Drop Dead Glorious (Revelation 1:9-20)

I suppose it was inevitable… And I am relieved that I don’t need to hide it anymore. It feels like a weight has been lifted.

Pam caught me online looking at…Pinterest.

Pinterest tends to be, let’s say… feminine:

More than ⅔︎ of Pinterest’s base are women.
More than 80% of women in the US ages 18-64 with children are pinners.

Among the top Pinterest searches are DIY Crafts, Home Decor, and Hair & Beauty.

I came to the hard realization that less than 10% of my followers on Pinterest are male.

My Boards are somewhat manly:

• Coffee Pics
• Pool-to-Pond Conversion
• Tattoos
• Let’s Try Vegan
• Punch Recipes

So there I was scrolling on Pinterest when a suggested pin appeared: Repurposed oil lamps

How could I resist?

There amongst oil lamps being used as candy jars and vases and candle holders was something sublime: DIY plans for wiring oil lamps to plug into an outlet. (I’ll let you know how it goes after I first try the sure-fire home remedy for keeping cats out of your yard).

Oil lamps figure prominently in our verses

John sees “seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man” (v12-13).

This entire passage is about light, brilliance, and shining.

When He was on the earth, Jesus said that He was the “light of the world” (John 8:12).

The Lord said to us, “You are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14 & 16).

I’ll organize my comments around two points:

#1 Let Your Light Shine And You Will Be Buffeted By Tribulation, and #2 Let Your Light Shine And You Will Be Brightened By Trimming.

#1 – Let Your Light Shine And You Will Be Buffeted By Tribulation (v9)

Late in the first century, the apostle John was still burning brightly for the Lord. It landed him in hot oil – literally. In what he called The Second Persecution Under [Roman Emperor] Domitian, John Foxe (author of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs) wrote,

Among the numerous martyrs that suffered during this persecution was… St. John, who was boiled in oil, and afterward banished to Patmos.

Tertullian, an early church figure, in his The Prescription Against Heretics, wrote,

How happy is its church, on which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood… where the Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile.

John’s light for Jesus had attracted trouble for him. But in his trouble, he shone all the more brightly.

Rev 1:9  I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

“Patmos” is some fifty miles off the coast of Ephesus in the Aegean Sea. It has the shape of an hourglass and is small, about 13mi² in area. (By way of comparison, the City of Hanford is approximately 16mi²).

I’ve heard it said that John was forced to work either mining salt or quarrying marble. Did I mention he was 90-something?

It is equally possible that John was under house arrest. Patmos was not a penal colony like Rura Penthe. It had a harbor, a town, a temple to Artemis, a temple to Apollo, perhaps a temple to Dionysus, a temple to Aphrodite, a gymnasium, and a stadium.

They couldn’t boil him, so they banished him. Little did the Romans know that God would use John’s time on Patmos as a working sabbatical to receive and write the Revelation.

Ships could find safe harbor from storms there. We can think of John’s banishment as a safe harbor for him during the storms of persecution.

John’s crime, the nefarious activity he was sent away for, was “the Word of God and… the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

John was boiled and banished for being a Christian.

He was sharing the Gospel and the “testimony” that Jesus was God come in human flesh to die on the Cross; and that He rose from the dead; and that there was salvation only in Him.

John was one of the originals. More than that, he had been invited into the inner circle along with Peter and James. He several times refers to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved.” He was an apostle.

Yet, for all that, he calls himself their “brother and companion.” He was content to identify with every other Christian as a “brother.” No more; no less.

Only among Christians is there a true equality.

We might even say, in Christ, “all men are recreated equal” in their new birth. I might have a different office, or function, or talent, or gifting. We are complementarian. But we are on absolutely equal ground when it comes to the love of God that is ours through Jesus Christ.

They were accompanying one another as “companions” on the road to Heaven. It’s a road marked with suffering, requiring the sharing burdens.

John described our time on earth journeying heavenward as “the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” Here is what I think that trio of phrases might mean:

Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). I know that this isn’t referring to the Great Tribulation because, a little later in this book, Jesus promises us that the church we will not go through it. This tribulation John spoke about refers to the oppression and persecution during the Church Age targeting believers.

At the same time that we are promised tribulation, we are assured of “the kingdom.” Jesus will return for us to then return with us to establish the literal kingdom of God on the earth.

The time of waiting for the kingdom is to be characterized by “the patience of Jesus Christ.” This isn’t a big dose of patience we get by asking. In the Bible, we are told that “tribulation produces patience” (Romans 5:3). You might not want to pray for patience.

Light attracts. In John’s case, his light attracted tribulation. If we shine as the light of the world, distinctly Christian trouble will come our way, too.

#2 – Let Your Light Shine And You Will Be Brightened By Trimming (v10-20)

Oil lamps are simple. The oil in a reservoir produces light when a cloth wick is lit.

The wick fails to burn away because it is constantly absorbing fuel, which burns instead of the cloth.

Oil lamps need tending – someone to supply the oil, and to keep the wick trimmed. Jesus presents Himself to John as being in the midst of seven lampstands, tending to them.

Rev 1:10  I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,

“In the Spirit” indicates an enhanced spiritual state in which John received the Revelation.

Is “the Lord’s Day” a reference to Sunday? Or is it signifying the Day of the Lord, the day of God’s judgment upon the earth, that is prophesied in the Old Testament, and described in this book?

Either John was having an exceptional Sunday “in the Spirit..,” or he was transported forward in time by God the Holy Spirit to somehow witness the events of the Day of the Lord.

It doesn’t matter if the Lord’s Day is Sunday… Or the Day of the Lord… Or something else entirely.

What matters is that what John saw was written down as Scripture under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit.

“I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet.” It wasn’t a trumpet. It functioned as a trumpet. Trumpets were sounded to gather the people of God, and to provide instruction for their movements.

Describing Jesus’ voice like a trumpet in conjunction with the mention of the seven churches in the next indicates that He was gathering the churches to instruct them.

Rev 1:11  saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

Once again we’re told that Jesus is God’s entire alphabet, and every word He wants to say to mankind.

He was the “first” in that He created all things.

He is the “last” in that He will bring all things to their prophesied consummation.

John was to write one book to these seven churches. Even though there are individual letters to each of these churches, everything in the Revelation was for all of them. And it’s for all of us.

He would have written on a scroll, and by the time he was finished, it would have been approximately 15ft long unrolled.

Rev 1:12  Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m stunned by something John doesn’t see.

He doesn’t see Jesus – not at first.

He sees the lampstands, then he sees Jesus. Even though in verse sixteen we’re told “His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength,” John saw the lampstands first.

As we will see, the lampstands represent the churches on the earth. It is a strong reminder that Jesus is seen – He is unveiled to the world – as He lights-up His church.

The “seven golden lampstands” are reminiscent of the one Menorah in the Holy Place in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. It was a particularly beautiful oil lamp, with seven bowls for oil.

The Menorah and these lampstands suggest the same thing: God’s people were then, and we are now, to bear witness to nonbelievers. They were, and we are, to be God’s spiritual light in the present darkness of the world.

Rev 1:13  and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.

Jesus in the midst of the church, tending to our light, is a powerful invitation to Christians to regularly meet with Him in a local fellowship

Jesus is referred to as the “Son of Man” 88 times in the New Testament. “Son of Man” is as a reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of Heaven.” It is a Messianic title.

“Son of man” is also used of humans. When Jesus used this title of Himself, He was claiming to be a son of man – human – Who was the unique Son of Man in Daniel.

Jesus’ attire was similar to that of a priest. Just like the Temple priests would tend to the lamp in the Temple, so Jesus tends to His lampstands, who are His temple.

Rev 1:14  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
Rev 1:15  His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;

Notice John keeps using the word “like,” or “as.” Jesus does not have “brass” feet.

Rev 1:16  He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.

Wait a minute, Gene…You’re skipping over these descriptive phrases!

I am, and here is why: When we get to the seven letters to the seven churches, we will see that each of the ways Jesus was described here in chapter one will be a way He introduces Himself to a particular church. Listen for them as I read the opening to each of the seven letters:

Rev 2:1  “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
Rev 2:8  “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:
Rev 2:12  “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:
Rev 2:18  “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:
Rev 3:1  “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…
Rev 3:7  “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “HE WHO HAS THE KEY OF DAVID, HE WHO OPENS AND NO ONE SHUTS, AND SHUTS AND NO ONE OPENS”:
Rev 3:14  “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:

We should wait to try to define and understand these images until we see what Jesus intended them to mean as He applies them to His council to each of the churches.

Overall, John said “His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” True solar power.

Rev 1:17  And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.
Rev 1:18  I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

John “Fell at His feet as dead.” This wasn’t the first time John had fallen before Jesus’ glory. He did so when he saw Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. One commentator said,

On that occasion more than sixty-five years earlier Christ’s face had “shone like the sun” (Matthew 17:2) as John and two other apostles had witnessed an anticipatory glimpse of the glory to be witnessed in full at Christ’s second coming to earth. On this occasion the aged apostle is distinguished as being the only one to be given a second foreview of that glory.

“But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus always wants to alleviate fear in His followers. It’s on us to receive His ‘touch’ – usually through the Word, but also through fellowship with His people.

Rev 1:19  Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.

This gets the “Most Valuable Verse” award.

This is Jesus Christ’s own commentary on the Revelation. He gives us the outline for studying, and understanding, the entire book.

“Write the things which you have seen.” What John had seen was the vision of the risen Lord walking in the midst of the seven candlesticks with seven stars in His right hand. Chapter one is the record of the things John had seen.

Chapters two and three will contain the second division, “the things which are.” The seven churches, representing the entire Church Age, are the things which are.
Then from chapters four through the end of the book we read about “the things which will take place after this.” We’ll see the church resurrected and raptured into Heaven; the seven years of the Great Tribulation; the Battle of Armageddon; the Second Coming of Jesus; the one-thousand year reign of Jesus on the earth (called the Millennium); the final judgment of Satan, the fallen angels, and nonbelieving humanity; the destruction of this universe; the creation of a new universe; and we’ll get a glimpse at our lives in eternity with God.

Rev 1:20  The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.

A “mystery,” in the Bible, is something previously concealed that is now revealed. Jesus revealed exactly what He meant by this imagery.

The word for “angels” is messengers. They can be either angelic or human. Each of the seven letters to the churches will be addressed, “To the angel of the church” in that town.

It’s doubtful, for many reasons, that they are angelic beings. But if men, who are they?

C.I. Scofield noted that, “The natural explanation of the ‘messengers’ is that they were men sent by the seven churches to ascertain the state of the aged apostle.”
Other commentators see them as the pastors of each individual church.

There is an interesting verse near the end of the Book of Daniel. Talking about the End Times, Daniel wrote, “Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever” (12:3).

The “stars” Daniel spoke of were human beings. It’s perfectly biblical, therefore, to identify the angel-star of each church as its pastor.

To call any believer a “star” sounds strange to us. We have our own connotation of the word “star,” and no pastor ought to be one. But if you can get beyond the common usage, it makes more sense that Jesus was addressing the pastor in his function on behalf of the congregation, to read to them the entire scroll. (I get correspondence all the time, addressed to me, but intended for the church).

In the earthly Temple, the Jewish priest would refill the bowl of the lampstand with oil, and trim the wicks.

In the Church Age, your body is the temple of God on the earth today – the temple of the Holy Spirit; AND the church, the body of Jesus Christ, is His temple on the earth. You are to shine brightly, brilliantly. Nonbelievers see your light, then Jesus comes into view, in His glory.

