Sunday, December 25, 2016

"The Apocalypse ... Revelation!"

Day #361

Scripture Reading:  Revelation 1 - 5 …

"The time is near …" (1:3)  But 1900 years have passed since John penned these words at the direction of Jesus.  How could that qualify as "near"?  "Do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day" (II Peter 3:8).  Peter goes on to say that God is being patient, calling people to "repent." This is now the call of the Spirit to the churches in Chapters 2 and 3.   In his "Revelation" John is given words that the church needs to hear, for in this "uncovering" lies a future that ends in victory!!

The path to victory for believers, however, will not be an easy one.  This message comes from God Himself:  "I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty" (1:8).  John’s “Revelation” is written to believers, as John states at the beginning:  "To Him who loves US and has freed US from our sins by His blood, and has made US to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father …" (1:5-6).  Jesus is the One who is speaking to the churches by His Spirit of things that were, that are and that will be (1:19).  How important, then, for those who are united to Christ by faith today to hear His words and to "overcome!"

Each of the seven letters begins with this phrase:  "These are the words of  …"  A description of Jesus follows each of those phrases:  " … Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lamp stands" (2:1); " … Him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again" (2:8); " … Him who has the sharp, double-edged sword" (2:12); " … the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze" (2:18); " … Him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars" (3:1); " … Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David" (3:7); " … the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation" (3:14).  

The Author of these messages to the churches is Jesus, the Head of the Church, the One Who is seated at the Father's right hand.  JESUS speaks to you and me through His Word, and to each of the churches He says, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:29; 3:6; 3:13; 3:22).

God is speaking!!  And the encouragement to listen is found at the end of each letter:  "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God" (2:7); "He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death" (2:11); "To Him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna.  I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it" (2:17); "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations" (2:26); "He who overcomes will … be dressed in white.  I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and His angels" (3:5); "Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God" (3:12); "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne" (3:21).  These are no small promises, and each is tied to "overcoming!"

Living as a follower of Christ has never been easy and will never be easy.  Jesus told His disciples, "In THIS world you will have trouble. Take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).  Some believe the last generation of believers will escape the trials that are to come, that we will be "raptured" before the Antichrist appears and will escape the Great Tribulation.  But is that what GOD says?  Why the call to endure, to persevere, to overcome?  

Having received the messages for the churches, God begins to reveal things to John in visions.  First, He gives John the same vision of heaven that Isaiah describes in Isaiah 6:1-5.  What a glorious sight!  The throne of God, the visual display of God's glorious perfection, the "living creatures," the angels flying and proclaiming day and night, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come" (4:8).  God is worthy because He is the Creator.  But as John attempts to take in this scene, he sees "a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals" (5:1). “Apocalypse” means "uncovering" or "revelation."  The remainder of this letter describes what is revealed to John … and to us.

As the scene unfolds in Chapter 5, "the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David," who has triumphed, is the only one able to open the scroll.  Nothing happens except by His command or permission.  Verses 11-14 describe the worship of which only Jesus is worthy, for He is the only One who has given His life to ransom "men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation" (5:9).  The opening of the seals is preliminary to what takes place when the scroll itself is opened.

Many mistakenly believe that what follows in Revelation is an allegory, a series of symbols that we cannot understand.  But remember the words, "To him who overcomes …"  Revelation was an encouragement to the first century believers and to the church since then, but it will be the greatest encouragement to the generation that sees these things unfold, just as Jesus said they would.

God is with Christ’s Church now and our future is secure!  Jesus is Savior and Lord and in Him we find our hope.  Almost two thousand years have passed (two days from God's perspective) since John wrote Revelation and the signs are all around us that Jesus' return is near.  So we wait, thanking God for giving us "ears to hear" and grace to "overcome!"  "Amen!  Come Lord Jesus!!"
"Heavenly Father, as You speak to us by Your Word and Spirit we hear Your call to repent, to believe and to serve Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Lord, our KING!  Give me grace to overcome the temptations to doubt or to fear, and help me keep my eyes on Jesus, knowing that He is seated at Your right hand, ruling over all things and directing all things toward the conclusion of Your plan for this world and for mankind.  I thank You that through faith in Jesus I have a sure and certain hope that I will spend eternity with You in a new heaven and a new earth where I will join with the angels in worship and praise forever!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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