Monthly Archives: December 2015

Revelation 7 – The 144,000 and the Great Multitude

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Here in chapter 7 we have a brief interlude between all the events surrounding the breaking of the seals.  There is a pause before the breaking of the final seal, in which the Angels go through the earth and put a mark on those who have been faithful and are to be protected.

There are 4 angels standing at the 4 corners of the earth, holding back the winds so that no damage is done in the meantime.  The four winds represent the destructive agents of God.

A fifth angel appears carrying the seal of the living God and instructs the other angels to wait while the servants of God are marked before allowing the destructive winds to blow.  This mark was apparently a Taw, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet similar to an x (a cross?).  This happened also in Ezekiel 9 v 4-6 where those that grieved and lamented the defiling of the temple were marked to distinguish them as a remnant to be spared from the coming slaughter.

Verses 4 to 8 of chapter 7 are very definite about this being a remnant from the tribes of Israel, with the 144,000 being made up of 12,000 from each tribe (note that Dan is missing from the list possibly because they went their own way and set up idols as seen in Judges 18)  This indicates to me that those who teach that only 144,000 will be saved are incorrect – this clearly relates to a remnant of the faithful from the Jews, not those that have trusted in Christ.

We then come on the “the great Multitude” or crowd.  Here there is no number given, these are those from every other tribe, nation, race and language that have come through the tribulation.  They are dressed in white robes, made pure by the blood of the Lamb.  I wonder if these are the ones referred to in chapter 6 verses  9 – 11 at the breaking of the fifth seal.  Whether this means those that battled through the final phase of the tribulation, or those from throughout the 2,000 years of persecution of the church, again referred to in chapter 6.

It is a time for celebration as they are waving Palm branches which were traditionally used in festivals.  The ones who had been waiting for God to act against evil could now celebrate.

Salvation comes from our God, who sits on the the throne, and from the Lamb (v 10)

is there song.  The angels, living creatures and elders fall down and worship shouting;

Amen! Praise, Glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honour, power, and might belong to our God for ever and ever! Amen! (v12)

They are standing serving before the throne of God in his Holy Temple.  They are standing in the Holy place where previously only the Levites were allowed to serve, indicating that all believers can now approach the throne of God having been made priests in his service.

“He who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them”, again reflecting God’s covering as it was with the tent of the tabernacle in the wilderness.

Never again will they go hungry, or get thirsty.  They will be protected from the scorching heat of the sun.  He will protect them with his presence.

The tent would have protected them from the sun while they were in the desert place, but never again will they suffer from the heat or famine or drought.

because the Lamb who is the centre of the throne, will be their shepherd, he will guide them to springs of life giving water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (v 11)

Just as a shepherd cares for and leads, guides and protects his sheep, so Christ, the Lamb will care for and protect us as long as we stay in his shadow and protection and follow him

 

All quotes from The Good News Bible

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Revelation 6: The Seals

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In chapter 6 we begin to see the chain of events which must take place to bring about the end of the age of evil.  There are several thoughts on whether these are now historical, current or future events but theories of them being historical do not quite match up with all the detail given so I am proceeding on the basis that they are still to come although some may already be starting.  It certainly appears from reading chapter 6 that these are consecutive events and as we read through Revelation later on in the book we see other events taking place.  Again the number 7 is significant although in chapter 6 we only read of the first 6 seals being opened.

  • Seal 1 – as the first of the seals is broken, one of the four living creatures shouts “come”.  A white horse appears with it’s rider holding a bow.  He was given a crown and rode out to conquer.  The colour white is thought to signify the spirit of conquest, military agrression
  • Seal 2 – the second living  creature calls “come” and this time a red horse appears.  The rider is given the power to bring war on earth and has a large sword.  The red this time signifies bloodshed.
  • Seal 3 – the third living creature calls “come” and this time a black horse appears with it’s rider carrying scales.  The black this time signifies famine with the scales reflecting the shortage and inflated prices.  Limitations are set however that the olive trees and vineyards are not damaged.  Both these have deeper roots and so would not be affected immediately by drought.
  • Seal 4 – a fourth horse is called forward by the forth living creature.  It is pale in colour reflecting death and it’s rider is called Death and Hades.  They were given authority to kill a quarter of the earth
  • Seal 5 – This is very different; John notices the souls of those who have been martyred for the faith who are crying to God from beneath the altar to take action against those who killed them.  They are given white robes and told to rest until the appointed time, until the complete number of martyrs has been achieved.  What I find interesting here, is the thought that we touched on in chapter 5 – why does God wait? Some say that this number is not just the martyrs, but the required number of righteous which could also be prescribed by time.  God is waiting for all those he has called to be ready.  The white robes are a symbol of purity and blessedness
  • Seal 6 – Triggers a violent earthquake, the sun turns black (an eclipse), the moon turns to blood red (we’ve heard a lot recently about blood moons) Stars fall down to earth, the mountains and islands shake and disappear.  The day of the wrath of the one who sits on the throne and the Lamb is here.

