Revelation 15:3-4, The Giver, Not The Gifts

They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying

“Great and marvelous are Your works,
Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of the saints.
4] Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify
Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before
You.
For Your judgments have been manifested.”

John has been describing the terrible desolation that has been poured out on the earth because of man’s rebellion and sin.  Here and there, though, there have been as it were rays of sunshine through the dark clouds of judgment as we’ve seen that there will be many who are saved by the grace of God in spite of the wickedness and ungodliness around them.

Chapter 15 records one such group, those who’ve been redeemed from the worst time this world will ever see and who now stand in the presence of God.  John gives us a record of their worship and praise in vs. 3 and 4.

it’s noteworthy that they don’t talk about the blessings or the gifts they’ve been given.  There’s no talk about what they did or who they were on the earth.  There’s nothing about their loving God or serving Him.  There’s nothing of themselves.  Perhaps we could learn from this in our own worship and praise.  God isn’t just waiting around for us to tell Him what we want.

The whole focus of these verses is on the greatness and majesty of God.  In v. 3, they describe His works:  great and marvelous.  They had seen something of this in what had happened in the seals and the trumpets, to say nothing of what they might have known of God otherwise.

Now, though some do, I don’t believe we live in the time of the seals and trumpets.  There’s nothing so obvious to show the presence of God.  We live in a time of relative “silence” as far as the heavens are concerned.  However, we can look around and see the marks of His handiwork everywhere, if we will but just look.  Whether through a microscope or a telescope, whether in the intricate structure of a single cell or in the awe-inspiring beauty of a far-off galaxy, we see evidence of a master workman.  It’s beyond reason that men believe all this just blindly “happened” without a guiding hand.

But further, just and true are His ways.  On facebook the other day, there was a video of a preacher dealing with the question of God and the existence of evil.  I really couldn’t hear what he was saying, my hearing not being what it once was, but it is a question folks ask:  “If God is good and almighty, why did He permit evil to exist?”

God never answers that question in Scripture.  He simply asserts that it will not forever have free reign, as it now seems to have.  I suppose that’s really the important thing – where it’s going, not where it came from.

However, God didn’t make Adam and Eve as puppets or robots.  He didn’t simply “program” them to do what He wanted.  He gave them minds, emotions, will.  They could think.  They could “feel”.  And they could make decisions.  And God gave them simple and clear instructions; they could eat of any tree in the garden except one.  They couldn’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

It just really struck me that the tree was about good as well as evil.  We have to remember that Adam and Eve were in a state of innocence.  Though they hadn’t yet sinned, they were not “sinless” as we understand that.  We might say that, in a sense, they were a blank slate.  They had no “experience” to draw on, nothing to tell them about things except God.  And we’re told nothing about what He said except as it pertains to their fall.

When Satan tempted Eve to disobey God, he implied that they could decide for themselves what was “good” and what was “evil”.  They wouldn’t need God.  We’ve seen, and see, the results of that.

However we may understand the answer to the question of evil now, there is coming a time when we will indeed see that God’s dealings with Adam and with every one of his descendants have been and are just and true.

However, all this isn’t just some arcane discussion reserved for clerics and scholars in musty halls of academia.  The question is asked, “Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?”  It brings us out into where we are and what we are doing right now.  It brings us face to face with a God who alone is holy.

Holiness isn’t about experience, or the name of a religious group.  It’s about essential nature and character.  Though used in a variety of ways, the word “holy” means “separate from defilement or impurity.”  It refers to a state of being morally and spiritually clean and pure, absolutely clean and pure.  No hint of impurity or impropriety.

Only God is like that.

We are anything but….

This is why the question is asked, “Who shall not fear You, O Lord?”

There is coming a time when the heavens will not be silent.  When men will no longer be able to ignore or reject the God of heaven.  Even on this earth, to say nothing of what will happen to us after death.

“For all nations shall come and worship before You.”

Zechariah 14 gives us a graphic description of this:

And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left all of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts…, v. 16.  And this will be mandatory, as vs. 17-19 tell us.

But all of that is yet future.  What about today, this Tuesday morning that I type this, or the day that you are reading this?  One day you will stand before God to give an account of this life.  Are you ready?  Oh, that you might consider this, that apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no hope for any of us, but only, as Hebrews 6:2 puts it, a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.  Modern culture may not believe in a God who would do such things, but that doesn’t nullify what God said.

But God sent His Son to do what we can’t:  live a perfect, sinless life and die a death that would satisfy the requirements of the Law.  The Resurrection is God’s assurance that the price has been paid, and that all those who receive the Lord Jesus by faith are saved.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

Revelation 10: The Bittersweet Word.

1] I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud.  And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.  2] He had a little book open in his hand.  And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3] and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars.  When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices.  4] Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.”

5] The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his hand to heaven 6] and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer, 7] but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.

8] Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.”

9] So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.”

And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”

10] Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.  But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.  11] And he said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.” 

In chs. 10 and 11, we come, as it were, to a break in the action.  The sixth angel has sounded his trumpet, but before the seventh trumpet is sounded, there are some things the Lord wants us to know about these judgments.  We are introduced to a mighty angel and a little book, vs. 1, 2.

Who is this angel?

Some believe it’s another appearance of the Lord Jesus, but the fact that this angel is another angel leads me to believe that it is not.  There are two words in the Greek language for “another.”  One word means “another of the same kind,” and the second word means “another of a different kind.”  The first word describes this angel:  he is like others “of the same kind.”  With whom may the Lord Jesus be compared?  The truth is, there is no one else to whom He can be compared.  Because of this, we believe that this angel is simply another of the mighty host who serve God.

