beacon to those who still dwell in the darkness of this world.

And if we are to stand as an image of that church, we have to step up to a higher standard – one of righteousness:

…regarding your previous way of life, you put off your old self [completely discard your former nature], which is being corrupted through deceitful desires, and be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation]. Eph. 4:22 – 24. AMP

Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers…And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Eph. 4:25 – 29 & 32. NKJV

In other words, God asks us to refrain from our old ways of being, when we were ruled by the flesh instead of the spirit:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of the dark, but rather expose them. Eph. 5:6 – 11. NKJV

Before Jesus, we were the darkness. After we made our covenant with Him, we are His transcendent light, turned back around, and sent forth to the darkness to gather His lost sheep:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Eph. 6:10, 11. NKJV

If God tells us to be strong in Him, then we must be able to do that, because God cannot lie. He goes on to say that we gather our strength by continually immersing ourselves in His word – fortifying ourselves with His truth, peace, righteousness and the certainty of His salvation, which He sends to us in response to our earnest prayer. (Eph. 6:12 – 18.)  If we do this, God promises us that there will be nothing that we can’t overcome…

Goodnight and God bless.

Jesus Never Said That Life Would Be Easy

You ever notice that followers of Jesus rarely make it on the ‘A-list’ in the world’s social circles? We’re seen as peculiar, old-fashioned, out-of-step, and holders of scientifically unsound beliefs. We are often cast out of the mainstream.

That’s a good thing, because at the end of time, it is not us that will be cast out:

“The Son of Man will send out His angels and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Mt. 13:42 – 43. NKJV

Until then, on this earth, the righteous will suffer:

“And you will be hated by everyone because of [your association with] My name, but it is the one who has patiently persevered and endured to the end who will be saved.” Mt. 10:22 AMP

It is because of our emulation of Christ (i.e. standing up for what is righteous) that we are made to suffer. And yet, these trials are part of God’s crucible, where He purifies His children, preparing us for eternity:

In this you rejoice greatly, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials and suffer temptations, so that the genuineness of your faith, which is much more than gold which is perishable, even though tested and purified by fire, may be found to result in [your] praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Pt. 1:6, 7. AMP

God is exhorting us, through the apostle Peter, saying that regardless of what life is throwing at us, we should respond in joy – knowing that God is building our faith in Christ. When we do that, we are bringing a positive increase to our heavenly account and are glorified for our endurance.

God never said that life would be easy. However, through Christ, He fills you with His boundless love and joy, and covers you on all sides with His mercy and protection – empowering you to transcend your trials, as you complete your journey. Indeed, God is pleased with your efforts:

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows, while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 1 Pt. 2:19, 20. ESV

Christ suffered for us; and we honor His sacrifice when we follow His example:

…because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;” who, when He was reviled did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed. 1 Pt. 2:21 – 24. NKJV

In our gratitude, we acknowledge what Christ submitted Himself to, so that we can be healed from our sin. He made the ultimate sacrifice, laying down His life so that we could be righteous in the presence of God.

So, in doing our best to emulate Him, we too can face un-righteousness with resolve, yet doing so with a loving example, that will encourage others to follow our commitment:

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 1 Pt. 3:13 – 16. ESV

For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1 Pet. 3:17 NKJV

It’s not a matter of if you will face trials in this life, it’s only a matter of when. But God will bless you through it:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 1 Pt. 4:12 – 14. ESV

Love no matter what. God glorifies you when you suffer for Him; and you are repaid with eternal love. During any trial, count on God, because He is with you:

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares about you. 1 Pt. 5:6, 7. NKJV

Also, take comfort in knowing that your brothers and sisters in Christ are all fighting the good fight along with you:

Resist him (Satan), firm in your faith, know that the same kinds of sufferings are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Pt. 5:9, 10. ESV

During our walk with Christ, we will all suffer – ultimately at the hands of those who serve Satan. The devil does not want anyone to land in the loving arms of God. We understand that our earthly sufferings are borne upon us from the futile puffs of breath pathetically blown by this angelic outcast, who does not want to suffer alone.

We love no matter what. We know that our Savior will separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats; and He will take us with him. Faith overcomes. Love always wins…

Goodnight and God bless.