Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day 365: Revelation 19, 20, 21 and 22

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. (Revelation 22:13)
John's Revelation ends the same way it began. I am the Alpha and Omega, says the Lord God (Revelation 1:8). For the Christian, oppressed under Rome's thumb, this is yet again a message of hope and an invitation to endure – but not just to endure – to endure with faith and hope.
This beast of yours, this Roman Empire... I was here before this great empire was even a thought, and I will be here long after it turns to dust... even after its dust ceases to be, I will be here.
Some of our problems that cropped up in 2009 lasted a few weeks and were resolved. Some may still be dogging us, and if we were honest we might admit that sometimes we wonder if they're going to get the best of us. The truth is: God was present and faithful before those problems came along, and God will be present and faithful long after they are gone.
Hold on. God is on your side. That's what Revelation is talking about!
When troubles seem overwhelming, tell them, God may not have started this fight, but he sure can finish it. Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Day 364: Revelation 15, 16, 17 and 18

Fallen is Babylon the Great! (Revelation 18:2)

The writer of Revelation delivers the same message with four different groupings of symbols. That message is, according to Marie Strong: God is victorious over all the forces (and faces) of evil and the church will endure. The Alpha and Omega is coming to judge (Revelation 1:7-8 and 22:12-13) . . . we live with the hope that our suffering in the battle between good and evil will be answered by the one who "will wipe every tear from [our] eyes" (21:4). We will then belong with the one who makes all things new! [1]

In Chapter 18, we see the promised destruction of Rome. What seemed like a long time coming, now comes quickly.

Our battles seem to go on forever. Satan shows no mercy and has no qualms about attacking us at our weakest point, or in waiting until we are exhausted or discouraged to give his plans a better chance of success. But there is coming a day when our Babylon the great – that force pitting itself against God's people today – will go up in smoke. God wants Believers to know the outcome of the story – the end of the book. God wins! And so do those who remain faithful!

What's fighting against you? Keep resisting.
[1] Marie Strong, A Common Sense Approach to the Book of Revelation (Anderson: Warner Press, 1996), 69.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Day 362: Revelation 7, 8, 9 and 10

Who are they? And where did they come from? (Revelation 7:13)

This question is asked by one of the elders regarding the great multitude that no one could count. The writer wants his readers to be aware that the path ahead is difficult, and for many will result in martyrdom. The writer also wants his readers to know that they are not walking this path alone.

Remember Elijah and his despair following the victory over Baal’s prophets? He'd just experienced an incredible display of God's power, but one that reinvigorated Jezebel's murderous hatred for him. He was on the run, beyond burnout, and needed encouragement. He railed against God: I have been zealous for [you] . . . I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too (1 Kings 19:10). In other words, why have you left me all alone? But God informed Elijah that there were 7,000 others who remained faithful. Elijah was by no means alone.

Likewise, God's faithful under siege from Rome need some assurance too. It's tough enough to ask someone to suffer martyrdom, but it's even more difficult if that person thinks he (or she) is the only one making the supreme sacrifice. The writer here encourages Believers: Stay strong. There are more faithful than you can count, and they come from all nations, tribes, peoples and languages. You are not alone.

So the next time someone whispers in your ear, Everyone else is doing it...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day 361: Revelation 4, 5 and 6

There before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. (Revelation 4:2)
No doubt about it, under Roman Emperor Domitian, Christianity was under attack. And one of the first things John is shown in his heavenly vision is a throne. This is a throne higher and mightier than the throne of Rome – this is the throne of heaven.
At a time when Christians might have been wondering, Is God still on the throne? Revelation leaves no doubt. Not only is there a throne, encircled with a rainbow (reminiscent of Noah's story in Genesis 6-9); the throne is not empty – a majestic, heavenly figure is sitting on it. The same God who spared his people in the ark would surely spare his people from the onrushing torrent of Rome.
Have you ever felt like the throne is empty? It isn't.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Day 360: Revelation 1, 2 and 3

Be faithful, even to the point of death. (Revelation 2:10)

Revelation is a message to 1st century Christians facing dire persecution. Things are bad and are going to get worse before they get better. Nowhere does God tell those who are his that they will avoid suffering. Rather, they are warned that suffering is unavoidable, and may even lead to death.

But in Luke, Jesus tells the crowds, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. (12:4) And in Revelation: I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (1:18)

In other words, death isn't final. Sure, the enemy is a thief who comes only to steal and kill and destroy, (John 10:10) but even if things go that wrong, there’s still hope. Christ reminds us that he and not Satan holds the keys to death and hell. And if Jesus was dead, but is now alive for ever and ever, then may we find assurance that even in death, death doesn't get the final word. Death is the worst the devil can do to us, but not even death can separate us from our Savior.

Though being a Christian may not put your life at risk (count your blessings), your faith is still under attack, sometimes in such subtle ways that you may not even recognize it.

Will you be faithful today?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Day 359: 2 John, 3 John and Jude

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. (2 John 9)

There are two kinds of people who forsake leadership and run on ahead: 1) children, whose naïveté causes them to ignore the consequences of getting separated from those with more experience, and 2) adults, whose arrogance convinces them they are more qualified to lead because they know better. Either one will get people lost, and both should be cured by growing up.

The writer of 2 John speaks of those who have determined they know better than the teachings of and about Christ... specifically the teaching of his incarnation. These persons who arrogantly think they know better are the Docetics, who insisted that Jesus was purely spirit and only appeared to be flesh. Even after the Docetics were gone, their teachings were adopted by the Gnostics, another heretical group.

The point is, while it's easy for us to point fingers at heretics, don't we have the same headstrong tendencies? Once we think we know the way, why listen to directions? Once we think we know how, why read the instructions? The elder admonishes us to never get too big for our britches. If we know everything, what is there to learn?

Blessed are the teachable. What have you learned this week?
[T-Shirt Quote: Arrogance is the anesthesia that dulls the pain of ignorance.]