The oil lamp is a reservoir with a supply of oil and a wick in order to give light, tended by a priest.

Jesus is our Great High Priest. We are His lampstands on the earth. He wants to light us up to unveil Him, to reveal Him, to sinners – even to those who, in their own way, want to boil or banish us.

The oil? God the Holy Spirit. The trimming? Our tribulations.

One final thought: If Jesus is tending our lamp, and God the Holy Spirit is the oil… Is it possible for the wick to suffer from burn-out?

Prophecy Update #642 – The Gift Of The AGI

These are exciting times for believers in Christ who are interested in Bible prophecy. Many things that are suggested by unfulfilled, future prophecies seem to be trending.

We reserve a few minutes Sunday morning to discuss some of those things. We are careful to use recognized, reliable sources for news and information.

We’re not saying the things we report are the fulfillment of prophecy – only that they are the things you’d expect from reading the Bible literally.

In Revelation, we are told that, in the future Great Tribulation, some kind of “image” will be set-up by the false prophet who works with the antichrist. It will seemingly be sentient. We’re told that “the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (13:15).

We’ve suggested that Artificial Intelligence (AI) could power the Image of the Beast we see in the Revelation. That’s why I was excited to run across a transcript from a podcast featuring John Lennox. He is an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, and pastoral advisor to Green Templeton College at Oxford.

The podcast was titled, Does Revelation Talk About Artificial Intelligence?

He will mention two things that we need defined before reading the excerpts:

Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is a machine capable of understanding the world as well as any human, and with the same capacity to learn how to carry out a huge range of tasks.

Max Tegmark is a Swedish-American physicist, cosmologist, and machine learning researcher. He is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the scientific director of the Foundational Questions Institute.

Excerpts:

In Revelation 13 we read about an animal or a beast, and it’s clearly talking about a world authority or leader. And we read that it commands a construction of an image that is an image of another animal or human, and it gives breath to this. And the result is worldwide deception and control and all who refuse to bow down and acknowledge the authority of this beast/human, whatever it is, are killed, so that you’re dealing with this scenario for a social control that is absolute.

What is intriguing and rather chilling actually in the light of our AI developments is that freedom to buy and sell is determined by the wearing of some kind of mark… [Max] Tegmark talks about a bracelet that people may have to wear that will determine whether or not they’re regarded as socially acceptable. And we’ve already got that kind of social acceptability factor in the credit system that’s being rolled out in the Chinese population today. So it’s relatively easy to see how this kind of thing could come about.

You’ve got something that appears to give breath to another creature, to an image, actually, which is presumably a material thing. And it’s so effective that it causes the whole Earth to worship it, which is a fascinating concept.
Is it a partial realization of AGI? We just don’t know. But we do know, looking back in history, that at every stage human beings have set up images and bowed down to worship them. And what technology will produce one day is probably beyond our wildest dreams. For that reason, I want to take this scenario… seriously.

https://mindmatters.ai/2020/07/do-some-passages-in-the-book-of-revelation-seem-to-talk-about-ai/

I’m not saying the image of the Beast in the Revelation will be AGI. I’m simply pointing out AGI is what you’d expect from reading the Bible.

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church is imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will definitely happen before the Tribulation.

Jesus will return in the clouds. He will raise the dead in Christ. He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies.

We will all join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

71 Angry Men (Acts 23:1-11)

Al Pacino was nominated for an academy award for his acting in 1979’s …And Justice For All. In a climactic scene, Pacino’s character, a defense attorney, becomes indignant at the injustice of the system and starts ranting the now famous lines: “You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They’re out of order!…It’s just a show.” As he’s being forcibly removed from the courtroom he shouts, “I’ve just completed my opening statement.”

The performance was powerful, but not enough to nab Al the Oscar. It went to Dustin Hoffman that year. Not to worry, Pacino was back in the courtroom in a role that would ultimately win him the academy award in 1992’s Scent Of A Woman. You may remember the famous scene, where Pacino, defending his client, becomes indignant at the injustice of the system and starts ranting the now famous lines: “What a sham! What kind of a show you’re putting on today. I’ll show you out of order. You don’t know what out of order is!” Second time’s the charm, I suppose.

In our text we’ll see a wild courtroom scene. Paul doesn’t even finish his opening statement before the trial collapses into violent mayhem. Unlike Pacino, the Apostle doesn’t become unhinged or enraged. Though he does have to be removed for his own safety.

Now, Paul before the Jewish Sanhedrin is a big deal. Other apostles had stood in front of them in earlier chapters, but this was the first time that Paul would testify before them. He probably knew some of these fellows personally, or at least used to. Though this was the crowd he ran with before his conversion, this would be the first time he was in their presence since he became a disciple of Jesus Christ. And now, here he is, before the ruling body, the highest court, the experts and authorities. And who among them wouldn’t be struck by the profound transformation in Paul’s life, the power of his logic in expounding the Scriptures and the undeniable proofs he would present that Jesus was, in fact, their long-awaited Messiah?

Paul wasn’t naive, but what anticipation he must have had. That this might be the moment when everything changed for his nation.

Did you know that Billy Graham preached in North Korea? In 1992 the world’s foremost evangelist brought the message of the Gospel to Pyongyang, speaking at Kim Il Sung University and had a personal meeting with Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s dictator at the time. What a scene that must’ve been! And yet, from what we measure, no revival, no Nineveh moment. No dramatic conversion. Kim Il Sung died the next month and by 1994 the US was seriously considering war against them.

Sometimes the best man for the job does his job, but nothing really changes. We’ll see that playing out in the verses tonight. Paul does not break through the hard hearts of the Sanhedrin. In fact, their response to just a few of his words is violence and rage.

As we’ve seen before, some commentators are bent on criticizing Paul through this whole section of his life, since he decided to go to Jerusalem. They look at what happens and decide that Paul, outside the will of God, responding in anger. That he was acting as a “shrewd psychologist” who enjoyed watching these Jewish rulers squabble.

One commentator in our text disagrees with this assessment: Jesus Christ. At the end of our verses He will appear to Paul and, rather than rebuke him, He endorses his choices. Why this doesn’t settle the debate over this issue, I don’t know.

Rather than seeing Paul as some unhinged Pacino, a better lesson is the helpful reminder that manmade systems, ultimately, are not going to do the right thing. Sometimes men’s hearts are so hard that it is hopeless to think we can rehabilitate the structures they have built up. Which is why, as Christians, our function is to be witnesses, not architects of a human utopia. On display here is the reality that the methods of the Sanhedrin were too far gone to be salvaged, but individual members were not too far to be saved. That was Paul’s hope. And it should be ours too.

J. Vernon McGee has a timely quote for us. He said:

“In our day there are a great many people who feel that if we change our form of government, or at least if we change our party from the one that is in power – whichever it may be – this will give us a solution to all our problems. It has never solved our problems in the past…We wonder why the system won’t work. We think we need to change the system. Do you know what we need? We need to change men’s hearts. It is man that needs changing, not the system.”

So, let’s begin and see how this played out, starting in verse 1.

Acts 23:1 – Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience to this day.”

This opening statement is bold. It sounds like it’s coming from a man who is completely unafraid, unintimidated. And yet, we’ll see that Jesus feels the need to say, “take courage, Paul.” Apparently Paul was afraid and discouraged. How does this add up? I believe it shows us that the Lord was making good on His promise when He said:

Luke 12:11-12 – 11 Whenever they bring you before synagogues and rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how you should defend yourselves or what you should say. 12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said.

Now, how could Paul honestly make this claim? Well, notice he didn’t say that he had lived his life in perfection. He speaks of his clean conscience. What is conscience?

Warren Wiersbe says, “Conscience is the inner ‘judge’ or ‘witness’ that approves when we do right and disapproves when we do wrong. Conscience does not set the standard; it only applies it.”

The standard for Christians is God’s word, which has been given to guide us, instruct us and measure us. And in God’s word we are commanded to: “keep faith and have a clean conscience.” Which means we must learn and apply the Biblical standard to our thoughts, choices and behavior.

We recognize that the Bible is authoritative for life and Godliness that we might be complete. And we should keep that truth close to heart, in these times when the world around us is calling good evil and evil good.

Acts 23:2 – 2 The high priest Ananias ordered those who were standing next to him to strike him on the mouth.

There were at least 3 things that would’ve made a man like Ananias angry: First, but calling them “brethren,” Paul made himself a peer of these supposedly great men. Second, he suggested that not only was he innocent, but that he was just before God. Third, he spoke before being spoken to. Scoundrels like Ananias don’t like any of this and so he illegally had Paul struck.

Ananias may have held the office of high priest at the time, but he was by no mean’s a Godly man. Historians record him as being a thieving glutton. He was tried for cruelty and it’s recorded that he would send thugs to steal the food from some of the priests in the temple, beating those who stood in their way, and leading to the starvation for some of them. So, that’s the chief justice here.

We can also notice that, as a body, the Sanhedrin has been progressing in their refusal to hear the message of grace. Think of it: In Acts 4 they had listened, then warned the disciples. In Acts 5, they listened but jailed and flogged the disciples. In Acts 6 and 7 they listened to Stephen, but then murdered him. And now, in Acts 23, they will no longer listen. After so many attempts made by God to show them grace and offer them forgiveness, they had come to an end. They’re set in stone now. And we will see them no more after this, other than a delegation that goes to accuse Paul further.

There comes a point in the lives of people and nations where they cement their hearts so much against the Gospel that they will not hear it anymore. We don’t always know when that point is, but it happens. And while God strives with men day by day He calls out to them in both Testaments: “When you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” These men had to their own ruin.

Acts 23:3 – 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! You are sitting there judging me according to the law, and yet in violation of the law are you ordering me to be struck?”

A lot of commentators accuse Paul here of wrongdoing. They say he snapped. That his temper flared. That he lost his composure and that the flesh prevailed. However, David Guzik rightly points out that we have no idea the tone of Paul’s statement. We assume it to be harsh, maybe it wasn’t. When’s the last time your tone was misunderstood on a text message?

Think of Paul’s track record. Remember how gracious he had been leading up to this moment, to the mob and to the Romans. Later, Jesus does not rebuke him for this statement. And we remember the promise that the Holy Spirit would speak through God’s servants in exactly this situation. In fact, on top of that, thanks to the vantage point of history we know that this statement was a prophetic utterance! A few years after this scene, Ananias would be assassinated because of his ties to the Romans. It’s possible that Paul lost his temper, but nothing he said here was wrong or unfair.

Acts 23:4 – 4 Those standing nearby said, “Do you dare revile God’s high priest?”

It’s amazing how broken manmade systems can become. Suddenly these guys are worried about Godliness and honor and conduct? Meanwhile, Paul is being illegally treated in a trial for which there is no evidence because he had done nothing wrong!

Acts 23:5 – 5 “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest,” replied Paul. “For it is written, You must not speak evil of a ruler of your people.”

There are a lot of theories about this verse. Some think Paul was being ironic, snarky even, saying that a man like that couldn’t be high priest. Others blame his bad eyesight. Others note that the high priests changed so frequently in these days, it was hard to know who had the title. Sometimes they had 3 in a year! He also wouldn’t have been in his official garments, as established in Ezekiel 44:19.

Some think Paul was finally getting control of himself and was walking back his angry outburst. But he doesn’t apologize. I suppose it will remain a mystery on this side of heaven, but two points present themselves.