There are many many different theories and interpretations of what all this and the other signs we will read about later mean.

Preterists say that these were fulfilled during the time of the Roman Empire and reflect what happened to the churches – particularly those mentioned in chapters 2 and 3

Historicists say that these tell the story of the church throughout the last 2,000 years and that it is cyclical in that the church goes through periods of great trial, war, famine, even death but God restores them and then follow periods of growth

Futurists say that this is entirely the end times, compressed into the last few (3.5) years before the second coming of Christ.

Idealists say that this is, and has been the story of the ongoing struggle between good and evil throughout all time.

All of these theories have weaknesses which become too complex for a simple short study

We see in Daniel 12 he is given a vision of the end times which have many similarities with what we read in Revelation and he is told to write what he sees in a scroll and seal it up.  In verse 4 Daniel is told that many people will waste their efforts trying to understand what is happening.  When Daniel asks for an explanation and how everything will end – he is told;

You must go now, because these words are to be kept secret and hidden until the end comes (v 9)

In other words, no one will know until the appointed time so endless speculating and study is of no benefit.

Zephaniah in chapter 1 verses 14 – 19 speaks of the Day of Judgement, a sudden end to everyone who lives on earth.

Personally I am inclined to think that these speak more of the end times, not to get bogged down into pre or post millennium theories etc but to be ready and alert for Christ’s coming.

Where are we in relation to this chapter? Have the seals already begun to be broken? Is what we see around us a result of this? It would not be difficult to think that perhaps they have.

 

All quotes from The Good News Bible

 

Revelation 5: The Scroll and the Lamb

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These next few chapters of Revelation begin to get more difficult to interpret as the action begins.  Chapter 5 speaks about the Scroll and the Lamb – what is the scroll? what is written on it? why does it have seven seals? why is there no-one worthy to open it?

We see in verse 1 that the one sitting on the throne of Heaven is holding a scroll in his right hand with writing on both sides.  It is sealed with seven seals.  a mighty angel asks “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”  A search begins but no-one is found to be worthy.  John weeps because no-one can be found.  Why is this scroll so important? and why does John weep so when there appears to be no one able to open it.

In later chapters we read about the events which unfold with the opening of the seals and the scroll but nowhere do we see an actual transcript.  We are not told directly what is written on the scroll but it appears that each seal releases a “command” for the living creatures and angels to go forth and bring some calamity on the earth or some event which brings forward the end.  We therefore conclude that it is a transcript of what must happen to bring forth the end of the earth’s history and usher in Christ’s Kingdom.  This is why John wept; because Christ’s Kingdom could not yet come, the final destruction of evil cannot yet take place – we pray “Your Kingdom Come” when we pray what we refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer” but it seems that a series of events must still happen before this can take place.

One of the elders then comforts John saying;

Look! The Lion from Judah’s tribe, the great descendant of David, has won the victory, and he can break the seven seals and open the scroll (v5)

Then John sees the Lamb with seven horns, seven eyes (which are the seven spirits) and the Lamb takes the scroll from the one sitting on the throne.  At this moment all the elders and living creatures fall down and worship; they have harps and gold bowls filled with incense representing the prayers of God’s people.  (Remember that when the priests entered the Holy Place they burned incense which symbolised the prayers lifting to heaven but also shielded them from seeing God’s glory face to face)

You are worthy to take the scroll and to break open its seals. For you were killed, and by your sacrificial death you bought for God people from every tribe, language, nation and race.  You have made them a kingdom of priests to serve our God, and they shall rule on earth. (v 9-10)

This song is quickly joined in by the angels, thousands and millions of them..