In addition, seven thunders have something to say, vs. 3, 4, but when John is about to write down what they said, he is forbidden, v. 4.  We don’t know what they said, but that hasn’t stopped Bible teachers from trying to figure it out.  I have no idea what they said; it is the only thing in this book of “unveiling” that is still hidden.

There is something we can know, though, and that is the message of this angel.  Pay attention.  It’s very important.

The angel has an announcement about the seventh trumpet.  He says that “there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished.”

What “mystery”?

What’s this about?

I think this announcement will be the answer to the questions, “Why doesn’t God do something about evil?  Why did He permit it in the first place?”

As to why He permitted it in the first place, He hasn’t told us.  I don’t know that He ever will.  Whatever we might say about it is just uninspired speculation, finite creatures trying to understand an infinite Creator.

Romans 1:20 tells us that creation clearly reveals God’s eternal power and Godhead.  It tells us that there is a God, a very powerful and wise God.  It doesn’t tell us a lot of other things about Him, though.

Satan was one of the angels created, even before Genesis 1:1, cf. Job 38:1-7.  We don’t know how long it took, or even really why it happened, but Satan decided one day that he would be like the Most High, Isaiah 14:14.

That didn’t work out very well for him, and he, and all creation with him, learned about the justice of God.

Time passed, though we don’t know how much, and God created our earth, with two people as its sole inhabitants, not counting all the animals and lesser creatures.  And, no, we are not simply more highly-evolved “animals”.  Satan saw this happy couple fellowshipping with God, cf. Genesis 3:8, and thought, “Aha!  If I can get these two to sin like I did, God will judge them and they’ll be thrown out of His presence.”

Surprise.

God did judge them, Genesis 3:16-19, but He did something else as well.  He clothed them with coats or tunics of skin, thus foreshadowing the truth of salvation by faith in the death of a Substitute, and promised them a Redeemer one day, Genesis 3:15, though speaking to Satan and pronouncing a final judgment to come for him, cf. Hebrews 2:14.

God revealed His grace.

I don’t give these thoughts as inspired or any such thing.  They’re just my thoughts on a difficult subject.

There is coming a time, though, when perhaps not all will be made clear, but sin will most certainly and finally be taken care of once and for all.  There will be no more “delay”!  We see this in Revelation.  The “mystery” will be finished.

What about “the little book”?

We’re not told what it is, just what John was to do with it.

Like Ezekiel before him in a somewhat similar situation, Ezekiel 3:1, 2, he was to take it and eat it.

Let me make an application here.  God has given us a book, as well.  Granted, it’s not “little,” but it is His.  In His grace, He’s give it to us.  Yet how few professed Christians really read it, really digest what it says, like Ezekiel and John digested the books they were given.  How do I know that?  Just look around at the perversion and wickedness, the false teaching, that’s promoted even by many in “the church,” let alone those outside the church.  Christ has His “little flock,” Luke 12:32, to be sure, but the description of Israel in battle against the Syrians is certainly apt here:  Now the children of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of goats, while the Syrians filled the countryside, 1 Kings 20:27. Those who oppose the Gospel “fill the countryside.”

There is something told to John about his “little book” that is applicable to our own study of Scripture:  “it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth,” v. 9.

How can that be??

As we read Scripture, we see many precious promises:

The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea, Isaiah 11:9.

Beloved, now we are the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2.

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  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 will 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.  Therefore comfort one another with these words, 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18.

Wonderful promises.

These are just three of many such promises.

But there are some “prohibitions” as well.  Revelation 20 describes the ultimate end of all those who do not know the Lord Jesus or who have rejected Him in this life:

11] Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.  And there was found no place for them.  12] And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and the books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. … 13] …And they were judged, each one according to his works.  14] Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.  15] And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire,  Revelation 20:11-15.

Contrary to popular thought, everyone is not headed to “a better place.”  Apart from the Lord Jesus, there is no such thing after death.  This life will be as good as it gets for those who don’t know the Lord Jesus, those who aren’t trusting His life and His death for their salvation.  We’ll have much more to say about this when we get to this point in our study.

And don’t be misled by the idea that the dead will be judged according to their works.  That does not mean that we’re saved by our works, as so many teach.  According to Isaiah 64:6, our very best, our “righteousnesses,” those good things we do, are no better in the sight of God than “filthy rags.”  That phrase describes the cloth used by a menstruating woman or by a leper to cover his sores.  Not a pretty picture, but descriptive of what our very best is when compared to the absolute purity and holiness of the Lord Jesus.

No, there is no salvation, no “better place” apart from Jesus.  It is indeed a “bitter” thought, the judgment that awaits sinners.

Oh, do you know this One who came to take the place of sinners, that One who endured the wrath of God you and I deserve?  Have you bowed before Him?  Is He your Lord and Savior?  Oh, that I had the heart of a Spurgeon, to plead with you to flee from the wrath to come!  Without Christ, eternity will be bitter beyond our ability to conceive of it.  Without Him, there will be no “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Revelation 6: Unsealed.

Conquest, vs. 1, 2,

Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a loud voice like thunder, “Come and see.” And I looked, and behold, a white horse.  He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

Violence, vs. 3, 4.

When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come and see.”  Another horse, fiery red, went out.  And it was granted to him who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.

Scarcity, vs. 5,6.