First, in reality, this man was not God’s high priest. For one thing, he had disqualified himself through his ongoing life of sin. For another, Herod had appointed him for the office. But, most importantly, Jesus Christ was now and is forever God’s High Priest. Having died, rose again and ascended, He now functions as God’s Great High Priest, Who has entered heaven and rules over God’s house.

But a second point is this: What Paul said still holds as a standard for us. “You must not speak evil of a ruler of your people.” Man, that’s a tough one, isn’t it? Let me make it a little worse for us:

Ecclesiastes 10:20a – 20 Do not curse the king even in your thoughts

These are commands given to us. We are to honor authority, submit to it, and respect the offices. We do not have to agree with Godless men or unjust behavior, but our Lord sets this as the standard. Let’s not be like the Sanhedrin and instead calibrate our consciences according to the word of God.

Acts 23:6 – 6 When Paul realized that one part of them were Sadducees and the other part were Pharisees, he cried out in the Sanhedrin, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead!”

Here some commentators once again accuse Paul of less-than-Christian behavior. They say he was manipulating them, trying to get himself out of a self-inflicted jam. I don’t see it that way. For one thing, it’s true that the trouble with the Jews came from the preaching that Jesus was resurrected.

But we can observe that Paul frequently had an exit strategy. I don’t mean that in a negative sense at all. It was clear that this door was shut, no one was going to listen. So, since there was no preaching left to do that day, Paul brought the scene to an end. It reminds me of when he said, “Are you allowed to scourge a Roman citizen?” And later when he’ll say, “Ok, that’s enough, I appeal to Caesar.” He was mindful and thoughtful and prudent in the way he carried himself.

Don’t move on before noticing that a third time he calls them “brothers.” Paul loved his fellow Jews. He truly loved them and wanted them to be saved.

Acts 23:7-8 – 7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, and neither angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees affirm them all.

The Sadducees denied the supernatural. They believed there was no heaven, no hell, they didn’t even think humans had a spirit! They believed there was a God but that He didn’t care what you did, as there were no punishments or rewards after death. It begs the question: What point is there having a high priest who doesn’t believe in any of those things?

Now, we are called priests in the New Testament. Our doctrines are given to us in the Scripture. They’re about life and death, mercy and grace, hope and truth. The question is: Do we live what we believe? Or have we become wrapped up in the temporal, material, manmade systems like the Sadducees? We say we believe that righteousness exalts a nation and that it is the Gospel that brings hope and transformation to lives and communities. But then do we live that out? Or, like McGee said earlier, do we keep going to human systems hoping they will solve our problems?

This melee between the Pharisees and the Sadducees looks a lot like our country right now. They needed little excuse to break out in violent opposition to one another. We see a bitter, partisan resentment. Now compare this to what we read back in Acts 15, the Jerusalem council. There, the Church gathered to settle and bridge this serious rift between points of view. And it was done without violence, without hatred, without anarchy. And the church wasn’t just 2 parties like we see here. We’re talking zealots and tax collectors, Jews and Samaritans, academics and fishermen. That’s what God does when He’s in charge of hearts. He brings peace and grace to His Church.

Acts 23:9 – 9 The shouting grew loud, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party got up and argued vehemently, “We find nothing evil in this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”

It wasn’t just the Sadducees who were hypocrites. The Pharisees didn’t actually believe this. They hated Paul! Even Christians in the Pharisee party were against him! Again we see the breakdown of the human system. Everything that was happening was happening because of political motivations.

As Christians, our motivations are to be relational not political. That’s how Simon the zealot can live and work with Matthew the tax collector. As I always try to point out, that doesn’t mean that Christians shouldn’t be involved in the political process or government. But when we see examples of that in the Bible, Daniel, Nehemiah, folks like that, what was their purpose? To influence policy or to manifest their faith? To restructure their government or to glorify God and further His purposes?

Acts 23:10 – 10 When the dispute became violent, the commander feared that Paul might be torn apart by them and ordered the troops to go down, take him away from them, and bring him into the barracks.

So, once again, we see these people ready to explode into violence at the drop of a hat. Feels a lot like today and that’s not good. Violence is not the answer for Christians.

Proverbs 3:31 – 31Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways

Now, the Bible does make a difference between vengeance and defense, between attacking and rescuing. We’re told to defend our families. We told to deliver the helpless from the grasp of evil people. But violence as retribution or revenge is outside the boundaries for Christians and it is not a tool used to accomplish God’s plan of redemption.

Acts 23:11 – 11 The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, “Have courage! For as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so it is necessary for you to testify in Rome.”

Paul must’ve been so discouraged that night. No matter what he had try to say and do in Jerusalem, none of it had the desired effect. And yet, Jesus endorses it! He says, “You testified about Me! Let’s do this again!”

How had so few words been a testimony? Well, if we go back just to when he was attacked in the temple and move on from there, we find that Paul had shared these truths: That Jesus was resurrected and alive (23v6, 22v8), that God does involve Himself in affairs of men (23v22), that Christ forgives sins (22v16) and that His plan of salvation is for everyone (21v21).

Paul’s preaching was a lot more than it looked at first. And, as Jesus speaks with him, we see that the Lord’s goal for his life was not for him to reform the Sanhedrin. It was to present salvation to those God brought in his path. Chuck Smith said that, as Christians, we don’t work on commission. You’ve been commissioned to make disciples, not create a new world order. Jesus is going to do that. Our purpose is to testify of Christ and to represent Him in the lives we’ve been given. If you’re in a position like Daniel or Joseph or Nehemiah, perhaps you are able to make a lasting societal change, but that happens when hearts are transformed, not when laws are passed. What law hasn’t been broken? Our hope is in the Lord’s plan. Our purpose is to courageously testify for and represent Him. Our power is found in the Word. The whole system may be out of order, but we can navigate through with joy, peace, grace and confidence that the Lord will continue His amazing work through us, day by day, trial by trial because our hope and our heading is Christ, not human institutions. He is our Savior, our Leader, our Provider.

Hey (hey), You (you), Gaze Up at My Clouds (Revelation 1:4-8)

When there was a Disneyland in Anaheim, the Fantasyland Teacups were a blast to ride. An original opening day attraction, they provided one-and-one-half minutes of intense, non-stop, nausea-inducing whirling.

My secret for not getting dizzy: Stare directly into the eyes of the person across from you the entire time. Let your gaze stray even a little, and the whirling background will overwhelm you.

In a world that seems to be spinning out of control, you need to focus your gaze on a Person who won’t look away.

Don’t take your eyes off of Jesus; not in life; not in this book.

Along those lines, I want you to ‘see’ something in these verses that I think is pretty endearing:

In verse four, Jesus mentioned the churches. While in context He was talking about seven particular first century gatherings, we’ll see that Jesus’ letters to them are for all churches throughout the Church Age – us included.

In verse five, we’re told He “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.”

In verse six we learn Jesus “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father.”

Jesus doesn’t take His eyes off of us.

It would be enough to thrill us to know that the Lord is ever watching us. I’m saying He has locked eyes on us. Two people locking eyes in a crowded room is a staple of romantic cinema. O, how He loves you and me!

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Jesus Is Preparing You For His Return With Clouds, and #2 Jesus Will Place You At His Return With Clouds.

#1 – Jesus Is Preparing You For His Return With Clouds (v4-6)

Let me summarize how these verses include us: Between His first and second comings to earth, Jesus is gathering His church, comprised of those who have been washed of their sins. Once saved, He works in you to prepare you for ministry as kings and priests in the future Kingdom of God on earth when He comes with clouds.

Rev 1:4  John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,

“Seven” is a prominent number in the Revelation. Or I should say, groups of sevens are prominent. A group or series of sevens is called a heptad. In all there are at least fifty-two heptads in the book. Here are just some of them:

Seven Churches
Seven Spirits
Seven Lampstands
Seven Stars (and that’s just in chapter one)
Seven Seals
Seven Trumpets
Seven Bowls
Seven Lamps
Seven Promises to the Overcomer
Seven Horns
Seven Eyes
Seven Angels
Seven Thunders
Seven Heads
Seven Crowns
Seven Plagues
Seven Mountains, and
Seven Kings

There are seven blessings, or beatitudes (1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, & 22:14).

Jesus makes seven I AM statements (1:8, 1:11, 1:17, 1:18; 21:6; 22:13, & 22:16).

Here is a quote from an article on the Hebrew use of seven:

The number seven is especially prominent in Scripture, appearing over 700 times. From the seven days of Creation to the many “sevens” in Revelation, the number seven connotes such concepts as completion and perfection, exoneration and healing, and the fulfillment of promises and oaths.

“To the seven churches which are in Asia.” These seven churches were all in the region we know as Western Turkey. If you look at a map, you’ll see that they are in geographical order with regard to a messenger delivering the Revelation to each of them one-by-one.

The seven letters to the seven churches have at least three applications:

They originally had a provincial application: These seven were actual churches existing in John’s day to which Jesus wrote for correction and/or commendation.

The letters always have a present application: At the end of each letter is the exhortation to hear what the Spirit says to the churches, plural. Each letter is written to a church, and each is written to all the churches for the entire Church Age.

The letters always have personal application to every Christian in every age. They each say, “he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Do you have an “ear?” You do; and that means what Jesus said to the churches He said to you

It’s also popular to suggest that the letters have a prophetic application. By that is meant the letters represent seven successive periods of church history, from the apostolic church up to the end of the Church Age. As appealing as that sounds, there is one big problem with the prophetic application.

If the church had to go through these seven periods, the rapture could not have been imminent until the last era.

“Grace to you and peace” was so common a greeting we may not think about how remarkable it is to be able to say it; or how much practical help is contained in it.

“Grace to you” should take me back to the understanding that I am totally undeserving of salvation. I am a sinner by nature and by choice. God has saved me by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

“Peace” is what I can therefore experience as a human being. I am at peace with God and I can have the supernatural peace of God.

Remember that lyric, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love?”

What the world needs now is grace, saving grace, and the peace that accompanies it

I can think of no truth more mind-changing in a time of extreme turmoil and stress than to know I am at peace with God, and that I can therefore be at peace in my spirit in the whirling world.

“Him who is and who was and who is to come” sounds like it is describing Jesus, but a Jew would immediately and correctly understand this to refer to YHWH. Plus you’re told in the next phrase that this Person is seated on His throne. The Father sits on His throne and Jesus sits at His right hand.

Next we are greeted by “the seven spirits who are before His throne.” If you’re going to keep track of weird descriptions in the Revelation, this is a worthy inclusion.

A popular solution is that this refers to a verse in Isaiah that seems to describe God the Holy Spirit seven ways. It reads, “The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (11:2).

Language scholars point out, however, that while in English we may be able to count seven descriptors, in Hebrew there are really only six.

John will say something similar in the fifth chapter of the Revelation. There we read, “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” (v6).

If we were Jews, familiar with the Old Testament, and we heard “seven eyes” you wouldn’t think of Isaiah.

You would think of chapter four in the Book of Zechariah.

Zechariah spoke of “the eyes of the LORD” being “seven” (4:10). He spoke this way while discussing the ministry of God the Holy Spirit.

Because Zechariah used this imagery to describe the ministry of God the Holy Spirit, we know that John was using it that way also.

Why use these phrases instead of simply saying God the Holy Spirit?

One commentator pointed out, “The book of Revelation is immediately using images from Old Testament prophecies to show that this book is interacting with those symbols. Revelation uses language that is found in previous prophecies so that the readers can connect the message of Revelation to the prophecy in the Old Testament.”