The Lamb who was killed is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom and strength, honour, glory and praise. (v 12)

Soon every creature on heaven and earth, in the sea and the world below; every living creature in the universe begin to sing;

To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be praise and honour, glory and might for ever and ever (v 13)

To which the response is “Amen”

But why the wait? why must the Lamb come and open the seal before God’s Kingdom can take over?  He has already shown that he can destroy the earth such as in Noah’s day or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah so why does he wait?

The Lamb we see has 7 horns, symbolising maturity, strength and perfection (remember the number 7 is considered the perfect number).

He is from the tribe of Judah – the Lion symbolising a King, descended from David as God promised David that he would always have one of his descendants on the throne.

We have studied through some of the letters of Paul, James and Peter how we must endeavor to be obedient to God, to constantly strive towards Him and allow us to mould us into his likeness and become more like Christ.  This is our training to be able to take up our position with Christ as Kings, priests and rulers of his coming Kingdom.  God does not need to wait, but he is waiting for US to be ready.  This is why Christ told us to pray “Your Kingdom come” to allow us to prepare our hearts to be ready to bring in His Kingdom.  He is waiting to allow time for everyone to turn to him.

The lamb was sacrificed so that we can sing this new song with the angels

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be praise and honour, glory and might, for ever and ever!

AMEN!

 

All quotes from The Good News Bible

 

Revelation 4 – Resting in Peace??

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Did you know that heaven is noisy?  In Chapter 4 we start to read about all the noise that goes on in heaven.  There are trumpets, singing, loud shouts, thunder and lightning.  It is only in Chapter 8 verse 1 do we see any reference to silence in heaven (we shall look at that when we get to chapter 8 – it must have been significant for it to be mentioned.)

John at this point after receiving instructions for the letters to the churches, is given another vision; this time of heaven.  He sees through an open door and hears the voice that he recognises from before that sounded like a trumpet.  He is invited to “Come up here” to be shown what must happen next.  Some say that this is similar to the call of Moses on Mount Sinai where Moses was called up by God and shown the model for the temple and given instruction for leading the nation.

John sees someone sitting on a throne gleaming with the colours of precious stones.   He is of course not allowed to see the face of God so can only see him shielded by the brilliance of God’s glory. The throne is surrounded by 24 more thrones on which the elders sat wearing white robes and gold crowns (These are thought to represent the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles).

There are flashes of lightning, peals and rumbles of thunder.  In heaven this usually represents the majesty and power of God and often indicates an important event.  There are the seven spirits and seven lamps which we saw in chapter one represent the seven churches.  There is a sea of glass, clear as crystal.  In the earthly temple a large vessel of water used for the ritual cleansing was known as the sea.  Living creatures; a lion, a bull, one with a human face and an eagle in flight.  They had eyes front and back to show that they saw everything, each had six wings and were singing;

Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, who is, and who is to come. (v 8)

Holy is repeated three times to reflect each person of the trinity.

Many of these images are comparable to the vision seen by Ezekiel in Ezekiel chapter 1.

The living creatures also sing songs of glory and honour and thanks and when they do the elders fall down and worship, throwing their crowns in front of the throne and join in singing:

Our Lord and God! You are worthy to receive glory, honour, and power.  For you created all things and by your will they were given existence and life (v11)

My dictionary defines peace as: freedom from disturbance, tranquility, mental or emotional calm, a state or period where there is no war or a war has ended.

We tend to say when someone has died, that we pray they rest in peace and that they have been welcomed into heaven.  The original meaning of this was to reflect the hope that they died reconciled to Christ and are therefore at peace from the evil that surrounds us in the world – no longer at war with sin.  However, if you look at the other meanings of peace which is quietness and tranquility then heaven becomes the opposite of this. Revelation describes heaven as a very noisy place where our loved ones we hope will be worshiping God and joining in the chorus shouting “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty”

 

All quotes from the Good News Bible

 

Revelation 2 & 3: The Letters

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In chapters 2 and 3 we see seven Letters that are sent to the churches in the province of Asia (a region now known as Western Turkey).  Each church receives a separate letter as part of the overall book,  but is also expected to read, learn from, and respond to the others too.  I had initially planned to tackle each one separately but is is clear that they all follow the same structure and need to be studied side by side.