When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.”  So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.  And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”

Slaughter, vs. 7, 8.

When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.”  So I looked, and behold, a pale horse.  And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him.  And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.

Martyrdom, vs. 9-11.

When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.  And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  Then a white robe was given to them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of the fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.

Cataclysm, vs. 12-17.

I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sum became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.  And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.  Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.  And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of his wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  (NKJV)

My, there is so much that could be said about this chapter, and the ones following.  There are books and books and books.  If you’re interested in such things, I highly recommend Alva J. McClain’s, The Greatness of the Kingdom.  McClain was one of the founders of Grace Theological Seminary.  Even though it’s a book I read in my youth, it’s still in print.  And because viewpoints tend to be recycled from generation to generation, it’s still relevant.  I suppose, too, that it’s online somewhere.  My son-in-law reminds me of such things.  I do find find online study valuable, but when it’s all said and done, give me a book.  I bought a Strong’s Concordance from a student at the Bible College I attended.  That book made a great “booster seat” for our firstborn son.  Do that with your smartphone!  That was a long time ago, but I still use it, milk stains and all – though not as a booster seat.

Enough of such reminiscences.  What shall we say about this chapter of Revelation?

Some say that these are just generalities, or that they’re always happening.  Some say they’re happening now, in this age.  And to a degree, that may be true.  The one thing Satan desires above all else is to be like God, to be worshiped, Isaiah 14:14; Matthew 4:8, 9; Luke 4:5-7.  Perhaps a good deal of the world’s history has simply been him trying to bring that about.  And I believe that Revelation shows his final and most successful, though ultimately futile, attempt to make that happen.

At the same time, because of v. 17, I don’t believe the particular events in Revelation 6 are happening right now.  Verse 17 says, “the great day of His wrath has come.”   According to 2 Corinthians 6:2, this is the day of salvation, not wrath.  Granted, terrible things are happening right now, and seem to be increasing, but these are simply the results of man’s own rebellion and wickedness.  We’ve pretty much told God to go away, and He’s just letting us reap the results of that.  Cf. Jeremiah 17:10.

One:  Conquest, vs. 1, 2.

Some believe this individual is the Lord Jesus, going forth to conquer the world and to set up His kingdom.  And Revelation 19:1 does describe Him as being on a white horse.  His description there is far different from this man, though, and He is clearly identified, v. 16.  This man is the last of Satan’s efforts to establish a world empire.  Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, Napoleon, Hitler, Communism, Islam’s goal of subduing the world – as successful as these may have been or might be, all ultimately must fail.  Matthew 24:5-8 give us our Lord’s description of what will happen at the time of the unsealing.

Two:  Conflict, vs. 3, 4.

This will be an unprecedented time of violence.  While there have always been regional strife, national conflict and even “world-wide” wars, this will be a time when peace will be taken from the earth altogether, v. 4.

Three:  Scarcity, vs. 5, 6.

Because of the violence, food will be scarce.  A denarius was about a day’s ordinary wages, so it will take everything a person has to be able to buy what food is available.  Those who are well-off will still be able to get what they need, though, as seen by the instruction not to harm the oil and the wine.  This is not to be seen as a condemnation of the rich, as is becoming common in our day, but simply a fact of life.  Even in the halcyon days of communism, when the shelves of stores were mostly bare for ordinary people, the party elite still lived well.

Four:  Slaughter, vs. 7, 8.

While the effects of the first three seals will likely be world-wide, it does seem that “a fourth of the earth” will be the special focus of the results of these events.  As to which “fourth,” I don’t really want to speculate.  I think these four seals fulfill what our Lord warned of in Matthew 24:4-8, and describe what He called “the beginning of sorrows.”

Five:  Martyrdom, vs. 9-11.

In Matthew 24:9, the Lord prophesied that the time will come when “they will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”  Persecution of God’s people is nothing new.  This will be a time of unusual intensity, however, because, as Revelation 12:12 puts it, the devil knows he has but a short time before it’s all over for him.

Daniel 7:25 has a word about this: Then the saints shall be given into his hand, and then the verse goes on to specify a certain length of time.  Now, Daniel may be referring to the same event as John, or a different event; the thing is the devil can’t touch God’s people unless God gives him permission to do so, cf. Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6.

That’s even indicated here.  The martyrs are assured that it would only be until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, would be killed as they were, was completed.  There’s only so much the devil and his minions can do, and only so many to whom they can do it.

Six:  Cataclysm:  vs. 12-17.

This earthquake is one of several in the book.  Some think that they all refer to the same event in a sort of reiteration of things throughout the book.  Though I’ve had to change my thinking a little, I think they are separate events.  There’s so much discussion about the book because it is difficult to sort things out.  I expect when all is said and done, more than one thing will be done differently than men said it would be.

At His crucifixion, our Lord turned to ladies who were lamenting His suffering and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren….  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ ”  Luke 23:28-30.

Not forever will this world thumb its nose at its Creator.  One of these days, we’re going to run into the end of God’s patience, and we’ll see His wrath poured on this wicked world.

In Revelation 5:6, John saw a Lamb as though it has been slain.  There is only one way of escape from the judgment of God.  That’s not to deny it, as many do today, but to receive by faith the One who bore that judgment for sinners.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.

Revelation 5:4-14, “Worthy is the Lamb!”

So I wept much because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, nor to look at it.  But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep.  Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”

And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.  Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  And they sang a new song, saying:

“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 people and nation,
And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth,”

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!”  And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and forever.   (NKJV)

As I read over this chapter gathering thoughts about it, chills ran up and down my spine as I contemplated the grandeur and majesty of this “worship service.”  I’m afraid ours pale in comparison with it.