These references are signs that direct us to Zechariah. An angel was showing him things. I’ll read it:

Zec 4:2  And he said to me, “What do you see?” So I said, “I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps.
Zec 4:3  Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.”

We will encounter seven lampstands later in the first chapter of the Revelation (v13 & 20).

The angel revealed the “two olive trees” as, “The two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth” (v14). Later in the Revelation, two anointed witnesses have a prominent role in the Great Tribulation.

One more thing about not naming God the Holy Spirit directly. He has the ministry of showing the world Jesus. He is the Promise of the Father, given by the Son. He keeps a low profile. Descriptions of His ministry compliment His determination not to call attention to Himself.

Charles Spurgeon said, “It is the chief office of the Holy Spirit to glorify Christ. He does many things, but this is what He aims at in all of them, to glorify Christ.”

Rev 1:5  and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,

These same three phrases are found in Psalm 89 as a description of the Messiah Who would rule on David’s throne from Jerusalem. By using the references in the Revelation, it is beyond doubt that Jesus is the son of David Who will rule on the throne from Jerusalem over the much promised Kingdom.

These phrases also present, to His church, Jesus in His past, present, and future ministries:

“Faithful witness” looks to Jesus’ past. “Witness” is martyr. Jesus came and was faithful to accomplish His witness on the Cross for the human race.

“Firstborn” is a word of preeminence. It means Jesus rose from the dead as the first and preeminent Person to never die again. It means others will follow and rise as a result of His resurrection. We live presently in the power of His resurrection as we await our resurrection or the rapture.

In the future the Lord Jesus will be installed as the “ruler over the kings of the earth.”

“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood…”

Jesus “loved us,” and thereby we know that He loves us:

He loved you while you were yet a sinner and He proved His love on the Cross by dying for you.

That is why I can say, Jesus loves you. His love does not depend upon your behavior and it can never change.

He “washed us from our sins in His own blood.” “Washed” can be translated loosed or released and is better understood that way:

We are released once-for-all from the penalty of sin.

We are loosed from the power of sin.

Yes, of course, we still sin; but there is a very strong sense in which we don’t have to.

Revelation 1:6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

This is in a prophetic tense. It is understood to be presently true because it will surely come to pass. In His Second Coming, we return with Jesus and in some sense share in His rule over the earth.

To Him will be “glory” when He is fully revealed at His Second Coming. Then He will have “dominion forever and ever” from that time forward.

How do we understand that Jesus does not have “dominion” now? Theologian Roger Olsen describes the church age like this:

We are living in “enemy occupied territory.” For whatever reason and by whatever means the kingdoms of this world, the political systems that people have created, are not yet ruled over by God except in the sense that they are subject to God’s ultimate control. God can limit their destructive power, but He has relinquished, as it were, complete control and is waiting and depending (until the end of this age) on us – God’s people – to resist God’s enemy who is occupying His territory (“the kingdoms of this world”).

If you think that gives the devil too much authority, consider the following:

The apostle John, in his Gospel, calls the devil “the ruler of this world” three times (12:31, 14:30, & 16:11).

The apostle Paul calls the devil “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).

When the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he “took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me” (Mathew 4:8-9). Jesus did not dispute the devil’s right to offer Him those kingdoms.

It is therefore with joy unspeakable we read that Jesus is “coming with clouds” (v7) to be “the ruler over the kings of the earth” (v5).

The devil’s temporary authority will topple and the rightful ruler will be installed.

I frequently use as an illustration the D-Day invasion of Normandy in World War 2. It effectively ended the war in Europe. But fierce fighting continued for eleven more months before victory was declared. From D-Day June 6th until August 21st, when Paris was liberated, 72,911 Allied service members were killed or listed missing and 153,475 were wounded.

Jesus defeated Satan on the Cross, but the kingdoms of this world are still under Satan’s dominion until the Second Coming

Let your heart delight in the knowledge that Jesus is keeping His eyes locked on you:

He saw you from the Cross, we might say, when He washed you from your sins in His own blood.
He called you out into His Church.
You are His kingdom of priests, being prepared for your future ministry in the Kingdom, at His Second Coming.

#2 – Jesus Will Place You At His Return With Clouds (v7-8)

Michael W. Smith sang,

Need your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

Once you receive the Lord, you do find your place in this world. You do it the old fashioned way: Pray, read your Bible, gather together with believers serving in a local church, and share your love for the Lord with others.

You are a member of the body of Jesus on the earth. Serve Him, stay humble, be led by the Holy Spirit, and you will discover what member you are in that body.
You are a living stone in the Temple of God on the earth. Allow the Lord to place you where He wants, when He wants.

In the future, you’ll be coming back with Jesus to rule alongside Him.

Rev 1:7  Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

This verse is absolutely full of the Old Testament. It borrows “cloud” imagery from Daniel 7:13 & 14, Jeremiah 4:13, Ezekiel 30:3, Zephaniah 1:15, and Zechariah 12:10-13:1. Those passages all mention His “coming in the clouds.”

Is “clouds” symbolic? Probably not – not here, anyway. It means that clouds of some sort will accompany Jesus at His Second Coming.

You might remember at His ascension into Heaven in the Book of Acts we read, “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (1:9-11).

“They who pierced Him” refers to the nation of Israel in their official rejection of Jesus in His first coming. In Zechariah 12:10 it says that at the Second Coming, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him.”

“Every eye will see Him” means everyone on the earth who is not a Jew.

“And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.” This “mourning” speaks of repentance.

At His Second Coming, all Israel on the earth will be saved.

“Even so, Amen.” This is the second “Amen” in this passage. (There are no “Awoman’s,” BTW).

Rev 1:8  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

“Alpha” and “Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. It’s like our expression, Everything from A to Z. As if that wasn’t inclusive enough, Jesus said He was the Beginning and the End.

With the Revelation of Jesus Christ completing the Bible, you and I have God’s entire alphabet, and every word He wants to say to us.

Jesus described Himself is terms equal to God the Father when He said “who is and who was and who is to come.”

“Almighty” is used ten times in the New Testament and nine of those uses are in the Revelation.

It means something like the one who had his hand on everything. It’s a word of oversight.

Although Satan is still wreaking havoc, God limits the authority of the ruler of this world, and God works through providence to push His plan forward to its ultimate and inevitable end.

Once again we note that Jesus spoke of us prominently. We will serve with Him, next to Him, as kings and priests: or as some translate it, as a kingdom of priests.

Our world can seem to be spinning out of control. That includes the world at large and our own personal “worlds.”

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

I want to share a quote from Charles Spurgeon. It isn’t about our study so much as it is about every Bible study. He said,

I have talked with you as well as I could upon this sublime theme, and if I did not know that the Holy Spirit glorifies Christ, I should go home miserable, for I have not been able to glorify my Lord as I would; but I know that the Holy Spirit can take what I have said out of my very heart, and can put it into your hearts, and he can add to it whatever I have omitted.

Go ye who love the Lord, and glorify Him. Try to do it by your lips and by your lives.

Go ye, and preach Him, preach more of Him, and preach Him up higher and higher, and higher.

Prophecy Update #641 – Trick And Track

These are exciting times for believers in Christ who are interested in Bible prophecy. Many things that are suggested by unfulfilled, future prophecies seem to be trending.

We reserve a few minutes Sunday morning to discuss some of those things. We are careful to use recognized, reliable sources for news and information.

We’re not saying the things we report are the fulfillment of prophecy – only that they are the things you’d expect from reading the Bible literally.

The description we are given in the Bible of the future Great Tribulation suggests there will be what experts today call a “surveillance state.” Your habits, your movements, will all be known to the global government of the Tribulation.

You’d therefore expect to see a trend towards more of a surveillance state. And you do, thanks largely to COVID19.

One article from November was titled, COVID19 is accelerating the surveillance state.

Excerpts:

The first global pandemic of the digital age has accelerated the international adoption of surveillance and public security technologies, normalizing new forms of widespread, overt state surveillance.

These technologies have been layered on top of already pervasive forms of privatized data surveillance through smartphones and the ‘internet of things’ (IoT). The pandemic has also fueled the normalization of surveillance in previously private contexts.

The risk of this new era of surveillance is that it has the potential to permanently shift power from citizens to the state.

The pandemic has driven advances in facial-recognition technology, a particularly problematic and intrusive form of surveillance that enables rapid connection of an individual’s physical presence with deep online data profiles.

Facial-recognition technologies integrated with thermal-imaging cameras purporting to detect people with fevers have been marketed by at least 10 companies to police forces and governments around the world since the start of the pandemic.
Fever-screening systems are reportedly being trialled at airports in Australia, the UK and India, using deep learning algorithms to quickly detect body temperatures in crowds of up to 2000 people per hour.

Governments seeking greater social and political control have an opportunity to use COVID19 as cloud cover to make capital investments in surveillance technologies, including those that enable, store and process mass collections of data on people’s location, activity (both physical and digital) and biometrics (including DNA and genomics).

https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/covid-19-is-accelerating-the-surveillance-state/

Another article said,

In June, Singapore rolled out a mandatory COVID19 tracing program that would identify people who had come in contact with virus carriers. At the time, we said tracing apps would “usher in a massive surveillance state” where “no one is safe from the government.”  And indeed, that is the case in Singapore.

About 80% of the country’s 5.6 million people have downloaded TraceTogether.  A privacy statement on the app originally said the data collected would only be used “for contact tracing purposes.” Immediately after [it was adopted], the privacy statement was updated.  It now reads, “Authorized Police officers may invoke the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) powers to request users to upload their TraceTogether data for criminal investigations.” 

https://www.zerohedge.com/covid-19/conspiracy-fact-singapore-police-now-use-tracing-app-data-criminal-investigations

In a Bloomberg article titled, The Surveillance State Is a Reality, the reporter said, “It’s really not a question of whether surveillance states are starting to take hold. Many civil-rights advocates say it’s already happened.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2020-06-26/the-surveillance-state-is-a-reality

This could go in a lot of different directions. I’m not making any predictions.

I am simply pointing out that the current trend towards a surveillance state is exactly what you’d expect from reading the Bible

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church is imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will definitely happen before the Tribulation.

Jesus will return in the clouds. He will raise the dead in Christ. He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies.

We will all join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

Whipbacklash (Acts 22:23-30)

2020 was a remarkable year when it comes to the topic of law and freedom. In just a few short weeks we found that many rights that we assumed were guaranteed weren’t really ours to enjoy any longer, at least not in certain parts of the country. The infringement of rights and government officials breaking the rules at whim are common topics of discussion these days, which makes a passage like the one before us all the more compelling.

It’s been a little while, so let me get us back up to pace with the story. Paul had gone to Jerusalem. While in the Temple he was attacked by a mob and was being beaten to death until the Roman garrison intervened. While being ushered out, he asked to speak to the crowd. The Roman Commander (named Lysias) allowed it and Paul tried to preach to the angry Jews who had tried to kill him. When he dared to mention the word “Gentiles,” the scene exploded and a riot began once more. Paul was saved from the violent mob, but we will find him out of the frying pan and into a fire.

In this famous scene the apostle will invoke his rights as a Roman citizen in order to escape a terrible suffering and the Commander is the one who suddenly finds himself in a world of hurt.

Tonight we can see two pictures to ponder. The first is a picture of our spiritual reality as Christians. The second is a picture of the unsuspected emergency every unbeliever is in.

But what about the civic freedom of it all? Isn’t this a passage that shows us how to claim our rights? One beloved commentator frames the story as teaching us that it is our duty to exercise our protected rights as citizens in whatever country we find ourselves in.