There are (surprise surprise,) Seven Aspects of Each Letter

  1. Address – in each of these letters, the address is made “to the angel”.  We saw in Hebrews 1 that primary role of an angel was to be a messenger of God’s word.  So this could be either an actual angel or a human messenger, but as John is isolated on the island of Patmos it is most likely to be an actual angel.  We read more about them later in the book;
    1. Ephesus – to the angel of the church in Ephesus (2 v 1) – Ephesus was one of the most important city, having a sea port and being on the major trade routes
    2. Smyrna – to the angel of the church in Smyrna (2 v 8) – Smyrna (now Izmir) was a beautiful city with close contacts to Rome and its idea of emperor worship.  It also had a large Jewish population which was very hostile.  These facts made Smyrna a difficult place to live as a Christian.
    3. Pergamum – to the angel of the church in Pergamum (2 v 12) – Pergamum (now Bergama) was the ancient capital of the area being on a prominent hill.  It was the place of the first martyrdom in the area and was the official center of emperor worship.
    4. Thyatira – to the angel of the church in Thyatira (2 v 18) – Thyatira  (Now Akhisar) was a military outpost noted for its trade guilds.
    5. Sardis – to the angel of the church in Sardis (3 v 1) – Sardis (now Sart) was an ancient and famous wealthy city
    6. Philadelphia – to the angel of the church in Philadelphia (3 v 7) – Philadelphia (now Alashehir) was an important commercial city.  Its name meant “brotherly love”
    7. Laodicea – to the angel of the church in Laodicea. (3 v 14) – Laodicea (near modern Denizli) was a very wealthy city known for its banking, medical and textile industries.
  2. Attributes- the seven different attributes of Christ as seen in  John’s vision described in chapter 1 v 13 through to 18.  This is the message from;
    1. Ephesus – the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven gold lamp-stands (2 v 1)
    2. Smyrna – the one who is the first and last, who died and lived again (2 v 8)
    3. Pergamum – the one who has the sharp two edged sword (2 v 12)
    4. Thyatira – the Son of God, who’s eyes blaze like fire, whose feet shine like polished brass (2 v 18)
    5. Sardis – the one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars (3 v 1)
    6. Philadelphia – the one who is holy and true.  He has the key that belonged to David, and when he opens a door, no one can close it, and when he closes it, no one can open it. (3 v 7)
    7. Laodicea – the Amen, the faithful and true witness, who is the origin of all that God has created (3 v 14)
  3. Approval – I know what you do/have done; nothing has escaped his attention whether good or bad.
    1. Ephesus – how hard you have worked, how patient you have been, have not tolerated evil people and tested those who say they are apostles and found them to be liars.  Are patient and have suffered for Christ’s sake and not given up
    2. Smyrna – the troubles you have suffered, you are poor – but really you are rich, I know the evil things said about you.
    3. Pergamum – you are true to me and did not abandon your faith
    4. Thyatira – I know your love, faithfulness, service and patience.  You are doing more than you did at first.
    5. Sardis – although outwardly the church looks great and successful, it is dead – nothing good is said
    6. Philadelphia – you have a little power, have followed my teaching and been faithful to me
    7. Laodicea – Christ is not even allowed in the church – he is trying to get in but they won’t allow him (3 v 20) again nothing good is said
  4. Accusation – but this is what I have against you;
    1. Ephesus – you do not love me as you did at first
    2. Smyrna – enjoys no accusation because they are pleasing Christ through their suffering and faithfulness
    3. Pergamum – some among you follow the teaching of Balaam, you have some among you who follow the teachings of the Nicolaitans
    4. Thyatira – you tolerate that woman Jezebel
    5. Sardis – a reputation of being alive when you are dead,
    6. Philadelphia – too receives no accusation because they have been faithful
    7. Laodicea – you are neither hot nor cold
  5. Advice – remember and repent
    1. Ephesus – turn from your sins and do what you did at first
    2. Smyrna – don’t be afraid, be faithful to me
    3. Pergamum -turn from your sins
    4. Thyatira – those that followed Jezebel must repent or be killed.  Those that have not followed her must hold firmly to what they have
    5. Sardis – Wake up!! Remember what you were taught and turn from your sin
    6. Philadelphia – Keep safe what you have, so that no one can rob you of your victory prize
    7. Laodicea – be earnest and turn from your sins.  Let me in.
  6. Assurance – the promised rewards if the correct response and action is taken – To those who win the victory;
    1. Ephesus – will have the right to eat the fruit of the tree of life that grows in the Garden of God
    2. Smyrna – will not be hurt by the second death
    3. Pergamum – will receive the hidden manna and a new name written on a white stone
    4. Thyatira – will receive the same authority that Christ received from the Father over the nations. They will receive the morning star
    5. Sardis -will be clothed in white and will not have their names removed from the book of the living.
    6. Philadelphia – will be pillars in the temple of God.
    7. Laodicea – the right to sit beside me on my throne
  7. Appeal – If you have ears to hear then listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
    1. Ephesus (2 v 7)
    2. Smyrna (2 v 11)
    3. Pergamum (2 v 17)
    4. Thyatira (2 v 29)
    5. Sardis (3 v 6)
    6. Philadelphia (3 v 13)
    7. Laodicea (3 v 22)