But something else, first.

In the earlier part of the chapter, John had “wept much” because no one was worthy to take the scroll from the hand of the One on the throne and open it.  No one deserved even to look at it, let alone read it!

But one of the elders said, “Wait.  There is One.

“Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seals,”  v. 5.

“The Lion of the tribe of Judah.”  This takes us back to Jacob’s dying declaration to his sons in Genesis 49:9, 10, where he says,

“Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes:
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.”

“The Root of David.”

This takes us back to Isaiah 11:1, 10:

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots….

And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious.

The rest of Isaiah 11 is wonderful and its thoughts are continued in ch. 12.  You should read them, though, for now, we’re only interested in the two verses.

Surely the elder talking to John portrays a mighty warrior, a prince among his people.  So John turns to see this person, and he sees –

a Lamb.

That most inoffensive and defenseless of creatures – a lamb.

True, the symbols of “horns” and “eyes” speak of strength and knowledge, but, still, a lamb.

But that’s not all.  John saw –

A Lamb as though it had been slain.

“As though” –

Not dead, alive, though bearing the marks of death.

And the elder has one more thing to say about this Lamb:  He has prevailed to open the book and to loose its seven seals,” v. 5.

You see, there is where it all starts, if you and I aren’t just simply to be condemned to hell because of our sins.

It isn’t enough just to have the Jesus of much of modern thought, or of other religions, or even much of what calls itself Christianity.  He wasn’t just a prophet or teacher, though He was that.  He wasn’t just a good example, because that would do us no good.  We could never follow His example.  And, contrary to some skepticism and unbelief, He did exist.  He’s not just a figment of some misguided imagination.  And He’s not just our buddy.

Scripture says that He came to be a Savior.  The angel told Joseph, “He shall save His people from their sins,” Matthew 1:21.  Now it’s true that the angel said to His mother that He “will reign over the house of Jacob forever,” Luke 1:33, but that “house” itself needs to be saved from sin.  The Cross had to come first.  He had to be the slain Lamb before He could be the sovereign Lord.

Without His death, there would be no salvation, no blessing, no grace.

But He didn’t just die; He “prevailed.”

He won.

He rose from the dead, evidence, to us,  that God accepted His death as the payment for sin.  Without the Resurrection, we’d have no way of knowing if His death was any different than the others who died with Him that day.  He ascended into Heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Majesty on high, waiting for the fulfillment of the promises the Father made to Him.

Without that, a lot of the rest of the chapter wouldn’t be possible.

This brings us to the “chills”.

I love good music.  Handel’s Messiah.  The 1812 Overture.  Music like that, that doesn’t require an amplifier to be effective.  And that actually is music, and not just an assortment of notes accompanied by theatrics.  Those crescendos up to the climax….  I love them.

Read the chapter over again.  That crescendo of praise and worship.

The living creatures and the twenty-four elders, v. 8.

The voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, v. 11.

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, v. 13.

The whole of creation raises its voice in a crescendo of praise to its Creator and Redeemer, for even creation itself will be redeemed from the curse brought on it by our first parents, Romans 8:21.  How much more, then, ought you and I, who have been released from the bondage and curse of sin, raise our voices in praise to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and forever.

Hallelujah.

Revelation 3:1-6, The Church at Sardis: What’s In a Name?

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis, write,
‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars:  “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.  Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your work perfect before God.  Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent.  Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.  You have a few names even in Sardis that have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy.  He who overcomes shall be clothed with white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before my Father and before His angels.
‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ‘ (NKJV)

1. The City of the Epistle, v. 1.

Sardis was situated on a small plateau which rose some 1500 feet above the surrounding country and was directly accessible only from the south.  Except for this approach, the plateau was atop nearly perpendicular walls, which were unclimbable except under exceptional circumstances.  The approach itself was narrow and heavily fortified, making the city virtually impregnable.  Yet the city was conquered, not once, but twice, because of the complacency of the defenders.

The plateau on which the city sat was affected by the weather.  From time to time, an oblique crack would appear in the perpendicular cliffs, thus affording access to the top to an experienced climber or to one willing to risk it.  Even then, the sides could have been easily defended, because it took all one could do to climb, let alone having to fight his way up.  However, the citizens of Sardis were careless and self-confident, and there was no continuing defense, except on the south.  The city was conquered twice.

The name “Sardis” means “a remnant” or “those who have escaped,” and characterizes the church.  Only a few had “escaped” the defilement which infected the church in general; the majority had a name, but no reality.  Sardis typifies Protestantism after the initial fervor had died down.  The Established Churches all had the name of defenders of orthodoxy, but there was generally little more than lip service. Ritual and form were the important thing, and Morality was all the “gospel” that was preached.

There are many good and godly people in the Reformed movement.  And there are Baptists who don’t believe anything at all of the faith once delivered to the saints. It isn’t “my church” or “your church.”  Our ultimate authority for spiritual truth isn’t this or that catechism or confession of faith.  It isn’t this preacher or that scholar. Our ultimate and final authority must be the Word of God.  With Paul, we must ask, What does the Scripture say? Romans 4:3.  It is our rule and practice of faith.  Nothing else is.