The Bible gives us a lot of direction when it comes to how to interact with the political systems of the world. There’s nothing categorically wrong with enjoying the rights and freedoms that are made available to us in a nation like ours. But, we can’t very well look at this incident and say it presents to us a doctrine of how and when to claim our rights, because Paul did not always do what he does in this passage! In a very similar setting, back in chapter 16, he allowed himself to be illegally bound, illegally beaten and illegally imprisoned. He didn’t say a single word until many hours later. In that case, he specifically refused to claim his rights when he could have exercised them. So what was the difference between these two illegal arrests? And what does it mean for us in a time when we’re feeling a mounting pressure against churches and religious freedom?

Though Paul’s choices can hardly be described as prescriptive for us, as usual the way in which he carried himself should inspire us as we run our own races. So let’s begin in verse 23.

Acts 22:23-24 – 23 As they were yelling and flinging aside their garments and throwing dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, directing that he be interrogated with the scourge to discover the reason they were shouting against him like this.

The scene outside the barracks was total mayhem. The crowd no longer cared that there was a contingent of armed soldiers there who would have no problem cutting them all down. These Jews were blinded by their fury and hatred.

Despite everything that happens in this section – the injustice, the corruption and persecution, we never see Paul vent any anger or cynicism or hostility toward anyone. Rage is not a fruit of the Spirit. It’s fashionable these days, it’s the currency that’s used online and in political discourse, but we are not to be a raging people. We’re not to be hostile combatants. As a Christian, you are a medic, not a sniper. You’re a rescue diver, not a door gunner. And in this world, everyone’s mad about something. What better time to be full of God’s joy and His peace. What a dramatic difference that will be compared to the angry, fearful, hatred that permeates our society today.

Now, Lysias had a problem. Not only was he responsible to keep the peace in Jerusalem, but if there was a riot like this, he could be held personally responsible for any property damage that resulted. We’ll find that he had a lot of power. At the end of the chapter he convenes the Sanhedrin and the Chief Priests. It’s like an army captain telling the Supreme Court they have to come into session and hear a case that he wants them to hear. But, as we watch Lysias, we’ll see he doesn’t go and talk with the Temple police. He doesn’t have any interview with the Temple officials who had been on duty. Instead he goes straight to the easiest method in his arsenal: torture. It’s not fair, it’s not due process. It’s not necessary, but hey, it gets results, right?

This scourging that Paul was about to endure was the same our Lord suffered before He was nailed to the cross. Paul had been beaten with rods before – for example in Philippi – but this was the Roman flagellum. Many people died before their scourging was over.

There’s a reminder here for us: Our hope cannot be in human governments or systems. Paul was no dummy, but it’s possible that, once the soldiers came and rescued him he thought, “Oh good, I don’t have to be beaten to death today! Now I’m safe because the government has stepped in.” Maybe he didn’t think that, but I think it would’ve crossed my mind. But once out of Temple he was not at all safe. Instead of being beaten to death he was quite possibly going to be scourged to death!

As David said:

Psalm 20:7 (ESV) – Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

The problem with chariots is that sometimes they run you over. In this era we tend to have a lot of our anticipation and confidence wrapped up in political systems and candidates and parties, but our hope is in God alone. He alone is our Rock and our salvation.

Acts 22:25 – 25 As they stretched him out for the lash, Paul said to the centurion standing by, “Is it legal for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and is uncondemned?”

This is an amazing scene. There’s Paul, bruised and battered from the beating he had endured. They bring him in, remove his shirt. They take his hands and stretch them out, tying him down onto what might become his death bed. The soldiers get the scourge from it’s storage space, probably some linens for wiping off the blood and chunks of flesh that would splatter onto their uniforms. And, at the last possible moment, Paul casually turns his head and says, “Quick question…”

Why did Paul wait so long? We can’t be sure. We don’t know Paul to have a flair for the dramatic, he’s a pretty straightforward guy. Maybe he was waiting for the Spirit to lead him. Maybe he was doing the ministry math in his head. I think we can notice some important differences between this situation and the similar one in Philippi back in Acts 16. First, in Philippi, he was beaten with rods. Though that would’ve been truly awful, there was little chance he was going to die. Here, there was a very strong chance he would die. In Philippi there was a brand new church being started, the very first in Europe. And through his suffering he was able to secure a period of peace for that church. In this situation, going through with the scourging would do nothing to improve the standing of the church in Jerusalem or the government’s pressure against Christianity. So, on that ministry level, there’s no benefit for this suffering, which could be avoided.

Throughout Church history we find that there are some who believe that suffering should be whole-heartedly embraced. We think of monks whipping themselves or doing other self-harm. The idea is that if you suffer more you are automatically less sinful and more Christ-like. It’s not just a medieval idea. One best selling Christian author who leans more toward asceticism in his attitude and teaching wrote in one of his latest books that though we shouldn’t suffer just for the sake of suffering we should “desire” it. His reasoning is that suffering will always accompany true Christianity and that suffering helps us to become Christlike. We agree with both of those statements. And I think, as a church, we spend a lot of time talking about suffering and how, in this age, God’s strength is shown through our weakness. But we do not see Paul always embracing suffering when he could have. Whether we’re called to endure suffering at the hands of the Lord’s enemies or whether we’re able to escape it is up to God’s will and provision. Sometimes Christians are James and sometimes they’re Peter. Sometimes they find themselves in Acts 16 and sometimes in Acts 22.

Now, we remember that Paul had most definitely been promised that he would suffer a lot, right from the beginning when Ananias came and restored his sight. We, too, are promised suffering in this world for the cause of Christ. The world hated Jesus, they’re going to hate us too as we live out our faith. But, the point of Paul’s life was not to set a world record for suffering. Neither is ours. So, while we believe the Bible when it says we should expect it and not think it a strange thing when it happens, while we trust God in it and rejoice if we’re able to share in Christ’s sufferings, we also recognize that there are times when God does rescue people out of suffering and allow them to avoid it. We don’t need to become self-flagellating monks in order to become Christlike. But neither is it Christlike to expect to always be healthy and wealthy and free to do whatever we want.

Back into the text. Paul says he’s a citizen and in our modern age of easy lies it’s surprising that they take his word for it. There are a couple of reasons why they wouldn’t have much doubt. First of all, to falsely claim to be a citizen of Rome was a capital offense. Second, citizens would sometimes carry small wooden tablets that acted like a passport which could prove their citizenship.

In Paul’s wording we see a beautiful picture of our spiritual reality. If you are a Christian, you are an uncondemned citizen in the court of heaven. Your guilt has been washed away. Your name has been added to heaven’s roll. There is no condemnation for those in Christ. How does a person receive such an amazing gift? John writes, “Anyone who believes in the Son of God is not condemned.”

In Rome there were all sorts of classes of people. There were slaves, peasants, citizens, soldiers, aristocrats. As believers, when the Bible says we are uncondemned and that we are citizens, it’s hard to grasp just how much God has done for us. He not only freed us from slavery, but He has granted us a forever home in heaven. On top of that, we’re allowed to serve the King. On top of that, Jesus has made us His friends. On top of that, we have been adopted as sons and daughters and included in the full inheritance that belongs to Christ. And, along the way, God has fully, finally dealt with our sin, removing them from us as far as east is from west, remembering them no more.

Of course, as citizen sons and daughters, we are called to a life of worthy obedience to our God and Father. And, as we all know through personal experience, we fall short of the standard. Take this comfort from 1 John:

1 John 3:20 – whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart.

Don’t live under condemnation. Live in the amazing realities of your spiritual citizenship.

Acts 22:26 – 26 When the centurion heard this, he went and reported to the commander, saying, “What are you going to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.”

Centurions are always interesting characters. They are shown as men of decision and thoughtfulness and integrity. As a devotional thought, we should take note of this man’s courage. His commander had been playing fast and loose with the law and the centurion sticks his neck out, not only for Paul, but also to help save Lysias from a really bad mistake. He wasn’t just going to go along and say, “I was just following orders.” When we find ourselves in a situation where something like this is going on, we should also take courage, show integrity and stand up for what is right.

Acts 22:27-28 – 27 The commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes,” he said. 28 The commander replied, “I bought this citizenship for a large amount of money.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul said.

We notice that Paul was still not aggravated or vindictive. He’s not screaming for their badge number or gloating that he’s going to get them all fired or killed. He’s not smug or enjoying the fact that they had made this mistake. He speaks peaceably. These guys were actively wronging him, but Paul does not categorize them as enemies! He wanted these guys to be saved! In fact, even though Lysias was totally in the wrong, Paul never goes after him. He never reveals what really happened that day.

There were different ways you could become a Roman citizen. We don’t know who in Paul’s family had won that privilege or for what reason, but it was now part of Paul’s inheritance. He was born into it. This shows us more of our spiritual reality. You cannot merit membership in God’s Kingdom. You can’t buy it or earn it or win it. To have it you must be born. Born again.

1 John 5:1 – Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of him.

Lysias had bought or bribed his way in, which would’ve been quite a feat, especially if he had started off as a slave. But all his work, all his gains, all his status was now forfeit. Not only could he lose his job for what he’s done, had he gone through with this scourging, he may have been executed. His whole life of effort, all the money he paid, all he had given to Rome as a soldier, it was all for nothing. One mistake cancelled it all out. And everyone there knew just how serious this was.

Acts 22:29 – 29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately. The commander too was alarmed when he realized Paul was a Roman citizen and he had bound him.

They didn’t know they had just done something they would be condemned for. Did you know that you probably commit about 3 felonies a day? It’s true, technically, even if you have no idea you’re doing it. For example, if you ladies have ever visited Carmel, California wearing high heels without a permit, you broke the law. I couldn’t find it in the municipal code online, but multiple outlets (including Ripley’s Believe It Or Not) cite a Hanford rule which states that, in our fine town, it is against the law to interfere with kids jumping in puddles.

Those are silly examples, but when we apply this to the spiritual picture it becomes very serious. The unbelievers around us, in many cases, have no idea that they are condemned to eternal death because of their sin. They’ve missed the mark. They’ve made mistakes. They choose to do wrong. And because of it, they are on a crash course with judgment.

Here’s what that means for us as Christians: People need to be told that they are sinners. We’re not to celebrate their guilt or relish in telling them about hell. Rather we should have the kind of urgency and compassion Paul had for the lost.

Sometimes today we’ll see prominent preachers say things like, “I want people to feel uplifted when they hear my messages.” And so there is a de-emphasizing of sin. But people need to know that they are in serious trouble. They’re headed for a sentencing date and they are most definitely guilty. Commander Lysius realized this and was understandably afraid. What would he do? Would he fall down before Paul, as the Philippian jailer had and say, “What must I do to be saved?”

Acts 22:30 – 30 The next day, since he wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him and instructed the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to convene. He brought Paul down and placed him before them.

Ah, Lysias, it’s too late to be legal now. But we’ll see he tries to scheme his way out of this mess. I wonder how long he lived in fear that Paul would reveal what he had done. Listen, if you’re an unbeliever, you’re like Lysias. You are guilty of a serious crime, not against Rome but against God. And no matter what you’ve tried to buy or earn or trade, you cannot pay the fee for your guilt. There’s no hiding from God’s wrath. No scheming your way out of it. It doesn’t matter if you have power and influence and wealth and position, like Lysias, it will all vanish in a moment. The only way to be saved from your condemnation is to be born again. No one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again. You must become a child of God, be adopted into His family in order to be saved. How? By believing in His Son, Jesus Christ. He, and He alone, has made it possible for us to become uncondemned citizens of heaven, giving us “a living hope and an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us.” If you’re not a Christian, won’t you accept this free gift that God offers you?