    Take heed, don’t just hear the word, but act upon it, obey it and the victory will be yours

While several of the churches were outwardly doing well, we see that again false teaching and compromise was being allowed to slip back in.  Some were becoming comfortable in their prosperous lives while others were struggling through hardship and persecution because they were not compromising what they had been taught.  The Nicolaitans were a group of people who were teaching that they had liberty under God’s grace to carry on with idolatry and immoral ways.  They were teaching that God’s grace covered them so that they could justify their sinful lifestyle rather than be obedient and live lives that were pleasing to God.

Balaam was a prophet who compromised God’s words to fit in with whatever circumstances suited him and his audience.  He allowed financial reward to distract him from the truth and would say what his audience wanted to hear.

Jezebel was an evil Queen in the days of Elijah who persecuted the Jews and promoted Baal worship. The reference in Revelation 2 v 20 refers to an otherwise unnamed woman in the congregation who was allowed to continue an immoral life and encourage others to do so too.

The common thing with all these references is that they were compromising the world’s ways, allowing their new freedom in Christ to excuse behaviour which was displeasing to God rather than striving to honour him by living pure and Godly lives.  Some were too comfortable in their wealthy lives and the rich were being allowed to dominate the church as we have seen in the other letters we have studied.

It is interesting to see as you dig in to each section, that there is so much more.  Time does not allow me more detailed research at the moment, but if you do so, you start to notice that the geographical features or the culture of each of these cities also reflect some of the issues raised.  An example being Laodicea which although extremely prosperous did not have a reliable water supply – there were hot spring nearby so they would either have hot or cold water or lukewarm.  The pure waters of the Holy Spirit were not able to get through.  We read verse 20 of chapter 3 which is probably one of the most well known verses of the bible;

Listen, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them and they will eat with me.

We usually think of this verse as Christ calling to the sinner, to repent and allow him into their life, but if you read this verse in it’s full context, it is actually speaking to those who are already professed believers.  They have professed faith and attend church regularly but they have got comfortable in their prosperous lives.  Here Christ is saying “let me into your Church” let me fellowship with you as you fellowship with each other.  This is an important message to all the churches; we can be so comfortable in our routines and nice warm buildings we forget to allow space for Christ to come in and meet with us.

As usual there is so much more hidden among these letters that time does not allow, but there are some short reminders of what the key messages are:

  • Don’t give up
  • Don’t be afraid
  • Be faithful
  • Don’t tolerate immorality and idol worship
  • Hold firmly to the faith
  • Strengthen yourselves
  • Remember what you have been taught
  • Be ready for Christ’s coming
  • Keep safe what you have so that no-one can rob you of the victory prize
  • Don’t be lukewarm

Listen to what the Spirit says to the churches

 

All quotes from the Good News Bible

 

 

Revelation 1: The Greeting and Vision

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The book of Revelation (the revealing) was written by John to the churches in the provinces of Asia.  It is full of images and symbols which are not easy to understand, but John writes in chapter 1 verse 3;

Happy is the one who reads this book, and happy are those who listen to the words of this prophetic message and obey what is written in this book! For the time is near when all these things will happen.

One of the first things I have noticed is in verse 1.  We often have a tendency to refer to this book as the Revelation of John, but that is not what it says; it says that this is the revelation of Jesus Christ that was given to him by God to show his servants (John) what will happen.  The Good News Bible does actually heads this as The Revelation TO John.  Jesus Christ made these things known to John by sending an angel and then John wrote down what he was shown.