2. The Christ of the Epistle, vs. 1.

He Who is the Lord of the Church is portrayed as the One Who has –

The Seven Spirits of God.  Some versions have “spirits of God.”  There weren’t originally any capitals in Greek.  So it’s a matter of interpretation how to print this phrase, which also occurs in 1:4; 4:5 and 5:6.  I’ve given my thoughts in my comments on 1:4, so won’t repeat them here.

There is something I do want to say, though.  In spite of the uncertainty of what this phrase means, I think it has a clear message.  Before I started the blog, I contributed to another website.  It was a general discussion site.  Someone would ask a question or make a comment and others would answer.  One of the other contributors closed a comment with the phrase, “God bless America.”  I responded, “How can God bless America when we’re doing everything we can to bring about His judgment?”  Someone else responded, “What does God have to do with it?”

“What does God have to do with it?”

The description John uses, along with the rest of the book, tells us that He has everything to do with it.  We’ll see that, Lord willing, as we go along.

The Seven Stars.  As we saw earlier, these “stars” refer to the pastors of the seven local churches.  The Spirit works life, and its activity, only through the Word, hence, the pastors of the churches, those who minister the Word, are included because spiritual life is to be revived.

3. The Contents of the Epistle, 3:1b-6.

Condemnation, vs. 1b-2.  Sardis has nothing good said about it, except perhaps that there were a few of its members who hadn’t been “defiled.”  It was worse even than Thyatira.

1. It had a false name.  Sardis was a church with a reputation for orthodoxy, yet there was nothing on the inside; there was a form of godliness, but denying its power, 2 Timothy 3:5.  How true this was, and is, of a great deal of Protestantism.  With good beginnings in the Reformation, it has deteriorated, generally speaking, into a cold, lifeless formalism.

2. It had a failing vitality, vs. 2.

– be watchful, be awake, as after being roused.  And it is a command signifying, “keep on being awake.  Don’t go back to sleep.”

– ready to die, about to lose the last spark of life.

– strengthen, take strong, immediate, effective measures.

– perfect, complete, satisfactory.  As good as it was, the Reformation fell far short of returning to the simplicity of the New Testament.  I read Reformed authors who want to go back to the Church Fathers of the second and third century.  No doubt, there is much they could teach us.  At the same time, why not go back to the “original” Church Fathers, in the New Testament?  That’s what I want to do.

Counsel, v. 3a.

1. Remember, how, with what zeal and eagerness you received the truths of the Gospel.  Does the Word mean as much to us as it once did?

2. Return, to that first fervor and desire for the Lord.  The Psalmist wrote, delight yourself also in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart, Psalm 37:4.    It might be easy to look at that and think that this means that, if we “delight” in the Lord, He’ll make us rich or famous or some other thing greatly sought after by the world.  But, if we truly delight in the Lord, wouldn’t the thing we desire most be Himself?  That was Paul’s great desire, that I might know Him, Philippians 3:10.  There’s a wealth of material in the word “also” as well as in what else Paul said in his verse, but we leave that to your further thought.

Consequences, v. 3b.  “As a thief” doesn’t refer to the Lord’s coming, though He does use that analogy about it elsewhere, but to visitation in judgment like that of Ephesus in 2:5 and Pergamos in 2:16.  That is exactly what Christ has done with this church.  Though it did last for a long time, it is long gone.

Yet we believe there is a wider application to that promise:  to unregenerate, formal, ritualistic Protestantism, Christ threaten that aspect of His coming which belongs to the world, 1 Thessalonians 5:4, 5.

“State churches must be to a considerable extent political in principle and practice.  If, therefore, Protestantism identifies itself with the world, sharing its fortunes, it must also share in its doom” (Walter Scott, Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 95.)

We admit that there is considerable discussion of and disagreement in views of the future.  Without getting into all that, we’ve done that elsewhere, let me just say that truly born-again Christians will not enter the Tribulation Period.  There are, however, countless numbers not only in liberal churches but also in churches which call themselves “conservative” or “fundamental” which bear no evidence of a work of God in their lives.  Though we cannot know for certain the true spiritual condition of folks like these, nominal Christians, those who’ve just gone through the motions or the ritual, will enter and endure this time of trial on the earth.  We will have more to say about this, Lord willing.

Considerations, vs. 4, 5.

1. Fellowship with our Lord, v. 4.  The glory and wonder of heaven isn’t streets of gold or the fact that “bad” things are forever gone.  That which will make heaven “heaven” will be the fact that HE is there, and His people will have eternal and unbroken fellowship with Him.

2. White raiment, v. 5.  Changed forever will be these fallible, fallen bodies.  We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2.  No more death, disease or departure from purity and righteousness.

3. Name not blotted out, v. 5.  This is not the loss of salvation, but rather the showing the falseness of their profession of life.  Remember, the Lord is referring to those with only the name of “Christian,” but who in reality are “twice dead”: in sin and to righteousness.

4. Name confessed before God and the angels, v. 5.  This is the other side of what has just been said.  Not only will true Christians be “blotted out” of the book, but their names will be confessed before the Father.  As one has said, “I am not ashamed to confess Christ, but my wonder is, How can he ever confess me!”

 

 

Revelation 2:19-29, The Church at Thyatira: Where Service is Not Sufficient

“I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.  Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.  And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.  Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.  I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts.  And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
“Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.  But hold fast what you have till I come.  And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations –

‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron;
They shall be dashed in pieces like the
potter’s vessels’ –

as I also received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.  
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ‘

As we’ve mentioned before, this is the longest of the seven letters.

– continued from the previous post –

3. Contents of the Epistle, 2:19-29.

Commendation, v. 19.