For we who are believers here tonight, a closing thought: Being uncondemned does not mean we will be undisturbed. We face trials and troubles, setbacks and sufferings as we walk with God. Perhaps the Lord will allow us to avoid some of them, but often not. Look at Paul: While the whole city was shaking with rage, while Lysias’ world was coming crumbling down, Paul is at peace. He’s not foaming at the mouth. He keeps his calling and purpose in focus. In this case, the Lord gave him leave to escape the scourging, but not so he could go on the attack himself, rather so he could continue to preach the Gospel. And, along the way, he showed completely undeserved grace to these soldiers. Our spiritual reality gives us present priorities. Even when we believers start to feel pressure from a God-hating world, we remember that God has brought us into a spacious place, leading us on a straight path which leads to fullness of glory and sanctification. A path on which we grow to become more and more Christlike in our thought and affection and behavior and in the fellowship of His sufferings. We’ve been made free, uncondemned, lifted up above the circumstances of earth so that we might not only enjoy our relationship with God, but help others receive His salvation as we go.

Are We Near Yet? (Revelation 1:1-3)

I found this travel advice on a parenting website:

When my husband and I buckle in our eight-year-old daughter for a long drive, we make sure she’s got lots of movies loaded up on the iPhone or iPad, a nice set of headphones, books, stuffed animals, a pillow and blanket, a notebook and colored pencils, and some snacks and water. Another activity to add to the roster is playing the app Toca Life: City. Created by using suggestions from kids around the world, players have 3 million ways to personalize 29 characters and direct them in a digital doll house, or really doll town, navigating through rooms, customizing hairstyles, selecting their wardrobe, going grocery shopping, and visiting the pet store.

Are you kidding me??

Not in my day. I’ve twice told you my sad story. How my oldest brother, at the strong behest of my irritated father, threw out the window of our ‘57 Plymouth my Jack-in-the-Box during our trip from Connecticut to California.

I had that one toy to play with for 2,793 miles while traveling unbuckled in the back of the station wagon surrounded by luggage.

That, my friends, is old school, boy-named-Sue parenting that will prepare you for real life.

The article I read was titled, “How to Avoid Hearing, ‘Are We There Yet?’”

People more-and-more are asking, “Are we near yet?”

Scott McConnel, director of Lifeway Research, writes, “The current global pandemic will create interest among churchgoers and nonreligious people about what the Bible says about plagues, disasters, and the End Times. The urgency… is less about stockpiling toilet paper and more about helping people be ready for Christ’s return.”

“Are we near yet?” Check-out verse three: “For the time is near.”

We have the answers people need… And many of them are in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Are The Servant To Whom Jesus Is Unveiled, and #2 You Are The Servant By Whom Jesus Is Unveiled.

#1 – You Are The Servant To Whom Jesus Is Unveiled (v1)

Tesla revealed its CyberTruck in November 2019. It was behind a curtain they raised, surrounded by smoke. They drove it out on-stage with fanfare and a light show. It was going great until Elon Musk demonstrated the unbreakable glass by tossing a baseball at it. It shattered. Twice. No matter that they previously hit the body with a sledgehammer doing no damage. It’s now considered one of the great unveiling fails of all time.

The Second Coming of Jesus is considered by most nonbelievers as a great unveiling fail

“Where is the promise of His coming?” ask the scoffers.

It’s “near.” This book gives details about the unveiling of Jesus Christ.

Rev 1:1  The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants – things which must shortly take place…

“Revelation” is the word apokalypsis – the taking away of a covering. It’s really too bad that this word has come to be synonymous with chaos or catastrophe. The apocalypse isn’t the end of the world, but rather the restoration of it.

In His first coming Jesus was veiled:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;

Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel

The apostle Paul put it like this: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8).

His glory was veiled so He could accomplish the work of substituting Himself for our sins.

The apocalypse pulls the cover off, revealing Jesus as He is today, and as He will be at His Second Coming, and in eternity.

In the Lord of the Rings universe, the one true king, Aragorn, has many names and titles. He is Strider, Elessar, Isildur’s heir, Thorongil, Estel, and the Dúnedain. We come to know him more completely through each of these.

Jesus will be made more known by the many names and titles given Him in this book. Going chapter-by-chapter, He is: “The faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:5), “The Almighty One” (1:8), “The Alpha and the Omega” (1:8; 21:6), “The Son of Man” (1:13), “The Beginning and the End” (1:8; 21:6), “The Son of God” (2:18), “The One Who is holy and true” (3:7), “The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness” (3:14), “The Beginning of the Creation of God” (3:14), “The Lion of the tribe of Judah” (5:5), “The Heir to King David’s throne” (5:5), “The Word of God” (19:13), “The King of kings and Lord of lords” (19:16), and “The Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star” (22:16).

He is called “the Lamb of God”
no less than twenty-eight times

Warren Wiersbe says of Jesus’ unveiling,

In Revelation 4-5, He is seen in heaven as the glorified Lamb of God, reigning on the throne.
In Revelation 6-18, Christ is the Judge of all the earth; and
In Revelation 19:1-21, He returns to earth as the conquering King of kings.
The book closes (chapter 22) with the heavenly Bridegroom ushering His bride, the church, into the glorious heavenly city.

These “things which must shortly take place…” This is often misunderstood to mean that all the prophecies of the book were to be fulfilled ‘soon’ after they were given, as in “I’ll be with you shortly.”

What if I told you the word “shortly” is en tachei and that our English word “tachometer” comes from it?

When you floor your accelerator pedal the tachometer redlines. In the context of the Revelation it means that once the events describe begin, it will be pedal-to-the-metal.

“His servants…” That’s you & I

I can see the Lord choosing to give His beloved disciple, John, the Revelation. But me? You?

Nevertheless, He has given it to us through John, on these pages.

The Lord wants us to see Him, as He is now in Heaven, and as He will be at His Second Coming.

It’s a good reminder to really ‘see’ Jesus in these odd times we are experiencing.

Where am I looking for hope? For strength? For truth? For clarity?

It should be not just “to” Jesus, but at Him unveiled to us in His power and beauty, poised to return.

#2 – You Are The Servant By Whom Jesus Is Unveiled (v2-3)

It’s been a White House tradition for decades: A first-term president hosts a ceremony in the East Room for the unveiling of the official portrait of his immediate predecessor that will hang in the halls of the White House for posterity.

Odds are that’s not gonna happen this year.

We will be privileged to see many ‘portraits’ of our Savior in this wonderful book. We’ll want to show them to others who have an inaccurate, or incomplete, portrait of the Lord.

Rev 1:1  … And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,

John is the person who received the Revelation and penned the scroll. He is the apostle John, author of the Gospel bearing his name and three letters. He id’s himself four times in the Revelation (1:1,4, & 9; 22:8).

He left us a kind of secret signature. John is the only writer who calls Jesus the Lamb, and he does it in his Gospel and in the Revelation.

He identified himself as a “servant.” He used the word for a voluntary bond slave – someone who chose slavery out of love for his Master.

This word “signified” is so important. It can be understood as sign-i-fied, meaning through signs or symbols.

I’ve heard people say that the Revelation cannot really be understood because it’s full of signs. Stop and think for a moment.

Do we use signs to be confusing, or to make something clear?

When you see a sign with a blue square overlaid in white with a stylized image of a person in a wheelchair, what do you think? Do you think it means free rides? Meals on wheels?

Signs reveal rather than conceal. Signs and symbols are better than language in that they are universal and therefore not subject to individual interpretation.

Biblical symbols are consistent throughout the Bible. The signs and symbols in the Revelation will either be defined for us; or we can easily find them defined by their use elsewhere in the Bible.
So, Yes, there are some extremely weird images in the Revelation. But we have their explanations. One commentator noted,

The Book of Revelation is rooted in the Old Testament. It contains more than 500 allusions to the Old Testament, and 278 of the 404 verses in Revelation (that is almost 70%) make some reference to the Old Testament.

A first century Jew would immediately understand without need of any explanation the signs we find fantastic

Sometimes Jesus conveyed information Himself to John (1:10); sometimes it was through an “elder” (7:13); and sometimes a “voice from Heaven” told John what to say and do (10:4). Mostly Jesus communicated the Revelation through an “angel.”

Rev 1:2  who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.

John knew that what he was writing was inspired Scripture.
He faithfully recorded the “testimony of Jesus,” the things Jesus said to him through the angel. He also “saw” the things he wrote about.

(Commentators debate about whether or not John received visions while on the earth, or was in some manner transported to the future to see the actual events. In the end, it doesn’t matter. What he saw is what matters).

The Revelation is the Word of God… Testified to by Jesus… Delivered by an angel… Given in universal sign language… Visually witnessed by John… And recorded by inspiration. This is iron-clad future stuff.

Rev 1:3  Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

I am being “blessed” right before your very eyes. Today, I am “he who reads… the words of this prophecy.”

You are being “blessed” right before my very eyes. Today you are “those who hear the word of this prophecy.”

(BTW: This is the first of seven beatitudes in the Revelation – 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7 & 14).

What is the blessing? We’re not told. Always leave it up to Jesus to determine how to best bless you. But, yes, a blessing is promised – and that is exciting.

We need to read, and hear, the Revelation more, not less. I’m not suggesting it is more important than any other Scripture. I am suggesting too many are ignoring it, or worse – teaching it as already fulfilled – and that’s not good.

“He who reads” and “those who hear” refers first to the original audience for the Revelation – the seven churches of Asia in chapters two & three. If you look at them in order on a map, they form a route from one city to the next. This entire book was read to, and heard by, all of them. One commentator pointed out,

“Because writing materials were expensive and scarce, so were copies of the books that were parts of the biblical canon.

As a rule, one copy per Christian assembly was the best that could be hoped for. Public reading was the only means that rank-and-file Christians had for becoming familiar with the contents of these books.”

You’re to “keep the things that are in it.” Prophecy is practical. We don’t study it because we are curious about the future. When we get to the letters to the seven churches, for example, Jesus will give much in the way of practical obedience.

The original recipients were suffering extreme persecution from Roman emperor Domitian. It was going to go from bad to worse to martyrdom. The believers would find great hope in the knowledge of the return of Jesus to establish the kingdom.

It has become popular to categorize the book as “apocalyptic literature.” That sounds right at first, since it calls itself apokalypsis. After all, if the Apocalypse isn’t apocalyptic, what is?

Apocalyptic literature is a category of writing – what scholars call a genre – like prose and poetry are categories of writing.

One of many reasons the Revelation is not in the category of apocalyptic literature is that the first three chapters are very much literal.
Another reason is that apocalyptic literature doesn’t promise you a blessing from Heaven for reading it.
Yet another reason is that apocalyptic literature is pseudonymous (so͞oˈdänəməs). Big word that means written under a false name. Definitely not the case here.

But there is a better argument: The Revelation characterizes itself as prophecy

We see that here in verse three, and later, in chapter 22:18-19.

The proper approach to the Revelation is to “assume a literal interpretation of each symbolic representation unless a particular factor in the text indicates it should be interpreted figuratively.”

If you’ve ever heard or read a teaching by someone who treats the Revelation as apocalyptic literature, you noted that they ignore the signs as they are defined in the book in favor of their own allegories.
In chapter seven we will read, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed” (7:3-4).