In our study of Hebrews, we saw that Jesus was the High Priest and the perfect sacrifice.  The structure and layout of the Tabernacle had been shown to Moses as a copy of heaven.  The High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies through the curtain, out of sight to meet with God, but was not allowed to see him.  We saw that when Jesus was crucified, the curtain in the temple was torn in two showing that the Old Covenant had been torn in two.  Christ then ascended into heaven through the clouds into the Heavenly Holy Place to sit at God’s right hand until the time came for him to be revealed in all his glory.  The image people have of the book of Revelation is of the Apocalypse which many films have attempted to  dramatise as being war and disaster, but the original Greek word Apocalypse means: Revelation, the revealing or uncovering.  So this is all about the revealing of Jesus Christ as the victor over sin and death.

Look, he is coming on the clouds! Everyone will see him, including those who pierced him.(v7)

John begins with a greeting from “him who is, and who was, and who is to come”, the seven spirits and from Jesus Christ.

In chapter 1 we start to see that the number seven is significant.  There is mention of;

  • Seven Spirits – there are several interpretations to what these are.  Some say that they are 7 distinct spirits referring to the senior angels of which we know Michael is one.  Others say that this refers to seven attributes of the Holy Spirit such as wisdom, might, counsel or the seven graces listed in Romans 12 v 6-8 (Prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, compassion).  Others say that the seven refers to completeness and perfection of the spirit – The Holy Spirit.  Having thought about it a little; I would perhaps lean towards the final view as this would show the greeting and message as being from the fullness of the Godhead trinity – The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit, why would one part of the Trinity be left out?
  • Seven Churches – listed in verse 12, and later receiving specific instructions,  these were situated in what is now Western Turkey and their locations were about 50 miles apart and formed a circle.
    1. Ephesus
    2. Smyrna
    3. Pergamum
    4. Thyateria
    5. Sardis
    6. Philadelphia
    7. Laodicea
  • Seven Gold Lamp stands – which represents the Angels of the seven Churches (see verse 20)
  • Seven Stars – which represents the seven churches.

The number seven is regarded as the number of completeness and appears frequently throughout the book.

We see in verse 8 the declaration by the Lord God Almighty;

I AM the first and the last (alpha and omega)..who is, who was, and who is to come.

He is the beginning and the end, he rules over all history – he is constant.  When Moses asked who God was he referred to himself as “I AM” – he does not change.  We have changed and our standards change, but God does not.

John is then allowed to see a vision of Christ:

  • a voice that sounded like a trumpet then a roaring waterfall
  • he looked like a human being (remember that we are made in God’s image)
  • a full length robe (the High Priests wore long robes)
  • a gold belt
  • hair white as snow (signifying wisdom and authority)
  • eyes that blazed like fire
  • feet that shone like brass
  • face as bright as the midday sun
  • holding 7 stars in his right hand
  • a sharp two edged sword comes from his mouth

He declares:

I am the living one, I was dead, but now I am alive for ever and ever.  I have authority over death and the world of the dead. (v 18)

In verse 19 John is instructed to write down what he has seen, what is now, and what will take place later.  Some people interpret this to mean  the three sections of the book; the initial vision, then the letters to the churches, then the vision which follows.  Others simply say that this means an instruction to write down what he is about to see, both now and later.  I just think it interesting that it follows the pattern of “Who is, and was, and is to come – the permanency of God.

 

All quotes from The Good News Bible.

Jude: Fight On

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My dear friends, I was doing my best to write to you about the salvation we share in common, when I felt the need of writing at once to encourage you to fight on for the faith which once and for all God has given to his people (v3)

Jude (a shortening of Judas which distinguishes him from others) was a brother of Jesus along with James, however he only identifies himself here as the brother of James and a servant of Jesus Christ so as to not claim any undue authority or position.

If you have been following these blogs then you will quickly notice that there are a lot of similarities with Peters letters; particularly 2 Peter 2 although it is thought that Peter’s letter was written after Jude’s

2 Peter 2: He will rescue us

False teachers had slipped into the church and were distorting the message of grace so that they could continue in their immoral ways.