This is the warmest commendation of any, which perhaps emphasizes the severity of what follows.  Thyatira had so much, and yet fell so far short.  The Lord indicates there had been real spiritual progress.  “Works” are mentioned twice, “the last more (or, better) than the first.”  Jesus commended them for four practical aspects of their Christian life:

1. Love.  This is the first and chief of all Christian graces, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.  This is what Ephesus lacked.

2. Service, “diakonia,” voluntary service for our brethren, or those around us, by which they are benefited.  This is different from “doulos,” the word used by Paul and translated “bondservant,” whose only duty was to obey his master.  This is an apt word for our service to God.  What we do as God’s servants does not “benefit” Him!  Cf. Job 35:7.

3. Faith.  Cf. Hebrews 11:6.  Faith isn’t simply agreement with a set of teachings, a catechism, a statement of faith, as good as these may be.  It isn’t some sort of “feeling” or experience by which we enter a supposed “higher plane of Christian existence.”  According to Hebrews 11, faith is an obedient response to the Word of God.  We read over and over again in that chapter, “by faith,” so-and-so did this or that.  Noah built a huge boat, when it had never rained.  Abraham left a comfortable life in a metropolis of his time and everything he knew to follow a promise.  Enoch just disappeared one day.  These and many others didn’t simply “believe” God, they did what He said.  Some of what they did seems unreasonable, even wicked, to unbelievers,e.g., Abraham’s “sacrifice” of Isaac.  But they pleased God.  That’s all that matters.

4. Patience, endurance under hardship.  We see examples of this later in Hebrews 11, Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.  Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tested, were slain with the sword.  They wandered around in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy.  They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth, vs. 35b-38.

We’ve been spoiled in this country.  What we just read above is more likely to be the treatment of God’s people in this world, and it is in many countries even as I write these words.

Thyatira had much that was good, but they also had much that was bad.  This leads to:

Condemnation and Judgment, vs. 20-23.

1. Condemnation, v. 20.  Thyatira was very active in works, but they seem to have neglected the Word.  This is why all the things wrong with them happened.  They weren’t really guided by the Word of God.  Because of this,  –

– they permitted false teaching. Perhaps, like the church at Corinth, they thought it was an evidence of “Christian love” or some such thing, to tolerate this teaching.  I don’t really know.  Regardless, “tolerance” is not permitted in defiance of plain Scripture teaching.  “Gender fluidity,” unScriptural views of marriage, of the family, of morality in general, of the roles of men and woman, of the place of Scripture in society, to name just a few, have no place in a Biblical worldview, regardless of how popular or prevalent they, or any other social idea, might be, or how unpopular the Biblical view is.

What about the idea that a woman was responsible for this teaching?

We don’t know who this woman really was, or if this was even her real name.  So we have to ask, who is Jezebel in Scripture?  She’s first mentioned in 1 Kings 16:31-33, where she is married to Ahab, king of Israel, a king who followed in the idolatrous and rebellious practices of Jeroboam, the first ruler of the divided kingdom, see 1 Kings 12:25-33, who thereafter was known as  “Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin,” and future kings of Israel are faulted for following him.

Ahab was a weak king and Scripture says of him, there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up, 1 Kings 21:25.  She did the same thing to her son, 1 Kings 22:52.

She was a “mixer,” mixing the true religion of Israel with the false religion of her homeland.  Whatever she was to the northern kingdom, that’s what this other “Jezebel” was to Thyatira, mixing the true and the false.  It doesn’t matter what she called herself, she was wrong, and the church got into trouble for following her.

At the same time, I think Christ has something to say to those who turn to mere human authority, rather than hearing what the Spirit says to the churches.  One of the Puritans used to say, “I want to hear but two things.  First, does God speak?  Second, what does He say?”  Unless we have this attitude, and aren’t content merely to follow some preacher, teacher or school of thought, we are in Thyatira.

As for the idea of a woman teaching men, the Scripture is quite clear on this, in spite of the rampant feminism, “Biblical” or otherwise, that has engulfed even our churches, 1 Corinthians 14:33-37; 1 Timothy 2:8-12.  Lest, as some have done, it is said these verses just show Paul’s “rabbinic prejudice,” he wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:37, these things that I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.

This in no way is intended to demean women.  Their value and contribution in this life cannot be overstated.  It’s just that the world has an entirely different definition of those ideas than Scripture.  This is not to say in any way that man is “superior,” or that women are “inferior.”  It is God Who is superior and He has set an order in the church, in the home and in society.  He has one set of rules; the world has chosen to reject those and go by their own set of rules, with the resulting chaos we see all around us.

– they tolerated idolatry and immorality.  Possibly this centered around the trade-guilds and the idolatry and immorality they fostered.  We don’t know how Jezebel might have reasoned about these things in the church, but it doesn’t really matter.  Regardless of why it happened, the Lord was having none of it.

2. Judgment, vs. 21-23.

With reference to the actual church in Thyatira, we don’t know what happened when the Lord judged this wickedness, just that it happened.

With reference to any typical teaching, we believe this church represents the Reformation and Rome’s response to the true gospel.

– grace before judgment, v. 21. The Lord said, “I gave her space to repent….”   Savonorala in Italy, Wickliffe in England, John Knox in Scotland, Martin Luther in Germany, Zwingli in Switzerland, Calvin in France – all men whom God raised up throughout their world to call Rome to repentance, but “she repented not,” and instead set up a “Counter Reformation” to strengthen her grip on the souls of men and to counteract the preaching of the truth.