The chapter continues by going tribe-by-tribe saying that 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel were sealed. They were set aside for special ministry.

Who do you think they are?

The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that exactly 144,000 faithful Christians from Pentecost 33AD until the present day will be resurrected to Heaven as immortal spirit beings to spend eternity with God and Christ. They believe that these people are “anointed” by God to become part of the spiritual “Israel of God.”
Mormons believe that the sealing of the 144,000 relates to the high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God.

It’s not only the cults that contribute to confusion:

Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, says, “The 144,000 and the great multitude are not two different peoples but two different ways of describing the same purified bride.  From one vantage point the purified bride is numbered; from another, she is innumerable – a great multitude that no one can count.”
Kevin DeYoung, writing for The Gospel Coalition, says, “The 144,000 are not an ethnic Jewish remnant. The 144,000 represent the entire community of the redeemed.”

There is nothing anywhere to suggest 144,000 is a figurative number, or that these aren’t exactly the Jews who John says they are

One more reason we are futurists who read prophecy literally.

Whenever someone in the Bible interpreted prophecy he did so literally

Daniel, for instance, was reading the prophecy of Jeremiah.

He came to the place where Jeremiah indicated that the captivity of the Jews in Babylon would last a period of seventy years. Daniel believed it to be literal. He realized that the time was almost through and set himself to being ready to return to Jerusalem.

“For the time is near.” “Time” here means a certain period of time. We might call it an “age.” The certain period of time is the Kingdom of God on earth for a thousand years.

Consider the following biblical factoids:

For every prophecy of the first coming of Jesus there are eight prophecies of His Second Coming.
There are over one-thousand eight hundred and forty-five verses in the Old Testament that refer to Jesus Christ ruling over a kingdom on the earth.
Seventeen Old Testament books feature His rule on the earth as a prominent event.
There are at least three hundred eighteen references to Jesus Christ’s Second Coming in the New Testament.
His return is mentioned in twenty-three of the twenty-seven books that comprise the New Testament.

The kingdom age was the constant expectation of the Jews. We see it among Jesus’ disciples:

Before the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, we read in Mark 10:37, James and John “said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”
As Jesus was about to ascend into Heaven, the disciples asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:7).

How is it “near?” Jesus is in Heaven, poised to return. He’s coming. We think it is delayed; but it is “near.”

Consider this: When the apostle Peter talked about the End Times, he reminded us that, “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (Second Peter 3:8). It isn’t meant as a mathematical equivalent, but to say that, from a heavenly perspective, hardly any time has past since the Lord first started dealing with humans in the Garden of Eden. If you only live 70 or so years, several thousand years seems an eternity. If you are eternal, it’s a twinkle of the eye.

You likely received many picture cards this Christmas. It’s always interesting to see how folks are changing and aging – especially if you haven’t seen them for a while. Every now and then, you might not recognize someone. Or they have completely changed their look.

The last time His disciples saw Jesus, He was in His glorified body, ascending into Heaven. Right out of the gate, in verses twelve through sixteen, we are going to see Him very differently portrayed.

I’m hoping we will see Jesus in ways we haven’t thought of in a while… And maybe in ways we’ve never thought of before.

Prophecy Update #640 – Hip, Hip, Whatever Happened To HIPAA?

These are exciting times for believers in Christ who are interested in Bible prophecy. Many things that are suggested by unfulfilled, future prophecies seem to be trending.

We reserve a few minutes Sunday morning to discuss some of those things. We are careful to use recognized, reliable sources for news and information.

We’re not saying the things we report are the fulfillment of prophecy – only that they are the things you’d expect from reading the Bible literally.

We’ve all heard of the Mark of the Beast. It will, during the future Great Tribulation, involve a global economic system by which a person will buy, sell, and be identified by something on or in their hand or head.

A good guess would be some form of biometrics, e.g., a vein scan, facial recognition, iris scan, skin tag, implanted microchip, etc.

One aspect of the future Mark is that you must have it. It won’t be optional.

Until recently, unless you lived in China, it has been hard to believe that such a thing could be forced upon a freedom-loving public. In just a few months, however, COVID19 has effectively changed that. Around the world, citizens are going to be forced to receive vaccinations or suffer consequences.

I read an article titled, Spain ‘To Register’ Those Who Refuse Covid Vaccine; [then] Share Registry With Other EU Counties.

Excerpts:

Vaccinations against COVID19, which will begin on December 27th in Spain, will be voluntary, but the Ministry of Health has said that it will register those who refuse it.

Those who don’t wish to be immunized against the virus will not remain anonymous.

Newsweek recently reported that France may limit the use of public transportation to people who do not take the vaccine.

ABCNews had this to say:

Now that coronavirus vaccines are starting to roll out in the US and abroad, many people may be dreaming of the day when they can travel, shop and go to the movies again. But in order to do those activities, you may eventually need something in addition to the vaccine: A vaccine passport.

Several companies and technology groups have begun developing smartphone apps or systems for individuals to upload details of their COVID19 tests and vaccinations, creating digital credentials that could be shown in order to enter concert venues, stadiums, movie theaters, offices, or even countries.

https://abc30.com/9128169/

Los Angeles is launching a digital iPhone receipt for COVID19 vaccinations.

Bloomberg reported that the plan being rolled out this week will see Los Angeles County partner with tech firm Healthvana to issue the digital verifications, which can be put in an Apple Wallet or the Android equivalent.

The project is initially aimed at ensuring that people who get the first shot of the approved Pfizer or Moderna vaccines also get the required booster shot.

But the digital receipt could also be used to prove to airlines, to prove to schools, to prove to whoever needs it, that a person has been vaccinated.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9100029/LA-begins-issuing-digital-vaccine-verification-Apple-Wallet.html

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says,

Any employer can mandate the COVID19 vaccine, provided they accommodate religious and disability-related objections and the employee receives it from a provider that does not contract with the employer.

If you refuse to get vaccinated, you may be worried about being fired. Possible alternatives include asking them to take a leave of absence, or to work remotely. If an employee cannot get vaccinated because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, and there is no reasonable accommodation possible, [then] an employer could exclude the employee from physically entering the workplace.”

https://www.webmd.com/vaccines/covid-19-vaccine/news/20201229/your-boss-may-require-you-to-get-a-covid-19-vaccine

At the same time rights to privacy are being taken away, we are giving them away. A new survey finds that,

Researchers say two in three US adults “don’t care” if their smart devices are always listening to what they say. More and more people are choosing convenience over their own privacy. This is especially true when it comes to owning smartphones.

https://www.studyfinds.org/americans-dont-care-if-smart-devices-recording/

This could go in a lot of different directions. I’m not making any predictions.

I am simply pointing out that the current trends to invade privacy and to control access to goods and services are exactly what you’d expect from reading the Bible.

In the Revelation, John saw a future system in which you must participate or you won’t be able to conduct business. We may be witnessing its inception.

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church is imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will definitely happen before the Tribulation.

Jesus will return in the clouds. He will raise the dead in Christ. He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies.

We will all join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

The Treasure’s All Mine (2 Corinthians 4:7-12)

Apparently a lot of people are looking for COVID19 help and hope from an unexpected source: pandemic feature films.

One entertainment reporter glibly wrote, “With the world falling apart courtesy of the coronavirus, I have prepared a list of enjoyable pandemic movies.”

The Andromeda Strain, Outbreak, World War Z, 12 Monkeys, and The Omega Man are trending.

One article listed 79 pandemic movies to, as they put it, “binge watch during quarantine.”

Contagion is now the second most popular film in the Warner Bros. catalog, up from #270 last year.

Is it helping? Are people finding hope? It seems not:

A CDC report reveals what they label a “considerably elevated” mental health toll from COVID19 stresses. “More than 2 in 5 US residents report struggling with mental or behavioral health issues associated with the COVID19 pandemic, including anxiety, depression, increased substance use, and suicidal thoughts.”
In October, 37% of adults said they felt hopeless more than half of the days in the past week.

The World Health Organization says, “Bereavement, isolation, loss of income, and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety.”

In April, a survey concluded that two out of five participants reported a decline in mental health since COVID19’s inception. Anxiety, stress, fear of unemployment, being less busy, and working from home were the top five reasons for this decline among the two-thousand individuals surveyed.

COVID19 isn’t the only killer in the pandemic:

In October abcnews reported that “predictions of more suicides… during COVID19 are coming true.”

In Japan, more people died from suicide in October than from COVID19 in all of 2020.

A Hopkins-Bloomberg article said, “The pandemic has created a convergence of suicide risk factors that need a public health response.

Maybe people are looking to the movies because there is no place else to go:

The World Health Organization is reporting that “the COVID19 pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide.”

The Pan American Health Organization says care for mental health issues is inadequately funded in 27 countries of the Americas.

That same organization reports that one in five health workers is experiencing symptoms of depression.

Why aren’t people flocking to local churches?

Oh, that’s right: The churches were officially closed. If they were ‘allowed’ to be open, they were treated like a big-box retailer rather than the temple of God on earth. Limited attendance… Mandated to meet outdoors… No singing allowed… Masks & distancing required.

I’m talking to believers now

We are not exempt from the negative effects of the new not-so-normal. With our love of Christian fellowship, we may be even more impacted, psychologically, than others.

I want to suggest a strategy, from God’s Word, by which you both receive and render help and hope.

The passage is Second Corinthians 4:7-12. The apostle Paul describes those who are in Christ as having a great “treasure” which ought to supply you in any situation, including a global pandemic.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Inventory The Treasure You Have Received, and #2 Invest The Treasure You Have To Render.

#1 – Inventory The Treasure You Have Received (v7)

Let’s start by talking about the church for just a moment. Way back in the beginning of all this, churches were told they could not meet, except with a skeleton crew to produce live-streaming content.

It led to a sort of divide among believers as many promoted not gathering in-person as a positive

“The church has left the building” would be a way to describe their giddiness.

How is that working out? According to Barna:


One-third of practicing Christians have stopped attending entirely.

Only 50% say they have live-streamed their church services sometime during a four-week period.

Another 34% are digital church-hopping. What’s wrong with that? We have a tendency to listen to what we want to hear, rather than what God has to say to us.

In late August, the Christian Chronicle reported that “1 in 5 churches are facing permanent closure within 18 months due to COVID19 shutdowns.”

Live-streaming is a great resource. It isn’t church, however, anymore that watching Hawaii Five-O at home in your bathing suit is a vacation.

We shouldn’t expect nonbelievers to understand why our gatherings are essential. What we can expect is for them to think we are a COVID19 breeding ground that will undermine efforts to halt the pandemic.

The church is not this, or any other, stick and stucco structure. We can gather anywhere. It is wrong, however, to insist that the church is not a building.

When we gather, we collectively ‘construct’ the temple of God on the earth, as living stones, in a way we are not when we do not gather

Equipping the saints and exercising our spiritual gifts are just two of the reasons our gathering together is essential.
Jesus’ description of Himself in the Revelation as walking in the midst of the gathered church is a powerful argument for gathering.

Don’t misunderstand me. We are not saying that you must attend a gathering. COVID19, and the seasonal flu for that matter, are serious health concerns. It’s up to you to attend or not, depending on your circumstances. It’s your decision.

Whatever a Christian decides to do, however, it should be with the understanding that our meetings are essential. Like a pirate, we should be “Disinclined to acquiesce to our Governor’s requests.”

Let’s get into our text.