  • He reminds us God rescued the Israelites from Egypt but ended up destroying many of them because they did not believe.
  • Angels who sinned are now chained up in darkness awaiting judgement
  • Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their immoral ways
  • Cain killed his brother Abel because of jealousy
  • Korah became conceited and rebelled against Moses so he along with his followers were destroyed
  • Balaam was rebuked by his donkey because he allowed his greed to get in the way of God’s word

These people who were infiltrating the church are described by Jude as dirty spots, clouds which bring no rain, dead trees that bear no fruit.  Wandering stars for whom a place has been reserved in the deepest darkness.  These people despised authority and wanted to continue doing their own thing, claiming that God’s grace allowed them freedom to sin even more so that God’s grace could abound more.

These people (just like the Israelites) were always complaining and grumbling against God and the church leaders.  They continued to do their own thing following their evil desires, using flattery to get their own way,

Jude writes that Enoch prophesied about these people; that the Lord would come and bring judgement on them.  This prophesy is not recorded in our Bible accounts of Enoch but in writings found much later attributed to him.  One of the problems we have is that there are many documents and writings which would have been known to the Jewish scholar but are not included in our Bibles.  This does not mean that they are inaccurate and often give more detail of historical events and are mentioned elsewhere in the various letterd.  We also know that Jesus of course spent 3 years teaching his disciples and so would have told them many things which were not written down and passed on to us.  In several of the letters, references are made such as “We told you about such and such when we came last time” so it was not considered necessary to write any more.  We do know that Enoch was a Godly man who among others would have been distressed by the evil and immorality around him.

Jude warns that this will increase in the last days;

When the last days come, people will appear who will mock you, people who follow their own godless desires.  These are the people who cause divisions, who are controlled by their natural desires, who do not have the Spirit (v 18 & 19)

We have seen a recurring pattern throughout all these letters that we must be on our guard against allowing the immoral ways of the world to slip back into our lives, to diligently follow Gods word and continue to have faith in him and his Word alone, rejecting the false doctrines that are not consistent with Christ’s teaching.  Yes we have access to God’s grace, but must not take advantage of that and use it as an excuse to carry on in a way that displeases him.  The bible shows that there is a limit to how much he will allow disobedience and unfaithfulness to continue.

But you, my friends, keep on building yourselves up on your most sacred faith.  Pray in the power of the Holy Spirit and keep yourselves in the love of God as you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy to give you eternal life (V 20-21)

We are to show mercy to others who are struggling and “snatch them out of the fire” but to “hate their very clothes, stained by their sinful lusts” (see verse 23)

Just because the world around us wants to follow its own ways and allow people to live however they want – we are still to live by God’s rules.  Yes we will be mocked as “old fashioned”, “prudes” among other names, but we have a far greater reward awaiting us, being faultless and joyful in his glorious presence.

An extra “Titbit”

As a slight “aside” there is also one more interesting “snippet” mentioned in verse 9 (starting from partway though verse 8).

they despise God’s authority and insult the glorious beings above.  Not even the chief angel Michael did this.  In his quarrel with the Devil, when they argued about who would have the body of Moses, Michael did not dare condemn the Devil with insulting words, but said “The Lord rebuke you!”

 

This is another one of those verses which I have never noticed before and there are a couple of things to note;

Firstly – what was this event that was described? – we do not see it recorded in the writings about Moses, so what happened?  It seems that this was mentioned in other writings that were around at that time which are not included in our Bible.  It refers back to the statement in Deuteronomy 34 where we are told that the Lord buried Moses and no-one knows the exact place.   The story around this is that God sent Michael the angel to bury him but the Devil tried to claim the body for himself.  Michael did not attempt to use his own authority to argue with the Devil but simply said “The Lord rebuke you” and sent him on his way.

The important message here is to remember that the Devil currently still has a lot of power and although we are given authority over him through Christ, he is still one of God’s created beings and should be respected as such (as we are to respect our leaders and each other)

Our modern evangelical teaching encourages us to try and be clever and rebuke Satan in our own right, but that right is not yet ours while we are still in our human body.  It belongs to God.  Even Jesus did not rebuke Satan in his own right when tempted in the wilderness but used the Word of God to remind him of his place.  Michael is shown here to be treating the Devil as an equal with due respect although knowing that he has God’s authority to which Satan must submit.  He knows that he is acting under God’s authority, not his own, so we must be careful to use God’s word and His authority when dealing with the Devil and not try to be clever or disrespectful.  This will also protect us from becoming conceited in the way that is being described of some of the false teachers and keep us in faithful trust and humility under God’s grace.

 

Quotes from The Good News Bible