– judgment on her and her followers, v. 22.

See above for remarks about the actual church situation in Thyatira.

– judgment on her “children,” v. 23.

Who are “her children”?  Are they not the Reformation churches?  Calvin and Luther and others never repudiated their Catholic ordination.  When Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to that door in Wittenburg, he wasn’t trying to start a new “church,” but was attempting to call the church that ordained him to repentance and a return to the truths of Scripture.

– “kill with death.”  We think this phrase contains a vital, but generally overlooked, truth.  What brought about the Reformation?  Wasn’t it largely due to the recovery of the Scriptural teaching of justification by grace through faith?  We’ve already noted Luther’s and Calvin’s views on preaching and interpretation.  The Reformers did preach the Word to a degree unheard of for centuries.  It’s sad that they brought so much with them when they left Rome.  But they did at least start with a foundation of Scripture.

What happened?

The Reformers themselves were men of the Spirit, but their doctrines of infant baptism and the state-church, whereby everyone who was a citizen of the nation was by virtue of that citizenship also a member of the state church, soon filled their churches with unsaved people, and their method of allegorical interpretation, in spite of the “literalism” they started with, soon reduced the Gospel to nothing more than a series of ethical maxims.

We think very little of this in our day, but Scripture says that the Word of God will inevitably have one of only two results:

For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life…, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life, 2 Corinthians 2:15-16; 3:6, emphasis added.

Apart from the ministry of the Spirit of God, the Word of God produces death, whether it’s preached in a Reformed church, a Baptist church, or someone just picks it up and reads it.  According to Paul, there is no middle ground.  Protestant churches have the Word, but, to a great degree, have reduced it to teachings on ethics and morality.  However, ethics, even biblical ones, do not give “life.”  So Rome’s children have been “killed with death” by the very Scriptures of which Protestant churches make their boast.

– “give to each one of you..,” v. 23.

Whatever may be said about “typical” teaching from these verses, the Lord is here addressing the actual church in Thyatira.  There is a judgment of persons as well as of systems, cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.  The believer’s sins aren’t in view in these verses; they were taken care of on Calvary.  His works will be put to the test – what he did with the life God gave him.  The word translated, “loss,” has two meanings: loss of what has been gained, the works of wood, hay and stubble, but it also means “to forfeit” – the reward that would have been received if the works had been gold, silver or precious stones.  Such a one faces a double loss:  all the works of his life, as well as any reward.  Paul put it like this:  he himself will be saved, yet as through fire, v. 15.  The picture is of a person who has gone through a disastrous fire, losing everything and escaping only with his life.

It’s a sobering thought.  20, 30, 40, 50 years of ministry, perhaps outwardly great and wonderful, gone up in smoke.  This is why John warned his readers – and us, Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward, 2 John 8 (ESV), emphasis added.

Closing remarks, vs. 24-29.

1. Responsibility, vs. 24, 25, “hold fast.”

The phrase means, to hold by strong hands, tugging for it, with those who would take it from them.  It indicates an ongoing and difficult struggle to retain what they still had.  The world has no use for the things of God, and even many in “the church” see no value in them, being content with ritual and routine.  In Thyatira, there were those who were actively opposed to the truth of God’s Word.  The believers weren’t to let them win.

2. Reassurance, vs. 26 – 28.

As difficult as it might have seemed to these Thyatiran believers, their struggles would come to an end and they would be richly rewarded.  They were promised power (authority) over the nations.

A Reformed writer had this to say, “One by one, as we reach the end here on earth, we shall pass into heaven and there sit with Christ on His throne and together with Him exercise kingly rule and authority over the nations until His Parousia. (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation, p. 122.)

Sorry, but I must differ.  Where is there a single place on earth today that bears any evidence of Christ’s “kingly rule”?  Where He is honored and revered?  What kind of “rule” is that, where the King is ignored, even ridiculed and rejected?  This quote is a very shallow and irreverent view of “the kingdom.”

Our Lord Himself said that He is seated with His Father on His Father’s throne, 3:21.  He will not sit on His own throne as King until after His return to this earth, Matthew 25:31.  He isn’t referred to as “King” until then, either.  According to Zechariah 14:16-21, when our Lord is ruling this earth, there will be no question about it – and no escaping it.  He, and His people, will rule the nations “with a rod of iron,” because not everyone will be glad to see Him!  We see this graphically portrayed in Revelation 20:7, when Satan is released from his prison at the end of the 1000 year reign of our Lord (not just “hindered” by the preaching of the Gospel, but actually incarcerated), and he will have no trouble at all in gathering a world-wide rebellion against the King, a rebellion that will be quickly snuffed out.  Just in passing, if the Holy Spirit didn’t mean an actual 1000 years, why did He mention it six times in six verses?

“the morning star.”  2 Peter 1:19 refers to the morning star rising in our hearts.  There’s a lot of discussion about what this “star” is.  I confess I don’t know.  Whatever it is, is probably beyond the ability of words to convey.

 3. Reminder, v. 29.

These aren’t just the delusions of a tired old man in prison.  They are what the Spirit says to the churches.

Pay attention….

Revelation 2:8, The Christ Who Was Dead And Is Alive.

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write,
“These things says the First and the Last, who was dead and came to life.”