2Co 4:7  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

“But we have this treasure.” It is referring back to verses one through six, where Paul describes his ministry of preaching the Gospel. Albert Barnes summarizes most commentators when he writes, “The treasure [is] the Gospel; the rich and invaluable truths which they were called to preach to others.”

When I hear the word “treasure,” I’m always reminded of J.R.R. Tolkien’s description of the dwarf treasure upon which slept the mighty dragon, Smaug. “There he lay, a vast red-golden dragon, fast asleep… Beneath him, under all his limbs and his huge coiled tail, and about him on all sides stretching away across the unseen floors, lay countless piles of precious things, gold wrought and unwrought, gems and jewels, and silver red-stained in the ruddy light.”

The Gospel can seem like that – a vast “treasure” in general. We need to break it down – to inventory it, so to speak.

Paul gave us an inventory in another letter

The passage is in chapter one of Ephesians. You can turn there if you’d like; I’m going to list them one at a time. There are at least 10. They are called “blessings,” and we can think of them as the particulars of our treasure.

#1 You are “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (v4). Don’t get sidetracked by the Doctrine of Election and thereby miss your treasure. Before sin entered the world, God had a plan for saving you. It includes completing the work He starts in you.

In a big-picture sense, God remains in charge. His plan for the world remains intact.

More importantly, His plan for you remains intact

#2 You are “predestined to adoption” (v5). Don’t get tripped-up by “predestination.” It means that after you receive Jesus, you are destined to be like Him. The treasure here is your “adoption.” You have become like a son or a daughter to God the Father. You have full, immediate access to God.

Quarantines… Closures… Lockdowns. None of them affect you being able to immediately approach your Heavenly Father. You’re never alone.

#3 We are “accepted in the Beloved” (v6). When the Father looks at you, He sees you in Christ. He loves you exactly the way He loves His only begotten Son.

If being loved is important for your mental state, then, Wow!

#4 You have “redemption through His blood” (v7). You were a slave to sin and deserved eternal death. You couldn’t buy or earn your way out of it. The price for your freedom was the precious blood of Jesus.

You were saved to serve. The measures that have been, and still are, being implemented to combat the spread of COVID19 tend to get you focused on yourself. By new-nature, you are others oriented.

#5 You have “forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (v7). You still sin, but forgiveness is assured by grace. You shouldn’t sin that grace might abound; but when you sin, grace does abound.

Sin is a greater ‘pandemic,’ affecting every man, woman, and child. Your sins are forgiven, and you can declare to others, with authority, that if they receive Jesus, their sins will be forgiven.

#6 You have an abundance of “wisdom and prudence [understanding]” (v8). You have a new, heavenly perspective on earthly matters. You understand that human wisdom is foolish, while the foolishness of God is wisdom.

There’s a LOT to talk about during this pandemic. You have the Gospel to talk about. Bring Jesus into your conversations.

#7 You know “the mystery of His will” (v9). People like to blame God by saying, “God moves in mysterious ways.” In the Bible, a “mystery” is something God has revealed. One commentator said, “In a fallen world of war, suffering and disease; a sinful world where bad things happen to good people; God has revealed His solution to us.”

What is the solution? God is longsuffering, not willing any should perish without eternal life in Christ.

#8 You have “obtained an eternal inheritance” (v11). First Corinthians 2:9 reads, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Some of those preparations can be seen in the last two chapters of the Bible.

Your hope is in the future – written in advance by God. When we’re talking about a disease that kills, the afterlife is on the table.

#9 You are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise”(v13). In Bible times, ownership was proven by sealing something with a was imprint. When you are saved, God the Holy Spirit came to reside in you. He “seals” you as belonging to God. You are secure in your salvation.

#10 You have “the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (v19). The power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is the power you have through the indwelling Holy Spirit to “do all things through Christ Who strengthens you.” You are enabled, powerfully, to obey God.

There are a few other treasures in the first chapter of Ephesians. You might list them for yourself. And the list there is certainly not exhaustive. Treasure is scattered throughout the Bible for you to discover.

The current pandemic is a good time to make withdrawals from your treasure. Take all you need, because it is unlimited.

Loneliness… Depression… Anxiety… Worry… Fear… Suicidal ideations. All these and other mental effects of the quarantines, the lockdowns, the restrictions, are ‘treated’ by your spiritual blessings in the heavenlies.

Don’t let “that great dragon, Satan,” keep you from your treasure (Revelation 12:9).

#2 – Invest The Treasure You Have To Render (v8-12)

It’s Christmastime. Every gift we give or get ought to remind us of God’s “indescribable gift” (First Corinthians 9:15).

Jesus was given by God the Father… Jesus freely gave Himself… After ascending into Heaven, Jesus gave His church the gift of God the Holy Spirit… God the Holy Spirit gives every believer one or more spiritual gift(s).

Do you see a pattern of giving?

There is a two-verse parable that is often misunderstood. It’s the Parable of the Pearl.

Mat 13:45  “… the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls,
Mat 13:46  who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

At first hearing, you might conclude that Jesus was the pearl, on account of His preciousness. That would make believers the merchants, giving their all for Him.

As we used to say, “Not!” If you are the merchant, you are contributing to your salvation. Salvation is no longer by grace.

You are the pearl of great price

Jesus is the merchant. He gave all – He gave His life – to purchase your salvation.

God gives. You are to give, to others, out of your treasure.

That’s pretty obvious (although it’s good to be reminded). What isn’t so obvious is the way you share your treasure. I should say, the way God shares His treasure in you with others.

He does it by your brokenness. Let’s see if we can get a handle on what that means. We can start with the words in verse seven we haven’t mentioned: “In earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”

The idea here is that the light is hidden within the clay pot. Almost all Bible commentators believe Paul is thinking about the Old Testament story of Gideon and his victory over the Midianites, recorded in Judges chapter seven.

Outnumbered by about 450 to 1, Gideon’s army nevertheless prevailed. Each of Gideon’s men had only a trumpet and a clay pot with torches hidden inside the pots.

When they blew the trumpets and broke the pots so that the torches could shine, the Midianite army was routed.

Paul was referencing that history to illustrate that light can only be revealed by us if we are broken.

How are we “broken?”

2Co 4:8  We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
2Co 4:9  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed –

You can count on being “pressed,” “perplexed,” “persecuted,” and “pounded” in ways that nonbelievers are not

Definitions are good, but all these terms can have multiple meanings. Just know that in addition to the effects of COVID19 on everyone, you have additional, unique stressors because the world hates Jesus.

On account of your treasure, you can overcome being “crushed,” being in “despair,” being “forsaken,” and being “destroyed.” It’s not positive-thinking, or psychotherapy. It is truth for you to believe.

As you are “pressed,” “perplexed,” “persecuted” and “pounded,” nonbelievers will see that you are not
“crushed,” “in despair,” “forsaken,” or “destroyed.”Although they are spiritually “blinded” (v4), they are enabled by God to see a light within you – a supernatural source of strength that can only come from God – which keeps and sustains you.

In the things that break you the Person Who blesses you is revealed

There is a prerogative:

2Co 4:10  always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

One Bible paraphrase translates this, “In any and every circumstance where there would normally be a reaction that reveals self, there is instead a reaction that reveals the character of Jesus Christ.”

E. Stanley Jones said, “The early Christians did not say, in dismay, ‘Look what the world has come to,’ but, in delight, ‘Look what has come to the world!’”

It’s really too bad we overused the phrase, What Would Jesus Do?

What is “the dying of the Lord Jesus?” I see it as His whole humility and humiliation in His coming to earth as a the God-man, setting aside the prerogatives of His deity, being the Suffering Servant, doing only what His Father told Him to do, being led by the Holy Spirit, and submitting willingly to His cruel death on the Cross at Calvary.

There is no possible situation you or I could ever be in that would be a worse humiliation than Jesus experienced during His first coming

We CAN respond the way Jesus would, because we have the Holy Spirit within us. When we do, people see Jesus and not us. If you “[bear] about in your body the death of Jesus Christ, [then He will be revealed].”

2Co 4:11  For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
2Co 4:12  So then death is working in us, but life in you.

Christians who shine through this pandemic baffle the strategy of the god of this age who has blinded nonbelievers. The light of the gospel gets through.

Speaking of pandemics… Do you know why people say, “God bless you,” after someone sneezes? I looked it up on the Google.

One of the symptoms of the bubonic plague was coughing and sneezing. It is believed that Pope Gregory I (Gregory the Great) suggested saying “God bless you” after a person sneezed in hopes that this prayer would protect them from an otherwise certain death.

Truth is, God has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:1).

“God’s blessed you” is our help, and our hope.

Prophecy Update #639 – Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

These are exciting times for believers in Christ who are interested in Bible prophecy. Many things that are suggested by unfulfilled, future prophecies seem to be trending.

We reserve a few minutes Sunday morning to discuss some of those things. We are careful to use recognized, reliable sources for news and information.

We’re not saying the things we report are the fulfillment of prophecy – only that they are the things you’d expect from reading the Bible literally.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ seems to describe what commentators call a one-world government during the future Great Tribulation. You’d therefore expect a serious movement towards a more global governance to gain traction before the Tribulation.

There is such a movement, with a plan called The Great Reset.

It is being promoted by the UN and the World Economic Forum. It is described as, “a five-point plan concerned with enhancing sustainable economic growth following the global recession caused by the COVID19 pandemic lockdowns.”

Those in favor of this reset see the COVID19 global pandemic as their opportunity to push forward their agenda.

One reporter from FinancialPost.com said, “There is a master plan. There is no great secret global backroom conspiracy developed behind closed doors. What we have is an upfront, publicly co-ordinated, globe-spanning political power campaign to use the COVID19 pandemic as a launch pad for a reshaping of the global economy.”

Canadian PM Trudeau said, “The pandemic has provided an opportunity for a reset. This is our chance to accelerate our pre-pandemic efforts to reimagine economic systems that actually address global challenges, like extreme poverty, inequality, and climate change.”

In June, the Prince of Wales, flanked by the IMF’s Kristalina Georgieva, and UN chief António Guterres, said, “There is a golden opportunity to seize something good from this crisis… Global crises know no borders, and highlight how interdependent we are as one people sharing one planet.”

Another quote from that same article said, “Other world leaders are also set to reset, especially Joe Biden.” You might recall that Biden’s campaign adopted the slogan, “Build Back Better.” They borrowed that from The Great Reset.

An article titled, “What is The Great Reset” says the following:

The global COVID19 pandemic [is] an opportunity to correct the shortcomings of the existing social, economic and political institutions around the world. According to the World Economic Forum, “The inconsistencies, inadequacies and contradictions of multiple systems – from health and financial to energy and education – are more exposed than ever amidst a global context of concern for our lives, livelihoods and the planet.”

Within this setting, the WEF calls for collaboration among experts and world leaders to propose and implement a vision for the future that will “build a new social contract that honors the dignity of every human being.” The values highlighted by the Great Reset propose an ideological shift away from capitalism. This includes shifting the global focus towards fairer market outcomes, the advancement of sustainability measures and the improvement of environmental, social and governance metrics across industries. 

The Great Reset global agenda calls for unprecedented cooperation among countries and industries around the world to unite under one recovery strategy aimed at repositioning the current trajectory of society as a whole.

https://www.todayville.com/what-is-the-great-reset/

I don’t know if The Great Reset is the precursor to the one-world government of the End Times.

I’m simply pointing out that this was predicted over 2000 years ago by John in the Revelation.

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church is imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will definitely happen before the Tribulation.

Jesus will return in the clouds. He will raise the dead in Christ. He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies.

We will all join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!