It’s with good reason that the Lord starts each letter with a reference to Himself.  Especially in this day of mega-churches and “personalities” (“Chrislebrities,” ugh! what a terrible word!), Jesus seems almost irrelevant.  Of course we believe in Him – we are Christians, after all – but with all the programs and projects and politics and all our efforts for the betterment of mankind, He kind of gets put on the back burner until something goes wrong, and then we run to Him, wondering why He doesn’t do something.  (Although, in this day of fast foods and microwaves, I wonder how many people know what a “back burner” is.  Anyway.)  If Christ were indeed to go away, how many churches would notice the difference?

I don’t mean to be critical, though I am, but without the Lord Jesus, there is no reason for “church.”  There is no salvation.  There is nothing.

Our Lord is simply reminding each church of that fact.  After all,

He is –

– “The First and the Last.”

Several cities in the Roman Empire claimed the title, “First (of something).”  There were several different categories for this.  Ephesus, Smyrna and Thyatira were among these cities.

I think the Lord was simply reminding them that long before Smyrna had been thought of, He could say, “I AM”, and long after the last ember of this planet has burned out, cf. 2 Peter 3:10, He will still be able to say, “I AM”.

We forget that.  Like Smyrna, there are places of incredible beauty and awe-inspiring scenery in this world.  Some of you have traveled all over it.  I’ve just seen a little of this country.  The vastness of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, fall colors in the Ozarks, the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains and Pikes Peak (the mountain in the header of this blog), the impressive vista of the Black Hills of South Dakota, the awesome feeling of the world’s highest suspension bridge holding sway 1000+ feet over the Royal Gorge and the Arkansas River.

And it does sway (move).  royal-gorge-bridge-again

Just a little….

You used to be able to drive over the bridge, but that’s long gone.  Cars got too big and heavy.

It’s enough to walk over it.

As an aside possibly only of interest to me, my grandfather worked in the steel mill in Pueblo CO where the steel cables were made that support the bridge.

With all that, there’s a great deal of beauty in this country that I haven’t seen.

Doesn’t matter.

One day, it’ll all be gone.

The Lord Jesus will still be the First and the Last.

But He also is the One –

“Who was dead and came to life.”  The Greek reads, “Who became dead and lived.”

It’s a study in itself just to consider the Lord’s “becoming.”  That’s why we split this letter into two parts.

In the first place, He became flesh, John 1:14.

The thing about this is, who was He before He became flesh, before He was born to the virgin in Bethlehem?  Everything rides on the answer to that question.

If, as some who knock on your door insist, He was just another created being, albeit maybe a little higher than you or me, if that’s true, then there’s no hope for any of us.  As and if only a creature like us, He would be completely responsible to God for Himself.  He would have to be perfection Himself in order not to be condemned.  His life would have value in this way only for Himself.  He would have nothing left over, as it were, for anyone else, or you or me.  We’d be doomed.

But John 1:1 says that before He became flesh, He was God.  Those same folks who knock at your door insist that John meant that Jesus was only “a god.”  It is true that in the original, there is no article, no “the,” before “God” in John 1:1.  If there were, then the Word would be the God, and the “oneness” folks are right.  But there is no article before the word, “God.”  In the Greek, there is no indefinite article, no “a,” and thus no way for John to write “a god.”

So?

The difference might be seen in comparing these two phrases:  you are the human; you are human.  The first phrase, “You are the human,” indicates a particular person.  It’s true, in English, to say, “You are a human” is possible, meaning that you are one among several, or as distinguished from them, but in NT Greek, you can’t say that.  To them, “You are human” would mean that you have the characteristics of a human, as opposed, say, to fish or birds.  And, no, we are not animals, although that’s another post.

What John is saying is that, whatever characteristics God has, the Word has.  He is God, not “a god.”

But these same folks again, persistent, aren’t they, will say, “Yes, but Jesus Himself said that the Father is greater that He is, John 14:28.  According to them, this means that He isn’t equal with God.  He isn’t Jehovah God.

Is that true?

Not at all.

When the Word became flesh, He laid aside His divine prerogatives, His “rights,” and came to this earth as a human being.  And He was truly human, not a phantom or apparition, as some teach.  In doing so, He did not cease to be God.  He just quit acting like it, for the most part.  Walking on water isn’t ordinarily a human thing.  When He comes back, He will act like it.

As a man and as a Jew, He was born under the Law, Galatians 4:4, and was as responsible to obey it as any other Jew.  In this way, because He was truly human, the Father was greater than He.  This doesn’t deny His deity at all, but merely affirms His humanity.

Further, He didn’t come to glory and fame.  He wasn’t born in Rome to a wealthy or noble family, but in Bethlehem, to a poor family from a despised race.  How do we know His family was poor?  When His mother, Mary, made the required offering after His birth, she offered turtledoves or pigeons, the offering prescribed for the poorest Jew, Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:8.

He made Himself of no reputation, Philippians 2:7.

But more than all that, and the reason for it, He became a sin offering, Hebrews 9:26, but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.  

Then there’s 2 Corinthians 5:21, For He [God] has made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  I don’t even begin to understand all that’s involved in that.  I don’t think we ever will.

But the cross and the tomb weren’t the end of it.

“He became alive.”

This was the message of the apostolic church, And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, Acts 4:33.  It’s what they were supposed to preach:  Then He [Jesus] said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations,” Luke 24:46, 47, emphases added.

Why go through all this “doctrine”?  Why emphasize it?  Because if that isn’t who Christ was to Smyrna, they had no hope.  They were suffering for nothing.  And if that isn’t Christ to us, we have no hope.   Indeed, as Paul put it, If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable, 1 Corinthians 15:19.

(photo credit:  2roadsdiverged.com)